New Releases 1/19/16

Top Hits
Straight_Outta_ComptonStraight Outta Compton (drama/music, Dr. Dre. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The director, F. Gary Gray, has a modern commercial filmmaker’s sense of space and rhythm that’s announced in [the opening] scene’s mobile camerawork, loose compositions and functional editing. Yet Eazy’s peewee pugnaciousness [he’s a shrimp who towers over villainy with his defiance] suggests that Mr. Gray has a fondness for old James Cagney movies, too. Like an original Hollywood gangster, Eazy leads with his charisma [he’s a beautiful bluffer], motor mouth and quick feet, which he puts to nimble use when chaos erupts in the house, shattering it into a cacophony of sights and sounds: shrieking sirens, screaming bullets, snarling dog. The scene defines Eazy as a great escape artist and gestures toward the breakouts soon to come, including the one that takes N.W.A. out of Compton.” Read more…)

The Intern (comedy, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 51. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The director Nancy Meyers doesn’t just make movies, she makes the kind of lifestyle fantasies you sink into like eiderdown. Her movies are frothy, playful, homogeneous, routinely maddening and generally pretty irresistible even when they’re not all that good. Her most notable visual signature is the immaculate, luxuriously appointed interiors she’s known to fuss over personally — they inevitably feature throw pillows that look as if they’ve been arranged with a measuring tape.” Read more…)

EverestEverest (true life adventure, Jason Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Because it’s there’ is a perfectly valid justification for climbing an enormous mountain — a famous one, at any rate — but maybe not a good enough reason to see a movie. Or to make a movie, for that matter. Technically, of course, a film isn’t really ‘there’ until someone makes it, and ‘Everest,’ a breathless, large-scale 3-D action spectacle [directed by Baltasar Kormakur] about an ill-starred attempt to scale the planet’s highest peak, was called into being with impressive star power and technical bravura. It definitely exists. But it never seems to get anywhere, taking up space and time without managing to be especially memorable or imposing.” Read more…)

The Look of Silence (history, Indonesia, human rights, genocide. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 92. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Look of Silence,’ a documentary directed by the American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer and an anonymous Indonesian collaborator, is a painful, profoundly empathetic work of moral reckoning. Like its companion film, ‘The Act of Killing,’ released in 2013, it examines the mass killings that began in Indonesia in 1965, when at least a million people were slaughtered in the aftermath of a military coup. In the earlier movie, perpetrators of the massacres eagerly re-enact their crimes, borrowing costumes and attitudes from American genre movies, as if they were western or film noir heroes. In ‘The Look of Silence,’ it is clear that many of the killers, whose political sponsors are still in power, feel little or no regret for their actions. On the contrary, they bask in a glow of righteous vindication.” Read more…)

Learning to Drive (comedy/drama/romance, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Among the charms of ‘Learning to Drive,’ a small, observant dual portrait of a New York book critic and her Indian-American driving instructor, are the detailed, lived-in performances of its stars, Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley. The film belongs to a school of grown-up, low-drama two-handers, of which the most famous example is ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ but ‘Learning to Drive’ isn’t half as sentimental. As this movie, directed by Isabel Coixet, tracks the deepening friendship between people from different cultures and backgrounds, it acquires an unforced metaphorical resonance.” Read more…)

Diary_Teenage_GirlThe Diary of a Teenage Girl (drama/romance, Bel Powley. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Minnie Goetze, the 15-year-old heroine of ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl,’ is a would-be cartoonist who, despite her first name, is closer in lusty spirit and scratchy pen to Robert Crumb than to Walt Disney. When, partway through this gutsy, exhilarating movie, she draws her first cartoon, it’s of a bodacious female colossus striding across San Francisco. As this inky giant keeps on trucking, she evokes the 50-foot-woman of cult film fame, if one that has received a Crumb makeover, with thighs as mighty as giant sequoias and a bottom that rolls like a ship in a storm. The terrific actress Bel Powley was in her early 20s when ‘Diary’ was shot, but looks more like a teenager than most of the generically buffed and prettified adolescents who populate American screens.” Read more…)

Woodlawn: The True Story (sports/drama, Sean Astin. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 57.)

New Blu-Ray
Straight Outta Compton
The Intern
Everest

New Classics DVDs (pre-1960)
GildaGilda (1946, film noir classic, Criterion edition, Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. “Gilda” is now recognized as a film noir classic. But New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was not enamored with it when it as released in 1946. He wrote [log-in required]: “Despite close and earnest attention to this nigh-onto-two-hour film, this reviewer was utterly baffled by what happened on the screen. To our average register of reasoning, it simply did not make sense. It seems that a fantastic female, the pivotal character in this film, turns up in a Buenos Aires casino as the wife of the dour proprietor. But it also seems that she was previously the sweetie of a caustic young man who is quite a hand at gambling and is employed by this same proprietor. For reasons which are guardedly suggested, she taunts and torments this tough lad until, by a twist of circumstances, her husband is suddenly removed. Then she marries the laddie but continues to fight with him because of some curious disposition which is never properly explained. In the end, after certain vagrant incidents, they are reconciled—but don’t ask us why.” Read more…)

Let There Be Light: John Huston’s Wartime Documentaries (1942, wartime documentaries by John Huston. Includes “Let There Be Light,” “Winning Your Wings,” “Report from the Aleutians” and “San Pietro.” “Let There Be Light,” which dealt with postwar treatment of veterans with “psychoneurotic” disorders (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), was suppressed by the Army shortly after it was made as potentially harmful to future recruiting efforts. New York Times critic Vincent Canby reviewed it upon its release in 1981 [log-in required]: “With its voice-over narration [provided by Walter Huston], its use of wipes and dissolves and its full-orchestra soundtrack music, ‘Let There Be Light’ is an amazingly elegant movie, far different from the kind of documentaries we’re now used to and pioneered by such post-World War II film makers as Morris Engel, Robert Drew, D.A. Pennebaker, Richard Leacock and Albert and David Maysles. Its studied look may have the effect of softening the movie’s impact on today’s audiences, who’ve grown up seeing riots, wars and assassinations live-and-in-color on their home television screens. Yet it’s not difficult to understand the force of the film. Among the patients we see from their arrival at Mason General through their treatments, cures and releases are men suffering from amnesia, hysterical paralysis, stuttering and acute melancholia.” Read more…)

New British
Vera: Season 2 (police procedural, Brenda Blethyn)
Vera: Season 3 (police procedural, Brenda Blethyn)

New Documentaries
Look_of_SilenceThe Look of Silence (history, Indonesia, human rights, genocide. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 92. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Look of Silence,’ a documentary directed by the American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer and an anonymous Indonesian collaborator, is a painful, profoundly empathetic work of moral reckoning. Like its companion film, ‘The Act of Killing,’ released in 2013, it examines the mass killings that began in Indonesia in 1965, when at least a million people were slaughtered in the aftermath of a military coup. In the earlier movie, perpetrators of the massacres eagerly re-enact their crimes, borrowing costumes and attitudes from American genre movies, as if they were western or film noir heroes. In ‘The Look of Silence,’ it is clear that many of the killers, whose political sponsors are still in power, feel little or no regret for their actions. On the contrary, they bask in a glow of righteous vindication.” Read more…)

Meet the Patels (romance, comedy, ethnicity. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 70. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “‘Meet the Patels’ is a tidy, easygoing documentary in which peripheral players prove more intriguing than its central focus. That would be Ravi Patel, a successful actor [‘Transformers’; the coming TV series ‘Grandfathered’] in Los Angeles who has separated from his redheaded girlfriend, Audrey, lacking the nerve to tell his Indian-born parents about their relationship.” Read more…)

Inside Assad’s Syria (war, current events, human rights, foreign policy)
A Bear’s Story (nature/family)

New Children’s DVDs
A Bear’s Story (nature/family)