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pro-bassoonist 12-23-08 02:45 PM

Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)
Part 1:

Dear Visitor:

If looking to find the coding for a certain disc please refer to the following database:



pro-bassoonist 12-23-08 02:46 PM


ITV-Granada are set to release David Lean's classic Brief Encounter (1945) on February 9th in the United Kingdom.


Forget what you've heard. "Brief Encounter" is an extremely violent film. In fact, it is a violence that no Tarantino or Guy Ritchie could ever come close to. Celia Johnson, as its heroine, Laura, says as much herself: "I've fallen in love. I'm an ordinary woman. I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people."

One of the first British films to have praise heaped on it abroad, it is shot in noirish black and white to the music of Rachmaninov. David Lean ably directed Noel Coward's script for this intensely passionate film in which almost nothing happens. In short, Laura gets a piece of grit in her eye (those beastly trains!) and falls desperately in love with the kind stranger (Trevor Howard) who removes it. Romance follows over a series of chance, then planned, meetings all given drama by the emphasis on their brevity.

It is told in flashback in an imaginary confession to her husband (Cyril Raymond) whom she dares not tell out of profound compassion. Without the insight her narration gives we would perhaps see nothing at all in the railway station buffet where both Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey remind us of the invasive triviality of the everyday with a suspicious intimation that the lower classes have no emotional life.

If you can stomach this and the excruciatingly affected portrayal of the English middle classes, you'll have, at the very least, a lump in your throat. Less cynical souls will weep buckets.

The David Lean Film Restoration

All film restorations require collaboration, but the David Lean Film Restoration Project partnership is a model for how this kind of collaboration can most profoundly affect film heritage.

The David Lean Foundation, whose resources come directly from the revenue the films of David Lean still generate, sponsored the restoration of eleven of the sixteen films that David Lean directed. The BFI undertook the technical side of the restoration of ten of these titles, working with Granada International and Studiocanal.

The BFI National Archive in Berkhamsted is now the permanent home of the preservation elements resulting from the restoration work. The restored films will be the basis of all distributed elements in the future, ensuring that every audience everywhere will see the restored version of each film.

The overall technical approach to the project, led by Andrea Kalas, Senior Preservation Manager of the Archive Film Lab, was to find the best surviving material on each title and restore and preserve each film using the best methods available. For 8 of the films this involved collaboration with Granada International's Perivale archive and working with the technical team headed by Fiona Maxwell, Director of Operations and Servicing. As quality considerations focus mainly on elements duplicated from an original, each element was inspected for quality and condition. Dirt and scratches can be printed in, and focus and fluctuation issues in the image can also occur. Condition issues can include signs of deterioration, mould, and most often the effects of usage.

Original camera negatives of many of the films were badly damaged: with scratches, frames missing, tears, even one important original negative entirely missing. Elements from both the BFI and Granada International archives were viewed and compared to find the best materials to work from.

The next stage was to decide how and where to complete the restoration which needed specialized equipment and expertise. Archival film is often fragile and in need of printers and scanners that have been optimized for this purpose, and the knowledge of the experts who are restoring the films is crucial. The ability to ensure that Guy Green's black and white cinematography is brought back to life with utmost care is the ability to understand how to effectively reproduce sharpness, contrast and the greyscale range. To ensure that the Blithe Spirit is a shade of green that looks ghostly and not cartoonish, requires an understanding of the Technicolor process and how to replicate that in modern film stocks.

The ten films were restored by one of three standard film restoration processes: Photochemical, Digital Sections and Full Digital Intermediate. Each film also had digital audio restoration. Although the Archive Film Lab at the BFI National Archive was the main facility for the restoration work, other film labs such as Cineric in New York were used for additional specialized work. Following the photo-chemical work, Granada International remastered their films to High Definition with full digital picture and sound restoration.

pro-bassoonist 12-24-08 01:54 AM


Italian distribs 01 Distribution are set to release Matteo Garrone's Gomorra (2008) on December 3rd in Italy. Pic was nominated for Palme d'Or and won the Grand Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Italian BD is region-free.

UK date is February 2.


See the trailer through the French sub-licensee's site:


Based on Roberto Saviano's Italian non-fiction bestseller about the Neapolitan mob - the Camorra – director Matteo Garrone’s bleak, powerful crime movie travels from the horrifying slum projects of suburban Naples to corporate suites and the world of high-fashion ...finding them all poisoned by organized crime. Mob threats following the release of Saviano’s book have forced him to go into hiding under police guard.

Gomorrah closes with hard-hitting facts about the Camorra better placed at the beginning to throw perspective on the free-forming story of easy-come-easier-go life and death for citizens caught in Camorra catchment areas.

Clans forming the Camorra have carved up Naples and Caserta, killing 4,000 people in thirty years, more than any other criminal or terrorist group. Outside of arms and drug trafficking, they've become established in construction, textiles, and other legitimate ventures, and monopolise toxic waste dumping, cutting corners that have led to a 20% cancer jump in regions affected.

Needless to say, there is no honour among these thieves.

Garrone and five co-writers, including Saviano, split the story into five concurrent plots, dropping the audience into the middle of a mob hit in a tanning salon, leaving them to sink or swim.

A guide of sorts comes in the careworn, nervous shape of Don Ciro (Imparato), a bagman paying the families of imprisoned clan members, unable to handle the threat of death as the violence escalates.

The similarly middle-aged Pasquale, a tailor working for a clan subcontractor, discovers offering expert advice to a Chinese rival could be a fatal move, while university graduate Roberto (Paternoster) is offered a promising internship at mob boss Franco’s (Servillo) waste management business, and Toto (Abruzzese) is the next generation, thirteen years old and finding himself in too deep.

Skirting the perimeter, jacking the clans’ arms stashes and ripping off drug suppliers, are Marco and Ciro (Macor and Pettrone), born to lose punks with a Scarface obsession.

Basing the action around a massive, crumbling apartment block that houses the soldiers and servants (i.e. the poor, junkies, gamblers) who serve the Camorra bosses, Matteo’s detached, observational style and analytical pacing will jar with those expecting the adrenalin rush of City of God, but his unfussy documentary approach provides an authentic feeling expose of life where law and order run scared.

Sprawling and angry, Gomorrah’s small episodes form an ultimately overwhelming portrait of the clans’ invisible empire – from Toto’s initiation, taking a bullet while wearing a makeshift vest, and his coerced betrayal of a loved one, to Franco bullying a dying man into giving up more land for waste disposal, or Don Ciro begging an old friend, now enemy, for shelter.

Meanwhile, Pasquale sees Scarlett Johansson wearing one of his frocks at the Venice film festival, revealing how high up the food chain Camorra influence runs.

The violence is brief but shattering and two slayings, with Don Ciro and Toto caught in the middle, are amongst the most terrifying depictions of mob violence caught on camera.

Blame TV’s magisterial The Wire if Gomorrah seems superficial. But whereas TV has multiple episodes to penetrate the heart of its story, Matteo and co are to be commended for this all-encompassing overview of organised crime.
Screen Comment:

(BY ALI NADERZAD) A man steps inside a tanning bed and slips his hands into straps, facing us. He stands, naked, as the silver-blue lights behind him flicker and the machine whirs to life. Moments later, someone steps inside the booth and shoot him in the head. The opening scene of Gomorra, by italian director Matteo Garrone, is a memorable one. Clocking in at well over two hours, Gomorra casts a compelling glance about gangsters and their families living and plying their trade in an apartment building in Casal di Principe, a suburb of Naples which also happens to be the heart of the Italian camorra. The film was adapted from a book by Roberto Saviano which was a best-seller in Italy. Garrone follows the lives of five Neapolitans, from the kid who dreams of becoming an adult fast to the accountant for one of the families whose only desire is to stay alive and the two teenagers who believe they’re in the movie Scarface. You're never bored with Gomorra, even though Garrone doesn't quite let you get attached to any of the characters and it's probably justified. They're all going to die, eventually, so why get attached? Am I being too dramatic? As any neighborhood under siege, there are those who choose to stay out of criminal activities and those who partake freely in them. Turf wars, alliances and betrayals help punctuate Garrone's documentation of daily life amidst this ruined city block. But this is not a documentary, do not be fooled. It's a grand feature film in which man's dalliance with crime propel us towards a dramatic finish. And although the end of Gomorrha can be forecast easily, this highly watchable film is anything but predictable. It's also a character study asking us to look forgivingly, perhaps, at other men's unfortunate lot. The impossible turf wars which take place are entertaining although the adversaries here are unequal. In one scene so often replayed in movies of this genre, a long-time turf don dada hears news from his lieutenant about a couple of kids who stole from an arms cache. A meeting is convened and the boys' fate is decided with little opposition. Just like that. With this new film Matteo Garrone isn't reinventing the wheel but his Gomorrha shimmers with brio.

pro-bassoonist 12-24-08 01:59 AM


Winner of the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury as well as the Reader Jury of the "Berliner Morgenpost" Award at the Berlinale in 2008 Philippe Claudel's I've Loved You So Long has been set to be released in the UK on February 9th.

Official site and trailer:


Two sisters who haven't seen each other for 15 years gradually rediscover common ground and a way of relating to each other in "I've Loved You So Long," a movie that is utterly engrossing despite being, on the surface, about very little. Toplined by Kristin Scott Thomas as the slightly frumpy older sister, this first feature by teacher-turned-scripter Philippe Claudel will need strong critical support to make much of a loving dent theatrically, but is a quality item for upscale French movie buffs. Pic goes out in Gaul mid-March.

First seen distractedly puffing on a cigarette as she waits for her younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) at an airport, Juliette (Scott Thomas) is a plainly dressed, middle-aged woman with tired hair and even more tired eyes, whose backstory slowly emerges throughout the picture. Lea, married to lexicographer Luc (Serge Hazanavicius), has a full life that includes raising two adopted Vietnamese daughters and looking after Luc's ailing father (Jean-Claude Arnaud).

Explaining "auntie" Juliette's sudden appearance, Lea tells her pushy elder daughter Lys (Lise Segur) that she's "been away for a long time, and in England" -- a convenient explanation for British thesp Scott Thomas' slight accent. In fact, as is revealed a half-hour in, Juliette has been in prison for 15 years for killing her 6-year-old son.

Film is basically about people rebuilding emotional ties to a point where they can start a new life together, and Juliette herself can find closure with her sister. Though Lea's own family life has been affected by Juliette's crime -- which left Lea with a fear of giving birth -- she takes a major chance by inviting her older sister to stay with her.

Claudel's script is built out of everyday, unmelodramatic events, succinctly dialogued and not nearly as downbeat as the movie sounds on paper: Juliette trying to find a job, Juliette taunted by a friend (Olivier Cruvellier) at a dinner party, Juliette befriended by Lea's colleague Michel (Laurent Grevill). But pic's hub is the relationship between the two sisters -- one who's been ground down by years of guilt, and another who's opened a door for her sister to walk through if the latter so chooses.

Scott Thomas is aces in the lead role, with flashes of mordant wit that prevent it from becoming a dreary study in self-pity. Zylberstein, a variable actress who's very dependent on her directors, is good here, but lacks Scott Thomas' quiet heft and can't quite handle Lea's occasional emotional outbursts. Still, the sisters' dramatic final talk works just fine.

Setting in Nancy, eastern France, in Claudel's home province of Alsace-Lorraine, allows the characters to develop naturally, unencumbered by the familiar sites of a city like Paris. Jerome Almeras' lensing is bright and well composed, and pacing is easy, making the almost two-hour running time pass smoothly.

Camera (color), Jerome Almeras; editor, Virginie Bruant; music, Jean-Louis Aubert; art director, Samuel Deshors; costume designer, Jacqueline Bouchard; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Pierre Lenoir, Stephane Brunclair; assistant director, Julien Zidi. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 13, 2008. Running time: 117 MIN.

Gerry P. 12-24-08 02:02 AM

Originally Posted by pro-bassoonist (Post 9153173)

I missed this at the local film festival this year because of a birthday party... and still regret it.

PopcornTreeCt 12-25-08 03:54 PM

Appreciate the updates and the new thread, Pro-B. :up:

pro-bassoonist 12-27-08 01:50 AM


Courtesy of Cultmovieforums:

Arriving via BFI:

Feb 09 2009:
Pasolini's Trilogy of Life (3-Disc Blu-ray set)
Note: The Trilogy of Life consists of The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights.

Feb 23 2009:
Jeff Keen (Blu-ray edition)

Mar 09 2009:
Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, 2008) (Blu-ray)

Mar 23 2009:
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Blu-ray)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Blu-ray)
Bodysong (Blu-ray)

pro-bassoonist 12-28-08 01:24 AM

Confirmed: Region-B locked, PAL menu.


Shane Meadows' (This is England) latest project, Somers Town (2008) is set to be released in the UK on January12. Courtesy of Optimum.

Official site:


Two young teenagers kick around the area surrounding North London’s mainline railway stations in the small but perfectly formed “Somers Town,” the latest feature by Brit helmer Shane Meadows (“This Is England”). Basically a comedy but with typically Meadowsian dark edges, it forms an affectionate tribute to cross-cultural friendship and the rapidly changing landscape known as Somers Town, a rundown warren of social housing and decaying industrial wasteland that’s beautifully exalted by pencil-gray monochrome lensing. Brisk (but just right) running time, among other factors, could limit offshore prospects outside fests, but Meadows’ name will guarantee auds domestically, especially on ancillary.

Having always set his movies in the Midlands area in and around Nottingham, where he grew up, Meadows breaks new ground here with pic’s London location. Otherwise, with its focus on working-class youth, salty-tongued humor, excellent semi-improvised perfs and thematic exploration of father figures and sons, “Somers Town” is completely of a piece with the director’s previous work.

Story opens with 16-year-old orphan Tommo (Thomas Turgoose, making good on the promise showed in his debut in “This Is England”) taking the train south from Nottingham on a summer’s day. As he explains to kindly Scotswoman Jane (Kate Dickie, “Red Road”), he might as well go to London since there’s no one for him up north. Underneath his cheeky manner and cocksure, streetwise confidence, it’s clear growing up in care homes has left its scars.

After getting mugged and beaten by some local kids post-arrival in London’s Kings Cross station, Tommo meets up with Marek (Piotr Jagiello, another find), a shy Polish boy who spends his days wandering around the area taking pictures while his dad, Marius (Ireneusz Czop), works on the construction of St. Pancras station.

The two pal up together, and Marek lets Tommo hide in his bedroom overnight. Script then unfolds as a series of low-key, banter-filled skits as the boys get some work hiring out deck chairs in the park for local character Graham (Perry Benson), jointly pay chaste court to a pretty French waitress and get drunk together for the first time.

Climax has tension and drama, but nothing on the violent scale of most of Meadows’ previous pics like “England” or “Dead Man’s Shoes.” Instead, final note is one of gentle uplift and makes sense of the film’s appearance in Berlin’s kid-film Generation Kplus section, although in quality, it far exceeds some of the films in this year’s competish.

Per filmmakers at post-screening talk, pic was financed by Eurostar, whose London-Paris intercity service and new terminal at St. Pancras station play a prominent role here. However, pic’s naturalism keeps it from feeling like a commercial for Eurostar, even when one character talks about how impressive the high-speed service is through the Channel Tunnel.

Tech credits, along with thesping and helming, are of excellent standard. Acoustic score by singer-songwriter Gavin Clarke hits right notes in every sense.

Camera (color/B&W, 16mm-to-35mm, Super 8-to-35mm), Natasha Braier; editor, Richard Graham; music, Gavin Clarke; production designer, Lisa Marie Hall; costume designer, Jo Thompson; sound (Dolby Digital), Danny Cowley. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation 14plus), Feb. 9, 2008. Running time: 75 MIN.

Giles 12-29-08 09:45 AM

oh please, oh please, oh please let the Oppo bluray player be region free -pray- I simply have to have the Pasolini Trilogy on blu.

HumanMedia 12-29-08 06:12 PM

Originally Posted by Giles (Post 9161171)
oh please, oh please, oh please let the Oppo bluray player be region free -pray- I simply have to have the Pasolini Trilogy on blu.

It isnt, its been announced as Region A only.

There are a few other moddable players, and one that ships multiregion...

PopcornTreeCt 12-30-08 06:32 PM

Anyone get the Italian Gomorra Blu-ray? Only found it at one site and it was expensive.

Arpeggi 12-30-08 08:44 PM

I ordered it and it shipped but have yet to received it.

pro-bassoonist 12-31-08 02:31 AM

More on the first Russian BD:

Official site:

Available here:

Subs: English, Russian
Russian: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1




PopcornTreeCt 12-31-08 04:29 PM

Originally Posted by Arpeggi (Post 9164766)
I ordered it and it shipped but have yet to received it.

Where did you order it?

HumanMedia 01-02-09 08:45 PM

Just like to give a shout-out of thanks to Pro-bassoonist and all other contributors for fueling this thread with Foreign release info.

Huge thanks and hope it grows through 2009.

pro-bassoonist 01-03-09 12:50 AM

I posted this in the International Forum:


Set to be released in Japan on January 28th.


An attention-getting lesbians-vs.-the-mob hook merely serves as a disguise for what is just another designer thriller in "Bound," a notably unpalatable and calculated crime piece. Novelty of having two sultry babes hook up with each other while pulling a fast one on some mobsters wears thin before becoming ludicrously contrived. Debuting writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski come off like Coen brothers wannabes with no sense of humor. Sapphic angle will arouse some curiosity and want-see in certain circles, but this is otherwise a low-end gangster meller that doesn't look to travel far when Gramercy releases it in August.

From the grandiose opening onward, it is clear the Wachowskis are determined to announce their arrival as major stylists, as they lay on the elaborate camera moves, overhead shots, deep shadows and portentous music. But it soon becomes apparent that while they may be clever with a premise, their senses of drama, logic and character have no more depth than a storyboard.

Ground-setting is rather intriguing, as two dark-haired girls in leather give each other some heavy eyeballing. Corky (Gina Gershon), a tattooed hardbody with a '63 Chevy truck who would look right at home up a telephone pole, is fixing up an apartment after serving five years for robbery. Next door live the alluring Violet (Jennifer Tilly) and crude midlevel gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), who specializes in money-laundering.

Soon Violet is offering to show Corky her own tattoo, and once they dive into a relationship, Violet lets on that she's looking for a way out of her mob lifestyle, which entails sleeping with other tough-talking creeps.

Up to this point, pic holds at least some potential as a fresh take on standard underworld fare. But then the focus shifts to Caesar, whom Pantoliano plays as if trying to outdo Richard Widmark's cackling cretin in the original "Kiss of Death." After goons gruesomely torture another lowlife in order to retrieve some filched mob money, Caesar becomes unglued when the $ 2 million suddenly disappears, thanks to a scheme hatched by the femme lovers. Remainder of the story involves a series of confrontations stemming from Caesar's resourceful countermoves to recover the loot and figure out who betrayed him.

All characters in the story, including the two women, are willing criminals who exist on the same bankrupt moral level. All are scum, and just because Violet and Corky fall for each other doesn't mean they somehow fall into a privileged state of grace in which vile behavior can be forgiven. So fundamentally unbelievable and unsympathetic is their romantic and criminal collaboration that one's sympathy eventually swings back toward the temperamental Caesar simply because he proves the smartest person onscreen.

The Wachowskis' stylistic overkill is best exemplified by a ridiculous tracking shot of a phone cord in which the camera does little curlicues to trace the precise pattern of the wire. Numerous other effects are nearly as pretentious and eager to impress, resulting in what is basically a small exploitation film told with heavy-handed techniques.

Gershon and Tilly are initially intriguing but can't sustain interest in their superficially conceived roles. They share one passionate scene, which is covered in a single take. Most of the other perfs are over-the-top to varying degrees. Behind-the-scenes personnel capably delivered what was asked, which was far too much for the material.

Camera (Deluxe color), Bill Pope; editor, Zach Staenberg; music, Don Davis; production design, Eve Cauley; art direction, Robert Goldstein, Andrea Dopaso; set design, Harry E. Otto; set decoration, Kristen Toscano Messina; costume design, Lizzy Gardiner; sound (Dolby), Felipe Borrero; assistant director, Rip Murray; casting, Nancy Foy. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Jan. 10, 1996. (In Sundance Film Festival -- premiere.) MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 min.

pro-bassoonist 01-04-09 08:08 PM


Arriving in HK shops on January 6.


pro-bassoonist 01-04-09 08:16 PM


UK-based distribs Revolver Entertainment are set to release Jean-Claude Van Damme's JCVD on February 2.


Van Damme is back! Combined with recent news that the Muscles from Brussels will soon turn auteur with "Full Love," Gaumont's "JCVD," a French-language meta-movie parody par excellence, constitutes the headiest stretch of the beefy star's career since, well, ever. Playing "himself," i.e., an international action stud whose bruising child custody battle has him literally going postal , exec-producing Jean-Claude Van Damme reveals heretofore hidden third dimension to his monosyllabic persona. Ho-hum hostage crisis mayhem serves to buttress co-scripting helmer Mabrouk El Mechri's more experimental stunts, including a tonally opposite pair of longish takes -- one a wonderfully absurd ode to star's martial-arts moves, the other a tear- and prayer-filled Van Damme monologue that must be seen to be believed. An adventurous U.S. minimajor could reap modest B.O. following a June 4 French release.

Playful from its first moments of a balloon-toting cartoon tot kickboxing in Gaumont logo, "JCVD" pumps up "I'm too-old-for-this-crap" cliches via shrewdly deployed in-jokes. Title character is revered for having "brought" John Woo to Hollywood with "Hard Target" in '93 ("He'd still be shooting pigeons in Hong Kong," an industry player opines), but on-set colleagues find fault with 47-year-old's mark-hitting skills. Worse, prosecuting attorney in hero's L.A. custody case dissects icon's eye-gouging oeuvre by DVD to assert dad's history of violence.

Freshly spurned by preteen daughter, jetlagged from trip back to Belgium, and electronically dissed at the hometown ATM, JCVD loses his cool while seeking a post-office wire transfer of euros, only to find he has stumbled into in-progress heist for which he'll be blamed by cops -- and credited, oddly or not, by hordes of placard-waving fans (e.g., "Free Jean-Claude!").

As before, bulky thesp's acting is as flat as his pecs are sculpted, but here said limitations are more clearly part of joke within hollow mirror world, where JCVD loses key role to Steven Seagal because latter negotiated to topline sans ponytail.

Script's sharpest running gag has the concept of celebrity trumping human life in media coverage if not public estimation; even JCVD's sweet old Maman hints at worries of son's marquee rep while mistakenly urging him to release "his" hostages.

Incalculably superior in tone, attitude, intent, and intellect to bulk of bodybuilder vehicles, shrewdly produced pic limits limber star's acrobatics to first and last scenes without great detriment to whole. Gast Waltzing's horn-heavy score is pleasingly old-school and subtly parodic; Philippe Kohn's sound mix is crisply immersive; Pierre-Yves Bastard's widescreen lensing does the job despite de rigueur color-bleaching and scant closeups with which to flaunt Van Damme's near-Buster Keatonesque deadpan. Exception to that to is aforementioned long take wherein weeping JCVD flexes existential about his status as global-screen limb-snapper with backend points.

No kidding.

The best (and worst) films of 2008

(CNN) -- Looking back, I find I've written more than 350 film reviews over the past 12 months. That's a lot of time sitting in the dark, especially when you're challenged to whittle them all down to the best 20 hours or so for the annual top 10 list.

You surely don't need me to tell you this hasn't been a vintage year. Even so, there are no shortage of films I'm glad to have seen and would be quick to recommend.

Many of them -- most, even -- have not had the benefit of huge marketing machines, free media hype or long bookings in the multiplexes. And this maybe one area where the critic does have a useful role to play: getting the word out.

For example, Juan Antonio Bayona's fine Spanish horror movie "The Orphanage" was the kind of movie you could easily miss. A classical ghost story on the face of it, it gradually revealed hidden depths, an acute sense of grief and loss and -- who would have thought it? -- a subtle, wrenching spin on "Peter Pan."

If not for the critics, would Danny Boyle's exuberant Oscar front-runner "Slumdog Millionaire" have stood a chance of making its mark? Or such imaginative non-fiction films as the (literally) suspenseful "Man on Wire," the all-too-timely, animated "Waltz with Bashir" and Guy Maddin's dolorous memoir "My Winnipeg" (notable for a last appearance by the great femme fatale Ann Savage, who died just last week)?

This year, for whatever reason, much of the most exciting work has come out of left field. An obvious example would be the year's two Gus Van Sant movies. The big-budget biopic "Milk" has obvious Oscar potential: It's a true story about an inspiring character who tied himself to a cause and paid the highest price for it.
Don't Miss

"Milk" is a fine film, with outstanding performances from Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and James Franco. Perhaps it is also "important" in the ongoing struggle against discrimination. But if you put it beside Van Sant's independently made portrait of a mixed-up Portland, Oregon, teenager, "Paranoid Park," it's obvious which project truly engaged him as an artist. The latter is a complex creative response to the world and the difficulty of negotiating our own space within it.

It's too bad that a good many of the more groundbreaking films have scarcely been seen outside of festivals and a few cosmopolitan art houses: Jose Luis Guerin's dazzling "In the City of Sylvia," for instance, or the ecstatic Indonesian musical "Opera Jawa" or Lance Hammer's soulful U.S. indie, "Ballast." I doubt there has been a more perceptive movie about relationships this year than Hong Sang-soo's "Woman on the Beach" or a more inspired cop thriller than Johnnie To's lunatic Hong Kong mystery, "Mad Detective." (Movie fans, I hope you add these to your Netflix queues.)

You can believe Anne Hathaway gives the best performance by an actress this year in "Rachel Getting Married" if you want to, but you should also see Juliette Binoche in "The Flight of the Red Balloon," Emmanuelle Devos in "A Christmas Story," Michelle Williams in "Wendy and Lucy" or even veteran opera singer Galina Vishevskaya in "Alexandra." Many good films -- too many -- are under the radar nowadays.

All that said, I'd go to the mat for Mickey Rourke as Randy the Ram in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler," surely the most heartening and unexpected comeback of the year, in a film with intriguing ideas of its own about the elusive boundaries between performing and being.

It was genuinely refreshing to see Robert Downey Jr. on such a high in "Iron Man" and sending up his own vocation so mercilessly in "Tropic Thunder." And I'll stand by my prediction from July that Heath Ledger will win a posthumous Oscar for his astonishing performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight" and deserve it, too. More than enough has been written about Christopher Nolan's morbid magnum opus, but Ledger's mesmerizing tour de force will withstand all the praise -- and the backlash.

Even so, as the dust settles, of all the summer blockbusters I know the two I'll watch again with unalloyed pleasure are Guillermo Del Toro's underrated, idiosyncratic "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," and Andrew Stanton's enchanting, universally praised movie about an amorous trash compactor. Maybe it's a sentimental choice, but for me, "WALL-E" was easily the outstanding movie of the year.

So, the list:

Yes, the second half is merely really, really good, but the nearly wordless first 40 minutes suggests unsuspected affinities between Charlie Chapin and Stanley Kubrick.

"Encounters at the End of the World"
The documentary of the year also has an apocalyptic theme. Werner Herzog visits Antarctica and discovers we're all on thin ice.

"In the City of Sylvia"
A man returns to the city to find the girl that got away. Jose Luis Guerin fashions a remarkable mazy quasi-musical out of looks and glances.

"Still Life"
Maybe the most prescient film of the year, Jia Zhangke looks at China as a superpower in the making -- and the unmaking -- as the towns along the Three Gorges Dam project are dismantled brick by brick.

Ed Harris was obviously born to make Westerns. Too unpretentious for its own good, this was classical American moviemaking at its best -- better, incidentally, than Clint Eastwood's revisionist riff on gun lore in "Gran Torino."

"The Wrestler"
Darren Aronofsky's authentically downbeat movie is distinguished by its sympathy for the muscle men and strippers who never got beyond the first rung of the American Dream.

"Let the Right One In"
Preteen vampires. This is what "Twilight" would be if it were five times better, Swedish and told from the point of view of a lonely 12-year-old boy.

"Paranoid Park"
This poetic teen art film is the most fluent and coherent of Gus Van Sant's experimental works. Part crime mystery, part coming-of-age story, it's positively overflowing with burnished imagery and adolescent turmoil.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
We know there are no second acts to American lives, but Benjamin takes Fitzgerald at his word. Brad Pitt ages with uncommon grace in David Fincher's fantastical love story, the ultimate slow dissolve.

Jean Claude Van Damme -- the Muscles from Brussels -- pulls a Mickey Rourke, playing himself (brilliantly) in a Belgian bank robbery thriller written and directed by first timer Mabrouk El Mechri. What late nights were invented for.

And the worst ...

Then there are those films that make you lament losing two hours of your life, even if you have a job to do. These are listed in reverse order, from (relatively) least-worst to the most egregious offender of the year:

"The X-Files: I Want to Believe"
This pretentious spiritual non-thriller signaled a sorry end for Scully and Mulder. Still, at least no expense was lavished on what looked like an extended TV special.

"What Happens in Vegas"
Ashton Kutcher steals the washroom door. That's how desperate things get in this total bust, probably the least romantic romantic comedy of the year.

"88 Minutes"
Al Pacino has 88 minutes to live ... yet this mind-bogglingly dumb movie dies agonizingly slowly.

"Seven Pounds"
You have to sit through the entirety of Will Smith's soggy new movie to find out just how shameless it is. I'd rather take a bath with a jellyfish.

"Fool's Gold"
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey's vacation snapshots would have been more amusing than this torpid exotic adventure. Oh, wait, these WERE the vacation snapshots ...

Just because Baz Luhrmann loves old Hollywood movies doesn't mean he can make one. Where's Crocodile Dundee when you need him?

"Eagle Eye"
A big-budget tech thriller -- apparently suggested by Steven Spielberg himself -- that borrowed from all over but made absolutely no sense.

"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor"
It doesn't get much sloppier than this mummy movie without a mummy. Rachel Weisz made a shrewd choice not to return.

"The Spirit"
Granted, I hated "300," and "Sin City" left me cold, but at least they had a degree of technical accomplishment to wrap around Frank Miller's puerile pulp fascism. His own movie is just an inept embarrassment.

"Funny Games"
Michael Haneke is a prodigiously talented filmmaker, but this shot-for-shot American remake of his Austrian thriller was an arrogant, redundant scold and the very worst reason to see a movie all year.


Tutut 01-05-09 10:54 AM

Originally Posted by pro-bassoonist (Post 9174756)

On order at DDDHouse for 22.44$ since January 31.

pro-bassoonist 01-05-09 03:04 PM

Re: Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)

OK, that is not a problem, YesAsia has it arriving this Tuesday, and so do a few other retailers:


Arpeggi 01-05-09 10:17 PM

Re: Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)

Originally Posted by PopcornTreeCt (Post 9166439)
Where did you order it?

It's working flawlessly on my Region A PS3.

Ordered it from dvdland.it or something like that.

big e 01-05-09 10:54 PM

Re: Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)
I've got a question. I have been thinking about importing some Blu-rays from the UK, specifically Natural Born Killers, Bonnie & Clyde, Poltergeist, The Eagle has Landed, and The Boys From Brazil. I will be using a PS3 to play these and was wondering if I would be running into any trouble regarding PQ/SQ and playing extras. I have seen that on some UK Blu-rays the extras are PAL and will not play properly on region A players and I recall that some region free European HD-DVDs had audio issues and wasn't sure if I'd run into that problem with Blu-rays.

HumanMedia 01-06-09 01:28 AM

Re: Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)

Originally Posted by Arpeggi (Post 9177421)
It's working flawlessly on my Region A PS3.

Ordered it from dvdland.it or something like that.

Is this Gomorra you are talking about?

If so, does it have English subs?

Dan 01-06-09 02:01 AM

Can anyone here recommend a specific version of [Rec] to buy (must have English subs), and a reputable online retailer to order it from?

I'm using an HTPC for playback, so I don't have any immediate concerns regarding region coding or anything like that.


pro-bassoonist 01-06-09 04:38 AM

Re: Foreign Cinema in BLU (part 2)

Originally Posted by big e (Post 9177519)
I've got a question. I have been thinking about importing some Blu-rays from the UK, specifically Natural Born Killers, Bonnie & Clyde, Poltergeist, The Eagle has Landed, and The Boys From Brazil. I will be using a PS3 to play these and was wondering if I would be running into any trouble regarding PQ/SQ and playing extras. I have seen that on some UK Blu-rays the extras are PAL and will not play properly on region A players and I recall that some region free European HD-DVDs had audio issues and wasn't sure if I'd run into that problem with Blu-rays.

You won't run into any trouble with the above titles (aside from a few of the PAL extras which you will not be able to playback on your PS3). The main features are perfectly playable on Region-A PS3.

For future reference: the only time you would run into any sort of trouble with a region-free disc is if the main menu is in PAL (none of the titles above have PAL menus). Examples: Zatoichi, Somers Town, Stephen Fry in America, etc. If the main menu is in PAL your Region-A PS3 will not be able to bypass it. There are no audio issues to be expected from non Region-A titles (certainly not related to the "conversion" process).


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