VIDEO ON DEMAND – July 2010
There are a handful of new VOD offerings for the taking this month, and many carry-overs from last month. Either way, there’s certainly enough material to keep you entertained and occupied for the next few weeks.
— 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 – JULY 2010
** Wong Kar-Wai Double Feature — If you haven’t seen Wong Kar-Wai’s earlier films Happy Together and Fallen Angels, you definitely should. (Available on iTunes starting June 30)
Pornography: A Thriller — I haven’t seen this film yet, but based on its title alone, I’d say it’s gonna do pretty well VOD style. (Available on iTunes starting July 13)
Typeface — I haven’t seen this either, but if you’re a font/print media pervert, I’d say choose this title over the former. (Available on iTunes starting June 30)
The following titles are available through your Movies on Demand channel on Time Warner, Comcast, Brighthouse, and Cox Cable systems nationwide:
*** Alamar — This breathtaking little gem of a movie is executed with such seeming effortlessness, I was fully convinced I was watching a documentary the whole way through. While it might be lazy—and not entirely accurate—to call it Malickian, Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio shows a similar reverence for nature that isn’t overly simplistic and hippified. It’s a touching story of a young boy and his father spending time in Mexico’s Banco Chinchorro coral reef, fishing and existing meal-to-meal, day-to-day, with their father/grandfather, before the child leaves his father behind once and for all to go live with his mother in Italy. This magical world is a pleasant reminder that industrialization hasn’t steamrolled its way into every corner of the world (not yet, at least). And when it’s time for the little one to leave that paradise behind, Gonzalez-Rubio doesn’t provide an obnoxiously loud contrast between the sea and the city. Back on land, in this more developed Italian setting, the beautiful memories of that quiet life linger. To paraphrase my smarter-than-I girlfriend, Alamar isn’t just a profoundly touching metaphor for parenthood in general; it’s like watching a father’s gorgeous dream in which he basks fully in the love of his child. It would have to be a seriously triumphant year if, at the end of 2010, Alamar doesn’t make my overall Top 10 list.
A Call Girl [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]
For My Father [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]
*** 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.)
Jaffa [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]
Bomber [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna]
* 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.
The following titles are available through your Movies on Demand channel on Verizon Fios & Charter Cable systems nationwide:
Entre Nos (see above)
As with last month, there are many more options available through Film Movement’s Film Festival On Demand channel. Unfortunately, I still 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.
*** Cropsey — Nine years in the making, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s Cropsey is the type of film that can only be made slowly, as time passes and the truths of the messy past can be properly separated from myth-making and the byproducts of paranoia. It’s a film that can’t properly be situated in a genre context. It’s too ambitious to be a true crime doc—its interests are much more expansive than that genre calls for. It certainly isn’t a horror film in any traditional sense, although the story it tells contains terrors all too real to provide fodder for those seeking cheap thrills. Its aspects of personal history and remembrance are so lightly touched upon that it can’t be taken as memoir. It is an utterly unique work in this respect, personal in the most visceral sense of the word. It’s impossible to imagine that a pair of filmmakers who didn’t come from this particular place—Staten Island—at this particular time—the Carter and Reagan eras—could make this film. Read the rest of Brandon Harris’s review right here. (Available through Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Insight)
Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue (Available through Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter, Cablevision, Verizon, AT&T, Apple iTunes, and Amazon VOD)
Irene in Time — Henry Jaglom on VOD! (Available through AT&T, Charter, Verizon, Insight, Mediacom, and Suddenlink)
The Truth (Available through AT&T, Charter, Verizon, Insight, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Apple iTunes, and Amazon VOD)
Stacy’s Mom (Available through AT&T, Charter, Verizon, Insight, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Apple iTunes, and Amazon VOD)
*** 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 two–part 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.)
** Valhalla Rising — (Note: I may have jumped the gun on this last month, as IFC’s website info appears to have changed. Apologies.) 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 July 16)
* 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)
*** 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)
Mercy [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available until July 20)
Bunny and The Bull [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting July 7)
Following [Have Not Seen Yet But Kinda Wanna] (Available starting July 7)
Exam [Have Not Seen Yet But Kinda Wanna] (Available starting July 23)
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 until August 2)
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 until September 23)
Doghouse [Have Not Seen Yet But Kinda Wanna] (Available until September 9)
When A Man Comes Home [Have Not Seen Yet But Kinda Wanna] (Available until July 13)
Centurion [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting July 30 through Cable Video On Demand, Xbox Live, Playstation, Amazon, and Vudu)
[REC] 2 [Have Not Seen Yet But Wanna] (Available starting June 4 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)
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)
A New Protocol (Available starting July 7)
*** Johnny Mad Dog — This disturbingly visceral movie recreates, with terrifying immediacy, the Liberian war in which child soldiers wreaked havoc on citizens everywhere. Director Jean-Stephane Sauvaire, who must be borderline insane, cast actual former child soldiers to reenact their country’s darkest days. Not for the faint of heart, but an undeniably striking work nonetheless. (Available starting July 21)
* 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 1)
* 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 2)
** 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.)
** The Kid Stays in the Picture (June 17-July 14)
A Perfect Getaway (June 24-July 21)
** Choke (June 24-July 21)
*** The Wrestler (June 24-July 21)
*** GasLand (through September 7)
*** Sugar (July 19-August 15)
Lucky (July 19-September 7)
** An Omar Broadway Film (July 15-August 8)
Treme (through July 18)
The Neistat Brothers (through August 29)
— Michael Tully