(The Other) Hank’s Recommendations 04/23/13

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_WebBest Video’s other Hank—Hank Hoffman—here with this week’s recommendation. Hank Paper will return with a new recommendation next week.

Film Movement is a distributor of critically acclaimed independent and foreign films—we have dozens of their titles avilable to rent at Best Video. Their selections are, in a sense, curated, chosen for the quality of the storytelling, the persuasiveness of the acting, the commitment to personal vision.

KAREN CRIES ON THE BUS hails from Colombia, directed by Gabriel Rojas Vera. But unlike so many films from or about contemporary Colombia, it is not a shoot-em-up about narco-traffickers or guerrillas. Rather, it tells the story of Karen, a Colombian woman who leaves her unfulfilling marriage of ten years to the distant and emotionally abusive—albeit financially successful—Mario. With no jobs, no apparent friends,  little money and the disapproval of her mother, she makes her way out into Bogotá, renting a room in a rundown flophouse.

Karen is played by Angela Carrizosa with a naturalness that is wholly believable. Her growth into self-sufficiency is spurred in part by her tentative friendship with Patricia,  an outgoing beautician who also has a room at the boardinghouse. Feminism is a subtext, of course, but Rojas Vera doesn’t overplay that theme.

The strengths of Karen Cries on the Bus are the strengths of the Film Movement offerings overall: telling human scale stories in such a way as to richly accommodate grander visions. Check out the Film Movement titles in our New Foreign and various country sections. Almost every one is a gem.

View the trailer for Karen Cries on the Bus:

New Releases 04/23/13

Top Hits
The Impossible (family/action, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Impossible, the second feature from the Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona, uses digital imagery, meticulous sound design and tried-and-true editing techniques to recreate both the violence of unleashed waters and the desolation that followed their assault on southern Thailand. Much more than Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, which used the tsunami as a framing device for one of its tales of supernatural obsession, The Impossible plunges the audience into the catastrophe and then immerses us in the panic, grief and disorientation of the aftermath.” Read more…)

Gangster Squad (crime/gangster, Sean Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Gangster Squad is less a movie than a costume party run amok. Set in a late-’40s Los Angeles painted in cartoon colors rather than noir shadows, it is a hectic jumble of fedoras and zoot suits, stockings and cigarettes, and red femme-fatale dresses. The accessories of choice are guns of various calibers and styles, deployed to drown out — or perhaps to emphasize — knucklehead dialogue and inept storytelling.” Read more…)

Promised Land (drama/ecology, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Promised Land, directed by Gus Van Sant, is an earnest attempt, sometimes effective, sometimes clumsy, to dramatize the central arguments about fracking and its impact. Issues that have been addressed in Josh Fox’s documentary Gasland and in a series of articles by Ian Urbina in The New York Times crystallize in the story of Steve, a man whose ambition comes into conflict with his conscience.” Read more…)

Any Day Now (drama, Alan Cumming. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “When Alan Cumming turns on his beaming grin in Any Day Now, Travis Fine’s militant tear-jerker, he conveys such intense, unguarded emotion you almost want to avert your eyes. That smile, and the blazing performance it distills, conveys so ferocious a mixture of desire, hurt, defiance, courage, neediness and reckless abandon that it makes everyone else seem cowardly. You consider the real meaning of the Jerry Herman anthem, ‘I Am What I Am,’ from La Cage aux Folles, as it is lived out in extremis by one flamboyantly gay man.” Read more…)

Pawn (crime thriller, Michael Chiklis)

New Blu-Ray
The Impossible
Gangster Squad
Promised Land

New Foreign
In Another Country (South Korea, romance, Isabelle Huppert, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Like many other films by the sly and prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, In Another Country is at once a comedy of manners and an oblique commentary on the power of cinema to expose and alter reality. Its three chapters, each a little under a half-hour long, are scenarios dreamed up by an aspiring young screenwriter [Jung Yumi] in the midst of some vague family trouble. The movies she writes, which we see enacted on the screen [with Ms. Jung as a helpful neighbor], are variations on some of Mr. Hong’s favorite themes: social awkwardness, sexual frustration and the selfishness of Korean men.” Read more…)

Commissario Brunetti Ep. 15 & 16 (Germany, Donna Leon mystery series, Uwe Kockisch)
Commissario Brunetti Ep. 17 & 18 (Germany, Donna Leon mystery series, Uwe Kockisch)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Devil and Miss Jones (1941, socially conscious screwball comedy, Jean Arthur. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Just suppose—but you need’nt, if it revolts you—that you were the wealthiest man in all the world. Then suppose that a group of employes in a department store you didn’t even know you owned hung your effigy outside the building as a token of their contempt for you. Would you, in a state of burning fury, take a job incognito in the store in order to find out the reasons for such a disrespectful attack? Maybe you wouldn’t. In fact, it would be a most illogical thing for a man to do. But, anyhow, we are mighty happy that Frank Ross and Norman Krasna contrived to have Charles Coburn pretend to such an exalted position and do exactly that thing in their picture called The Devil and Miss Jones, which breezed into the Music Hall yesterday. For the consequence is the frothiest comedy since—well, since The Lady Eve.” Read more…)

New British
Mr. Selfridge (historical drama mini-series, Jeremy Piven. Metacritic: 59. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “Mr. Selfridge is an eight-part, roughly eight-hour mini-series about the American businessman who opened the revolutionary London department store Selfridges in 1909. It’s also a soldier in the current bloody war for period-drama domination between the British television networks ITV and BBC, whose combatants include Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, on ITV, and Call the Midwife and The Paradise, on BBC. [Already dead: BBC’s flat-footed Upstairs Downstairs sequel.] After doing service in Britain, these shows often take R&R on PBS, which is where Mr. Selfridge shows up on Sunday night as part of Masterpiece Classic. American viewers will immediately compare it with Downton Abbey and note some things that are lacking: tailcoats, Maggie Smith, a castle. Mr. Selfridge is a more commercial and proletarian affair, focused on innovations in window dressing and the love lives of shop girls, music hall stars and grubby capitalists.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Central Park Five (Ken Burns doc, justice system, racism, crime. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 79. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The documentary The Central Park Five revisits two New York nightmares. The first and most famous was the rape and beating of a 28-year-old white woman who, very early on April 20, 1989, was found in Central Park bound, gagged, nearly naked and nearly dead, her head crushed and shirt soaked in her blood. For years she was known only as the Central Park jogger, and her assailants were widely thought to be the five black and Latino teenagers, 14 to 16, who were arrested in the attack. The directors Ken Burns, David McMahon and Sarah Burns argue that the convictions, and the years the defendants served for the crime they were later absolved of, were a second, racially motivated crime.” Read more…)

Meet the Fokkens (aging, prostitution, Amsterdam red light district. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “When Martine Fokkens bustles into the small grocery store early in Meet the Fokkens, a 2011 documentary portrait of identical twin prostitutes, she calls out a cheery hello to the man behind the counter. She has a purple hat and orange scarf framing her plump white face and a Chihuahua tucked under an arm, and what she needs, she announces, is a box of condoms. She was 69 when the movie was shot and still plying her trade from one of the picture windows in Amsterdam’s red-light district. Two years earlier her sister, Louise, had hung up her own riding crop because, as the second twin explains in this insistently upbeat movie, ‘I couldn’t get one leg over the other.'” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Any Day Now (drama, Alan Cumming, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “When Alan Cumming turns on his beaming grin in Any Day Now, Travis Fine’s militant tear-jerker, he conveys such intense, unguarded emotion you almost want to avert your eyes. That smile, and the blazing performance it distills, conveys so ferocious a mixture of desire, hurt, defiance, courage, neediness and reckless abandon that it makes everyone else seem cowardly. You consider the real meaning of the Jerry Herman anthem, ‘I Am What I Am,’ from La Cage aux Folles, as it is lived out in extremis by one flamboyantly gay man.” Read more…)