|55 Days at Peking
This historical epic with its all-star cast, set in China in 1900, focuses on the infamous Boxer Rebellion. During 55 days of riots, a few hundred officials from western countries like Great Britain, France, Germany, and the US struggled against an onslaught of over 130,000 Chinese warriors. Although Nicholas Ray began the film, some battle scenes were directed by Andrew Marton.
|House of Sand and Fog
Adapted from Andre Dubus III’s novel by Shawn Otto and first-time director Vadim Perelman, this film is a slow-moving but heart-wrenching tragedy of errors. Perelman tightens the screws with meticulous deliberation – it’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion, punctuated with excellent acting and the ominous chords of James Horner’s music.
|Shaun of the Dead
Oblivious lower-middle-class Londoners slowly become aware that the dead are returning and trying to eat the living, in this film that comes across like a hybrid of George Romero and Mike Leigh. A crazy, creepy satire, Shaun pokes fun at the tropes of the zombie movie, but even more at the foibles of English life today.
|The Iron Giant
Directed by animation genius Brad Bird (of recent Incredibles fame), this cartoon feature is based on Ted Hughes’ award-winning story. Entertaining and touching, Bird’s fantastic fable teaches young viewers valuable lessons about friendship, trust, and the danger of jumping to unfounded conclusions.
|Miguel Migs – 24th Street sounds
Santa Cruz product Miguel Migs gently but firmly tears the roof off with his latest offering of sunny, uptempo chill and deep house tunes. Migs knows how to blend, and his positive energy creates a mood that would suit a grimy New York basement club as easily as a Riviera beach bash. A smooth ride, but also a relentless (and fantastic) dance record.
|Igor Stravinsky – The Great Ballets
An excellent two-disc compilation of the Russian maestro’s major ballet works, with superb performances of the London Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink’s baton. The conductor’s riveting interpretations of “Rite Of Spring” and “Petrouchka”, easily hold their own against other superb versions from the likes of Abbado, Bernstein, and Boulez.
|Mouse on Mars – Radical Connector
This duo, composed of German technophiliacs Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma, has spent nearly a decade trying to split the difference between noisy edit-tronica and dance-pop’s ass-shaking immediacy. Their latest album prompts some genuine dancefloor euphoria, with gauzy, throbbing tracks that rock both the body and the mind.
|Tom Waits – Small Change
The fourth release in Tom Waits’ series of skid row travelogues, Small Change proved to be the archetypal album of his ’70s work. A jazz trio plus an occasional string section backed Waits and his piano on songs steeped in whiskey and atmosphere, in which he alternates between sentimental bum and sleazoid barker, croaking his eloquence and reciting jazzy poetry. Uneven, but a seminal Waits recording.