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Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 04:39 am

Three of the year's best

This month, skip the cineplex and rent these great flicks from ’06

Untitled Document January is traditionally the worst month for movies. Hollywood releases its best product at the end of the year, then dumps the junk in January. With awards season upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the best films of 2006. The current blockbuster mentality prohibits the wide release of many of the best films, and smaller markets such as Springfield are forced to wait for the DVD release. The following three films are among the best and most challenging released in the United States last year, and all can be found in your neighborhood video store. Don’t Come Knocking (2005) is the latest American film from director Wim Wenders, one of the major proponents of the New German Cinema of the ’70s. Wenders may not inspire as much fanboy fanaticism as fellow countryman Werner Herzog, but he makes better films. Sam Shepard is the writer and star of this story of a has-been cowboy star who casually abandons a movie production to return home to Montana. His visit brings a few surprises, including grown children he didn’t know he had. Shepard imbues the character of a womanizing alcoholic with an unexpected dopey innocence. Few subjects are as disturbing as child molestation, but Hard Candy (2005) manages to shock in ways that are completely unexpected. The story begins typically: A teenage girl (Ellen Page) makes contact with a man (Patrick Wilson) over the Internet, and they agree to meet at a restaurant. Their instant rapport will give anyone the creeps. He charms her and takes her back to his house. If you think you know where the story is going, though, you are sadly mistaken. I won’t reveal any more of the plot, but I guarantee that some moments will make you squirm. Page is a revelation, and I predict that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the near future. The Belgian film Calvaire (2004) is an arthouse version of those backwoods psycho thrillers, but comparisons to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are a bit misleading. Calvaire also begins typically: A young singer’s van break down as he travels along foggy backroads to a gala show. A kindly innkeeper takes him in and offers to repair the van. The innkeeper’s odd quirks are gradually revealed to be signs of full-blown madness, and the innkeeper holds the singer hostage, claiming that he is the innkeeper’s estranged wife. Yes, you read that correctly. Many films show us madness, but here the film itself is deranged.
New on DVD this Tuesday (Jan. 30):
One Night with the King, Open Season, 
Flyboys, Catch a Fire, Facing the Giants, 
The Marine, Unknown, and The Motel.
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