New Releases 3/4/14

Top Hits
12 Years a Slave (historical drama, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 97. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “12 Years a Slave isn’t the first movie about slavery in the United States — but it may be the one that finally makes it impossible for American cinema to continue to sell the ugly lies it’s been hawking for more than a century. Written by John Ridley and directed by Steve McQueen, it tells the true story of Solomon Northup, an African-American freeman who, in 1841, was snatched off the streets of Washington, and sold. It’s at once a familiar, utterly strange and deeply American story in which the period trappings long beloved by Hollywood — the paternalistic gentry with their pretty plantations, their genteel manners and all the fiddle-dee-dee rest — are the backdrop for an outrage.” Read more…)

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The Grandmaster (martial arts, Tony Leung. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The Grandmaster, a hypnotically beautiful dream from the Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, opens with curls of smoke, eddies of water and men soaring and flying across the frame as effortlessly as silk ribbons. The men are warriors, street fighters with furious fists and winged feet, who have massed together on a dark, rainy night to take on Ip Man [Tony Leung], a still figure in a long coat and an elegant white hat. Even amid the violent whirlpools of rain and bodies, that hat never leaves his head. It’s as unyielding as its owner.” Read more…)

Oldboy (thriller, Josh Brolin. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York times review: “The question that propels Oldboy, Spike Lee’s kinetic and colorful new movie, is ‘Why?’ Why has somebody — for a long time, we don’t know who — taken the trouble to kidnap Joe Doucett [Josh Brolin], an alcoholic advertising executive, and lock him up in a fake hotel room for 20 years? Why has Joe been framed for a murder and then, after making a mental journey to madness and back, set free? A related question would be why Mr. Lee devoted so much time and labor to remaking a South Korean revenger’s tale, originally directed by Park Chan-wook, that has acquired a passionate cult following in international fanboy circles.” Read more…)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (action, Jennifer Lawrence, comes out Fri., Mar. 7. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Catching Fire is the follow-up to The Hunger Games and the second in what will be four movie adaptations of Suzanne Collins’s fantastically successful book trilogy. [The studio behind the series, Lionsgate, is splitting the final book into two flicks.] It’s largely satisfying as far as screen adventures go, and comes fully loaded with special effects and action scenes, and embellished with the usual brand-name character actors, including the new arrivals Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer.” Read more…)

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The Last Days on Mars (sci-fi/thriller, Liev Schreiber. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 46. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Good on atmospherics but unimaginatively plotted, The Last day on Mars is a low-budget zombie movie whose observations of group psychology in high-stress situations fitfully signal higher aspirations. The feature film debut of the Irish director Ruairi Robinson, it was adapted by Clive Dawson from Sydney J. Bounds’s short story ‘The Animators.'” Read more…)

Justice League: War (animated superhero action, Justin Kirk [voice])

New Blu-Ray
12 Years a Slave
Oldboy
The Grandmaster
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (comes out Fri., Mar. 7)

New Documentaries
Gene Kelly: Dancing, A Man’s Game (dance, Gene Kelly)