New releases 10/28/14

Top Hits
Begin Again (romance, Mark Ruffalo. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Compared with ‘Once,’ ‘Begin Again’ is a bit like the disappointing, overly produced follow-up to a new band’s breakthrough album. A large part of the problem is that the music, which is supposed to provide heart, soul and artistic bona fides, ranges from passable to terrible. When Dan first hears Gretta with her acoustic guitar, he imagines a full arrangement for her song, transforming it in his head from a mediocre fake-folk ditty into a mediocre middle-of-the-road radio hit.” Read more…)

Wish I Was Here (comedy/drama, Zach Braff. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 43. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Until you partly surrender to its underlying good will and sincerity, watching ‘Wish I Was Here’ is like observing an experiment in a cinematic test kitchen. The perky chefs are seeking an ideal blend of familiar flavors and textures as they devise what they hope will turn out to be a new, improved recipe for that old standby, Thoughtful Comic Entertainment.” Read more…)

Child of God (thriller/drama, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Make no mistake: There is nothing pleasant about ‘Child of God,’ James Franco’s very fine adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s short, pitiless novel. But then, Mr. McCarthy is a bard of the apocalyptic who, in his unsparing period novel ‘Blood Meridian’ writes that ‘war is the truest form of divination.’ His is no country for old men, to borrow the title of one of his few books that have been turned into a successful film; neither is it a place for bromides about the triumph of the human spirit, one reason most of the screen adaptations have failed. There isn’t a war per se in ‘Child of God,’ just good and [mostly] evil in a Christ story in reverse about a mystery who becomes a man.” Read more…)

The Purge: Anarchy (horror, Zach Gilford. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Kill or be killed isn’t the official tag line of ‘The Purge: Anarchy,’ but it fits. It would also make a more suitable title for this satisfyingly creepy, blunt, down-and-dirty thriller, one of those follow-ups that improves on the original. Once again, it’s a new morning in future America, and crime is still down, as is unemployment. The only thing that appears to be keeping the peace and assuring prosperity is the government-sanctioned annual bloodletting, that one night a year in which the citizenry can run amok without punishment. The word anarchy is purely superfluous.” Read more…)

Good People (thriller, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes: 12%. Metacritic: 42.)
Grace: The Possession (horror, Alexia Fast)
Disaster L.A. (horror, Justin Ray)

New Blu-Ray
Wish I Was Here

New Foreign
Dormant Beauty (Italy, drama, Toni Servillo. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Thought and feeling are never far apart in the films of Marco Bellocchio. From his precocious beginnings in the 1960s with ‘Fists in the Pocket’ and ‘China Is Near,’ Mr. Bellocchio, now 74, has explored weighty ideas — about Italian society and politics, about the struggle between faith and secularism in the modern world, about authority, idealism and sexual desire — with passionate, at times melodramatic, ardor…. But if ‘Dormant Beauty’ does not rank among Mr. Bellocchio’s best movies, it nonetheless still occasionally shows him at his best. His eye for the latent beauty and evident absurdity of Italian life remains acute, as does his appreciation for vivid performance.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948, Max Ophuls-directed costume drama, Joan Fontaine. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For this handsomely put-together picture about the unrequited love of a girl for a dashing young concert pianist, based on a story by Stefan Zweig, is as obvious an onslaught on the heart-strings as that old-fashioned tear-jerker tableau, glimpsed between velvet pull-curtains and scented with scattered rose leaves. Indeed, it has all the accessories of that brand of moist-handkerchief romance, including sad music played on violins and the death of an illegitimate child.” Read more…
From Charles Taylor’s New York Times DVD release review: “This romantic melodrama points forward to the opulent and ironic period style Ophuls would perfect after his return to France in ‘The Earrings of Madame de ….’ and his film maudit ‘Lola Mont?’ ‘Letter From an Unknown Woman’ feels less worldly than those pictures, and while the tragic twist of its source, a short story by the great Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, is still present, the obsessional quality has become somewhat masochistic. But ‘Letter’ is the most sophisticated of all weepers; there is no other Hollywood romance that looks or feels like it.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Fedora (1978, Billy Wilder-directed noir drama, William Holden. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Janet Maslin’s effusive 1979 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Billy Wilder’s ‘Fedora’ is a fabulous relic, a grand old villa fallen slightly into disrepair. And if it seems outmoded, well, that is very much Mr. Wilder’s intention. ‘Fedora’ is old-fashioned with a vengeance, a proud, passionate remembrance of the way movies used to be, and a bitter smile at what they have become.” Read more…)

New British
Accused: Series 1 & 2

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