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Michael Atkinson

The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010 (photo)

The Ten Best Straight-to-DVD Releases of 2010

For the fifth year running, we tally up the Other Year’s Best — the films that made it to DVD (or onto U.S. home video in any format) but not to theatrical, which generally meant they posed too much of a marketing challenge. As in, the films were either too odd, too original, too archival, […]

“Apocalypse Now” and Forever, Thanks to a Definitive New Blu-ray Edition (photo)

“Apocalypse Now” and Forever, Thanks to a Definitive New Blu-ray Edition

Like a mega-mind Great American Novel or hundred-hour Wagnerian opera cycle, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” remains larger than our concept or evaluation of it, larger than its director’s quasi-cosmic ambitions, larger, really, than itself. Any brief history of movies’ most astonishing follies — which translates to cinema’s biggest badass landmarks, if not necessarily the […]

The Dark Backward: The Secret of George Clooney’s Success (photo)

The Dark Backward: The Secret of George Clooney’s Success

You gotta wonder, in our pimply-faced, iCarly-ed, CGI-stoned, giant-fucking-robots-&-superheroes teenage CandyLand, where the millions of dollars “young adults” somehow obtain to spend on everything overrule the rest of us and Hollywood movies rarely get made if they do not beg for a pubertal audience, what the deal is with George Clooney. Just skill, intelligence, good […]

“The Secret of the Grain” and “Living Room Cinema Vol. 1” on DVD (photo)

“The Secret of the Grain” and “Living Room Cinema Vol. 1” on DVD

Nobody ever said movies were easy to make. Still, I don’t know anyone who isn’t more or less reliably dissatisfied with what they see on contemporary screens — all nostalgia for past golden ages aside, most new films, even when they’re dazzling or rigorous, feel undernourishing, gimmicky, ephemeral. There are all kinds of accomplishments possible […]

“A Town Called Panic” and Loads of Noir on DVD (photo)

“A Town Called Panic” and Loads of Noir on DVD

There seems to be no exhausting the raw eyeball pleasure to be had from old-fashioned handmade (or semi-handmade, or whatever) animation, and we may be well living through a pop renaissance of it. The eruptions below the Pixar/Dreamworks budget tier have been spectacular and international, beginning perhaps with 2003’s “The Triplets of Belleville,” learning from […]

“Terribly Happy” and “Chicago” on DVD (photo)

“Terribly Happy” and “Chicago” on DVD

A laconic, creepy, Danish-Coen-brothers cascade of pure trouble, Henrik Ruben Genz’s “Terribly Happy” is a terrific example of a film traveling well-worn style and content paths and yet somehow never striking us as clich├ęd or even tired. Helplessly, critics bellyache about movies that repeat experiences they’ve had many times before, whereas the average moviegoer has […]

“Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on DVD (photo)

“Steamboat Bill Jr.” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on DVD

Chaplin may have enjoyed being regarded as the premier film artiste and the silent era’s great artist for much of the 20th century, but everyone knows by now that he was a winkingly clever, crass, desperate populist compared to Buster Keaton. Though only moderately successful in his heyday, and ruined with the coming of sound, […]

“The White Ribbon” and “Divided Heaven” on DVD (photo)

“The White Ribbon” and “Divided Heaven” on DVD

Approaching 70 years of age, Michael Haneke is one of the best we’ve got, a filmmaker you wait for to save any given year in the last decade from banality, sloppiness and forgettability. His run since the turn of the century (excluding, I think, the unnecessary 2007 American remake of the nastily high-handed “Funny Games”) […]

“Death Race 2000” and “Bluebeard” on DVD (photo)

“Death Race 2000” and “Bluebeard” on DVD

It’s not difficult to let yourself get carried away by full-bore dystopian satires like “Death Race 2000” (1975), for a landfill full of reasons. Two immediately pop into mind: on one hand, unsavory poppycock like Roger Corman and Paul Bartel’s infamous film make plain the simple fact that science fiction, when it’s done properly, isn’t […]

“Mary and Max” and “Burma VJ” on DVD (photo)

“Mary and Max” and “Burma VJ” on DVD

There’s something unearthly and hilarious, all too familiar and vividly unhuman, about caricatured claymation when it’s done well, and that qualmy, hypnotizing something oozes out of Adam Elliot’s “Mary and Max” like a ruptured yolk. Elliott, an Oscar winner for animated shorts, is easily the peer of the Aardman herd, and his textures and visual […]