New Releases 12/18/12

Top Hits

Trouble With the Curve (drama, Clint Eastwood. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The pat and occasionally preposterous story is really just a pretext, a serviceable scaffolding for a handful of expert, satisfying performances. A gaggle of first-rate character actors trails Mr. Eastwood from Turner Field in Atlanta to the rural bars and ballparks, and the star knows how to step aside and let them work. He also has the good sense to realize that, much as we may adore him, we’d sometimes rather spend time with [actress Amy] Adams, who somehow grows tougher, funnier, scarier and more charming with every role.” Read more…)

Pitch Perfect (comedy, Anna Kendrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 65. From Neil Gewnzlinger’s New York Times review: “This movie is about collegiate a cappella, but it’s loaded with the plotting conventions of the Disney Channel’s tweener shows. That makes it only occasionally funny and not at all illuminating about the rich world of a cappella singing.” Read more…)

Liberal Arts (comedy/drama, Josh Radnor. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 55. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The slick, feel-good Liberal Arts has enough dark notes to make the smug, obsequious performance of its star, Josh Radnor, who also wrote and directed, tolerable and at times even likable. As an actor and filmmaker, Mr. Radnor, of “How I Met Your Mother,” is steeped in sitcom conventions.” Read more…)

10 Years (comedy, Channing Tatum. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 61. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “It takes a while to sort out who’s who in the gabby high school reunion comedy 10 Years. But once you do, the movie that comes together is an unpretentious, well-acted ensemble piece that doesn’t aspire to be a portentous generational time capsule like The Big Chill, American Graffiti or Diner. But it has enough markers — a grown-up, married white rapper who break dances; a karaoke bar — to suggest an approximate date.” Read more…)

Total Recall (action remake, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 43. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie has a lot of chasing, shouting and fighting, carried out in crowded, overscale frames without much regard for either action-film effectiveness or narrative coherence. So much information is thrown at you in such a haphazard fashion that your ability to care dwindles along with your willingness to enjoy any of it.” Read more…)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (family comedy, Zachary Gordon. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 54. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Studios generally don’t like to see the word ‘excruciating’ in a movie review. But the makers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days won’t mind seeing it here, because that’s just what this good-natured if not very ambitious family film is going for. It wants you to feel the pain of the title child, Greg [Zachary Gordon], as he goes through one embarrassment after another during an eventful summer, and you do.” Read more…)

Killer Joe (crime, Matthew McConaughey [this movie comes out on Friday, Dec. 21]. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 62. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It says something about William Friedkin’s big-screen adaptation of the Tracy Letts play Killer Joe that the title psycho, played by Matthew McConaughey, is, by a long Texas mile, its least objectionable character. Dressed in nearly all black from cowboy hat to boot, with a miserly smile and a dead man’s empty eyes, Joe Cooper, a k a Killer Joe, looks sharp, talks smart. As given demented life by Mr. McConaughey, he is a welcome presence among a collection of nitwits so irremediably disposable that they’re as evanescent as drops of water on a hot wood stove.” Read more…)

Arbitrage (financial drama, Richard Gere. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Arbitrage, a sleek entertainment about how very good greed can be, is a fairy tale masquerading as a tragedy. It pivots on Robert Miller [Richard Gere], a shifty hedge-fund manager and 21st-century robber baron who’s foxed his way to the top of New York’s moneyed classes. Charmed and charming, with a quicksilver stride and the self-possession of a man accustomed to hearing the word yes, Robert lives in a rarefied world of private jets, live-in help and seven-figure checks made out to favorite charities.” Read more…)

Resident Evil: Retribution (sci-fi/horror, Milla Jovovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 39. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The fifth entry in a series as indestructible as Alice [Milla Jovovich], its caffeinated heroine, Resident Evil: Retribution finds her still on the mysterious ship where Resident Evil: Afterlife left her. Almost a decade has passed since the endlessly mutating T-Virus began transforming most of humanity (and zoology) into drooling, pimply cannibals, but Alice — part human, part viral, all airbrushed — is still fighting to save the world. She must be as tired as we are.” Read more…)

The Good Doctor (drama, Orlando Bloom. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 52. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Heaven forbid that anyone should have the misfortune to be treated by a physician like Martin Blake [Orlando Bloom], the poker-faced new resident in internal medicine at a Southern California hospital in The Good Doctor. With his ferretlike eyes; thin, unsmiling lips; and tense body language, Martin is such a cold fish he can barely manage a smile. An early indication that something might be seriously wrong with him is a glimpse of his sterile, sparsely furnished, all-white beach-side apartment, which looks more like a laboratory than a home.” Read more…)

Fred & Vinnie (comedy, Fred Stoller)

New Blu-Ray

Trouble With the Curve
Total Recall
Sometimes a Great Notion
Killer Joe
Arbitrage

New Foreign

Free Men (France, drama, Tahar Rahim. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ismail Ferroukhi’s new film, Free Men, takes place in Nazi-occupied Paris, by now a familiar setting for morally serious period dramas. The story this movie has to tell is a bit unusual, though: it concerns the efforts by Muslim North African residents of the city to protect Jews and aid the Resistance. Like Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory — about North African soldiers who suffered abuse and discrimination while fighting to liberate France from German domination — Free Men is both proudly conventional and determinedly revisionist. Its protagonist, Younes [Tahar Rahim], would not be out of place in a wartime thriller starring Humphrey Bogart.” Read more…)

New Television

Girls: Season 1 (HBO series, Lena Dunham)
Shameless: Season 2
The Sarah Silverman Program: Season 3

New Documentaries

The Island President (world politics, environment, climate change. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In other parts of the world, though, the [climate change] issue has a lethal, terrifying urgency. The Island President, a new documentary by Jon Shenk [The Lost Boys of Sudan], visits one such place, the Maldives. That archipelago of roughly 1,200 low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean, of which about 200 are inhabited, is described as “paradise crossed with paradise,” and its soft sand beaches and blue waters have made it a haven for wealthy tourists. Though the film includes spectacular aerial and underwater footage of the Maldives’ beauty, it concentrates its attention on uglier realities.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (family comedy, Zachary Gordon, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 54. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Studios generally don’t like to see the word ‘excruciating’ in a movie review. But the makers of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days won’t mind seeing it here, because that’s just what this good-natured if not very ambitious family film is going for. It wants you to feel the pain of the title child, Greg [Zachary Gordon], as he goes through one embarrassment after another during an eventful summer, and you do.” Read more…)

Hank’s Recommendations 12/18/12

hank_paperARBITRAGE — Richard Gere playing hedge fund magnate, Robert Miller, looks great per usual but he’s in trouble. He’s made a bad bet on a copper mine that’s keeping him from the much needed sale of his hitherto successful company. What starts out as a temporary business deception to redeem the sale turns all-encompassing when a horrendous incident turns a desire to protect his investors into something that threatens to ruin everything and everyone close to him.

The film has a canny pacing. Starting out evenly at a family birthday party, measured revelations are followed by one swift event after another as the various strands of duplicity knit together to draw the noose tighter and tighter: a noose that will rope you in as well. A superb roster of supporting characters enhances the film’s pedigree and drama: Tim Roth perfectly cast as a slouchy and dogged New York City homicide detective; Britt Marling (writer and star of ANOTHER EARTH and THE SOUND OF MY VOICE) as Miller’s unknowing daughter and financial officer, Nate Parker as a young black man who is Miller’s sole lifeline and for whom integrity is all, New Haven’s own Bruce Altman as a sleazy, suited go-between and Susan Sarandon as Miller’s loving wife who, in a brilliant coda to the film, saves her own revelations for the last.

Forgoing a standard Hollywood ending, this film hews to its own integrity by getting to the heart of the crash of 2008 in one individual, a person not unlike Bernie Madoff although, as incarnated by Richard Gere, certainly better looking. The only unfortunate note in the film is the black dress Sarandon wears in the end sequence—something only Bjork (who does the song at the end credit roll) might wear and actually get away with.

A suggestion: you might watch this film on a double bill with THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (reviewed here last week). You can’t ask for a better-balanced program (inadvertent documentary satire and contemporary suspense drama) about how the one per cent lives.

KILLER JOE — A charming Dallas hit man (Matthew McConaughey) brought in by a trashy family to kill the mother for the insurance money causes family dysfunction to run amok. This stylish B-film potboiler actually derived from the long running Broadway play that parodies B-film potboilers is funny and disturbing in equal measures. Among a superb cast, Gina Gershon lets it all hang out as the scheming, two-timing wife while director William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST) proves he hasn’t lost a thing in making a trashy story look classy. The film is sometimes off-putting, but you may also find can‘t take your eyes off it.