New Releases 4/21/15

Top Hits
Cake (drama, Jennifer Aniston. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The modestly scaled, sad-funny indie drama “Cake” centers on a woman and the kind of grief that’s so unbearable this movie can’t even handle it. Jennifer Aniston plays Claire, who, having survived a horrific accident, now lives in near isolation in Los Angeles in a mid-century magazine layout of a house. Its clean lines, drawn by an architect and embellished by a period-design obsessive, make a vivid contrast with the scars jaggedly slashed across Claire’s face and body. Her wounds have healed, but her grimace and the shadows darkening it announce that she’s far from whole.” Read more…)

Walter (comedy, Milo Ventimiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 36. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “The narrative is effectively constructed and the cinematography is crisp. Even so, in touching lightly on themes without committing to any of them, the movie falls flat. What should be sweet is saccharine, what might be profound seems trite. Supernatural comedy, psychological mystery, modern-day parable, “Walter” is a little of all of these — another way of saying it can’t decide what it is or what story it wants to tell.” Read more…)

Little Accidents (drama, Elizabeth Banks. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The sympathetic young actor Jacob Lofland lights up the American independent movie ‘Little Accidents,’ an earnest, schematic, pocket-size drama about three people struggling under the weight of a calamity. He plays Owen, the elder of two boys who’ve recently lost their father in a coal mining accident that has left 10 dead and upended a West Virginia town. Now, amid the region’s sweeping green mountains, its ominous mines and traumatized population, Owen tries with lurching uncertainty to ease back into normal, even as the writer and director Sara Colangelo clutters his path with enough obstacles to challenge the most heroically determined traveler.” Read more…)

Last Weekend (drama/comedy, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 40. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “But mostly, ‘Last Weekend’ is an elegiac ode to affluence. This is one Lands’ End catalog of a movie, with woodsy, impeccably appointed interiors; crowded tables of culinary plenty; and a sunny society fund-raiser at the spread of a neighbor [Judith Light]. The reliably impressive Ms. Clarkson is a prickly paragon of benevolent upper-crust virtue. The only wistful suggestion at its comforting close is that such rarefied privilege for its characters might one day be gone.” Read more…)

The Babadook (horror, Essie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The brilliance of ‘The Babadook,’ beyond [director Jennifer] Kent’s skillful deployment of the tried-and-true visual and aural techniques of movie horror, lies in its interlocking ambiguities. For a long time, you’re not sure if the Babadook is a supernatural or a psychological phenomenon. Once you’ve started to figure that out — or to decide that you’re too freaked out for it to matter — another, more disturbing question starts to arise. Maybe the monster is all in someone’s head, but if so, whose? Sam’s? Amelia’s? Yours?” Read more…)

Taken 3 (action, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 26. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “After “’Non-Stop,’ ‘Unknown’ and three installments of the ‘Taken’ thrillers, I’m not sure that Liam Neeson’s signature avengers are actually good people to know. On the plus side, they’ll use any means necessary to rescue you from kidnappers and killers. But if you’ve been kidnapped or are facing death, it’s probably directly related to knowing Mr. Neeson’s character in the first place, or just being nearby.” Read more…)

New Foreign
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Iran, vampire, Sheila Vand. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 81. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “By the time the vampire in the chador is skateboarding down a dark, desolate street, the director Ana Lily Amirpour has ensured that ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ will roll on in your memory. The vampire, a Persian-speaking waif called the Girl [Sheila Vand], also wears a striped fishing shirt and an occasional smear across her mouth that isn’t lipstick. She’s taken the skateboard from a nameless tyke [Milad Eghbali], whose indomitable quality and threadbare clothes evoke the children populating Abbas Kiarostami’s early films and, in turn, those of Italian neorealism. Whatever the inspiration, the kid is just one of a number of character types drifting through Ms. Amirpour’s cinematic fun house.” Read more…)

New Television
Fortitude (drama/thriller, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 75.)
Veep: Season 3 (comedy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 86.)

New Documentaries
The Source Family (religion, cults, rock music, Father Yod. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “For anyone looking to teach a master class in brainwashing techniques, ‘The Source Family’ might be an excellent place to start. Documenting the hippy-dippy lifestyle and hedonistic principles of Hollywood’s favorite 1970s cult — led by the self-professed guru and suspected bank robber Jim Baker, a k a Father Yod — Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille’s disturbing film is an object lesson in psychological manipulation.” Read more…)

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (actor bio, movie history. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘How would you like to be remembered?’ the director David Lynch asks the actor Harry Dean Stanton during the documentary ‘Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.’ ‘Doesn’t matter,’ is the laconic reply, and you know he means it. It does matter, however, to the Swiss filmmaker Sophie Huber, who seems to have chosen a particularly tough subject for her first feature. Guarded in the extreme and bereft of vanity, Mr. Stanton, now 87, may have plumbed the inner workings of close to 200 characters, but he’s cagey about revealing his own.” Read more…)

Music: The Shellye Valauskas Experience on Thurs., Feb. 27, at 8 PM

Shellye_Dean_Bruce_at_BV_010512The Shellye Valauskas Experience plays the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Feb. 27. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

It’s Shellye’s Birthday Bash. Join The Shellye Valauskas Experience to celebrate her birthday. Very special guest: Cake! (And not the band Cake.) Plus other special guests—not that anyone could follow a slice of birthday cake.

Shellye Valauskas is a sweet songwriter who cares for catchy rhythms and hooks. Her CD “Box It Up,” recorded with her band The Shellye Valauskas Experience, is a box of secrets, surprises and delights. By the time she formed the band, vocalist/guitarist Shellye Valauskas was an established solo performer, winning the New Haven Advocate’s Grand Band Slam readers’ poll and rating a slot in New York’s CMJ Marathon.

As her songwriting collaborator and bandmate, she enlisted ace guitarist Dean Falcone, who’s served the Connecticut music scene since the early ’80s with Jon Brion in The Excerpts, his own Dean and the Dragsters, and a host of others. Valauskas’ and Falcone’s shared love for the intelligent, heartwarming yet punchy pop of Crowded House, The Posies and Aimee Mann, as well as the burgeoning Americana movement, helped them nail a distinctive yet accessible radio-friendly sound from the start.

Watch The Shellye Valauskas Experience perform their song “Box It Up” at the Best Video Performance Space in August, 2012, courtesy of Dave Kelsey’s Golden Microphone Films:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Feb. 26. DECONSTRUCTING POP: THE LUCK PUSHERS

• Thursday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER POP: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Monday.Mar. 3. FILM SCREENING: “BEING JOHN MALKOVICH”

• Wednesday, Mar. 5. SHORT STORY READING: PAUL BECKMAN, DOUG MATHEWSON

• Thursday, Mar. 6. BUOYANT POP ROCK: THE FURORS

• Monday, Mar. 10. FILM SCREENING: “BABEL”

• Monday, Mar. 17. FILM SCREENING: “MEMENTO”

• Monday. Mar. 24. FILM SCREENING: “MULHOLLAND DRIVE”

• Wednesday, Apr. 2. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, Apr. 17. ACOUSTIC ROCK: THE LONESOME SPARROWS