Tuesday, July 8, 2008

DVD releases for July 8

Batman: Gotham Knight
Yeah, I know, this seems like a cheap marketing ploy for the pre-Dark Knight excitement, but I'm willing to guess it may be a little more worthwhile than that. Although this has DC Comics and Warner Brothers and "from the producers of the Dark Knight" written all over it, what isn't readily evident is the production team that will make these six straight to video animated episodes worth watching. First and foremost, the animation was done by Japan's Studio 4°C, Production I.G. and Madhouse (in other word easily the three best production studio in Japan.) Secondly, all five directors hail from across the Pacific and have contributed to various animation projects: Shoujirou Nishimi (Mind Game, Tekkonkinkreet), Futoshi Higashide (Giant Robo), Hiroshi Morioka (.hack//SIGN), Toshiyuki Kubooka (Gunbuster, BAOH), and Jong-Sik Nam (BASTof Syndrome). What all that says is that there was actually some careful planning behind this project even if the dollar signs were the motivator. The dark, moody look of the animation perfectly mimics that of Batman Begins and, maybe even more so, The Dark Knight. (Arkham Asylum anyone?) Gotham Knight is the perfect filler for the 10 days we have to wait for The Dark Knight.

Chop Shop (2007) directed by Ramin Bahrani
Perhaps one of the most depressing things so far in my 2008 movie-going experiences is being the soul viewer on the night I went to the Parkway Theater to see this poetic film. Obviously, that was just one night in its two-week run at the Parkway, so no doubt more people saw this film. BUT I regretted that the Parkway's gamble on this arthouse gem (that no one else was screening in town) seemed to be a failure. It's a great film: unassuming and very well-acted by the two young stars.

The Tracy Fragments (2007) directed by Bruce McDonald
Ellen Page (before she was Juno and after she was Hayley Stark as a character that is oddly somewhere in between) stars in this film that made the rounds via festivals. Hailing from Canada, this film looks promising, but a brief look at other's reviews do not look too good. Despite my best intentions, I missed this screening at the local film festival.

Bat Without Wings (1980) directed by Chor Yuen
A hilariously muddled supernatural wuxia flick from the Shaw Brothers, with an appearance by a Gene Simmons look-a-like. The plot is a head-scratcher, but the details of the sets and costumes and pre-CGI special effects are really great. Personally, I love this movie, but don't hold that against me.

So Much Rice (2007) directed by Li Hongqi
Here's kind of an interesting DVD to come along, although I can't tell you much about it. From Mainland novelist and poet, an "ineffably eccentric debut, centred on an enigmatic sexual triangle, with an amazing score by cult musician Zuoxiao Zuzhou." (BFI) These are the kind of films that make me glad I do actually subscribe to a DVD service.

The Future is Unwritten (2007) directed by Julian Temple
There is no shortage of Joe Strummer and/or Clash documentaries, but this seems to be one of the best.

Stop-Loss (2008) directed by Kimberly Peirce
I refuse to believe that this film is as bad as the trailer and the screaming MTV sponsorship insists, and most of the critics back me up on this. Stop-Loss is Kimberly Peirce's first film in nine years, since the award-winning but no less controversial Boys Don't Cry.

Mon Oncle Antoine (1971) directed by Claude Jutra
Greatest Canadian film of all time? Really?


Anonymous said...

Love your blog Kathie, but what does it say about Twin Cities film culture that most of the posts anymore are about DVD releases?

So sad that Minnesota Film Arts has essentially stopped year-round programming. I heard a rumor that they were looking at taking over space at the St. Anthony Main, which could be cool, but do enough people trust/respect the organization anymore to support it outside of MSPIFF?

The Twin Cities really needs a full-time (probably and preferably non-profit) art cinema to complement the great series being programmed at the Walker and now, occasionally, at the Parkway too.

Daniel G. said...

I would submit there is still a relatively strong theatrical presence here. We know the Parkway is doing great work and even the Walker has taken their film programming to a new level. We're no N.Y. or L.A., but we may not be too far behind a scene like Chicago.

Regardless, I still agree that MFA is not looking healthy right now and that fact is not good for anybody.

I may have been one of the only other ones to see Chop Shop there, Kathie, but the positive is that I was able to meet Joe of the Parkway afterwards. He said MFA was not happy and though they kind of "stole" it away from the MSPIFF. Whatever, I'm just glad I saw it.

I also missed The Tracey Fragments, and I'm still deciding whether I should regret it.

Stop-Loss was one of the best early movies of the year, and the only Iraq War movie I can recommend to date.

I know nothing about Mon Oncle Antoine, but have heard crazy raving about it in the last few days.

Kathie Smith said...

Thanks for the kind words. I apologize for pimping my blog as 'Twin Cities film culture.' As you can see my blog has digressed into more personal interests than idealistic pursuits. The DVD release thing is something I do for myself anyway, and will blame the lack of other content on my schedule and laziness.

That being said, I do still have aspirations on setting up a website specifically for Twin Cities 'film culture' because, I too would submit with Daniel, that there is plenty going on theatrically around town. Landmark may not be everyone's first choice for 'quality' cinema, but ten screens is nothing to scoff at, and it is pretty impressive that this market can support that (at least for now.) Once you throw in the programming at the Walker and the Parkway, it become a relatively admirable amount of offerings. Would I like another independent theater in town? Absolutely! But I pity the person or organization who works to get a good film to screen only to see one person come in to see it on a nightly basis. More important to me is to rally behind what is in town, and support what we already have. In that sense, I have failed.

Daniel, I too am glad I saw Chop Shop at the Parkway. The fact that MFA was not happy does not surprise me. Five years ago MFA was pissed that I screened an import DVD of the omnibus September 11 to a group of people in a basement of a warehouse in downtown St Paul, so they like to get their britches in a bunch about silly things (and especially if it dispels their own problems.)

I'm totally going to rent Stop-Loss because everything I have read mimics what you say Daniel.

Anonymous said...

There are some great resources, to be sure.

I guess I'm mostly frustrated that MFA had (has?) so much potential and has just been run into the ground outside of the festival. It's a shame.

My only complaint with Landmark is that they tend to be somewhat conservative with their programming, and they're not local and therefore not as infested in the community as a non-profit would/should be.

I wish the Walker could do more screenings but adore what they are doing and do support it.

The Parkway is doing some cool stuff, and I hope it works out financially so that they can continue.

I'd also love a place with more of a hip/relaxed environment to see films... something like the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas; or as a non-profit, the Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Mo.

Anonymous said...

Invested, not infested, in my last comment. ;)

Kathie Smith said...

I'm with you on all points, but I am an optimist with the heart of a pessimist. If I won the lottery today, I would but the Hollywood Theater on Johnson, dump all my cash into fixing it up and making into the theater that I think we would both want. But I would not kid myself, I would lose money big time. The only other way to do it (other than having someone dump money down the toilet) would be to hire a couple grant writers and find a lot of people willing to volunteer.

I agree that there is a space for a different kind of movie theater. Something a little more than just pay your 9 bucks, see your movie and go home. Most people are obviously just opting to stay home with their 60" HD TV, or in my case projector with a 12' screen.

I guess I better start buying lottery tickets!

Daniel G. said...

12' screen!?! You already won the lottery, haha!

You both bring up good points. I'm happy Landmark has such a presence here, but yeah, they're a little detached and can border on corporate. But for the life of me I'll support them as they churn out more of what I see than the multiplexes.

Wish I could financially support the Hollywood with you, Kathie! You're right, though, that the audience is the most important part - and the hardest part.

And Stop-Loss, well I don't know if it will pop up in any list of mine at year end, but if nothing else it's a strong return by Kimberly Peirce.