Published by DVD Beaver in April 2006. I’ve updated this to include further links for all the films that have subsequently become available; there are in fact quite a few of these, and, unless I’ve missed something, only one title that isn’t currently available, The Argyle Secrets. — J.R.
Most of my favorite offbeat musicals are commercially available on DVD, and I wrote about them for DVDBeaver in March. I can’t say the same about most of my favorite noirs, and I’m not sure why this is so.
It’s also important to stress that “noir” isn’t a genre; it’s a category that’s applied retroactively to films with certain traits in common — a practice started by French critics and eventually continued by us Yanks and others. (Check out James Naremore’s definitive 1998 book on the subject, More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts.) This makes it something more flexible than a genre, and I’ve tried to honor this factor in some of my choices.
In the following list I’ve managed to make peace with myself by appending one SBA title (which stands for “should be available”) to each one that you can currently buy, in the same general category, with brief explanations added.… Read more »
A baker (Robert Carlyle) mourning the death of his wife happens upon a serious freeway accident, and as he and the injured man (John Goodman) wait for a rescue team and ride together in the ambulance, the latter relates (in awkward flashbacks) his attachment to a fellow student at the title school 40 years earlier and the much-delayed appointment he was hoping to keep with her. Writer-director Randall Miller adapted this 2005 feature from a half-hour short he made in 1990; I haven’t seen the original, but this expanded version registers as an obscure allegory, with unconvincing period detail and distracting elements like Carlyle’s unexplained Scottish accent. This has its moments, but most of these are engulfed by the overall murk. The largely squandered cast includes Marisa Tomei, Mary Steenburgen, Ernie Hudson, David Paymer, and an unbilled Danny DeVito. PG-13, 103 min. (JR)… Read more »
A Manhattan ballroom dancer (Antonio Banderas) offers to instruct inner-city high school kids, and proceeds to teach them trust, respect, teamwork, tolerance, and hope. This inspirational vehicle, based on a true story, is as hokey as it sounds, and it sometimes cuts too fast to allow us to see the dancing properly. But as in Saturday Night Fever, the sense of reality giving way to fantasy on a dance floor is potent, and writer Dianne Houston and director Liz Friedlander are so sincere that they make much of it work. With Alfre Woodard, Rob Brown, and Yaya DaCosta. PG-13, 108 min. (JR)… Read more »
Two decades after Paris, Texas, Wim Wenders directs another Sam Shepard script, this time with the writer starring, and at times the deja vu is overwhelming. Shepard plays yet another Marlboro man with a fractured past, a dissolute western star who walks out on an expensive movie shoot, visits his mother (Eva Marie Saint), learns he may have an illegitimate child, and sets off for Montana to find him, dogged by another illegitimate child (Sarah Polley). Shooting in ‘Scope, Wenders still has a handsome eye for landscapes, and he works wonders with Butte. But the theatrical monologues come close to defeating him, and only Jessica Lange, as one of Shepard’s abandoned girlfriends, manages to avoid cliche. With Gabriel Mann and Tim Roth. R, 122 min. (JR)… Read more »
Jennifer Aniston comes into her own with this funny and sensitive comedy about four lifelong friends. The ones with money–Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, and Catherine Keener–all have husbands and careers; Aniston works as a maid, smokes dope, and can’t sustain a relationship. In her third feature Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing) leapfrogs between characters with wit and grace, gathering them in various clusters and adroitly showing how money or the lack thereof really does inflect their lives and interactions. With Greg Germann, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs, and Scott Caan. R, 88 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Landmark’s Century Centre.… Read more »