Tuesday, October 30, 2007

DVD releases for October 30

Good things out this week. Spidie 3 comes out this week, also, but you don't need me to tell you that.

Day Watch (2006) directed by Timur Bekmambetov
"Day Watch opens in the 14th Century, where Tamerlan, a Mongol warrior, acquires an implement called 'The Chalk of Destiny,' that can be used to guide the course of history. Eons later (in the present day), the Day Watch and the Night Watch are ongoing. Two Warriors of Light, Anton Gorodensky and his protégé/partner-in-training, Svetlana quietly develop feelings for one another as they patrol the Night Watch together. As the story progresses, the pair must respond to a distress call from an octogenarian victim of a vampiric attack - an attack committed (as it turns out) by Anton's 12-year-old son Egor - now a Warrior of Darkness. Anton must suddenly wrestle with two conflicting desires - the need to protect his offspring by destroying incriminating evidence, and his own desire to remain loyal to the Night Watch."
* This is the second in the trilogy, Night Watch, Day Watch and Twilight Watch. The last installment is due out soon. Although these aren't going to be the best Russian films you will ever see, they are entertaining and give Hollywood a run for it's money.

No End in Sight (2007) directed by Charles Ferguson.
"Filmmmaker Charles Ferguson draws on over 200 hours of footage to explore the manner in which the fundamental flaws in U.S. policy created the chaos that threatens to plunge the nation of Iraq into civil war. Interviews with a collection of high-ranking officials including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and General Jay Garner offer candid insight into the ways that insufficient troop levels, the disbanding of the Iraqi military, and the removal of professionals from the Iraqi government contributed to the insurgency that would continue to destabilize Iraq long after President George W. Bush declared 'Mission Accomplished' back in 2003, while additional conversations with Iraqi citizens, American soldiers, and renowned analysts offer a more intimate take on the tragic quagmire."
Paul Arthur in Film Comment declared this documentary the best documentary so far on Iraq. Or to be more specific he writes, "The ability of No End in Sight to convincingly link disparate aspects of our imperial misadventure, from civilian contractors to the empowerment of Iran, makes it the first can't-miss Iraq doc to appear thus far." I would have to agree. It is really heartbreaking to see the deliberate mis-handling of the entire situation.

Black Night (2004) directed by Oliver Smolders
"In a world overtaken by eternal darkness, the buttoned down entomologist abandons his phantoms to embrace the unknown. Oscar (Fabrice Rodriguez) is a conservator at the Natural Science Museum, and spends most of his days surrounded by bugs. When Oscar isn't tending to the tiny specimens that line his home and workplace, he can frequently be found reflecting on his childhood traumas in the psychiatrist's office. One day, Oscar returns home from work to find an African woman from the museum lying in his bed. From what Oscar can gather the woman is suffering from a mysterious ailment, and has come to his bed to die. Instinctively, the couple makes love as Oscar struggles to maintain himself in a mysterious gray zone between repulsion and desire. Soon thereafter, the woman begins to experience a disturbing transformation."
* I read very good things about this film, or at least things that made me believe I would enjoy this film. I think it is supposed to be a horror film, but I will also say that the review I read admitted to some confusion about what was going on, while at the same time praising it's imagery.

The Devil Came on Horseback (2007) directed by Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern
"In late 2006, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle traveled to Darfur, Sudan with the African Union peacekeeping force - and found his life and perspective on the world forever changed. Devastated and racked with horror by the Janjaweed-driven genocide in the western region of the country (which has claimed 400,000 lives), Steidle set out to work against these atrocities, atrocities systematically denied and publicly buried by the corrupt Sudanese government. Despite his initial hesitancies, Steidle ultimately agreed to plunge headfirst into the conflict - and to work toward achieving social change not through violence but through peaceful, humanitarian efforts. His efforts carried him to a myriad of countries and multiple continents; throughout, Steidle took over 1,000 photographs to document the horrors, thus spreading awareness of this crisis to the remainder of the world and roundly defeating Sudanese governmental denials of the genocide."
* I attended a pre-screening of this film in March at the Arab Film Festival (that included a very heated debate in a post-screening discussion with Annie Sundberg.) It's really an amazing
film that more people should see.

Talk to Me (2007) directed by Kasi Lemmons
"Talk to Me's Ralph Waldo 'Petey' Greene isn’t quite the household name that some of his contemporaries (such as Richard Pryor or Redd Foxx) are, but this smart drama about the Washington, DC, disc jockey is a fascinating film. At the film’s opening in the mid-1960s, Greene hosts a beloved radio show--at the prison where he makes his home. While visiting his incarcerated brother, Dewey Hughes hears Greene’s brash humor and honesty, but he brushes off Greene’s attempts at a job at the radio station where Hughes works. But Greene is soon released from prison, and he won’t forget his dreams of hosting his own radio show. He hounds the staff of a Washington R&B station, including Hughes and the station manager. When he finally gets a job, his show resonates with the people of the city and the changing times of the civil rights movement."
* I swear I meant to see this in the theater, but it came and went pretty quick.

We Are the Strange (2007) directed by M dot Strange
"Blue is a young girl navigating the streets of a terrifying, sinister fantasy world all alone. When she meets Emmm, a fellow lost soul, she joins him on a quest for some ice cream. Upon arriving, they realize the ice cream shop has been taken over by dark forces, and the whole city is teeming with evil. Bizarre monsters surround Blue and Emmm on all sides until Rain, a sadistic hero, arrives to rescue them and exterminate the source of the evil."
* I have to see this movie. I haven't seen anything that looked so wacked since I saw Cat Soup. Watch the trailer HERE. Here's the bio of the director, M dot: "Legally insane professional weirdo. One man evil animation studio. Like’s ramen and udon noodles, the Oakland A’s, coffee, and wearing mismatched sox. Says the word 'hella' like hella. Used to be a video game thug rapper wearing a Powerglove and touring public toilets. Made We are the Strange because grey aliens from the future programmed him to do so. Lives with a green screen and a bunch of rattling computers. Made over 70 live action and animated short films and one live action feature before We are the Strange. Has a bike. M dot Strange is from the future." I like him!

Lupin the 3rd: The Fuma Conspiracy (1987) directed by Masayuki Ozeki
"Goemon is getting married! Well, he was until his bride, Murasaki, was kidnapped by an evil organization of ninja: the Fuma Clan. Their ransom is the Shuujoh Vase, the key to a legacy of untold wealth that has been hidden for hundreds of years. And where there's treasure, there's master thief Lupin the Third! When word of Lupin's appearance reaches Inspector Zenigata, he comes out of retirement to put him behind bars once and for all! Can Lupin, Jigen, Goemon and Fujiko rescue Murasaki, unearth the secrets of the treasure, and evade Old Man Zenigata as they try to foil the fiendish plot of the Fuma Clan?"
* I love Lupin, and despite the lack of Lupin with Goemon in the spotlight, this is one of the better Lupin features.

The Cinema of Peter Watkins
"Watkins, one of the British directors whose reputation sprang from the amateur film movement, quickly carved out a niche in docudrama and pseudodocumentaries. They all stage invented, fictional events as if they were real ones being captured by documentary crews. Sometimes the crews are merely hypothetical (what would happen if cameras recorded the French Commune?); othertimes the send up is contemporary and specific. However, unlike the mockumentaries in fashion today, pseudodocumentaries are not done to lampoon but to capture the uncapturable and, sometimes, to show up the conventions of media production to begin with." (Taken from Left Center Left.)
* I love the non-representational cover (unless I am missing something.) Includes Punishment Park, Edvard Munch, The Gladiators, The War Game and Cullodon. Where is Privilege? I think Peter Watkins is something of a genius. Some don't.

Twin Peaks - The Definitive Gold Box Edition
* So so close to buying this. I obsessed over this show with the best of them. And while I found the second season disappointing, the entire package is nothing short of amazing. I bought the first season when it first came out on DVD, and got a Hong Kong (or maybe it was a bootleg) of the pilot that was floating around for a while. I've watched the entire thing through twice since then. I passed on the second season when it came out, but this is hard to resist. This 10 DVD set includes the pilot, the first and second season, the international version (whatever that is), and a boatload of extra crap. All for a cool $65. If by some chance I haven't bought it by Christmas, I will ask Santa for it. Look how pretty it is! It's gold!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


You know, I thought one of the benefits of having Wong Kar Wai shoot a film in the US would be that marketing would be focused on the US. How wrong I was. Thus far, My Blueberry Nights is still on the horizon for playing in the US. (And you know haw the horizon can play tricks on you...) It is scheduled to open in Greece, France and Finland in November. In Belgium, Netherlands and China in December. And the US? In February. (February 13th is the date given on a very unreliable yet not totally useless internet movie database. How much you wanna bet there is some link to Valentines Day?) I would be willing to bet the price of a Mainland Chinese DVD that My Blueberry Nights will be available on DVD before in plays in the Twin Cities.

Find the first full trailer for the film HERE. From France.

Friday, October 26, 2007


For those who contend that the young guns of Hong Kong cinema can't act, Invisible Target will not prove them wrong. It won't prove them right either, because not much is asked of them (unless you include the trembling of Nic Tse's lip or the clenching of Shawn Yue's jaw.) Invisible Target showcases three of the most promising young actors working in Hong Kong today: Nicolas Tse, Shawn Yue, and Jaycee Chan. One of these guys could be the next Tony Leung (either one), Andy Lau or, yes, Jackie Chan. Unfortunately, this will not be decided with Invisible Target. Acting is not what Invisible Target is about; it's about the action. And action it has plenty of.

Popular but largely mediocre director Benny Chan turns in a predictable police versus villain, good versus bad, vengeance versus vengeance story. Chan has a talent for making films that are entertaining and moderately successful, but never quite manage to go beyond the status quo or offer anything that would allot him a breakout film: Big Bullet, Gen-X Cops, New Police Story, Divergence, and so on. Invisible Target is not that much different, with the action sequences are turned up a notch.

Wu Jing plays Tien, the leader of a band of rough and tough criminals who seem to have unlimited access to bombs, grenades and guns. Oh yeah, and they happen to be Mainlanders. Enter three cops who are hot to find and arrest Tien: Chan (Nic Tse) whose girlfriend was killed during one of Tien's heists, Fong (Shawn Yue) who has a chip on his shoulder because his ass was whooped by Tien, and King-ho (Jaycee Chan) whose brother is somehow involved with Tien's gang. Tien is back in town to find out who double-crossed him in his last job in Hong Kong. The various street chases and fights that ensue are some of the best to be found.

Shawn Yue may be the most disappointing performance. He doesn't quite have it for the full-on tough guy. This is the first film I have seen Jaycee Chan in, and he is actually pretty good as the young and earnest cop. Jaycee (Jackie's son, don't ya' know) has a prominent role in Jiang Wen's recent The Sun Also Rises , and it will be interesting to see him in a more demanding role. Nicolas Tse, new father that he is, turns in a good performance and admirable athletic bravery with some of the stunts he performs. At one point he falls off a building, and even those he has wires on him, he hits an awning pretty hard. Nic Tse may be the bravest one, but the real story here is Wu Jing (aka Jacky Wu). This guy is so incredible fast and athletic when it come to martial arts, logically you think there is some sort of special effects. Although Wu doesn't look a day over 20, he's been acting for over 10 years mostly bit parts and TV series. He was a wu shu master first, and an actor second, scouted by Yuen Woo Ping in 1995. Recently he has gotten some roles that push him ever more closer to the spotlight, even if he is the bad guy. His fight with Donnie Yen is the only thing I remember from Sha Po Lang (and maybe the only thing worth remembering.)

It's hard to take this film too seriously and make it out to be something it isn't. The allure of this film is pretty basic: cute boys and raw action. Invisible Target may be a must see for HK film fans, but its appeal may be lost on everyone else.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

DVD releases for October 23

Two good Criterion releases this week. Days of Heaven was also released by Criterion this week if you care. Here's the goods:

Breathless (1959) directed by Jean-Luc Godard
This has been a long time coming. The US Anchor Bay release was pretty lame to say the least. Finally, the film that defined the medium as a contemporary art form, finally gets the royal treatment. Check it out:
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard
  • Archival interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard, and actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, and Jean-Pierre Melville
  • New video interviews with Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, and filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker
  • New video essays: filmmaker and critic Mark Rappaport's "Jean Seberg" and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Breathless as Film Criticism"
  • Chambre 12, Hotel de suede, an eighty-minute French documentary about the making of Breathless, with members of the cast and crew
  • Charlotte et son Jules, a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Belmondo
  • French theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring writings from Godard, film historian Dudley Andrew, Francois Truffaut's original film treatment, and Godard's scenario
Under the Volcano (1984) directed by John Huston
"Under the Volcano follows the final day in the life of self-destructive British consul Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney, in an Oscar-nominated tour de force) on the eve of World War II. Withering from alcoholism, Firmin stumbles through a small Mexican village amidst the Day of the Dead fiesta, attempting to reconnect with his estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset) but only further alienating himself. John Huston's ambitious tackling of Malcolm Lowry's towering "unadaptable" novel gave the incomparable Finney one of his grandest roles and was the legendary The Treasure of the Sierra Madre director's triumphant return to filmmaking in Mexico." Yet another double disc bonanza from Criterion, full of special features. I'll admit that I am not much of a Huston fan, but that probably has more to do with my ignorance than anything. I'm going to check this one out.

10 Question for the Dalai Lama (2006) directed by Rick Ray
"How do you reconcile a commitment to non-violence when faced with violence? Why do the poor often seem happier than the rich? Must a society lose its traditions in order to move into the future? These are some of the questions posed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by filmmaker and explorer Rick Ray. Ray examines some of the fundamental questions of our time by weaving together observations from his own journeys throughout India and the Middle East, and the wisdom of an extraordinary spiritual leader. This is his story, as told and filmed by Rick Ray during a private visit to his monastery in Dharamsala, India over the course of several months. Also included is rare historical footage as well as footage supplied by individuals who at great personal risk, filmed with hidden cameras within Tibet. Part biography, part philosophy, part adventure and part politics, 10 Questions for The Dalai Lama conveys more than history and more than answers - it opens a window into the heart of an inspiring man."

Into Great Silence (2005) directed by Philip Gröning
"In this contemplative documentary from filmmaker Philip Gröning, the Grande Chartreuse monastery opens its doors to the public for the first time since being founded by St. Bruno in 1084 to offer an intimate look at a lifestyle rarely experienced by those outside of the brotherhood. Located in the remote regions of the French Alps, near the Dauphiné Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is the top monastery of the Carthusian order. In this documentary, the lives of the pious monks of Grande Chartreuse are captured on film as director Gröning adapts to their ascetic lifestyle for six months and captures their daily life without the intrusion of voice-over, musical score, interviews, or archival footage." I remember seeing the preview for this film at the Lagoon and it looked absolutely beautiful. But then the reviews sort of dampened by enthusiasm. No doubt this was a film to be seen on the big screen, but I will have to settle on the next best thing.

Interkosmos (2006) directed by Jim Finn
"With his docudrama Interkosmos, American writer-director Jim Finn creates a testament to an apocryphal East German 1970s space project. Finn intercuts recreations of phony newsreel footage (passed off as the real thing) with elaborate musical numbers. The farcical premise has the Communist DDR - historically, a close ally of Leonid Brezhnev - striving to colonize the moons of Jupiter and Saturn ahead of its capitalist enemies from the U.S. Against this backdrop, the director posits the burgeoning romance of a male and female cosmonaut - Falcon and Seagull - who at one point burst into a flamboyant rendition of 'The Trolley Song' from Meet Me in St. Louis. The structure itself is loose, freewheeling and episodic; Finn tints the images orange to create a nostalgic feel throughout." This film is about as quirky as it gets. This is a must see for fans of camp. Totally hilarious. (Click on the link above and go to "media" to see exactly what you are in for!)

Dog Bite Dog (2006) directed by Sio Cheang
"A Cambodian boxer smuggled into Hong Kong is pursued by a hotheaded young cop with serious authority issues in director Sio Cheang's hyper-violent crime thriller. Pang is a tattooed street boxer from Cambodia. Spirited away from the Cambodian garbage dumps he once called home and offered the opportunity to rise through the ranks as a fearsome triad hit-man, the ambitious young fighter carries out his first mission with rough but ruthless efficiency. Later, after wandering over to the local landfill and watching as a homeless man brutally rapes his own daughter, Pang murders the abhorrent offender and enters into a tender relationship with the frightened young girl. As Pang's gentle true nature is gradually awakened by the damaged innocence of his new companion, belligerent young cop Wai sets out on a restless crusade to bring the resourceful killer to justice no matter what the cost." This film has a great look and Edison Chen and Sam Lee are pretty compelling in the two leads. But. The narrative goes way way off track and will either have people laughing or rolling their eyes by the end. Another addition to the Weinstein's dumb-nut Dragon Dynasty label ("available exclusively at Blockbuster.")

The L Word - Season 4
I'm just another lesbian without Showtime. The moment than Shane left Carmen at the alter has been suspended for the past year. Finally I can find out what happened...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Go Timberwolves!

Who cares about movies and DVDs. The Minnesota Timberwolves had their first home game last night without KG. It was a preseason game against the Pacers. Although they lost, it was pretty obvious that Randy Wittman is still trying to figure out how to best play this team of mostly young newcomers. And all in all, they didn't look half-bad with Al Jefferson knocking out some amazing plays. The frontcourt is looking very strong with Al Jefferson, Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and Corey Brewer, but the backcourt with Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye still out, is lacking. We need more there than Ricky Davis and Marco Jaric.

Overall, I am excited about this new start for the T-wolves. Since the beginning the Wolves were defined by KG, and more recently let down by the expectations. All expectations are gone, and these guys actually have a chance to build a team. It may not be a winning season for the Wolves, but I think it will be a fun one.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The funny games of Michael Haneke

I try not to take films personally. The brutality, violence, melodrama, humor or whatever you might find in films are the prerogative of the filmmaker and part of his or her vision, regardless of whether I like it or not. However, when a director goes out of their way to insult me (us) as a viewer, I bristle. This was exactly how I felt when I first watched Michael Haneke's Funny Games, pointing his finger at me as if I didn't understand that I was an inherent part of the commerce of violence as entertainment. Haneke's tone is patronizing, to say the least, and, at the time, just me in front of my TV, I was unable to intellectualize his abuse. (Haneke would be happy.)

I have gotten over it, and come to realize that any filmmaker that can elicit such a visceral response is unique. I sought out his other films either on hard to find VHS and DVDs or as they were released theatrically. After seeing The Seventh Continent, The Piano Teacher, Time of the Wolf, and Cache it was easy to let my jaded first experience with Michael Haneke fall away. I saw his three most recent film in the theater, and they were all unique experiences. And experiences that were only supplemented by their communal nature. I will never forget the collective gasp from the audience during Cache (one of the best out-of-nowhere moments I have ever seen); or the circumstances of watching Time of the Wolf with a handful of people in the Bell Auditorium on a cold winter day.

I might have felt differently about Funny Games had I experienced the abuse in a group setting. At least I would have some sort of camaraderie in the assault, even if they were total strangers. I still feel that Funny Games is divisive to a fault, but, in retrospective, I appreciate Haneke's point. In a recent New York Times interview, Haneke explained that "Funny Games was always made with American audiences in mind, since its subject is Hollywood's attitude toward violence." Unfortunately Funny Games was far from a mainstream film, at least by Hollywood's standards, and his message was lost on his so-called target audience. Most people who saw Funny Games (i.e. the festival crowds) are more than aware of their roles as viewers and as a result, Haneke ends up preaching to the choir. With this in mind, it is no wonder Haneke agreed to remake his own film with an English speaking cast.

As the story goes, Haneke was approached because someone else wanted to do an English language adaptation of Funny Games. To which he said, 'No way, but I'll do it.' So he took on the remake, and signs Naomi Watts and Tim Roth on as the couple and Michael Pitt and Brandy Corbet as the mischievous youngsters. Reports from the London Film Festival, where it debuted, are that the film is almost a shot-for-shot, word-for-word remake. You can even see this in the trailers for the old and the new which are almost identical. Pretty crazy. Funny Games is getting more interesting all the time. I know it is sadistic, but I am actually looking forward to sitting in the theater with a group of people to watch Funny Games.

The real question is how this film will be marketed. As a ruse to a mainstream audience? Or an arthouse audience that made made Cache a success? Either way will be interesting. Cache did brisk business for a foreign language film in the US, and I was surprised at the number of people it drew at the screening I went to at the Edina Theater. As brutal as Cache was, it doesn't hold a candle to Funny Games, and an unsuspecting audience (the role I played not to long ago) is probably exactly what Haneke is after. Haneke's films are very self-reflexive, and gain their energy from a rebound off a backboard that Haneke provides. Of course, sometimes that rebound comes right at your face with a ferocious speed, as with Funny Games, or it comes back as a playful toss (Cache). In a recent interview in Time Out, Haneke stated as much: "I always say that a film has to be like the ramp for ski-jumping. The film is the ramp. After that, you’re on your own." I'm going to try this ski jump again when it opens in February.

Let the Funny Games begin!

Friday, October 19, 2007

This year's submissions for Best Foreign Language Film

63 countries submitted films for consideration in the foreign language film category of the Academy Awards, apparently a record number. Usually the five (or is it four?) that get chosen as nominees seem as random as the tea leaves at the bottom of your cup. However, on the day of last year's winner's Hollywood debut (that would be Gavin Hood of Tsotsi and Rendition), the award has potential to catapult a director, for better or worse, to some notoriety.

The only one I have seen in the whole damn list is Hong Kong's submission (I guess 'one China, two systems' also means 'one China, two submissions') which is Johnny To most awesome Exiled, but it doesn't have a chance in hell. Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine, which I just received in the mail, may have better chances, but it seems unlikely. That being said here are the films I would like to see and would root for in the nominations list:

France - Persepolis Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Japan - I Just Didn’t Do It Masayuki Suo
Kazakhstan - Mongol Sergei Bodrov
Mexico - Silent Light Carlos Reygadas
Poland - Katyn Andrzej Wajda
Romania - 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days Cristian Mungiu
Singapore - 881 Royston Tan
Sweden - You, the Living Roy Andersson

I would put my money on Persepolis given the popularity of the book and the fact that it is sure to screen here with an English dub. (A foreign film without those pesky subtitles!) Here's the full list for your perusal (no doubt lots of hidden gems; I wish I could see them all):

Argentina - XXY Lucia Puenzo, director
Australia - The Home Song Stories Tony Ayres
Austria - The Counterfeiters Stefan Ruzowitzky
Azerbaijan - Caucasia Farid Gumbatov
Bangladesh - On the Wings of Dreams Golam Rabbany Biplob
Belgium - Ben X Nic Balthazar
Bosnia and Herzegovina - It’s Hard to Be Nice Srdan Vuletic
Brazil - The Year My Parents Went on Vacation Cao Hamburger
Bulgaria - Warden of the Dead Ilian Simeonov
Canada - Days of Darkness Denys Arcand
Chile - Padre Nuestro Rodrigo Sepulveda
China - The Knot Yin Li
Colombia - Satanas Andi Baiz
Croatia - Armin Ognjen Svilicic
Cuba - The Silly Age Pavel Giroud
Czech Republic - I Served the King of England Jiri Menzel
Denmark - The Art of Crying Peter Schonau Fog
Egypt - In the Heliopolis Flat Mohamed Khan
Estonia - The Class Ilmar Raag
Finland - A Man’s Job Aleksi Salmenpera
France - Persepolis Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Georgia - The Russian Triangle Aleko Tsabadze
Germany - The Edge of Heaven Fatih Akin
Greece - Eduart Angeliki Antoniou
Hong Kong - Exiled Johnnie To
Hungary - Taxidermia Gyorgy Palfi
Iceland - Jar City Baltasar Kormakur
Indi -a Eklavya – The Royal Guard Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Indonesia - Denias, Singing on the Cloud John De Rantau
Iran - M for Mother Rasoul Mollagholipour
Iraq - Jani Gal Jamil Rostami
Ireland - Kings Tom Collins
Israel - Beaufort Joseph Cedar
Italy - The Unknown Giuseppe Tornatore
Japan - I Just Didn’t Do It Masayuki Suo
Kazakhstan - Mongol Sergei Bodrov
Korea - Secret Sunshine Chang-dong Lee
Lebanon - Caramel Nadine Labaki
Luxembourg - Little Secrets Pol Cruchten
Macedonia - Shadows Milcho Manchevski
Mexico - Silent Light Carlos Reygadas
The Netherlands - Duska Jos Stelling
Norway - Gone with the Woman Petter Naess
Peru - Crossing a Shadow Augusto Tamayo
Philippines - Donsol Adolfo Alix, Jr
Poland - Katyn Andrzej Wajda
Portugal - Belle Toujours Manoel de Oliveira
Puerto Rico - Lovesickness Carlitos Ruiz & Mariem Perez
Romania - 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days Cristian Mungiu
Russia - 12 Nikita Mikhalkov
Serbia - The Trap Srdan Golubovic
Singapore - 881 Royston Tan
Slovakia - Return of the Storks Martin Repka
Slovenia - Short Circuits Janez Lapajne
Spain - The Orphanage J.A. Bayona
Sweden - You, the Living Roy Andersson
Switzerland - Late Bloomers Bettina Oberli
Taiwan - Island Etude Chen Huai-En
Thailand - King of Fire Chatrichalerm Yukol
Turkey - A Man’s Fear of God Ozer Kiziltan
Uruguay - The Pope’s Toilet Enrique Fernandez & Cesar Charlone
Venezuela - Postcards from Leningrad Mariana Rondon
Vietnam - The White Silk Dress Luu Huynh

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DVD releases for October 16

A Mighty Heart (2007) directed by Michael Winterbottom
"Angelina Jolie stars as Mariane Pearl, wife of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, in director Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Mariane's memoir recounting the abduction and murder of her husband by Pakistani militants. It was on January 23, 2002, that Mariane Pearl's life took a grim and unanticipated turn that no one could have seen coming. The South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl, was in Pakistan with his pregnant wife, Mariane, when he set out to conduct one last interview for an upcoming article; the pair were due to fly back home to the U.S. shortly thereafter. By all accounts, it was the same type of interview he had conducted a hundred times before, and though the only concern that Daniel had voiced beforehand was that he might be a bit late for dinner, it would soon become obvious that something had gone horribly awry." This film was way way better than I expected. Although I had faith in Michael Winterbottom, I didn't have much faith in Angelina Jolie pulling this roll off. The rash of kidnappings and subsequent be-headings that started with Daniel Pearl haunt me in a way I can not explain. This film does an exellent job in portraying the situation from start to finish.

Crazy Love (2007) directed by Dan Klores
"Dan Klores' Crazy Love tells the astonishing story of the obsessive roller-coaster relationship of Burt and Linda Pugach, which shocked the nation during the summer of 1959. Burt, a 32 year-old married attorney and Linda, a beautiful, single 20 year-old girl living in the Bronx had a whirlwind romance, which culminated in a violent and psychologically complex set of actions that landed the pair's saga on the cover of endless newspapers and magazines. With the cooperation of the principles, Burt, now 79, and Linda, 68, Klores examines the human psyche and the concepts of love, obsession, insanity, hope and forgiveness." I read a New York Times article about this couple, and, let me tell you, they are really crazy. The preview looked great, but somehow I missed this film when it played in town. I blame not wanting to make the trek to Edina.

Planet Terror (2007) directed by Robert Rodriguez
"A dangerous government experiment has unleashed an abominable contamination that turns normal people into murderous mutants. Now, as an infinitely multiplying horde of frenzied psychotics flood the Texas plains, a dangerous outlaw named Wray, a sexy stripper named Cherry, an unscrupulous smuggler named Abby, and the curiously incapacitated Dr. Dakota Block must try and make their way to the helicopter that could provide their only means of escaping to a place untouched by this nightmarish scourge that threatens to wipe out all of humankind." Unfortunately, Rodriguez's shoot 'em up zombie fest was overshadowed, in a big way, by Tarentino's Death Proof. This film would have done much better as a stand-alone. Planet Terror is everything you would want from a zombie movie: chicks, guns, guts and gags.

Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy
"One of Spanish cinema’s great auteurs, Carlos Saura brought international audiences closer to the art of his country’s dance than any other filmmaker, before or since. In his Flamenco Trilogy—Blood Wedding (1981), Carmen (1983), and El amor brujo (1986)—Saura merged his passion for music with his exploration of national identity. All starring and choreographed by legendary dancer Antonio Gades, the films feature thrilling physicality and electrifying cinematography and editing—colorful paeans to bodies in motion as well as to cinema itself." Although I don't like to let Criterion determine what is a good film (and, by default, what is a bad film), but a three film set is worth taking a closer look. I haven't seen any of these films but plan on checking them out in the spirit of being a well-rounded cinephile. This set comes from Criterion's Eclipse label which is kind of their budget label, offering the best in transfers but offering little in the way of Criterion-like special features.

Casshern (2004) directed by Kazuaki Kiriya
"In the future, in a polluted post-apocalyptic society called Eurasia after a war against Europe, the planet is devastated by the effect of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The geneticist Dr. Azuma develops a technique called 'neo-cell', capable of regenerating the body of human beings, sponsored by an evil corporation. His son Tetsuya Azuma dies in the war, but after an accident in the laboratory of Dr. Azuma, Tetsuya revives as the powerful warrior Casshern, while a new breed of mutants called 'neo-humans' is generated in the plant. The neo-humans decide to annihilate the humans and raise a new world." Maybe the reason I spend so much money on foreign DVD releases is so I can recommend against them when they finally arrive here in the US. To be fair there was quite a bit of excitement about this sci-fi CGI blockbuster when it came out three years ago. As a result I spent the cash on a flashy 3 DVD Japanese edition of this film. It has a great look to it and is worth renting if you are a fan of the genre, but the bloated running time (141 minutes) and shallow narrative keep it from achieving its potential. But if you are interested in the out-of-print Japanese special edition DVD, let me know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dancing in the dark with SATANTANGO

435 minutes. Seven hours and 15 minutes. It’s not a lot of time. It’s less than half our waking hours on any given day, and the approximate time we spend sleeping each night. Ironically this is almost the exact amount of time I spent at work on Sunday. But I spent most of my 435 minutes at work Sunday thinking about the 435 minutes I spent in the Walker Cinema Saturday with Bela Tarr’s exceptional Satantango.

Prior to Satantango, I think the longest film I had seen in a theater was, unfortunately, Gone With the Wind. (If only Kurosawa could have come up with fifteen more minutes for Seven Samurai, I could have had a much better alibi.) At almost half the running time, I think it is fair to say that Gone With the Wind is about as far from Satantango as you can get, and would be little help in preparing me for the experience that Bela had planned for me. We modern movie-goers are trained to expect a two hour narrative, give or take 30 minutes for the proper resolution of conflict du jour. Once films push much beyond that two hour threshold, distributors seem to get twitchy, either demanding cuts or, in the most obscene circumstances, releasing one film in two parts. The industry seems convinced that audiences don’t have the tenacity for films over three hours. Fortunately, I don’t think Bela Tarr had the film industry or the film audience in mind when he crafted Satantango, a film that debunks all standards, and I was more than up to the challenge.

For the record, the Walker’s Saturday screening of Satantango was the third chance to see the film theatrically in the Twin Cities. The Oak Street Cinema hosted two screenings of Satantango earlier this year over a weekend that, coincidentally, I had family in town. (My family might have a base understanding of my obsession with movies, but asking them to accept that I would be busy for nine hours watching a movie would be crossing the line.) As the Facets DVD release of Satantango seemed to be on perpetual hold, I was convinced that I would never get to see this film. But it’s funny how things work out. It wasn’t long before I heard that Bela Tarr was coming to the Walker along with all of his feature films, including his new film than premiered at Cannes, The Man From London, and, of course, Satantango.

The biggest adversary to the screening Saturday was the “not-too-many-more-days-like-this” October weather. In my case, the leaf raking and garden cleaning would just have to wait. Nearly a hundred of us traded sunny and 61 degrees for a dark, rainy dance with the Devil, and, as the lights went down at 1:05pm, you could feel the collective energy of anticipation in the air. Nine hours later that collective energy had evolved into something else entirely (those of you there will have to help me out with this one), as we followed Bela Tarr down a path that was both visually mesmerizing and thematically devastating. Told in twelve sections (a tango, as mentioned in the program notes, six steps forward and six back, although I’m not sure where the going ‘forward’ part is) that weave together a communal story through multiple perspectives, each overlaying the other with cumulative significance. The long takes and extended scenes that Satantango is known for seem to break down that barrier that exists in traditional films between audience and character, and two hours into the film, I felt myself start to get restless in the unnerving physical presence of the doctor…and his writing…and breathing…and drinking. I wouldn’t call the result more intimate, but more tactile and sympathetic. The sustained tone of the film is nothing short of brutal, not unlike Kelemen’s “plodding along and plodding and plodding along” into oblivion.

The last three hours of the film were the hardest, both physically and mentally. I had grown tired of the two positions I could stretch my legs without putting them on the shoulders of the person in front of me, and the narrative thread of the film had taken a turn to something more divisive. With the fate of the villagers looming like an oppressive dark cloud, I struggled to assimilate the facts either into a straight narrative or an allegorical satire. As the credits began to role and the lights came up with most of the audience still intact, we all sat in stunned silence. There was no victorious feeling of crossing the finish line, but only what I can describe as a 435 minute heartache. Almost forty-eight hours later my head is still spinning with the overwhelming scope of the film and the irrepressible images.

The experience itself was emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. As I rode my bike home past the Saturday night revelers on Nicolette Avenue, I felt totally empty, almost outside of my skin. At the time, I had no idea how to answer, “How was the movie?” except to just nod, and say, “Yeah. Good.” (Of course the look I got was, ‘Come on, you just saw an eight hour movie and that is all you’re going to say?’) Collecting my thoughts about the film beyond a gut reaction seemed impossible, let alone trying to come up with a rudimentary analysis. Even comprehending the visual elegance and narrative balance that never seem to wavered in those seven hours is beyond me. I find myself revisiting scenes in my head and mapping exactly how they play out, but then getting confused about how the chapters stacked up and in what order. Was it raining the whole time? Or did it stop raining twice? And by the way, what happened to Kelemen after he picked up the doctor? Was he just a diabolical messenger sent to push us over the edge with his intoxicated rambling? And what exactly were the two officers typing up near the end? Was it simply Irimias proclamations? And what was with all the antagonism towards the bar owner? I really don’t know. In the end, Satantango has left me with one of the most amazing film experiences I’ve ever had and, of course, the inordinate compulsion to revisit the film…second screening anyone?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Special screenings galore in the Twin Cities!

I used to hate one night screenings when I worked second shift, but now that I have graduated from second-shift-hell, I love the idea of a film screening as an event. Over the next few weeks there are some offerings good enough to place in your calendar. Here they are in chronological order:

Satantango @ the Walker
Saturday, October 13, 1pm
If you missed it when it screened at the Oak Street earlier this year, you are getting an unprecedented second chance to see this epic seven-and-a-half hour film from auteur du jour Bela Tarr. In the amazing retrospective of Tarr's work hosted by the Walker, Satantango is simply the icing on the cake. The film event not to be missed.
Part of the Walker's
"Béla Tarr: Mysterious Harmonies."

L'Avventura @ the Oak Street
Sunday, October 14, 4:30 and 7pm
Monday, October 15, 7 and 9:30pm
Of the directors that died this year on July 30th, Antonioni is the one I am most likely to revisit, and L'Avventura would be first on the list. L'Avventura is an contemporary existential drama trapped in a mystery, and represents the quintessential Antonioni. I am really looking forward to seeing this again.
Part of the Oak Street's "Antonioni Tribute."

The Killing @ the Parkway
Monday, October 15, 8pm
The Parkway is hosting a five week Film Noir tribute, held every Monday at 8pm. It appropriately starts off with Kubrick's 1956 potboiler. Repertory theater is back in a big way. I am the Parkway's cheerleader - please support their efforts!
Part of the Parkway's "Film Noir Festival."

The Passenger @ the Oak Street
Wednesday, October 17, 7 and 9:15pm
Thursday, October 18, 7 and 9:15pm
The Passenger would be next on my list of Antonioni films to re-watch. If you missed it when it made the rounds in theaters two years ago, it is a priceless film on the big screen.
Part of the Oak Street's "Antonioni Tribute."

Don Quixote @ the Heights
Thursday, October 18, 7 and 9:15pm
Part of a collaboration between the Museum of Russian Art and the Heights Theater (a match made in heaven!), they kick off the Thursday series with a 1957 classic from
Grigori Kozintsev. There is a certain someone who runs a coffee shop in the Dinkydome who mentions this film every time I see him. He will be so excited that it is playing and that I will finally get around to seeing it!
Part of the Museum of Russian Art "Russian Film Series."

Blow-Up @ the Oak Street
Friday, October 19, 7:15 and 9:15
Saturday, October 20, 5:15,
7:15 and 9:15
Sunday, October 21, 5:15,
7:15 and 9:15
Blow-Up seems to be Antonioni's most well-known film, although I am not sure why. A little bit of Hitchcock, a little bit of the Yardbirds, and a little bit of London chic.
Part of the Oak Street's "Antonioni Tribute."

The Man From London @ the Walker
Saturday, October 20, 7:30pm
Sunday, October 21, 2pm
This is the local premier of Bela Tarr's newest film, which may or may not return for wider release. So see it now while you can.
Part of the Walker's "Béla Tarr: Mysterious Harmonies."

Kiss Me Deadly @ the Parkway
Monday, October 22, 8pm
Robert Aldrich directs Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer in this 1955 "blistering nihilistic noir." Another very cool choice for this series.
Part of the Parkway's "Film Noir Festival."

Zabriskie Point @ the Oak Street
Monday, October 22, 7 and 9pm
Tuesday, October 23, 7 and 9pm
Antonioni's trippy 1970 American made film may not be his best film, but worth watching again. Especially in my case, where my first viewing was a terrible VHS copy that just seemed silly as a drug induced teenager. I'm an adult now and it's a film, not a movie.
Part of the Oak Street's "Antonioni Tribute."

Night Watch @ the Heights
Thursday, October 25, 7 and 9:15pm
Gleefully spanning the genres of Russian film, the Museum of Russian Art offers up this 2004 big budget sci-fi thriller. Some people complain about the subtitles in this film, but I say, if you have to have words on the screen, why not make them artful?
Part of the Museum of Russian Art "Russian Film Series."

Gilda @ the Parkway
Monday, October 29, 8pm
Charles Vidor directs this 1946 classic starring Glen Ford and Rita Hayworth. My only connection to this film is the poster that Laura Harring's character gleaned her name from in Mulholland Drive. I always thought it would have been more appropriate for her to choose Gilda than Rita.
Part of the Parkway's "Film Noir Festival."

The Cranes Are Flying @ the Heights
Thursday, November 1, 7 and 9:15pm
I'm sort of drawing for straws on this film, which is a good thing. Come to find out this film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1958 and is "notable for the way its story of a young couple torn apart by war stresses the human suffering and waste, rather than the heroics struggle foisted on directors by the Stalinist dictates of Socialist Realism."
Part of the Museum of Russian Art "Russian Film Series."

Pickup on South Street @ the Parkway
Monday, November 5, 8pm
Sam Fuller shot this 1953 film noir in only 20 days. This film has gotten a fair amount of attention and the full Criterion treatment, but nothing beats seeing this on film.
Part of the Parkway's "Film Noir Festival."

The Return @ the Heights
Thursday, November 8, 7 and 9:15pm
Back to the present with this 2003 Russian film by
Andrei Zvyagintsev. The tension rises oh-so slowly in this calculated drama. This film played at MSPIFF but has not screened since.
Part of the Museum of Russian Art "Russian Film Series."

The Big Sleep @ the Parkway
Monday, November 12, 8pm
What a perfect film to finish this series with. Howard Hawks directs Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in this second-to-none film noir.
Part of the Parkway's "Film Noir Festival."

Have fun!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DVD releases for October 9

28 Weeks Later (2007) directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
"Six months has passed since the Rage virus caused British residents to indiscriminately murder and destroy everything in their paths, and now the U.S. military has declared victory in the war against the rapidly spreading infection. As the reconstruction process gets underway and the first wave of refugees return to British shores, a family separated by the devastation is happily reunited. The joy of being reunited as repopulation efforts get underway in London is short-lived, however, when an innocent bid to reconnect with the past sets into motion a tragic series of events. Now, just as society struggles to sort through the rubble and rebuild London from the ground up, the virus that nearly destroyed a nation strikes back with a vengeance." An excellent companion film to 28 Days Later despite the different and less well-known director. What it lacks in social commentary, it easily makes up for with some truly scary scenes with zombies, uh, I mean infected people, who are fast and all business.

Black Sheep (2006) directed by Jonathan King
"A genetic engineering experiment gone horribly awry turns a large flock of docile sheep into unrelenting killing machines in this rural horror comedy directed by Jonathan King and featuring special effects designed by Weta Workshop. When the death of his father and a stress-induced fear of sheep pushes him toward the edge of a nervous breakdown, skilled farmer Henry Oldfield leaves the family farm behind in a desperate bid to achieve inner peace. Upon returning to the farm following a 15-year absence, Henry discovers that his brother Angus has been performing genetic experiments on the sheep. Unfortunately for both the brothers and the rest of the humble farmers who make their living off of the land, these experiments have produced a strain of sheep that crave human flesh and will stop at nothing to satisfy their diabolical hunger." If you are aware that you are going to see a film about killer sheep, you get exactly what you would expect. This film played as a midnight movie at MSPIFF, and I thought it was a hoot.

12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
"It's the sixteenth anniversary of the revolt that removed Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu from power in Romania, and Jderescu is the host of a televised public affairs show who wants to do a special program on the revolution. Jderescu's idea is to bring on a handful of ordinary citizens to discuss their role in Ceausescu's overthrow and how their lives have changed since Communist rule was swept from Romania. However, Jderescu can only round up two guests for his broadcast -- elderly Piscoci, who's more interested in playing Santa Claus for the neighborhood kids than talking politics, and Manescu, a schoolteacher nursing a brutal hangover. As Jderescu tries to lead a serious discussion of how Romania has changed since Ceausescu was driven from power, the conversation wanders off on a tangent about where the revolution actually took place, and the waters become even more muddied when Jderescu opens up the phone lines for questions from viewers, most of whom have their own distinct (and strongly conflicting) memories of the Revolution . . . and one of which has a bone to pick with Manescu over some drunken insults he hurled the night before." A brilliant film from Romainia that was upstaged by Mr. Lazarascu.

Mala Noche Criterion (1985) directed by Gus Van Sant
"With its low budget and lush black-and-white imagery, Gus Van Sant's debut feature Mala Noche heralded an idiosyncratic, provocative new voice in American independent film. Set in Van Sant's hometown of Portland, Oregon, the film evokes a world of transient workers, dead-end day-shifters, and bars and seedy apartments bathed in a profound nighttime, as it follows a romantic deadbeat with a wayward crush on a handsome Mexican immigrant. Mala Noche was an important prelude to the New Queer Cinema of the nineties and is a fascinating time capsule from a time and place that continues to haunt its director's work." It is really exciting when Criterion decides to do a film like this. It was Van Sant's first film in a very interesting and multi-faceted career. Criterion offers a great way to see or revisit this film: new transfer and new interview with Gus Van Sant.

Man Push Cart (2005) directed by Ramin Bahrani
"A former Pakistani rock star attempts to adjust to life in New York City while simultaneously making friends and selling coffee from a push cart on the streets of Manhattan in Iranian-American director Ramin Bahrani poignant, character-driven drama. By day Ahmad tends to hurried Manhattan-ites by keeping their bellies full and ensuring that they are adequately caffeinated, and by night he supplements his income by selling bootleg porn DVDs. Though Ahmad hopes to one day raise enough money to purchase a place of his own and reunite with his estranged son, times are tough in the city and the hard-working immigrant soon strikes up a tentative friendship with fellow countryman Mohammed; a generous but sometimes condescending soul who readily takes the fledgling New Yorker under his knowing wing while offering additional work decorating his apartment. Spanish immigrant Noemi works at a newsstand near Ahmad's cart, and also finds herself warming to the haunted former rock-star's timid ways. As Ahmad, Mohammed, and Noemi gradually begin to socialize together, a tragedy in Ahmad's past soon prompts the struggling New York newcomer to question the true nature of his current relationships." An understated film with an indie heart of gold.

Shinobi No Mono (1962) directed by Satsuo Yamamoto
"As nefarious warlord Oda Nobunga continues his quest to conquer all of Japan, a powerful young ninja becomes ensnared in a plot to kill the powerful ruler in this period adventure that helped to launch the ninja craze when originally released back in 1962. Ishikawa Goemon (Ichikawa Raizo) has lost his honor, and now in order to reclaim it he must do away with the most feared man in all of Japan. But the task won't be an easy one, because death lurks around every corner as enemy ninja gangs fast close in. In order to ensure the authenticity of their ambitious martial arts feature, the producers of Shinobi No Mono enlisted the so-called 'last living ninja' as an expert consultant." Animeigo is turning out to be the DVD distributor to watch for great Asian films both old and new. This is a genre classic and a must see for fans.

BRANDED UPON THE BRAIN! at the Parkway Theater

A great film in a theater finding a new life - what else can you ask for. Although the Parkway has been making its way to the forefront of great programming for about a month now, their two week run of Guy Maddin's film Branded Upon the Brain! is the real deal. And I couldn't be happier. The local premiere of Branded Upon the Brain! got ignored by our brain-dead local weekly, but got a four star review from Colin Covert in the Star Tribune. The film is just as troubling as it is whimsical, and is about as unique a film that you will find. The Parkway itself is shaping up into a respectable theater, with visible improvements being made weekly. I was excited to see a poster hanging in the lobby for Larry Fessenden's The Last Winter. The Parkway is turning out to be a theater filling some pretty big cinematic gaps in this town.

Keep track of what is playing on the Parkway's website.

Please support this theater's great efforts! Branded Upon the Brain! is playing through October 18.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

DVD releases for October 2

The Films of Kenneth Anger Vol. 2
"Cinematic magician, legendary provocateur, author of the infamous Hollywood Babylon books and creator of some of the most striking and beautiful works in the history of film, Kenneth Anger is a singular figure in post-war American culture. A major influence on everything from the films of Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and David Lynch to the pop art of Andy Warhol to MTV, Anger's work serves as a talisman of universal symbols and personal obsessions, combining myth, artifice and ritual to render cinema with the power of a spell or incantation. Covering the second half of Anger's career, from his legendary Scorpio Rising to his breathtaking phantasmagoria Lucifer Rising, Fantoma is very proud to complete the cycle with this long-awaited final volume of films by this revolutionary and groundbreaking maverick, painstakingly restored and presented on DVD for the first time anywhere in the world. Contains the films: Scorpio Rising (1964), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), Rabbit's Moon (1979 version), Lucifer Rising (1981)" When Kenneth Anger was at the Walker this past January, he made it quite clear he was not happy with Fantoma and these DVDs because he had seen no money from the project. I can only hope things have changed and Mr. Anger has received some of the proceeds, even as a good will measure. These films are amazing. I will be renting this DVD to see the films that were not screened at the Walker.

Ramones: It's Alive 1974-1996
"Punk forefathers Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, Richie, and C-Jay Ramone outlasted almost every one of their legions of followers. For over twenty years, they delivered their signature garage-flavored, ear-shattering chainsaw level and pop-skewed sound through a string of now-classic, loud-and-fast punk rock LPs, and 2,263 concerts together. This new two DVD set captures the essence of the legendary racket they made with over four hours of rare and previously unreleased live footage that's the closest you can get to experiencing this blitzkrieg of a band. From their earliest performances at lower Manhattan's CBGBs to international festivals in front of hundreds of thousands of fans, It's Alive 1974-1996 is your VIP ticket to the Ramones. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, the band may be gone, but their sound and influence are indestructible." A DVD for the fans. Loads of performances on two DVDs.

Red Without Blue (2007) directed by Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills, Todd Sills
"Mark Farley and his twin brother Alex Farley were born and raised in Montana, a place where people who are 'different' are not always welcomed - something they discovered after they went public with their homosexuality when they were in their early teens. Coming out damaged Mark and Alex's relationship with their divorced parents (especially their mother Jenny Farley, who may have issues with her own sexuality), and made them the target of bullies and pedophiles, which led them to consider killing themselves. Now grown men, Mark and Alex agreed to participate with filmmakers Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills and Todd Sills in making a documentary about their lives, and Red Without Blue captures them at a time when the brothers are both still coming to terms with their identities. Mark, an art student, is in the midst of his first lasting relationship with another man, while Alex has chosen to live as a woman, adopting the name Claire and considering a sex change operation. The twins are attempting to mend their relationships with their parents, while Mark wonders if Alex's transsexuality may be an effort to distance himself from his family and sibling. Red Without Blue won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival."

Day Night Day Night (2006) directed by Julia Loktev
"Writer-director Julia Loktev's (Moment of Impact) harrowing, claustrophobic thriller Day Night, Day Night plunges the audience into the world of a suicide bomber just prior to her final, fatal act. As the film opens, a young woman prays to an unknown, unspecified deity, then tucks away into a fleabag New Jersey motel room, when several hooded men arrive, arm her with explosives, and give her instructions to carry out. She then takes off alone, headed straight for Times Square, and making her way through clamoring throngs of real people - any of whom could instantly become her casualties. Loktev strips away much of the external exposition, never revealing the central character's name, ethnicity, religious affiliation or political background. The director thus forces the audience to focus, exclusively and unrelentingly, on the nature of the character's actions, and underscores the idea that terrorist motivations are, on some level, completely inconceivable to an outsider. Ironically, instead of turning the central character into a cipher and thus distancing her from the viewer, the film's stripped exposition terrifyingly draws the audience closer to the character." This film screened at the Women With Vision film series at the Walker this Spring. (Did it play again? I'm not sure.) It is an interesting, but imperfect film.

The Sarah Silverman Program
"Sarah Silverman stars as Sarah Silverman, an unemployed single woman who still behaves like a child. Sarah depends in everything on her sister (played by her real sister Laura). Sarah is petty, self centered, childish, sometimes dumb and always Jewish. Other characters are her two gay neighbors (or gaybors as she calls them) and Laura's boyfriend who is a police officer. Sarah Silverman says what's on her mind. And no one else's. This is the first season of the critically acclaimed The Sarah Silverman Program. With her unique perspective on life and her ability to turn just about everything into a song, find out why Sarah Silverman is an American treasure. An offensive, filthy-mouthed treasure." How could this not be funny?

Two for the collectors:

Caligula: 3 Disc Imperial Edition (1979) directed by Tinto Brass
"The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign - he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end. There are various versions of the film, ranging from the heavily- truncated 90-minute version to the legendary 160-minute hardcore version which leaves nothing to the imagination (though the hardcore scenes were inserted later and do not involve the main cast members)." I remember being disappointed when I finally saw Caligula, but that was a while ago. Maybe it is time to revisit with the Imperial Edition...

Funny Face 50th Anniversary Edition (1957) directed by Stanley Donen
"Fashion photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), in search for an intellectual backdrop for an air-headed model, expropriates a Greenwich Village bookstore. When the photo session is over the store is left in a shambles, much to salesgirl Jo Stockton's (Audrey Hepburn) dismay. Avery stays behind to help her clean up. Later, he examines the photos taken there and sees Jo in the background of one shot. He is intrigued by her unique appearance, as is Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson), the editor of a leading fashion magazine. They offer Jo a modeling contract, which she reluctantly accepts only because it includes a trip to Paris. Eventually, her snobbish attitude toward the job softens, and Jo begins to enjoy the work and the company of her handsome photographer." This edition comes with a new transfer from the original 'Vita Vision' negative.