New releases 8/9/16

Top Hits
Hologram_KingA Hologram for the King (comedy/drama, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 58. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “It takes an actor with the finesse of Tom Hanks to turn a story of confusion, perplexity, frustration and panic into an agreeably uncomfortable comedy. But that’s what Mr. Hanks accomplishes in the German filmmaker Tom Tykwer’s easygoing screen adaptation of Dave Eggers’ novel ‘A Hologram for the King.’ This fanciful tale about Alan Clay, an American consultant visiting Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government, has been transformed through the force of Mr. Hanks’s nice-guy personality. His performance elevates an ominous, downbeat reflection on American decline and runaway technology into a subdued absurdist farce with dark geopolitical undercurrents.” Read more…)

Confirmation (historical drama, Kerry Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 72. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “‘Confirmation,’ a conventional but smart HBO docudrama airing Saturday, features a persuasive Kerry Washington as Ms. Hill and a fiery Wendell Pierce as Mr. Thomas. But it is also about the forces massed behind each of them and sitting in uneasy judgment.” Read more…)

Gods of Egypt (action, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 25. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Bosomy damsels and brawny slabs; cheering digital crowds; a lachrymose sphinx; a bedazzled Geoffrey Rush; a galactic cruise ship; an Egyptian god played by the Dane Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; the sword-and-sandals enabler Gerard Butler; a smoky monster that from one angle looks like a fanged doughnut and from another an alarmingly enraged anus — ‘Gods of Egypt’ attests that they do make them like they used to, or at least like the King of the Bs, Roger Corman, once did, except with far more money. If ‘Gods of Egypt’ were any worse, it might be a masterpiece.” Read more…)

11.22.63 (Stephen King mini-series, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “‘11.22.63,’ which begins Monday, is a capable adaptation of [author Stephen] King’s 2011 best seller, appealing enough to snag a general audience and yet different enough from the book to give hard-core King fans plenty to grouse about.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Sweet_BeanSweet Bean (Japan, drama, Kirin Kiki. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Some of the most entertaining food-themed films ever made have arrived from Japan over the past 30 years. ‘Sweet Bean’ crosses this subgenre with the old-person-imparts-wisdom-to-younger-acolyte variety, but it is not typical of either kind of movie. As the two characters learn more about each other, sadness piles up at a pace that’s deliberate and relentless.” Read more…)

Parched (India, drama, Tannishta Chatterjee. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The title of this movie, written and directed by Leena Yadav, is an apt description of the desert village in northwestern India which its three female leads toil and suffer. The women themselves, however, are thankfully not arid in any sense, though frequently starved for tenderness.” Read more…)

A Monster With a Thousand Heads (Mexico, drama, Jana Raluy. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The mounting frustrations of Sonia Bonet [Jana Raluy], a middle-aged Mexican woman with a gravely ill husband, as she navigates the impenetrable bureaucracy of an insurance company in ‘A Monster With a Thousand Heads’ add up to a nightmare of bureaucratic stonewalling. Sonia is determined to secure her dying husband, Guillermo, an expensive pain medication to which he’s entitled but that the company is reluctant to provide. Her struggle is an enraging depiction of the plight of an individual fighting a corrupt, greedy system.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Mississippi Gambler (1953, Technicolor period drama, Tyrone Power)

New releases 6/28/16

Top Hits
Eye in the Sky (war drama, Helen Mirren. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen  Holden’s Times review: “An alternative title to ‘Eye in the Sky,’ a riveting thriller about drone warfare and its perils, might be ‘Passing the Buck.’ When urgent life-or-death decisions are required in a race against time to kill terrorists preparing a suicide attack, officials, wary of being held responsible for civilian casualties, repeatedly “refer up” to higher authorities for final approval.” Read more…)

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (comedy, Tina Fey. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 57. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Based on Kim Barker’s memoir, ‘The Taliban Shuffle,’ ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ contains the fondly, proudly recalled details of battle-tested experience. Kim — last name ‘Baker’ in the film — goes from typing TV news in an office to a tour of duty as a journalist in war-ravaged Afghanistan. She dashes into a shootout to get video, parries the clumsy advances of an Afghan government official and frequents the hormone-addled expat party scene. Somewhere along the way, she also finds herself and cracks a few jokes. That’s not entirely unexpected, because Kim is played by Tina Fey, an old hand at portraying the self-deprecating, nerdy workaholic getting a handle on her personal life.” Read more…)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (animated feature, Jack Black [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “That give this entry in the franchise [directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson] a darker feel than the first two — young viewers will have to process not only the scary Kai, but also thoughts of mortality, absence, selfhood, afterlife. But if they’re familiar with the earlier movies, they’ll know that the tenacious Po is not about to let his beloved teacher, Shifu [Mr. Hoffman], or his five fighting sidekicks [voiced by Ms. Jolie, Ms. Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and David Cross] be turned into trinkets.” Read more…)

Mistress America (comedy, Greta Gerwig. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen  Holden’s Times review: “Noah Baumbach’s ‘Mistress America’ advertises itself as a screwball comedy. But this smart, fast-paced film is not really the zany, lighter-than-air divertissement that the term usually conjures. There are scattered sharp one-liners, but not enough to infuse the movie with a sustained bonhomie. It’s fair to say that “Mistress America” revises and subverts this most buoyant of genres with a steady undertow of anxiety, dread and anger.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Eye in the Sky

New Foreign
RamsRams (Iceland, drama, Sigurdur Sigurjonsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Even though they live in rural Iceland, thousands of miles from the Holy Land, and in a modern reality of computers and mechanized farm equipment, Gummi and Kiddi have a decidedly Old Testament vibe. It’s not just the untended beards and the well-tended sheep. The two men, who live on neighboring farms in a quiet valley, are feuding brothers, locked in a sibling rivalry that recalls Jacob and Esau or Cain and Abel. The sources of the bad blood are never specified, but it trickles though ‘Rams,’ Grimur Hakonarson’s new film, like an icy stream.” Read more…)

Rabin: The Last Day (Israel, docudrama, Yitzhak Hizkiya. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review of Israeli director Amos Gitai’s movie about the assassintion of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: “Rabin” is not merely an expression of political pessimism, though it certainly is that. In movie terms, it is radically negative, undermining any of the genre categories that might make sense of it. It’s a political thriller with an almost infinite tolerance for tedium, a detective story with an obvious culprit, a courtroom procedural caught up in irrelevant details. It’s a profoundly frustrating movie, which is to say that it’s an authentic expression of profound frustration.” Read more…)

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 27 & 28 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)
Young Montalbano: Episodes 7-9 (Italy, detective series, Michele Riondino)
Margarita with a Straw (India/United States, drama/romance, Kalki Koechlin. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 63.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, legendary Stanley Kubrick Cold War black comedy in Criterion edition, Peter Sellers. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 96. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review[requires log-in]: “Stanley Kubrick’s new film, called ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,’ is beyond any question the most shattering sick joke I’ve ever come across. And I say that with full recollection of some of the grim ones I’ve heard from Mort Sahl, some of the cartoons I’ve seen by Charles Addams, and some of the stuff I’ve read in Mad magazine. For this brazenly jesting speculation of what might happen within the Pentagon and within the most responsible council of the President of the United States if some maniac Air Force general should suddenly order a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union is at the same time one of the cleverest and most incisive satiric thrusts at the awkwardness and folly of the military that has ever been on the screen.” Read more…)

Really Weird Tales (1987, made-for-TV comedy genre spoofs, John Candy)

New Documentaries
Elstree 1976 (Star Wars extras, pop culture, movie history. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “‘Elstree 1976,’ a documentary both sweet and bittersweet, might sound as if it’s only for “Star Wars” nerds. But in telling a small story of bit players, the director, Jon Spira, captures a more universal picture of the droplets of fame created by a pop-culture tidal wave.” Read more…)

Dream/Killer (criminal justice, wrongful conviction. From Ken Jaworski’s New York Times review: “I won’t reveal the end of ‘dream/killer,’ but I will predict what you’ll feel after watching it: This documentary elicits large measures of incredulity, frustration and astonishment.” Read more…)

Fastball (sports, baseball, physics, Narrated by Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “The narration, read by Kevin Costner, finds a certain elemental beauty in the confrontation that takes place when a good hitter is challenged by a good fastball pitcher. It is, Mr. Costner says, ‘a showdown between the fastest it’s humanly possible to throw a ball and the fastest it’s humanly possible to react to it.’ This appealing documentary makes you understand why aficionados regard baseball as a form of poetry.” Read more…)

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (movie history, sci-fi/fantasy, stop motion animation. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Margarita with a Straw (India/United States, drama/romance, Kalki Koechlin)

New Children’s DVDs
Kung_Fu_Panda_3Kung Fu Panda 3 (animated feature, Jack Black [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “That give this entry in the franchise [directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson] a darker feel than the first two — young viewers will have to process not only the scary Kai, but also thoughts of mortality, absence, selfhood, afterlife. But if they’re familiar with the earlier movies, they’ll know that the tenacious Po is not about to let his beloved teacher, Shifu [Mr. Hoffman], or his five fighting sidekicks [voiced by Ms. Jolie, Ms. Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and David Cross] be turned into trinkets.” Read more…)

New releases 5/3/16

Top Hits
Joy_DVDJoy (drama/biopic, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “On paper, David O. Russell’s new film, ‘Joy,’ looks perfectly straightforward, even square. It’s a bootstrap-capitalist fable, a tale of adversity overcome and rags exchanged for riches, a case study in success suitable for a self-improvement seminar. But Mr. Russell likes to tell conventional stories in unconventional ways. In the chapter of his career that began with ‘The Fighter’ [2010], he has emerged as something of a genre magician, able to make formulas and clichés disappear behind a smoke screen of artful misdirection. ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ [2012] was an assembly-line romantic comedy tricked out with a wild paint job and a souped-up, custom-built engine. ‘American Hustle’ [2013] was a caper movie blown up into a pop opera. ‘The Fighter’ itself — the movie ‘Joy’ most resembles — was a boxing picture with an irregular heartbeat and a wildly talented cast.” Read more…)

Remember (thriller, Christopher Plummer. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 52. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Christopher Plummer puts on a master class in acting, and his director, Atom Egoyan, delivers one in audience manipulation in ‘Remember,’ a psychological thriller featuring that most blood-boiling of plot devices: a Nazi who escaped justice.” Read more…)

Glassland (drama, Toni Collette. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 66. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “In ‘Glassland,’ Toni Collette’s portrayal of an embittered Irish woman drinking herself to death in her shabby home on the outskirts of Dublin, is one of the most unsparing screen depictions of extreme alcoholism that I can remember. For much of its running time, the movie gazes unblinkingly into an abyss of poverty and hopelessness. And the environment created by the writer and director Gerard Barrett and the cinematographer Piers McGrail looks as drab and forbidding as any ’60s British kitchen-sink drama.” Read more…)

The 5th Wave (sci-fi/action, Chloe Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 33. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Adapted from Rick Yancey’s young adult novel, the glossy if muddled ‘The 5th Wave’ blends the alien overlord airships of “Independence Day,” the natural disaster effects of ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and the auto-wreck-strewn highways of ‘Zombieland’ with a dusting of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'” Read more…)

A Royal Night Out (historical drama/romance, Emily Watson. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 58. From Stephen Holden’s new York Times review: “The aggressively charming ‘A Royal Night Out,’ is a grown-up fairy tale for audiences whose hearts go pitter-pat at the mere mention of anything to do with the British royal family. Sorry to be a spoilsport, reader, but my heart sinks at the sight of people bowing and scraping before aristocrats with titles they haven’t earned. It all seems so silly. This what-if fantasy, set on V.E. Day, May 8, 1945, follows the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, then 19 and 14, through an imaginary night of adventure when they are allowed out of Buckingham Palace to celebrate the official end of the war in Europe.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
Arabian_Nights_DVDArabian Nights Vols. 1-3 (Portugal, drama/documentary. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The stories that make up ‘Arabian Nights,’ the anxious, ambitious new film by the Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, are nestled inside two distinct frames. One is what the title would lead you to expect: Scheherazade, daughter of the grand vizier of Baghdad, invents tales to prevent her fearsome new husband, the sultan, from taking her life. Each vignette in this three-part movie belongs to one of Scheherazade’s 1,001 nights. But Mr. Gomes isn’t adapting a famous work of literature. He’s using it as a conceit, a plaything and a structural principle. A lavishly costumed anthology of exotic fables may be the movie he dreams of making, but reality keeps distracting him. Or maybe it’s the other way around: His ambition to make a rigorous documentary about the state of the Portuguese working class is continually interrupted by dreams of far-off lands and naked women.” Read more…)

The Club (Chile, drama, Alfredo Castro. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Tom McCarthy’s ‘Spotlight,’ deservedly nominated for a bunch of Oscars, examines evil from the outside, shining a beam of journalistic illumination at the abuse and corruption that festered within the Roman Catholic hierarchy for decades. ‘The Club,’ the latest feature from the Chilean writer-director Pablo Larraín, looks at the same issue from the inside out, bringing the viewer into an uncomfortable state of intimacy with the perpetrators of hideous crimes.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Song of Russia (1944, pre-Cold War drama/romance, Robert Taylor. From Bosley Crowther’s 1944 New York Times review [log-in required]: “Prepare yourself for a surprise, folks—an exciting surprise, in fact—in the shape of ‘Song of Russia,’ which came to the Capitol yesterday. To judge by advance indications, which advertised the film as “the adventures of a Yank in Moscow,” with Robert Taylor in that inauspicious role, one might be led to imagine something just a shade that side of taste and tact. But it isn’t. It is really a honey of a topical musical film, full of rare good humor, rich vitality and a proper respect for the Russians’ fight in this war. Indeed, it comes very close to being the best film on Russia yet made in the popular Hollywood idiom. And it is sure to have wide appeal.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Easy_RiderEasy Rider (1969, counterculture classic, Criterion edition, Peter Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 86. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [log-in required]: “‘Easy Rider,’ which opened yesterday at the Beekman, is a motorcycle drama with decidedly superior airs about it. How else are we to approach a movie that advertises itself: ‘A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere’? Right away you know that something superior is up, that somebody is making a statement, and you can bet your boots (cowboy, black leather) that it’s going to put down the whole rotten scene. What scene? Whose? Why? Man, I can’t tell you if you don’t know. What I mean to say is, if you don’t groove, you don’t groove. You might as well split.” It’s now seen as a counterculture classic but Canby didn’t dig it when it came out. Read more…)

New British
A Royal Night Out (historical drama/romance, Emily Watson. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 58.)

Oscar-oriented film series starts Mon., Jan. 11, with “The Walk” (UPDATED 12/30/15)

Oscar_Series_2016_TBS_flyer_WebBest Video Film & Cultural Center launches a new seven-movie, Oscar-oriented film series on Monday, Jan. 11. Each screening starts at 7 PM and admission is $7. (Note: The schedule has been updated from the original post.)

Yes, there’s the Political Election but first, there’s the Oscar Race: Seven Oscar contenders—for one award or another—straight outta the theater to Best Video Film & Cultural Center’s Performance Space. The series runs consecutive Mondays from Jan. 11 through Feb. 22. (The televised Oscar ceremony is on Sunday, Feb. 28.)

Official Oscar nominations are unveiled on Jan. 18.

See the films, receive your ballot, and become a winner yourself — with a BVFCC prize for the most correct choices!

MON., JAN. 11 • THE WALK – A visual tour de force on our 100” screen in Blu ray, this is director Robert Zemickis’ (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away) best shot for his first Best PIcture Oscar. High suspense and tense drama accompany high wire artist Philippe Petit’s attempt to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

MON., JAN. 18 • STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON PAWN SACRIFICE – Chess prodigy Bobbie Fischer (Tobey Maguire) challenges the Soviet Empire during the Cold War while battling his own notorious demons (not to mention the CIA). With Liev Shreiber and Peter Saarsgaard.

MON., JAN. 25 • STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON – This highly entertaining and illuminating film dominated the box office with strong reviews. Offering depth in culture rather than simple glorification, this true-life story of the emergence of rap against L.A. police brutality in the ‘80s, is as relevant today as it was then.

MON., FEB. 1 • EVEREST THE MARTIAN – On a manned mission to Mars, an astronaut (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and abandoned by his crew. Alone on a hostile planet, he must use his ingenuity, wit, and spirit to survive and find a way to signal earth that he is alive. Directed any Ridley Scott – smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny.

MON., FEB. 8 • SICARIO – In this highly acclaimed thriller, an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) negotiates the lawless border between the USA and Mexico, and the porous loyalties of the elite agency (Benito del Torio, Josh Brolin) that hired her.

MON., FEB. 15 • SUFFRAGETTE – Carrie Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter portray early-century radicalized foot soldiers willing to sacrifice their jobs, homes, children, and lives for the right of all women to control their lives. Still a relevant issue for 2016.

MON., FEB. 22 • 99 HOMES – Taking place in Orlando, a young father (Andrew Garfield) struggles to get his home back (and keep his integrity) by working for the ambitious real estate broker (Michael Shannon) who foreclosed him. My favorite film of 2015.

Available now for a limited time: Gift bundles of a year of rentals, BVFCC t-shirt and Kennedy’s Kettle Corn

Gift_Bundle_WebFor a limited time, get a great gift bundle for the movie lover in your family—a year of free rentals (plus two extra months!), a black or blue t-shirt featuring the new Best Video Film & Cultural Center logo on the back and a bag of delicious locally-made Kennedy’s Kettle Corn!

Since we began offering them at the beginning of November, the new Membership Rental Plans have become very popular. BVFCC members on the new plans say they are renting more films. And even though it isn’t free, it feels free every time they come into BVFCC and get another movie without having to pull out their wallet.

• The One Movie Plan Gift Bundle — For $130, give a gift certificate for The One Movie Plan (normally $120), a new Best Video Film & Cultural Center t-shirt in either black or blue (a $15 value) and a bag of delicious locally-made Kennedy’s Kettle Corn.

• The Two Movie Plan Gift Bundle — For $250, give a gift certificate for The Two Movie Plan (normally $240), a new Best Video Film & Cultural Center t-shirt in either black or blue (a $15 value) and a bag of delicious locally-made Kennedy’s Kettle Corn.

• The Four Movie Plan Gift Bundle — For $360, give a gift certificate for The Four Movie Plan (normally $360) and get a new Best Video Film & Cultural Center t-shirt in either black or blue (a $15 value) and a bag of delicious locally-made Kennedy’s Kettle Corn added in for free.

Come into Best Video Film & Cultural Center and give the movie lover on your list the gift of endless movie-watching pleasure in 2016.

Details on the plans are available here.

Film Screening: “The Manchurian Candidate” on Wed., Nov. 18, at 7 PM

manchurian_candidate_WebBest Video Performance Space will screen the John Frankenheimer movie “The Manchurian Candidate” on Thursday, Nov. 18. The program starts at 7 PM and the cover is $5. Christopher Sharrett, a Professor of Film Studies at Seton Hall University will introduce and discuss the film.

Christopher Sharrett is Professor of Film Studies at Seton Hall University. He has published several books on film, including Mythologies of Violence in Postmodern Media, and The Rifleman. He is a Contributing Writer for Cineaste and Film International. He is on the editorial board of Quarterly Review of Film and Video. He has lived in Hamden for 28 years, and is a Best Video loyalist!

Based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon and released in theaters in 1962, “The Manchurian Candidate” is a classic Cold War-era suspense film. Laurence Harvey stars as a GI who is brainwashed into becoming a remote control assassin after being captured with other members of his platoon in the Korean War. Other stars are Angela Lansbury, Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh.

Reviewing the film in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote:

With the air full of international tension, the film “The Manchurian Candidate” pops up with a rash supposition that could serve to scare some viewers half to death—that is, if they should be dupes enough to believe it, which we solemnly trust they won’t.

Its story of a moody young fellow who was captured by the Communists during the Korean campaign and brain-washed by them to do their bidding as a high-level assassin when he gets home to America is as wild a piece of fiction as anything Alfred Hitchcock might present, but it could agitate some grave imaginings in anxious minds these days, especially since it is directed and acted in a taut and vivid way.

The late critic Roger Ebert listed “The Manchurian Candidate” as one of the Great Movies and wrote in 2003, “Seen today, ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ feels astonishingly contemporary; its astringent political satire still bites, and its story has uncanny contemporary echoes. The villains plan to exploit a terrorist act, “rallying a nation of viewers to hysteria, to sweep us up into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy.”









• Thursday, Dec. 3. ELECTRONIC: AVMUS




New Releases 3/3/15

Top Hits
Foxcatcher (drama, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Foxcatcher,’ an eerie horror story about one American have and one have-not, a startlingly transformed Steve Carell plays John Eleuthère du Pont, the chemical company heir. A dabbler extraordinaire and apparent fantasist whose family fortune was partly created on battlefields across the world — as a producer of gun powder, dynamite and plutonium — the real du Pont collected monumental amounts of shells, birds and stamps as well as guns and, as the wealthy can do, other human beings. Among the most remarkable of these was an Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, who, as embodied by Channing Tatum, is the latest in a seemingly never-ending line of poetic male primitives.” Read more…)

The Captive (thriller, Ryan Reynolds. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 36. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Unfolding over eight years, this latest mystery from Atom Egoyan returns us to the snowy setting, secretive characters, looping timeline and endangered-child plot of his 1997 masterpiece, ‘The Sweet Hereafter.’ This time, however, the infuriatingly vague and downright strange story banishes the haunting delicacy of mood that Mr. Egoyan has conjured so successfully in the past. The girl’s abduction is straightforward enough — plucked from the truck where her father, Matthew [Ryan Reynolds], has left her while he runs an errand — but almost everything after verges on absurd.” Read more…)

Horns (fantasy/horror, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 46. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In spite of its Halloween opening, ‘Horns,’ directed by Alexandre Aja and adapted by Keith Bunin from a novel by Joe Hill, is not exactly a horror movie. It is nasty and creepy, for sure, with snakes and devils and a horrible murder, but not especially scary in the traditional sense. Gruesome occurrences are more likely to be mined for laughs than for gasps of terror, and the supernatural developments are played out in a mood of metaphysical melodrama.” Read more…)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (action/fantasy, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 64. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Each ‘Hunger Games’ movie makes so much noise — it’s where the deafening clamor of commerce meets the roar of true fan love — that it’s a wonder you can detect the human heartbeat under the tumult. But it’s there, thumping and sometimes racing in a franchise that, more than most industrial movies and even putative indies, speaks to both its audience and its time. There’s heart in the vague yet stirring liberation story that comes to the fore in this chapter and that’s echoed in real-life struggles around the world. And it’s there, of course, in Katniss, the backwoods savior who, as played with guileless appeal by Jennifer Lawrence, is mounting an attack on the forces of oppression.” Read more…)

Hateship Loveship (drama/romance, Kristen Wiig. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 59. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In the first moments of our acquaintance with Johanna Parry — before the opening titles of ‘Hateship Loveship’ appear on screen, and before the first notes of music have sounded — we know some important things about her. We note her kindness as she grants an old woman’s dying wish, and also her practicality and physical strength. Other people will perceive Johanna as drab, passive and unworldly, a person to be quietly mocked or carelessly ignored, but the first shots of Liza Johnson’s new film, adapted from a story by the Canadian Nobel laureate Alice Munro, provide important evidence to the contrary.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New TV
Outlander: Season 1 Vol. 1 (time travel/action/fantasy series, Caitriona Balfe)

New Documentaries
Code Black (American healthcare system, Los Angeles ER. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Idealism and reality collide in ‘Code Black,’ Dr. Ryan McGarry’s impassioned record of his training in the embattled emergency room of the Los Angeles County General Hospital. Whether talking to the camera or one another, Dr. McGarry and his fellow residents offer a perspective that’s overwhelmingly young, principled, caring and frustrated. Their ardent and photogenic accord is one of the film’s weaknesses — elder physicians have only slivers of screen time — but also an inarguable boon, giving their daily skirmishes with America’s battered health care system a fiery momentum that pulls you along.” Read more…)

Watchers of the Sky (genocide, war, conflict, Samantha Power. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 85. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The human-rights pioneer Raphael Lemkin once wrote an especially dire note to self: ‘Do not cease to exist.’ They were the words of a man consumed by his mission to secure legislation against genocide, to the detriment of his health, as mentioned in Edet Belzberg’s ‘Watchers of the Sky.’ The story of Lemkin — an indefatigable petitioner of the United Nations, driven by the Armenian massacres and his own family’s slaughter in World War II — is the spine of this sprawling, big-hearted examination of genocide.” read more…)

New Music
Mondo Fuzz ( Austin, TX underground rock scene, sent to us by filmmaker Andy Ray Lemon as a gesture of solidarity with an independent video store!)

New Releases 1/20/15

Top Hits
Lucy (sci-fi, Scarlett Johansson. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 61. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Thank goodness [or the goddess] for male directors who dig strong female characters. Whatever their reasons, these directors often expand the range of roles women play, whether it’s one of Howard Hawks’s dames calling the shots or one of James Cameron’s. That the French director Luc Besson, an industrious multi-hyphenate, has a thing for femmes fortes has been evident since 1990, when he unleashed a pouty toothpick in ‘La Femme Nikita,’ a delirious, violent fantasy that turned an outlaw into a gun-toting gamine and an exploitable commodity that, in turn, spawned both an American big-screen remake [‘Point of No Return’] and a television series. Mr. Besson’s particular kink for fatal female beauties receives an entertaining workout in his latest film, ‘Lucy,’ in which he again introduces a young woman who undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis that leads to convulsions of extreme violence and an increasingly frenzied visual style that lay waste to both men and any semblance of story sense.” Read more…)

Rudderless (drama, Billy Crudup. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 52. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Rudderless,’ the misbegotten directorial debut of William H. Macy, is so dishonest, manipulative and ultimately infuriating that it never recovers after its bombshell revelation two-thirds of the way into the movie. Not that its coyly withheld disclosure is all that unexpected. What is surprising is that Mr. Macy, who wrote the screenplay with Casey Twenter and Jeff Robison and plays the owner of tavern, didn’t know better than to be so coy.” Read more…)

Annabelle (horror, Annabelle Wallis. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 37. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The director, John R. Leonetti, served as the cinematographer on ‘The Conjuring’ [2013], and the best scares in ‘Annabnelle’ involve tricks of the eye. A murder in a neighbor’s house is seen through Mia’s bedroom window. A sensational long take choreographs a home invasion. Set largely in a Santa Monica, Calif., house and an apartment in Pasadena, ‘Annabelle’ is less cluttered with creepy bric-a-brac than ‘The Conjuring.’ [The original director, James Wan, produced here.] But Mr. Leonetti embraces the potential of negative space.” Read more…)

The Drop (crime/thriller, James Gandolfini. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “This might be the time to note that ‘The Drop’ was written by Dennis Lehane, who adapted it from his short story ‘Animal Rescue.’ While this movie, directed by Michael R. Roskam [‘Bullhead’], doesn’t have the grandeur of ‘Mystic River,’ the emotional sting of ‘Gone Baby Gone’ or the nutty audacity of ‘Shutter Island’ [or any Massachusetts accents], it nonetheless demonstrates some solid Lehanean virtues. The material may be warmed over, but the writing is meaty and pulpy enough to sustain a handful of satisfying performances.” Read more…)

The Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam-directed sci-fi/fantasy, Christopher Waltz. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 50. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Zero Theorem” “spring[s] from the fertile, undisciplined imagination of Terry Gilliam. That fact makes ‘The Zero Theorem,’ written by Pat Rushin, a lively viewing experience, thanks to Mr. Gilliam’s perpetual-motion shooting style and his witty, allusive visual vocabulary. Every frame is dense with information, some of it in the service of the film’s allegorical intention, some of it there for fun. Mr. Gilliam has been, since his days as an animator for ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus,’ a tirelessly inventive filmmaker. He has also occasionally ascended to the level of visionary, in particular with the prescient, still-potent science-fiction satire ‘Brazil.'” Read more…)

White Bird In a Blizzard (drama/thriller, Shailene Woodley. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A coming-of-age drama wrapped in a sunny, Southern California film noir — unless it’s the other way around — ‘White Bird in a Blizzard’ plants us in the point of view of a teenage girl named Kat, whose young life is disrupted by the disappearance of her mother, Eve. Kat is played by Shailene Woodley, Eve by Eva Green, a counterintuitive but strangely persuasive pairing that helps to make this film, directed by Gregg Araki and adapted from Laura Kasischke’s 1999 novel, intriguing in spite of its tentative tone and wobbly structure.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Drop
Rear Window

New Foreign
The Missing Picture (Cambodia, history/documentary/animation, Rithy Panh. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The audacity of ‘The Missing Picture’ — a brilliant documentary about a child who held on to life in Cambodia’s killing fields — is equaled only by its soulfulness. On April 17, 1975, the day the Khmer Rouge seized the capital, Phnom Penh, the 13-year-old Rithy Panh, his family and millions more were driven from that city and other towns and villages and straight into hell. Four years later, many of his relatives, including his father, mother, sisters and a niece and nephew were dead; decades later, Mr. Panh, now a filmmaker, has told his story in a movie in which the act of remembrance serves as a form of resistance.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Wonderful Country (1959, western, Robert Mitchum. From Howard Thompson’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It was a pleasure yesterday to watch Tom Lea’s novel ‘The Wonderful Country’ spreading across the screen pretty much, we suspect, the way the author must have wanted it. This is a superior, intelligent film on nearly every count. Robert Mitchum, Julie London, Gary Merrill and a good supporting cast are framed against a superbly authentic landscape of the Rio Grande territory, in a faithful retelling of Mr. Lea’s post-Civil War drama about an American-born ‘pistolero’—a hired killer in Mexico.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin-directed paean to Winnipeg. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Fact-checking ‘My Winnipeg’ would be absurd, since the film, which combines archival documentary images with freshly shot, antique-looking passages, is more concerned with lyrical truth than with literal accuracy. And even though I suspect that some of its more outlandish assertions are at least partly grounded in fact, [director Guy] Maddin is engaged less in historical inquiry than in hallucinatory autobiography, ruminating on the deep and accidental relationship between a specific place and an individual life. As ‘My Winnipeg’ conjures it, the bond between city and filmmaker is ambivalent and reciprocal. Much as he may dream of taking that one-way rail journey to somewhere else, Mr. Maddin can no more spurn Winnipeg than it can disown him.” Read more…)

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (personality, show business, Shep Gordon. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 64. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York times review: “A valentine from one friend to another, ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’ is not entirely kidding about that title, or at least its tone. Directed by the comedian Mike Myers, this clubby documentary lauds the swellness and shrewdness of the talent manager Shep Gordon with the help of celebrities and the sunnily mellifluent subject himself.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
The Boxtrolls (animated feature, Ben Kingsley [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes:  75%. Metacritic:  61. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In ‘The Boxtrolls,’ old-fashioned stop-motion animation is combined with new-style 3-D cinematography to charming effect. The film, based on the book ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow, tells a familiar story with familiar themes and characters — misunderstood monsters; a repulsive villain with comical henchmen; a hero with an identity crisis — but it does so with refreshing wit and energy. At times it might be a little dark and scary for the very youngest viewers, but their slightly older siblings are likely to appreciate the way this movie balances the silly and the sinister, the creepy and the cute, the nasty and the nice. Adults may also find themselves amused. This one did, at any rate.” Read more…)