V for Vendetta James McTeigue V, the hero of this dystopic fantasy, is a modern Guy Fawkes, the 17th century Romanist who tried to blow up Parliament. Four centuries later, he is a masked man with a mission: to expose, and explode, the state's dictatorial power. Scripters Andy and Larry Wachowski match their work on The Matrix, fashioning a ripping action yarn that is also a provocative political statement (justifying violence against authority). This V is for Vivid, Vexing and Very good. Petulia Richard Lester Gorgeous, desperately madcap Petulia (Julie Christie) needs a Galahad to rescue her from marriage to a handsome brute (Richard Chamberlain). She chooses Archie (George C. Scott), a surgeon who has just left his wife (Shirley Knight). Released in 1968, this astringent love story, which Lester (A Hard Day's Night) chopped up and brilliantly reassembled for the DVD, is full of awkward tenderness and eruptions of violence. It's a flawless, essential study of despair and compassion. Brick Rian Johnson
The joke in this cunning debut film is not that a hard-boiled detective yarn is spun out in a modern high school and peopled mostly by teenagers. It's that the joke is not a joke at all but a pertinent metaphor for that vulnerable time of life when every street looks mean, every love affair could be fatal. Written in 1997, shot in 2003 (for less than $500,000) and finally released early this year, Brick is so handsomely made, so insolently assured, that you have to wonder what took the moneymen so long to realize that Johnson had talent. May it not be another nine years before his next film.
Seduced and Abandoned Pietro Germi Germi's lunar eclipse of a dark comedy, which followed his Divorce Italian Style, suggests Preston Sturges run riot in Sicily. In this lunatic 1964 retooling of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (unwanted pregnancy, frantic attempt to get the girl married, small town in an uproar), Botticelli-beautiful Stefania Sandrelli is Agnese, a lamb led to the slaughter of her ideals by a father, a family and a society that values honor (status) over honesty. Germi's tireless cinematic inventiveness matches his furious pace in a magnificent satire that leaves the viewer exhausted, angry and grateful.
Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Michael Winterbottom Warning to college students: Don't rent this movie as video Cliffs Notes for that Laurence Sterne "classic" you have no intention of reading. Do rent it to see what happened to Brit humor after Monty Python. TV eminences Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star in this postmodernist jape, which keeps interrupting the novel's tale to focus on the offscreen agitations of the cast. Since the Coogan-Brydon banter gave the film much of its brio, their very funny commentary on the DVD amounts to a second deconstruction of the entertaining shambles that is Shandy.