New releases 1/10/17

Top Hits
Deepwater_HorizonDeepwater Horizon (action/disaster, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Deepwater Horizon’ is a swift and suspenseful action movie, full of noise, peril, muck and fire. It’s also a true-crime story, the highly detailed procedural chronicle of how, on April 20, 2010, 11 people were killed and a vast marine ecosystem was despoiled because of negligence and greed. Like ‘The Big Short,’ this film, directed by Peter Berg, dramatizes a broadly familiar story and stands as a work of popular narrative for an age of corporate impunity. The anger and grief you feel leaving the theater constitute a kind of catharsis, a modest symbolic compensation for the failure of justice in the real world.” Read more…)

The Accountant (action/bookkeeping, Ben Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 51. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Who knows why [Ben] Affleck, looking appropriately dead-eyed and miserable, committed himself to this laborious ultraviolent brain tease of a crime thriller. The movie, directed by Gavin O’Connor [‘Tumbleweeds’], makes little sense. The screenplay, by Bill Dubuque, is so determined to hide its cards that when the big reveal finally arrives, it feels as underwhelming as it is preposterous. And Mr. Affleck, despite a meticulous performance, never uncovers a glimpse of his abused character’s humanity beyond Christian’s carefully delineated symptoms. ” Read more…)

Birth_of_NationThe Birth of a Nation (Nat Turner slave rebellion, Nate Parker. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Which is not to deny that he has attempted something grand and accomplished something real. The movie, uneven as it is, has terrific momentum and passages of concentrated visual beauty. The acting is strong even when the script wanders into thickets of rhetoric and mystification. And despite its efforts to simplify and italicize the story, it’s admirably difficult, raising thorny questions about ends and means, justice and mercy, and the legacy of racism that lies at the root of our national identity. There is still a lot of reckoning to be done. Birth is a messy business. And so is what comes after.” Read more…)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again (musical sequel, Laverne Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 55. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times television review: “Some things can’t be replicated or recaptured, and thanks to Fox we now know that one of them is the subversive magic of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ On Thursday night, the network serves up its new version of the cult film [for some reason titled ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again’], and although it’s moderately entertaining at times, it never makes clear why it needed to be attempted. That’s the burden of any remake, of course, and from that perspective the project may have been doomed from the start. Certain performances simply can’t be topped.” Read more…)

Homeland: Season 5 (thriller series, Claire Danes. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 76.)

New Blu-Ray
Deepwater Horizon
The Accountant

New Foreign
My_KingMy King (France, drama/romance, Vincent Cassel. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Your first thought on seeing Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot), the mentally shredded heroine of ‘My King’ [‘Mon Roi’], recuperating from a skiing calamity might well be “If I have to break a limb, please let me do it in France.” Cocooned in a gleaming rehab center by the ocean, Tony is recovering from more than a torn knee. And while France may or may not offer lust-worthy physical therapy, it has occasionally produced notable cinematic depictions of injurious passion, of which this unblinking portrait of emotional abuse is an especially juicy example.” Read more…)

Ma Ma (Spain, drama, Penelope Cruz. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 31. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Penélope Cruz is an Oscar-winning actress we don’t see often enough in prominent leading roles. So how disappointing to find her having to carry Julio Medem’s florid ‘Ma Ma,’ a melodrama only glancing at profundity.” Read more…)

The People Vs. Fritz Bauer (Germany, historical drama, Burghart Klausner. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 61. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Fritz Bauer is a mass, and a mess, of contradictions: crafty yet principled, loyal yet friendless, brooding yet driven. Sometimes he charges ahead, other times he bumbles along, usually engulfed in a cloud of tobacco smoke. Burghart Klaussner, playing him in “’he People vs. Fritz Bauer,’ delivers a masterly performance as this complicated man. Appraising the film isn’t nearly as complicated. From start to finish, it’s absorbing. A historical drama that radiates suspense, it often recalls ‘Munich’ and ‘Bridge of Spies’ [in which Mr. Klaussner played a role]. Not to get carried away — ‘Fritz Bauer’ doesn’t have the immediacy or the range of those movies. Yet it has their mood, and that’s more than enough reason to watch.” Read more…)

As I Open My Eyes (Tunisia, political drama, Baya Medhaffer. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘I see those deprived of work, of food, of life outside the neighborhood,’ sings Farah [Baya Medhaffar], a fiery 18-year-old Tunisian singer who lights up Leyla Bouzid’s film ‘As I Open My Eyes.’ The film is set in 2010, shortly before Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution ushered in the upheavals of the Arab Spring. The song, with lyrics by Ghassen Amami and music by the eminent Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami, protests the repressive government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s president for 23 years until he fled the country in 2011. It sets the tone of the film in which word of Farah’s dissenting voice reaches the authorities and her safety is endangered. The movie is a sympathetic portrait of the brash, foolhardy Farah, who lives with her fiercely protective mother, Hayet [Ghalia Benali], though she shares her daughter’s rebellious streak.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
His_Girl_FridayHis Girl Friday/The Front Page (Criterion Collection):
His Girl Friday (1940, newspaper screwball comedy, Rosalind Russell. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1940 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “Hysteria is one of the communicable diseases and “His Girl Friday” is a more pernicious carrier than Typhoid Mary. It takes you by the scruff of the neck in the first reel and it shakes you madly, bellowing hoarsely the. while, for the remaining six or seven. Before it’s over you don’t know whether you have been laughing or having your ears boxed. The veriest bit on the strenuous side, if you follow us.” Read more…)

The Front Page (1931, newspaper comedy, Adolphe Menjou.  Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A witty and virile talking picture has been wrought from ‘The Front Page,’ the play of Chicago newspaper life by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. This film, which is now at the Rivoli, differs but little in construction from the parent work. It is a fast-paced entertainment and, while its humor is frequently harsh, it assuredly won favor with the audience yesterday afternoon.” Read more…)

Carbine Williams (1952, biopic, James Stewart. From Bosley Crowther’s 1952 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A somewhat bewildering combination of personal attributes, some of them exemplary and some of them sinister and gross, is arranged for almost solid admiration by the people of MGM in a picture called ‘Carbine Williams,’ which came to the Capitol yesterday. Since this is presented as the story of D. Marsh Williams, the fabulous man who invented the Army’s modern carbine, and since James Stewart plays the title role in his customery gaunt and earnest fashion, a certain degree of sentiment is aroused that may not be entirely supported when the elements are carefully analyzed.” Read more…)

 New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Outside Man (1972, thriller directed by French director Jacques Deray, Jean-Louis Trintignant)

New British
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Season 1 (Douglas Adams comedy series, Elijah Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 62.)

New TV
Mr. Robot: Season 2 (cyber-security drama, Rami Malek. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 81.)

New Documentaries
The Story of Cats (nature, cheetahs, Fluffy. From Neil Genzlnger’s New York Times television review: “It may have been a mistake to watch ‘The Story of Cats’ with my cat. I’m concerned about some of the ideas the program might have put into her head. ‘The Story of Cats,’ a two-part installment of the PBS series ‘Nature’ that begins on Wednesday, is about all sorts of cats, whether fierce jungle ones or the kind that curl up on the couch. Its overall point is that across the millenniums cats have been supremely skilled at evolving to suit new environments and circumstances.” Read more…)

Black America Since MLK: Still I Rise (civil rights, race, history, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

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