"The movie business is macabre. Grotesque.
It is a combination of a football game
and a brothel."
-- Federico Fellini

OnVideo

Jan 092021
 

SYNOPSIS

While Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a Dutch Jew, was fighting in the Resistance during the Second World War, the witty, debonair art connoisseur Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) was hosting hedonistic soirees and selling Dutch art treasures to Hermann Göring and other top Nazis. Following the war, Piller becomes an investigator assigned the task of identifying and redistributing stolen art, resulting in the flamboyant van Meegeren being accused of collaboration—a crime punishable by death. But, despite mounting evidence, Piller, with the aid of his assistant (Vicky Krieps), becomes increasingly convinced of Han’s innocence and finds himself in the unlikely position of fighting to save his life.

 

CAST AND CREW
Directed By: Dan Friedkin
Screenplay By: James McGee and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Based on the Book: The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez
Producers: Ryan Friedkin, Danny Friedkin, Bradley Thomas
Executive Producers: Ridley Scott, Peter Heslop, Gino Falsetto
Music By: Johan Soderqvist
Cast: Guy Pearce and Claes Bang

SPECS 

Run Time: Approx. 118 minutes
Rating: R for some language, violence and nudity
Blu-ray™: Feature 1080p High Definition 1.85:1 | Audio English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
DVD: Feature 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen | Audio English 5/1 Dolby Digital
FOR MORE INFORMATION 

Twitter: @SonyPicsHomeEnt
Instagram: @SonyPicturesHomeEntertainment
Facebook: facebook.com/sonypictureshomeentertainment
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/sonypictureshomeent

 Posted by on January 9, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 


A young boy who struggles to connect with others turns to his cell phone and tablet for companionship, befriending a strange and sinister non-human creature in the spine-chilling paranormal thriller, COME PLAY, available to own for the very first time on Digital January 12, 2021 and on Blu-ray™️, DVD and On Demand January 26, 2021 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Starring Gillian Jacobs (“Community”), John Gallagher Jr. (“Westworld”), Azhy Roberston (Marriage Story), and Winslow Fegley (Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made), the “wonderfully twisted” (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times) film is based on writer and director Jacob Chase’s own original short film, “Larry,” and explores the connection between technology and isolation through exciting, innovative and thrilling storytelling, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats from start to finish. COME PLAY was produced by The Picture Company for Amblin Partners.

Desperate for a friend, Oliver (Robertson), a lonely boy who feels different from everyone else, seeks solace and refuge in his ever-present cell phone and tablet. When a mysterious creature uses Oliver’s devices against him to break into our world, Oliver’s parents (Jacobs and Gallagher Jr.) must fight to save their son from the monster beyond the screen.

Bringing the terrifying vision of horror to life, the film’s mystical creature was created by none other than Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, known for its legendary Muppets and some of the most iconic puppetry in the world. Audiences everywhere can now witness the haunting story unfold as one family must overcome their differences to save themselves from a threatening supernatural force and the dangers that lurk in the shadows.

UPHE Website: https://www.uphe.com/movies/come-play
UPHE Trailer: http://uni.pictures/ComePlayTrailer
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ComePlayMovie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ComePlayMovie
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ComePlayMovie
#COMEPLAY

FILMMAKERS:
Cast: Gillian Jacobs, John Gallagher Jr., Azhy Robertson, Winslow Fegley
Casting By: Rori Bergman
Music By: Roque Baños
Costume Designer: Marcia Scott
Film Editor: Gregory Plotkin ACE
Production Designer: David J. Bomba
Director of Photography: Maxime Alexandre AIC
Executive Producer: Alan Blomquist
Produced By: Andrew Rona p.g.a. and Alex Heineman p.g.a.
Written and Directed By: Jacob Chase
Produced By: The Picture Company for Amblin PartnersTECHNICAL INFORMATION BLU-RAY:
Street Date: January 21, 2020
Selection Number: 62212587 (US) / 62212612 (CDN)
Layers: BD 50
Aspect Ratio: 16:9; 2.39:1 Widescreen
Rating: PG-13 for terror, frightening images and some language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Sound: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1
Run Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes

TECHNICAL INFORMATION DVD:
Street Date: January 21, 2020
Selection Number: 62212586 (US) / 62212614 (CDN)
Layers: DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: 16:9; 2.39:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: PG-13 for terror, frightening images and some language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Sound: English, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Run Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes

 

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

Altered Carbon (2018-20): Innovative series set in a future in which consciousness is digitized and stored, allowing people (with money, of course) to live forever by being “re-sleeved” into new bodies. 250 years after his death, a prisoner returns to life in a new body to solve a mind-bending murder to win his freedom. Stars Joel Kinnaman as the prisoner and Chris Conner as Poe, an artificial intelligence that takes the likeness of Edgar Allan Poe and runs the hotel that serves as Kovacs’ base of operations. First season only; second season is weak. (Netflix).

Better Call Saul - Season 05Better Call Saul (2015-2021: This “Breaking Bad” spin-off has created a life of its own as it follows the trials and tribulations of criminal lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in the time before he established his strip-mall law office (as Saul Goodman) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The series also follows the criminal goings-on with fixer Mike Ehrmantraut and members of the Mexican cartel (Nacho Varga, Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring). (The AMC series streams on Amazon Prime).

Black Mirror (2011-2019): British dystopian science fiction anthology series full of intelligence, wit and social commentary. According to creator Charlie Brooker, “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.” (Netflix).

Bodyguard PosterBodyguard (2018): British thriller series follows David Budd (a brooding Richard Madden), a heroic but volatile war veteran now working as a Specialist Protection Officer for the Royalty and Specialist Protection Branch of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. When he is assigned to protect the ambitious and powerful Home Secretary Julia Montague, whose politics stand for everything he despises, Budd finds himself torn between his duty and beliefs. (Netflix).

Bordertown (2016-2019): Finnish series has quirky but brilliant police detective Kari Sorjonen using his incredible powers of deduction to solve despicable crimes all the while trying to keep his family together. He takes a new job in the Serious Crime Unit, in the city of Lappeenranta, near the border of Russia, and teams up with a Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) agent, Lena Jaakkola. The crimes are horrendous as would be expected in a Northern Noir series. (Netflix).

The Break (2016, 2019 — Belgium): Police detective Yoann Peeters moves from Brussels with hThe Break Posteris daughter, Camille, to his home town, where the body of a young African football player was pulled from the river. The death is originally thought to be a suicide, but Peeters suspects murder. In addition, there is corruption associated with gaining approval by farmers to sell their land to allow construction of a dam and reservoir … and Peeters has psychological issues of his own to solve. (Netflix).

The Bridge (Bron/Broen) (2011-2018): The Nordic Noir series begins when a woman is found murdered in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, right on the border between Sweden and Denmark. Police from both countries are called to the scene and what looks like one murder, turns out to be two. It’s a spectacular double murder: the bodies have been brutally cut in half at the waist and put together to form a single corpse. It’s also just the beginning of a wave of violence that plagues Denmark and Sweden. The detectives are an odd pair: Saga Norén from Sweden, who has poor social skills, and Martin Rohde from Denmark, a likable middle-aged man. (Amazon Prime).

Dark PosterDark (2017-2020): A German science fiction time travel thriller series that follows the connections between four estranged families to unravel a sinister time travel conspiracy that spans several generations. Set In the fictional German town of Winden, the series “explores the existential implications of time, and its effect on human nature” as it centers on nuclear destruction, child abductions, murder, lust and infidelity. Mind-boggling in its connections — one literally needs a map to follow the characters. (Netflix).

Dead to Me (2019-2020): An oddball comedy series about the friendship that develops between Jen (Christina Applegate), a recently widowed real estate agent based in Laguna Beach, California, whose husband was killed in a hit-and-run accident, and Judy (Linda Cardellini), a messed-up young woman who is the hit-and-run driver. (Netflix).

Deadwind (Karppi) (2018 — Finland): When Sofia Karppi, a detective in her 30’s who is trying to get over her husband’s death, discovers the body of a young woman on a construction site, she triggers a chain of events that threatens to destroy her life again. A highly thrilling series that mixes crime investigation and personal drama. (Netflix).

The Expanse (2015-2021): A gritty, almost noirish sci-fi series set hundreds of years in the future when the solar system has been colonized — and exploited — by the Earth. The three largest powers are the United Nations of Earth and Luna, the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars (dependent on Earth for resources, including air), and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a loose confederation of the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn whose people are the working class for the rest of the system. “The Expanse” has received critical acclaim, getting praise for its visuals, character development and political narrative; it’s totally immersive, absorbing and edge-of-your seat good story-telling. The first three seasons aired on SyFy; seasons four, five and the sixth (unaired and final season) were picked up by Amazon.

Fleabag (2016, 2019): A thoroughly delightful British black comedy television series created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, based on her one-woman show first performed in 2013. It’s a hilarious and poignant window into the mind of a dry-witted, sexual, grief-riddled woman trying to make sense of the world. Winner of numerous Emmys and British Academy awards. (Amazon Prime).

The Flight Attendant PosterThe Flight Attendant (2020): Frenetic comedy series about footloose flight attendant Cassandra Bowden (Kaley Cuoco) who wakes in her hotel room in Bangkok, hungover from the night before and with a dead man next to her. Afraid to call the police, she continues her morning as if nothing happened; in New York she is met by FBI agents who question her about her recent layover in Bangkok. Still unable to piece the night together, she begins to investigate the murder herself, uncovering a corporate conspiracy, a murder-for-hire organization, and a money laundering scheme — all the while having conversations with the dead man. (HBO Max).

Frozen Dead (Glacé) (2017 — France): A horrific discovery in a small town nestled high in the French Pyrenees begins to unravel a dark mystery that has been hidden for years. On an unforgiving winter morning, a group of workers discover the headless body of a horse, hanging suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff. The grisly find leads investigator Martin Servaz to links to the suicides of three teenage girls at a summer camp 15 years earlier and into a twisted dance with a serial killer in this six-episode icy thriller. (Netflix).

Glitch PosterGlitch (2015, 2017 — Australia): A police officer in the fictional country town of Yoorana, Victoria, finds his life turned upside down when six recently deceased residents — including his first wife — return from the dead in perfect health. They are determined to find out who they are and what has happened to them while the cop struggles to keep the case hidden from his colleagues, his family, and the world, with the help of a local doctor. The seven people are all linked in some way, and the search begins for someone who knows the truth about how and why they have returned. (Netflix).

Jessica Jones (2015, 2018-2019) :Ever since her short-lived stint as a superhero ended in tragedy, Jessica Jones has been rebuilding her personal life and career as a hot-tempered, sardonic private detective in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Plagued by self-loathing and a wicked case of PTSD, Jessica battles demons from within and without, using her extraordinary abilities as an unlikely champion for those in need. Especially if they’re willing to cut her a check. Stars Krysten Ritter as the eponymous lead. (Netflix).

Forbrydelsen PosterThe Killing (Forbrydelsen) (2007, 2009, 2012 — Denmark): A Danish police procedural set in the Copenhagen main police department that revolves around Detective Inspector Sarah Lund and her team, with each season following a different murder case day-by-day and a one-hour episode covering twenty-four hours of the investigation. The series is noted for its plot twists, season-long storylines, dark tone and for giving equal emphasis to the story of the murdered victim’s family alongside the police investigation. It has also been singled out for the photography of its Danish setting, and for the acting ability of its cast. (Amazon Prime but not currently available). A successful American version, starring Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman, is available on Amazon Prime.

Marcella (2017-2020): Despite marriage woes, a tragic loss, memory blackouts and her struggles as a mom, a London detective (Anna Friel) excels at what she does best: catching killers. Marcella Backland, a former London detective, returns to work to investigate an open case from 11 years earlier involving an unidentified serial killer who appears to have become active again. Marcella also has to deal with a hectic home life, where her husband has made the decision to leave her and, at first, send their two children to a boarding school; but later on (in the second season) he uses Marcella’s mental disorder as a means to take full custody. Billed as British “Nordic”-noir: it’s directed and produced by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of “The Bridge.” (Netflix).

Missing (Saknad) (2017 — Sweden) Police superintendent Maja Silver (Helena Bergström) goes back to her old hometown in the Swedish Bible belt to see her daughter, when a terrible discovery — the body of a dead young woman found on the side of a road — paralyzes the small community. (MHz Choice).

Ozark PosterOzark (2017-2021) The Byrdes (Jason Bateman, Laura Linney) and their teenage kids, Charlotte and Jonah, are, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary family with ordinary lives in the lazy lake region of the Missouri Ozarks. Except that Marty and Wendy serve as the top money launderer for the second largest drug cartel in Mexico. But they also must contend with local criminals, including the Langmore and Snell families, and later the Kansas City Mafia. Co-star Julia Garner is terrific as “hillbilly” girl Ruth Langmore who works with the Byrdes. Winner of a host of Emmys. (Netflix).

Perry Mason (2020): Set in 1932 Los Angeles, the series focuses on the origin story of famed defense lawyer Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys), based on characters from Erle Stanley Gardner’s novels. Living check-to-check as a low-rent private investigator, Mason is haunted by his wartime experiences in France and suffering the effects of a broken marriage. LA is booming while the rest of the country recovers from the Great Depression — but a kidnapping gone very wrong leads to Mason exposing a fractured city as he uncovers the truth of the crime. Corruption, scandal and religious infidelity all play out on the gritty streets of LA. There’s plenty of twists and turns in this absorbing series, has been renewed for a second season. (HBO Max).

The Queen’s Gambit (2020): Set during the Cold War era, orphaned chess prodigy Beth Harmon struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world. Netflix released the series in October 2020 and it became Netflix’s most-watched scripted miniseries. It’s also received critical acclaim for Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as Beth Harmon, as well as for cinematography and production values. (Netflix)

The Rain (2018-2020 — Denmark) The world as we know it has come to an end, due to a rain-carried virus that wiped out nearly everybody in Scandinavia. Six years after that event, two Danish siblings emerge from the safety of the bunker where they have been staying. After discovering all remnants of civilization gone, they join a group of fellow young survivors, and together they head out on a danger-filled quest throughout the abandoned land in search of signs of life. The survivors think they have been set free from societal rules of the past, but they quickly find that even in a post-apocalyptic world there is love, jealousy and other coming-of-age dilemmas that young people have always faced. Top-notch post-apocalypse survivalist drama, though the third and last season falters. (Netflix).

Russian Doll (2019): The comedy-drama series follows Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne), a cynical game developer, who repeatedly dies and relives the same night in an ongoing time loop and tries to solve it, leading to her finding a man, Alan Zaveri, in the same situation (portrayed by Charlie Barnett). Renewed for a second season. (Netflix).

SSecret City Posterecret City (2016, 2019 — Australia): A relentless muckraker pushes for truth and transparency in Australia’s corridors of political power, despite threats to her life and career. Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and the United States, journalist Harriet Dunkley (Anna Torv) forces her way closer to the truth, uncovering a secret city of interlocked conspiracies which will threaten her career and her life and endanger the freedom of every Australian. (Netflix).

Spiral (Engrenages) (2005-2021 — France): The acclaimed Parisian cop thriller about the lawyers, judges, prosecutors and detectives at the heart of the French judicial system. Though it follows several plot lines and sub-stories, at its center is Captain Laure Berthaud and her crime squad and the crimes they must solve as they go up against bureaucratic nonsense and corruption. “Spiral” has been an export success, with sales to broadcasters in more than 70 countries. (MHz Choice).

Stranger Things PosterStranger Things (2016-2021): An amalgamation of pre-teen angst, extra-dimensional monsters, the supernatural, top-secret government experiments, Soviet skullduggery, and a very strange young girl with extrasensory powers. Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the first season focuses on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities. The second season focuses on Will’s side effects from being in the Upside Down with its entities crawling into the real world. The third season focuses on the kids as they continue their battle against the Upside Down entities. The series stars an ensemble cast including Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Cara Buono and Dacre Montgomery. A fourth season is in the works. (Netflix).

The Tunnel (2013-2018): British crime drama — from the makers of the “Broadchurch” series. When a prominent French politician is found dead in the middle of the Channel Tunnel, straddling the border between the UK and France, detectives Karl Roebuck, played by Stephen Dillane and Elise Wassermann, played by Clémence Poésy, are sent to investigate on behalf of their respective countries. The case takes a surreal turn when a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, forcing the French and British police into an uneasy partnership. Based on the original hit Swedish series “The Bridge.” (Amazon Prime).

The Umbrella Academy (2019-2020): On the same day in 1989, forty-three infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a billionaire industrialist, who creates The Umbrella Academy and prepares his “children” to save the world. But not everything went according to plan. In their teenage years, the family fractured and the team disbanded. Now, the six surviving thirty-something members reunite upon the news of Hargreeve’s passing. Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Vanya and Number Five work together to solve a mystery surrounding their father’s death. But the estranged family once again begins to come apart due to their divergent personalities and abilities, not to mention the imminent threat of a global apocalypse. Far-fetched but amazingly enjoyable. Renewed for a third season. (Netflix).

Wallander PosterWallander (2005-2013 — Sweden) The original Nordic Noir series. Kurt Wallander (Krister Henriksson) is a Swedish police inspector created by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell (1948 – 2015) and the series is set in and around the town of Ystad, 35 miles south-east of the city of Malmö, in the southern province of Scania. The series explores all the many sins of humankind: sins of oppression and greed, of lust and murder, of degradation and exploitation. Wallander is middle-aged, just coming off a heart attack, and in need of replenishing his soul. During the course of some 30 plus episodes we watch Wallander age in his job, have bouts of memory loss, and get closer and closer to retirement. (Amazon Prime and MHz Choice). “Young Wallander” is a new Netflix police procedural (in English) that serves as a prequel to “Wallander” though it’s set in Sweden (actually Vilnius, Lithuania, standing in for Malmö) in modern times. The series was renewed for a second season.

Westworld (2016-2021): The dystopian science fiction series begins in Westworld, a technologically advanced Wild-West-themed amusement park populated by android “hosts.” The park caters to high-paying “guests” who may indulge their wildest fantasies within the park without fear of retaliation from the hosts, who are prevented by their programming from harming humans. But some of the hosts develop individual consciousness, and the seeds for a revolution are set into motion. In the second season, the hosts overthrow their human programmers; in the third season, the series’ plot expands to the real world, in the mid-21st century, where people’s lives are driven and controlled by a powerful artificial intelligence named Rehoboam. Based on the 1973 feature film directorial debut by Michael Crichton. The series is highlighted by a great ensemble cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Luke Hemsworth, James Marsden and, in the third season, Vincent Cassel. A fourth season is underway. (HBO Max).

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

The Big Clock (1948) Adapted by acclaimed screenwriter Jonathan Latimer from a novel by the equally renowned crime author Kenneth Fearing, “The Big Clock” is a superior suspense film that classically combines screwball comedy with heady thrills. Overworked true crime magazine editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical media tycoon Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holiday, Stroud resigns in disgust before embarking on an impromptu drunken night out with his boss’s mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself to have been the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time: his staff have been tasked with finding a suspect with an all too familiar description … Stroud’s very own. Directed with panache by John Farrow, who stylishly renders the film’s towering central set, the Janoth Building, “The Big Clock” benefits from exuberant performances by Milland and Laughton, who make hay with the script’s snappy dialogue. A huge success on its release, it is no wonder this fast-moving noir was remade years later as the Kevin Costner vehicle “No Way Out.” In a high definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements from Arrow Video.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Jane Curtin, Stephen Spinella. Melissa McCarthy is masterful in the captivating account, based on a true story, of Lee Israel, a best-selling celebrity biographer in the 1970s and ’80s. When Lee (McCarthy) comes to the realization that she’s no longer en vogue, she spins her art form into a perilous web of lies, deceit and outright crime — by forging letters — to get back on top.

Captain Marvel (2018) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou. Set in the 1990’s, the film revolves around Carol Danvers, a crack air force pilot. Though trials and tribulations she becomes one of the galaxy’s mightiest heroes and joins an elite outer space military team known as Starforce. Her membership in the Kree military team puts her in danger when Earth becomes hopelessly stuck in battle between two other alien worlds, forcing Danvers to take on the role of Captain Marvel and use her new powers for the greater good. A guilty pleasure, particularly for the film’s sense of humor and a guileless performance by the lovely Larson.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978 — Australia) Tommy Lewis, Freddy Reynolds, Angela Punch McGregor. Fred Schepisi’s internationally acclaimed masterpiece, based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, is the shocking tale of an indigenous man driven to madness and revenge. Jimmie Blacksmith (Tommy Lewis) is a young Aboriginal half-caste raised in central New South Wales at the turn-of-the-century, a boy initiated by his tribe but also educated by a stern Methodist minister (Jack Thompson). Looking to gain respectability in white society, Jimmie finds a white bride while performing back-breaking work on local farms, but cannot escape his skin color, suffering ongoing racism and oppression. Discovering that he may not be the father of his wife’s child, Jimmie explodes in a fury of violent revenge and escapes into the bush with his brother Mort, cutting a bloody path of retribution upon the society that has forsaken him. In 1901, the year Australian democracy is born, Jimmie Blacksmith finally faces his fate, and with it the fate of his people. This two-disc set includes the 117-minute international version and the 122-minute Australian version.

Cold War (2018 — Poland) This sweeping, delirious romance begins in the Polish countryside, where Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a musician on a state-sponsored mission to collect folk songs, discovers a captivating young singer named Zula (Joanna Kulig). Over the next 15 years, their turbulent relationship will play out in stolen moments between two worlds: the jazz clubs of decadent bohemian Paris, to which he defects, and the corrupt, repressive Communist Bloc, where she remains — universes bridged by their passion for music and for each other. Photographed in luscious monochrome and suffused with the melancholy of the simple folk song that provides a motif for the couple’s fateful affair, Pawel Pawlikowski’s timeless story — inspired by that of his own parents — is a heart-stoppingly grand vision of star-crossed love caught up in the tide of history.

The Farewell (2019) by Lulu Wang; Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin. A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies. A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer; she struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time. Based on an actual lie.

The Favourite (2018) Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone. In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne, and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots. When new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, Sarah takes Abigail under her wing as she cunningly schemes to return to her aristocratic roots, setting off an outrageous rivalry to become the Queen’s favorite.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu shot to international prominence with this rigorously realistic Palme d’Or-winning second feature. In 1987, during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, college roommates Otilia (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) seek an illegal abortion for Gabita. In unflinching but empathetic detail, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” recounts the events of 24 perilous hours in their lives, culminating in their encounter with a manipulative and menacing abortionist (Vlad Ivanov). With powerful performances that accentuate the characters’ flawed humanity, “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is a gutting account of the impossible choices women face when taking control of their bodies means breaking the law.

Hal (2018) Although Hal Ashby directed a remarkable string of acclaimed, widely admired classics throughout the 1970s — “Harold and Maude,” “The Last Detail,” “Shampoo,” “Coming Home,” “Being There” — he is often overlooked amid the crowd of luminaries from his generation. Director Amy Scott’s exuberant portrait explores that curious oversight, using rare archival materials, interviews, personal letters, and audio recordings to reveal a passionate, obsessive artist. Ashby was a Hollywood director who constantly clashed with Hollywood, but also a unique soul with an unprecedented insight into the human condition and an unmatched capacity for good. His films were an elusive blend of honesty, irreverence, humor, and humanity.

The Landlord (1970) Legendary filmmaker Hal Ashby makes his directing debut with this acclaimed social satire starring Beau Bridges as a wealthy young man who leaves his family’s estate in Long Island to pursue love and happiness in a Brooklyn ghetto. When Elgar Enders (Bridges) buys a Park Slope tenement, he fully intends to evict the occupants and transform the building into a chic bachelor pad. But after meeting the tenants, Elgar adopts a “love thy neighbor” policy instead: first he falls head-over-heels for a sexy young go-go dancer … then he begins an affair with the sultry, married “Miss Sepia 1957.” Featuring brilliant performances by Lee Grant in an Oscar-nominated role, Pearl Bailey, Diana Sands, Louis Gossett Jr., Robert Klein, Trish Van Devere, Hector Elizondo, Gloria Hendry and Susan Anspach, and with a potent script by Bill Gunn based on the novel by Kristin Hunter, “The Landlord” is one of the most original and provocative screen comedies to deal with race relations in urban America. Produced by Norman Jewison and shot by Gordon Willis.

Memoir of War (2018 — France) Mélanie Thierry, Emmanuel Bourdieu, Benoît Magimel. Based on Marguerite Duras’s semi-autobiographical novel that follows the famed author as she navigates her way through Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The great novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker is widely considered one of the leaders of the “Nouveau Roman” literary movement. Her script for Alain Resnais’s 1959 masterpiece “Hiroshima Mon Amour” earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the 1961 Academy Awards. In the film, it’s 1944 and Marguerite Duras (Thierry) is an active Resistance member along with her husband Robert Antelme (Bourdieu) and a band of fellow subversives. When Antelme is deported to Dachau by the Gestapo, Marguerite becomes friendly with French Nazi collaborator Rabier Magimel) to obtain information of her husband’s whereabouts. But as the months wear on with no news of Robert, Duras must begin the process of confronting the unimaginable. France’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category for the upcoming 91st Academy Awards.

The Nun (La Religieuse) (1965) Restored in 4K from the original negative, Jacques Rivette’s “The Nun,” initially banned in France, can now be seen in all its revolutionary glory. Adapted from Denis Diderot’s novel, it follows a rebellious nun (played by an incandescent Anna Karina) who is forced into taking her vows. Initially shunted into a restrictive, torturous convent, she eventually moves on to a more liberated one, where she becomes an object of Mother Superior’s (Liselotte Pulver) obsession. Banned for over a year by the French Minister of Information, and not released in the United States until 1971, it slowly became a landmark of the French New Wave, and with this stunning restoration, should also become an object of worship.

Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood (2019) Dir.: Quentin Tarantino; Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Luke Perry. Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing in Hollywood, as former TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age.

Road Games (1981) by Richard Franklin; Stacy Keach is Pat Quid, a lone trucker who plays games to keep his sanity on long hauls through the desolate Australian Outback. Jamie Lee Curtis is a free-spirited hitchhiker looking for excitement with a game of her own. And somewhere up ahead is a maniac in a van whose game may be butchering young women along the highway. But when the killer decides to raise the stakes, Quid’s game becomes personal … and the rules of this road are about to take some very deadly turns.

Shoplifters (2018 — Japan) Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Mayu Matsuoka. On the margins of Tokyo, a dysfunctional band of outsiders are united by fierce loyalty, a penchant for petty theft and playful grifting. When the young son is arrested, secrets are exposed that upend their tenuous, below-the-radar existence and test their quietly radical belief that it is love — not blood — that defines a family. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film from Japan.

Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) Past, present and future collide in darkly satirical fashion. Based on Kurt Vonnegut’s classic 1969 novel, this tale of time travel and alien abduction emerged as part of a wave of more cerebral science-fiction films in the late 60s to early 70s, elevating the genre beyond the B-movie fare of previous decades. Upstate New York, 1968: Mild-mannered Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) finds himself “unstuck in time.” Traveling back and forth across the entire span of his existence, he experiences key events of his life in a random order, including his formative years, the firebombing of Dresden and finally, at some undefined point in the future, his surreal adventures on a distant planet. Praised by Vonnegut himself for its fidelity to his novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five” boasts assured direction by George Roy Hill. Hill was a idiosyncratic director, moving from such early films as the pat comedy “Period of Adjustment” to Lillian Hellman’s “Toys in the Attic” to the offbeat “The World of Henry Orient” before hitting the jackpot with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” “Slaughterhouse-Five” followed on that success but was not as enthusiastically received. “The Sting” restored Hill’s position as a bankable director, and he went on to direct several more unusual projects, including the Paul Newman-starrer hockey film “Slap Shot” and an adaptation of John Irving’s “The World According to Garp.” Restored in 4K from the original camera negative, “Slaughterhouse-Five” features a memorable score by renowned concert pianist Glenn Gould. Stars Michael Sacks, Perry King, Valerie Perrine, Ron Leibman and Eugene Roche. From Arrow Video.

They Might Be Giants (1971) Wealthy, retired judge Justin Playfair (George C. Scott) has a most peculiar eccentricity: he believes he is Sherlock Holmes. Betrayed by his scheming brother, “Holmes” comes under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Mildred Watson (Joanne Woodward). As Watson follows Holmes through Manhattan on a search for his elusive nemesis Moriarty, the unlikely pair are drawn into a world of danger and intrigue. Together, they discover an uncommon reality — and a most magical love. Presented in a special expanded version, featuring additional footage not seen in the original theatrical release. Co-stars Jack Gilford, Al Lewis, Rue McClanahan, Kitty Winn, M. Emmet Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, James Tolkan, Eugene Roche.

Transit (2019 — Germany) by Christian Petzold; Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Lilien Batmann, Maryam Zaree. Fleeing from German-occupied Paris to the port city of Marseille and assuming the identity of a recently deceased writer, a refugee meets a young woman desperate to find her missing husband — the man whose identity he has stolen. Shot and set in 21st century Marseille.

Vice (2018) by Adam McKay. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell. Epic tale of how a bureaucratic Washington insider, Dick Cheney, quietly became the most powerful man in the world. Gov. George W. Bush of Texas picks Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton Co., to be his Republican running mate in the 2000 presidential election. No stranger to politics, Cheney’s impressive résumé includes stints as White House chief of staff, House Minority Whip and defense secretary. When Bush wins by a narrow margin, Cheney begins to use his newfound power to help reshape the country and the world.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

All About Eve (1950) In Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s devastatingly witty Hollywood classic, backstage is where the real drama plays out. One night, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) entertains a surprise dressing-room visitor: her most adoring fan, the shy, wide-eyed Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter). But as Eve becomes a fixture in Margo’s life, the Broadway legend soon realizes that her supposed admirer intends to use her and everyone in her circle, including George Sanders’s acid-tongued critic, as stepping-stones to stardom. Featuring stiletto-sharp dialogue and direction by Mankiewicz, and an unforgettable Davis in the role that revived her career and came to define it, the multiple-Oscar-winning “All About Eve” is the most deliciously entertaining film ever made about the ruthlessness of show business.

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980) Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s controversial, 15-hour “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” based on Alfred Döblin’s great modernist novel, was the crowning achievement of a prolific director who, at age 34, had already made over 30 films. Fassbinder’s immersive epic follows the hulking, childlike ex-convict Franz Biberkopf (Günter Lamprecht) as he attempts to “become an honest soul” amid the corrosive urban landscape of Weimar-era Germany. With equal parts cynicism and humanity, Fassbinder details a mammoth portrait of a common man struggling to survive in a viciously uncommon time.

Betty Blue (1986) When the easygoing would-be novelist Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) meets the tempestuous Betty (Béatrice Dalle in a magnetic breakout performance) in a sunbaked French beach town, it’s the beginning of a whirlwind love affair that sees the pair turn their backs on conventional society in favor of the hedonistic pursuit of freedom, adventure, and carnal pleasure. But as the increasingly erratic Betty’s grip on reality begins to falter, Zorg finds himself willing to do things he never expected to protect both her fragile sanity and their tenuous existence. Adapted from the hit novel “37°2 le matin” by Philippe Djian, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s art-house smash — presented here in its extended director’s cut — is a sexy, crazy, careening joyride of a romance that burns with the passion and beyond-all-reason fervor of all-consuming love.

Blue Velvet (1986) Home from college, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) makes an unsettling discovery: a severed human ear, lying in a field. In the mystery that follows, by turns terrifying and darkly funny, David Lynch burrows deep beneath the picturesque surfaces of small-town life. Driven to investigate, Jeffrey finds himself drawing closer to his fellow amateur sleuth, Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), as well as their prime suspect, lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini)– and facing the fury of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), a psychopath who will stop at nothing to keep Dorothy in his grasp. With intense performances and hauntingly powerful scenes and images, “Blue Velvet” is an unforgettable vision of innocence lost, and one of the most influential American films of the past few decades.

The Heiress (1949) Directed with a keen sense of ambiguity by William Wyler, this film, based on a hit stage adaptation of Henry James’s “Washington Square,” pivots on a question of motive. When shy, fragile Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland, in a heartbreaking, Oscar-winning turn), the daughter of a wealthy New York doctor, begins to receive calls from the handsome spendthrift Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), she becomes possessed by the promise of romance. Are his smoldering professions of love sincere, as she believes they are? Or is Catherine’s calculating father (Ralph Richardson) correct in judging Morris a venal fortune seeker? A graceful drawing-room drama boasting Academy Award-winning costume design by Edith Head, “The Heiress” is also a piercing character study riven by emotional uncertainty and lacerating cruelty, in a triumph of classic Hollywood filmmaking at its most psychologically nuanced.

House of Games (1987) The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter David Mamet sat in the director’s chair for the first time for this sly, merciless thriller. Lindsay Crouse stars as a best-selling author and therapist who wants to help a client by making restitution for the money he owes to a gambler. After she meets the attractive cardsharp (Joe Mantegna), her own compulsions take hold as he lures her into his world of high-stakes deception. Packed with razor-sharp dialogue delivered with even-keeled precision by a cast of Mamet regulars, “House of Games” is as psychologically acute as it is full of twists and turns, a rich character study told with the cold calculation of a career con artist targeting his next mark.

Klute (1971) With her Oscar-winning turn in “Klute,” Jane Fonda arrived full-fledged as a new kind of movie star. Bringing nervy audacity and counterculture style to the role of Bree Daniels — a call girl and aspiring actor who becomes the focal point of a missing-person investigation when detective John Klute (Donald Sutherland) turns up at her door — Fonda made the film her own, putting an independent woman and escort on-screen with a frankness that had not yet been attempted in Hollywood. Suffused with paranoia by the conspiracy-thriller specialist Alan J. Pakula, and lensed by master cinematographer Gordon Willis, Klute is a character study thick with dread, capturing the mood of early-1970s New York and the predicament of a woman trying to find her own way on the fringes of society.

Let the Sunshine In (2017 — France) Two luminaries of French cinema, Claire Denis and Juliette Binoche, unite for the first time in this piercing look at the elusive nature of true love, and the extent to which we are willing to betray ourselves in its pursuit. In a richly layered performance, Binoche plays Isabelle, a successful painter in Paris whose apparent independence belies what she desires most: real romantic fulfillment. Isabelle reveals deep wells of yearning, vulnerability, and resilience as she tumbles into relationships with all the wrong men. Shot in burnished tones by Denis’s longtime collaborator Agnès Godard and featuring a mischievous appearance by Gérard Depardieu, “Let the Sunshine In” finds bleak humor in a cutting truth: we are all, no matter our age, fools for love.

1984 (1984) This masterly adaptation of George Orwell’s chilling parable about totalitarian oppression gives harrowing cinematic expression to the book’s bleak prophetic vision. In a rubble-strewn surveillance state where an endless overseas war props up the repressive regime of the all-seeing Big Brother, and all dissent is promptly squashed, a profoundly alienated citizen, Winston Smith (thrillingly played by John Hurt), risks everything for an illicit affair with the rebellious Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) in a defiant assertion of humanity in the face of soul-crushing conformity. Through vividly grim production design and expressionistic desaturated cinematography by Roger Deakins, Michael Radford’s 1984 conjures a dystopian vision of postwar Britain as fascistic nightmare — a world all too recognizable as our own.

Now, Voyager (1942) Nervous spinster Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is stunted from growing up under the heel of her puritanical Boston Brahmin mother (Gladys Cooper), and remains convinced of her own unworthiness until a kindly psychiatrist (Claude Rains) gives her the confidence to venture out into the world on a South American cruise. Onboard, she finds her footing with the help of an unhappily married man (Paul Henreid). Their thwarted love affair may help Charlotte break free of her mother’s grip — but will she find fulfillment as well as independence? Made at the height of Davis’s reign as the queen of the women’s picture and bolstered by an Oscar-winning Max Steiner score, “Now, Voyager” is a melodrama for the ages, both a rapturous Hollywood romance and a poignant saga of self-discovery.

One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977) In the early 1960s in Paris, two young women become friends. Pomme is an aspiring singer. Suzanne is a pregnant country girl unable to support a third child. Pomme lends Suzanne the money for an illegal abortion, but a sudden tragedy soon separates them. Over a decade later, they reunite at a demonstration and pledge to keep in touch via postcard, as each of their lives is irrevocably changed by the women’s liberation movement. A buoyant hymn to sisterly solidarity rooted in the hard-won victories of a generation of women, “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” is one of Agnès Varda’s warmest and most politically trenchant films, a feminist musical for the ages.

The Story of Temple Drake (1933) Loosely adapted from William Faulkner’s controversial novel “Sanctuary,” this notorious pre-Code melodrama stars Miriam Hopkins as Temple Drake, the coquettish granddaughter of a respected small-town judge. When a boozehound date strands her at a bootleggers’ hideout, Temple is subjected to an act of nightmarish sexual violence and plunged into a criminal underworld that threatens to swallow her up completely. Steeped in Southern-gothic shadows by influential cinematographer Karl Struss and shot through with moral ambiguity, “The Story of Temple Drake” is a harrowing vision of sin and salvation that boasts an astonishing lead performance from the fiery Hopkins, whose passage through the stations of terror, trauma, and redemption is a true tour-de-force of screen acting. High-definition digital restoration.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2015

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2018

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

Annihilation (2018) by Alex Garland. Stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny. Lena (Portman), a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X — a sinister and mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline. Once inside, the expedition discovers a world of mutated landscapes and creatures, as dangerous as it is beautiful, that threatens both their lives and their sanity. The expedition team is made up of the biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a surveyor, and a linguist.

The Disaster Artist (2017) Directed by and starring James Franco; with Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Dylan Minnette, Alison Brie, Lizzy Caplan, Bryan Cranston, Kristen Bell, Sharon Stone, Dave Franco, Sugar Lyn Beard, Josh Hutcherson, Seth Rogen, Megan Mullally, Adam Scott. When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true: Tommy’s cult-classic disaster piece “The Room” (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”).

First Reformed (2018) by Paul Schrader; starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Michael Gaston, Cedric the Entertainer. A priest of a small congregation in upstate New York grapples with mounting despair brought on by tragedy, worldly concerns and a tormented past.

The Horror of Party Beach (1964) In 1964, 20th Century Fox released an independent shocker — shot in two weeks for $50,000 outside Stamford, Connecticut by local producer-director Del Tenney — advertised as “The First Horror-Monster Musical.” When nuclear waste dumped into the ocean mutates a shipwreck full of corpses, it unleashes an onslaught of bikini teens, surprising gore, dubious science, an intrepid maid, The Del-Aires, and arguably the greatest, worst monsters in horror movie history. Features a new 2K scan from the original negative.

Ichi the Killer (2001 — Japan) Takashi Miike’s film has endured as one of the most influential pieces of genre filmmaking of the last two decades. Based on Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series of the same name, the controversial and graphic tale of feuding yakuza gangs is seen primarily through the actions of a scarred and psychologically damaged man, who is manipulated into killing rival faction members. This visceral, bloody, and often hilarious film follows Kakihara, a notoriously sadistic yakuza enforcer whose search for his boss’ killer brings him into the orbit of a demented costumed assassin known as Ichi.

I, Tonya (2017) by Craig Gillespie; stars Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney. In 1991, talented figure skater Tonya Harding (Robbie) becomes the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition. In 1994, her world comes crashing down when her ex-husband conspires to injure Nancy Kerrigan, a fellow Olympic hopeful, in a poorly conceived attack that forces the young woman to withdraw from the national championship. Janney won this year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

King of Hearts (1966 — France) Director Philippe de Broca’s film, which brought a modern 1960s sensibility to a story set during World War I, laid the groundwork for such dark war comedies as “How I Won the War” and “M*A*S*H.” Scottish soldier Private Plumpick (Oscar nominee Alan Bates) is sent on a mission to a village in the French countryside to disarm a bomb set by the retreating German army. Plumpick encounters a strange town occupied by the former residents of the local psychiatric hospital who escaped after the villagers deserted. Assuming roles like Bishop, Duke, Barber and Circus Ringmaster, they warmly accept the visitor as their “King of Hearts.” With his reconnaissance and bomb-defusing mission looming, Plumpick starts to prefer the acceptance of the insane locals over the insanity of the war raging outside. Since its 1966-67 release, “King Of Hearts” has become a worldwide cult favorite and stands out as one of the most memorable films by Philippe de Broca (“That Man From Rio,” “Dear Inspector”). The superb cast also includes Oscar nominee Geneviève Bujold, Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Serrault, Adolfo Celli and Pierre Brasseur. The score is by Oscar winner Georges Delerue. From Cohen Film Collection.

La Belle Noiseuse (aka The Beautiful Troublemaker) (1991 — France) The Grand Prix winner at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, “La Belle Noiseuse” is Jacques Rivette’s intimately epic exploration of the convergence between artistry and eroticism. Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) is a reclusive painter living in the French countryside with his wife (Jane Birkin). Their lives are radically upended with the arrival of a younger artist (David Bursztein) and his girlfriend (Emmanuel Béart), who becomes the muse that awakens Edouard’s fading passions. Rivette creates a layered character study, while also offering an immersive meditation on the creative process. Rivette (1928-2016) was a key member of the New Wave of the late 1950s and ’60s — the group of film critics for the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinéma who put their revolutionary theories to the test as they became filmmakers themselves and changed the face of modern movies. Standing somewhat apart from Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and other pioneers of the movement, Rivette created films marked by improvisation, unusual length and loose narrative that give the impression of events simply unfolding before the camera. New 4K restoration of the original four-hour version (in 1992, Rivette released a much shorter cut, titled photo for Manifesto “Divertimento,” which presented the story chiefly from the Béart character’s point of view).

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988 — Australia) Following the release of his 1984 debut feature “Vigil,” Vincent Ward returned four years later with “The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey,” a film that would cement his position as one of the most exciting filmmaking talents to emerge during the eighties. Cumbria, 1348 — the year of the Black Death. Griffin, a young boy, is plagued by apocalyptic visions that he believes could save his village. Encouraging a small band of men to tunnel into the earth, they surface in 1980s New Zealand and a future beyond their comprehension — but they must complete their quest. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, “The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey” is a bold and often startling fusion of medieval fantasy and

Phantom Thread (2017) Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day-Lewis earned his sixth Academy Award nomination as Reynolds Woodcock, a fastidious and controlling fashion designer. Renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the center of British fashion in 1950s London — dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites and debutantes. Women come and go in Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship. His carefully tailored existence soon gets disrupted by Alma, a young and strong-willed woman who becomes his muse and lover. Stars Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps.

The Shape of Water (2017) by Guillermo del Toro. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. Stars Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer. Won four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Musical Score and Best Production Design.

Smash Palace  (1981 — New Zealand) Premiering at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival, “Smash Palace” was Roger Donaldson’s second feature following the success of “Sleeping Dogs,” a film which had heralded the arrival of the New Zealand New Wave. “Smash Palace” concerns itself with the marriage of former racing driver Al (Bruno Lawrence) and French-born Jacqui (Anna Jemison). The pair had met when she nursed him back to health following a career-ending injury. They married, returned to Al’s native New Zealand to take over his late father’s wrecking yard business — the Smash Palace of the title — and had a child. But over time stagnation has set in, Jacqui’s resentment of Al has grown, and things are threatening to spill over. Playing out as a darker, more haunting New Zealand variation on such US separation movies as “Kramer vs. Kramer” or “Shoot the Moon,” “Smash Palace” offers a brilliant, vivid messy portrait of masculinity in crisis, driven by Lawrence’s immense central performance — once again confirming his status as one of New Zealand’s finest actors. In a Blu-ray debut from Arrow Video.

The Teacher (2016 — Czech Republic) by Jan Hrebejk. In a middle school classroom in Bratislava in 1983, a new teacher, Maria Drazdechova, asks each student to stand up, introduce themselves and tell her what their parents do for a living. It slowly becomes clear that perhaps the pupils’ grades are related to how willing their guardians are open to helping her out with her errands, her housecleaning, and other random services. After one of the students attempts suicide, however, the director of the school has no choice but to call for an emergency parents’ meeting to remove the teacher, but because Ms. Drazdechova is also a high-ranking official of the Communist Party, parents are hesitant to sign a petition to transfer her out. In a classroom behind the Iron Curtain, the future of all the families are at stake, as each family must wrestle with standing up for what they believe in or silently keeping the status quo.

Thoroughbreds (2018) by Cory Finley. Stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift. Childhood friends Lily and Amanda reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Lily has turned into a polished upper-class teenager who has a fancy boarding school on her transcript and a coveted internship on her resume. Amanda has developed a sharp wit and her own particular attitude but all in the process of becoming a social outcast. Though they initially seem completely at odds, the pair eventually bond and hatch a plan to solve both of their problems.

Woman Is the Future of Man/Tale of Cinema: Two Films By Hong Sangsoo (2004/2005). This collection brings together “Woman is the Future of Man” and “Tale of Cinema,” the fifth and sixth films by Hong Sangsoo, the masterful South Korean filmmaker who has been favorably compared to that great French observer of human foibles, Eric Rohmer. “Woman is the Future of Man” tells of two long-time friends, a filmmaker and a teacher, who have had an affair with the same woman. The friends decide to meet the girl one more time and see what happens. “Tale of Cinema” uses the trope of a film within a film to tell two stories, that of a depressive young man who forms a suicide pact with a friend; and the tale of a filmmaker who sees a film that he believes was based on his life, and who meets the actress from the film with a view to turning their onscreen relationship into reality. With these critically acclaimed films, presented here in high definition for the first time with a wealth of extras, Hong Sangsoo employs his idiosyncratic, measured style to create two compelling and truthful tapestries of human emotion and behavior.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

Andrei Rublev (1966) Tracing the life of a renowned icon painter, the second feature by Andrei Tarkovsky vividly conjures the murky world of medieval Russia. This dreamlike and remarkably tactile film follows Andrei Rublev as he passes through a series of poetically linked scenes — snow falls inside an unfinished church, naked pagans stream through a thicket during a torchlit ritual, a boy oversees the clearing away of muddy earth for the forging of a gigantic bell — gradually emerging as a man struggling mightily to preserve his creative and religious integrity. Appearing here in the director’s preferred 185-minute cut as well as the version that was originally suppressed by Soviet authorities, the masterwork “Andrei Rublev” is one of Tarkovsky’s most revered films, an arresting meditation on art, faith, and endurance.

The Day of the Jackal (1973) In 1971, Frederick Forsythe shot to bestseller status with his debut novel, “The Day of the Jackal” — taut, utterly plausible, almost documentarian in its realism and attention to detail. Two years later, director Fred Zinnemann (“High Noon”) turned a gripping novel into a nail-biting cinematic experience. August 1962: the latest attempt on the life of French President Charles de Gaulle by the far-right paramilitary organization, the OAS, ends in chaos, with its architect-in-chief dead at the hands of a firing squad. Demoralized and on the verge of bankruptcy, the OAS leaders meet in secret to plan their next move. In a last desperate attempt to eliminate de Gaulle, they opt to employ the services of a hired assassin from outside the fold. Enter the Jackal (Edward Fox): charismatic, calculating, cold as ice. As the Jackal closes in on his target, a race against the clock ensues to identify and put a stop to a killer whose identity, whereabouts and modus operandi are completely unknown. Co-starring a plethora of talent from both sides of the Channel, including Michael Lonsdale (“Munich”), Derek Jacobi (“The Odessa File”) and Cyril Cusack (“1984”) and featuring striking cinematography by Jean Tournier (“Moonraker”), “The Day of the Jackal” remains one of the greatest political thrillers of all time. And Edward Fox, whom many viewers will recognize from “A Bridge Too Far” (1977) and “Gandhi” (1982), plays one of the most frightenly perfect hitman of all time. Trivia: He’s the older brother to actor James Fox, who starred alongside Mick Jagger in “Performance” (1970).

Dead Man (1995) With “Dead Man,” his first period piece, Jim Jarmusch imagined the 19th-century American West as an existential wasteland, delivering a surreal reckoning with the ravages of industrialization, the country’s legacy of violence and prejudice, and the natural cycle of life and death. Accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) has hardly arrived in the godforsaken outpost of Machine before he’s caught in the middle of a fatal lovers’ quarrel. Wounded and on the lam, Blake falls under the watch of the outcast Nobody (Gary Farmer), a Native American without a tribe, who guides his companion on a spiritual journey, teaching him to dispense poetic justice along the way. Featuring austerely beautiful black-and-white photography by Robby Müller and a live-wire score by Neil Young, “Dead Man” is a profound and unique revision of the Western genre

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) For his feature debut, 24-year-old Louis Malle brought together a mesmerizing performance by Jeanne Moreau, evocative cinematography by Henri Decaë, and a now legendary jazz score by Miles Davis. Taking place over the course of one restless Paris night, Malle’s richly atmospheric crime thriller stars Moreau and Maurice Ronet as star-crossed lovers whose plan to murder her husband (his boss) goes awry, setting off a chain of events that seals their fate. A career touchstone for its director and female star, Elevator to the Gallows was an astonishing beginning to Malle’s eclectic body of work, and it established Moreau as one of the most captivating actors to ever grace the screen.

Memories of Underdevelopment (1968 — Cuba) This film by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea is the most widely renowned work in the history of Cuban cinema. After his wife and family flee in the wake of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the bourgeois intellectual Sergio (Sergio Corrieri) passes his days wandering Havana in idle reflection, his amorous entanglements and political ambivalence gradually giving way to a mounting sense of alienation. With this adaptation of an innovative novel by Edmundo Desnoes, Gutiérrez Alea developed a cinematic style as radical as the times he was chronicling, creating a collage of vivid impressions through the use of experimental editing techniques, archival material, and spontaneously shot street scenes. Intimate and densely layered, “Memories of Underdevelopment” provides a biting indictment of its protagonist’s disengagement and an extraordinary glimpse of life in postrevolutionary Cuba.

The Naked Prey (1965) Glamorous leading man turned idiosyncratic auteur Cornel Wilde created in the 1960s and ’70s a handful of gritty, violent explorations of the nature of man, none more memorable than “The Naked Prey.” In the early 19th century, after an ivory-hunting safari offends a group of South African hunters, the colonialists are captured and hideously tortured. A lone marksman (Wilde) is released, without clothes or weapons, to be hunted for sport, and he begins a harrowing journey through savanna and jungle back to a primitive state. Distinguished by vivid widescreen camera work and unflinchingly ferocious action sequences, “The Naked Prey” is both a propulsive, stripped-to-the-bone narrative and a meditation on the concept of civilization.

Shampoo (1975) “Shampoo” gives us a day in the life of George, a Beverly Hills hairdresser and Lothario who runs around town on the eve of the 1968 presidential election trying to make heads or tails of his financial and romantic entanglements. His attempts to scrape together the money to open his own salon are continually sidetracked by the distractions presented by his lovers — played brilliantly by Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, and Lee Grant (in an Oscar-winning performance). Star Warren Beatty dreamed up the project, co-wrote the script with Robert Towne, and enlisted Hal Ashby as director, and the resulting carousel of doomed relationships is an essential seventies farce, a sharp look back at the sexual politics and self-absorption of the preceding decade.

Sisters (1973) Margot Kidder is Danielle, a beautiful model separated from her Siamese twin, Dominique. When a hotshot reporter (Jennifer Salt) suspects Dominique of a brutal murder, she becomes dangerously ensnared in the sisters’ insidious sibling bond. A scary and stylish paean to female destructiveness, Brian De Palma’s first foray into horror voyeurism is a stunning amalgam of split-screen effects, bloody birthday cakes, and a chilling score by frequent Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2015

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2017

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

photo for Baby DriverBaby Driver (2017) The surprise hit of the year — no surprise, actually, if you know the work of director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” 2004; “Hot Fuzz,” 2007; “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” 2010, and “The World’s End,” 2013) and his offbeat movies that draw in diverse audiences and great reviews. Here he tells the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young getaway car driver in Atlanta who drives for crime kingpin Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pay off an old debt. Suffering from tinnitus, Baby blocks the noise in his ears by constantly listening to music mixes on iPods — and although he’s absorbed with his music, he’s the best driver around. Doc never uses the same crew twice, and the current crew — consisting of trigger-happy Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm), an easy-going killer, and Darling (Eiza González), Buddy’s lawless girl — have little faith in Baby — or Doc. When their heist goes wrong, Baby kills Bats using his car in an unbelievable way, Darling is shot dead by the police, and Buddy goes after Baby with a vengeance. On the run from Buddy, Doc and the police, Baby’s only hope is to get of town fast with his money and his waitress girlfriend (Lily James). The beauty of the film is its no-frills dialogue, extremely fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping action, and its music — the actor’s timing (in particular Baby’s driving) and movements are synced with the killer soundtrack — that has become one of the best-selling records of the year). It’s stylish, thrilling, exciting, innovative, well-directed and acted. Not to be missed.

Get Out (2016) A sophisticated, culturally aware horror thriller that takes race relations to a new level. Director Jordan Peele (half of “Key and Peele”) takes a normal, white upper-class family and turns them into monsters in the most unexpected way. Now that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway in the country with parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford). At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. Without spoiling any of the amazing revelations of the film, suffice it to say that “Get Out” (which doubles as the “Get Out” of slang for astonishment and the “Get Out” command to head for safety) is kinda like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” meets “White Zombie” (1932). Just remember that the monsters are us.

Glory (2016 — Bulgaria) Tsanko Petrov, a railroad worker, finds millions of leva on the train tracks. He decides to turn the money over to the police, for which the state rewards him with a new wristwatch that soon stops working. Meanwhile, Julia Staikova, head of the PR department of the Ministry of Transport, loses Petrov’s old watch, a family relic. Here starts his desperate struggle to recover both his old watch and his dignity. From Bulgarian Bulgarian filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, who brought to the big screen 2014’s “The Lesson.”

The Handmaiden (2016 — South Korea) From Park Chan-wook, the celebrated director of “Oldboy,” “Lady Vengeance,” “Thirst” and “Stoker” comes a ravishing new crime drama inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by British author Sarah Waters. Having transposed the story to 1930s-era colonial Korea and Japan, Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman — a street thief –who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a conman’s plot to defraud her of her large inheritance. Powered by remarkable performances from Kim Min-hee as Lady Hideko, Ha Jung-woo as the con-man who calls himself the Count and sensational debut actress Tae-ri Kim as the maid Sookee, the film borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with Park’s singular vision and energy to create an unforgettable viewing experience. One of New York Times’ Best Films of 2016 and Certified Fresh (93%) on Rotten Tomatoes.

photo for Jacques Rivette Collection Limited Edition Jacques Rivette Collection Limited Edition In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with “Out” 1 producer Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, each in a different genre. One was to be a love story, another a Western, and there was to be a fantastical thriller and a musical comedy starring Anna Karina and Jean Marais too. Ill health intervened, and only two of the films were completed. “Duelle (une quarantine)” (1976) sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) search for a magical diamond in present day. Its parallel film, “Noroît (une vengeance)” (1976), is a pirate tale — and a loose adaptation of “The Revenger’s Tragedy” — starring Geraldine Chaplin (“Nashville”). A third film began production — “Marie et Julien” starring Albert Finney and Leslie Caron — but Rivette succumbed to nervous exhaustion and shooting was abandoned. When he did return to filmmaking, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of “Duelle” and “Noroît” and came up with” Merry-Go-Round” (1981). Joe Dallesandro (“Trash,” “Flesh for Frankenstein”) and Maria Schneider (“Last Tango in Paris,” “The Passenger”) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) In the latest film from award-winning writer and director Kenneth Lonergan, the life of a solitary Boston janitor is transformed when he returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. The story of the Chandlers, a working-class family living in a Massachusetts fishing village for generations, “Manchester by the Sea” is a deeply poignant, unexpectedly funny exploration of the power of familial love, community, sacrifice and hope. After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 15-year-old, and is forced to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised. It’s a journey of love, community, sacrifice, and hope.

photo for MokaMoka (2016 — France) A grieving woman pursues a couple whom she suspects of killing her son in a hit-and-run in this moody, riveting psychological thriller. Adapted from Tatiana de Rosnay’s bestselling novel, “Moka”, winner of the prestigious Variety Piazza Grande Award at last year’s Locarno International Film Festival, follows Diane Kramer (Emmanuelle Devos), who travels to Évian in search of the mocha-colored Mercedes that she believes killed her son. Overwhelmed with grief and desperate for answers, she tracks down Marlene (Nathalie Baye), a beauty salon proprietor and owner of the vehicle. In order to get closer to her, Diane pretends to be a potential buyer for the car, but the path of revenge is far more tortuous and complicated than it seems.

mother! (2017) A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence. An allegorical couple — a young woman with her husband at their country home — has their life disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious man and woman. A series of disturbing events follow, turning their idyllic home into a hellish nightmare. From filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”), comes this riveting psychological thriller about love, devotion and sacrifice. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Jovan Adepo.

photo for Serial Mom Collector's Edition BLU-RAY DEBUTSerial Mom Collector’s Edition (1994) Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake, Mink Stole, Patricia Hearst, Matthew Lillard, Mary Jo Catlett, Traci Lords, Suzanne Somers. If you are ill-mannered, have a poor sense of social etiquette or just plain irresponsible, then beware of the cheerfully psychotic housewife Beverly Sutphin from John Waters’ wickedly hilarious cult classic. In a Blu-ray debut.

Train to Busan (2016 — South Korea) Zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide zombie viral outbreak, trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet-train ride to the Safe Zone … which may or may not still be there. A businessman and his estranged daughter hop a train to Busan, unawares that a research plant — funded by the businessman’s financiaphoto for Train to Busanl firm — has unleashed a virus that is quickly turning South Korea into a land of zombies. When the infection spreads to the speeding train, a group of passengers — lead by the businessman and a blue-collar worker — must fight their way through the zombie hordes to the safety of the front cars of the train — all the while hoping that Busan has been safely cordoned off from the infected countryside. It’s a thrilling, entertaining take on the zombie genre, with fleshed out characters, social commentary, and terrific action sequences. Forget all you knew about slow-moving zombies — these flesh eaters, like the ones in “World War Z,” are pretty darn fast and hard to stop. Biggest grossing South Korean film of all time.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

Barry Lyndon (1975) Stanley Kubrick bent the conventions of the historical drama to his own will in this dazzling vision of brutal aristocracy, adapted from a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. In picaresque detail, “Barry Lyndon” chronicles the adventures of an incorrigible trickster (Ryan O’Neal) whose opportunism takes him from an Irish farm to the battlefields of the Seven Years’ War and the parlors of high society. For the most sumptuously crafted film of his career, Kubrick recreated the decadent surfaces and intricate social codes of the period, evoking the light and texture of 18-century painting with the help of pioneering cinematographic techniques and lavish costume and production design, all of which earned Academy Awards. The result is a masterpiece — a sardonic, devastating portrait of a vanishing world whose opulence conceals the moral vacancy at its heart.

photo for Being ThereBeing There (1979) In one of his most finely tuned performances, Peter Sellers plays the pure-hearted Chance, a gardener forced out of moneyed seclusion and into the urban wilds of Washington, D.C., after the death of his employer. Shocked to discover that the real world doesn’t respond to the click of a remote, Chance stumbles haplessly into celebrity after being taken under the wing of a tycoon (Melvyn Douglas), who mistakes his new protégé’s mumbling about horticulture for sagacious pronouncements on life and politics, and whose wife targets Chance as the object of her desire. Adapted from a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, this hilarious, deeply melancholy satire marks the culmination a remarkable string of films by Hal Ashby in the 1970s, and serves as a carefully modulated examination of the ideals, anxieties, and media-fueled delusions that shaped American culture during that decade.

Desert Hearts (1985) Donna Deitch’s swooning and sensual first narrative feature, “Desert Hearts,” was groundbreaking upon its 1985 release: A love story about two women, made entirely independently, on a self-financed shoestring budget, by a woman. In the 1959-set film, an adaptation of a novel by Jane Rule, straitlaced East Coast professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) arrives in Reno to file for divorce but winds up catching the eye of someone new, the younger free spirit Cay (Patricia Charbonneau), touching off a slow seduction that unfolds against a breathtaking desert landscape. With undeniable chemistry between its two leads, an evocative jukebox soundtrack, and vivid cinematography by Robert Elswit, “Desert Hearts” beautifully exudes a sense of tender yearning and emotional candor.

Election (1999) Perky, overachieving Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) gets on the nerves of history teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) to begin with, but after she launches her campaign for high-school president and his personal life starts to fall apart, things spiral out of control. In Alexander Payne’s satire “Election,” the teacher comes unhealthily obsessed with cutting his student down to size, covertly backing a spoiler candidate to stop her from steamrolling to victory, and putting in motion a series of dirty tricks and reckless promises with uncanny real-world political parallels. Adapting a then-unpublished novel by Tom Perrotta, Payne grounds the absurdity of his central dynamic in the recognizable — the setting is his hometown of Omaha, and the accomplished cast is rounded out with nonprofessionals — and distills his closely observed take on deeply flawed humanity to its bitter but stealthily sympathetic essence.

Fox and His Friends (1975c– Germany) A lottery win leads not to financial and emotional freedom but to social captivity in this wildly cynical classic about love and exploitation by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Casting himself against type, the director plays a suggestible working-class innocent who lets himself be taken advantage of by his bourgeois new boyfriend (Peter Chatel) and his circle of materialistic friends, leading to the kind of resonant misery that only Fassbinder could create. “Fox and His Friends” is unsparing social commentary, an amusingly pitiless and groundbreaking if controversial depiction of a gay community in 1970s West Germany.

Ghost World (2001) Terry Zwigoff’s first fiction film, adapted from a cult-classic comic by Daniel Clowes, is an idiosyncratic portrait of adolescent alienation that’s at once bleakly comic and wholly endearing. Set during the malaise-filled months following high-school graduation, “Ghost World” follows the proud misfit Enid (Thora Birch), who confronts an uncertain future amid the cultural wasteland of consumerist suburbia. As her cynicism becomes too much to bear even for her best friend, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), Enid finds herself drawn to an unlikely kindred spirit: a sad-sack record collector many years her senior (Steve Buscemi). With its parade of oddball characters, quotable, Oscar-nominated script, and eclectic soundtrack of vintage obscurities,

photo for Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai Du Commerce, 1080 BruxellesJeanne Dielman, 23, Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975 — Belgium) A singular work in film history, Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” meticulously details, with a sense of impending doom, the daily routine of a middle-aged widow (Delphine Seyrig) — whose chores include making the beds, cooking dinner for her son, and turning the occasional trick. In its enormous spareness, Akerman’s film seems simple, but it encompasses an entire world. Whether seen as an exacting character study or one of cinema’s most hypnotic and complete depictions of space and time, Jeanne Dielman is an astonishing, compelling movie experiment, one that has been analyzed and argued over for decades.

Stalker (1979 — USSR) Andrei Tarkovsky’s final Soviet feature is a metaphysical journey through an enigmatic postapocalyptic landscape, and a rarefied cinematic experience like no other. A hired guide—the Stalker—leads a writer and a scientist into the heart of the Zone, the restricted site of a long-ago disaster, where the three men eventually zero in on the Room, a place rumored to fulfill one’s most deeply held desires. Adapting a science-fiction novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Tarkovsky created an immersive world with a wealth of material detail and a sense of organic atmosphere. A religious allegory, a reflection of contemporaneous political anxieties, a meditation on film itself—Stalker envelops the viewer by opening up a multitude of possible meanings.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964 — France) An angelically beautiful Catherine Deneuve was launched into stardom by this glorious musical heart-tugger from Jacques Demy. She plays an umbrella-shop owner’s delicate daughter, glowing with first love for a handsome garage mechanic, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When the boy is shipped off to fight in Algeria, the two lovers must grow up quickly. Exquisitely designed in a kaleidoscope of colors, and told entirely through the lilting songs of the great composer Michel Legrand, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is one of the most revered and unorthodox movie musicals of all time.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2015

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

The Danish Girl The Danish Girl (2015) by Tom Hooper. A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer. Co-stars Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.

High Rise (2015) Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. Life seems like paradise to the solitude-seeking Laing. But as power outages become more frequent and building flaws emerge, particularly on the lower floors, the regimented social strata begins to crumble and the building becomes a battlefield in a literal class war. Based on the novel by J.G. Ballard. Stars Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons.

photo for I, AnnaI, Anna (2015) Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne, Eddie Marsan, Hayley Atwell. The lives of a beautiful divorcee and a troubled detective intersect during the investigation of a vicious murder on the grimy, rain-soaked streets of London, sparking a tangled web of passion, intrigue and deceit. The modern film noir is told from the perspective of the intriguing woman, a key suspect in the murder case, who becomes an obsession for the detective in charge of the investigation.

Labyrinth of Lies (2014 — Germany) Alexander Fehling. Drama exposes the post-war conspiracy of prominent German institutions and government branches to cover up the crimes of Nazis during World War II. Germany 1958. In those years, “Auschwitz” was a word that some people had never heard of, and others wanted to forget as quickly as possible. Against the will of his immediate superior, young prosecutor Johann Radmann begins to examine the case of a recently identified teacher who was a former Auschwitz guard. Radmann soon lands in a web of repression and denial, but also of idealization. He devotes himself with utmost commitment to his new task and is resolved to find out what really happened. He oversteps boundaries, falls out with friends, colleagues and allies, and is sucked deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of lies and guilt in his search for the truth. But what he ultimately brings to light will change the country forever. Germany’s Academy Award entry for Best Foreign-language Film.

photo for The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a GunThe Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (2015 — France) Freya Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano, Stacy Martin. A stylish psychological thriller about a beautiful secretary who uses her absent boss’ blue Thunderbird to go joyriding in the South of France but ends up involved in murder and intrigue — and begins to doubt her own sanity. After she shuttles her boss and his family to the airport where they depart on a short vacation, Dany (Freya Mavor) decides to take a fantasy joyride along the Mediterranean coast — but her trip quickly turns into a nightmare. At every stop along the way, people recognize her — even though she’s never been there before. And to make matters worse, a dead body is discovered inside the trunk of the car. Has she lost her mind? Director and comic book writer Joann Sfar (“The Rabbi’s Cat,” “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”) puts his graphic novel background to good use here with interesting dissolves, split screens, diagrams, flashbacks, flashforwards and flashsideways super-saturated colors and oblique camerawork. It’s a fun and mysterious ride, highlighted by the gorgeous lead whom the camera just loves. The film is based on a novel by Sebastien Japrisot (“One Deadly Summer,” “A Very Long Engagement”); it was originally turned into a film of the same name in 1970 by Anatole Litvak with Samantha Eggar (as Dany), Oliver Reed, John McEnery and Stephane Audran.

The Lobster (2016) by Yorgos Lanthimos. Stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw. In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in 45 days or are transformed into the animal of their choice and sent off into The Woods. 2015 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner

A Married WomanA Married Woman (1964) An often overlooked masterwork from Jean-Luc Godard’s most productive period. The plot appears to be simple: Charlotte (Macha Méril) is a young bourgeoise married woman having an affair with an actor. When she discovers that she’s pregnant, she must decide which man is the father and which man she will stay with. In Godard’s hands, however, the film, described as “a film about a woman’s beauty and the ugliness of her world,” is also a biting critique of consumer culture and the media constructed obsession with image. Subtitled “Fragments of a Film Shot in 1964,” in black and white, Godard creates a modernist collage that is beautifully shot by the director’s longtime cinematographer Raoul Coutard. Presented for the first time in the U.S., in a stunning new HD restoration from the original negative.

The Neon Demon (2016) by Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”). Stars: Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, Bella Heathcote, Desmond Harrington, Jamie Clayton, Alessandro Nivola. Jesse (Fanning) moves to Los Angeles just after her 16th birthday to launch a career as a model. The head of her agency tells the innocent teen that she has the qualities to become a top star, and Jesse soon faces the wrath of ruthless vixens who despise her fresh-faced beauty. On top of that, she must contend with a seedy motel manager and a creepy photographer. As Jesse starts to take the fashion world by storm, her personality changes in ways that could help her against her cutthroat rivals. Gorgeously shot but pretty creepy.

The Night Manager- Season 01 The Night Manager (2016) Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston lead an incredible British cast in the intense BBC One/AMC spy thriller in its original, uncensored version. Miniseries based on John le Carré’s best-selling spy novel follows hotel manager Jonathan Pine (Hiddleston) in his quest to bring down international arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). After being recruited by a British intelligence officer to infiltrate Roper’s inner circle, Pine is thrust into a world of international intrigue – but in his quest to do the right thing, Pine must first become a criminal himself.

99 Homes (2015) In this timely thriller, single father Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is evicted from his home and his only chance to win it back is to go to work for Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), the charismatic and ruthless businessman who evicted him in the first place. It’s a deal-with-the-devil that provides security for his family; but as Nash falls deeper into Carver’s web, he finds his situation grows more brutal and dangerous than he ever imagined.

photo for Private PropertyPrivate Property (1960) 4k digital restoration of director Leslie Stevens’ long-missing 1960 thriller starring iconic American character actor Warren Oates in his first significant screen role. A major rediscovery for noir and crime fans,” Private Property” had essentially vanished following a very brief release in the early 1960s. Two homicidal Southern California drifters (played to creepy, Peeping Tom perfection by Oates and Corey Allen) wander off the beach and into the seemingly-perfect Beverly Hills home of an unhappy housewife (Leslie Stevens’ real-life spouse, Kate Manx). Shimmering with sexual tension and lensed in stunning B&W by master cameraman Ted McCord (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “East of Eden”), “Private Property” is both an eerie, neo-Hitchcockian thriller and a savage critique of the hollowness of the Playboy-era American Dream. Oates delivers his first great screen performance here as one of the murderous vagabonds, years before he emerged as one of the finest character actors of his generation. Shot almost entirely in the Beverly Hills home where director Stevens and lead actress Manx lived at the time, the film is a simmering thriller tinged with deeply unnerving elements of autobiography — and all the voyeurism anyone could ask for.

The Revenant (2015) by Alejandro G. Inarritu. Follows the story of legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) on his quest for survival and justice. After his trapping expedition in the Montana and Dakota territories in 1823 is massacred by members of the Arikara tribe, Glass — scouting for the group’s handful of survivors — is attacked by a bear and left for dead by a treacherous member of his hunting team (Tom Hardy). Against extraordinary odds, and enduring unimaginable grief, Glass battles a relentless winter in uncharted terrain. Grueling.

The Tunnel (2016) British crime drama is set against the backdrop of Europe in crisis. When a prominent French politician is found dead in the middle of the Channel Tunnel, straddling the border between the UK and France, detectives Karl Roebuck, played by Stephen Dillane and Elise Wassermann, played by Clémence Poésy, are sent to investigate on behalf of their respective countries. The case takes a surreal turn when a shocking discovery is made at the crime scene, forcing the French and British police into an uneasy partnership. As the serial killer uses ever more elaborate and ingenious methods to highlight the moral bankruptcy of modern society, Karl and Elise are drawn deeper into his increasingly personal agenda. Based on the original hit Swedish series from Filmlance International “The Bridge.”

photo for Welcome to LeithWelcome to Leith (2015) Chronicles the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor. With incredible access to both longtime residents of Leith and white supremacists, the film examines a small community in the plains struggling for sovereignty against an extremist vision.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

The American Friend (1977) Wim Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with “The American Friend,” a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley’s Game.” Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral American art dealer who entangles a terminally ill German everyman, played by Bruno Ganz, in a seedy criminal underworld as revenge for a personal slight — but when the two become embroiled in an ever-deepening murder plot, they form an unlikely bond. Filmed on location in Hamburg and Paris, with some scenes shot in photo for “The American Friend” grimy, late-seventies New York City, Wenders international breakout is a stripped-down crime story that mixes West German and American film flavors, and it features cameos by filmmakers Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray.

The Exterminating Angel (English Subtitled)The Exterminating Angel (1962) A group of high-society friends are invited to a mansion for dinner and inexplicably find themselves unable to leave in “The Exterminating Angel (El ángel exterminador),” a daring masterpiece from Luis Buñuel (“Belle de jour,” “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”). Made just one year after his international sensation, “Viridiana,” this film, full of eerie, comic absurdity, furthers Buñuel’s wicked takedown of the rituals and dependencies of the frivolous upper classes.

I Knew Her Well (1965) This prismatic portrait of the days and nights of a party girl in the sitxies Rome is a revelation. On the surface, “I Knew Her Well,” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, plays like an inversion of “La dolce vita” with a woman at its center, following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli) as she dallies with a wide variety of men, attends parties, goes to modeling gigs, and circulates among the rich and famous. Despite its often light tone, though, the film is a stealth portrait of a suffocating culture that regularly dehumanizes people, especially women. A seriocomic character study that never strays from its complicated central figure while keeping us at an emotional remove, “I Knew Her Well” is one of the most overlooked films of the sixties, by turns hilarious, tragic, and altogether jaw-dropping.

In a Lonely Place (1950) When a gifted but washed-up screenwriter with a hair-trigger temper — Humphrey Bogart, in a revelatory, vulnerable performance — becomes the prime suspect in a brutal Tinseltown murder, the only person who can supply an alibi for him is a seductive neighbor (Gloria Grahame) with her own troubled past. The emotionally charged “In a Lonely Place,” freely adapted from a Dorothy B. Hughes thriller, is a brilliant, turbulent mix of suspenseful noir and devastating melodrama, fueled by powerhouse performances. An uncompromising tale of two people desperate to love yet struggling with their demons and each other, this is one of the greatest films of the 1950s, and a benchmark in the career of the classic Hollywood auteur Nicholas Ray.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) The name John Frankenheimer became forever synonymous with heart-in-the-throat filmmaking when this quintessential sixties political thriller was released. Set in the early fifties, this razor-sharp adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon concerns the decorated U.S. Army sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), who as a prisoner during the Korean War is brainwashed into being a sleeper assassin in a Communist conspiracy, and a fellow POW (Frank Sinatra) who slowly uncovers the sinister plot. In an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance, Angela Lansbury plays Raymond’s villainous mother, the controlling wife of a witch-hunting anti-Communist senator with his eyes on the White House. The rare film to be suffused with Cold War paranoia while also taking aim at the frenzy of the McCarthy era, “The Manchurian Candidate” remains potent, shocking American moviemaking.

Paris Belongs to UsParis Belongs to Us (1961) One of the original critics-turned-filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1957, well before that cinema revolution officially kicked off with “The 400 Blows” and “Breathless.” Ultimately released in 1961, the rich and mysterious “Paris Belongs to Us” offers some of the radical flavor that would define the movement, with a particularly Rivettian twist. The film follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who befriends the members of a loose-knit group of twentysomethings in Paris, united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance. Suffused with a lingering post-World War II disillusionment while evincing a playful temperament, Rivette’s film marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.

The Player (1992) A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would fit right into one of his movie projects, in this biting industry satire from Robert Altman. Mixing elements of film noir with sly insider comedy, “The Player,” based on a novel by Michael Tolkin, functions as both a nifty stylish murder story and a commentary on its own making, and it is stocked with a heroic supporting cast (Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Greta Scacchi, Dean Stockwell, Fred Ward, Lyle Lovett) and a lineup of star cameos that make for an astonishing Hollywood who’s who. This complexly woven grand entertainment (which kicks off with one of American cinema’s most audacious and acclaimed opening shots) was the film that marked Altman’s triumphant commercial comeback in the early 1990s.

Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy In the 1970s, Wim Wenders was among the first true international breakthrough artists of the revolutionary New German Cinema, a filmmaker whose fascination with the physical landscapes and emotional contours of the open road proved to be universal. In the middle of that decade, Wenders embarked on a three-film journey that took him from the wide roads of Germany to the endless highways of the United States and back again. Starring Rudiger Vogler as the director’s alter ego, “Alice in the Cities,” “Wrong Move” and “Kings of the Road” are dramas of emotional transformation that follow their characters’ searches for themselves, all rendered with uncommon soulfulness and visual poetry.

Woman in the Dunes (1964) One of the 1960s’ great international art-house sensations, “Woman in the Dunes” was for many the grand unveiling of the surreal, idiosyncratic world of Hiroshi Teshigahara (“The Face of Another”). Eiji Okada (“Hiroshima mon amour”) plays an amateur entomologist who has left Tokyo to study an unclassified species of beetle found in a vast desert. When he misses his bus back to civilization, he is persuaded to spend the night with a young widow (Kyoko Kishida) in her hut at the bottom of a sand dune. What results is one of cinema’s most unnerving and palpably erotic battles of the sexes, as well as a nightmarish depiction of the Sisyphean struggle of everyday life — an achievement that garnered Teshigahara an Academy Award nomination for best director.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2015

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

photo for age-of-adalineThe Age of Adaline (2015) Adaline (Blake Lively) is a 29-year-old who survives a near-death experience and from that day on never grows older. After miraculously remaining that way for almost eight decades, Adaline has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever. A warm-hearted romancer harking back to the 1940s and 1950s melodramas..

American Sniper (2014) by Clint Eastwood. U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) takes his sole mission — protect his comrades — to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he can’t leave the war behind. Sure-footed, powerful direction by Eastwood and a surpise tour-de-force serious performance by Cooper. Co-stars Sienna Miller.

photo for Battles Without Honor And Humanity BLU-RAY DEBUTBattles Without Honor and Humanity (1973) Kinji Fukasaku (“Battle Royale”) gave the world Japan’s answer to “The Godfather” with this violent yakuza saga, influencing filmmakers from Quentin Tarantino to Takashi Miike. Made within just two years, the five-film series brought a new kind of realism and ferocity to the crime genre in Japan, revitalizing the industry and leading to unprecedented commercial and critical success. Fukasaku and his team broke with the longstanding studio tradition of photo for Battles Without Honor And Humanity BLU-RAY DEBUT casting marquee idols as honorable, kimono-clad heroes, defending their gang bosses against unscrupulous villains, and instead adapted true accounts torn from the headlines, shot in a documentary-like style, and with few clear-cut heroes or villains. The vibrancy and dynamism of the filmmaking, plus its shocking violence, Shakespearean plotlines, and wide tapestry of characters, launched a revolutionary new genre, establishing the series as one of the great masterpieces of world crime cinema.

photo for The BeastThe Beast (1975 — France) Walerian Borowczyk’s most notorious and controversial film wildly re-works the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story into a very adult fairy tale, a parody of pornographic tropes and an assault on notions of “good taste.” Bestial dreams interrupt the venal plans of a French aristocrat attempting to save a crumbling mansion by marrying off his deformed son, Mathurin, to a horny American heiress, Lucy. Yet Mathurin seems more interested in his horses than in his bride-to-be, and when Lucy finds out about the story of his 18th-century ancestor Romilda copulating with the titular beast, it sparks to life one of the most outrageous dream sequences in cinema history. A huge hit in France that was extensively censored and banned elsewhere, “The Beast” broke new ground in sexual explicitness and remains a truly startling experience even today.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is mounting an ambitious Broadway production that he hopes will breathe new life into his stagnant career. It’s risky, but he hopes that his creative gamble will prove that he’s a real artist and not just a washed-up movie star. As opening night approaches, a castmate is injured, forcing Riggan to hire an actor (Edward Norton) who is guaranteed to shake things up. Meanwhile, Riggan must deal with his girlfriend, daughter and ex-wife. A cinematic display of technical expertise, with great acting by Keaton and Norton. Co-stars Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Lindsay Duncan.

photo for The Bridge: Season 2The Bridge: Season 2 (2013) The Danish-Swedish crime series ups the stakes, and the body count, as a shipwreck leads the international team of detectives to forge one hell of a partnership. An abandoned tanker ship crashes into the Oresund bridge, on the border between Sweden and Denmark. Onboard are five Swedish and Danish youths, chained below deck, unconscious. Investigating the incident is Scandinavia’s oddest couple: Swedish detective Saga Noren, hampered by primitive social skills, and Martin Rohde from Denmark, still reeling from the death of his son. More bizarre crimes follow the tanker incident and they discover they’re up against a deranged activist group who will stop at nothing to convey their message: “The World is Bigger than Us.” As the body count escalates, Saga and Martin know that they’re running out of time and that the next attack could result in the death of thousands. In Danish and Swedish with English subtitles.

Citizenfour (2014) Real-life international thriller that unfolds by the minute. With unprecedented access, this behind-the-scenes documentary follows award-winning director Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s remarkable encounters with whistleblower Edward Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel room as he hands over classified documents that provide evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Coherence (2013) Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead and they experience a troubling chain of reality bending events and doppelgangers. A great low-budget debut by James Ward Byrkit. Stars Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria.

photo for Cop CarCop Car (2015) A corrupt small-town sheriff (Kevin Bacon) is on the hunt for two runaway kids who took his car on a joyride in this unnervingly funny thriller. When a pair of 10-year-olds find an abandoned cop car in a field and take it for a joyride, it seems like they could kill themselves at any moment. But things only get worse when the small-town sheriff goes looking for his missing car — and the illicit cargo he left in the trunk — and the kids find themselves at the center of a deadly game of cat and mouse they don’t understand. Co-stars James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Shea Wigham, Camryn Manheim.

Ex Machina (2015) by Alex Garland (screenwriter for “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine” and “Never Let Me Go”). Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company’s brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), where he will be the human component in a Turing Test — charged with evaluating the capabilities of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated — and more deceptive — than the two men could have imagined. A sci-fi thriller of ideas.

photo for Forbidden Zone, the Ultimate Edition BLU-RAY DEBUTForbidden Zone (1980) Starring Herve Villechaise, Susan Tyrell, Matthew Bright and Marie-Pascale Elfman, directed by Richard Elfman and featuring original music by Danny Elfman. A filmed version of the cabaret show created by the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. A mysterious door leads to the Sixth Dimension and sexy, beautiful young “Frenchy” slides through cosmic intestines into an insane subterranean world ruled by a horny little king and his jealous queen. Chicken-boy comes to the rescue, only to have his head cut off by the soul-singing Devil himself — played by Danny Elfman. Frog butlers, topless princesses and rioting school kids sing and dance in unforgettable musical numbers by Elfman, Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker. Includes both the original black & white plus the new colorized version.

photo for Immoral TalesImmoral Tales (1974 — France) Walerian Borowczyk’s first explicitly erotic feature, “Immoral Tales” presents a veritable cavalcade of depravity: cosmic fellatio, transcendental masturbation, blood-drenched lesbianism and papal incest. It tells four stories, each delving back further in time, as if to suggest that the same issues recur constantly throughout human civilization, whether involving notorious historical figures like Lucrezia Borgia and Erzsebet Bathory, or present-day teenagers. Capitalizing on the relaxation of censorship laws, “Immoral Tales” would transform Borowczyk’s image from brilliant but obscure avant-garde artist to one of Europe’s most confrontational filmmakers when it came to trampling on sexual taboos.

Inherent Vice (2014) directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. A fairly ambitious and faihful adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel. In a California beach community, private detective Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) tends to work his cases through a smoky haze of marijuana. One day, Shasta, a former lover, arrives out of the blue to plead for Doc’s help; it seems that Shasta’s current beau, rich real-estate tycoon Mickey Wolfmann, has a wife who may be plotting to commit him to a mental hospital. When Mickey and Shasta both disappear, Doc navigates a psychedelic world of surfers, stoners and cops to solve the case. Co-stars Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom.

photo for It FollowsIt Follows (2015) A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter. For 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe), the fall should be about school, boys and weekends at the lake. Yet, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter she suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions; she can’t shake the sensation that someone, or something — death — is following her. As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind. A critically acclaimed breakout movie and one of the highest grossing independent films of the year.

John Wick (2014) Got to hand it to Keanu Reeves: he’s successfully traveled the cinematic road from teen goofball to melodramatic heartthrob to sci-fi hero to action star. He’s at his murderous best in this reveenge thriller that has spawned two sequels — this is the best of the lot. Legendary assassin John Wick (Reeves) retired from his violent career after marrying the love of his life. Her sudden death leaves John in deep mourning. When sadistic mobster Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) and his thugs steal John’s prized car and kill the puppy that was a last gift from his wife, John unleashes the remorseless killing machine within and seeks vengeance. Meanwhile, Iosef’s father (Michael Nyqvist) — John’s former colleague — puts a huge bounty on John’s head. Co-stars Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe.

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter (2014) Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a lonely Japanese woman who discovers a hidden copy of “Fargo” (1996) on VHS and mistakes it for a documentary. In particular she’s fixated on the scene where a suitcase of stolen cash has been buried in North Dakota’s bleak landscape. Believing this treasure to be real and waiting to be discovered, Kumiko leaves Tokyo and her beloved rabbit Bunzo behind to recover it — and finds herself on a dangerous adventure unlike anything she’s seen in the movies. Inspired by an urban legend, “Kumiko” is a beguiling journey of determination and delusion. Sean Porter’s cinematography has created scenes of stark, cold beauty as we follow Kumiko’s dogged, misguided journey through the snowy countryside.

La Grande Bouffe (1973 — France/Italy) The most famous film by Italian provocateur Marco Ferreri (“Dillinger is Dead”), “La Grande Bouffe” was reviled on its release for its perversity, decadence and attack on the bourgeoisie — yet it won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize after its controversial screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Four friends, played by international superstars Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret, retreat to a country mansion where they are determined to eat themselves to death whilst engaging in group sex with prostitutes and a local school teacher (Andrea Ferreol), who seems to be up for anything. At once jovial and sinister, the film’s jet-black humor has a further twist as the reputed actors (whose characters use their own names) buck their respectable trend for a descent into fart-filled chaos that delivers a feast for the eyes and mind.

The Lesson PosterThe Lesson (2014 — Bulgaria) In a small Bulgarian town, Nadezhda is an honest, hard-working elementary school teacher struggling to keep her life together. In her class, she looks for a robber among her students so she can teach him a lesson about right and wrong. But with the home she shares with her husband and young daughter on the brink of repossession and no money to her name, she resorts to measures that her former self, untouched by the realities of economic desperation and moral compromise, would have found depraved — she makes one last extreme effort to secure the money she needs. From Bulgarian filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, whose films shine a satiric light on corruption and ethical failings.

Leviathan (2014 — Russia) In a small coastal town in Russia an ordinary family lives quietly: Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov), his wife Lilya, and their teenage son Roma. The family is haunted by a local corrupt mayor who’s trying to take away Kolya’s business, house, and precious land. But Kolya calls in an old friend, now an authoritative attorney, for help, and together they fight back and collect dirt on the mayor … but fate does not seem to be on Kolya’s side. A strange social satire.

Lucy (2014) by Luc Besson. When a boyfriend tricks Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) into delivering a briefcase to a supposed business contact, the once-carefree student is abducted by thugs who intend to turn her into a drug mule. She is surgically implanted with a package containing a powerful chemical, but it leaks into her system, giving her superhuman abilities, including telekinesis and telepathy. With her former captors in pursuit, Lucy seeks out a neurologist (Morgan Freeman), who she hopes will be able to help her. A bit silly at times but hey, it’s Luc Besson and Scarlett Johansson.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) by George Miller, returning to the franchise he created in 1979, this time with a cast of females that take the Max Max mantle to a new level. Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland.

photo for Maps to the StarsMaps to the Stars (2015) by David Cronenberg. The Weiss family are making their way in Hollywood rife with money, fame, envy, and relentless hauntings. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a famed TV self-help therapist with an A-list celebrity clientele. His wife, Cristina (Olivia Williams), has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), a fresh graduate of rehab at age 13. Unbeknownst to them, another member of the Weiss family has arrived in town — mysteriously scarred and tormented Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), just released from a psych ward and ready to start again. She soon works her way into a friendship with a limo driver and aspiring actor (Robert Pattinson) and becomes personal assistant to unraveling actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore), who is beset by the ghost of her legendary mother, Clarice (Sarah Gadon). But Agatha is on a quest for redemption — and even in this realm of the artificial, and the unearthly, she’s determined to find it, no matter what it takes. A Hollywood fix for Cronenberg fans and much better than most reviewers let on.

Miami Blues (1990) A great cult favorite. Veteran criminal Frederick Frenger, Jr. (Alec Baldwin) has moved to Miami to get a fresh start … at robbing a whole new set of people. But when his streetwalker-gone-straight wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh) begins to suspect his criminal behavior, and an obsessed cop (Fred Ward) begins to close in, he’ll need a lot more than luck and a bogus badge to escape a crossfire hotter than the barrel of a smoking gun. In a Blu-ray debut.

photo for Stray Cat Rock Limited EditionStray Cat Rock Limited Edition (1970-71 — Japan) The “Stray Cat Rock” series stars Meiko Kaji who, with these five films, began her reign as the bad-ass action queen of the era. In these five tales of rebellious youth she stars alongside the gorgeous Bunjaku Han and Tatsuya Fuji. In “Delinquent Girl Boss,” a girl gang goes up against the Seiyu Group criminal organization. In “Wild Jumbo,” Kaji and the gang photo for Stray Cat Rock Limited Editionget involved in a kidnapping and the robbery of a religious organization. In “Sex Hunter,” Kaji’s girl gang goes up against The Eagles, a group led by Fuji where sex and violence erupt over the treatment of “half-breeds.” In “Machine Animal,” gang rivalry is once again the focus with two gangs pursuing some LSD pushers looking to move a big score. The series swansong, “Beat ’71,” sees Kaji framed and sent to prison by her boyfriend’s father. Directed by genre veterans Yasuharu Hasebe (“Massacre Gun,” “Retaliation”) and Toshiya Fujita (“Lady Snowblood”), the films feature a psychedelic mix of girl gangs, bikers, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll with plenty of ass-kicking to boot, all captured in a delirious mash-up of pop aesthetics including split screens, freeze frames, injections of color, frenetic editing and dizzying angles, making these films a riotous joy from beginning to end.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) After surviving a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up to find herself in an underground bunker with two men. Howard (John Goodman) tells her that a massive chemical attack has rendered the air unbreathable, and their only hope of survival is to remain inside. Despite the comforts of home, Howard’s controlling and menacing nature makes Michelle want to escape. But if you know anything about “Cloverfield,” you know that there’s more to that than meets the eye. After taking matters into her own hands, the young woman finally discovers the truth about the outside world. Claustrophobic thriller has Winstead steal the show as she fights back against her captor.

photo for These Final HoursThese Final Hours (2014 — Australia) For something completely different, take a look at “These Final Hours,” a low-budget Australian end-of-the-world drama that kind of mixes “On the Beach” with a taste of “Mad Max.” After an asteroid lands in the North Atlantic, a firestorm of destruction moves around the world, wiping out the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia, with the last stop on the road to total destruction being Australia. With just 12 hours left to go before the end of the world, the citizens of Perth celebrate in a variety of ways: murder, suicide, sexual perversions and a gigantic party to end all parties. One such partygoer is James (Nathan Phillips), a self-absorbed hooligan who leaves his pregnant girlfriend to meet up with his mates at an end-of-the-world affair. As he travels through the now lawless and chaotic city, he meets all sorts of unsavory situations and characters, eventually saving a little girl from a pair of predators. The girl begs him to help her find her father — whom she was separated from — and James — against his “better” judgement — takes her with him. He ends up at the party — a debauched orgy of Russian roulette, sex and drugs — but discovers that there’s a better way in which to celebrate the end of existence. Despite some predictable and sentimental situations, this is an absorbing look at human nature under fire (so to speak), with beautiful moments co-existing with the ugly (just like in real life). The movie sputters here and there but overall it’s a riveting, straight ahead trip through a blood-soaked world that, despite its shortcomings, offers redemption. An auspicious outing from young Australian director-writer Zak Hilditch (with superb cinematography by Bonnie Elliott).

Two Days, One Night [Blu-ray]Two Days, One Night (2014 — Belgium) Sandra (Marion Cotillard), a young Belgian mother on sick leave from her job, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. Another honest, affecting, working-class portrait by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

What We Do in the Shadows (2015 — New Zealand) was definitely the sleeper hit of the year, crossing over from horror cultists to mainstream moviegoers. The wacky film — imagine, if you will, a cross between “Borak” and “The Adams Family,” only much, much better — is a New Zealand indie outing by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, creators of the HBO hit series “Flight of the Conchords.” It’s at once a very, very funny send-up of vampire films as well as a self-referential satire of the whole horror cult genre. The film — a mockumentary (in which the camera crew wear garlic and crucifixes) follows an unhip quartet of vampire friends as they go about their nightly routines — paying bills, doing the dishes, hunting for fresh blood. Though they’re centuries old, none of them have kept up with the latest trends in technology or fashion, and the gags mount as the ageless vampires have difficulty maneuvering through 21st Century Wellington. And problems arise when they “turn” a young hipster, who has his own views on how a vampire should live. It’s all outrageous and hilarious.

Wild Tales (2014 — Argentina) Six short stories involving distressed people, outrgeously written and directed. Inequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Some of them, however, explode. This is a movie about those people, a fresco of rage, fury, deception and revenge. A lover’s betrayal, a return to a repressed past and the violence woven into everyday encounters drive the characters to madness as they cede to the undeniable pleasure of losing control.

photo for Wyrmood: Road of the DeadWyrmood: Road of the Dead (2014) In the aftermath of a comet breaking up over Earth, most of the planet’s population quickly succumbs to a strange disease which turns them into “zombies.” Trapped in a wilderness teeming with the living dead, one of the survivors, Barry, has lost everything except his sister, Brooke. But Brooke is kidnapped by a gang of paramilitary thugs and dragged off to a terrifying medical lab run by a psychotic “doctor” who is performing deranged experiments on plague survivors. As Brooke struggles to devise an escape plan, she realizes that the doctor’s experiments have given her strange powers over his zombie captives. Unaware of his sister’s new powers, Barry teams up with fellow survivors to rescue her and protect what family he has left. An interesting take on the zombie genre.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

photo for Blind ChanceBlind Chance (1981) Before he stunned the cinematic world with the epic “The Decalogue” and the “Three Colors” trilogy, the great Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski made his first work of metaphysical genius, “Blind Chance,” a compelling drama about the difficulty of reconciling political ideals with personal happiness. This unforgettable film follows Witek (a magnetic Boguslaw Linda), a medical student with an uncertain future in Communist Poland; Kiesowski dramatizes Witek’s journey as a series of different possibilities, suggesting that chance rules our lives as much as choice. First suppressed and then censored by the Polish government, “Blind Chance” is here presented in its complete original form.

Code Unknown (2000) One of the world’s most influential and provocative filmmakers, the Academy Award–winning Austrian director Michael Haneke (“Amour”) diagnoses the social maladies of contemporary Europe with devastating precision and staggering artistry. This drama, the first of his many films made in France, may be his most inspired work. Composed almost entirely of brilliantly shot, single-take vignettes focusing on characters connected to one seemingly minor incident on a Paris street, Haneke’s film — with an outstanding international cast headlined by Juliette Binoche — is a revelatory take on racial inequality and the failure of communication in today’s increasingly diverse European landscape.

A Day in the Country (1936) This bittersweet work from Jean Renoir, based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, is a tenderly comic idyll about a city family’s picnic in the French countryside and the romancing of the mother and grown daughter by two local men. Conceived as part of a larger project that was never completed, shot in 1936, and released 10 years later, this warmly humanist vignette ranks among Renoir’s most lyrical films, with a love for nature imbuing its every beautiful frame.

The Killers (1946, 1964) Ernest Hemingway’s simple but gripping short tale “The Killers” is a model of economical storytelling. Two directors adapted it into unforgettably virile features: Robert Siodmak (“Criss Cross”), in a 1946 film that helped define the noir style and launch the acting careers of Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner; and Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”), in a brutal 1964 version, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and John Cassavetes, that was intended for television but deemed too violent for home audiences and released theatrically instead. The first is poetic and shadowy, the second direct and harsh as daylight, but both get at the heart of Hemingway’s existential classic.

The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971) New German Cinema icon Rainer Werner Fassbinder kicked off a new phase of his young career when he made the startling “The Merchant of Four Seasons.” In this despairing yet mordantly funny film, Fassbinder charts the decline of a self-destructive former policeman and war veteran struggling to make ends meet for his family by working as a fruit vendor. Fassbinder had skyrocketed to renown on the acclaim of a series of trenchant, quickly made early films, but for this one he took more time and forged a new style — featuring a more complexly woven script and narrative structure and more sophisticated use of the camera, and influenced by the work of his recently discovered idol, Douglas Sirk. The result is a meticulously made, unforgiving social satire

photo for Mister JohnsonMister Johnson (1990) A decade after he broke through with “Breaker Morant,” Australian director Bruce Beresford made another acclaimed film about the effects of colonialism on the individual. In a performance that earned him the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear for best actor, Maynard Eziashi (“Bopha!”) plays the title character, a Nigerian villager eager to work as a civil servant for the British authorities, including a sympathetic district officer (Pierce Brosnan), in the hopes that it will benefit him in the future. Instead, his ambition leads to his tragic downfall. Mister Johnson, based on a 1939 novel by Joyce Cary, is a graceful, heartfelt drama about the limits of idealism, affectingly acted and handsomely shot.

Ride the Pink Horse (1947) Hollywood actor turned idiosyncratic auteur Robert Montgomery (“Here Comes Mr. Jordan”) directs and stars in this striking crime drama based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. He plays a tough-talking former GI who comes to a small New Mexico town to shake down a gangster who killed his best friend; things quickly turn nasty. “Ride the Pink Horse” features standout supporting performances from Fred Clark, Wanda Hendrix, and especially Thomas Gomez, who became the first Hispanic actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for his role here. With its relentless pace, expressive cinematography by the great Russell Metty (“All That Heaven Allows)”, and punchy, clever script by Charles Lederer (“His Girl Friday”) and Ben Hecht (“Spellbound”), this is an overlooked treasure from the heyday of 1940s film noir.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2014

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

Black Jack: 35th Anniversary Edition (1979) A rediscovered classic from realist master Ken Loach and one of the inspirations for Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Black Jack,” based on Leon Garfield’s novel for children, is a dark and complex adventure film set in brutal 18th century England. After French thief and ruffian Black Jack (Jean Franval) escapes the hangman’s noose, he kidnaps young Tolly (Stephen Hirst), a boy who can somehow understand and translate the big barbarian’s odd speech. Together they go on an adventure that includes traveling fairs, body snatching, murder and the rescue from an insane asylum of a girl (Louise Cooper) who may not be insane at all. Shot primarily in 16mm and on a modest budget on location in Yorkshire by future Oscar-winning cinematographer Chris Menges with a young cast of non professionals chosen by Loach for their authentic northern accents.

Blue Jasmine (2013) Directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay. Tour-de-force and an Oscar win for Blanchett. After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again. As she tries to cope with her new life — which is considerably less elegant than her life back East — she dreams of her past life’s glamour, teetering on an emotional tightrope between her troubled past and a fresh start.

The Bridge (2011 — Denmark/Sweden) The series begins when a woman is found murdered in the middle of the Oresund Bridge, right on the border between Sweden and Denmark. Police from both countries are called to the scene and what looks like one murder, turns out to be two. It’s a spectacular double murder: the bodies have been brutally cut in half at the waist and put together to form a single corpse. It’s also just the beginning of a wave of violence the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Inspired the FX remake that aired in the U.S. in 2013. In Swedish and Danish with English Subtitles.

Commitment (2013 — South Korea) Stars Choi Seung-hyun (aka Korean pop star T.O.P), Han Ye-ri, Kim Yoo-jeong. After his father’s botched espionage mission, North Korean Myung-hoon and his young sister Hye-in are sent to a labor prison camp. In order to save his sister’s life, Myung-hoon volunteers to become a spy and infiltrates the South as a teenage defector. South Korean Intelligence soon discovers the plot and begins closing in on Myung-hoon, while his own government sends a vicious assassin to eliminate him.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014 — Norway)  The unbelievably fabulous sequel to the 2009 cult zombie hit about a ski vacation that turns horrific when a group of medical students resurrect an army of Nazi Zombies led by one Oberst Herzog; before that film was over, only one man, Martin, was left alive; his friends were devoured, he accidentally killed his girlfriend with an axe, and then cut his own arm off with a chainsaw. This sequel, which outperforms the original in every way, picks up the following morning when Martin wakes up in a hospital bed with a new arm — but it’s a super-powered Zombie arm that wants to kill him and anything else it can reach. Martin escapes, meets up with a trio of zombie killers from the U.S., called the Zombie Squad, and figures out a way to deliver some payback to Colonel Herzog — by raising an undead army of his own. Funny, clever, intelligent, self-referential and with some great special effects, this has to be one of the best zombie films ever made. There’s a refreshingly original storyline, fine acting and solid direction; helmer Tommy Wirkola knows his stuff (and has a great sense of humor — he not only pokes fun at zombie films in general but at his own zombie film). Warning: “Dead Snow 2” has an ending like no other zombie film — strike that, like no other film — ever. You will not believe your eyes.

Detour (1945) Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake. Digitally restored Edgar G. Ulmer directed film-noir classic. Down-on-his-luck nightclub pianist Al Roberts (Tom Neal) leaves New York to join his girlfriend in Hollywood by hitching a ride with a shady bookie. When the driver mysteriously dies, Al — fearful he will be accused of murder — takes the man’s cash, clothes, car and identification. Continuing on his journey under his new guise, Al picks up the beautiful Vera (Ann Savage) — who coincidentally had been given a ride by the dead man earlier. When Al identifies himself as the dead man, the femme fatale catches on and immediately turns to blackmail, plunging him deeper into trouble … and one wrong turn may prove fatal.

Festival Express (2003) In the summer of 1970, some of the era’s biggest rock stars took to the rails for Festival Express, a multi-artist, multi-day, multi-city concert tour that captured the spirit and imagination of a generation. What made it unique was that it was portable; for five days, the bands and performers lived, slept, rehearsed and let loose aboard a customized train that traveled from Toronto, to Winnipeg, to Calgary, with each stop culminating in a mega-concert. “Festival Express” captures some of rock’s most iconic artists in an extraordinary setting, during an incredible time in music history. These were some of Janis Joplin’s final performances, as she would tragically die just three months later. The Band were at the height of their time together, and the Grateful Dead were in the midst of releasing future classics “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty.” Also on board were the Buddy Guy Blues Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Ian & Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird, Mashmakhan and Sha Na Na. In a Blu-ray debut.

Flu (2013 — South Korea) South Korea’s answer to “Contagion.” A human trafficker is infected with an unknown virus and dies in a Bundang hospital, covered in red rashes and coughing up blood. Less than 24 hours, similar cases are reported all over Bundang. The medics despair over the super virus that has no known cure, but they soon find hope when they hear of a sole survivor who may have developed antibodies against the viral mutation. As medical professionals rush to find the sole individual with the potential key for a cure, fatalities rise and soon the government has no choice but to quarantine the city.

Gloria (2013 — Chile) Stars Paulina Garcaa, Sergio Hernandez, Diego Fontecilla. A story set in Santiago and centered on Gloria, a free-spirited older woman, and the realities of her whirlwind relationship with a former naval officer whom she meets out in the clubs. Marvelously directed by Sebastian Lelio and beautifully led by a powerful performance from Paulina Garcia, the film takes an honest, sweetly poignant look at a type of character that’s all too often neglected in Hollywood.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Director Wes Anderson transports viewers to another one of his unique, self-contained worlds that requires you to give yourself up totally to his story within a story within a story that recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless painting; a raging battle for an enormous family fortune; and a desperate chase on motorcycles, trains, sleds, and skis — all against the backdrop of a suddenly and dramatically changing continent. Stars Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson.

High School Confidential! (1958) Directed by the great Jack Arnold and starring Russ Tamblyn, Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Coogan, Jan Sterling, John Drew Barrymore, Diane Jergens, Ray Anthony, Charles Chaplin Jr., Michael Landon and Lyle Talbot. Fanning the flames of Eisenhower America’s growing paranoia, “High School Confidential!” is the quintessential juvenile delinquency film that celebrates the very sex-drugs-and-rock ‘n’ roll culture it pretends to condemn. Staring Tamblyn as Tony Baker, the new kid at Santa Bellow High, whose cocky attitude and ambitious weed-dealing enable him to infiltrate the gang of a local narcotics boss played by Coogan. But “High School Confidential!” is much more than a hardboiled crime picture: It’s a pop-culture touchstone, a” Rebel Without a Cause” without the angst,” The Wild One,” but even wilder. The opening sequence with a piano pounding performance of the theme song by Jerry Lee Lewis on a flatbed truck is one that still sizzles and shakes. In a Blu-ray debut.

I Am Divine (2013) Award-winning documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwartz (“Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story”) turns his camera on the plus-sized “cinematic terrorist” turned international icon of bad taste. Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine, comes to life in this complex documentary that traces his humble beginnings as an overweight, teased Baltimore youth to internationally-recognized drag superstar. The film includes interviews with many key figures from Divine’s life, including legendary filmmaker John Waters, co-stars Ricki Lake, Tab Hunter and Mink Stole, and his mother.

Inequality for All (2013) Documentary on the widening income gap between the rich and the middle class and its devastating impact on the American economy by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. A passionate argument on behalf of the middle class, “Inequality for All” features Reich — professor, best-selling author, and Clinton cabinet member — as he demonstrates how the widening income gap has had a devastating impact on the American economy. Here’s some startling facts: In 1983 the poorest 47 percent of America had $15,000 per family, 2.5 percent of the nation’s wealth. In 2009 the poorest 47 percent of America owned ZERO PERCENT of the nation’s wealth (their debt exceeded their assets). At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families — 62 percent of America. The reason is the stock market. Since 1980, the American GDP has approximately doubled. Inflation-adjusted wages have gone down. But the stock market has increased by over 10 times, and the richest quintile of Americans owns 93 percent of it.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. Follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles — some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club — on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul — and back again.

The Last Days (2013 — Spain) A mysterious epidemic spreads across the planet; humanity develops an irrational fear of open spaces which causes death within seconds. Soon, the entire global populace is trapped inside buildings. As Barcelona descends into chaos, Marc sets off on a quest to find Julia, his missing girlfriend – without ever venturing outside.

Like Someone in Love (2013) Abbas Kiarostami has spent his movie career exploring the tiny spaces that separate illusion from reality and the simulated from the authentic. At first blush, his extraordinary, sly “Like Someone in Love,” which finds the Iranian director in Tokyo, may appear to be among his most straightforward films. Yet with this simple story of the growing bond between a young part-time call girl and a grandfatherly client, Kiarostami has constructed an enigmatic but crystalline investigation of affection and desire as complex as his masterful “Close-up” and “Certified Copy” in its engagement with the workings of the mercurial human heart.

The Machine (2013) Two computer programmers fall in love as they create the first-ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence, designed to help humanity … but things go terribly wrong when the British Government steals their breakthrough and teaches it to become a robotic weapon.

Mysterious Skin (2004) Directed by Gregg Araki and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Michelle Trachtenberg and Elisabeth Shue. At the age of eight, Kansas youngsters Neil and Brian played on the same little league baseball team. Now, 10 years later, the two boys couldn’t be more different. Neil is a charismatic but emotionally aloof male hustler while Brian is a nervous introvert obsessed with the idea that he has been abducted by a UFO. When the boys parallel lives inevitably intersect, the pair unearth dark, repressed secrets on a harrowing and unforgettable journey of self discovery. Adapted from Scott Heim’s acclaimed novel. In a Blu-ray debut.

New World (Shinsekai Story) (2013 — South Korea) A rich Beijing party girl, bored with her boyfriend, her giggly friends and her whole frivolous life, books a trip to Osaka, Japan where she’s heard they celebrate Christmas with heartwarming nostalgia. But when she arrives at her hotel, she’s shocked to find that it’s located in Shinsekai, Osaka’s crime-ridden underbelly of poverty, vice and colorful characters.

Nurse (2013) By day, nurse Abby Russell (Paz de la Huerta) lovingly attends to the patients at All Saints Memorial Hospital; by night, she prowls nightclubs, luring unfaithful men into dangerous liaisons. When Danni (Katrina Bowden), a young, sensitive nurse, joins the hospital staff, Abby pursues her friendship, but when the friendship turns to obsession and Abby is spurned, she unleashes a rampage of terror.

Nymphomaniac Volume I & II (2014) Directed by Lars von Trier. The wild and poetic story of a woman’s journey from birth to the age of 50 as told by the main character, the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg). On a cold winter’s evening the old, charming bachelor, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård), finds Joe beaten up in an alley. He brings her home to his flat where he cares for her wounds while asking her about her life. He listens intently as Joe recounts the lushy branched-out and multifaceted story of her life, rich in associations and interjecting incidents. “Volume II” is the continuation of Joe’s sexually dictated life and delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s care. Co-stars Shia LaBeouf, Stacy Martin, Willem Dafoe, Mia Goth, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, Michael Pas, Connie Nielsen, Ananya Berg.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014) Directed by Jim Jarmusch. The tale of two fragile and sensitive vampires, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Both are cultured intellectuals, mature and charmingly ultra-cool with an all-embracing passion for music, literature and science, who have evolved to a level where they no longer kill for sustenance, but still retain their innate wildness. Their love story has endured several centuries but their debauched idyll is threatened by the uninvited arrival of Eve’s carefree little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) who hasn’t yet learned to tame her wilder instincts. Driven by sensual photography, trance-like music, and droll humor, Jim Jarmusch’s poetic love story — set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier — is a meditation on art, science, and the mysteries of everlasting love. Features a great underground music soundtrack.

On the Job (2013 — Philippines) Crime thriller inspired by a real-life scandal in which inmates are temporarily released from prison to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high ranking military officials. Two cops uncover the scheme, but, caught in a web of deceit and corruption, head on a collision course with government officials who will do anything to silence them.

Penance (2012 — Japan) Five-part miniseries based on the best-selling novel “Shokuzai” by Kanae Minato. “Penance” begins with a tragic crime from 15 years in the past: In a small town, a young elementary school girl named Emili has been abducted and killed by a stranger. Four girls who had been playing with Emili at the time are the first to discover her body — with the abductor never being found and the crime going unsolved. Emili’s distressed mother Asako condemns the four girls, all of whom claim not to remember anything about the stranger. Crazed with grief, the mother demands each school girl to find the killer, or pay the penance. Deeply affected by Asako’s condemnation, the four girls become adults burdened with the curse of “penance,” which eventually triggers a chain of tragic events. The latest work by Japanese cult and horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Tokyo Sonata,” “Doppelganger,” “Pulse,” “The Cure”).

Propaganda (2014 — New Zealand) Since it mysteriously appeared on You Tube on July 18, 2012, “Propaganda” has been described as “1984 meets The Blair Witch Project,” “A mouthful of scary porridge” and “Even better than Triumph of the Will.” Controversial to its core, this hard-hitting anti-Western propaganda film, which looks at the influence of American culture on the rest of the world from a North Korean perspective, has been called “Genius!” by Michael Moore, and has been described as “either a damning indictment of 21st Century culture or the best piece of propaganda in a generation.” As first reported on mainstream news around the world, “Propaganda” is allegedly a video smuggled out of North Korea. Brilliantly using this “fake North Korean propaganda” found-footage device, director Slavko Martinov first parodies its language and stylings, before targeting the mountain of hypocrisies and contradictions that make up the modern Western world. In doing so, “Propaganda” delivers a devastating blow to those who might be quick to laugh at “backward” ideologies before considering how 21st century political and cultural trends have hurt the moral high ground of the rest of the world. Eugene Chang is the narrator/North Korean professor, Susannah Kenton handles the English voice-over.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014) The sequel to summer 2013’s sleeper hit that opened to No. 1 at the boxoffice, sees the return of writer-director-producer James DeMonaco to craft the next terrifying chapter of dutiful citizens preparing for their country’s yearly 12 hours of anarchy. A couple are driving home when their car breaks down just as the Purge commences. Meanwhile, a police sergeant goes out into the streets to get revenge on the man who killed his son, and a mother and daughter run from their home after assailants destroy it. The five people meet up as they attempt to survive the night in Los Angeles. Stars Kiele Sanchez, Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford.

The Raid 2 (2014 — Indonesia) Immediately following the events of the sleeper hit “The Raid” (2011) — in which he fought his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen — Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to reinvent himself as an undercover cop in order to provide protection for his wife and child. Working for the anti-corruption taskforce led by the one person he can trust, Bunawar (Cok Simbara), he is given a mission to engage himself as an enforcer for a local mob boss, Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). Finding a way in through Bangun’s son Uco (Arifin Putra), Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with police force corruption. All the while, he harbors a dangerous and personal vendetta for revenge and justice that threatens to consume him — and bring both this mission and the organized crime syndicates crashing down.

The Returned (2013 — Spain) In a world where a deadly zombie virus has infected mankind, a single cure has been found. The cur is a treatment called the “Return Protein” that  stays the effects of the virus in its host. With injections every 36 hours, the “Returned” are able to live as though they were never bit, despite the virus still coursing through their veins. When it’s discovered that the protein stock is running low, chaos hits the streets. Returned who run out of the protein turn to zombies and wreak havoc, protesters turn to murderers as they try to rid the streets of the returned, and right in the middle of it all are Alex and Kate. Kate is a leading doctor in the field of zombie virus’ and Alex is a musician with a dark secret: he is a Returned. As death and fear run rampant, Alex’s secret becomes known and his dosage runs low, and he and Kate must fight for a chance to live before he becomes a zombie.

The Returned (Les Revenants) (2012 — French) The lives of the residents of an idyllic French alpine village are forever changed when a seemingly random collection of people who have been dead for several years inexplicably come back to life and try to integrate themselves into their former lives. A gripping, stylish mix of real and surreal, the highly cinematic series — which is an intimate portrait of people dealing with their guilt over the death of their loved ones and questions our desire for eternal life — features a wide range of top French film actors and a haunting, atmospheric soundtrack by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai. “The Returned” was a smash hit last year on French television and the highest rated subtitled drama in the UK in nearly a decade, and aired on Sundance Channel in the states. Based on 2004 feature “Les revenants” by Robin Campillo. Eight episodes.

Rover (2014 — Australia) This overlooked gem is a gritty and violent drama set 10 years after a global economic collapse where food and gasoline are expensive and life is cheap. The film follows hardened loner Eric (Guy Pearce) as he travels the desolate towns and roads of the Australian outback, causing no trouble until a gang of three thieves — who have just robbed a dusty outpost and murdered the inhabitants — steals his car, a Rover, to make their getaway. Eric takes off after them in another vehicle, along the way capturing — and saving — the wounded brother (Robert Pattinson) of one of the robbers, who was left behind in the escape. Eric forces him to help him track down the trio, along the way encountering a bevy of misfits, oddballs and miscreants as he seeks his beloved car, the one thing that still matters to him. Unlike other post-apocalyptic thrillers, there’s no zombies, vampires or “Mad Max”-type villains, just the slow disintegration of society and human values as nihilism and the worst impulses of human nature come to the fore. Michod paints a balmy, sun-drenched wasteland with leisurely strokes punctuated by bursts of danger and violence. If you’re used to a “Jack Irish,” “The King’s Speech” or a “Mildred Pierce”-Guy Pearce, you’re in for a pleasant surprise here as the U.K.-born, Aussie-raised actor becomes a Down Under “Man With No Name.”

Snowpiercer (2014) After a failed global-warming experiment, a post-apocalyptic Ice Age has killed off nearly all life on the planet. All that remains of humanity are the lucky few survivors that boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, powered by a “sacred” perpetual-motion engine. A class system has evolved aboard the train, fiercely dividing its population — but a revolution is brewing. The lower-class passengers in the tail section stage an uprising — led by one man (Chris Evans), moving car-by-car up toward the front of the train, where the oppressive rich and powerful ride, and where the train’s creator and absolute authority (Ed Harris) resides in splendor. But unexpected circumstances lie in wait for humanity’s tenacious survivors. An adaptation of the French graphic novel by Bong Joon-Ho (“The Host,” “Mother”). Stars Namgoong Minsoo, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer.

The Strange Woman (1946) Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer and starring Hedy Lamarr, Gene Lockhart, Louis Hayward and George Sanders. The charming and extremely beautiful Jenny Hager (Lamarr) finds she can always use her looks to get what she wants from men, and she’ll stop at nothing to control the ones who cross her path. After her drunkard father’s death, she quickly maneuvers herself into a position to marry an older, wealthy businessman … and the father of a childhood friend. Heartless and manipulative, she soon goes after the son.

The Suspect (2013 — South Korea) Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea — until he’s abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter missing. Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation. The chairman is brutally assassinated — but gives Dong-chul a pair of glasses before he dies. Now, he’s on the run again. Accused of murder, wanted for treason, and desperate to uncover the volatile national secrets hidden inside the glasses, Dong-Chul wants the truth.

The Swimmer (1968) Directed by Frank Perry and starring Burt Lancaster, Janet Landgard, Janice Rule and Joan Rivers. The ultimate late-60s studio-produced cult film. In one of his finest performances, Burt Lancaster stars as Ned Merrill, a man who confronts his destiny by swimming home, pool by pool, through the suburban nightmare of upper-class East Coast society. Its a haunting, surreal and stunning indictment of mid-century bourgeoisie society. Based on the acclaimed short story by John Cheever. Long out of print.

20 Feet From Stardom (2013) Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In this compelling and very watchable documentary, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 20th and 21st centuries. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music: Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, Judith Hill.

Under the Skin (2014) An existential science fiction film that journeys to the heart of what it means to be human, extraterrestrial — or something in between. A voluptuous woman of unknown origin (Scarlett Johansson) combs the highways in Scotland in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michel Faber, “Under the Skin” examines human experience from the perspective of an unforgettable heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

All That Jazz (1979) The preternaturally gifted director and choreographer Bob Fosse turned the camera on his own life for this madly imaginative, self-excoriating musical masterpiece. Roy Scheider gives the performance of his career as Joe Gideon, whose exhausting work schedule — mounting a Broadway production by day and editing his latest movie at night — and routine of amphetamines, booze, and sex are putting his health at serious risk. Fosse burrows into Gideon’s (and his own) mind, rendering his interior world as phantasmagoric spectacle. Assembled with visionary editing that makes dance come alive on-screen as never before, and overflowing with sublime footwork by the likes of Ben Vereen, Leland Palmer, and the awesomely leggy Ann Reinking, “All That Jazz” pushes the musical genre to personal depths and virtuosic aesthetic heights.

Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch’s 1977 debut feature is both a lasting cult sensation and a work of extraordinary craft and beauty. With its mesmerizing black-and-white photography by Frederick Elmes, evocative sound design, and unforgettably enigmatic performance by Jack Nance, this visionary nocturnal odyssey remains one of American cinema’s darkest dreams.

Overlord (1975) Seamlessly interweaving archival war footage and a fictional narrative, this immersive account by Stuart Cooper of one 21-year-old’s journey from basic training to the front lines of D-day brings to life all the terrors and isolation of war with jolting authenticity. Overlord, impressionistically shot by Stanley Kubrick’s longtime cinematographer John Alcott, is both a document of World War II and a dreamlike meditation on human smallness in a large, incomprehensible machine. In a Blu-ray debut.

Safe (1995) Julianne Moore gives a breakthrough performance as Carol White, a Los Angeles housewife in the late 1980s who comes down with a debilitating illness. After the doctors she sees can give her no clear diagnosis, she comes to believe that she has frighteningly extreme environmental allergies. A profoundly unsettling work from the great American director Todd Haynes (“Far from Heaven”), “Safe” functions on multiple levels: as a prescient commentary on self-help culture, as a metaphor for the AIDS crisis, as a drama about class and social estrangement, and as a horror film about what you cannot see. This revelatory drama was named the best film of the 1990s in a Village Voice poll of more than 50 critics.

The Shooting/Ride in the Whirlwind In the mid-sixties, the maverick American director Monte Hellman (“Two-Lane Blacktop”) conceived of two Westerns at the same time. Dreamlike and gritty by turns, the two films would prove their maker’s adeptness at brilliantly deconstructing genre. As shot back-to-back for famed producer Roger Corman, they feature overlapping casts and crews, including Jack Nicholson in two of his meatiest early roles. The films — “The Shooting” (1966) about a motley assortment of loners following a mysterious wanted man through a desolate frontier, and “Ride in the Whirlwind” (1966), about a group of cowhands pursued by vigilantes for crimes they did not commit — are rigorous, artful, and wholly unconventional journeys into the American West.

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990 — Spain) Pedro Almodovar’s colorful and controversial tribute to the pleasures and perils of Stockholm syndrome, “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” is a rambunctious dark comedy starring Antonio Banderas as an unbalanced but alluring former mental patient and Victoria Abril as the B-movie and porn star he takes prisoner in the hopes of convincing her to marry him. A highly unconventional romance that came on the spike heels of Almodovar’s international sensation “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” this is a splashy, sexy central work in the career of one of the world’s most beloved and provocative auteurs, radiantly shot by the director’s great cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine.

Vengeance Is Mine (1979 — Japan) A thief, a murderer, and a charming lady-killer, Iwao Enokizu (Ken Ogata) is on the run from the police. Director Shohei Imamura turns this fact-based story — about the 78-day killing spree of a remorseless man from a devoutly Catholic family — into a cold, perverse, and at times diabolically funny examination of the primitive co-existing with the modern. More than just a true-crime tale, “Vengeance Is Mine” bares humanity’s snarling id. In a Blu-ray debut.

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001 — Mexico) The smash road comedy from the Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron is that rare movie to combine raunchy subject matter and emotional warmth. Gael Garci­a Bernal and Diego Luna shot to international stardom as a pair of horny Mexico City teenagers from different classes who, after their girlfriends jet off to Italy for the summer, are bewitched by a gorgeous older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdu) they meet at a wedding. When she agrees to accompany them on a trip to a faraway beach, the three form an increasingly intense and sensual alliance that ultimately strips them both physically and emotionally bare.

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2012

The Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2013

 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »
Jan 082021
 

The Berlin File (2013 — South Korea) Korean action director Ryoo Seung-wan takes on East-meets-West-double-agent intrigue in this breakneck thriller. Exposed during an illegal arms trade gone wrong in Berlin, a North Korean “ghost” agent finds himself in the crosshairs of an international manhunt involving South Korean intelligence agents, the North Koreans and the CIA.

Bert Stern: Original Mad Man (2011) The definitive voyage into the life and work of one of the greatest American photographers of all time. An original Madison Avenue “mad man,” Bert Stern’s images helped create modern advertising; his ground-breaking campaign for Smirnoff forever changed the industry. The iconic photos he took of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Twiggy, and the infamous Lolita image from Kubrick’s film, minted Stern — along with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon — as a celebrity in his own right.

The Big Gundown (1966 — Italy) The first-ever U.S. home video release of the greatest Spaghetti Western you’ve never seen — Sergio Sollima’s widescreen epic “The Big Gundown.” The legendary Lee Van Cleef stars as a relentless bounty hunter on the trail of Cuchillo (Euro-film superstar Tomas Milian), a savage Mexican outlaw accused of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. Features an incredible soundtrack by Ennio Morricone.

Cold War (2012 — Hong Kong) In the safest city in Asia, the Hong Kong police department has been untouchable for years. That was until they receive an anonymous call after a fully loaded police van, carrying five highly trained officers and equipment, disappears off the grid. After several cryptic phone calls, it becomes clear that the hijackers are aware of every crucial decision the task force makes. As the perpetrators execute a carefully planned attack, the police do their best to fight back but little do they know they’ve become unwitting pawns in a bigger, more dangerous game.

A Company Man (2012 — South Korea) Hyeong-do wears a suit and tie like any other rank-and-file white collar worker … except his profession is murder. Seemingly a section chief in the sales division of a metal fabrication company that is actually a front for an organization of hit men, Hyeong-do is regarded as one of the best contract killers in the business … until he falls in love with a married woman, quits his job, and is targeted and hunted down by his former employers.

The Damned [Les maudits] (1947 — France) Set in the closing days of World War II, “The Damned” is a gritty mix of film noir and suspense about Nazis fleeing for South America in a submarine. This rediscovered masterpiece by director Rene Clement (“Forbidden Games,” “Purple Noon”) has been remastered and is available for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD. The 1947 Cannes winner for Best Adventure and Crime Film features stunning cinematography by Henri Alekan (“Roman Holiday,” “Wings of Desire”). It arrives in the centennial year of a director about whom film historian Ephraim Katz said, “His insistence on authenticity of detail nearly approaches an obsession.”

Dead Sushi (2012 — Japan) A wild and silly action comedy that one has to really suspend disbelief for. The daughter of a legendary sushi chef finds work at a rural hot springs inn, where a pharmaceutical firm is holding a work retreat. When a disgruntled former researcher uses a serum to awaken the murderous instincts of ordinary sushi, turning them into bloodthirsty monsters, Keiko must use both her sushi training and her martial arts skills to save the others and defeat the flying killers.

Drug War (2012 — Hong Kong) by Johnnie To. Manufacturing just 50 grams of meth in China will earn you a death sentence. Timmy Choi (Louis Koo) just got caught making tons. Now he’s in the custody of Captain Zhang (Sun Honglei), and has one chance to avoid execution — turn informant and help the cops bring down the powerful cartel he’s been cooking for. Over the next 72 sleepless hours, the sting spins out of control, the line between duty and recklessness is blurred, and it becomes unclear who actually has the upper hand.

56 UP (2012) “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man.” Starting in 1964 with “Seven UP,” the UP Series has explored this Jesuit maxim. The original concept was to interview 14 children from diverse backgrounds from all over England, asking them about their lives and their dreams for the future. Every seven years, renowned director Michael Apted, a researcher for “Seven UP,” has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives. This is his eighth film in the series.

The Great Gatsby (2013) by Baz Luhrmann. “Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream as a bond-seller, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan) (whom Gatsby loved and lost before the Great War, when he was too poor to win her over), and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super-rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without the world he inhabits, he tells a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles. The film — and book — is about our quest for love and belonging and the American Dream, and the loss of the former and the hollowness of the latter, something that Nick learns by the end of the story. It’s the great American novel and the great American tragedy. Luhrmann nails “Gatsby” and its themes — he researched “Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald and the story’s cultural era and, though he alters the context just a little (Carraway relates the story in flashbacks from a sanitarium), he has created a masterpiece. His use of 3D and a modern music score (hip-hop and electronic dance music) is a stroke of genius. The acting is top-notch, the sets and costumes miraculous. The first shot of DiCaprio as Gatsby as his smiling face fills the screen is pure Hollywood and alone worth the price of admission. Co-stars Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan.

Hard Romanticker (2011 — Japan) Writer/director Gu Su-yeon adopts his own autobiographical novel to the screen to tell the wild story of a bleach blond Korean-Japanese rebel named Gu (Shota Matsuda) who’s pursued by gangsters and cops alike after his friend mistakenly kills a rival’s grandmother. High octane, nasty violence.

The Imposter (2012) A chilling factual thriller that chronicles the story of a 13-year-old boy who disappears without a trace from San Antonio, Texas in 1994. Three and a half years later he is found alive, thousands of miles away in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnapping and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not quite as it seems. The boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent? Why does he look so different? Any why doesn’t the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It’s only when an investigator starts asking questions that this strange tale takes an even stranger turn. The stranger than fiction mystery, which features many twists and turns, is told in a cinematic language that combines documentary and stylized visualizations. Perception is challenged at every turn, and just as the truth begins to dawn on you, another truth emerges leaving you even more on edge.

In the House (2012 — France) by François Ozon. A sixteen-year-old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s intrusion unleashes a series of uncontrollable events. The student seduces his friend’s mother and the teacher’s wife. He inadvertently causes the teacher to be dismissed but they remain in touch due to their mutual passion in finding stories that excite them.

Ivan’s Childhood (1962 — USSR) The debut feature by the great Andrei Tarkovsky (“Andrei Rublev”), “Ivan’s Childhood” is a poetic journey through the shards and shadows of one boy’s war-ravaged youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of World War II and serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky’s film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of war on children. An astonishing work of art.

The Kid With a Bike (2011 — Belgium) Twelve-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret), all coiled anger and furious motion, is living in a group home but refuses to believe he has been rejected by his single father (Jeremie Renier). He spends his days frantically trying to reach the man, over the phone or on his beloved bicycle. It is only the patience and compassion of Samantha (Cecile de France), the stranger who agrees to care for him, that offers the boy the chance to move on. Spare and unsentimental but deeply imbued with a heart-rending tenderness, “The Kid with a Bike” is an arresting work from the great Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, masters of the empathetic action film.

Lapland Odyssey (2010 — Finland) Set in the frozen landscape of northern Finland, this comedy follows a raucous road trip that begins when slacker Janne is sent out into the night by his beautiful and frustrated girlfriend Inari to purchase a cable box for their home. But the quest is not as simple as it sounds. Janne, accompanied by his two hapless and troublemaking friends, is propelled along a bizarre journey filled with such obstacles as naked, gun-toting Russians, some very hostile reindeer, a Jacuzzi of bikini-clad beauties, barroom brawls, Inari’s creepy ex-boyfriend, and much more.

Let’s Get Lost (1988) Traveling with the elusive jazz vocalist and trumpeter Chet Baker, Bruce Weber weaves together the life story of the jazz great. The film uses excerpts from Italian B movies, rare performance footage and candid interviews with Baker, musicians, friends, ex-wives and his children in what turns out to be the last year of his life. The movie is bookended with two romps on the beach: Baker in Santa Monica in early 1987 and then later in Cannes. Interspersed are interviews with friends, family and lovers; rare photographs; vintage clips; and performances by Baker. Baker (who was visually a cross between James Dean and Jack Kerouac) burst on the jazz scene in the early 1950s as a self-taught, amazingly accomplished trumpet-player and singer. He was summoned to play with Charlie Parker in L.A. in 1951, went on to join with Gerry Mulligan in his famous quartet, played with Stan Getz, Shelly Manne and Art Pepper, and cut a host of well-received albums, including “Gerry Mulligan Quartet Featuring Chet Baker” (1952), “Chet Baker Sings” (1954), “Chet” (1959). Baker, unfortunately, began using heroin and was an unapologetic addict for the rest of his life — it was a habit that took its toll on his health and career (for a while he had to star in Italian B movies to earn cash). In the mid-60s to 70s his career faltered, with numerous bouts with the law, but he later resumed recording and performing. From 1978 until his death he lived in Europe; the later decade of his life saw a more mature, capable musician (Baker died May 13, 1988; he apparently fell to the street from an open window in his second-story hotel room in Amsterdam; an autopsy showed drugs — heroin and cocaine — in his body). This gorgeous documentary captures the flavor, contradictions, happiness and sadness of the musician’s music and life.

Lifeforce (1985) by Tobe Hooper. A race of space vampires arrive in London and begin infecting the Earth. This Blu-ray includes both the US theatrical and international versions. Based on the novel “The Space Vampires” by philosopher Colin Wilson, the film was reviled when released; the restored film has much to offer in the way of speculative thinking, sci-fi fun — and offers up the distinction of being the only film released in which a woman is completely nude from beginning to end. Stars Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Nicholas Ball, Mathilda May.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Complete Series (1959-1963) “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” ignited one of the many loves of American television: stories about teenagers. Dobie Gillis was a typically indecisive young man who continually set out on hopeless quests for popularity, money and the attention of beautiful girls, all the while trying to make his parents happy. Created and written by humorist Max Shulman and adapted from Shulman’s celebrated collection of short stories, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” premiered on CBS in 1959 and was a counter-culture hit throughout all four years of its network run. Starring Dwayne Hickman, Bob Denver, Frank Faylen, Florida Friebus, Tuesday Weld, Warren Beatty and Sheila James, this timeless show triggered a sea change in sitcoms and dramas, which would focus on the hopes, dreams and angst of teenagers for decades to come.

Marketa Lazarova (1967 — Czechoslovakia) In its home country, Frantisek Vlacil’s “Marketa Lazarova” has been hailed as the greatest Czech film ever made; for many U.S. viewers, it will be a revelation. Based on a novel by Vladislav Vancura, this stirring and poetic depiction of a feud between two rival medieval clans is a fierce, epic, and meticulously designed evocation of the clashes between Christianity and paganism, humankind and nature, love and violence. Vlacil’s approach was to re-create the textures and mentalities of a long-ago way of life, rather than to make a conventional historical drama, and the result is dazzling. With its inventive widescreen cinematography, editing, and sound design, “Marketa Lazarova” is an experimental action film.

Mud (2013) Is Jeff Nichols a modern-day filmic Mark Twain? Based on this film and his previous outing, “Take Shelter,” the young director is a storyteller — and creator — par excel lance of the American myth. In this tall tale set in the South, best friends Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) find a mysterious man named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a deserted island in the Mississippi River. Mud tells the boys fantastic stories about his life, including how he once killed a man in Texas and now vengeful bounty hunters are after him. He tells them he’s planning to meet and escape with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), who’s waiting for him in town. Skeptical but intrigued, Ellis and Neckbone agree to help him. But it isn’t long until Mud’s tall-tales come to life and their small town is besieged by bounty hunters out for blood. Welcome back, Huck and Tom.

New World (2013 — South Korea) Korea’s biggest crime organization, “Goldmoon,” has been infiltrated by a cop and when the head of the syndicate dies, the police chief orders the undercover cop to participate in project “New World,” designed to bring down the notorious crime organization by damaging the relationship between the two feuding contenders. The undercover cop faces a difficult decision: follow the chief’s orders or maintain his loyalty to “Goldmoon.”

Night of the Comet (1984) by Thom E. Eberhardt and starring Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Sharon Farrell, Mary Wornov, Geoffrey Lewis. A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types (killer zombies and blood-seeking scientists) who survive. But first they do what all good Valley Girls do … they go shopping. In a Blu-ray debut.

Nightfall (2012 — Hong Kong) Grisly thriller pits a bitter, aging detective against a recently released murderer in the mystery surrounding the killing of a popular opera singer … but a clear-cut case of revenge gets murkier, with the facts — and the truth — becoming harder to uncover. Stars Simon Yam, Nick Cheung.

The Painting (2011 — France) A feast for the eyes as well as the imagination, this wry parable from visionary animator-director Jean-Francois Laguionie centers on a kingdom in a painter’s studio that is divided into three castes: The impeccably painted Alldunns, who reside in a majestic palace; the Halfies, who the Painter has left incomplete; and the untouchable Sketchies, simple charcoal outlines who are banished to the cursed forest. The story follows the adventures of Lola, a Halfir, and Ramo, an Alldunn, as they break through the canvas of their painting into the Painter’s studio. The abandoned workspace is strewn with paintings, each containing its own animated world, and they explore first one picture and then another, attempting to discover just what the Painter has in mind for all his creations.

The Paperboy (2012) A sexually and racially charged film noir from director Lee Daniels (“Precious”) that takes audiences deep into the backwaters of steamy 1960s South Florida. Miami Times reporter Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) returns to his sleepy home town of Lately, Florida, where a decades-old façade of Southern gentility strains against the sweeping social changes of the 60s. Accompanied by his writing partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), Ward is chasing the career-making story of violent swamp rat Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack), who claims to have been framed for the murder of a corrupt local sheriff. Drafting his younger brother Jack (Zac Efron) to serve as his driver, Ward tries to unravel the mystery of the crime, aided by a mountain of evidence amassed by sultry death-row groupie Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman), who turns out to be Van Wetter’s fiancé. As the odious Van Wetter awaits the electric chair, the Jansen family’s longtime black maid Anita (Macy Gray) watches in alarm as Jack becomes more and more infatuated with the alluring Charlotte. But when Ward’s investigation reveals a web of deception it sets off an explosive chain reaction that pulls everyone involved into a quagmire of evil as dark as the Everglades themselves. Inspired by a true story, “The Paperboy’s” tale of obsession, violence and ambition earned a nomination for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival’s highest prize, the coveted Palme d’ Or.

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection (1991-2006) Seven-disc set with all nine feature-length mysteries of the iconic, universally acclaimed police drama starring Oscar-winner Helen Mirren in her Emmy-winning role as Detective Jane Tennison, in this revolutionary police drama broadcast on PBS to universal acclaim and more than 20 major international awards, including seven Emmys (three-time winner of “Outstanding Miniseries”), eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody. Guest stars include Ralph Fiennes, Tom Wilkinson and Jonny Lee Miller.

Q The Winged Serpent (1982) Quetzalcoatl, a dragon-like Aztec god that is summoned to modern-day Manhattan by a mysterious cult, roosts at the top of the Chrysler Building and begins feasting on window washers, construction workers and rooftop sunbathers. Michael Moriarty is a small-time thief who finds the nest of the creature, and Richard Roundtree and David Carradine are New York’s finest, hot on the serpentine tail of the bloodthirsty Q! A bizarre masterpiece by cult director Larry Cohen. In a Blu-ray debut.

Searching for Sugar Man (2012) The true story of Rodriguez, the greatest 70s rock icon who never was. Rodriguez was discovered in a Detroit bar in the late 1960s by two celebrated producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album, which was expected to secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation, but in contrast, the album bombed and Rodriguez disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. Nonetheless, a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, his music became a phenomenon and an anthem for the people. “Searching for Sugar Man” follows two South African fans setting out to discover what really happened to their hero, leading them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.

The Silence (2010 — Germany). 13-year-old Sinikka vanishes on a hot summer night. Her bicycle is found in the exact place where a girl was killed 23 years ago. The eerie resemblance sparks a harrowing investigation into the mystery of the seemingly parallel crimes. Unhealed wounds are opened and fresh dangers arise as detectives, parents and the retired investigator of the first case set out to uncover the truth. A creepy, breathtaking procedural thriller set in rural Germany.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) by David O. Russell. Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything — his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months is a state institution. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife; all Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet — and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return — enter a ballroom dance contest. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them. Breakthrough performances by Cooper and Lawrence.

Spring Breakers (2013) by Harmony Korine. Brit (Ashley Benson), Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are best friends anxious to cut loose for spring break, but they don’t have the money. After holding up a fast-food restaurant for quick cash, the girls head to the beach in a stolen car for what they think will be the party of a lifetime. At a motel room rager, fun reaches its legal limit and the girls are arrested and taken to jail. Hungover and clad only in bikinis, the girls appear before a judge but are bailed out unexpectedly by Alien (James Franco), an infamous local thug, rapper, drug pusher and arms dealer, who takes them under his wing. Rough on the outside but with a soft soul on the inside, Alien wins over the hearts and dreams of the young Spring Breakers, and leads them on a Spring Break they never could have imagined.

Starlet (2012) Explores the unlikely friendship between 21 year-old aspiring actress Jane (Dree Hemingway) and elderly widow Sadie (Besedka Johnson) after their worlds collide in California’s San Fernando Valley. Jane spends her time getting high with her dysfunctional roommates and taking care of her chihuahua Starlet, while Sadie passes her days alone, tending to her garden. Drifting and driving contentedly around the sun-dappled San Fernando Valley, Jane one day finds a pile of cash stashed inside an old thermos she’s purchased at a yard sale held by the elderly Sadie. After treating herself to a manicure and Starlet to a sparkly new halter, Jane returns to the house where she bought the thermos and, prompted by a growing sense of morality and guilt, begins a tentative friendship with Sadie.

Stoker (2013) by Park Chan-wook. India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) was not prepared to lose her father and best friend Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident. The solitude of her woodsy family estate, the peace of her tranquil town, and the unspoken somberness of her home life are suddenly upended by not only this mysterious accident, but by the sudden arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), India thinks the void left by her father’s death is finally being filled by his closest bloodline. Soon after his arrival, India comes to suspect that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives. Yet instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless young woman becomes increasingly infatuated with him. An involving and intriguing mystery-thriller — with twists and a nod to Hitchcock — from the great South Korean director (in his U.S.-directing debut).

This Is The End (2013) Follows five friends attending a party at James Franco’s house — Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride & Craig Robinson playing themselves — who become trapped together after a series of strange and catastrophic events — the apocalypse — devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling supplies and cabin fever threaten to tear apart the friendships inside. Eventually, they are forced to leave the house, facing their fate and the true meaning of friendship and redemption. There’s a lot of sick jokes and nasty action but it sure is a pleasure to see some of these stars come to untimely, Godly ends. Co-stars Aziz Ansari, Paul Rudd, Mindy Kaling, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Martin Starr, Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Tristana (1970 — Spain) by Luis Bunuel. A surreal criticism of Catholicism and the modern world, told through the story of Tristana (Catherine Deneuve), a young Spanish woman left to the care of Don Lope (Fernando Rey) — a protective but impoverished aristocrat — when her mother dies. Don Lope sells his possessions to avoid manual labor and champions the causes of the dispossessed and downtrodden of society. He takes advantage of the vulnerable Tristana, seducing her, but she eventually leaves him when she falls in love with Horacio (Franco Nero). Unable to commit to him, she returns to Don Lope when she falls ill. He asks for her hand in marriage, and she accepts after losing her leg to cancer, finally choosing to remain in a passionless union rather than be subject to the harsh realities of society. Lovingly restored and remastered.

Two Men in Manhattan (1959) Rediscovered classic from master filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville. Melville’s moody dramas, including “Bob le Flambeur,” “Le Doulos,” “Le Samourai” and “Army of Shadows,” were deeply influenced by classic Hollywood crime pictures, making iconic use of cigarette-smoking, world-weary gangsters and detectives in trenchcoats and fedora hats. His minimalist style, including shooting on real locations rather than in studios, was a major influence on the next generation of filmmakers that would create the New Wave. The dark shadows of New York come to life here in Melville’s rarely seen, jazz-soaked noir masterpiece. A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Melville himself) and hard-drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasse) on an ethically fraught mission to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women. Set against a smoky jazz score and featuring stunning black-and-white cinematography by Nicolas Hayer that beautifully captures the gritty streets at night, this is director Melville’s love letter to New York City and homage to American film noir.

The Untold History of the United States (2013) Ten-part Showtime Original Series from three-time Academy Award-winning writer and director Oliver Stone. The in-depth, surprising, and totally riveting series, co-written by Stone with Peter Kuznick and Matt Graham, was directed and narrated by Stone. Stone and Kuznick, esteemed American University Associate Professor of History, and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute, co-authored the companion book (Gallery Books) to the series, which presents our country’s unlearned history, drawing on archival findings from around the world and recently declassified material. The documentary looks back at human events that at the time went under-reported, but that crucially shaped America’s unique and complex history throughout the 20th photo for The Untold History of the United States century, covering the time period from the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War, through the fall of Communism to the events of today.

Vic (2006) Vic Reeves (Clu Gulager) was once a Hollywood star respected for his award-winning roles in classic Westerns and television dramas. Today, past his prime, overlooked, and forgotten, he is reduced to making appearances in cheap B-grade slasher flicks. When a late-night phone call from director Tony La Salle offers Vic an opportunity for a comeback, the actor must face the toughest audition of his career. Featuring cameos from Carole Lynley, John Philip Law, Gary Frank, Gregory Sierra and John Lazar, and music by acclaimed Italian composer Franco Micalizzi, “Vic” won director Sage Stallone a Best New Filmmaker Award at the Boston Film Festival.

West of Memphis (2012) Documentary tells the powerful story of the 18-year fight to free the “West Memphis 3,” three teenagers (Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin) wrongfully convicted of the 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.

The World’s End (2013) Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reteam with director Edgar Wright in this wildly entertaining thrill ride. Twenty years after their first epic pub crawl attempt, the “five musketeers” reunite in their home town to complete the ultimate challenge – one night, five friends, twelve bars – a boozy quest on which only the strongest will survive. But after a bizarre series of encounters with the out-of-this-world locals, they soon realize that reaching their final pub, The World’s End, may be the least of their troubles — they now have to save the world. This is the third and final film in Wright’s “The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy,” which also features hits “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” and was released simultaneously in a Blu-ray set.

And don’t forget the following Criterion releases:

Babette’s Feast (1987 — France) At once a rousing paean to artistic creation, a delicate evocation of divine grace, and the ultimate film about food, the Oscar-winning “Babette’s Feast” is a deeply beloved cinematic treasure. Directed by Gabriel Axel and adapted from a story by Isak Dinesen, this is the layered tale of a French housekeeper with a mysterious past who brings quiet revolution in the form of one exquisite meal to a circle of starkly pious villagers in late 19-century Denmark. “Babette’s Feast” combines earthiness and reverence in an indescribably moving depiction of pleasure that goes to your head like fine champagne.

The Devil’s Backbone (2001 — Spain) The most personal film by Guillermo del Toro is also among his most frightening and emotionally layered. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, “The Devil’s Backbone” tells the tale of a 10-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets. Del Toro effectively combines gothic ghost story, murder mystery, and historical melodrama in a stylish concoction that reminds us — ­as would his later “Pan’s Labyrinth” — ­that the scariest monsters are often the human ones.

The Earrings of Madame De … (1953 — France) The most cherished work from French master Max Ophuls, “The Earrings of Madame de …” is a profoundly emotional, cinematographically adventurous tale of deceptive opulence and tragic romance. When an aristocratic woman known only as Madame de (Danielle Darrieux) sells a pair of earrings given to her by her husband (Charles Boyer) in order to pay a debt, she sets off a chain reaction of financial and carnal consequences that can end only in despair. Ophuls’s adaptation of Louise de Vilmorin’s incisive fin de siecle novel employs the elegant and precise camera work for which the director is so justly renowned, to ravishing effect.

Gate of Hell (1953 — Japan) A winner of Academy Awards for best foreign-language film and best costume design, “Gate of Hell” is a visually sumptuous, psychologically penetrating work from Teinosuke Kinugasa. In the midst of epic, violent intrigue in 12-century Japan, an imperial warrior falls for a lady-in-waiting; even after he discovers she is married, he goes to extreme lengths to win her love. Kinugasa’s film is an unforgettable, tragic story of obsession and unrequited passion that was an early triumph of color cinematography in Japan.

A Man Escaped (1956 — France) With the simplest of concepts and sparest of techniques, Robert Bresson made one of the most suspenseful jailbreak films of all time. Based on the memoirs of an imprisoned French resistance leader, this unbelievably taut and methodical marvel follows the fictional Fontaine’s single-minded pursuit of freedom, detailing the planning and carrying out of his escape with gripping precision. But Bresson’s film is not merely process-minded — ­it’s a work of intense spirituality and humanity.

Medium Cool (1969) It’s 1968, and the whole world is watching. With the U.S. in social upheaval, famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler decided to make a film about what the hell was going on. His debut feature, “Medium Cool,” plunges us into that moment. With its mix of scripted fiction and seat-of-the-pants documentary technique, this story of the working world and romantic life of a television cameraman (Robert Forster) is a visceral, lasting cinematic snapshot of the era, climaxing with an extended sequence shot right in the middle of the riots surrounding the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. An inventive commentary on the pleasures and dangers of wielding a camera, “Medium Cool” is as prescient a political film as Hollywood has ever produced.

Ministry of Fear (1944) Suffused with dread and paranoia, this Fritz Lang adaptation of a novel by Graham Greene is a plunge into the eerie shadows of a world turned upside down by war. En route to London after being released from a mental institution, Stephen Neale (Ray Milland) stops at a seemingly innocent village fair, after which he finds himself caught in the web of a sinister underworld with possible Nazi connections. Lang was among the most illustrious of the European emigre filmmakers working in Hollywood during World War II, and “Ministry of Fear” is one of his finest American productions, an unpredictable thriller with style to spare.

Naked Lunch (1991) In this adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory, once-thought unfilmable novel “Naked Lunch,” directed by David Cronenberg, a part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict named Bill Lee (Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish Interzone, a netherworld of sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. Alternately humorous and grotesque — ­and always surreal — ­the film mingles aspects of Burroughs’s novel with incidents from the writer’s own life, resulting in an evocative paranoid fantasy and a self-reflexive investigation into the mysteries of the creative process.

Repo Man (1984) A quintessential cult film of the 1980s, Alex Cox’s singular sci-fi comedy stars the always captivating Harry Dean Stanton as a weathered repo man in desolate downtown Los Angeles, and Emilio Estevez as the nihilistic middle-class punk he takes under his wing. The job becomes more than either of them bargained for when they get involved in reclaiming a mysterious — ­and otherworldly — ­Chevy Malibu with a hefty reward attached to it. Featuring the ultimate early-eighties L.A. punk soundtrack, this grungily hilarious odyssey is a politically trenchant take on President Reagan’s domestic and foreign policy.

Seconds (1966) Rock Hudson is a revelation in this sinister, science-fiction-inflected dispatch from the fractured 1960s. Directed by John Frankenheimer, the film concerns a middle-aged businessman dissatisfied with his suburban existence who elects to undergo a strange and elaborate procedure that will grant him a new life. Starting over in America, however, is not as easy as it sounds. This paranoiac symphony of canted camera angles (courtesy of famed cinematographer James Wong Howe), fragmented editing, and layered sound design is a remarkably risk-taking Hollywood film that ranks high on the list of its legendary director’s major achievements.

To Be or Not to Be (1942) As nervy as it is hilarious, this screwball masterpiece from Ernst Lubitsch stars Jack Benny and, in her final screen appearance, Carole Lombard, as husband-and-wife thespians in Nazi-occupied Warsaw who become caught up in a dangerous spy plot. “To Be or Not to Be” is a Hollywood film of the boldest black humor, which went into production soon after the U.S. entered World War II. Lubitsch manages to brilliantly balance political satire, romance, slapstick, and urgent wartime suspense in a comic high-wire act that has never been equaled.

Things to Come (1936) A landmark collaboration between writer H. G. Wells, producer Alexander Korda and designer and director William Cameron Menzies, “Things to Come” is a science fiction film like no other, a prescient political work that predicts a century of turmoil and progress. Skipping through time, “Things to Come” bears witness to world war, dictatorship, disease, the rise of television, and finally, utopia. Conceived, written, and overseen by Wells himself as an adaptation of his own work, this mega-budgeted production, the most ambitious ever from Korda’s London Films, is a triumph of imagination and technical audacity. One of the most overlooked classic film of all time.

The Tin Drum (1979 — Germany) Restored director’s cut never before seen in the United States. Oskar is born in Germany in 1924 with an advanced intellect. Repulsed by the hypocrisy of adults and the irresponsibility of society, he refuses to grow older after his third birthday. While the chaotic world around him careers toward the madness and folly of World War II, Oskar pounds incessantly on his beloved tin drum and perfects his uncannily piercing shrieks. “The Tin Drum,” which earned the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Foreign-language film, is a visionary adaptation from Volker Schlondorff of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass’s acclaimed novel, characterized by surreal imagery, arresting eroticism, and clear-eyed satire.

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 Posted by on January 8, 2021 No Responses »