New Releases 11/06/12

Top Hits
The Amazing Spider-Man (superhero action, Andrew Garfield, out 11/9. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Oh, Spidey, has it really been five long years since we saw you in Spider-Man 3, where you were plagued by a doppelgänger, a hectic plot and franchise exhaustion? Way back then you were played by the cute boy-man Tobey Maguire, and the girl with the fatal-beauty smile was given sweet life by Kirsten Dunst. Now, in The Amazing Spider-Man, you’re played by the cute boy-man Andrew Garfield, whose elongated limbs and pencil neck go a ways to make him look like the geek next door. The lovely young miss, meanwhile, is Emma Stone, whose pillowy lips serve as flotation devices that — along with her natural appeal and Mr. Garfield’s likability — keep this resuscitated studio product from fully capsizing.” Read more…)

Your Sister’s Sister (romantic comedy/drama, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The three main characters in Your Sister’s Sister, Lynn Shelton’s new comedy of romantic confusion, are remarkably charming and pleasant company. Not always for one another, of course — hence the confusion — but certainly for all but the grouchiest moviegoer. They are articulate and funny, each one a bundle of tics, insecurities and surprising insights. The paradox is that they accomplish all of this without being especially interesting.” Read more…)

The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling (1965 concert & documentary film. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The early Rolling Stones — young, shrewd and full of ambition, with Brian Jones on guitar — are on display in an hourlong documentary filmed during the band’s tour of Ireland in 1965. Long a legendary, unseen artifact among Stones fans and cinephiles [though not quite as legendary as a 1972 Robert Frank documentary, whose title I can’t even mention here], The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling — Ireland 1965, is an essential addition to a canon that includes Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One, Albert and David Maysles’s Gimme Shelter and Martin Scorsese’s Shine A Light.The film was originally shot in lovely, grainy black and white by Peter Whitehead and has been digitally restored for a new version by the director Mick Gochanour and the producer Robin Klein. It is both a postcard from an earlier phase of celebrity culture and a glorious mixtape of raucous and memorable songs.” Read more…)

Arthur Christmas (family holiday feature, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 69. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Why is it that out of all the holidays, only Christmas ever needs to be saved? When was the last time you saw a movie about a madcap, heroic effort to save Flag Day? That means that Arthur Christmas, a 3-D film that opens on Wednesday, is in well-worked territory. But this scrappy, smart animated tale can hold its own against the rest of the genre. The plot may be a little too cluttered for the toddler crowd to follow, but the next age group up should be amused, and the script by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith has plenty of sly jokes for grown-ups.” Read more…)

360 (thriller, Anthony Hopkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 43. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A butterfly flapping its wings in Chile is a familiar culprit for all kinds of global havoc, like tornadoes in Texas. In the film 360, though, it’s a woman taking her top off in Vienna who sets off a British man’s crisis of conscience, instigates a conjugal dispute in Paris, and obliquely stirs up funny business in Denver and some murderous business elsewhere. Here the world isn’t just small, it’s also a 360-degree metaphor that begins with a woman’s breasts, leads to the boulevard circling Vienna’s center and ends with the ‘O’ of your slack-jawed incredulity.” Read more…)

Excision (horror, Traci Lords. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%.)
Conned (action/comedy, Wally Carlson)
Red Dog (family comedy/drama, Josh Lucas. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%.)
Fire With Fire (drama/crime, Bruce Willis)

New Blu-Ray
The Amazing Spider-Man
Prophecy 5-Film Collection
Arthur Christmas

New Foreign
Even the Rain (Spain, drama, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Icíar Bollaín’s bluntly political film Even the Rain makes pertinent, if heavy-handed, comparisons between European imperialism five centuries ago and modern globalization. In particular it portrays high-end filming on location in poor countries as an offshoot of colonial exploitation. The movie is set in and around Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third-largest city, which the movie’s fictional penny-pinching film producer, Costa [Luis Tosar], has chosen as a cheap stand-in for Hispaniola in a movie he is making about Christopher Columbus. The year is 2000, and Costa is unprepared to deal with the real-life populist uprising in Bolivia after its government has sold the country’s water rights to a private multinational consortium.” Read more…)

Corpo Celeste (Italy, drama, Yle Vianello. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 66. From Rachel Saltz’s New York Times review: “An image, at once arresting and overly symbolic, sums up what’s good and bad about Corpo Celeste, the writer-director Alice Rohrwacher’s feature debut: Blindfolded almost-teenagers grope their way around a spartan church sanctuary in Reggio Calabria, Italy. They are disaffected students in a confirmation class. [Mission: feel what the man born blind felt before being healed by Jesus.] Their groping is a rather obvious metaphor for their lives, as they stumble out of childhood toward what comes next. And it’s also a kind of metaphor for the Roman Catholic Church, which Ms. Rohrwacher portrays as having lost its way and its faithful.” Read more…)

Rashomon (Japan, 1950, new Criterion edition, existential samurai drama, Toshiro Mifune. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A doubly rewarding experience for those who seek out unusual films in attractive and comfortable surroundings was made available yesterday upon the reopening of the rebuilt Little Carnegie with the Japanese film, Rasho-Mon. For here the attraction and the theater are appropriately and interestingly matched in a striking association of cinematic and architectural artistry, stimulating to the intelligence and the taste of the patron in both realms.” Read more…)

I Wish (Japan, family drama, Kouki Maeda. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 80. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda — best known for Nobody Knows, about four young brothers and sisters forced to survive on their own after their mother abandons them — has such an extraordinarily delicate manner with children that his approach can feel like a code of ethics, a declaration of honesty toward these often badly used and exploited performers. The gentleness of his approach, his stylistic unobtrusiveness and the way that children open up in front of his camera are among the subtle pleasures in his latest film, I Wish, a quiet, seemingly rambling story about two exceptionally capable brothers who have been separated by their parents’ bad marriage.” Read more…)

Trishna (India, drama/romance, Freida Pinto. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Even if you have never bathed a copy of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles in your tears, you may wonder what the British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom was after with Trishna, his arid take on the novel. Set in contemporary India, it stars the Indian actress Freida Pinto as the title character, a poor country lass who falls for a rake, Jay [Riz Ahmed]. Jay pursues Trishna and then abandons her, literally and emotionally, only to return to her arms amid a great deal of melodramatic busyness, pulsing colors, churning dust and very little heat.” Read more…)

Ici Et Ailleurs aka Here and Elsewhere (France, 1976, Godard radical cinema)
Don Matteo Sets 1—4 (Italy, mystery series, Terence Hill)

New Documentaries
Koch Brothers Exposed (politics, money, Robert Greenwald)
Ethos (politics, social change)

New Music DVDs
The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling (1965 concert & documentary film, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The early Rolling Stones — young, shrewd and full of ambition, with Brian Jones on guitar — are on display in an hourlong documentary filmed during the band’s tour of Ireland in 1965. Long a legendary, unseen artifact among Stones fans and cinephiles [though not quite as legendary as a 1972 Robert Frank documentary, whose title I can’t even mention here], The Rolling Stones: Charlie Is My Darling — Ireland 1965, is an essential addition to a canon that includes Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One, Albert and David Maysles’s Gimme Shelter and Martin Scorsese’s Shine A Light.The film was originally shot in lovely, grainy black and white by Peter Whitehead and has been digitally restored for a new version by the director Mick Gochanour and the producer Robin Klein. It is both a postcard from an earlier phase of celebrity culture and a glorious mixtape of raucous and memorable songs.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Arthur Christmas (family holiday feature, James McAvoy, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 69. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Why is it that out of all the holidays, only Christmas ever needs to be saved? When was the last time you saw a movie about a madcap, heroic effort to save Flag Day? That means that Arthur Christmas, a 3-D film that opens on Wednesday, is in well-worked territory. But this scrappy, smart animated tale can hold its own against the rest of the genre. The plot may be a little too cluttered for the toddler crowd to follow, but the next age group up should be amused, and the script by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith has plenty of sly jokes for grown-ups.” Read more…)

Red Dog (family comedy/drama, Josh Lucas, in Top Hits)
Kung Fu Panda Holiday (animated holiday short [25 min.])
It’s A Spongebob Christmas (animated holiday short [22 min.])

Hank’s Recommendations 11/06/12

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN — It’s not often you’re going to see me positively reviewing a superhero movie. I did like the original SUPERMAN (Christopher Reeves), the original BATMAN (Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson), IRON MAN (Robert Downey, Jr.), CAPTAIN AMERICA and CHRONICLE, the latter a more realistic dystopian correction to the superhero myth. The original SPIDER-MAN (Toby Maguire) almost made the list. This re-telling of that archetypal story does.

The first thing I liked was that the new Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), who reprises the admittedly charming Toby Maguire of the original film ten years ago, reminds one of a post-adolescent Tony Perkins: intelligent and vulnerable, his handsome face bifurcated with the uncertainty and guilt of hidden secrets.

It doesn’t hurt that the uncle who years ago adopted him after his parents mysteriously disappeared is played by Martin Sheen (though his adoptive aunt is played by Sally Field, who these days seems only to veer toward the annoying).

There is a lot of visual fun in this movie, not least because it is never overdone to the detraction of the narrative, which is both efficient and involving. The special effects, while cleverly fulfilling state-of-the-art CGI expectations, go down rather easily instead of rushing at you and overwhelming your senses. The film leaves plenty of room for amiably witty dialogue. When Peter returns from his first superhero experience he is physically depleted and famished. In front of his concerned and astonished parents, he superhumanly wolf’s down everything in the family refrigerator, including his mother’s meat loaf.

Peter (suddenly seeing his parents): “This beats all other meat loafs!”

Uncle: “Something is very wrong.”

Aunt: “Yeah.”

Uncle: “Nobody likes your meat loaf.”

There is even a curious and perhaps unintended relevance in this film. Prior to the renegade scientist (Campbell Scott) turning himself into Spider-Man’s nemesis as a giant lizard, he spouts these words: “I spent my life as a scientist trying to create a world without weakness, without outcasts.” It’s Spider-Man against a Republican agenda! And in a climactic sequence involving cranes over New York City, there is a scene where the crane operators become heroes! And the police chief (Denis Leary) who, despite initial skepticism of Spider-Man, becomes instrumental in saving the day, looks exactly like Richard Blumenthal.

Trying to discover his mission in life, resolving his guilt along with past issues, all while, under the most trying circumstances, negotiating a full-blossom high school romance (with a character played by Emma Stone), this is an oddly up-to-the-minute film.

Of course, I may be reading into it. But even Mrs. Video liked it. And that’s the ultimate test.