VIDEO ON DEMAND

January 2011

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.
— [Have Not Seen Yet But...Wanna] is self explanatory.

VIDEO ON DEMAND — JANUARY 2011

Cinetic FilmBuff

Dogtooth

*** Dogtooth — If you haven’t seen Giorgos Lanthimos’s black comedy yet—easily one of 2010′s most audacious releases—get ready to cock your head to the side and be taken on a truly brain-bending ride. A Greek couple have raised their three children without any connection to the outside world. Yet when that outside world arrives in the form of a woman whom the father has hired to service the son, things begin to hit the spinning fan. Rich CinemaScope photography frames Lanthimos’s demented tale, which can be read as an allegory for over-parenting, or can be simply appreciated as a work of bracingly uncomfortable hilarity. I personally choose to see it as both. (Available on Cable VOD and iTunes)

* Paper Man — The directorial debut of husband-and-wife writing duo Kieran and Michele Mulroney features the always sturdy Jeff Daniels as a down-on-his-luck writer who relocates to an off-season Hamptons house in order to pull himself together. Unfortunately, his problems follow him there when he befriends young local Abby (Emma Stone) and their relationship gets unexpectedly complicated. Then there’s his conscience, Captain Excellent (Ryan Reynolds), whose advice might be welcome but whose appearances don’t make for the most sanity-inducing experiences. (Available on iTunes starting January 18)

Etienne! [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available on Playstation 3)

Chelsea on the Rocks [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available on Xbox 360)

Scout’s Honor — [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Coming soon to iTunes, Sony Playstation, and Xbox 360)

* Bitter Feast — Truth be told, I personally felt a little let down by Joe Maggio’s gleefully disturbing tale about the revenge a shunned chef (James LeGros) takes on a snide food blogger (Josh Leonard), but it shouldn’t be completely dismissed either. That said, chances are this film will go down more tastefully if you like blood squirted on your twisted sense of humor. Also, you can buy it on DVD. (Available on iTunes)

Film Movement

The following titles are available on Movies on Demand on Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bresnan, RCN, and Brighthouse:

New:

Samson & Delilah

*** Samson & Delilah — From the opening strains of Charley Pride’s “Sunshiny Day,” set to a slow-motion shot of an Aboriginal teenager waking up in bed only to immediately begin huffing gas out of a can, Samson & Delilah lets you know that it’s going to be different. It is. Written, directed, and photographed by Warwick Thornton on 35mm, this exhilarating feature-length debut isn’t just an assured, touching, and original tale of young love in the Central Australian desert. It’s a very precious reminder of the transporting power of cinema. Samson & Delilah will make you fall in love with movies all over again. You can also buy it on DVD .

How I Ended This Summer [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Fraulein [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Republic of Love [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Be With Me [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Still Showing:

*** Helena From The WeddingHelena From The Wedding, the debut feature from Brooklyn director Joseph Infantolino, isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for marriage. This dark comedy about spousal problems unfolds largely in a single, claustrophobic house like a snowbound Eyes Wide Shut, but instead of freaky masks and orgies there are holiday sweaters and group backgammon games. The drinking and drugs are still there, and so is the spousal insecurity, which begins as lingering paranoia and quickly moves from passive to very active aggression. And did I forget to mention the movie is also funny as hell? Read the full review here. (Cullen Gallagher)

Come Undone

*** Come Undone — Anna and Alessio ‘s relationship in Come Undone is adorably calm and content. She is a top employee at an insurance company and he’s a softhearted handy man who would do anything for her. After seeing Anna’s sister give birth, they agree to try and have a baby themselves. Soon after, Anna meets Domenico, a waiter as well as a father and husband. Their strong sexual connection results in an affair that is passionate but seemingly impulsive. The result is raw and jolting for the audience as well as the adulterers. Director Silvio Soldini does an incredible job of showing the real effects of an affair on the unsuspecting families. There is nothing glamorous about this film or anything that happens in it and the rawness is incredibly powerful. Rather than glorify their affair, Soldini shows us the often-unseen parts: the hard work of balancing two schedules, keeping up with lies, the anger developing between the lovers. Come Undone is difficult to watch as we see the characters continue down dark paths, but that realness is what makes Silvio’s film great. (Lauren Kinsler)

*** Something Like HappinessSomething Like Happiness slowly unravels itself to reveal a story of complicated and nuanced Czech families who have lived in the same housing project on the outskirts of a factory town for years. Monika, who’s boyfriend has left for America and will soon send for her to join, and Tonik (a Czech James Franco!) have known each other since childhood and frequently help their friend Dasha with her angelic two children. When Dasha becomes mentally unstable and is committed to a psych hospital, Monika delays her move to the States and naturally comes together with Tonik to take on the role of parents. Bohdan Slama has created beautiful and heartbreaking characters and most importantly, gives us time to fall in love with them. In this film of quiet tragedy and happiness with compassionate and poignant characters, a world is created that I did not want to leave so soon. There’s no doubt, after watching Something Like Happiness, why it received so many awards. (LK)

** Falling Angels — The façade of the Field’s perfect domestic family is coming to an end, but before we get there, we relive their history through the weaving of flashbacks. In a small Ontario suburb during the sixties, three sisters, extremely different in personality, deal with their unstable father and despondent mother in hilariously different ways. Lou, who fakes a bike accident to get a ride in her crush’s VW van and experiments with drugs, is the most rebellious. Sandy, who strives to be the perfect domestic woman, gets involved with a married man, while Norma, the eldest, takes care of their mother while quietly keeping alive a family secret. Scott Smith has fun with this film, creating a variety of characters that although at times feel stock, give the film a lot of color. Funny and dark, Falling Angels is an entertaining and close examination of a complicated family dealing with secrets and dysfunction in an era of great change. (LK)

** The Hebrew Hammer — After a childhood of being bullied because of his religion, Mordechai Jefferson Carver (played by the brave Adam Goldberg) dedicates his life to defending his Jewish people. Imagine a Blaxploitation film but instead of the Shaft-esque main character you have a scrawny Hasidic Jew. In the film, Mordechai aka The Hebrew Hammer, is on a special mission to save Hanukah from the evil and homicidal son of Santa Claus, Damian (played by Andy Dick). The Hebrew Hammer is worth watching alone for its complete disregard for political correctness and the guest appearance by Mario Van Peebles, son of Blaxploitation hero Melvin Van Peebles. While the explicit stereotyping and over-the-top parody has offended more than one group of people (they got sued but won!), I got a kick out of the fantastical plot and incessantly offensive jokes. (LK)

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

New:

*** Samson & Delilah (see above)

*** Come Undone (see above)

A Call Girl [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Still Showing:

** Helena From The Wedding (see above)

Nurse.Fighter.Boy [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Gravitas Ventures

** The Seekers Guide to Harry Potter — This July will finally end the long-standing film adaptations of Harry Potter And The Etc franchise. Now is the appropriate time then to cash in and navel-gaze deep into the mythology, philosophy and general transcending of the last great trend (magic) before sparkly vampires took over in 2009. Under the dulcet British tones of Dr. Geo Trevarthen we discover why our boy HP is so damn popular: “He’s a poster boy for loss.” From there we trip the light fantastic learning everything from the importance of numerology and it’s safe to assume you’ll never hear a more involved description of Dumbledore, Harry’s mentor and Hogwarts Grand Poo-bah till his death: “He is the rebus, the Alchemical hermaphrodite bringing together all tradition.” Now clearly personal skepticism has a lot to do with the tone I’ve taken, so why the decent score? Belief is one of the strongest forces we have in concepts and form. If you want to believe in modern mythology broken down by Joseph Campbell and his “Hero With A Thousand Faces” theory, you have the right to do so. Likewise, if you choose to believe in symbols as a guiding force in your daily life while praising the guardians of the north, south, east and west to get your gothic freak on to some “How Soon Is Now” remix, so should you. The good Doctor also engages in some bitchin’ swordplay before she ends the “guide” on a blessing. So watch on, Potter-nerds. (John Lichman)

Under Our Skin

** Under Our Skin — The American health care system is such an utter mystery when it comes to treatment, coverage and understanding of emerging disease. Yet out of all of it, Lyme disease is like the joke amongst jokes since it gets associated with deer ticks and—oddly enough—the namesake town in Connecticut. Originally misdiagnosed as everything from chronic fatigue syndrome to lupis, the disease grows and yet our own health care guidelines ignore the international findings. It’s hard not be utterly frightened by Andy Abrahams Wilson’s dip into shock-doc which promotes its “maybe YOU HAVE THE DISEASE” ethos between subjects ranging from a park ranger turned novelist, an event producer who might have the highest pain threshold of anyone ever and a woman dealing with the literal crippling effects of Lyme. Straightforward as all can be, Skin is an effective “scared straight” when it comes to going into the woods. (JL)

* The Sinatra Club — Shadowy figures preaching omertá (Italian for “become a mobster back when it was idolized”) and we’re back in 1972 New York in the midst of an Italian mob war that has the five families at each other’s throats. But a young recruit by the name of John Gotti (Danny Nucci) is gonna change all that, see? With the help of his best goomba/the film’s narrator ‘Ubatz’ Pollsi (Jason Gerick) he’s gonna launch a robbery so grand, see, that all them old gambinos are gonna take notice! To say that this isn’t a guilty pleasure is to still be amused by the caricatures and Joseph Lawrence with a dead muskrat on his head crooning Sinatra covers. Club is pure ricotta of the grimiest Mulberry Street variety and yet, and yet… there’s something vaguely appealing about low-rent Goodfellas even if we gloss over some of the more important things in life—i.e., how Gotti technically didn’t fall under “made man” status, hence making up for it in his bravado. But hey, I was a sucker for the Fun Lovin’ Criminals when I was growing up. I’ll fall the same way for any cheesecake, whether it be Italian or not. (JL)

* The Pagan Queen — A history lesson by way of fairy tales, this adaptation of how modern Prague was formed takes a healthy dose of realism ala King Arthur and occasionally decides the hell with that let’s have magic and shit happen. After their father Krok dies, his middle child Libuše takes his place on the village council and exercises her precognition-by-way-of-the-dead visions to lead her people to a fitful life along with her sisters Kazi (The Healer!) and Teta (The Priestest!), with whom she forms a, dare we say, trinity. Once made whole, they partner with a group of amazons and everyone adopts an awkward ADR-mastery of English in various period dress back when everyone lived in the woods. (JL)

IFC In Theaters + On Demand

New:

The Other Woman [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until February 3)

The Time That Remains [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until April 5)

Still Showing:

Hadewijch

*** Hadewijch — Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch is certain to be one of the most misunderstood films of this or any year, a blistering counter-punch to the prevailing understanding of the influence of Robert Bresson in the cinema and in modern life. Dumont uses the language and tools of Bresson’s “spiritual style” in order to subvert spiritual literalism and its logical and extreme conclusion. By taking the tropes and redemptive themes of the master himself, Dumont engages in a battle for the Bressonian legacy, rejecting the easy moral uplift of so much of recent cinema in favor of a finale that brings grace not to the spiritually conflicted warrior, but to a secular bricklayer hovering around the fringes of the narrative. Read Tom Hall’s HTN conversation with Dumont and Julie Sokolowski, as well as Hall’s full review on his blog The Back Row Manifesto. (Available until March 8)

*** White Material — Claire Denis proves once again that if she isn’t the greatest living filmmaker, she’s in the starting lineup. Unlike her debut feature, Chocolat, which was a much tamer reflection on her upbringing in Africa, Denis this time pushes the drama to its haunting limits. Isabelle Huppert stars as a coffee plantation owner whose stubbornness won’t allow her to take the advice of the French Army, her husband (Christophe Lambert), or her workers, and flee her land before child soldiers ransack her home and kill her entire family. White Material is an interesting fusion of Denis’s elliptical, poetic filmmaking style with a bluntly allegorical thematic approach. It is also, in a career full of startling film after film, one of her very best yet. (Available until February 24)

*** Enter the Void — Gaspar Noé’s first two features, I Stand Alone and Irreversible, combined transgressive shock tactics with tricky narrative structures and aggressively baroque (and highly accomplished) technique. Enter the Void scales back somewhat on the sex and violence, but in all other respects it’s Noé’s boldest movie yet. He goes for maximum sensory overload in every moment of every scene, bombarding the viewer with lens-and-light effects, swirling CGI psychedelia, swamp-dense sound design, and above all, stunningly virtuosic camerawork. Read the full review here. (Nelson Kim) (Available until December 17)

Carlos

*** Carlos — Olivier Assayas’s sprawling new French television miniseries observes a man who could both be easily vilified and mythologized and ultimately does neither. Villainy and mythology are the stock and trade of contemporary political discourse, perhaps dangerously so. In this mostly brilliant five-and-a-half-hour film, Assayas uses his signature loose, sensual style to represent the life of Illych Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan born left-wing mercenary who was behind some of the most daring acts of political terrorism of the 1970s. Reunited with Demonlover DP Denis Lenoir, who bathes scenes in golden light to contrast a palette heavy on deep blues, browns and pale greens, the 50-something director has the opportunity to create an immaculately complex tapestry of European, Middle-Eastern, Asian and Latin American activists, freedom fighters, terrorists, government intelligence agents, Oil ministers, most of whom maintain their fair share of secrets and double agendas. Yet he never loses touch with the intimate portrait of a womanizing ideologue at the center, one whom the audience will be hard pressed to pass swift judgment upon, whose longings to fulfill the need for human intimacy and love come smack up against his own deep moral failings, his womanizing and grandstanding, and the system of international terrorist networks and their sponsor states that uses and ultimately discards him. (Brandon Harris) (Available until January 20)

Inspector Bellamy [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until December 31)

Inhale [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until January 6)

Beneath The Dark [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until February 3)

IFC Midnight

New:

Exorcismus [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until April 5)

Still Showing:

Sex Magic

??? Sex Magic — A star rating doesn’t really apply to this documentary so three wide-eyed question marks will have to suffice. Truth be told, I haven’t even seen the whole film, because at the time I felt too sleazy to make it all the way through, but almost two years later, it continues to haunt me. This isn’t fascinating in the “watching-a-train-wreck” sense of the term. It’s fascinating in a “watching-one-train–wreck-into-another-train-in-a-metallic-phallic-display-of-creepily-erotic-glory” kind of way. Watching Baba Dez manipulate women for murky reasons that he tries to justify makes for an uncomfortably hilarious ride (think David Brent as a hippified sex cult leader). And while it’s obvious, I’m gonna say it anyway: Willem Defoe is this guy when it comes time to make the biopic! (Available until March 3)

High Lane [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until January 22)

Student Services [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until January 27)

Beneath The Dark [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until February 3)

Heartless [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until February 24)

Black Heaven [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until March 3)

Magnolia Pictures

New:

Vanishing on 7th Street [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting January 7)

Still Showing:

Night Catches Us [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available through Xbox and Amazon)

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available On Demand Everywhere)

Sundance Selects

New:

Direct From The Sundance Film Festival 2011” (Available until the end of February)

As part of the Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival’s continuing push to make the VOD platform a more accessible and direct way to discover brand new movies for movie lovers across the country, the Sundance Selects Video On Demand channel will simultaneously premiere five Sundance entries in conjunction with their first screenings in Park City. These will run for “approximately 30 days” according to the press release, and will be available “on most major cable systems including Bright House, Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, and Time Warner Cable.” The lineup consists of:

Kaboom [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Mad Bastards [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Uncle Kent [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

These Amazing Shadows [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]

Septien [Full disclosure: yours truly wrote and directed Septien, so don’t be expecting any editorializing or reviews about it on this site. Which is a bit of a bummer, as this is one of the few places in the world that was created to write about little movies like ours. Oh well. Having said that, to not mention it here would be inappropriate journalism, which is whey I’m including it. Proceed with caution, brave viewer.]

Still Showing:

*** Secret Sunshine — One of the bigger collective disappointments for cinephiles in America in recent years has been the lack of distribution for Lee Chang-dong’s deeply fulfilling drama about one woman’s quest to find herself when all appears to be lost. Better late than never (thanks, IFC Films!). Truth be told, it’s been so long since I’ve seen Secret Sunshine to write about it with any real clarity, but I can vouch for the astounding lead performance by Jeon Do-yeo, deserving winner of Best Actress at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. Secret Sunshine is one of those films that takes you in all sorts of sweeping directions. It’s more akin to reading a long, rewarding novel as opposed to watching a feature film. Now that it’s available, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. (Available until February 10)

Tiny Furniture

*** Tiny Furniture — Lena Dunham’s follow-up to Creative Nonfiction isn’t just a major leap forward. It’s like a rocket launch to a bigger and brighter planet. For those of you who have been pining away for Whit Stillman’s return, Dunham—another Hammer to Nail contributor, thank you very much—is here to scratch that itch in a major way. Aspiring romantic comedy makers, please study this film. Dunham’s first brilliant stroke was to work with last year’s Silver Nail winner Jody Lee Lipes, who shot this film on the Canon 7D—technically a still camera!—but has somehow made it look like The Graduate. But removing that vital element from the equation, Dunham delivers a sharply written comedy that uses pop culture references in a way that is never overly hip or gratingly snappy. This is dangerous terrain, to be sure, but Tiny Furniture is a reminder that, if done appropriately, this genre can be artistically invigorating. It is the very real deal. (Read an interview with Dunham and see images from the production here.) (Available until February 17)

*** And Everything Is Going Fine — What better way to tell brilliant monologist Spalding Gray’s life story than to let him tell it himself? Steven Soderbergh wisely grasps this, and proceeds accordingly. Interweaving Gray monologues, interviews, and assorted other video tidbits, And Everything Is Going Fine doesn’t just sum up the life of a man who took his own life. It makes him breathe fully again and also shows us that his unfortunate self-inflicted demise might have been in the cards all along. (Available until March 22)

Cinemax On Demand

A Mighty Wind (December 30-January 26)

American Splendor (January 6-February 2)

Greenberg (December 30-January 26)

Hoosiers (December 30-January 26)

Raging Bull (December 30-January 26)

Pootie Tang (January 13-February 9)

Chinatown (January 20-February 23)

Orphan (January 20-February 16)

Videodrome (January 20-February 16)

HBO On Demand

As usual, great original content is for the taking, including:

Boardwalk Empire

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Big Love

In Treatment

As for movies:

Gentlemen Broncos (December 27-January 23)

The Wrestler (January 3-January 30)

A Perfect Getaway (January 24-February 20)

Green Zone (January 24-February 20)

Solaris (January 24-February 20)

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