New Releases 11/25/14

Top Hits
The Expendables 3 (action, Sly Stallone. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 35. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Walking past Madame Tussauds after a preview screening of ‘The Expendables 3’ on 42nd Street in Manhattan brought on a mysterious feeling of déjà vu, until I realized that both franchises share an operating principle: Cram a bunch of famous faces together and bank on the immediate joys of recognition.” Read more…)

War Story (drama, Catherine Keener. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 50. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Buried beneath a shlubby wardrobe and a sulky demeanor, Catherine Keener drags herself through ‘War Story’ like one of those exhausted mothers in a missing-child movie. What her character has lost, though, isn’t her offspring — it’s her marbles.” Read more…)

What If (romantic comedy, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 59. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A balloon of cuteness that makes you yearn for a pin, ‘What If’ is Saturday night comfort food for those who need to believe that even the most curdled among us can find a mate.” Read more…)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (comedy/holiday, Tyler Perry. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 28. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “What makes it a Madea Christmas? In the latest visit from Tyler Perry’s multimillion-dollar-grossing action-hero auntie, this modern-day Malaprop helps save a school, an interracial relationship, a bullied boy and a divided family, all while making fast friends with the white-trash royalty Larry the Cable Guy. She’d save a man from a burning wreck, but somebody else takes care of that.” Read more…)

The Giver (drama/sci-fi, Brenton Thwaites. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 47. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Adapted from Lois Lowry’s book for young readers, the story involves an isolated society that, with its cubistic dwellings, mindless smiles, monochromatic environs and nebulous communitarianism, seem modeled on a Scandinavian country or an old Mentos commercial.” Read more…)

Mercy (supernatural thriller, Frances O’Connor. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 35.)
Stretch (action comedy, Patrick Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.)

New Blu-Rays
The Expendables 3

New Foreign
Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Iran, political drama. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Depicting his combustible material with a cool head and a steady hand, the Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof — defying a 20-year government ban on his work — makes ‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ a slow-motion explosion of anti-authoritarian rage. Perhaps too slow, as the film’s methodical pacing and often elliptical dialogue [these are characters who have learned to choose their words very carefully] demand a commitment to the early scenes that takes a while to pay off. By the midway point, however, we feel the clammy grip of a measured political thriller as the story hops between the comfortable Tehran home of a chronically disabled writer and the unsavory road trip of two government-hired killers.” Read more…)

New British
The Johnny Worricker Trilogy Part 2: Turks and Caicos (espionage series, Bill Nighy)
The Johnny Worricker Trilogy Part 3: Salting the Battlefield (espionage series, Bill Nighy)
Inspector Lewis: Series 7 (mystery series, Kevin Whately)
The Crimson Petal and the White (miniseries drama based on Michel Faber novel, Chris O’Dowd)

Children’s DVDs
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (animated feature, Dan Ackroyd)

Hank’s Recommendations 11/25/14

hank_paperGOD’S POCKET

A dark, bleak, original film with a great cast (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro and John Slattery), GOD’S POCKET authentically recreates a Philadelphia neighborhood down at its heels but not its resilience. Hoffman plays a resident with heart and loyalty, a lot of debt, an inability to please his wife and a body he can’t bury. With some of the intensity and atmosphere of “Mystic River” (though not its operatic melodrama), and featuring a suitably valedictory performance by Hoffman (far deeper and wider than his performance in “A Most Wanted Man”), this black comedy is vivid, moving and real.

COLD IN JULY

A decent homeowner shoots dead a home invader and soon finds himself in over his head and his life transformed. A suspenseful, twisty mystery thriller, COLD IN JULY stars Dexter’s Michael C. Hall displaying his considerable acting chops, Sam Shepard (who seems to be in every other movie these days) and a weathered and amusing Don Johnson, who delightfully offers up his own evergreen, sardonic acting chops. With a plot as unusual as the title suggests, this is an entertaining film with, no doubt, the welcome promise of further Don Johnson roles.

THIRD PERSON

That rare thing today—an adult drama. Written and directed by Paul Haggis, who brought us the Best Picture Oscar-winning CRASH, about racial tension in L.A., THIRD PERSON also offers a great ensemble cast (including Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, James Franco, Maria Bello and Kim Bassinger) throwing a wide net over the issues of relationship: caring, risking, protecting. Watching” becomes a key word in this Haggis script as we follow three couples in three cities, with some triangulation of interconnection. Critics were mixed on this ambitious concept, and I suspect many will love or hate it. Watch it, take a risk and see if you care. I did.

21 HOURS IN MUNICH

Two penetrating films about the vengeful aftermath of the so-called “Munich massacre” of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in 1972 (the Israeli film SWORD OF GIDEON and Steven Spielberg’s MUNICH) were preceded by 21 HOURS IN MUNICH, a 1976 star-studded TV movie that describes the massacre and hostage-taking itself. Written by Howard Fast and starring William Holden as a police chief standing off against Franco Nero as the chief Arab terrorist and hostage-holder, this two-Emmy nominated film is briskly paced and suspenseful throughout, justifying its 200 minute length. The behind-the-scenes negotiations between Germany and Israel in determining responsibility for a response, while trying to strategize a tricky, hoped-for resolution, is a fascinating story in itself, grippingly played out by an expert cast.