Out on DVD this week is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Spike Jonze based on the Maurice Sendak book of the same name. Wonderfully designed, superbly acted, and presented with just the right amount of seriousness, this film is one of that rare few that manages to make a full-length feature out of a short story. With James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as the head of the wild things.
PONYO is the latest from Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO). Ponyo is a little mermaid who wishes to be a little girl. However, the magic which transforms her also disrupts the natural order and creates a chaotic world which she and her friend Sosuke must settle. Featuring the wild and fantastic animation we’ve come to expect from a Miyazaki film.
Three other Hollywood films of note are GENTLEMEN BRONCOS, featuring Jemaine Clement (THE FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS), THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE ( starring Robin Wright, Julianne Moore, Winona Ryder, Alan Arkin and many more) about a woman facing a mid-life crises and an aging husband, and 2012, a disaster movie about the year after next.
There are also some good docs out this week, such as KNOW YOUR MUSHROOMS, an educational adventure into the world of fungi; BELIEVE, THE EDDIE IZZARD STORY, chronicling the rise of the famous standup comedian; TELL THEM ANYTHING YOU WANT, a portrait of writer Maurice Sendak; and SHOOTER SERIES VOL 2: FEATURING F. GARY GRAY.
We also have a bunch of films recently release on Blu-Ray (THE NEVERENDING STORY, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, THE CLASH OF THE TITANS, THE LADY KILLERS), lots of new kids movies and multiple version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND (the 1933 version, the 1999 version and a 2009 modern mini-series called ALICE) as we gear up for the new one coming to theatres any moment.
Alrighty then, see you down at the store.
Love and Kisses,
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ECLIPSE SERIES 20: GEORGE BERNARD SHAW ON FILM.
MAJOR BARBARA, CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA, and ANDROCLES AND THE LION.
* From Criterion: The hugely influential Nobel Prize–winning critic and playwright George Bernard Shaw was notoriously reluctant to allow his writing to be adapted for the cinema. Yet thanks to the persistence of Hungarian producer Gabriel Pascal, Shaw finally agreed to collaborate on a series of screen versions of his witty, social-minded plays, starting with the Oscar-winning Pygmalion. The three other films that resulted from this famed alliance, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Androcles and the Lion, long overshadowed by Pygmalion, are gathered here for the first time on DVD. These clever, handsomely mounted entertainments star such luminaries of the big screen as Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains, Wendy Hiller, and Rex Harrison.
Kurt Russell/Shelley Winters.
Directed by John Carpenter.
* 1979 television movie about the MAN! I so wanted to be the next king of rock and roll when I was five...Russell does a pretty tremendous impersonation of Elvis, and that’s probably the very best thing we can say about this film. They don’t delve too specifically into his problems.
Michael Angarano/Jemaine Clement/Mike White/Sam Rockwell.
Directed by Jared Hess.
* Jemaine Clement, one of the two brilliant writers and performers behind THE FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, plays a former child fantasy writer whose work is not currently cutting it in the publishing world. When a teenager submits his story to a sci-fi writing contest that he is helping judge, he steals the story and publishes it under his name.
IN A DAY.
Directed by Evan Richards.
*After a young woman has a chance encounter with a grade A chump, she randomly meets another guy with whom she spends a lovely day with. Won a little batch of awards on the festival circuit.
Matt Damon/Tina Fey/Cate Blanchett/Liam Neeson/Lily Tomlin/Cloris Leachman.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
* Have you seen any Miyazaki films? He is a Japanese director and animator and storyteller who makes kids movies that are great for adults and also dark adult animated features full of intensity and wild beauty. If you haven’t seen any of his flicks, start with SPIRITED AWAY which will spirit you away, right into his bizarre and fantastical world. PONYO is Miyazaki’s latest film, and it is definitely directed at the young children. It is the story of a young mermaid who longs to be human (why does everything long to be human? Most humans long to be something else…). When she meets Sosuke, a lonely five-year-old boy, she uses her magic to become a little girl. Unfortunately, Ponyo’s family’s desire to get her back causes some serious problems on earth, and soon Ponyo and Sosuke must set out on an adventure to help reestablish equilibrium to the world.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE.****BD****
Robin Wright/Julianne Moore/Alan Arkin/Keanu Reeves/Blake Lively/Winona Ryder/Monica Bellucci/Maria Bello
Directed by Rebecca Miller.
* Pippa (Wright) is married to a much older writer. She has been a dutiful wife, with ostensibly a good marriage, with kids and all the trappings of married life. Now, however, everything is unraveling. Her husband wants them to move to a borderline retirement community, and has started dabbling outside of the marital vows. Soon Pippa herself is dabbling. Will she have a nervous breakdown? Does an affair with someone played by Keanu Reeves count as a nervous breakdown? It might, comrade, it might.
Action /Disaster/Conspiracy/Bike Racks/Smoking Sections/Voodoo/Hotbox/Dude, You’re High.
John Cusack/Chiwetel Ejiofor/Amanda Peet/Woody Harrelson/Thandie Newton/Oliver Platt/Danny Glover/George Segal!
Directed by Roland Emmerich.
* Dude! There are unprecedented natural disasters happening with increasing frequency! Don’t you get it? It’s like the bible said, man. Plagues, earthquakes, tsunami’s…you think global warming is anything less than an apocalyptic sign? The earth’s core. Is…Warming! We’re all gonna die!!!!! But…and this is a big but…if we BAND together. We can build arks…Lots of arks, and together (you and me, baby) we can rebuild this planet in every sense of the word. Or something like that. I didn’t see it.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.****BD****
Max Records/James Gandolfini/Lauren Ambrose/Catherine Keener/Paul Dano/Catherine O’Hara/Forest Whitaker/Chris Cooper.
Directed by Spike Jonze.
* One of the more amazing things about Spike Jonze's silver-screen adaptation of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is that is manages somehow to be a movie made for adults but understandable best by kids. Don't get me wrong, in my mind this is not a kid's film. It is deep and beautiful and subtle and complicated, especially impressive considering the book it was adapted from -- Maurice Sendak's children's classic of the same name -- is just about 19 pages long. Now, traditionalists (and other adults) may complain about some of the liberty's taken in the movie (i.e. the walls don't melt away into the jungle, Max runs outside and eventually ends up at the water's edge and the monster's aren't nameless but actually have full characterization) and this is part of how the film leaves the kids behind. Childhood, the film seems to argue, is fraught with huge emotions, anger, fear and loneliness, combined with wild joy and boisterous and exuberant happiness. Which makes perfect sense...to an adult. For a kid, discussing this concept is like asking them how they like you as a parent. They don't have the perspective yet. They haven't had the illusions popped. Their hardened walls haven't even been built. Those experiences, bitter pills swallowed, are the things that grow us up. This film feels emotions so strong, and in fact journeys through its arc on the wave of one emotion after another. Carol, the erstwhile leader of the Wild Things, asks Max at the beginning if he can keep the sadness away. Hell no, he can't. Luckily for kids, like Max, the sadness comes on like a Tsunami, and then flows away. Whereas for the broken adults (kind of like Carol), we try to stave off the sorrow, and struggle hard with it once we are confronted head on. I imagine my kids, though not wanting to watch this movie for fear of being scared and upset, would be able to explain the characters in the film and their motivations quite easily, but I imagine some adults will find the story dull, and childish. What a beautiful dichotomy! For me, the film works best as a gentle metaphor and as a not so gentle reminder of a time where rationalizations were meaningless, because reason was fleeting. When Carol howls at the sky as Max is leaving I felt like howling too, for the Max inside, for the Max I was, for the Max that I left when I got in my own boat and when where the wild things aren't..
BELIEVE: THE EDDIE IZZARD STORY.
Directed by Sarah Townsend.
* This movie follows the arc of Izzard’s life and career through his challenging early days losing his mother to illness and being sent away to grow up at boarding school, through his eventual success. Included in the film are great archival and home video footage!
KNOW YOUR MUSHROOMS.
Directed by Ron Mann.
* This doc takes us on an adventure through the marvelous world of fungi. Combining fascinating information (the world’s oldest and largest organisms are both fungi) with a wonderful soundtrack by The Flaming Lips, it’s a fun journey, and quite educational, too.
SHOOTER SERIES VOL 2: FEATURING F. GARY GRAY.
* F. Gary Gray is the director of FRIDAY among other films and countless hip-hop music videos.
TELL THEM ANYTHING YOU WANT.
Directed by Spike Jonze and Lance Bangs.
* That’s what Maurice Sendak said when asked many questions! This portrait of the famous children’s story writer shows the cantankerous writer to also be full of so much more. Famous for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, he also wrote a ton of other books and also illustrated many famous books including the LITTLE BEAR series by Else Holmelund Minarik.
Catarina Scorsone/Andrew Lee Potts/Tim Curry/Harry Dean Stanton/Kathy Bates.
* Wild reimagining of ALICE IN WONDERLAND with modern twists on everything. Sort of like that TIN MAN mini-series was for THE WIZARD OF OZ a few years ago starring Zoe Deschanel.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON.
* This show has been on in the store the whole time I have been writing the blog this week. I keep getting pulled into the story, but I haven’t watched it enough to give it the super recommendation. It is about the trials and tribulations surrounding the adult siblings of a family.
DOG WHISPERER W/CESAR MILLAN: SEASON FOUR VOLUME ONE.
POLDARK: SET 1.
* BBC costume drama from the 70’s about an 18th Century family in England.
BRACEFACE: BRACE YOURSELF.
OLIVIA TAKES BALLET.
QUADS: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON.
............//NEW ON BLU/............
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.
* The final chapter on Blu-ray, to complete our collection of the Bourne films.
THE CLASH OF THE TITANS.
* In anticipation of the remake…
THE LADY KILLERS.
* Not the Coen Brothers remake, Alexander Mackendrick’s 1955 original starring Alec Guinness.
THE NEVERENDING STORY.
* Great 1984 fantasy film.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1933).
* Check out this crazy cast list: Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Cary Grant, Charlotte Henry and Richard Arlen…this version of Alice is so weird, with early special effects, and crazy costuming.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1999).
* Now check out this cast list: Robbie Coltrane, Whoopie Goldberg, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lloyd, Miranda Richardson, Martin Short, Gene Wilder and Pete Postlethwaite!
CASTLE IN THE SKY.
* Just another copy of this amazing incredible Miyazaki film.
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.
* Ditto to CASTLE.
MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.
* Ditto to KIKI’S – Actually, in all honesty, this one may be the best kids movie ever made.
SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER: SEASON TWO.