New releases 1/17/17

Top Hits
Girl_TrainThe Girl On the Train (thriller, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 48. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘The Girl on the Train’ is a preposterous movie but not an unenjoyable one. If that sounds like faint praise, well, it is and it isn’t. There’s always something to be said for an entertainment that sustains its nuttiness all the way to its twisty finish. This one may not make much sense, but — like a demented old film noir or a Shonda Rhimes show at its crazed best — ‘Girl’ doesn’t falter in its absurdity or commitment to its own seriousness. It never winks. You may laugh [as the audience I saw it with did, on and off], but there’s genuine pleasure in that mirth.” Read more…)

Keeping Up With the Joneses (action comedy, Zach Galifianakis. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 34. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “One way to end the scourge of ‘TV is better than film’ articles is to stop making movies like ‘Keeping Up With the Joneses,’ a pedestrian comedy that almost seems intended as evidence for the cause. The plot invites comparisons to ‘The Americans’; the presence of Jon Hamm as a man of mystery prompsts wistful memories of ‘Mad Men’; and the visual vocabulary — no one has bothered to address the abundance of overlit and sun-bleached shots — shows the indifference of a hasty live broadcast.” Read more…)

Ouija: Origin of Evil (horror, Elizabeth Reaser. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 65. Believe it or not, a New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Perhaps you weren’t impressed with ‘Ouija,’ the 2014 horror movie inspired by the Hasbro game. Critics certainly weren’t. But its new prequel, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil,’ is deliciously creepy, thanks largely to a terrific performance by the youngest of its stars.” Read more…)

Touched_with_FireTouched With Fire (romance, Katie Holmes. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘Touched With Fire’ is an actor’s field day, and both [Luke] Kirby and [Katie] Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists struggling with depression. Like Jack Nicholson’s Randle Patrick McMurphy in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and Angelina Jolie’s Lisa in ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ they can appear supersane until their daredevil behavior reveals them as recklessly, self-destructively messianic. Their shared mania slightly contorts their faces and glazes their eyes, especially Mr. Kirby’s. And when Marco and Carla flee to the woods and drive into a stream to escape a police car, you recognize the degree of their illness.” Read more…)

Long Way North (animated feature, Christa Theret [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 70. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The story isn’t flashy and neither is the animation in ‘Long Way North,’ qualities that give the film a certain low-key charm in an age of fast-moving sagas eye-poppingly served. This tale, which in its theatrical release is being shown in both English- and French-language versions, has a young heroine, but you won’t mistake it for ‘Frozen.'” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Girl On the Train

New Foreign
IxcanulIxcanul (Guatemala, drama, Maria Mercedes Coroy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Made with actual Maya farmers in the Guatemalan highlands, this luminous first feature from Jayro Bustamante has scenes of such tactile intimacy that the trust between the director and his mostly nonprofessional cast is unmistakable. Colors are rich and deep [the gorgeous wide-screen cinematography is by Luis Armando Arteaga], and the atmosphere is so tranquil that the whoosh of action in the final third is powerfully disorienting.” Read more…)

Fatima (France, drama, Soria Zeroual. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘If my daughter is a success, my happiness is complete,” declares the title character of ‘Fatima,’ a small miracle of a film from the French director Philippe Faucon. Divorced from her husband, whom she followed to France and with whom she is still friendly, Fatima [Soria Zeroual] is a 44-year-old North African woman raising two teenage girls in Lyon. The oldest, Nesrine [Zita Hanrot], 18, is a first-year medical student, and the younger, Souad [Kenza-Noah Aïche], is a sullen, sexy 15-year-old rebel ashamed of her mother for working as a housecleaner.” Read more…)

Train_BusanTrain to Busan (South Korea, zombie action, Gong Yoo. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Elite passengers on a South Korean bullet train face a twitching, hissing threat from the cheap seats in ‘Train to Busan,’ a public-transportation horror movie with a side helping of class warfare. The setup is lean and clean. A flattened deer, mowed down in a quarantine zone in Seoul where some kind of chemical spill has occurred [echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s 2007 enviro-horror film, ‘The Host’], springs back to life. Then, in just a few swiftly efficient scenes, we meet a harried hedge-fund manager and his small, sad daughter [Gong Yoo and an amazing Kim Su-ahn], see them settled on the titular locomotive and watch in dismay as a vividly unwell last-minute passenger lurches onboard. And we’re off!” Read more…)

Closet Monster (Canada, drama/gay & lesbian, Connor Jessup. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 81. From Ken Jaworowski’s Times review: “You may find yourself hoping that ‘Closet Monster’ fades to black during one of its few cheerful scenes — that way, the conflicted young man at its center will get a happy ending. This affecting film prompts that kind of concern for its characters. You want them to be safe. You may find yourself hoping that ‘Closet Monster’ fades to black during one of its few cheerful scenes — that way, the conflicted young man at its center will get a happy ending. This affecting film prompts that kind of concern for its characters. You want them to be safe.” Read more…)

 New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Two for the Seesaw (1962, romance, Robert MItchum. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1962 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “Where the fellow in [playwright William] Gibson’s gimmicked and talkative little play was [and must be] an obviously withdrawing, self-pitying, apologetic type, on the order of Henry Fonda, who, miraculously, originated the role, [Robert] Mitchum is plainly a two-fisted, self-assertive and generally supercilious brute whose feeble attempts to act downtrodden are on the painful side of the absurd. And where the girl in the play was a fireball of emotional vibrancy and energy, [Shirley] MacLaine simply isn’t a fire-ball. She tries to portray one without sufficient fuel.” Read more…)

Something_WildSomething Wild (1961, indie drama, Criterion Collection, Carroll Baker. From Peter Sobczynski’s review of the new Criterion release at RogerEbert.com: “When Jack Garfein’s ‘Something Wild’ was released in 1961, it was mostly savaged by critics, roundly ignored by audiences and quickly slipped into obscurity. It didn’t turn up in revival houses, mentions in reference books were scarce at best and if the title did happen to come up somehow, most people probably mistook it for the 1986 Jonathan Demme movie of the same name. Now, in its highest-profile move since its original release [and probably even higher than that], ‘Something Wild’ has been accorded the honor of joining the Criterion Collection with a special-edition Blu-ray featuring a new transfer and a slew of bonus features offering additional background to the film and its unusual history. As a result, a new generation of viewers will have the opportunity to see it for themselves and realize what fans of the film have known for years—not only was ‘Something Wild’ one of the most audacious and formally radical American movies of the 1960s, it still feels startlingly ahead of its time even more than a half-century since it first came out.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Palio (horse racing, Italian life. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “Chariots don’t careen around the Colosseum anymore, but the Italian city of Siena still holds a competition from the Middle Ages that evokes a gladiatorial spirit. The Palio, a horse race first recorded in 1238, is a Tuscan feast of civic pride, medieval pageantry and Machiavellian strategies. As Cosima Spender’s ‘Palio’ shows, the race, run twice every summer in the city’s Piazza del Campo in front of about 70,000 screaming fans, is nominally a contest of neighbors: 10 of the city’s contrade, or districts, sponsor horses and hope to secure bragging rights with a victory. Lasting roughly — very roughly — 90 seconds, it’s a kind of equine Nascar event. Horses are ridden into the boards of the oval dirt track, or into one another; jockeys, who ride bareback, are often thrown off their mounts. And since jockeys may make secret deals — even bribes — to help or hinder other riders, scheming is part of the prepwork.” Read more…)