New Releases 09/03/13

Top Hits
Now You See Me (thriller, Morgan Freeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 50. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “It’s one thing to watch a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat. It’s quite another to watch a movie of the same thing. Movies are themselves a kind of magic, dependent on technological wizardry. That’s why, when watching a film of a humble magic trick, you feel no sense of wonder, for the stunt has already been accomplished in a medium that’s all about illusion. So what, you shrug. Now You See Me is a so-what movie on a grand scale that tries to transcend this unbreachable barrier through the sheer size and the audacity of its prestidigitation.” Read more…)

From Up On Poppy Hill (Miyazaki animated feature, Sarah Bolger [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “From Up on Poppy Hill takes a gentle, nostalgic look at Japan in 1963, from the perspective of a schoolgirl who lives in the Yokohama neighborhood evoked in the title. Though it was written and ‘planned’ by Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps the greatest living fantasist in world cinema [and directed by his son Goro], this movie, based on a manga by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama, is a lovely example of the strong realist tendency in Japanese animation. Its visual magic lies in painterly compositions of foliage, clouds, architecture and water, and its emotional impact comes from the way everyday life is washed in the colors of memory.” Read more…)

Arthur Newman (romance, Colin Firth. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 42. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The glum, episodic and unbelievable Arthur Newman is the film equivalent of a dysfunctional computer sloppily assembled from discarded parts of other machines. The feature directorial debut of Dante Ariola from a screenplay by Becky Johnston, it is a road movie, a romantic comedy and a speculative contemplation of identity scrambled into a bland salmagundi.” Read more…)

The English Teacher (drama/comedy, Julianne Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 42. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “If you eliminated its obtrusively perky soundtrack and revised its dishonest feel-good ending, The English Teacher would be a very different — and much better — movie. Instead, this would-be comedy, directed by Craig Zisk from a screenplay by the married writers Dan and Stacy Chariton, is perversely determined to make you laugh. You’re more likely to squirm, though, at what seems as incongruous as a Chekhov play staged in clown costume. At least it is not dull.” Read more…)

The Iceman (mystery, Michael Shannon. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “In The Iceman Michael Shannon’s mesmerizing portrayal of Richard Kuklinski, a notorious contract killer, has the paradoxical quality, peculiar to many great screen performances, of being unreadable and transparent. You can’t really see through Richard, whose pale-blue eyes take in the world from a face as expressionless as a sphinx. But in its tiniest tremors you can sense explosive forces roiling below the mask and grasp the duality with a visceral feeling of dread. It is a performance that has the same life-or-death gravity Mr. Shannon brought to the role of a man driven half-mad by apocalyptic portents in Take Shelter.” Read more…)

Stories We Tell (documentary/drama, Michael Polley. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “For many of us, I suspect, our first sense of the past begins with the simple childhood request for a story about our families and ourselves. In her quietly moving, intelligent documentary Stories We Tell, the Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley sat down with relatives and friends and asked them to talk about her mother, Diane Polley, who died in 1990 when Ms. Polley was 11. The idea, or so it first seems, is that every fondly unearthed detail, anecdote and memory will fill in the biography of a woman whose seemingly ordinary life — of tending children, husband and home — contained multitudes and mysteries, and with tugging and shaping can be tidied into a story.” Read more…)

Sharknado (horror spoof, Tara Reid. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)

New Blu-Ray
Now You See Me
The Iceman

New Foreign
Blancanieves (Spain, art house drama, Maribel Verdu. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O Scott’s New York Times review: “Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves combines two recent movie trends: the updating of classic fairy tales and the rediscovery of silent film. Hollywood studios have lately been turning venerable children’s bedtime stories — Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel and of course Snow White, Mr. Berger’s source — into special-effects-heavy action spectacles. Meanwhile a handful of European directors [notably Michel Hazanavicius, in The Artist, and Miguel Gomes, with Tabu] have been drawn to the archaic glamour of monochrome images, boxy frames, heightened gestures and unheard dialogue. What unites these tendencies might be a desire to find a way toward the new by means of the old, or else a more basic nostalgia, a longing for magic and wonder in a cynical time. Blancanieves deftly blends cinematic antiquarianism, period atmosphere and primal emotions.” Read more…)

New TV
Spartacus: War of the Damned
The Office: Season 9

New Documentaries
Stories We Tell (documentary/drama, Michael Polley, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “For many of us, I suspect, our first sense of the past begins with the simple childhood request for a story about our families and ourselves. In her quietly moving, intelligent documentary Stories We Tell, the Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley sat down with relatives and friends and asked them to talk about her mother, Diane Polley, who died in 1990 when Ms. Polley was 11. The idea, or so it first seems, is that every fondly unearthed detail, anecdote and memory will fill in the biography of a woman whose seemingly ordinary life — of tending children, husband and home — contained multitudes and mysteries, and with tugging and shaping can be tidied into a story.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
From Up On Poppy Hill (Miyazaki animated feature, Sarah Bolger [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “From Up on Poppy Hill takes a gentle, nostalgic look at Japan in 1963, from the perspective of a schoolgirl who lives in the Yokohama neighborhood evoked in the title. Though it was written and ‘planned’ by Hayao Miyazaki, perhaps the greatest living fantasist in world cinema [and directed by his son Goro], this movie, based on a manga by Chizuru Takahashi and Tetsuro Sayama, is a lovely example of the strong realist tendency in Japanese animation. Its visual magic lies in painterly compositions of foliage, clouds, architecture and water, and its emotional impact comes from the way everyday life is washed in the colors of memory.” Read more…)