Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Best-of-2016 list is led by a tiny treasure firing on all cylinders: Antonio Campos/Craig Shilowich/Rebecca Hall's CHRISTINE

Coming on the heels of one of the year's worst documentaries, purportedly on the same subject but shockingly pretentious, empty and stupid (Kate Plays Christine), the amazing narrative version of the story of Florida TV personality, Christine Chubbuck -- titled simply Christine and directed by Antonio Campos, from a screenplay by Craig Shilowich, starring the great Rebecca Hall (above and below) in her finest performance yet -- works almost perfectly on every level, from simple and effective storytelling to its depiction of a vanished time and place (Sarasota, Florida, in the 1970s). Ms Hall's uncanny performance is the best by an actor, male or female, that I have seen all year (for several years, actually, perhaps during this entire new millennium). Best of all, the film explores its subject from many angles, finally doing real justice and honor to a difficult personality, her life and career. This is a model movie in every way, one against which all further bio-pic narratives will need to be judged. (You can read my complete review of the film by clicking here.)

Below, in alphabetical order, are the rest of my "bests" for 2016 -- (click on each title link if you want to read my earlier coverage of that movie) -- which proved another great year for foreign films, independents and documentaries, despite its leaving us (illegally, I suspect, via vote tampering and voter suppression) with the worst. most egregious sleazebag possible as President of the United States.

As usual, my list is long. There were simply too many excellent movies to have to limit the list to ten. Certain films (Gods of Egypt) found themselves here due as much to their utter and inappropriate rejection by critics and audiences, greatly influenced, one suspects, by all the pre-judging via internet. Others (Beautiful Something) were such a resounding surprise that they managed to move outside their specific genre, while yet others (The Love Witch, and Sam Klemke's Time Machine) were so unique, bizarre and riveting that they create their own genre.

So, even as we move onward and downward, socially and politically, we may also move upward, so far as films are concerned -- if the following 52 titles are any indication....

AFERIM!  Romania's entry into the BFLF Oscar sweeps was overlooked by the Academy, but it's a better movie than the winning film, Son of Saul. (Aferim! didn't cover the WWII Holocaust, so of course it couldn't compete.) Radu Jude's bleak but comedic look at history and the persecution of gypsies is like little you'll have previously seen.

APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD  Gorgeous, inventively old-fashioned animation coupled to an entrancing tale. Kids and adults should simultaneously go gaga.

ART BASTARD  The art industry eviscerated via one artist's nifty little story and career. A must-see.

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING  The gay film of the year: as artful and empathetic as it is dreamlike and sexual.

BEING 17  The latest and one of the best from André Téchiné explores the relationship of two high school boys in the French provinces.

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT  Gloriously funny satire targeting religion, modern society and lots more in this Belgian bonanza all about god's backstory.

BY SIDNEY LUMET  A wonderful and riveting appreciation of one of Hollywood's great, undersung directors -- done mostly via his own words and accompanying pix.

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC  The family film of the year -- all about how to "teach your children well," along with the intended and unintended results of same.

COLLIDING DREAMS  One of the best and most thought-provoking documentaries about Israel, its history and place in the today's world.

THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ  The year's most transgressive movie doubles as a nifty little thriller that's sharp, fast and -- yikes! -- feminist!

DE PALMA  Another first-rate doc about a moviemaker (see By Sidney Lumet, above) in which the moviemakers and that director cover just about his entire oeuvre.

EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO  Peter Greenaway explores Eisenstein and his sexuality in a movie that's as capacious, gorgeous and full of temptation as our hero's Mexican lover's cock.

EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT  The third world as seldom (if ever) seen in this black-and-white marvel about the meanings and results of colonization.

FATIMA  The French choice for Best Film of the Year is simplicity itself, while working beautifully on just about every level.

FIREWORKS WEDNESDAY  Another of Asghar Farhadi's older Iranian movies, only this year finally getting a theatrical release. As good as, if not better, than his others.

GERMANS & JEWS  This "discussion" documentary is a bracing, must-see addition to the continuing history of both Germany and Jews.

GODS OF EGYPT  Yep. Not simply "better-than-you've-heard," but the closest thing to a modern-day Thief of Bagdad that has yet appeared. Delightful, crazy fun.

GREEN ROOM  The year's best, fastest, tightest thriller, and yet another reason to mourn the untimely passing of that wonderful young actor, Anton Yelchin.

THE HANDMAIDEN  A knockout melding of sex, story and style from South Korea's Park Chan-wook. The most visually gorgeous movie of this beauty-packed year.

HELL OR HIGH WATER  This modern western, as good as the genre gets, also offers up the way we live now to a sad, desolate "t."

HOMO SAPIENS  Photography as plot, character and theme in Nikolaus Geyrhalter's ode to the beauty to be found in desolation.

I, DANIEL BLAKE  Ken Loach has lost none of his ability to move and anger us at the plight of the unnecessarily downtrodden.

I KNEW HER WELL   The best film ever made about a woman, this practically unknown but great, humane and encompassing Italian movie from 1965 only this year saw its at-last! theatrical and home-video release on these shores.

INDIGNATION  James Schamus' first directorial effort doubles as the best Philip Roth on film so far. A beautiful, sorrowful period piece.

THE INNOCENTS  Anne Fontaine's best is also one of the year's deepest and most profound tales of faith and caring.

THE KIND WORDS  From Israel, a family film about siblings, parenting and parentage that will charm and surprise you.

LAMB  Ross Partridge's tale of caring, trust and betrayal is so unusual that, even if you're not as smitten as TM was, I suspect you won't be able to deny the power of this strange and moving fable.

LONDON ROAD  The year's best -- and most original -- musical, this knockout will only seem better once the home video version is released, with English subtitles, we hope, so that we can really savor all those great "lyrics."

LOOK WHO'S BACK  I believe that the only place you can see this provocative German comedy that concerns the "return" of Hitler (and no, its not about Donald Trump) is via Netflix streaming. This is one brave, smart, hilarious experience.

LOST AND BEAUTIFUL  A documentary about so many things -- Italy, labor, animals, history and more -- that come together as a glorious, mystifying whole.

LOVE & FRIENDSHIP  Maybe the best Jane Austen adaptation so far. Whit Stillman and Kate Beckinsale excel -- and then some.

THE LOVE WITCH  This one-of-a-kind movie has stayed with me longer and more firmly that I would have imagined. Hence its inclusion here. (A number of other critics were impressed, as well, so try it.)

MIA MADRE   From Italy, an exquisite little film about mothers and movie-making that surprises and enchants.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  Kenneth Lonergan's look at how we live with guilt is is a profound experience (also lively, humorous and angry) not to be missed

MARGUERITE  The French version of Florence Foster Jenkins is by far the better movie. Rich, beautiful, mysterious, moving and funny.

MOONLIGHT  Personal filmmaking raised to a very high level of accessible art, this tale of growing up black and gay in the Miami area is as rich and resonant as movies come.

MY BIG NIGHT  The year's best, most energetic and lively comedy -- so fast, furious and filled with incident and characters that you'll have to work hard to keep up. It is more than worth the effort.

NOT FILM  All about Samuel Beckett, his Film, his being, and his work (and so much else, especially filmmaking itself). This one-of-a-kind documentary should prove catnip even to those who are not Beckett fans.

NUTS!  Penny Lane's delightful doc about an American of a century past who may remind you of a certain Mr. Trump.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME  Based on real events, this French movie about teaching, learning and the Holocaust is marvelous and moving in both the lessons imparted and how these are executed.

RABIN: THE LAST DAY  Amos Gitai's important and provocative look at Israeli history, with emphasis on the life and death of Yitzhak Rabin.

SAM KLEMKE'S TIME MACHINE  An original and then some, this modest-but-amazing documentary about one very ordinary fellow and his attempt to capture his own life and times is made quite special via the intelligence brought to it by the filmmaker, Matthew Bate.

THE SIMILARS  Low-budget sci-fi/fantasy doesn't get any better -- or more fun -- than this little treasure from Mexico's Isaac Ezban.

SING STREET  John Carney hits three-for-three in his latest film demonstrating how music can change and better your life.

SERIAL KILLER 1  A disturbing, provocative French film about the search for and meaning of justice -- for criminal and victims alike.

STARVING THE BEAST  An important documentary all about the current and seemingly lasting assault on public higher education.

TALE OF TALES  Matteo Garrone's wonderful dark fairy tale explores some of the work of a famous Italian fabulist. Rich, playful, inventive and gorgeous.

THEO WHO LIVED  This amazing doc about a journalist who actually survived his terrorist kidnapping is told by the victim himself and is all the more riveting and thoughtful for this telling.

THE THOUGHTS THAT ONCE WE HAD  Thom Andersen's latest doc about movies and life and history and what connects it all is as personal and pleasurable as you'd expect from his past work.

VITA ACTIVA: THE SPIRIT OF HANNAH ARENDT  The best of any of the films involving the great Ms Arendt that we've so far seen, this doc explores the writer's ideas and connects them to her -- and our -- lives.

WEINER-DOG  Todd Solondz's latest look at our dark side filled with humor and hypocrisy to the max.

THE WITNESS  Kitty Genovese finally gets her due in this fine documentary that turns her -- at last -- into something so much more than mere victim.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Netflix streaming tip: Oliver Stone's THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is more than worth its twelve-hour running time

If you are familiar with certain "alternative" history books that cover the real story of the U.S.A. -- say, Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States -- or peruse the pages of the progressive magazine, The Nation, much that you'll see and hear in the new documentary series, THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, will be familiar. But this does not mean that you won't be any less hooked by this excellent piece of sifting/judging/reporting of much that has happened down the decades, even as the U.S. public was being told the opposite.

Director and co-writer (with Matt Graham and Peter Kuznick) Oliver Stone, shown at right, has (or at least had) a reputation for outrage and in-your-face moviemaking that has been tamped down considerably here. This is all to the good, since Stone and his team are telling us things that many Americans will not want to hear or accept, and so his careful rendering and explaining (it's Stone's quiet, measured and easy-to-listen-to voice we mostly hear narrating), interspersed with those of many of the historical figures -- from the greatly-known (like Churchill, Stalin and Hitler) to the less-so but, it turns out, vitally important to know and understand, such as Roosevelt's Vice-President Henry Wallace (two photos below) and a certain popular and greatly-decorated soldier named Smedley Butler (shown just below: for more on Butler, click here), who served the U.S. in war after war but who finally took stock of his own career by saying that he had continually served the interests of the corporations and the powerful rather than those of the American people.

That the USA is still serving those interests, as much today as then, is a large part of the series' theme, and the filmmakers flesh this out with plenty of ammunition and panache. Much of the information presented us is verifiable, and when it is conjecture, it is backed up with enough history and reasoning to pass muster.

It is not a pretty picture of the USA as any kind of leader regarding democracy -- neither here at home nor worldwide. It has of course outraged the conservative right, but it should prove a near-perfect entry into the upcoming "reign" of Donald Trump. At the end of that reign, it will be interesting to see, if any of us still remain, how much of what we learned here was practiced all over again -- enriching the wealthy, corporate and powerful while leaving the rest of us further bereft.

Caveats: I could have done with much less interspersing of movie clips throughout. The series does not need these, and they merely call attention to their own "fictional" feel. Some of what we see, thanks to the organization of the series, is repetitive. And while it appears to end with a moving and rousing tenth chapter, there are actually two more -- eleven and twelve -- that are very much worth seeing, even if some of these final two hours, particularly the last, is initially quite repetitive. Yet there is so much important information to be gained here, too, that I was very glad I'd finished the entire twelve chapters.

Originally made for Showtime, with a few early chapters making their debut at The New York Film Festival a few years back, the entire series, running nearly twelve hours, is available now to stream on Netflix. It is worth every one of those hours.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Netflix streaming tip: Chris Kelly's smart dying-mom movie, OTHER PEOPLE

If the idea of viewing a film about a dying mother and the family that gathers around her sounds like a downer, the very first scene of OTHER PEOPLE, the much-loved Sundance movie that, as so often happens, died at the box-office, should easily set your mind at rest, even as your funny bone is alerted. That scene, in which immediate grief is interrupted by a phone call, is a low-key but hilarious surprise. And the rest of the movie follows along in similar style. Beautifully acted and written, and directed with unshowy precision, the movie is a quiet triumph.

The writer and director is a fellow named Chris Kelly (at right), who has earned his stripes writing for Saturday Night Live and elsewhere, yet the movie has none of SNL's often grating mediocrity and repetitiveness. Mr. Kelly knows what he's up to, and he does it very well. He has gathered a terrific cast to play those family members and friends, led by Jesse Plemons, as the son, and SNL alumnus Molly Shannon as his mom. Both are first-rate, revealing along the way levels of struggle and pain, intelligence and humor that provide a very nice mix.

The other cast members do fine, unshowy work, as well, and by the end of this 97-minute movie, you'll feel as though you've lived through something. And enjoyed it. The sub-theme here is of a young, gay man searching for family acceptance. While this ground has been tread numerous times already, thanks to Kelly's smart specificity regarding character coupled to Plemons' wonderfully rich performance, we see this struggle as though for the first time.

The characters here -- family members and friends alike -- all seem real and individual. Spending time with them proves alternately surprising and engaging, making Other People one of the year's loveliest oddball treats. The movie is out now on DVD and available to stream via Netflix.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Prepare to feel, and deeply, as Ken Loach and Paul Laverty's I, DANIEL BLAKE hits theaters

So real you can practically taste, smell and breathe in the anger that will rise from your stomach through your chest and into your throat as you experience I, DANIEL BLAKE, the new and (as usual) quiet provocation from director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty, this is a movie that will break your heart without leaving your brain in any way undernourished.

In dealing with the story of one man trying his best to navigate the British health and unemployment systems, Loach (pictured at right) and Laverty (below, left) have contributed their own gift to this year's trilogy of citizens-against-the-system movies -- beginning with Mexico's alarming Monster With a Thousand Heads, continuing with the Chinese-Canadian Old Stone, and now this: the best of the lot so far. In his fine screenplay, Laverty places life and truth above melodrama and contrivance, while
Loach directs with his usual flair for the kind of in-the-moment/ dead-on-believable behavior that thrusts us headlong into things.
(There is one exception: Daniel's discovery of his lady friend Katie's new employment, which smacks of the sort of coincidence found regularly on Downton Abbey. Yet, so hooked are you likely to be at this point in the film's unfurling that the moment ought not be a deal-breaker.) Mr. Loach has long given us character-driven movies that are also filled with event. This is the case here, as well, and Daniel Blake is certainly among the great character "everymen" to grace the modern film canon.

Daniel (a so-real-it-hurts performance by Dave Johns, shown below, right and on poster top) is a kind, decent, even talented man just entering his senior years, who has been felled by a heart attack and cannot go back to work until his is deemed "better." But thanks to a stupid glitch in the bureaucracy, he is meanwhile being denied the benefits he needs to live on while he heals.

In a society where the individual counted for anything, this kind of glitch would be quickly taken care of. But not in Britain. Not today. So our hero is put back and forth through the proverbial mill until he and we are ready to crack. To their credit, Loach and Laverty make villains of the bureaucracy and the way it works rather than the bureaucrats themselves - a few of whom even rise to the occasion and actually do something helpful. But the way the system has been set up is designed to crush both the body and the spirit -- and goddamned if it doesn't do that job just splendidly.

At the unemployment office (or whatever the Brits call this sort of thing), Daniel meets Katie (a sad, spunky and commanding performance from Hayley Squires, above, right), the mother of two young kids, both of whom are adorable and one of whom clearly has a touch of maybe Aspergers. As Katie, too, is given the run-around, Daniel rises to her defense, and though they are both asked to leave, a bond has formed.

The movie explores this bond, while we watch Daniel try to do everything the system asks of him, to little avail. We meet his charming neighbors (who are themselves helpful), watch him as he takes a class in Preparing Your CV, pad along as he does the stupid and unnecessary job search (for which, even if hired, he is not allowed to accept),

And on it all goes. It would be ceaseless woe, not only for Daniel but for us viewers, were not the movie so full of life and humor and absolute importance. At any point along the way, all it would take would be one single person who wields even a modicum of power to have said, "Oh, something is wrong here." And then to simply right that wrong. But nobody does. And the one woman who actually tries to do something is then disciplined for her effort.

I, Daniel Blake is simultaneously and consistently heartbreaking and wonderful -- an unusual combination, to say the least. The film is certainly one of this year's best, and this holiday-time opening will be, for progressive-minded film-goers out there, the most wonderful kind of Christmas/Chanukah present imaginable.

From Sundance Selects/IFC Films and running 100 minutes, the movie opens today, Friday, December 23, in New York City at the IFC Center and the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. Elsewhere. To be sure, in the weeks to come. I don't have cities and dates just yet, but you can periodically click here and then click on the bright green link WATCH NOW to lean if the film is playing anywhere near you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pablo Larraín's JACKIE--interesting but not up to the level of his Neruda--opens nationwide

Natalie Portman certainly gives herself over to the fraught and fragile emotional state of the semi-heroine character she plays in JACKIE, the second of the fantasia-type biopics that director Pablo Larraín has given us within the space of a couple of weeks (his other is Neruda, a tale of Chilean poet/politician Pablo Neruda). Ms Portman, Señor Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim (shown below) have conspired to give us an imagined time in the life of the legendary Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis that takes place during an interview with a journalist some time after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, who was at her side when he was killed in Dallas in November of 1963.

Fantasia this may be -- much of what we see indeed happened, but much also has been "imagined" in terms of the feelings and even the verbiage we hear from the various players in the game of politics, personalities and history that is served up here -- but it is most definitely a warts-and-all fantasia, for in Jackie the movie, Jackie the woman comes off as quite the controlling and entitled player in the charade served up here. Even so, the movie manages to includes a few highly emotional and compelling scenes -- a blood-splattered death tends to serve this purpose well -- along with a few choice and cynical moments of high humor. ("I don't smoke," our Jackie tells that journalist, after we -- and he -- have seen her puffing away on countless cigarettes.)

Jackie controls what is "off" and "on" the record, all right, just as she appears to do in her handling of plans for the funeral cortege for the dead President. We get reams of specifics here in Mr. Oppenheim's screenplay, but most of them turn out to be rather generic, showing or telling things we already know -- if we're old enough to have been around at the time of this national "loss." (That's Peter Sarsgaard, above, an interesting choice to play Bobby Kennedy.)

We're present at the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson (another good choice in John Carroll Lynch, center, right, above, with the great Beth Grant, center left, doing honors as Lady Bird). Among the many flashbacks are those with the local priest (a fine John Hurt) who counsels our heroine with, if not the usual cliches, still a bunch of religious/philosophical musings that will not exactly blow your mind.

We see that famous "White House tour" Jackie took us on via television back in the day (above), and we meet some of her entourage (in particular the very good, as ever, Greta Gerwig). And of course the assassination itself, which we come back to a time or two, to add some pizzazz to the proceedings.

There are lots of outfit changes, too -- the movie is a kind of fashion show of its day -- showing off Ms Portman to fine visual effect (the actress is a good deal more beautiful even than the original Jackie.)

It would appear to be the "interior" life of our heroine that Oppenheim, Larraín and Portman are going after, and they achieve this only to some extent. We're certainly there with Jackie as she flails then focuses, reaches out then pushes away. But all the specifics finally seem to be underscoring the obvious instead of revealing much that is new.

This is never more obvious than in the movie's resolutely pushing of the famous "Camelot" comparison -- which surfaces over and over and then ends the film. The movie is clear about the history/mythmaking goal of this Camelot nonsense. But so what? Unfortunately, it has simply added to that nonsense.

Ms Portman is as good as she is allowed to be. Thank god Larraín is a more subtle director than Darren Aronofsky, who pulled out all the stops and then invented a couple of new ones for Black Swan. Of course that won Portman her Oscar. I suspect that Jackie will prove a little too measured and even a tad too negative to garner Portman a second award. In terms of Larraín's work, this movie does not come up to the level of his Neruda, perhaps because of how deeply and well this Chilean director knows and understands that subject and personage. With Jackie, he seems to be relying more on conventional history, "imagined" though it may be.

In any case, the movie -- from Fox Searchlight and running 100 minutes -- after premiering in New York and Los Angeles a week or so back, opens across the country today, Wednesday, December 21. Here in South Florida you can find it in nearly one dozen theaters. Elsewhere? Sure. Simply click here and, if your local theaters don't pop right up, enter your zip code to find the nearest location.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

THE DEPARTMENT Q TRILOGY: Jussi Adler-Olsen and Nikolaj Arcel's top-notch Danish police procedurals hit home video

Better by some distance than the much-vaunted and hugely-successful Scandinavian behemoth, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, the three full-length films that comprise the current DEPARTMENT Q series (named for a newly organized "cold case" division of a Danish Police Department) are tighter, more focused, less florid and bizarre than that popular Lizbeth Salander trilogy. (Of course, those very negatives are seen as attributes by those of us who love Ms Lizbeth.)

As adapted from the novels by Jussi Adler-Olsen by Nikolaj Arcel (shown at right, who also wrote the original Dragon Tattoo film, as well as directing and co-writing the Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair), the trilogy has two directors: Mikkel Nørgaard (who helmed the first two films) and Hans Petter Moland (the last of them). So dark and driven are all three, however, that I don't think viewers will notice much difference in style. Molan's movie takes longer to click into gear. From there onwards, it moves like a house afire.

Each tale told by each film is complete unto itself, but I would suggest beginning with the first, THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES (Kvinden i buret), as it introduces us to the characters and to this new bureau, Department Q, and to its first "case" -- looking into what was ruled a suicide but now begins to looks more like a "missing person." Here, as in each of the films, motive is as important as all else, and as we learn details of the characters of each of the antagonists, it is difficult not to feel some sympathy for them, even if we cannot excuse their actions.

In "Keeper," we also learn of the problematic victim and her history, as our two protagonists, Carl (a terrific job by Nikolaj Lie Kaas as the troubled, driven and socially awkward  detective) and his new assistant, Assad (the fine Fares Fares, of the Easy Money series, who can quietly handle some of the team's toughest problems). These two are not your usual police procedural protagonists. Carl is heroic, all right, but he is as apt to get beaten up and thoroughly shamed as anything else. But he endures and drives forward.

Movie two is titled THE ABSENT ONE (Fasandræberne), and it is the longest and, for me, the best of the three. Dealing with bullying and entitlement and how these can grow into horrific behavior if not blocked early on, the movie watches as high-school-age kids go from beating their peers to worse, until one of them can no longer handle it all. She, Kimmie, is at the heart of this tale, and Danica Curcic (below) brings her character to splendid, dark life.

We are allowed much less empathy for the villains this time around -- Borgen's Pilou Asbæk  and Men & Chicken's David Dencik -- for they are upper-class nasties who seem not to have learned a thing from any of this, except to push harder, stronger and longer into death/destruction. The plotting is twisty, the investigation smart but believable, and the outcome awful, moving, and with a keen, deep sense of justice for all.

A CONSPIRACY OF FAITH (Flaskepost fra P), the final film in the trilogy, makes a good capper, as it delves into the subject of religious faith -- the belief in which sets off the terrible tale told here, while also making it possible for this film's villain (himself an abused product of faith gone haywire) to do and even get away with his awful deeds. This theme also gives us a chance to observe Assad's Muslim heritage, as well as Carl's complete lack of religious faith. (The dark ironies ever-present in these films shine through with an icy light.)

That villain -- played with stunningly cold reserve and sharp, surprising strength by Pål Sverre Hagen (above, right, of the Kon-Tiki remake) -- proves a formidable character, a man apparently unfettered by most of the feelings that might trouble the rest of us.

The scene of the disappearances -- children have gone missing -- is a countryside community of some visual beauty (unusual for this series), but what we learn of those children and their religiously stifled parents is enough to put us off "god" for good. Though this final film is slow to reach blast-off, once it does, you will be as breathless, frightened and maybe a tad hopeful as you were with the preceding installments.

For folk who love police procedurals, I would consider Department Q a "must." And if you've been somewhat disappointed with many of the other procedurals you've already seen, give Carl, Assad and these dark, Danish movies a shot. They're likely to be habit-forming.

From Sundance Selects/IFC Films, after a very limited theatrical release, the series hits DVD (with each film on a separate disc but in a single package) this coming Tuesday, December 20, for purchase and/or (individually) for rental. The three films can also be seen currently (in high def!) via Netflix streaming.