AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa When the ultra-art house Criterion DVD line debuted in 1998, the second title to get their reverent restoration treatment (after Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion) was Japanese directorial master Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Now, more than 10 years and nearly 500 releases later, Criterion celebrates what would have been Kurosawa's 100th birthday (he died, ironically, the same year as Criterion's startup) with this astonishing, linen-bound set of 25 great Kurosawa films, from his 1943 debut effort, Sanshiro Sugata, to his last work, 1993's Madadayo. In the middle are only some of the best movies ever made, including Samurai, The Hidden Fortress and Rashomon. (No word on why latter-day works like Ran and Dreams were left off.) The set retails at around $400 and is probably the only DVD set at that price that's worth every cent. (NR)
A Christmas Tale Pulling off the rare feat of seeing a nearly immediate release on the Criterion label, Arnaud Desplechin's 2008 French film about a Christmas reunion brimming with as much lifelong tension and as many passive-aggressive smiles as any WASP-y suburban holiday somehow pops with even more chemical reaction on DVD. The great Catherine Deneuve is shattering as a matriarch barely holding herself together amongst her grown children, who all have something to say about her notion of yuletide healing. This is deeply personal filmmaking, supported by the inclusion of two separate documentaries about Desplechin's own family: 2007's 70-minute L'aimée and a new 35-minute discussion called "Arnaud's Tale." (NR)
Beautiful Losers Documentaries are meant to make you think; whether they succeed is another story. This film by curator Aaron Rose — about the scene he himself helped bring to prominence, no less — seems designed as a celebration of Rose's influential Alleged art gallery in New York and the now-renowned street artists it fostered, like Kids writer Harmony Korine and erstwhile graffiti artist (and Obama "Hope" poster creator) Shepard Fairey. The doc explores their upbringing hanging out in front of Rose's gallery, waxing philosophical on counterculture "movements" and how to turn their graffiti-and-hip-hop influences into populist statements. But what they actually (some admittedly) were interested in was the populist part of the equation: Their art could hardly be described as inaccessible, and their subsequent success speaks to that fact. What makes Beautiful Losers intriguing is that these corporate-sponsored "rebels" don't come off as the heroes Rose probably hoped they would. (NR)would. (NR)
The Cove This thrilling documentary is the highest-profile case this year of a film instigating social change in the real world, but that's not why you should see it. Dolphin activist Ric O'Barry takes the viewer into his shadowy, potentially fatal world, where he works to prevent Japanese fishermen from slaughtering dolphins by the hundreds. In his efforts, he recruits an Ocean's 11—style team of experts, and this is what takes The Cove beyond warm-and-fuzzy into the realm of truly exciting cinema. The crew skirts detention or even murder, sometimes by a razor's edge. (PG-13)email@example.com
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