September 14, 2004
FRESH FROM THE THEATERS
Baadasssss! (2004). Mario Van Peebles, talking to Cheryl Dunye in Filmmaker about his father, Melvin, the impact of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) and what he's after in his docudrama about its making: "[W]hat Melvin did was come along and make the first black-power movie. If Ali was the first black-power athlete and used the ring not just to box but to stand for something, Melvin was the first black-power director who used the screen not just to entertain but to stand for something.... What I wanted to do with Baadasssss! was not to parody the '70s but to be true to it in spirit.... I wanted this film to feel like what I was privy to when I was on [my dad's] set as a kid.... The A story was the making of an impossible film. And the B story was the growth of this father-son relationship that I didn't really acknowledge until I acknowledged [my dad] as a human being. Once I saw him as a human being, other things fell into place, because ultimately I was proud of him." [Rent]
Man on Fire (2004). When it's come to teeth-grinding, gut-wrenching pain in a revenge fantasy - not so much violence as out-n-out pain - the two surprises of the year so far have been that Kill Bill: Volume 2 is far quieter than Volume 1 while this one is practically off the scales. Even so, Catullus is impressed: "I can't say enough superlatives about this movie; it was great all around, very powerful emotionally charged acting and script; maybe the plot was slightly easy to see through, however it takes pretty much nothing away from the overall enjoyment of the movie." With Denzel Washington. [Rent]
Young Adam (2004). "I'd never read Young Adam, oddly enough, but I knew enough about Alexander Trocchi to be intrigued by any adventure taken in his name," said Tilda Swinton in our interview with her last year. The famously troubled Scottish novelist wrote his famously troubling novel in 1957 and, as A.O. Scott wrote recently in the New York Times, "The film's visual beauty is an aspect of its nostalgia, which is directed less toward the pinched, hungry Britain right after the war than toward the works of art, Trocchi's novel among them, that helped spark that nation's cultural resurgence." With Ewan McGregor and an understated score by David Byrne. [Rent]
Home on the Range (2004). This one came and went without much fanfare, and some critics, like Film Threat's Kevin Carr, find that a crying shame. Besides the "excellent voice cast" featuring Judi Dench, Roseanne and Steve Buscemi, Home "has a wacky charm and a feeling like no other Disney film in recent years." [Rent]
Deadly Outlaw: Rekka (2002). Ever relentlessly prolific and prolifically relentless, Takashi Miike dives back down into the yakuza underworld. A "supreme amalgam of gangster cool, manga-inspired violence and general insanity," promises Facets. Starring Riki Takeuchi and featuring a cameo by Sonny Chiba. [Rent]
Slacker (1991). With the current theatrical release of Before Sunset, Richard Linklater's nine-years-on sequel to Before Sunrise, a collective realization, lying dormant somewhere in the collective subconscious, seems to have suddenly erupted: Richard Linklater is one of the most important American filmmakers working today. Whether it's a quirky doc (Live from Shiva's Dance Floor) or that far greater rarity, a critically acclaimed commercial flick (School of Rock), he's become a prime example of a filmmaker succeeding on all fronts by setting out to do only what he wants to do, no more and only less when the budget demands it. It wasn't all that many who eventually saw Slacker at some point in the early 90s who would have predicted it'd come to this. It's a meandering string of monologues often doubly misunderstood for having introduced a term mainstream culture slapped on a generation (despite the objections of both the generation and Linklater himself). And now it's getting the Criterion treatment, our contemporary form of canonization: a fresh transfer, audio commentaries, home movies, and on the bonus disc, Linklater's first feature, It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books and more. In Reverse Shot's current special issue on Linklater, Eric Hynes writes, "Linklater found the perfect form for his subject, his script and camera meandering from one lazy lecture to another, the film itself a schizophrenic run-on sentence full of schizophrenic run-on sentences. I admire any work of art that finds the right vessel for its ambitions, even if those ambitions are rather modest. But what seemed modest, small even, about Slacker the first time around, now seems crucial to understanding recent American culture." [Rent]. Bonus disc [Rent].
Angels in America (2004). HBO has not only become one of the most sought-after gigs among American independent filmmakers these days - it's also become the go-to production powerhouse among established talents such as Mike Nichols. Because what other studio, which other network would even think about allowing a guy who hadn't had a whole lot of impact on the box office in a while to adapt a play about AIDS that went on for hours and hours? For television, no less. But the result was one of the most talked about cultural events of any kind last year, and what's more, it worked. Choosing it as the only television broadcast on his best-of-2003 top list, J Hoberman wrote in the Voice, "Mike Nichols shot his adaptation of Tony Kushner's visionary social drama as though it were a movie, and it's the best thing he's done since breaking up with Elaine May." And then there's the cast: Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Mary Louise Parker. Discs 1 [Rent] and 2 [Rent].
AKA (2002). The first thing you'll notice is the split-screen effect. The next thing to kick in is the story. Dennis Lim in the Village Voice: "Dean (Matthew Leitch) is a working-class Essex lad who wheedles his way into the ranks of the posh and permanently cocained; not long after finding work at a society dame's gallery, he's posing as her son and falling in with assorted (mostly gay) aristocrats and hangers-on. The upwardly mobile extreme makeover is not a novel scenario... But the period specificity of the pre-AIDS, pre-Thatcher years is piquant, and [director Duncan] Roy boldly allows Dean's sexuality to be the most complicated - and opaque - aspect of his shifting self." [Rent]
THX 1138 (1971). Few knew what to make of it when it was released, but when George Lucas changed the course of mainstream entertainment with Star Wars six years later, it was re-released, and wouldn't you just love to zoom back in time and be a fly on the wall as Star Wars fans, expecting another popcorn space opera, take in this bleak, white-on-white exercise in angst? The film is "a quintessentially paranoid reflection of the culture wars of its time, a tale of young rebels (with bald pates rather than long, hippie hair) defying an authoritarian state," notes Dave Kehr in the New York Times, the "polar opposite of the proudly traditional Star Wars." This digitally remastered director's cut features not only the original student film Lucas made while studying at USC but also a new making-of featurette and an old one from 1971; plus a doc on the early years of producer Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studio. [Rent] Bonus Disc [Rent].
Close Your Eyes (2002). Adapted from Madison Smartt Bell's novel, Doctor Sleep. With Goran Visnjic, Shirley Henderson and Miranda Otto. [Rent]
Everybody Loves Raymond. The Complete First Season (1996). "We've never had arcs or yearlong plots," Ray Romano said once about his hit sitcom. "It's the usual crap that drives you crazy about your family." Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent], 4 [Rent] and 5 [Rent].
Lost in Space. Season 2 (1966). Cinenaut says of the first season: "All in all, it was fun and a nice dose of baby boomer nostalgia for me." Discs 1 [Rent], 2 [Rent], 3 [Rent] and 4 [Rent].
Simpsons Gone Wild (2004). Not that Homer is the most reserved character on television, but in these episodes, he really lets his hair down. All three of them. [Rent]
Neo Tokyo (1987). Three ground-breaking shorts by three major anime directors: Rintaro's "Labyrinth" is a surreal journey through a child's imagination; Yoshiyaki Kawajiri's "The Running Man," on the other hand, is an amazingly realistically drawn film for its time, the story of a driver who survives the most extreme races year after year; and Katsuhiro Otomo's "Construction Cancellation Order" foreshadows the human vs machines themes of his history-making feature, Akira. [Rent]
Initial D. Battle 7: The End of Summer (1998). After watching the second volume back in 2003, hneline1 wrote: "I love this anime. I love the fast cars and the Euro-beat music and the soap opera among the multitude of characters. This is my favorite car-centric story, animated or live-action, and my second favorite anime of all time (Berserk is still number one). Even if you are not car-obsessed, Initial D is a great anime if you want a well-done action drama based on real-life skills which explores teens growing up." [Rent]
Kaleido Star. Volume 4: Fall From Grace (2004). A highly rated series around here, of which Cosplayer says, "This is my fantasy from when I was a kid, get to be a part of some huge famous artistic anything." [Rent]
Aquarian Age. Volume 1: Awakening (2002). Pop idol wannabes and magical girls. Produced by Madhouse Studios with music by Yuki Kajiura. [Rent]
URDA: Third Reich (2004). Elena Kurtz is sent by the Allies into Nazi Germany to put a stop to the URDA project with threatens to rupture the course of history. [Rent]
Sentimental Journey (2004). Twelve girls, twelve romantic stories. [Rent]
Browse the New Releases Archive for more recent arrivals or click on to see what's Coming Soon.