Dodes’ka-den DVD

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Jun 23, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

Akira Kurosawa is probably the best known and most well loved director from Japan. He worked consistently from 1943’s Sanshiro Sugata to 1965’s Red Beard, making nearly two dozen films in that period; all in black and white and mostly shot in scope. At that point in his career, Kurosawa was ready for a change and decided to come to America and make his first film in color with an American cast. He wrote the script for Runaway Train and began pre-production. The American money men, however, didn’t see eye to eye with his budget predictions, and didn’t understand why the film needed to be in color, so the project was scrapped. (In 1985, a film based on the screenplay was made by Andrei Konchalovsky starring Jon Voight). This brought Kurosawa to another American co-production, also a chance to work with color film.  He was hired to direct the Japanese portions of Tora! Tora! Tora!, a big budget WWII epic from the point of view of American and Japanese soldiers. Kurosawa worked for two years building sets, writing, and shooting sequences before he was fired due to being behind schedule and a feeling from the American producers that he was difficult. 

     All of these circumstances led to Kurosawa’s 1970 film Dodes’ka-den.

Crescendo DVD

Studio: Warner Archive

Jun 23, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

Generally, film studios have never accumulated a rabid fan base in the way actors or directors do, except perhaps for Hammer Films. This British company, primarily known for their gothic horror films produced from the late 1950s to the mid-70s, had a period of almost 35 years without a theatrical release, but they still have books and magazines being published about their output. Hammer also produced pirate films, comedies, actioners, and what they liked to call “mini-Hitchcocks.—essentially these were non-supernatural horror thrillers with twist endings in the vein of Psycho.

Crescendo, just recently released from the Warner Archive Collection, would fall into this latter category. More

Valkyrie Blu-ray/DVD

Studio: United Artists

Jun 23, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

After ruining the return of Superman in Superman Returns, Bryan Singer attempts to do the same with Tom Cruise’s career with Valkyrie. The (kinda) based-on-a-true-story tale focuses on German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Cruise sans German accent, thankfully), who masterminds a plot to kill Adolf Hitler with the aid of fellow officers played by a rogues’ gallery of cool character actors such as Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Eddy Izzard. Too bad they’re sandwiched inside this inert and dramatically flat movie. More

Jun 10, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

Stacey Peralta has reinvented himself a few times, going from child skateboarder to team surfer to successful documentary filmmaker. His first two films, Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants, took his love of skating and surfing to the big screen with largely successful results. It saddens me to report that his third and latest documentary, seemingly about the Crips and Bloods gangs in Los Angeles, is his weakest effort to date. More

May 19, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

Enigmatic and controversial modern-day composer Philip Glass is, unsurprisingly, a complicated, intelligent, and talented man, as shown in the documentary glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts by director Scott Hicks (Shine, No Reservations). More

The Venture Bros.: Season Three: Blu-ray/DVD

Studio: Warner Bros./Adult Swim

May 08, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

For the uninitiated, The Venture Bros. is an animated series that runs on Adult Swim. It concerns itself with the adventures of two (very) sheltered brothers named Hank and Dean, their father, Dr. Rusty Venture (ex-boy adventurer turned super scientist), and their Race Bannon-esque bodyguard, Brock Sampson. Despite the foibles and faults, these are the good guys, and every good guy must have an archenemy. Enter The Monarch, a man dressed as a butterfly who is more bent on killing Dr. Venture than on anything more nefarious (like, say, world domination). And as we join season three, The Guild of Calamitous Intent have deemed it necessary to assign a new nemesis to the good Dr. Venture: Sergeant Hatred, who gives new focus to the Monarch’s obsessions and more headache for his wife, Doctor Girlfriend (or is it Doctor Mrs. The Monarch?). More

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Season 2

Studio: Warner Bros./Adult Swim

May 08, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, creators of Tom Goes to the Mayor, have eclipsed that unique and ambitious show with one of the most batshit crazy shows ever, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! The second season is now out on DVD; season four just finished airing on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. More

May 04, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

If you’ve ever looked at film criticism and wished that it included more Slovenian psychoanalysis, then have I got the DVD for you! The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema is a three-part series that looks at themes of the unconscious mind, sexual perversity, and anxiety through a cinematic kaleidoscope. The 2½-hour program relies heavily on the works of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch but makes detours through The Wizard of Oz, The Matrix, Stalker, The Red Shoes, and Alien: Resurrection. More

May 01, 2009 DVDs Web Exclusive

I never thought that watching someone play electric guitar could be this scary! Born in England and raised in Long Island, Katherine Thomas is known in guitar circles as The Great Kat. More