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.