VIDEO ON DEMAND – June 2010

From the positive feedback based our first ever Hammer to Nail monthly VOD report in May, it sounds like this was something that was indeed long overdue. Many thanks to those filmmakers and distributors who rose to the challenge and helped provide us with as many details as possible in moving forward. While this is still very much a work-in-progress, it does seem to make most sense—for now, at least—to continue with an organization-by-distributor/label approach. To keep things fair and not play favorites, we’ll list them alphabetically this month. Of course, things might change in the future, but for now, this is how it’s going down. This month is stacked pretty well, so be sure to take advantage of your Video On Demand option if—unlike me—you have that power when you turn on your television.

KEY:

— A three-star marking (***) equals a very high recommendation.
— A two-star marking (**) equals a high recommendation.
— A one-star marking (*) equals a recommendation.
— A no-star marking is reserved for those titles that are worth mentioning in some way, shape, or form.
— [Haven’t Seen Yet But Wanna] is self explanatory.

VIDEO ON DEMAND – JUNE 2010

Cinetic FilmBuff

** Pelada —  In honor of the 2010 World Cup, FilmBuff has wisely chosen a soccer documentary as their most high profile new release this month (though pretty much everyone but us calls it football). Pelada is one of those films that ultimately rises above its limitations—stilted voice-over, cutesy pop soundtrack—to remain something worth checking out. Directed by Gwendolyn Oxenham, Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, and Ryan White, Pelada tracks the ambitious journey former college standouts Oxenham and Boughen embarked on to play in “pick-up” games in 25 different countries around the world. Obviously, the cumulative impact of this globe-trotting is especially fun to watch if you have a predilection for the game, yet a deeper lesson emerges. For me, the most eye-opening aspect of Pelada is watching Boughen interact with locals in countless different languages. It’s more than just impressive; it also points out the strange paradox that in the United States, soccer has, for whatever reason, been a rich kid’s game. One hopes that this engaging film will inspire everyone to try their hand at the sport. With such a limited pool to choose from, there’s no way in hell we’ll ever win the World Cup. Visit the film’s official website to learn more. (Available starting June 7th through Cable Movies On Demand and coming soon to iTunes, Amazon VOD, Sony Playstation, and Microsoft Xbox.)

Check out the rest of FilmBuff’s slate here, where you can find worthy films for viewing on many different platforms (Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, Snagfilms, Fancast, Amazon VoD, etc.).

Film Movement

The following titles are available through your Movies on Demand channel on Time Warner, Comcast, Brighthouse, and Cox Cable systems nationwide:

*** Children Of Invention — Tze Chun’s finely crafted drama deals with familial bonds and how outside circumstances can weigh so heavily on certain situations it’s a wonder they don’t snap in half. Children of Invention is an accomplished feature-length debut that deserves to be reach as wide an audience as possible. Hopefully now it will. (Read my full review and visit the film’s official website to purchase a DVD.)

* Entre Nos — Largely based on the immigration story of co-director-co-writer Paola Mendoza’s mother, Entre Nos is shot in fairly standard American indie style, on locations with mostly non-actors in Jackson Heights, Queens. The performances of Mendoza and the children, Sebastian Villada Lopez and Laura Montana Cortez, are what give this sneakily powerful film its weight. (Note: this capsule is updated from a Brandon Harris post written during 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.) Visit the film’s official website to learn more.

A Call Girl [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

The following titles are available through your Movies on Demand channel on Verizon Fios & Charter Cable systems nationwide:

Holly [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

The Country Teacher [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

There are many more options available through Film Movement’s Film Festival On Demand channel. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to play catch-up and provide a personal recommendation, but based on Film Movement’s otherwise excellent reputation, I would suggest giving one of these lesser known titles a spin if you’re feeling adventurous.

Gravitas Ventures

*** White On Rice — I am a big, big fan of Dave Boyle’s charming fish-out-of-water tale about a divorced Japanese transplant living in Utah whose utterly graceless social charms would give Larry David a run for his money. In my review, I describe White on Rice as “Savage Steve Holland’s Tokyo Story,” and I’m sticking with that pitch. Be sure to read Nelson Kim’s conversation with Boyle for this very site, as well as Boyle’s excellent twopart article that recounts the trials and tribulations surrounding his film’s theatrical distribution. Lastly, be sure to visit the film’s official website to learn specifics about the movie itself. (Available starting June 1st through your cable network’s Video On Demand channel and for rental/purchase through Amazon VOD.)

American Grindhouse [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting June 1st through your cable network’s Video On Demand channel and for rental/purchase through Amazon VOD.)

Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting June 1st through your cable network’s Video On Demand channel and for rental/purchase through Amazon VOD.)

IFC In Theaters + On Demand

New:

** Valhalla Rising — Walking out of Valhalla Rising, it struck me: Nicolas Winding Refn, Lars von Trier, and Gaspar Noe really need to get it over with and start their own European Auteurs Fight Club. While I knew full well what I was getting into with this thing, Refn still managed to outdo himself. Which is to say that he almost went too bloody far. While Refn’s Nordic death march starts with a genuine bang—and by “bang” I mean a huge title card reading “NICOLAS WINDING REFN PRESENTS”—by the time the third act rolls around and he starts resorting almost exclusively to super-slow-motion, it borders on self-parody (I’ve heard that if you play Valhalla Rising on 45rpm, it’s actually only eleven minutes long). Midway through the film, I started jotting down a list of my own alternate titles: Severed Bronson, Lord of the Nords, Legends of the Fjord, and my own personal favorite: Heart (Pulled Out of Chest) Of Darkness. To be honest, I still think Melissa Auf der Mar and Tony Stone’s Out of Our Minds is a more genuinely butt-kicking experience, but that film doesn’t have the commanding presence of Mads Mikkelsen. (Note: this is a slightly reworked version of my initial reaction to this film when I saw it at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.) (Available starting June 4th)

* Made In China — Judi Krant took home the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival for this charming comedy about an upstart young inventor who finds himself in a world of trouble in Shanghai after he teams up with a businessman who might not be as powerful—and trustworthy—as he seems. Made in China has a similar spirit to the work of the above-mentioned Boyle—even more so his 2006 feature debut Big Dreams Little Tokyo—and for what the film lacks in production value it makes up for in heart. Visit the film’s official website to learn more. (Available starting June 11th)

* The Killer Inside Me — I’m still not sure what I think of Michael Winterbottom’s controversial adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic 1952 novel. Especially since I didn’t read said novel until directly after watching the movie (note to self: that was probably a bad idea). I will say that when taking the book into account, the excessive pummeling of Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba) by the story’s psychotic protagonist, Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck), seems appropriate. But as often happens in these types of translations, a hefty amount of the character’s interior dialogue is left on the cutting room floor, leaving him more two-dimensional than he is on the page (though Affleck is once again ace here). Having said that, I doubt most late-night channel scanners will be wondering if this is “an accomplished adaptation” or not. I have a strong hunch that this will be, without question, June’s most successful new VOD release. Why? It might have something to do with the tags “Strong Sexual Content” and “Jessica Alba” in the film description. That’s just a hunch, though. Visit the film’s official website to learn more. (Available starting June 18th)

Still Showing:

No One Knows About Persian Cats [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until June 6th)

The Good, The Bad, The Weird [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until June 22nd)

*** The Father of My Children — Mia Hansen-Love’s piercingly honest drama is, without question, one of the best films of 2010. It’s all the more remarkable when one takes into account the realization that Ms. Hansen-Love is not yet 30 years old. Her understated screenplay and sure-handed direction convey the authority of an already blossoming master. Do not miss it. Read Tom Hall’s review here.  (Available until August 17th)

** Looking For Eric — Ken Loach just about bites off more genres than he can chew in this story of a downtrodden single father whose life is falling apart, until his hero, ex-Manchester United footballer Eric Cantona, miraculously appears in his life to provide him with some healthy perspective and advice. Part social drama, part uplifting comedy, part crime thriller, Looking For Eric is a surprisingly sweet entry in the Loach canon. (Available until August 19th)

IFC Midnight

New:

Cell 211 — Daniel Monzon’s prison thriller has a preposterous set-up that would make Hollywood blush—this is, without question, a ‘genre movie’ as opposed to a ‘foreign film’. If your tastes are more inclined to watching something like The Rock rather than A Prophet, then this just might do the trick. (Available starting June 2nd)

Don’t Look Back — If you’ve seen actress-turned-auteur Marina de Van’s In My Skin, you know that homegirl has a seriously twisted vision. Which is what makes Don’t Look Back so surprising. While there is certainly deviousness on display here, de Van’s film plays more like a Hollywood thriller than the scuzzier film one might have been expecting. Which is fine. Just maybe not great. Still, if you’re into psycho-dramas like Don’t Look Now and Antichrist and Cache and enjoy looking at the faces of Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, you could certainly do worse than this rent this film. (Available starting June 23rd)

Magnolia Pictures

New:

[REC] 2 [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting June 4th through Cable Video On Demand and Amazon VOD)

The Extra Man — There’s a reason Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s big-screen adaptation of Jonathan Ames’s novel has earned the unofficial crown of 2010’s Primary Opening Night Choice Of Film Festivals Everywhere. It’s a smart charmer that tells its story with a heavy measure of pizazz. Kevin Kline delivers a typically sharp performance as an out-of-his-time New York City eccentric who takes a young man (Paul Dano) under his wing. I think the most appropriate term for this one is witty. (Available starting June 25th through Cable Video On Demand and Amazon VOD)

Still Showing:

Ondine [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Now available for rental through Cable Video On Demand, Amazon VOD, Xbox Live, Playstation, and Vudu)

The Good Heart [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Now available for rental through Cable Video on Demand, Amazon VOD, Xbox Live, and Playstation)

Red Flag Releasing

8: The Mormon Proposition [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting June 18th through Cable Movies On Demand)

Sundance Selects

New:

* Convention — Director (and renowned blogger) AJ Schnack’s latest—made in collaboration with some of America’s most talented nonfiction filmmakers: Laura Poitras, Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Daniel Junge, Paul Taylor, Wayne Robbins, Nathan Truesdell, and David Wilson—takes an unexpected approach to documenting the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Rather than focusing on the more high profile out-of-town attendees, Schnack and his team decided instead to focus on the local individuals—politicians, journalists, protesters—who had never before been forced to coordinate something on such a large scale. Read my recent HAMMEREDtoNAIL conversation with Schnack and Truesdell, which sheds much more insight into how—and why—this film came to be. (Available starting June 1st)

* Sorry, Thanks — Dia Sokol’s Sorry, Thanks has all the pleasures of the [Mumblecore] “genre”: wince-worthy awkwardness; a loving eye cast on the mundane and aimless; freckled, chubby people you could easily know. But the film avoids the pitfalls that make films like Funny Ha Ha and Kissing on the Mouth obtuse to the average cinema-goer. Someone whose tastes don’t lean toward the indie can clearly recognize Sorry, Thanks as a real live movie: the sound is clear, the image is steady and the plot is tight. (Read the rest of Lena Dunham’s review here.) (Available starting June 2nd)

Still Showing:

** The Art of the Steal Be sure to read Nelson Kim’s review of Don Argott’s stirring documentary about the battle for control of the hallowed Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania. if you haven’t already. More importantly, be sure to check it out.

White Lightnin’ [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (A personal note: This is neither here nor there, really, but I feel I must acknowledge the fact that the filmmakers dropped a major ball in not at least auditioning me for the role of my truest doppelganger on the planet, Mr. Jesco White.)

Tribeca Film

The following titles are available through your television’s Video On Demand channel (Bresnan, Bright House, Comcast, Cox, Optimum, RCN, Time Warner, Verizon) as well as online through Vudu, Amazon VOD, and YouTube:

* The Immaculate Conception Of Little Dizzle — Come to think of it, I actually think David Russo’s throwback to those bonkers 1980s midnight movies would be better served if watched at home on TV in the wee hours of the night. It’s a virtually impossible film to describe, so I won’t bother trying. But if you’re up late and looking to watch something that recalls those strange, edgy late-night movies of the past, this is probably the most appropriate option for you. (Available through June 16th—on YouTube, at least!)

The Trotsky [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available through June 16th—on YouTube, at least!)

As with Film Movement’s Film Festival On Demand label, there are many more Tribeca Film titles for the watching, only I haven’t seen enough to give more recommendations. The most up-to-date list can be found here.

Also…

Cinemax On Demand

I’m Not There (June 3-June 30)

Lovely & Amazing (May 20-June 16)

*** Snow Angels (May 27-June 23)

*** Sugar (May 20-June 16)

** The Grey Zone (May 27-June 23)

HBO On Demand

Movies:

*** GasLand (June 21-September 7)

I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (June 2-July 4)

* Orphan (June 14-July 11)

*** Rough Aunties (May 20-June 27)

Schmatta: Rags To Riches [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (May 10-June 20)

Smash His Camera [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (June 7-July 18)

Series:

Eastbound & Down (June 1-July 5)

The Neistat Bros (June-?)

Treme (June 7-July 18)

— Michael Tully

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