New Releases 12/11/12

Top Hits

The Bourne Legacy (action, Jeremy Renner. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 61. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Mr. Gilroy’s script for The Bourne Legacy, written with his brother Dan, has given him much more to wrangle — locations, characters, hardware, franchise expectations — than he’s had to deal with in the past. If that worried him, it doesn’t show in the movie’s hyperventilated opening stretch, which zips from Cross battling wolves, doubts and military drones in Alaska; to Scott Glenn and Stacy Keach as a couple of military men who go alpha male to alpha male about a covert operation and its consequences in a darkened room in the D.C. power corridor; to Edward Norton, as Colonel Byer, barking someplace else at flunkies who, not being your average hired help, can pull up high-definition surveillance images from across the globe with a few phone calls and strokes on a keyboard.” Read more…)

Why Stop Now (comedy, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 36. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “As Why Stop Now? gathers momentum, the increasingly uneasy sensation it produces is not unlike that of being in the back seat of a speeding car whose drunken driver refuses to give up the wheel. At a certain point you grit your teeth, close your eyes and pray that the vehicle doesn’t run off a cliff. It doesn’t quite.” Read more…)

Nesting (romantic comedy, Todd Grinnell. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 34. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The romantic comedy Nesting takes an old idea and tosses in a few today-sounding phrases in hopes of coming up with a fresh-feeling movie. But that isn’t enough.” Read more…)

Ted (comedy, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Tolerant amusement is pretty much the best this harmless little picture, directed by Seth MacFarlane from a script he wrote with Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, is able to manage, even though it strives for obnoxious hilarity. The cleverly animated ursine title character, voiced in an exaggerated Boston bray by Mr. MacFarlane himself, is a fire hose of vulgarity, ethnic insult, homophobia and misogyny. In the modern, meta manner he [that is, Mr. MacFarlane] wants both to indulge and to deny the offensiveness of this material, to wallow in ugliness and make fun of it too.” Read more…)

Backwards (sports/romance, Sarah Megan Thomas. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 43. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Unless the Venn diagram containing the sets ‘fans of competitive rowing’ and ‘admirers of James Van Der Beek’ shows significant overlap, Ben Hickernell’s Backwards is pretty much doomed. Pairing a dull romance with an even duller sport (at least as represented here), this cliché-ridden vanity project is more suited to the ABC Family channel than to the inside of a movie theater.” Read more…)

Ice Age: Continental Drift (animated feature, Ray Romano [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The principle guiding the Ice Age franchise seems to be that you can’t have too many celebrity voice-overs. This is not entirely unpleasant. During the Continental Drift end credits[(if you can endure a dreadful song about how we’re all one big happy family], you can match various animals with their human impersonators.” Read more…)

A Christmas Story 2 (holiday comedy, Daniel Stern)

New Blu-Ray

The Bourne Legacy

Ice Age: Continental Drift

Ted

New Foreign

Beloved (France, romantic drama, Catherine Deneuve. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Beloved is at once whimsical and heartfelt, alive to the absurdity and perversity of amorous behavior and also to the gravity and intensity of human emotions. A nonmusical version [which is what Mr. Honoré has said he originally conceived] would resemble other recent French films that take a psychologically realistic view of love that is neither cynical nor sentimental. But the songs, even when — or maybe just because — they sound conventional and superficial, gesture toward another realm of feeling, a magical pop universe in which the agonies of the heart are magically transformed into pleasures of the ear and eye.” Read more…)

New Documentaries

Mansome (documentary/comedy, Morgan Spurlock. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 35. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The documentarian Morgan Spurlock [Super Size Me, Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope] has perhaps borrowed more from reality shows [where he toiled, too, on FX’s 30 Days series] than from his frequently cited predecessor Michael Moore. His latest film, the resolutely superficial Mansome, tackles the fearsome topic of masculinity as expressed through grooming, and it feels like a bunch of television segments slapped together, with sparing use of Mr. Spurlock himself.” Read more…)

Gerrymandering (politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 49. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Gerrymandering is an illustrated civics lesson that strains to make its complicated, shadowy subject — electoral redistricting — a political hot topic. Written and directed by Jeff Reichert and outfitted with a pounding soundtrack and flashy graphics, it examines the legal chicanery by which electoral districts are modified for political purposes. The word [with a hard g] was coined in 1812 after the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry [pronounced Gary], signed a bill redistricting the state to his own advantage. One district was described as having the shape of a salamander; hence the term.” Read more…)

Mankind: The Story of All of Us (History Channel history of civilization. Metacritic: 66.)

New Music

Archers of Loaf: What Did You Expect? Live at Cat’s Cradle (concert & interviews. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 61.)

New Children’s DVDs

Ice Age: Continental Drift (animated feature, Ray Romano [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The principle guiding the Ice Age franchise seems to be that you can’t have too many celebrity voice-overs. This is not entirely unpleasant. During the Continental Drift end credits[(if you can endure a dreadful song about how we’re all one big happy family], you can match various animals with their human impersonators.” Read more…)

A Christmas Story 2 (holiday comedy, Daniel Stern, in Top Hits)

Hank’s Recommendations 12/11/12

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD — This deceptively simple film, seen through a young girl’s eyes, about the taming of the “beasts of the southern wild”—storms and flood, environmental pollution, the daily struggle of a marginal existence—takes place in a Louisiana bayou. Its uncanny acting (by non-actor locals) and imaginatively vivid camerawork conveys the strengths of parental teaching in the midst of adversity and the yearning for community in a failing world: dramatic illustrations it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of in our own current time. Mrs. Video dubbed it the “film of the year.” It also reminds me of another great film, in part seen through a child’s eyes, about how the world works in harmony toward it’s own good end until interfered with by evil (in this case the widow-slaying preacher played by Robert Mitchum) in the Charles Laughton/James Agee film, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, which, now that I think of it, is a great film to share with the family on these holidays. Both poetically lyrical films offer suspense and enlightenment in equal measures.

QUEEN OF VERSAILLES — This outrageous and inadvertently funny documentary filmed before and after the crash of 2008 offers another fable for our current times: the attainment and loss of the American Dream. Tiffany, a meat-and-potatoes middleclass former Ms. Florida, becomes ersatz royalty when she marries a time-share resort magnate who’s thirty-one years her senior. Waxing rhapsodically about their eight children and the largest house in America they’re having built, Tiffany continues to shop even after the market drops. Blithely and mostly unblinkingly she faces the monetary and family dysfunction around her as the dark underside of their privileged lives becomes as exposed as the rafters in their unfinished mansion. Fittingly taking place in Las Vegas, this is the kind of film that makes you laugh and shake your head in wonderment about how, indeed, the other half lives.

THE BOURNE LEGACY — In order to avoid scandalous exposure, a clandestine intelligence program needs to be erased, along with all its agents, one of whom, Aaron Cross, must use his genetically engineered skills to survive. In fact, this “Bourne”-again film actually has nothing to do with Jason Bourne (although we do get a fleeting glimpse of Matt Damon’s photograph), though it does offer similar state-of-the-art flight/pursuit action. Rachel Weisz (DREAM HOUSE, PAGE EIGHT, THE WHISTLEBLOWER, THE LOVELY BONES, AGORA) as an unknowing scientist on the project who becomes Aaron’s ally plays her familiarly imperiled role, the intelligent actor Edward Norton seems oddly miscast as the head of Intelligence while the rest of an otherwise amazing cast (Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Joan Allen, Albert Finney) seems figuratively if not literally wasted. But otherwise the movie offers an intriguing and suspenseful first half with some beautiful Alaskan footage, a fantastic motorcycle chase at the end and a good performance by THE HURT LOCKER’s Jeremy Renner. It’s true they don’t know how to end this film, but then this is a franchise that will probably have no end. It’s a movie that will fill the bill if you’re in the mood.