By Harley Lond - 07/22/13 at 11:25 PM CT
THIS WEEK'S TOP RELEASES:
"Ginger & Rosa": Sally Potter, director of the outlandish "Orlando" (1992) and "The Tango Lesson" (1997), continues her skein of interesting and quirky productions with "Ginger & Rosa," a coming-of-age story set in London in 1962. The story: Two teenage girls -- Ginger & Rosa -- are inseparable. They skip school together, talk about love, religion and politics and dream of lives bigger than their mothers' domesticity. As the Cold War meets the sexual revolution and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the girls face the clash of desire and the determination to grow up. Ginger (Elle Fanning) is drawn to poetry and protest, while Rosa (Alice Englert) shows Ginger how to smoke cigarettes, kiss boys and pray. Both rebel against their mothers: Rosa's single mum, Anoushka and Ginger's frustrated painter mother, Natalie. Meanwhile, Ginger's pacifist father, Roland, seems a romantic, bohemian figure to the girls. He encourages Ginger's Ban-the-Bomb activism, while Rosa starts to take a very different interest in him. As Ginger's parents fight and fall apart, Ginger finds emotional sanctuary with a gay couple, both named Mark, and their American friend, the poet Bella. Finally, as the Cuban Missile Crisis escalates -- and it seems the world itself may come to an end -- the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered. "Ginger & Rosa" takes the familiar teen-coming-of-age genre and subverts it into a sensitive look at the real joys and sorrows of growing up, presenting her characters with more predicaments than most kids have to face and merging the personal with the political. Potter ups the ante of coming-of-age tales set in the 60s -- or any decade, for that matter -- by adding in the anti-war sentiments and a love affair between one of the girls and the other's dad. And, the icing on the cake: Elle Fanning is spectacular as Ginger. Also stars Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening. Extras include deleted scenes, cast interviews, an audio commentary with writer-director Potter and two featurettes going behind-the-scenes into the making of the film. From Lionsgate.
"Trance" is an all-out assault on the psychological thriller by master-of-every-genre Danny Boyle. Much like his assault on science fiction, "Sunshine," audiences shied away from "Trance," most likely because the meat of the film can't be encapsulated in a few words or a 60-second trailer. "Trance" is nothing short of a visual mind game that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, heroes and villains, recalling the more monumental early works of David Cronenberg. It's a convoluted crime caper-mystery-thriller roller-coaster ride in which the viewer -- as well as the protagonists -- never know what's real and what's fiction. The story: Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a $27 million Goya painting, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist, he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang's leader, Frank (Vincent Cassel), hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon's psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon's broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur. Though it may take some extra viewing to unravel the truth (if that's even possible), the film is well worth putting on your list -- if nothing else than for the stunning performance by Dawson. Extras include deleted scenes, commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes. From Fox.
After a two-decade fallow period with dramas, Francis Ford Coppola returned to his horror roots (that began during his apprenticeship with Roger Corman) with "Twixt," a vanity production (it had to follow three self-imposed mandates that Coppola requires in all of his new work: That it be his own original story and screenplay, have some personal element and be self-financed) that failed to stir any appreciation by critics and lacked any theatrical release of note. Unfortunately, this lackluster film won't rise to the top of the director's list of memorial work, thought it does have its moments. Basically, there's too much overacting, too much underacting, and too much silliness for the dreamlike plot to grab at the viewer. The story: A writer (a portly, underachieving Val Kilmer) with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl, a story that could be source material for his next novel. That night in a dream he is approached by a mysterious young ghost named V (Elle Fanning). He's unsure of her connection to the murder in the town, but is grateful for the story being handed to him. But as he investigates the killing, he uncovers more horrifying revelations, and is ultimately led to the truth of the story, finding that the ending has more to do with his own life than he could ever have anticipated. This particular story came to Coppola during a vivid dream he had while on a trip to Istanbul and is inspired by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also stars Bruce Dern (who chews the scenery), Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley and David Paymer. Extras include "Twixt -- A Documentary by Gia Coppola," an on-set featurette by the director's granddaughter that offers an insightful look into the production, as well as allowing Coppola to wax poetic on the process of filmmaking -- insights that turn out to be more interesting than the film he made. From Fox.
Also due this week is the South Korean film "Pieta," which was unavailable for review.
As I've mentioned many times before, sometimes the best films show up with little or no advance warning. Music Box Film's "The Silence" is the latest in a long line of such pleasant surprises; it's a German police-procedural-of-sorts psychological-mystery-thriller by Swiss-born writer/director Baran bo Odar who, in his feature debut, has turned Jan Costin Wagner's 2007 novel "The Silence" into a ominous, atmospheric, and beautifully acted film. The story line: Twenty-three years ago, on a hot summer day, a young girl named Pia is brutally murdered in a field of wheat by Peer (Ulrich Thomsen), as his helpless friend Timo (Wotan Wilke Moehring) watches. In the present day, on the exact same date, 13-year-old Sinikka goes missing, her bicycle abandoned in the same spot, leading police to suspect the same killer may be at work again. Recently widowed detective David (Sebastian Blombeg) and his pregnant colleague Janna (Jule Boewe) struggle to solve the mystery of these parallel crimes with the help of Krischan (Burghart Klaussner), the retired investigator of the unresolved case. While Sinikka's distraught parents are trapped in an agonizing period of waiting and uncertainty and their marriage begins to fall apart, their daughter's fate rips open unhealed wounds in the heart of Pia's mother (Katrin Sass) and sends Timo in search of Peer and their own old desires. This is a character-driven film: There's less emphasis on the procedural than the psychological underpinnings of the characters; there's a haunting and mesmerizing mood of menace, loss and anxiety. Odar's camera doesn't focus on the brutality of the murders, but rather he uses incredibly lush wide screen and overhead tracking shots to set the stage for the film's action. Highly recommended.
The folks at The Criterion Collection have another pair of outstanding releases this week: "Babette's Feast" (1987) (DVD and Blu-ray), at once a rousing paean to artistic creation, a delicate evocation of divine grace, and the ultimate film about food. 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. In Danish, French, and Swedish with English subtitles with a new 2K digital film restoration, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition ... "The Ice Storm" (1997) (Blu-ray debut) takes place in suburban Connecticut, 1973 and follows the Hood and Carver families as they try to navigate a Thanksgiving break simmering with unspoken resentment, sexual tension, and cultural confusion. With clarity, subtlety, and a dose of wicked humor, Academy Award–winning director Ang Lee renders Rick Moody's novel of upper-middle-class American malaise as a trenchant, tragic cinematic portrait of lost souls. Featuring a tremendous cast of established actors (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver) and rising stars (Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes) "The Ice Storm" is among the finest films of the 1990s. With a restored high-definition digital film transfer, supervised and approved by Lee and director of photography Frederick Elmes, with a 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
BUZZIN' THE 'B'S:
In the well-wrought, well-executed psychological crime thriller -- ripe with nuance and characterization -- "New World" (2013 -- South Korea), starring Lee Jeong-jae, Choi Min-sik and Hwang Jun-min, Korea's biggest crime organization, "Goldmoon," has been infiltrated by a cop who has been undercover for six years. When the head of the syndicate dies, the police chief orders him 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." A superb outing that has more to do with story telling than violence, though the film is not short in that department. A must-see for fans of modern Asian cinema. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc from Well Go USA ... "Starbuck" (2013) is a French Canadian comedy, starring Patrick Huard, Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand and Dominic Philie, about a 42-year-old man who lives the life of an irresponsible adolescent. He coasts through life with minimal effort and maintains a complicated relationship with Valerie, a young policewoman. Just as she tells him she's pregnant, his past resurfaces: Twenty years earlier, he began providing sperm to a fertility clinic in exchange for money. He discovers he's the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit to determine the identity of their biological father, known only by the pseudonym Starbuck. From Entertainment One ... In "Welcome to the Punch" (2013), starring Mark Strong, James McAvoy, Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey and Peter Mullan., master criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) escapes London during a daring robbery that left detective Max Lewinsky (McAvoy) physically and emotionally scarred. Three years later, when a failed heist puts Sternwood's son in a hospital, the fugitive is forced to come out of hiding in Iceland -- giving Max his second chance to get the one criminal who got away. But as Max returns to the pursuit of his arch-nemesis, he begins to uncover evidence of a vast conspiracy that may put him in even greater danger than his personal vendetta. On DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films/MPI Media Group ... A Beautiful vampire's passionate affair with a human screenwriter -- and the safety of the whole vampire community -- gets endangered when her troublemaker sister unexpectedly comes to visit in "Kiss of the Damned" (2012), starring Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida and Riley Keough. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment.
In "Graceland" (2012 -- Philippines), family man Marlon Villar, the longtime chauffeur of Manuel Chango, a corrupt Filipino politician, finds himself in an impossible situation when, while driving his daughter and the politician's daughter home, their car is ambushed in a kidnapping attempt and, during the confusion of the ambush, the wrong girl is taken and held for ransom. Marlon is determined to save his daughter, but between the conflicting motives of the kidnappers, the politician and the police, Marlon is forced into a terrible downward spiral of deceit and betrayal. Stars Arnold Reyes, Menggie Cobarrubias and Ella Guevara. On DVD and Blu-ray from Drafthouse Films ... "The Breakfast Club" meets "Zombieland" when a group of teenagers trapped in detention fight for survival after their classmates turn into a ravenous zombie horde in "Detention of the Dead" (2013). Can a cheerleader, a stoner, a jock, a bully, a goth and a nerd put aside their differences for one night to take on the undead? Stars Jacob Zacher, Alexa Nikolas, Christa B. Allen, Jayson Blair, Justin Cho and Max Adler. From Anchor Bay ... Based on the notorious Bangkokian gangs of the 1950s-60s, "The Gangster" (2012 -- Thailand) follows a newly released prisoner who wants to go straight but, because he knows nothing else other than the life of a gangster, he returns to his old gang. On DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Home Entertainment ... "A Viking Saga: The Darkest Day" (2012), starring Marc Pickering, Mark Lewis Jones, Elen Rhys, Joshua Richards and Michael Jibson, follows the true story of a young monk who faces a horde of deadly Vikings during his daring journey to deliver a sacred book to a holy monastery. From Lionsgate ... In "The King of the Streets" (2012 -- China), starring Yuen Song, Becki Li, Yang Junping and Hou Xu, an angry ex-con returns to the streets in search of a new life but also seeks to avenge the death of his parents some eight years earlier by local gangsters. From Well Go USA ... In "House Party: Tonight's the Night" (2013), the fourth sequel in the "House Party" franchise, starring Tequan Richmond, Zac Goodspeed, Rolonda Watts, Christopher "Kid" Reed, Christopher "Play" Martin, Gary Anthony Williams and Tristin Mays, a college-bound high schooler throws one last party that turns into an epic disaster where anything can happen and anyone might turn up ... including the original house partiers, Kid 'n Play. From Warner.
ON THE INDIE FRONT:
In "The Wedding Chapel" (2013), starring Mark Deklin, Emmanuelle Vaugier and Shelley Long, a single painter, down on her luck, takes a break from her mundane life and visits her mom, in hopes of finding some inspiration. During her visit she becomes involved in a mission to conserve the local church, which is in danger of being shut down; her efforts not only give her a new outlook on life, but also enables her mother to rekindle a long lost love from her past. From Nasser Entertainment/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment ... In "Love and Honor" (2013), starring Liam Hemsworth, Aimee Teegarden, Teresa Palmer and Austin Stowell, a young soldier in Vietnam in 1969 gets dumped by his hometown girl and he and his best friend decide to go AWOL and return to the States to win her back. In just seven days they must get to the U.S., change her mind and make it back to their posts without getting caught. But when they arrive in Michigan they find the girl and her beautiful, committed activist friend are at the heart of the anti-war movement. Now the young soldiers must make some life-changing decisions. On DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films.
"Vanishing Waves" (2012 -- Lithuania-France-Belgium) is an award-winning film by Lithuanian director Kristina Buozyte, a science fiction romance that is equally occupied by the erotic as well as the fantastic. Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) is assisting a scientific research team by functioning as a patient in a series of heavily monitored (and medicated) sensory deprivation experiments wherein he is attempting to make some form of contact with the subject, Aurora (Jurga Jutaite), a young woman who has been locked in a comatose state for some time. Doctors initially hope for just a vague reaffirmation of consciousness, but the experiment takes an unexpected twist when Lukas and Aurora actually develop a strong psychic link in their mutually altered forms of consciousness…and their link quickly evolves into a romantic, sexually charged relationship. As Lukas hides this data from his researchers, he and Aurora meet secretly and passionately in a series of surreal dreamscapes created by their collective minds, but their union is tragically doomed to collapse around them. From Artsploitation Films.
FOR THE FAMILY:
The Robotech chronicle continues with the unveiling of the all-new anime adventure "Love Live Alive," coupled with "Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles," in "Robotech: 2-Movie Collection" (1985/2013): Lieutenant "Lancer" Belmont, a veteran of the Robotech's New Generation, recounts his journey from before his first encounter with Scott Bernard to the aftermath following Admiral Rick Hunter's expedition to liberate the Earth from the mysterious Invid race. From Lionsgate ... "Dragons: Riders of Berk" (2013) is a two-disc set with 20 episodes of the TV series based on the DreamWorks franchise; from Fox ... Double the fun and learning with "Dora & Blue's Clues Double Feature: Dora's Musical School Days and Blue's Big Musical Movie" (2013); in "Dora," kids help Boots' teacher get to school on time to greet her students with a song, learn new Spanish words, cheer up the Grumpy Old Troll and help Dora and Boots deliver mail; in "Blue," kids help to get a backyard music show underway by keeping a checklist, assembling the stage and costumes, writing a song with G-Clef -- voiced by Ray Charles -- and of course, playing Blue's Clues to find Blue a singing partner. $16.99 from Nickelodeon ... "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 3" (1989-90) is a four-disc set with all 47 episodes of the entire third season of the classic 80s TV series, $19.98 from Lionsgate.
"War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State" (2013) features true stories of four American whistleblowers who exposed fraud in government, including the Stellar Wind program, a super secret warrantless surveillance program that violated American's privacy rights and the warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency (NSA). From Disinformation Company ... "The Jeffrey Dahmer Files" (2012) is a documentary on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to 957 years in prison for killing 17 people and dismembering their bodies over a 13-year period. Stories of necrophilia and cannibalism added to the horror of Dahmer's crimes. This film explores Dahmer by talking to those who knew him during and after his hidden killing spree. From IFC Entertainment.
FROM TV TO DVD:"Superjail! Season 3" (2013) features 10 episodes from the Adult Swim animated comedy about Superjail, the largest and most brutal prison in the world. Built in an active volcano, this complex routinely has riots and murders, though nobody is ever able to escape. The Warden, who is in charge of the prison, has gone insane over the years and has decided to make his prison unlike any other in the world. Each near 11-minute "Superjail!" episode features a sequence of escalating and unprintable carnage; this season includes more fist fights, baffling love triangles and psychedelic animation that will melt your face off. $19.97 from Warner.
Check out other new July 23-July 29 DVD releases at OnVideo.