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The Reeler Blog

Now on DVD: Microbudget Brooklyn

Brooklyn 'Bots: Christine Spencer under pressure in Automatons, out today on DVD (Photo: MonsterPants Movies)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Your home viewing options expanded by a few dozen today, with thrilling fare like The Invasion, Daddy Day Camp and GLOW: Greatest TV Moments reaching DVD at last after excruciating periods of unavailability. Even more anticipated around Reeler HQ, however, are the releases of two of my favorite Brooklyn-based DIY efforts of recent years.

First up is Automatons, Jim McKenney's microbudget sci-fi allegory pitting robots against humans, robots against robots, humans against humans and other random permutations of things that die, bleed, melt and/or explode. Having shot over 15 days in an abandoned ice cream factory in Greenpoint, McKenney spoke with The Reeler before the film's December, 2006, theatrical release at the Pioneer Theater:

The robots symbolize the extinction of ideology as much as that of humans; their specific purpose has its roots in warfare, not victory. As such, McKenney said, that political criticism you hear is not just in your head. "All great science fiction is always a comment on current times, whether it's Star Trek or Godzilla or whatever," he said. "It's really just about the stupidity of humanity, that we can build these devices that will wipe everybody from the face of the earth, but that includes us. They might outlive us."

Indeed, their attempt to do so is a sight to behold. Another ravishing vision of a more recognizable Brooklyn, Aaron Katz's sublime feature Quiet City also hits shelves today. Packaged by Benten Films with Katz's debut Dance Party USA, Quiet City was hands down the finest film to screen at last year's New Talkies series and is one of 2007's best all-around efforts. I did what I could for its Oscar chances. Alas.

Not to be outdone, Mumblecore patron saint Joe Swanberg premiered his new Web series Butterknife yesterday at Spout. The show features Frownland director Ronnie Bronstein as a Brooklyn private eye who, in an apparent reversal of genre conceits, is disillusioned with his job yet happily married -- to a woman portrayed by Bronstein's real-life wife Mary. I don't get the first episode at all, but perhaps No. 2 will be the one that sets it off for me. I'm patient; here, you try it. Worst-case scenario, you can always scroll back to the top of this message and repeat recommendations.

Posted at January 29, 2008 12:40 PM

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