Pick Of The Week: New
The Other Dream Team (Lionsgate)
The 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona were dominated by the “Dream Team,” arguably the greatest team ever assembled for any sport, a U.S. basketball juggernaut stocked with future hall-of-famers like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. There was never any doubt that Team USA would embarrass the competition—though the international game would catch up fast in the years that followed—but all the attention they received took away from the bigger story of the Bronze Metal-winning Lithuanians. The Other Dream Team chronicles the triumphant journey of athletes looking to claim glory for the newly independent, hoops-crazed country—with a little help from the Grateful Dead. The DVD includes a Q&A feature and a commentary track with director Marius Markevicius and writer/producer Jon Weinbach.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
The Tin Drum (Criterion)
Winner of both the Palme D’Or and Best Foreign Language Film Oscar—a rare double honor that may be bestowed on Amour this year—Volker Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum adapts Günter Grass’ metaphorically loaded novel about a boy whose life exists in protest. Born in 1924 Germany, precocious young David Bennent is so horrified by the world of adults that he throws himself down a flight of stairs and refuses to grow past his third birthday. As the years pass, he uses his shrieking, glass-shattering voice and the tin drum of the title to register his disgust at various events, including the lead-up to World War II. The Criterion edition comes with new interviews with Schlöndorff and scholar Timothy Corrigan, audio of Grass reading a relevant passage from his novel, and various television interviews with the cast and co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière.
Don’t Break The Seal
Won’t Back Down (Fox)
The vilification of teachers unions as impediments in the American public education system has been in vogue since Waiting For Superman and the cult of Michelle Rhee, but the colossal failure of Won’t Back Down suggest a shift in public thinking. (Or maybe just a mass disinterest in dramatizations of the issue.) At $2.6 million, the film broke the record for worst opening of a film on over 2,500 screens, and earned terrible reviews for its story of two mothers (Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal) who try to shake up their inner-city school in order to get a better education for their children. As Nathan Rabin writes in his A.V. Club review, “The film’s heavy-handed anti-union agenda wouldn’t be quite so grating if it emerged organically from the narrative, but it regularly devolves into a dry cinematic op-ed with thinly developed characters making didactic speeches articulating the issues involved in the knotty, emotionally charged subject of school choice.”
Taken 2 (Fox)
Witnessing Liam Neeson, a sensitive middle-aged character actor, transformed into an unlikely cinematic badass gave the first Taken a certain novelty value that elevated it above the usual Luc Besson factory trash. Now that Neeson is a full-blown action star, the stupidity of this sequel is harder to ignore.
To Rome With Love (Sony)
America’s renewed love affair with Woody Allen ended after one film, as the sleeper success of last summer’s Midnight In Paris failed to carry over to his follow-up, To Rome With Love, an anthology of minor stories that rarely rises above the level of lazy travelogue. Only the final storyline, featuring Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, and Greta Gerwig, has much resonance.
The Possession (Lionsgate)
The Danish genre director Ole Bornedal won some critical respect with his creepy 1994 breakthrough Nightwatch, but ever since putting his name behind a dreadful American remake, he’s gone back and forth between making semi-respectable films in Denmark (The Substitute, Just Another Love Story) and misfires in Hollywood (Deliver Us From Evil). The Possession, a late-summer PG-13 horror film about a box containing a Dibbuk, falls squarely in the latter category.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (Criterion)
Alfred Hitchcock’s career in Britain had stalled badly when he decided to switch studios and made 1934’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, a back-to-basics thriller that’s full of Hitchcock’s wry wit and beautifully calibrated suspense. Full review to come tomorrow.
Sleeper/Hannah And Her Sisters (BD) (MGM)
Other than being funny and directed by Woody Allen, 1973’s Sleeper and 1986’s Hannah And Her Sisters have little in common. The former is a highlight from of his early, sillier period, spoofing futuristic science-fiction tropes along with contemporary social mores; the latter is perhaps his most incisive treatment of love and betrayal. Since it’s Woody Allen, the discs are feature-free.
Farewell, My Queen (Cohen)
French director Benoît Jacquot has spent a career chronicling fascinating women—1997’s Seventh Heaven and 1998’s The School Of Flesh are particular highlights—so he’s ideal choice to make a film about Marie Antoinette. The twist in Farewell, My Queen, however, is that it focuses on the queen’s downfall from the perspective of one of her faithful attendants.
Wake In Fright (Drafthouse)
Rereleased last year to great acclaim, Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 curiosity about a schoolteacher (Gary Bond) stranded among the crazies in the Australian outback was long thought lost to history. The features-packed Blu-ray edition will be reviewed on this site next week.
5 Broken Cameras (Kino)
Shot by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat over five years, 5 Broken Cameras documents a family in the West Bank village of Bil’in, an area facing encroachment by Israeli settlements. The raw quality of Burnat’s footage well serves the film’s exposé of tension and tragedy.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s artful documentary chronicles the rise and fall of Detroit, Michigan from a refuge for African-Americans and a manufacturing hub to its current collapse into mass unemployment and economic despair.