|Pirates of the Caribbean
This visually lush adventure follows a young blacksmith who enlists the aid of Capt. Jack Sparrow to rescue the governor’s kidnapped daughter from pirate captain Barbossa and his cursed crew of “living dead” cutthroats. Gore Verbinski’s cast obviously has great fun – Johnny Depp’s Sparrow is a work of mischievous thespian abandon.
Zhang Yimou’s flight-and-fight fantasy action film tackles an ancient Chinese legend about an emperor dealing with the threat of assassination. Driven by an absolute all-star cast, the plot takes a back seat to allow the action and stunning, vibrant images to unfold, while giving characters and a love story room to develop.
|Charlie Chaplin Box Set – Vol. 1
The most popular ragamuffin of his era gets his proper due, thanks to an excellent digital transfer and remastered sound. This first two-disc set contains Modern Times, Gold Rush, The Great Dictator and Limelight. Extras include penetrating comments by Belgian filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne.
Like his previous Pelíšky, Jan Hřebejk’s movie about life behind the Iron Curtain enjoyed considerable local success as well as some deserved international attention. This bittersweet story focuses on two families dealing with the Communist regime in their own ways, and an artist whose work goes largely ignored for political reasons.
|Stereolab – Margarine Eclipse
The passing of Mary Hansen in 2002 left Stereolab without one of its most versatile members, but the band reentered the studio and has emerged with its newest opus. Masterfully artistic, albeit not groundbreaking, this material ranges from experimental noise repetition to cutesy pop-rock, layered between elegant French and English vocals.
|Virginia Rodrigues – Sol Negro
African-Brazilian Rodrigues’ 12-song debut has a fresh and delightfully idiosyncratic take on both new material and some standards from the Latin lexicon. With her rich contralto voice dripping with operatic intonation, while cool-school jazz arrangements, solitary harp, or bossa nova guitar set elegant backdrops for her startling but gentle vocals.
|Doves – Lost Sides
This 2003 release is a compilation of B-sides & rarities from the UK’s favorite post-psychedlia band. Unlike many “B-side” albums, this could easily be a “normal” release with prime cuts. Aside from a couple of unfortunate moments when they come dangerously close to sounding like Oasis, this is great, dreamy, rocking Doves stuff.
|Sondre Lerche – Two-Way Monologue
The follow up to the critically-acclaimed “Faces Down”, Lerche’s second album is a tour-de-force of breath-taking diversity and rich imagination. The 21-year old Norwegian recalls artists like Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach, Rufus Wainwright, and Cole Porter on tracks ranging from acoustic ballads and symphonic variations to uplifting pop anthems.