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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Au Revoir les Enfants

This story of two young boys who become friends in Nazi-occupied France is worth watching even if you don't have any special knowledge about writer/director Louis Malle or how the semi-autobiographical story fits into his oeuvre. That's why you buy the Criterion Collection edition of the movie in the first place. The critical essays in the accompanying booklet do a great job of putting the film (and the filmmaker's career) in critical perspective, while the interviews with Malle -- and his wife, Candice Bergen -- illuminate the mind behind the camera. The addition of the Charles Chaplin comedy short, the Immigrant, which the boys watch at school is icing on a truly tasty treat.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tangled

The pressure really must have been immense on the creatie minds behind this one; Tangles is, after all, the 50th animated feature from the Walt Disney Studio. It's nice to report that their efforts were well worth it. This updating of the tale of Rapunzel features some fine songs, strong comedy, two very likable leading characters (voiced to perfection by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi). It aso features one of the most beautiful scenes ever captured in a movie, animated or otherwise, a lantern ceremony that wil take your breath away (if you let it) and steal you heart (whether you admit it or not).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moscow, Belgium

Directed by Christophe Van Rompaey, the film tells the story of a Belgium housewife named Matty (Barbara Sarafian) struggling to keep her life together after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Although the break with her husband isn’t clean, she still clings to her hopes that he will get through his mid-life crisis and come back to her. One day, she has a minor fender-bender in a grocery store parking lot with a truck driver named Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet) and what starts as a passionate hate for each other begrudgingly turns into something else, something Matty isn’t sure she wants, needs or deserves. The story is complicated, as all great romances are, and Von Rompaey does a great job making it interesting to watch unfold. Delnaet is excellent as Johnny, the truck driver whose reputation as a lady’s man has a dark side he’s trying to hide, and Johan Heldenbergh is perfect as Matty’s husband Werner, an art school teacher battling his fear of growing old and unsuccessful as an artist in the only way he knows how, by seducing one of his students. The film really belongs to Sarafian, though. Her portrayal of Matty is endlessly fascinating to watch whether she’s railing at the crappy way the world is treating her or seductively smiling at the rare chance she may have to be happy again. Like the two men in her live, you can’t help but fall in love with her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Quiet Arrangement

If this riveting mystery is any indication of what writer/director David Snyder can do on a shoestring budget, it will be fascinating to see what he does when Hollywood comes knocking with the paycheck he deserves. The film tells the story of a big shot lawyer whose wife is kidnapped by mysterious thugs who want a million in cash or they’ll send her back in pieces. It’s a basic plot, or so it seems until Snyder starts messing with it — and with your head. There are plenty of twists, and none of them feel false (even when they are). The cast does a geat job of keeping the script grounded in reality, which keeps you hooked on the story as it unfolds in layers until the fully satisfying final scene.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Ambassador

There’s a lot more to being an ambassador than giving speeches and attending banquets, especially if you are the British Ambassador to Ireland and every decision you make has the potential of sparking a war between the two countries. Pauline Collins (Upstairs, Downstairs) is excellent as the ambassador, and it’s her performance that keeps you from tuning out when some of the episodes in the seres start feeling more like an episode of Murder She Wrote than a British political drama. The shows that slow things down and let the audience get to know the ambassador as a real person work much better.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blood

While investigating the bloody murder of a rich woman’s maid, police detective Hoshino (Kanji Tsuda) uncovers a mystery that stretches back to feudal Japan and a bloody battlefield where a sexy vampire (Aya Sugimoto) saves the life of a dying soldier by taking his immortal soul. Director Ten Shimoyama (Shinobi) fills every frame of the film with style, even if it undermines the substance of the story. All is forgiven once the final battle of evil vs. more evil begins and the blood starts to fly

Friday, March 25, 2011

DVD News: Scarface Finally Coming Out on Blu-ray

The explosive underworld epic Scarface arrives on Blu-ray Hi-Def September 6, 2011 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Considered one of the most influential gangster films ever made, Scarface’s gritty depiction of Tony Montana’s lethal ambition has made it a cultural touchstone that spans generations. Exclusive new bonus content created especially for this release reveals the film’s iconic legacy as one of the greatest crime sagas of all time. For more information about Scarface on Blu-ray,visit www.facebook.com/scarfacethemovie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

White0ut

Here's the key to enjoying Whiteout: Don't think too much.
Don't think too much about the plot. Luckily you don't have to because you've seen it all before.
Don't think about who the bad guy is. Your first guess (made in the first half hour of the movie) is probably right anyway.
Don't think too much about the goofs, like how it's supposed to be so cold in the Antarctic that a spilled cup of hot coffee freezes instantly when the wind hits it but the stars can still walk outside with their faces uncovered.
Thinking will only spoil the otherwise guilty pleasure of watching this movie.
Whiteout stars Kate Beckinsale as Carrie Stetko, a US Marshall serving out the final days of her posting at an Antarctic research facility. (Don't think about why this particular facility needs its own US Marshall...it's never explained, but it's also irrelevant to the rest of the story). When a report comes in that a body has been found out on a remote location, Stetko finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that is somehow linked to a Russian cargo plane that has been buried under the polar ice for more than 50 years.
The movie quickly paints itself into a corner, at least in terms of the story, that it just can't get out of cleanly and it rushes headlong into an ending that is more silly than satisfying. But so what? There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes than watching Kate Beckinsale running around kicking butt. The fact that she does it and still finds time for a gratuitous shower scene only adds to the mindless fun of watching Whiteout.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amreeka

Few films celebrate the concept of American being a land of opportunity like director Cherien Dabis’ heartfelt new film, Amreeka. It’s the story of a Palestinian divorcee named Muna Farah (Nisreen Faour) who decides to leave her home in the West Bank to try to build a better life for her and her son with relatives living in the United States. Of course, the America Muna’s always heard about and the realities of life in small town Illinois are worlds apart in every way imaginable. Each day brings a new challenge for Muna to face, from the simple act of shopping in an American grocery store to the struggle to find work to support herself and her son. The story takes place in the early days of the Iraqi War, a time when Americans, for the most part, were very gung ho about what they had been told by politicians was their destiny to bring peace to the Middle East. Although she has no connection to the war whatsoever, just the fact that she is an Arab in America at this time puts Muna and her son in a lot of potentially dangerous situations. Sometimes it’s just the way people look at her in a store, sometimes it’s a more blatant act such as her son Fadi (Melkar Muallem) being called a terrorist in school. All of it shows the ugly side of America and it takes a strong person to stand up against it all and fight for at least a chance at a better life, and Dabis couldn’t have picked a better actress to be that person in her movie than Nisreen Faour.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Hair

Although the title and subject matter may make most men think the Cubs will win the World Series before they’d go see Good Hair, the fact is that this highly entertaining movie deserves to be seen by everybody. Directed by Jeff Stilson, Good Hair is a documentary about the dramatic lengths women, especially Black women, will go to have hair that they feel good about. And if they can’t get their own hair to look the way they want, they’ll just weave somebody else’s onto their scalps. Chris Rock serves as host of this eye-opening adventure, and he does a good job of staying in the background and letting the documentary subjects speak for themselves. Since it is Chris Rock, the comic does bring a few zingers to the script, but it is his honest sense of wonder about what women do to their hair – based in no small part on the fact that he is a father of two girls who will soon be asking for the same treatments the adults he interviews are getting – that carries the film.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sugar Boxx

If you are having any trouble deciding whether this is a movie for you, read the words at the top of the box: Prisoners. Hookers. Machetes. Revenge. If that’s what you are looking for in a women in prison exploitation film, this is the perfect choice, If you are looking for feelings or a cry for prison reform, look somewhere else. Written and directed by Cody Jarrett, Sugar Boxx is an unapologetic throwback to the heyday of drive-in grind-house movies, where movies were rated in the body count and boob shots more than the script or the acting. It’s not a satire or an homage; it’s the real deal, only it’s been made 30 years too late to play in a theater near you

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Batman: the Brave and the Bold Season One Part 2

If for no other reason, you need to get this delightful DVD and watch the penultimate episode, Mayhem of the Music Master! It’s a mini-Broadway musicl that’s so downright bizarre — and so beautiful to listen to — that you almost wish somebody would expand it to a full show on the Great White Way (as long as they hire Neal Patrick Harris to sing the lead like he does in the show). The good news is that the rest of the episodes almost reach the same high standard, thanks to good writing, great art and the excellent voice work of Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey show) as the Caped Crusader.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Colin & Brad: Two Man Group

Every night of their comedy tour, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood walk out on stage with virtually no idea what they are going to do. That’s the beauty of improv comedy, and nobody does it better than these two. The lack of polish of their routines may make it unlikely you will want to watch the DVD more than once, but that first time is a hoot, particularly the final bit they do surrounded by mousetraps set to go off at the slightest touch,. And they do it blindfolded

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No One Knows About Persian Cats

All Negar and Ashkan want to do is put a band together and bring their unique indie rock sound to an audience. That’s a lot easier said than done, though, when you live in a country like Iran where just playing music can get you arrested and put in jail for years (without a trial). Director Bahman Ghobadi does a great job of showing the determination that musicians in Iran have when it comes to their art, but the best thing about the movie are the music-video-like moments where he lets the bands play while showing us images of everyday life in a country most of us know very little about.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Me & Orson Welles

While it’s a lot of fun to watch on its own, Richard Linklater’s latest film may be a lot more enjoyable if you do a little bit of homework before you go to see it. The story of how Welles changed the theatrical world with his 1937 Broadway production of Julius Caesar is much richer if you know a little bit more about the time it’s set and the people who play a part in the event before the theater lights go down. The film stars Christian McKay as Welles, and he does an unforgettable job of bringing the talented egomaniacal director to life. It’s not just a matter of getting the man’s distinctive voice and larger-than-life mannerisms across, either. McKay embodies the man so completely that you’ll walk out of the theater with an intense desire to see something else he’s done just so you can measure how good a performance it really is (and be sure it’s not just a clever bit of mimicry). You will also want to see a lot more of Welles' movies, too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dickens in America

Celebrity travel shows are a dime a dozen these days. What separates the good from the godawful is the passion that each presenter brings to the project, and no travel host is more passionate that Miriam Margoyles (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) as she follows in the footsteps of her literary hero, Charles Dickens. The show is informative, particularly when Margoyles gets a chance to visit the same places the author did when he came to America in 1842, but it’s most entertaining when Margoyles gets a chance to share her love of all things Dickensian with the people she meets along the way.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Man From Nowhere

All the soft-spoken Tae-Sik Cha (Bin Won) wants to do is live a quiet life. His hopes are shattered when a neghbor is kidnapped as part of a drug deal gone bad, and Tae-Sik is forced to go up against the mob to try and rescue her and her young daughter. The story is strong and the acting (particularly from Bin Won and newcomer Sae-Ron Kim as the girl) is excellent, but it's the stylish action scenes staged by director Jeong-beom Lee that keep your eyes riveted to the screen.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chrono Crusade: The Complete Series

Who would ever imagine that the ultimate battle between good and evil would be set in Brooklyn during the Roaring 20s? It sounds pretty silly and the comedy is played pretty well in the first few episodes of this entertaining anime. As the plot thickens and the battles grow more intense, though, the humor fades into the backgrounds for some high drama. The story gets a bit confusing towards the end, but its worth the effort it takes to follow along to the ultimate ending.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Film Unfinished

The atrocities of the Holocaust have been well documented on film before in dramas and documentaries, but few films have taken viewers behind the scenes like this one. And it  almost never saw the light of day because it wasn’t even discovered until the end of WWII. It’s basically a propaganda film that the Nazis made to show the world just how ‘good’ life was for the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, but it aso features stark images of the horrible reality of their lives filmed for the Nazi leaders’ secret enjoyment. Watching the multiple takes that the Nazis went through to get their lies on film is fascinating and horrifying.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Murder Investigation Team

This edgy crime series should come with a seat belt. From the stylish opening to the final solution of each case, each episode grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. And it does it with surprisingly little actual action, at least in terms of car chases and shootouts. The action here comes from the stellar cast doing the investigation, each of whom has his or her part in solving the crime (and making the solution so riveting). The excellent Samantha Spiro and Lindsey Coulson prove that women can be as tough as any CSI investigator, and they do it with more style.

Four Lions

The list of directors who can make a film about terrorism this funny is pretty short, and Chris Morris is right at the top. The film tells the story of four fundamentalists looking for a way to tell the world that they are a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately these four are more like the Three Stooges when it comes to making a political statement. Morris knows how to make even the most outrageous situations extremely funny, but he’s also talented enouh to make every laugh in the movie something you wll think about, too.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures

Tom and Jerry have been chasing each other since the 1930s, and while this collection of classic shorts doesn’t add anything new to their resume, its still a great way for people to either discover or rediscover the slapstick duo. The best of the bunch are the ones done by the characters’ creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, like Barbecue Brawl and Hic-cup Pup. The ones produced by Chuck Jones (of Bugs Bunny fame) lack the spark of the originals.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wild Rovers

Following the unexpected death of a fellow ranch-hand, a pair of mismatched cowboys decide the only way to have a future for themselves is to rob the local bank and use the money to buy a ranch of their own in Mexico. Directed by Blake Edwards, of Pink Panther fame, the story of the criminal cowboys unfolds at a leisurely pace, focusing more on the characters than on the crime. William Holden gives a great performance as Ross, the old cowboy desperate to make something out of his remaining years. Ryan O’Neal is less successful as Frank, the young whippersnapper who follows in Ross’ footsteps.

Monday, March 7, 2011

In Loving Memory

When the local undertaker dies, his widow decides to keep the  business going as long as she can despite the fact that everybody, with the exception of her clumsy employee (and nephew), wants her to fail. The jokes don’t exactly come at you one after the other in this slowly paced series, but the ones that work are pretty hilarious. Thora Hird give a delightful performance as the widow, as does Christopher Beeny as her naive nephew, Billy. The pace takes a bit of getting used to, but the overall effect is well worth the trouble.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

FLCL: Complete Collection

A young boy gets hit on the head by a bass guitar-wielding girl who says she’s an alien from another planet. That’s weird enough. When the bump on his head grows into a giant robot that acts as a household servant (when it’s not engaged in fights with other giant creatures), you know you are entering a realm that few stories — even anime stories — ever go. You know you are in for a wild ride when even the characters admit directly to the viewer that even they don’t know where the story is taking them. Like a lot of great trips, though, its the journey and not the destination that makes this one worthwhile.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Scooby Doo! Mystery Inc. Season 1 Volume 1

The last time they tried updating the Scooby Doo series they saddled him — and viewers — with an annoying sidekick named Scrappy Doo. It almost killed the long-running animated series.  This time around, the people behind the series were a lot smarter, and a lot more effective. They kept the essence of the series intact (the gang of ‘meddling kids’ still solve a mystery in every episode), but they expanded their universe by giving them families and even the potential for relationships that go beyond friendship. It’s a perfect way to bring Scooby and the gang to a new generation, while letting longtime fans enjoy the ride

Friday, March 4, 2011

Raging Bull on Blu-Ray

Now, this is why Blu-Ray was invented. Sure, it’s a black and white movie, but it’s a gorgeous black and white movie that simply blows you away in high definition. But even if you watched it on your phone, the power of what Martin Scorsese and Robert de Niro created 30 years ago would still carry through. The Blu-Ray features new interviews with both artists to give you additional insight into what even they admit (reluctantly) is a masterpiece. The shot-by-shot comparison of De Niro and Jake La Motta in the ring is an added treat.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fish Tank

When was the last time you got to the end of a movie and immediately hit play so you could watch it again? Chances are that will be your reaction to this bold and brillaint film. Directed by Andrea Arnold, the film tells the story of Mia Williams (Katie Jarvis) a young girl who dreams of hip-hop dancing her way out of the poverty her family lives in. Her live becomes extremely complicated when her mom’s new boyfriend starts showing an interest in her fledgling career and, eventually, her budding young body. It’s hard to watch at times, but Jarvis’ performance is so spellbinding you just can’t look away. And it only gets better the second time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Darling Buds of May

This is one of the most charming series you will ever see. It follows the adventures of the Larkins, a family of farmers in Kent who have the uncanny ability to take everything in life with a wink and a smile, the good and the bad. Lead by Pop Larkin (David Jason) the family does whatever it needs to do to make ends meet, be it picking strawberries on a local farm or reselling barrels of black market pickles for a tidy little profit. Of course, it will always be known as the series that made Catherine Zeta-Jones a star, and she is pretty terrific as the daughter, Mariette, but the real treat of the show is the way the entire family grows on you as the episodes go by.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Watch new trailer for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is an all-new DC Universe Animated Original Movie that weaves six interlocking stories of the Green Lantern Corps’ rich mythology around preparations for an attack by an ancient enemy. As the battle approaches, Hal Jordan (voiced by Nathan Fillion, Castle) mentors new recruit Arisia (Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men) in the history of the Green Lantern Corps, telling tales of Avra (the first Green Lantern) and several of Hal’s comrades – including Abin Sur, Kilowog, Laira and Mogo. In the end, Arisia must rise to the occasion to help Hal, Sinestro and the entire Green Lantern Corps save the universe from the destructive forces of Krona. Penned by comic book luminaries Geoff Johns, Dave Gibbons, Peter J. Tomasi, Eddie Berganza, Alan Burnett, Todd Casey and Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will be distributed June 7 by Warner Home Video as part of the build up to the release of the highly anticipated live action film, Green Lantern, in theatres June 17.

AvN: Aliens Vs. Ninjas

For about the first half hour of this Seiji Chiba movie, nothing much happens. There are a bunch of ninjas hopping around and acting foolish, but the aliens of the title aren’t anywhere to be see. You almost start to wonder if you’ve been suckered into a movie that doesn’tlive up to its (awesome) name, when the creatures appear and all hell breaks loose. The actual aliens are little more than stuntmen in rubber costumes, but the way they look matters little when compared to the way they fight. The last hour of the film is a non-stop gore fest of fun