Monday, November 23, 2009

****new release list no.244

Turkey Day rolls around again. Or Soy Fritter Day, whatever your preference… It always strikes me as so bizarre when the President grants a turkey a “pardon” each year. We are such a funny race! Wouldn’t it be humbling if there were some beastie out there that somewhat regularly hunted and ate us? Dominion would be such a challenging concept for us. But I digress…

Did you watch any of last week’s releases? I caught a few, most notably HUMPDAY. Wow, that movie was so brilliant! If you liked THE PUFFY CHAIR or any of the Duplass Brothers films, you may like this one. I also saw an Israeli film from last year called JELLYFISH which I was quite enamored with. It is about three women whose lives barely intersect, all struggling to maintain their equilibrium. Somehow it reminded me of MAGNOLIA, without the heavy male energy, and about an hour and a half shorter.

This week’s big titles include the newest from Judd Apatow, FUNNY PEOPLE. Starring Adam Sandler as a dying comedian and Seth Rogen as his personal assistant/lackey/yes man, this film is funny and its sad and it is a lot quieter all around than Apatow’s last bunch of comedic blockbusters. With Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill as Rogen’s young actor housemates and a large cast of comic cameos. In ANGELS AND DEMONS, Tom Hanks reprises his role as symbolist Dr. Robert Langdon from THE DA VINCI CODE. Here, Langdon is trying to protect potential papal candidates from the big bad Illuminati in Vatican City. GOMORRAH is just coming to DVD and being released by Criterion in its first go-round (which says a lot about the film). It is a story of organized crime in Naples, with its bleak, small and violent world having international consequences.

In the lighter department, we have the seasonal comedy FOUR CHRISTMASES starring Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon as a married couple living in SF who think they’ve put their past behind them. Unfortunately, fate leads them to abandon their plan to hide for the holidays, and instead causes them to visit all four of their divorced parents and confront themselves while do so. THE MAIDEN HEIST is the story of some museum guards who decide to take some art with them as they are transferred to a new museum. With Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy and Christopher Walken as the guards.

For the kids, we have the newest Robert Rodriguez film, SHORTS, about a magical rock that grants wishes to all who control it, and SANTA BUDDIES, the newest film in the AIR BUD franchise.

From Taiwan we have a gorgeous travel movie called ISLAND ETUDE about a young man bicycling around the island before college graduation; from France we have MOI ET TOI starring Academy-Award winning actress Marion Cotillard and Julie Depardieu as sisters looking for love; and from Turkey we have THREE MONKEYS, a dramatic tale of a family trying impossibly hard to ignore the difficult reality of their lives.

In the television department, we have a ten hour series about wine called MONDOVINO, as well as season two in the UK version of LIFE ON MARS and an amazing criterion release called THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION featuring nearly 500 minutes of 50’s era live television performances.

Thinking about your holiday shopping already? Don’t forget the Four Star Holiday sales:

KenFlix packages of 3 months of any service for 10% off – give it as a Gift Certificate! And Four Star T-Shirts and Previously Viewed DVDs for $25 total, tax included. This is an 18% discount. Come in for details! We finally got the brown shirts in men’s large and extra large sizes!

Alrighty then, see you down at the store.

Love and Kisses,
Ken

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............//NEW RELEASES//............

ANGELS & DEMONS.****ALSO ON BLU-RAY****
Adventure/Suspense.
Tom Hanks/Ewan McGregor.
Directed by Ron Howard.
* Hanks reprises his role as Robert Langdon (The Da Vinci Code), this time in Italy, working with (or against) the Illuminati (and presumable wearing a #23 uniform under his dark suit), and trying to prevent murder and terrorism at the Vatican.

FOUR CHRISTMASES****ALSO ON BLU-RAY****
Comedy/Romance.
Vince Vaughn/Reece Witherspoon/Robert Duvall/Sissy Spacek/Jon Voigt/Jon Favreau/Mary Steenburgen.
Directed by Seth Gordon.
* This film has such a relatable premise! A married and successful San Francisco couple without kids, who year after year make up lies (You can’t spell lies without families) to avoid seeing their families. Unfortunately, this year, they get busted on live television and must make the pilgrimage to visit all four of their divorced parents one…painful…visit…at…a time! Sounds hilarious doesn’t it? And something tells me that it is…

FUNNY PEOPLE.****ALSO ON BLU-RAY****
Comedy/Drama.
Seth Rogen/Adam Sandler/Leslie Mann/Eric Bana/Jason Schwartzman/Jonah Hill/Sarah Silverman.
Directed by Judd Apatow.
* I think this film might have come off more personally explanative than Apatow might have expected. Funny people? They are sad and lonely and mean and abusive and fucked up. And such as life. For George Simmons (Sandler, somewhat toned down and therefore more believable than usual), a terminal diagnosis causes him to long for a less sad and lonely existence, which leads him to Ira Wright, a struggling young standup comic who worships Simmons. And under his wing he goes, working as George’s personal assistant, which includes such tasks as being insulted, sitting with him while he tries to sleep and keeping the groupies warm while George is otherwise occupied. None of which especially bothers Ira. It seems the entertainment world is brutal, and a thick skin is critical for success, as evidenced by Ira’s relationships with his housemates, Mark (Schwatzman) who is starring in a Disney-style sitcom called YO TEACH, and Leo (Hill), another struggling comic. The three of them share a vicious back and forth relationship where backstabbing and emasculation are just the appetizers. For Ira, the job with George represents a possible break, and he’ll do ‘almost’ anything to keep that job. For George however, he wonders if all the cutthroat decisions he’s made were worth it, now that his life appears to be ending early. All that changes when the experimental treatment he is getting for his illness works and his health fully returns. Featuring many other funny people cameos, such as Silverman, Paul Reiser, Norm MacDonald, Eminem and more.

GOMORRAH.****ALSO ON BLU-RAY****
Criterion/Drama/Crime/Foreign (Italian/Mandarin/French).
Toni Servillo/Gianfelice Imparato/Salvatore Cantalupo/Salvatore Abruzzese.
Directed by Matteo Garrone.
* Five interlocking stories about organized crime in Naples are told in this gripping award winning moralistic film. In the slums of Naples, there is no way to avoid taking sides, you are either with the Camorra or you are with a secessionist gang and therefore the enemy. For Toto, there is no question. As a 13-year-old with no problems with anyone, he jump into gang life by retrieving a gun and a mysterious package he witnesses being tossed aside during a raid by the police. Part of his initiation involves being shot point blank while wearing a bullet-proof vest. The shooter asks him, “Are you scared”? Yes, Toto, answers, honestly, and then takes his bullet like a man. The bleakness of the life is illustrated over and over again. As in the story of Marco and Ciro, two young toughs who steal some guns and then shoot them off shouting and posturing about the stupidity they perceive of the head honchos of the gang. Then, later, after they’ve been beaten and threatened, Ciro just wants to be left alone, accusing Marco of not caring if they grow into adulthood. Which appears at that moment extremely unlikely.

ISLAND ETUDE.
Drama/Foreign (Mandarin/Taiwanese/Lithuanian/English).
Ming-hsiang Tung.
Directed by Huai-en Chen.
* This beautiful little travelogue of a film makes Taiwan look like quite the beautiful place! Ming (Tung) is a young man on the verge of college graduation when he decides to cycle around the island before he begins the next stage of his life. As he travels, he is open to the world, and all of its possibilities, and meets companions nearly everywhere he goes. As a deaf man, his ability to interact with the world is somewhat altered, and we feel and see the world through his eyes and the natural beauty of the water and the mountains prevails. An eclectic soundtrack keeps things moving.

THE MAIDEN HEIST.
Comedy/Crime.
Morgan Freeman/Christopher Walken/William H. Macy/Marcia Gay Harden.
Directed by.
* Don’t you just wish sometimes, when you get a new job, that some of your surroundings from your old job would move along with you? That is how these museum security guards feel, and that is why they decide to steal some of the paintings they’ve grown to love. Fair enough.

SANTA BUDDIES.
Family.
Craig Anton/Andrew Astor/Tom Bosley/Tim Conway.
Directed by Robert Vince.
* I think this is like, number 9 in the AIR BUD series.

SHORTS.
Family.
Jimmy Bennett/Jon Cryer/William H. Macy/Leslie Mann/James Spader.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
* In this sardonic suburban kids tale, a boy finds a rock with the power to grant wishes and everyone in his town will stop at nothing to get their hands on it.

THREE MONKEYS.
Drama/Foreign (Turkish).
Yavuz Bingol/Hatice Aslan/Rifat Sungar.
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.
* Bilge Ceylan won the Best Director award at Cannes Film Festival in 2008 for this film, and it was also nominated for the Golden Palm award. It is the story of a family in Turkey, ignoring the reality of what is happening around them with the hopes of just continuing on as a unit despite the obvious chaos and destruction of their situation.

TOI ET MOI.
Comedy/Drama/Romance/Foreign (French).
Marion Cotillard/Julie Depardieu/Jonathan Zaccai.
Directed by Julie Lopes-Curval.
* Romantic comedy about two sisters looking for love, or perhaps avoiding it. One sister is a romance writer, and at times the film has fantasy sequences following her imagination. The other sister is a cellist and the film is filled with string music that gently carries it along. Featuring Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard (LA VIE EN ROSE).

............//DOCUMENTARY/............

THEY TURNED OUR DESERT INTO FIRE.
Documentary/Social Commentary.
Directed by Mark Brecke.
* Award-winning filmmaker (and local resident) Brecke has been chronicling world genocide for over a decade. This film gives us an inside look at the tragedy going on in Darfur and offers some explanations as to why it has been allowed to happen.

............//TELEVISION/............

THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION.
Criterion/Live Television.
* This 485 minute, thee-disc collection is full of live broadcasts of 1950’s era television, featuring the show MARTY (1953), PATTERNS (1955), NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS ( 1955), BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1956), REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (1956) and more. Also featuring performances and directing by such up-and-coming names such as Paul Newman, Mickey Rooney, Rod Steiger, Rod Serling, Mel Torme, Jack Palance, Andy Griffith, Julie Harris, and Piper Laurie.

LIFE ON MARS (UK): SEASON TWO.
Television/Cops and Robbers.
* Continuing to update our collection with Season Two of the original UK version of this show about a cop who wakes up in the 1970’s. The clothes are great.

MONDOVINO: COMPLETE SERIES.
Television/Vino.
Directed by Jonathan Nossiter.
* This ten-hour in-depth wine series features a glimpse inside the globalization of the wine industry, and examines production in many countries around the world. It is chock full of autumn arrays of apricot kernels, cinnamon, peach and horseradish with a buttery bright character and a big finish.

............//KIDS/............

SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: TWO-DISC COLLECTION.
* Quick, name the dwarfs.

............//NEW ON BLU/............

INK.
Sci-Fi
* Very weird new sci-fi film featuring alternate realities, and more – plus, our copy is a signed copy!

............//REPLACEMENT DVD’S/............

DEATH NOTE 1.
* Ding!

****

2 comments:

oddlaugh said...

What film is that photo still from? The frolicking boys in their BVDs with weapons, very amusing.

Four Star Gazer said...

That's from GOMORRAH - and yes it is a great photo...