Hank’s Recommendations 01/29/13

hank_paperSEVEN PSYCHOPATHS — In this film by the Oscar-nominated writer and director of IN BRUGES, Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell plays a struggling screenwriter who can’t get beyond his title, “Seven Psychopaths.” Until, that is, his ecccentric friends chip in to help him with the storyline and suggest some psychopathic characters—who may or may not be themselves. One of these friends, played by Christopher Walken, is a dognapper who steals pets and then returns them to the owner for the reward. One of his victims, unfortunately (though perhaps not for the screenplay), is a psychopathic crime lord played by Woody Harrelson (whose masterful role anchored the recent GAME CHANGE), who will kill anything in the way of getting his shih tzu back.

The film, in other words, is about how it got written, and it turns out it to be a very good script! From the surprising and funny opening scene, the running dialogue is clever and self-referential (Quentin Tarantino, anyone?). As far as who is a psychopath and thus deserves to be in the movie, prepared to be surprised! Harrelson, for sure, eats up the scenery and Walken, though somewhat long in the tooth, has still got that toothy grin and that springy grace in his step. Other cast members include Sam Rockwell and—treat among treats—Tom Waits. But, then, everything in this film is entertaining and often goes where you don’t expect it. Though expectedly violent, it has a broad pacifist streak; in the end it’s actually an anti-shoot-‘em up film. So don’t be disarmed by the title. Highly recommended.

GOD IS BIGGER THAN ELVIS — Oy, is this a movie! And I thought Elvis was king.

This pithy oft-requested Oscar nominated documentary raises more questions than it answers. But we learn a lot that’s intriguing: not only about how former B movie star, Dolores Hart—so pampered and prepped by the studio following her early co-starring roles in Elvis films—gave up acting to become a nun, but also about the dynamics of monastic life itself in Bethlehem, CT. (Spoiler alerts: one nun sports a nose ring; the nuns’ underwear, to judge by the clothes line, is quite colorful; the monastery, Hart opines, offers an opportunity for sexuality to go beyond the genital.) Hart not only gave up a promising career, she gave up her five-year engagement to a courtly and supportive man whom she apparently loved (he makes a surprising appearance near the end of this film). In order to find the security she most desired, she married God. One thing you can say about Hart: You’ve come a long way, baby!

New Releases 01/29/13

Top Hits

Seven Psychopaths (dark comedy, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Meta to the max, filled with clever jokes and observations that stick like barbs and deflated ones that land with a thud, Seven Psychopaths is a leisurely riff about movies, violence, storytelling and the art of the steal. It’s slight if sometimes amusing, partly because it has one of those casts studded with appealing faces like Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg, the reunited co-stars from Boardwalk Empire, who put in a day or so of work. Like guests, they rotate in and out fast, as do Harry Dean Stanton, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe [who deserves better], Tom Waits and Zeljko Ivanek.” Read more…)

Cold Light of Day (action, Bruce Wills. Rotten Tomatoes: 5%. Metacritic: 22. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “So murky that it is hard to discern shapes, let alone faces, in many of its scenes, and so crudely edited that its frenzied action has scant continuity,The Cold Light of Day is a catastrophe worth noting only for the presence of its name cast. Who knows why stars of the caliber of Henry Cavill [the next Superman], Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver signed on for this thoroughly incompetent ‘Bourne’ movie imitation.” Read more…)

Paranormal Activity 4 (horror, Katie Featherston. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 40. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The latest Paranormal Activity, No. 4, is unlikely to attract new viewers to this horror series; by now you’ve signed on or not. But there are reasons these movies persist, mainly a consistency and a determination not to overreach; understatement and adherence to form carry these films. Paranormal Activity 4 will please the fans, and that should sustain this low-budget, highly profitable franchise.” Read more…)

Hello I Must Be Going (indie romance, Melanie Lynskey. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The plot is a tissue of familiar contrivances, some of them gratingly unpersuasive, like the make-or-break deal that will secure the future of Amy’s father’s vaguely defined business. But Hello I Must Be Going [which shares its title with a Phil Collins album and a famous number from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers] is better than the story it has to tell, and that is thanks to the bravery and sensitivity of Ms. Lynskey’s performance and the sweet, intense love affair that is the film’s main concern.” Read more…)

Last Ride (Australia, drama, Hugo Weaving. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Australian actor Hugo Weaving has the kind of blockbuster credits and genre fame that can overshadow a performer’s range. He’s hitched rides in hits like The Matrix cycle [as Agent Smith] and The Lord of the Rings trilogy [Elrond, an Elf-lord], in which he dominated his scenes with restrained intensity, slashing eyebrows and a voice that turns whispers into threats. He seems born to play eerie types like Smith who e-nun-ci-ate each syllable as if talking in time to a metronome, fitting vocalizations for a character who’s a machine. There’s more to Mr. Weaving than a spooky voice, though, but you need to look into the quieter corners of the movie world for the fuller picture. n the Australian film Last Ride he plays Kev, a guy with a rock for a heart and a sensitive 10-year old son, Chook (Tom Russell), who from his first trembling moment seems destined to smash that heart to pieces.” Read more…)

The Liability (action, Tim Roth)

Downton Abbey: Season 3 (British series, Hugh Bonneville)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 (animated superhero feature, Peter Weller [voice])

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis)

More Than a Month (African-American history)

New Blu-Ray

Downton Abbey: Season 3

Seven Psychopaths

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

New Foreign

17 Girls (France, drama, Louise Grinberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 61. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “This French film, based on real events that took place in Gloucester, Mass., in 2008, has been relocated to Lorient, a shabby port city on the Brittany coast and the hometown of the filmmakers, who are sisters. The movie takes you inside the dreamy collective mentality of bored, mildly rebellious girls who look with horror at the lives of their mostly working-class parents. A core group makes a pact to have babies simultaneously and bring up their children together. The inner circle widens, and in short order 17 girls are pregnant.” Read more…)

Last Ride (Australia, drama, Hugo Weaving, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68.From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Australian actor Hugo Weaving has the kind of blockbuster credits and genre fame that can overshadow a performer’s range. He’s hitched rides in hits like The Matrix cycle [as Agent Smith] and The Lord of the Rings trilogy [Elrond, an Elf-lord], in which he dominated his scenes with restrained intensity, slashing eyebrows and a voice that turns whispers into threats. He seems born to play eerie types like Smith who e-nun-ci-ate each syllable as if talking in time to a metronome, fitting vocalizations for a character who’s a machine. There’s more to Mr. Weaving than a spooky voice, though, but you need to look into the quieter corners of the movie world for the fuller picture. n the Australian film Last Ride he plays Kev, a guy with a rock for a heart and a sensitive 10-year old son, Chook (Tom Russell), who from his first trembling moment seems destined to smash that heart to pieces.” Read more…)

New British

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976, Sherlock Holmes mystery, Alan Arkin. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film, which opened yesterday at the Plaza Theater, is popular movie-making at its most stylish. It’s simultaneously contemporary in its sensibility and faithful to the courtly mood and decent spirit of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle originals. It’s also one of the most handsome evocations of a vanished period (circa 1890) since “Murder on the Orient Express,” and a collector’s item in terms of performances.” Read more…

From Mike Hale’s New York Times article this past weekend about the current Blu-Ray/DVD release of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: “We’re lousy with Sherlock Holmeses right now: the Robert Downey Jr. version on the big screen, the competing television interpretations of Benedict Cumberbatch [Sherlock] and Jonny Lee Miller [Elementary] and all the Holmes-inspired geniuses in current and recent TV shows like The Mentalist, Psych, House and Monk. So The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, released this week in a new Blu-ray and DVD package, enters a crowded market. But its Sherlock deserves special consideration because he’s the father of all those modern Holmeses. Besides being a clever comic mystery with an absurdly talented cast, this 1976 film — based on Nicholas Meyer’s playful novel imagining the meeting of two great Victorian detectives, one of whom is Sigmund Freud — established the template for all the twitchy, paranoid, vulnerable, strung-out Holmeses to come.” Read more…)

Downton Abbey: Season 3

Agatha Christie Partners in Crime (mystery series)

New TV

Pan Am: Season 1

New Documentaries

Only When I Dance (dance competition, Brazil. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 59. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “Joining Dancing Across Borders and Mao’s Last Dancer in the category of inspirational international dance films is Beadie Finzi’s Only When I Dance, which tracks the progress of two students with professional aspirations at the Centro de Dança ballet school in Rio de Janeiro. Casting is the key here, and Ms. Finzi chose wisely: Irlan Santos da Silva and Isabela Coracy, teenagers when the film was made, leap off the screen as effortlessly as they fly through the air onstage. Mr. Santos da Silva is particularly mesmerizing, as a dancer and a personality; there’s not much suspense regarding whether he will land a spot with a major ballet company.” Read more…)

Birders: The Central Park Effect (birdwatching, nature. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis, in Top Hits)

More Than a Month (African-American history, in Top Hits)

New Gay & Lesbian

Out in the Open (documentary, gay & lesbian identity, Greg Louganis, in Top Hits)

New Children

Hotel Transylvania (animated feature, Adam Sandler [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 47. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The story flags, but the animation in Hotel Transylvania, a misunderstood-monsters story aimed at the Aladdin and Little Mermaid crowd, is never less than vivid. Younger children are unlikely to get all the references to monsters of yore, but if nothing else, the film will give their parents an opportunity to educate them about the Invisible Man and Quasimodo.” Read more…)

Madly Madagascar (animated short)