New releases 9/23/14

Top Hits
Neighbors (comedy, Seth Rogen. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Neighbors’ is not a great film and does not really aspire to be. It is more a status report on mainstream American movie comedy, operating in a sweet spot between the friendly and the nasty, and not straining to be daring, obnoxious or even especially original. It knows how to have fun. How very grown-up.” Read more…)

Words and Pictures (romance, Clive Owen. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 49. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘Words and Pictures’ has a host of flaws, but the performances by Mr. Owen and Ms. Binoche have a crackling vitality, and the screenplay’s strongest moments set off the kind of trains of thought that dedicated teachers hope to spur in their students. Cantankerous though these two teachers can be, you would be lucky to have them in your classroom.” Read more…)

The Signal (sci-fi, Laurence Fishburne. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 53. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “William Eubank’s ‘The Signal’ demonstrates the fine line between paranoid science-fiction fantasy and demo reel. Both involve impressive visions of reality reimagined, and both defy logic extravagantly and yet somehow casually, too. Mr. Eubank’s diverting but disconnected film might fairly be described as a little bit of each.” Read more…)

Ida (Poland, drama, Agata Trzebuchowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Pawel] Pawlikowski, a Polish-born writer and director who has spent most of his career in England, has reached into his country’s past and grabbed hold of a handful of nettles. “Ida” is a breathtakingly concise film — just 80 minutes long — with a clear, simple narrative line. But within its relatively brief duration and its narrow black-and-white frames, the movie somehow contains a cosmos of guilt, violence and pain. Its intimate drama unfolds at the crossroads where the Catholic, Jewish and Communist strains of Poland’s endlessly and bitterly contested national identity intersect.” Read more…)

The Rover (dystopia drama, Guy Pearce. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: :[Director David] Michôd’s first feature, ‘Animal Kingdom,’ was a brutal and pungent tour of the Melbourne underworld, brought alive by spring-loaded performances [Jacki Weaver’s, supremely and a gamy, violent sense of humor. This time, he demonstrates once again that he has a knack for violence and suspense. [The sound design in particular is brilliantly sinister.] But he can’t find much of interest beyond the puffed-up, stripped-down glumness that is this genre’s default mood.” Read more…)

Romeo + Juliet (Shakespeare play in modern dress, Hailee Steinfeld. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Passions and nostrils flare in the latest screen version of ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ a sufficiently entertaining, adamantly old-fashioned adaptation that follows the play’s general outline without ever rising to the passionate intensity of its star-cross’d crazy kids. Adapted by Julian Fellowes, who’s taken liberties with the original text, and dutifully directed by Carlo Carlei, it deploys the familiar emotional beats — if not all the lines — along with the usual mixture of comedy, romance and tragedy. Shot in the actual Verona and at other Italian attractions, it looks pretty, feels light and moves fast, with a 118-minute running time that’s in keeping with the original’s “two hours’ traffic of our stage.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Neighbors
The Signal

New Foreign
Ida (Poland, drama, Agata Trzebuchowska, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Pawel] Pawlikowski, a Polish-born writer and director who has spent most of his career in England, has reached into his country’s past and grabbed hold of a handful of nettles. “Ida” is a breathtakingly concise film — just 80 minutes long — with a clear, simple narrative line. But within its relatively brief duration and its narrow black-and-white frames, the movie somehow contains a cosmos of guilt, violence and pain. Its intimate drama unfolds at the crossroads where the Catholic, Jewish and Communist strains of Poland’s endlessly and bitterly contested national identity intersect.” Read more…)

Like Father Like Son (Japan, drama, Fukiyama Masaharu. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Japanese melodrama ‘Like Father, Like Son’ turns on the kind of cruel twist — children switched at birth — that’s the stuff of tear-wringing headlines and fiction. It begins with the revelation that two 6-year-old boys were given at birth to the wrong families, which now need to decide on the best thing to do. For one set of parents, Ryota [Masaharu Fukuyama] and Midorino [Machiko Ono], a comfortably middle-class couple nestled high in a glass tower, the revelation that their only son, Keita [Keita Ninomiya], isn’t a blood relation is a blow to their tiny family. It’s also a wedge that — day by day, hurt by hurt — transforms these loving parents into sparring partners.” Read more…)

The Last of the Unjust (France, Holocaust documentary, Claude Lanzmann. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This challenge weighs heavily on his latest offering, ‘The Last of the Unjust,’ which seems to focus, for nearly four hours, on the actions and reminiscences of a single man, Benjamin Murmelstein, a prominent rabbi in Vienna who became the last Jewish ‘elder’ of the Theresienstadt ghetto. I say ‘seems’ because while Murmelstein’s animated, high-pitched speech and cherubic, bespectacled face dominate the screen, ‘The Last of the Unjust’ is also, unmistakably, about Mr. Lanzmann himself, and about his status as a leading interpreter of the Holocaust. It feels more personal than ‘Shoah,’ ‘Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.’ or ‘The Karski Report’ in ways that are both fascinating and troubling.” Read more…)

New Television
Modern Family: Season 4
Modern Family: Season 5
Scandal: Season 3

New Documentaries
The Last of the Unjust (Holocaust documentary, Claude Lanzmann, in New Foreign. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This challenge weighs heavily on his latest offering, ‘The Last of the Unjust,’ which seems to focus, for nearly four hours, on the actions and reminiscences of a single man, Benjamin Murmelstein, a prominent rabbi in Vienna who became the last Jewish ‘elder’ of the Theresienstadt ghetto. I say ‘seems’ because while Murmelstein’s animated, high-pitched speech and cherubic, bespectacled face dominate the screen, ‘The Last of the Unjust’ is also, unmistakably, about Mr. Lanzmann himself, and about his status as a leading interpreter of the Holocaust. It feels more personal than ‘Shoah,’ ‘Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.’ or ‘The Karski Report’ in ways that are both fascinating and troubling.” Read more…)

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