New In The USA: SIDE EFFECTS
Steven Soderbergh's final proper theatrical release is a sharp little number involving Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones that plays initially as a 'big-pharma' issue drama before evolving into a bit of a Brian DePalma sleezefest. Suffice it to say that this film is a lot more interesting and a lot more fun than the earnest trailer implies. One of the more underrated gems of last year's crop of American indies.
New In Canada: THE ENTIRE UP SERIES (1964-2012)
The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964. Started by Paul Almond, but subsequently taken over by his assistant on the project, Michael Apted who has been revisiting these kids every seven years up until present. The most recent and 8th entry in the series, 56-Up, was released in 2012. Here is your chance to look (or, lets be honest, binge watch) into the interesting lives of many normal British folk captured for 50 years and counting without having to lay down for the expensive box set.
New In The UK/Ireland: THE BAY
Undoubtedly icky, but curiously sterile, Barry Levinson’s found-footage creature-feature owes as much to Jaws as it does to Erin Brockovich. Yet its distancing collection of security camera, cellphone, home video and local news reporting provide the numbness you get from watching a live-unfolding story play out on cable news.
The perfect storm of societal neglect and natural spontaneity sees a cocktail of nuclear contamination, mountains of chickenshit run-off and a particularly warm summer cut short the July 4th celebrations of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland with a proliferation of a nasty brand of parasite, one that eats the victim from without and within. Just as we take clean water for granted as much as business opportunity with minimal regulation, The Bay is savage at punishing the innocent and simple townsfolk with body lesions, boils and particularly nasty looking ‘lice-of-the-sea’ that are worthy of David Cronenberg.
And yet, the commitment to found footage tropes and a painfully linear narrative kind of leaves this one feeling a bit middling – hence its place in the middle of this triple bill. Maybe it was due to the self-conscious narrator who felt like a sour doppelgänger of Ellen Page, or perhaps the changes in footage, aspect ratio and “Am I framed correctly?” telling that someone assembling this as a Loose Change style conspiracy video most certainly would have omitted not having to prove its amateur credentials. You cannot fault the commitment to a certain style too much however, as the overall effect mimics a modern media malaise, even as small town of ‘anywhere-America’ is literally torn apart.
New In Norway/Sweden/Denmark: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Stanley Kubrick's unqualified masterpiece needs no introduction or words. Yes, you might think, why the heck should I stream the thing, even if it is in HD, when there is probably a repertory cinema playing it somewhere in the foreseeable future? Well, this is the world we live in, and it's better to be watching 2001: A Space Odyssey on a big screen HD-TV than not to be watching the film at all. Turn off all distractions and get immersed in one of the great achievements of cinema. Period.
New In Mexico/Brazil: THE BELIEVERS
For the opening sequence alone, you should be checking out John Schlesinger's occult horror/thriller which operates in the same headspace as Rosemary's Baby and The Serpent and the Rainbow.
Martin Sheen stars in one of the more overlooked diamonds in the rough of the 1980s that sees a grieving psychiatrist, who just lost his wife in a freak accident, gets entangled in a series of rash of brutal, ritualistic child murders, supposedly committed by members of a Hispanic cult practicing a malevolent version of brujería have been confounding the NYPD. Things take a turn for the worse when the cult targets his son.
New In The Netherlands: 13 ASSASSINS
Miike Takashi's big cinematography, big set-up and big action sequence samurai flick is a bit different from many of the down-and-dirty guerrilla entries in his filmography, but the auteur far from disappoints. As the leader of the titular band of Ronin, Yakusho Kôji, the acting is exemplary too.
It is the mid-19th century, and the Shogunate has known peace for many, many years. The Samurai have grown soft and weak in their inactivity (and boredom), many taking to gambling and drinking. A Grand show of seppuku in the beginning moments plays as a release from failure both literal, and some deeper decay in the soul of the country. That decay is a sadistic lord, Naritsugu, who is on the fast track to real power in the Shogunate. His casual killing and raping for sport, enabled by his noble lineage, has forced the more noble (and more political) advisor to the Shogun, Sir Doi, to set a plan in motion to have Naritsug killed on the way from Edo to his own lands, as to proclaim him unfit to rule would have dangerous political ripples. Doi finds one of the last 'old school' Samurai, Shinzaemon, who has been seriously wronged by Naritsugu, to put a small strike team together for the mission.