Monday, January 25, 2010

****new release list no.253

There are 39 titles written in the blog this week, the biggest of them WHIP IT (roller derby film by Drew Barrymore starring Ellen Page), SURROGATES (sci-fi adventure starring Bruce Willis) and MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT (really well-done film documenting rehearsals of the final tour that was supposed to begin a week after he died). In honor of all these titles, my blog today will mention none of them (except, ah, the aforementioned 3 titles). If you want to read about this films, and possibly miss my poor opinions on mostly non-film related stuff, then just page down a page or two, and you will find a most glorious list of foreign films, Criterion releases, kids stuff, New BD titles, Indie films, documentaries, and more.

Otherwise on to:

Important things that I have failed to address in the previous few months in no particular order (in fact, they probably could be put in better order):

1. The Anniversary of the Passing of David Ayoob. Dave, you were a wonderful business owner, a mentor, a neighborhood legend, and a motivator of goodness. The world still misses you! I wish we had bought the store from you before you retired into your love of your family and old cars. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve wished I could call you and ask you questions about this or that. May you rest in peace, and may your family thrive!

2. Haiti. My gosh, that place got hammered. I have seen such amazing free-spirited generosity in helping financially with their hardships. We must always remember to try to help before disasters happen as well. Maybe this sort of mobilization is the central purpose of Facebook?

3. The Prop 8 Trial. This is a huge deal, obviously, but no matter what happens in this trial, equal rights are coming for all peoples. Count on it. There are so many things that are worth good debate, discussion and legal opinions, but this is not one of them. Let’s let love rule! The Merc has done a fair job documenting the trial…(Freud was clearly a genius, but the guy spent a lot of ink justifying his issues…)

4. Presidential hostility. No link here, just sorrow at something so amazing turning a bit sour. Have we forgotten the idiocy that usually inhabits this office? Have we forgotten the woefully terrible inheritance the current office was saddled with? Let’s get into the second term before we start with the biting rhetoric, people. Did some of us not cry in the street two Novembers ago when the impossible occurred? Just saying...

5. The Brilliance of Hippydom. No link here, just the actual and honest love of love.

6. The tragicomedy of AVATAR. Okay people, I know this is an unpopular opinion, but this movie didn’t do it for me. Yes, the visuals were out of this world, and I loved some of the initial sci-fi concepts bantered around (the actual connection between the beings, both animal and vegetable of the planet via hair follicles, among other things), and the acting was fine, meaning specific portrayals of characters were done well, and left nothing to be desired…But the story? Ah, the story…Why can’t we have a new story in Hollywood? Was there not a million (or a quarter of a billion?) different plotlines that could have been explored? Did we need Pocahontas falling in love with John who helps save the people from Chevron? I don’t know…I just wondered how this movie has made 1.5 billion dollars while Haiti, hunger and education (to scrape the surface of planetary depravity) all suffer? Okay, just saying. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I accidentally bought tickets to the wrong theatre when I saw this film, and they were not refundable, so I had to buy them again for the correct theatre putting a bit over $60 into the income of this film. Booya!)

7. How a Hot Tub will Complicate your Karma. Pretty simple and self-explanatory thought, and the reason I think it is cuz Amy and I were given a tub for free by wonderful neighbors (thank you thank you Jeff and Sharon!) and it is awesome! Though it probably does cost a lot to heat.

8. NOISEPOP 2010! For anyone who doesn’t know, Noisepop is an amazing music fest run by local San Francisco music industry types, who promote great local music as well as amazing rock from around the world. They put on a yearly festival that runs simultaneously at many local venues, and they also sponsor or co-sponsor many other events throughout the year. My wife Amy sings in an awesome 45-woman choir called Conspiracy of Venus that has been invited to open for John Vanderslice at the Swedish American Hall. My band, The Dont’s has played Noisepop the last couple years, and it has been a blast. It doesn’t seem like we’ll be in this year (although I heard a rumor that The Decemberists are playing a currently unlisted show at The Rickshaw and we’d do just about anything to open that show). The point is, if you like music, and wanna check out Noisepop, pick just about any show and buy your tix online ( because many of the shows sellout) and then be prepared for an awesome evening!

9. The Tiger Woods Scandal. Tiger Woods? I’d do him, and so would about a ½ billion other people, so why is this scandal such a big deal? I love how it has become a moralistic tale, with many people getting to hammer the guy in print about what a “bad” husband and person he is. I’m not defending his behavior at all. Adultery is wrong. But, first off, make sure to be super duper honest with yourselves about your behavior before you totally dis his, and then remember, he is barely a person, the guy is a corporation, and he’s just spreading the benefits. Gosh, as though people who drink Gatorade are all morally sound.

10. The Unbelievable Stupidness of the Late Night War. Although, that clip of Jimmy Kimmel ripping Jay Leno a new one on Jay’s own show was priceless.

Well, that's my list, and here come the movies.

Alrighty then, see you down at the store.

Love and Kisses,

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

Clive Owen/Emma Booth.
Directed by Scott Hicks.
* From the directory of SHINE comes this quiet tale of a sports writer who loses his wife to cancer and must raise two boys himself, in what becomes of triumph of will and growth. Sad, but not melodramatic.

Abbie Cornish/Ben Wishaw.
Directed by Jane Campion.
* John Keats was perhaps one of the world’s finest poets, and sadly died at the young age of 25 from tuberculosis (from Wikipedia: [the doctor] finally diagnosed consumption (now called tuberculosis) and put Keats on a starvation diet—an anchovy and a piece of bread a day—to reduce the blood flow to his stomach. He also bled Keats, which was a standard treatment of the day but would have contributed to his weakness). This is the story of his ill-fated love affair with the girl next door, Frances Brawne.

Andrea Iaia/Paul Sorvino/F. Murray Abraham.
Directed by Renzo Martinelli.
* The somewhat true story of Primo Carnera, Italy’s first (and I think only) heavyweight champion boxer.

Brian Cox/Damian Lewis/Joseph Fiennes/Seu Jorge.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt.
* Twisty but standard-fare prison break film also featuring my favorite Brazilian rock star, Seu Jorge, who did those beautiful Bowie covers in THE LIFE AQUATIC. Have a listen, here’s one now.

Drama /Foreign (French).
Louis Garrel/Laura Smet.
Directed by Philippe Garrel.
* This movie is a sort of meditation on celebrity and its trappings…it is about a famous woman who is destroyed from within by the discovery by her husband of her affair with a young lover.

C. Thomas Howell.
Directed by.
* It says drama, but I keep thinking of it as a comedy…why? I think because when I think “C. Thomas Howell (RED DAWN, THE OUTSIDERS)” I giggle. I am not sure why.

Performing Arts.
Directed by Adrienne Liron and Jeff Tudor.
* The story of a peasant girl who dies from a broken heart after falling in love with an unattainable Count.

Drama/Foreign (Korean).
Directed by Chang-dong Lee.
* This is the 1997 directorial debut of Lee, and it won many awards around the world on the festival circuit. It is the strange beautiful story of a young man who has just been released from the army and now must contend with the violent outside world. Between being beaten, engaging in an affair with a mobster’s girlfriend and joining the mob itself, he is just barely staying alive.

Comedy/Foreign (Icelandic/English/Mandarin).
Directed by Olaf de Fleur Johannesson.
* David is a thug; he collects debts. He is a cowardly thug at that, at the low end of the thug ladder, abused and teased even by the thugs in his own gang. But, he yearns for more. He has a Chinese philosophy video called The Higher Force which is his religion. He waits for special things to happen to him. Special things happen. Causing David to make a stand for himself, or end up a corpse.

Comedy/Drama/Fantasy/Foreign (Russian).
Mariya Shalaeve.
Directed by Anne Melikyan.
* This Amelie-ish fairy tale is about a young girl in Russia who grows up believing herself to have mystical powers to make her dreams come true.

Allan Levine/Nastassja Kinski/Dean Stockwell.
Directed by Wim Wenders.
* Evocative film about love, companionship, isolation and commitment. The tale of a lost soul found by his brother, re-animated by his son and driven to find his wife. On many people’s lists of the greatest films ever.

Comedy/Foreign (Korean).
Directed by Jin Jang .
* Korean gangster comedy.

Criterion/War/Drama/Foreign (Italian).
Directed by Roberto Rossellini.
* Here are some descriptions of these films from Amazon:
Rome Open City
This was Roberto Rossellini’s revelation, a harrowing drama about the Nazi occupation of Rome and the brave few who struggled against it. Though told with a bit more melodramatic flair than the other films that would form this trilogy and starring well-known actors — Aldo Fabrizi as a priest helping the partisan cause and Anna Magnani in her breakthrough role as the fiancée of a resistance member — Rome Open City (Roma città aperta) is a shockingly authentic experience, conceived and directed amid the ruin of World War II, with immediacy in every frame. Marking a watershed moment in Italian cinema, this galvanic work was an international sensation, garnering awards around the globe and leaving the beginnings of a new film movement in its wake.
Roberto Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan (Paisà), which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, taking place across the country, from Sicily to the northern Po Valley. With its documentary-like visuals and its intermingled cast of actors and nonprofessionals, Italians and their American liberators, this look at the struggles of different cultures to communicate and of people to live their everyday lives in extreme circumstances is equal parts charming sentiment and vivid reality. A long-missing treasure of Italian cinema, Paisan is available here for the first time in its full original release version.
Germany Year Zero
The concluding chapter of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy is the most devastating, a portrait of an obliterated Berlin shown through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy. Living in a bombed-out apartment building with a sick father and two older siblings, young Edmund is mostly left to wander unsupervised, getting ensnared in the black-market schemes of a group of teenagers and coming under the nefarious influence of a Nazi-sympathizing ex-teacher. Germany Year Zero (Deutschland im Jahre Null) is a daring, gut-wrenching look at the consequences of fascism, for society and the individual.

SAW 6.
Directed by Kevin Greutert.
* Number six in the series about a guy learning to use a jigsaw, ostensibly to become a jigsaw puzzle maker.

Rupert Everett/Mischa Bartom/Colin Firth/Lena Headey/Russell Brand.
Directed by Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson.
* I think this is kind of a remake/updated version of the St. Trinian comedy’s of the 50’s. In this one, St.Trinian’s school for young ladies is populated by the most un-teachable girls around.

Bruce Willis/Ving Rhames/Radha Mitchell.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow.
* In this film, our isolation is even deeper than today’s I-phone-based society. The people live in their homes, never leaving them at all, instead interacting with each other with surrogate bodies, skinny, sexy and sleek. The world is free of crime, and fear, and, yet…there still is an FBI! Tom Greer (Willis) is one such agent who must come out of the surrogate world and actually begin an investigation when some of these avatars are attacked and their humans are killed.

Drama/Comedy/Foreign (Polish).
Agnieszka Grochowska.
Directed by Dariusz Gajewski.
* 2003 award-winning film about Warsaw, thieves, blackmail and other subculture.

Ellen Page/Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon/Marcia Gay Harden/Kristen Wiig/Juliette Lewis/Daniel Stern.
Directed by Drew Barrymore.
* Drew’s directorial feature debut is about the Roller Derby scene in Austin, TX. Do you know about the resurgence of roller derby? We’ve got a league here in the Bay Area. In this film, Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavendar, a young woman in High School who is constantly fighting her mother’s 50’s era female conditioning. Her mom carts her and her younger sister around to beauty pageants and wants her to become a true southern belle. Instead, she auditions and gets accepted onto one of the derby teams in Austin and becomes Babe Ruthless, the fastest jammer in the league! Soon, her last place team starts winning some games, and the championship game looms. Unfortunately, it’s the same day as the big Blue Bonnet Pageant. What’s a southern girl to do? Page was good in this film, but you gotta hope she doesn’t get totally typecast as the high school outsider. And a note to Drew – don’t cast yourself in your next film, please.


Directed by Jennifer Baichwal.
* Baichwal’s follow up to MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES is a psycho-spiritual investigation into the effects of being struck by lightning, both physical and metaphysical.

* From Amazon: Daido Moriyama: Stray Dog of Tokyo is a documentary that follows the life of photographer Daido Moriyama in the present, which has never been revealed before. Even though his charismatic presence has reigned over the world of photography since the late 60’s, his true persona had been hidden behind a veil of mystery, since he had refused any major appearances in front of any media in the past. Follow the charismatic photographer Daido Moriyama as he takes his first digital photos and observe his style of quick snapshots without looking in the finder. His stark and contrasting black and white images symbolize his fervent lifestyle.

Music documentary.
Directed by Kenny Ortega.
* How to handle the recouping of giant investment and expense for a huge tour that was canceled by MJ’s sudden death? Well…they had some incredible footage of rehearsals for the tour, and this film puts it all together into a pretty comprehensive vision of what the world was about to experience. We see the dancers, musicians and singers totally in love with Michael, some of them having their career-defining moment as performers with him. We see the production team, gently working with the King of Pop, calling him Sir, and adjusting to his every nuance. We see Michael, kind of crazy seeming, out there (on love, L.O.V.E., god bless you, I love you) (and perhaps on some other stuff, too), but still full of insane talent, dancing and singing with the looseness, dexterity and charisma that we’ve experienced with him for 40-ish years of spotlighted fame. I went to the Ipod the morning after I saw this film and put on Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, and lost my own mind a little.

Art Documentary.
Willem de Kooning/Jasper Johns/Andy Warhol.
Directed by Emile de Antonio.
* This 1973 film is a pretty inclusive history of the New York art scene from the 1940’s through the early part of the 70’s.

Music documentary.
Muhammad Ali/James Brown/B.B. King/Don King/Bill Withers.
Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte.
* This doc, combined with 1996’s WHEN WE WERE KINGS, documents the amazing concert and boxing match put on in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1974. The other doc featured music and focused on the boxing match. This one is the opposite. Lots of amazing performances including Celia Cruz and also The Spinners.


* Ask, and ye shall receive! Four Star is a little late getting to this show. But people have been talking about it, so we are giving it a shot. It is the story of a family focusing on the adult siblings and the problems they are dealing with (Denise? Anne? You out there? – We’ll be alright --I think). It was nominated for many Golden Globes and Emmy’s so it is clearly a pretty good show, and one of the stars is Rachel Griffiths of SIX FEET UNDER fame (Brenda Chenowith).

* The Brits just tend to do television quite well, and this spy series is no exception.






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

FAME (1980).
* Fly – High!

............//NEW ADDITIONS/............

James Coburn.
Directed by Theodore J. Flicker.
* Our first DVD of this totally awesome crazy psychedelic zany 1967 film about the President’s analyst, and the difficult challenge of staying alive when the world’s spies are out to get him…

............//REPLACEMENT DISCS/............

* Takes a licking, and keeps on ticking.



* Wonderful dance sequence.

* Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.

* And quite Vanilla, at that.


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