New releases 11/4/14

Top Hits
A Most Wanted Man (spy thriller, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis New York Times review: “An inescapable melancholy pervades the espionage film ‘A Most wanted Man,’ a smart, bluntly effective adaptation of John Le Carré’s post-9/11 political passion play about good, evil and the sins committed in the name of national security. It’s no surprise that the weight of that day and its aftermath hangs over the story, which finds expression in the atmospheric gloom of Hamburg, the port city in which most of the story unfolds, and in the movie’s assembly of crushed and deflated souls. Most of all, there’s the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman as Günther Bachmann, a German intelligence officer and man of sorrows driven by his uncompromising belief in himself.” Read more…)

Life of Crime (crime comedy, Jennifer Aniston. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Some lineage is in order. ‘Life of Crime’ is adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1978 novel, ‘The Switch,’ which features characters he brought back in 1992 for ‘Rum Punch,” filmed as ‘Jackie Brown’ by Quentin Tarantino. With each year, ‘Jackie Brown’ seems more like a lost classic from 1978. ‘Life of Crime,’ to paraphrase a character from Mr. Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction,”isn’t in the same ballpark or sport. But as a late-summer caper movie, it hits the spot.” Read more…)

Maleficent (fantasy, Angelina Jolie. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Angelina Jolie makes a fabulous monster. As the title character in ‘Maleficent’ — a divertingly different rethink of an awfully old story — she breezes through the movie, part superstar, part superfreak.” Read more…)

Frontera (drama, Ed Harris. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 58. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “[Actress Amy] Madigan is married to Mr. Harris [the two play husband and wife in the movie], and I can’t think of another Hollywood couple who represent such a pure, if idealized, embodiment of what remains of America’s hardy frontier spirit. Their presence lends this timid drama about border tensions and immigration a core of integrity that carries the first half of the movie. But at a certain point, the screenplay, written by Mr. Berry and Luis Moulinet III, begins frantically backpedaling until the movie reaches a tidy, unconvincing denouement.” Read more…)

Hercules (action, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 47. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “No knowledge of antiquity is required to appreciate ‘Hercules,’ which assumes a low base line from the start. ‘His father was Zeus, the Zeus,’ the voice-over explains, in case you were expecting Dr. Zaius. As directed by Brett Ratner, of the ‘Rush Hour’ franchise, and adapted from a graphic novel written by Steve Moore, ‘Hercules’ poses questions better left unasked. What if there were doubt about Hercules’ murder of his family? What if he had an entourage, including Atalanta [Ingrid Bolso Berdal] — now an Amazon warrior, albeit one who’d kept both breasts? [This is a Ratner film, after all.] Hercules” is tongue-in-cheek revisionist mythology, pitched at classics students who prefer to attend their lectures stoned.” Read more…)

Archipelago (drama, Tom Hiddleston. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Joanna Hogg — where have you been all my movie-loving life? That thought buzzed through my head after, with intensifying greediness, I tore through this British director’s three features: ‘Unrelated,’ ‘Archipelago’ and ‘Exhibition.’ They’re finally receiving American distribution, so if you’re lucky enough to be in New York, run over to the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and catch them now.” Read more…)

Parts Per Billion (pandemic thriller, Frank Langella)
The Newsroom: Season 2 (HBO drama, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82.)

New Foreign
Babette’s Feast (Denmark, 1987, remastered Criterion edition, Stephane Audran. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking a longish tale, ‘Babette’s Feast,’ from Isak Dinesen’s last collection, ‘Anecdotes of Destiny’ [1958], Gabriel Axel has made a very handsome, very literary movie that does justice to the precision of the Dinesen prose, to the particularity of her concerns and to the ironies that so amused her.” Read more…)

New British
Archipelago (drama, Tom Hiddleston, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Joanna Hogg — where have you been all my movie-loving life? That thought buzzed through my head after, with intensifying greediness, I tore through this British director’s three features: ‘Unrelated,’ ‘Archipelago’ and ‘Exhibition.’ They’re finally receiving American distribution, so if you’re lucky enough to be in New York, run over to the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and catch them now.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Planes: Fire & Rescue