New Releases 3/15/16

Top Hits
BrooklynBrooklyn (period drama/romance, Saorse Ronan. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Many American families cherish faded memories of the Old Neighborhood and the Old Country, places that help supply both a sense of identity and a story of progress — complementary answers to the question ‘Where do we come from?’ ‘Brooklyn,’ a lovely film based on the even lovelier novel by Colm Toibin, feels like an answer to that question. Set in its titular borough and in a small Irish town in the early 1950s, it is both sharply observed and gently nostalgic.” Read more…)

Sisters (comedy, Tina Fey. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Sisters’ is a movie to go out and see when you’ve run out of television to watch. Which could happen, at least theoretically. Directed by Jason Moore [‘Pitch Perfect’] from a script by the longtime ‘Saturday Night Live’ writer Paula Pell, this raunchy-huggy comedy features, in keeping with Hollywood custom, a gaggle of well-known and well-liked sitcom and sketch-comedy performers being a little less funny than you want them to be. They are allowed to swear more robustly than on network or basic-cable shows, to deliver sentimental speeches along with punch lines and to play with or against type as the mood suits.” Read more…)

Victor Frankenstein (horror/Gothic, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 36. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “You cannot keep a good monster down, especially when there’s franchise money to be made. This doubtless explains ‘Victor Frankenstein,’ a pop romp that exhumes Mary Shelley’s famous monster-maker for a jaunty bromance with his bestie, Igor. It’s a hyperventilated resurrection that owes less to Shelley [or most Frankenstein flicks] than to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes diversions, which turned Holmes [Robert Downey Jr.] and Dr. Watson [Jude Law] into 19th-century action heroes complete with cheerfully deployed violence and self-regarding smiles.” Read more…)

Big_ShortThe Big Short (contemporary true-life drama, Christian Bale. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A true crime story and a madcap comedy, a heist movie and a scalding polemic, ‘The Big Short’ will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood. Written by Adam McKay [‘Anchorman,’ ‘Anchorman 2’] and Charles Randolph, and directed by Mr. McKay and released in the midst of ‘Star Wars’ advent season, the film sets itself a very tall order. It wants not only to explain the financial crisis of 2008 — following the outline of Michael Lewis’s best-selling nonfiction book — but also to make the dry, complex abstractions of high finance exciting and fun.” Read more…)

Carol (drama/romance/gay & lesbian, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In bringing this book to the screen in his gorgeous new movie ‘Carol,’ Todd Haynes has, as filmmakers will, changed a few details, characters and plot points. [Therese is now an aspiring photographer, though still temporarily employed at the doll counter of a department store.] But Mr. Haynes and the screenwriter, Phyllis Nagy, have also done something more radical. In Highsmith’s prose, desire is a one-way street. For Mr. Haynes, it’s a two-way mirror. At once ardent and analytical, cerebral and swooning, ‘Carol’ is a study in human magnetism, in the physics and optics of eros. With sparse dialogue and restrained drama, the film is a symphony of angles and glances, of colors and shadows. It gives emotional and philosophical weight to what might be a perfectly banal question: What do these women see each in each other?” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Youth (comedy/drama, Michael Caine, Blu-Ray only. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The setting of ‘Youth,’ Paolo Sorrentino’s new film, is an Alpine resort — a picturesque place rich with cultural associations and full of rich, cultured guests. Even if most people in the audience have never been to such a spot, it may nonetheless ring a few bells and jog some literary and cinematic memories. We’ve been here before. Was it ‘The Magic Mountain’ or ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’? ‘The Good Soldier’? ‘Last Year at Marienbad’? It’s all the same. Not really, of course. These are highly specific mountains and trees, and the people gamboling and gambling in their shadows are exquisite in their individuality. But still. Mr. Sorrentino’s camera glides across a landscape pocked with signifiers of European Decadence, one of the continent’s most durable and distinguished exports.” Read more…)

The Big Short

New Classics (pre-1960)
Five Graves to Cairo (1943, Billy Wilder-directed World War II drama, Franchot Tone. Rotten Tomoatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1943 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s a good thing the German armies and Field Marshal Rommel in particular had been chased all the way out of Africa before ‘Five Graves to Cairo’ opened at the Paramount yesterday, else the performance by Erich von Stroheim of the much-touted field marshal in it might have been just a bit too aggressive for the comfort of most of us. As a matter of fact, it is still a shade on the terrifying side. For Mr. von Stroheim has all other movie Huns backed completely off the screen. Just as he was in the last war, he is still the toughest German of them all. And whenever he appears in this picture, a swaggering bully waving a tasseled fly-swatter, he gives you the creeps and the shivers. Boy, what a nasty Hun!” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962, Criterion edition of John Frankenheimer’s classic paranoid thriller. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 94. From Bosley Crowther’s 1962 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “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.” Read more…)

New Television
Game of Thrones: Season 5 (HBO fantasy/action series, Peter Dinklage)
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 (comedy, Ellie Kemper)

New Documentaries
Censored Voices (Mideast history, war, Six-Day War. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “In the weeks following the Six-Day War in 1967, the conflict that reshaped a victorious Israel, two kibbutzniks, Amos Oz and Avraham Shapira, recorded a series of talks with other soldiers just coming home. Mr. Shapira assembled those conversations into a book, ‘The Seventh Day,’ which came out later that year and was remarkably reflective given the national euphoria. But the Israeli military permitted only about 30 percent of the material to be published then. In Mor Loushy’s ‘Censored Voices,’ Mr. Oz, now perhaps Israel’s best-known author, and Mr. Shapira, an editor, along with some of their interviewees, listen almost a half-century later to tapes of their younger selves.” Read more…)

Steve_Jobs_Man_MachineSteve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (bio, technology, Steve Jobs. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 72. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The transformative impact Steve Jobs has had on culture and society has become an article of faith since his much-mourned death in 2011. The secular canonization of Mr. Jobs, the mastermind behind Apple, is the starting point for ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,’ Alex Gibney’s trenchant new documentary, which asks with sincere curiosity: What’s the fuss about? And more to the point: What’s wrong with this picture?” Read more…)

The Seven Five (police corruption, New York history. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The documentary ‘The Seven Five’ giddily revisits the true-crime deeds of Michael Dowd, a former New York police officer who was arrested in 1992 with a stash of cocaine on him. As the ringleader of a crew of dirty cops stationed at the 75th Precinct in East New York, he padded his income by stealing money, guns and drugs from dealers. He eventually graduated to working for drug rings, one of which put him on retainer so he could provide information about narcotic operations. ‘The Seven Five’ has been called ‘the cop version of ‘”GoodFellas,’”‘ which may explain why Sony has plans to produce a fictional remake. Here’s hoping that version uses a better moral compass.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (animated feature, Jason Lee. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 33. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Why the Chipmunks still command an audience more than a half-century after their initial incarnation on novelty records defies explanation, but they do; the first three movies each earned a nine-figure box office gross. The third installment, ‘Chipwrecked,’ in 2011, was somewhat chaotic and didn’t do as well as the first two; the new movie is a bit of a corrective, with a simpler plot and an abundance of catchy [if you can stand that grating, high-pitched harmony] songs.” Read more…)

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