New releases 10/30/12

Top Hits
The Campaign (comedy, Will Ferrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 50. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Campaign is a comedy about a North Carolina Congressional election. Since it stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival candidates — you probably know this if you own a television — the movie is obviously not a realistic depiction of the American electoral process. But its relationship to the reality of contemporary politics is nonetheless interesting to consider. Too soft and silly to be satire, too upbeat to be a cautionary tale, the film [directed by Jay Roach] is a fun-house fable that both exaggerates and understates the absurdities of our democracy in this contentious election year.” Read more…)

Safety Not Guaranteed (comedy, Mark Duplass. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 72. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “An indie comedy as endearing as Safety Not Guaranteed can seem as deceptively easy to toss off as a foolproof recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Measure, stir, bake and presto, you have instant melt-in-your-mouth goodies. That describes the impression left not only by Safety Not Guaranteed but also by the better films associated with Jay and Mark Duplass, two of its four executive producers. The Duplass brothers’ looming juggernaut of hip, smart, modestly budgeted films evolved out of the mumblecore movement. Talky but unpretentious, the genre is a style unto itself. Casually realistic, with semi-improvised dialogue and low-tech production values, it is truthful without seeming portentous.” Read more…)

Ruby Sparks (comedy, Paul Dano. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Ruby Sparks, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the team behind Little Miss Sunshine, has the same zany and sweet tone laced with just enough hardheaded wisdom to keep it grounded in psychological truth. The screenplay, by Ms. Kazan, is so polished and witty that it immediately puts her in the same league as Diablo Cody. And Ms. Kazan’s lovely, tart performance is the equal of Ellen Page’s portrayal of the title character in Juno. Both are impetuous screwball heroines who could have been created only by women.” Read more…)

Coma (thriller, Lauren Ambrose)

New Blu-Ray
The Campaign
Safety Not Guaranteed

New Foreign
Elena (Russia, drama, Nadezhda Markina. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Post-Soviet Russia in Andrei Zvyagintsev’s somber, gripping film Elena is a moral vacuum where money rules, the haves are contemptuous of the have-nots, and class resentment simmers. The movie, which shuttles between the center of Moscow and its outskirts, is grim enough to suggest that even if you were rich, you wouldn’t want to live there. For My. Zvyagintsev, whose first feature, The Return, won the grand prize at the 2003 Venice Film Festival, it is a brilliant comeback after The Banishment [2007], a disappointing film that was not released in this country. The Return had established him as perhaps the foremost artistic heir to Andrei Tarkovsky.” Read more…)

Americano (France, drama, Salma Hayek. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 50. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Movies are part of [director Mathieu Demy’s] own particular parental legacy, but they also represent a communal storehouse of images and genres, a reservoir of adaptable dreams and renewable meanings. Americano is a film of modest ambitions — it does not strive for greatness or novelty — but it demonstrates unassuming self-assurance and an admirable willingness to take formal and emotional risks in pursuit of a complicated and elusive truth.” Read more…)

Polisse (crime drama, Karin Viard. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Like [her character] Melissa, [director and actress] Maïwenn spent time with a child-protection police task force, and her sympathy and respect for its members, as well as her grasp of their limitations, informs every scene in this long, unruly, gripping film. Though it is a fictional feature [written by Maïwenn and Emmanuelle Bercot], Polisse feels less dramatized than witnessed. It has a rough, ragged narrative structure and a correspondingly hectic visual style. It plows through some harsh, horrifying realities with unflinching sobriety, concerned less with social problems than with facts and in the process illuminates French society with a toughness and fidelity that few other recent movies have dared.” Read more…)

The Young Montalbano Episodes 1-3 (Italy, detective series, Michele Riondino)
The Young Montalbano Episodes 4-6 (Italy, detective series, Michele Riondino)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968, horror, Mia Farrow. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. From Renata Adler’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “If a person exhibits paranoid symptoms these days it would seem common decency not to report him, at least, to the persons he claims to be persecuted by, and when Mia Farrow tells what is, after all, a highly plausible story to her obstetrician in Rosemary’s Baby, it seems wrong of him to deliver her straight to a coven of witches that has designs on her baby. Lord knows how many cases of extremely accurate reporting are cured each day by psychiatrists.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Copper: Season 1

New Documentaries
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (biography, music, gender issues, Genesis P-Orridge. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 68. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Highlighting the wacky while playing down the distasteful, Marie Losier’s playful profile of the English musician and artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and his second wife, Lady Jaye [who died in 2007], takes a lighthearted look at the things they did for love. Or, some might say, for attention. As The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye makes abundantly clear, this couple thrived on two things: loving each other and making spectacles of themselves. When, in 2000, they began a series of plastic surgeries — including matching breast implants — in a bizarre attempt to merge identities, these twin passions dovetailed into a continuing performance piece that they called pandrogeny, but that others might call working out your issues.” Read more…)

First Position (ballet, dance competition. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The tears are often held tremulously back and the many hurts smiled away in First Position, an appealing, largely upbeat documentary about young ballet dancers duking it out, sometimes on point and in tulle, for top honors at the Youth America Grand Prix.” Read more…)

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