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Exit Through the Gift Shop (Blu-ray)

Director: Banksy
Cast: Banksy, Thierry Guetta, Shepard Fairey


Exit Through the Gift Shop (Blu-ray)

A documentary that begins with the street artist movement: Banksy, the British guerilla artist with his subversive stencils that have amused and shocked England over the last decade; the American Shepard Fairey, the man behind the iconic OBEY stickers; and the French artist Invader, who decorates Paris with Space Invader mosaics on street signs, bridges, and overpasses. Yet as street art becomes a commodity and collectors rush in to capitalize on the latest trend, Exit Through the Gift Shop raises serious questions regarding artistic merit and aesthetic judgments. “Maybe art is a joke,” Banksy posits. John Grassi


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Director: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
Cast: Jonathan Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Óscar Sánchez Zafra, Ariel Casas, Alejandro Casaseca, Pablo Rosso, Pep Molina


Magnolia Home Entertainment

An occult bookend to the satanic original, the REC 2 timeline begins 15 minutes after the end of the first film. A Barcelona SWAT team enters a quarantined apartment building. They’re led by Owen, an official from the Institute of Health. He’s actually a priest with orders from the Vatican to take a blood sample from the demonically possessed within the building. “I just want to get out of this Hell,” the SWAT captain tells Owen. He speaks for the audience—we’re trapped among the damned and the terror is relentless. John Grassi


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Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series

(BBC; US DVD: 19 Jul 2011)


Torchwood: The Complete Original UK Series

A spin-off of Russell T. Davies’ revival of Doctor Who, Torchwood is a more adult cousin to the series. Davies manages to retain much of Doctor Who’s humor and irreverence even in the face of more serious and momentous events. While both shows share themes and a specific charm, Torchwood is interested in larger, more ambiguous questions. Torchwood is a complex show in that the big questions and dilemmas are neither answered easily nor neatly. Death is omnipresent in the series and is handled in direct, sometimes uncomfortable ways, but its always authentically presented in the context of the episode. Rather than taking the easy or well established way out, Torchwood upends many of the tropes that have come to be associated with a science fiction series, and in turn, it sometimes offers less traditionally satisfying resolutions. Torchwood is the rare series that manages to bring the equally bizarre and epic to life while still maintaining consistent characterization and emotional resonance. Culminating in the excellent five-part Torchwood: Children of Earth, the UK series goes out in a big way, both in terms of story and character portrayal. In fact, the final chapter of the UK series is the most ambitious and shocking in a series filled with such events. J.M. Suarez


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Fat Girl - The Criterion Collection Blu-ray

Director: Catherine Breillat
Cast: Anais Reboux, Roxane Mesquida, Libero de Rienzo, Arsinee Khanjian, Romain Goupil


Fat Girl - The Criterion Collection: Blu-ray
The Criterion Collection

Remembered mostly for its infamous sex scene, complaints of child pornography and its shocking finale, Fat Girl is actually Catherine Breillat’s most sensitive, accessible work. Within its grotesque structure, the provocative filmmaker finds a realistic look at sibling relationships and sexual awakening. When the film begins, we meet Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) an obese, precocious, 13-year-old. In the best fairy tale tradition, she walks through the woods with her classically beautiful sister Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who’s 15. The sisters discuss sex. Elena, who has done everything but actual penetration, still talks about meeting someone special to whom she can give her virginity. Anaïs looks at her contemptuously, calls her a slut and then confesses she would never lose her virginity with someone she loved. Instead she would rather lose it to a total stranger, who then would have no rights over her. Jose Solís Mayén


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The Sacrifice: 2-Disc Remastered Edition

(US DVD: 28 Jun 2011)


The Sacrifice: 2-Disc Remastered Edition

There is an overwhelming feeling of sadness that pervades upon realizing that The Sacrifice was Andrei Tarkovsky’s last film. Throughout the movie there’s a distinctive elegiac feeling, as if the filmmaker was giving his all, knowing that this would be the last time he would be able to put his ideas onscreen. Of course, this could very well be said of almost every film in Trakovsky’s oeuvre. During a career that spanned a little over two decades, the Russian filmmaker crafted just seven works, each more affecting and mature than the previous one. From the dark ode to youth that was Ivan’s Childhood to his stunning Stalker which was sci-fi by way of The Wizard of Oz , Tarkovsky specialized in creating haunting artworks that resonate because of their extreme melancholy and existentialist wonderment. To watch his films in chronological order allows you to deduce a sequence of sorts in which we see him create a dialogue with a supreme force he wasn’t even sure even existed. Jose Solís Mayén


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The Complete Jean Vigo - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

Director: Jean Vigo
Cast: Michel Simon, Jean Dasté, Dita Parlo, Louis Lefebvre, Louis Berger


The Complete Jean Vigo - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection

Few filmmakers can deem their entire filmography to be absolutely flawless and influential, yet upon his death at the ripe age of 29, Jean Vigo left behind a truly incomparable filmic legacy: he made four movies in the space of four years, all of them truly magnificent exercises in filmic poetry and each of them topping the previous one in terms of artistry and beauty. Criterion once again shows immeasurable passion for the preservation of film classics and besides restoring Vigo’s first three films to luminous perfection, they have gone and remastered his last film L’Atalante to such pristine levels that you won’t avoid but be transfixed by its gorgeousness. Widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made—and almost quite certainly the most romantic—L’Atalante is rivaled only by Citizen Kane in terms of pushing the medium of cinema beyond what anyone would’ve expected. It’s a true pleasure to see that Criterion has done such great justice to Jean Vigo’s limited, but absolutely essential filmography. In terms of pure worth for your money value, this set demands to be seen, owned and studied. It’s a true thing of beauty. Jose Solís Mayén


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The Street: Complete Series

(BBC One; US DVD: 18 Oct 2011)


The Street: Complete Series

If there has ever been a television series that has come within inches of perfection it’s The Street, a show that is as touching, real, and thought provoking as the best literature. This British television drama lasted three seasons (or ‘series’ in the parlance of British TV lovers) and a new DVD set that collects all 18 episodes across six discs is a textbook example of great acting and writing. Set in a working class neighborhood in Manchester, The Street examines how minor revelations and everyday secrets transform our lives suddenly, inexplicably, inevitably. Throughout, the characters are fully human and behave as such—they rely on each other for guidance and for answers (when it becomes difficult to establish the nationality of a character in “Asylum” no one opens their laptop and performs a Google search, a sure sign that the series is doing something right), whether that guidance or those answers are right or wrong. There are no bonus features on this set but that hardly matters; in a way, the absence of any such materials only enhances the experience and allows us to believe that maybe everything we’ve seen across those 18 hours is more real than we imagined. Jedd Beaudoin


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The Times of Harvey Milk - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

Director: Robert Epstein
Cast: Harvey Milk, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Kronenberg, Tory Hartmann, Tom Ammiano


The Life and Times of Harvey Milk - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection

In January of 1985, a documentary filmmaker named Robert Epstein stood to receive the first Oscar ever given to a film that dealt with gay and lesbian history. In thanking the academy and his colleagues for recognizing his work on The Times of Harvey Milk, Epstein made Oscar history a second time by publicly thanking his male partner for his love and support. Epstein would follow up this success with the award winning Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt and a host of other documentary and narrative projects, including the 2010 film, Howl.

If you are not familiar with Epstein’s work, you almost certainly know Gus Van Sant’s Milk, an extraordinary evocation of a time, a place and a hero of human rights and American civil liberties. Sean Penn’s performance, perhaps the finest of his career, lifted an already extraordinary story into the sublime. If you loved, and learned, from the bio-pic, you must see Criterion’s release of Epstein’s academy award winning documentary. Criterion has worked its usual magic in revitalizing and sharpening a film now more than a quarter of a century old. Absolutely packed with important historic featurettes beyond the usually “making of” material, this is an essential document for educators, scholars, activists and filmmlovers. W. Scott Poole


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The Ricky Gervais Show - Season One


The Ricky Gervais Show - The Complete First Season
Warner Bros.

He’s either the greatest creation ever by a comedic mind or a piece of found genius. He’s so out of step with the real world that he actually believes the BS he reports as “Monkey” news while questioning the very fabric of individual existence. He’s Karl Pilkington and the obvious star of Ricky Gervais’ animated version of his classic podcasts. As a TV series, the cartooning looks a lot like the Hanna-Barbera of the late ‘50s/early ‘60s. The humor, however, is straight out of the new millennium, a self referential riot where everything is meta and means more/nothing to anyone listening. If idiocy is Zen, then Karl is its king… and The Ricky Gervais Show is it amazing outlet. Bill Gibron


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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection

Fear and Loathing may not have the faithful followers of The Big Lebwoski, but it has all of its brilliant scenes, memorable lines, and absurd characters. Yet it also has none of the accessibility. The only way to get in is to fully engross yourself; to embody the mentality of Gonzo Journalism completely; to become a part of the movie as no other film has asked you to do. It sounds abstract and pompous as I write it, but Gilliam has always forced his viewers to accept and embrace or reject and detest his work. Whether it was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Twelve Monkeys, or Brazil (another member of the Criterion collection), he is a director who challenges you and accepts either reaction, as long as its extreme. Fear and Loathing is not a film to watch for two hours—it’s a mentality needing to be embraced. Like the invented medium responsible for its literary inception, Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing marks the most spectacular failure of modern moviemaking. Ben Travers

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