New Releases 12/15/15

Top Hits
Mission_Impossible_RogueMission Impossible: Rogue Nation (action adventure, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Sleek and bloated, specific and generic, ‘Rogue Nation’ is pretty much like most of the “Impossible” movies in that it’s an immense machine that Mr. McQuarrie, after tinkering and oiling, has cranked up again and set humming with twists and turns, global trotting and gadgets, a crack supporting cast and a hard-working star. Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg [with his valuable comic timing] are all back, joined by the series newcomer Rebecca Ferguson. She plays a super-vixen, the amusingly named Ilsa Faust, who enters with the camera peeking up her skirt and rises like a half-shell Venus, à la the original Bond Girl, Ursula Andress.” Read more…)

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (action, Dylan O’Brien. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From John Williams’ New York Times review: “‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,’ the second in a series about a racially diverse but otherwise interchangeable set led by a hardy hunk named Thomas [Dylan O’Brien], throws us right into the action. Stiff, vague bits of exposition establish that the youths had, indeed, been in some kind of maze. Now they are in a large industrial compound, saved from a nefarious organization called WCKD by another mysterious crew led by Janson [Aidan Gillen], a transparently shady guy himself. The teenagers are among the only people left immune to a virus that turns humans into zombielike mutants that shriek like velociraptors.” Read more…)

Ted 2 (comedy, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 48. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: ‘Ted 2’ comes off as more inept and thoughtless than intentionally hateful. The charitable take is that Mr. MacFarlane wanted to take on race [slavery — lighten up, people!] but doesn’t have the skills to do so. Less charitably, he doesn’t have the mind-set, the compassion or actual interest.” Read more…)

He Named Me Malala (human rights, education, Malala Youzafzai. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 61. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 but has continued to speak out on behalf of education for girls, is a familiar face in the West by now thanks to a best-selling book, television appearances, speaking engagements and, of course, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize [which she shared with Kailash Satyarthi]. But you may wonder about the real person behind the media phenomenon.” Read more…)

Stanford_Prison_ExperimentThe Stanford Prison Experiment (true-life drama, Billy Crudup. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Fine ensemble acting brings a notorious psychological study to life in ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment.’ The research, now 44 years old, may today seem as if it merely confirmed the obvious, but the film, by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, certainly makes you feel the claustrophobic intensity of what went on. The film is about a 1971 study done by a Stanford University professor, Philip Zimbardo, in which students were recruited to play either guards or inmates in a make-believe prison. Guess what? People put in positions of authority, like prison guards, sometimes abuse that authority, and in startlingly cruel ways.” Read more…)

Time Out of Mind (drama, Richard Gere. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s Times review: “‘Time Out of Mind’ isn’t a study of social injustice or individual pathology; it’s neither an exploration of the problem of homelessness nor a cautionary tale about the dangers of heavy drinking. [Writer and director Oren] Moverman’s previous efforts as a director [‘The Messenger’ and ‘Rampart’] were intense, interesting and overburdened with plot. Some of his screenwriting projects — notably his scripts for Todd Haynes’s ‘I’m Not There’ and Bill Pohlad’s ‘Love and Mercy’ — have felt freer and looser, willing to chase threads of reality even at the expense of structure. This movie’s best and truest quality may be its wandering, episodic rhythm, which is intriguing in its own right and reflects the experience of the main character.” Read more…)

Fantastic 4 (superhero action, Miles Teller. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 27. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The opening scenes of ‘Fantastic Four’ — 20th Century Fox’s reboot of its Marvel superhero franchise — take place in 2007, which happens to be the year that the second movie in the prerebooted franchise [‘Rise of the Silver Surfer’] was released. Ben Grimm and Reed Richards [played as children by Evan Hannemann and Owen Judge, later by Jamie Bell and Miles Teller] don’t mention that fact, because if they did the cinematic universe would collapse on itself and all light would be extinguished from the cosmos. Also, the thoughtful people at Fox probably don’t want to remind anyone of those earlier movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Ted 2
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

New Foreign
Blind (Norway, erotic drama, Ellen Dorrit Pettersen. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Blindness and sight: Distinctions between the two blur, then converge in the Norwegian filmmaker Eskil Vogt’s haunting debut feature, ‘Blind,’ whose narrator and main character, Ingrid [Ellen Dorrit Petersen], has recently lost her sight. ‘I can still see in my dreams,’ she muses. ‘It’s not important what’s real, so long as I can visualize it clearly.’ And in this cool, verging-on-chilly exploration of perception and fantasy, which won a best screenplay award at the Sundance Film Festival, life, as Ingrid experiences it, is considerably more fraught than mundane reality would indicate. What ‘the mind’s eye’ envisions is tumultuous and sexy.” Read more…)

New Classic (pre-1960)
Sons and Lovers (1960 D.H. Lawrence adaptation, Trevor Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1060 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Sons and Lovers’ is sensitively felt and photographed in Jerry Wald’s British-made film version of it, which opened yesterday at the Victoria and Beekman Theatres. The theme of the classic English novel is faithfully preserved: joy and sorrow and strange frustration grow out of the strong attachment of mother and son. An excellent cast of British actors [and one American] play it well. And Jack Cardiff, camera man turned director, has filled it with picture poetry.” Read more…)

New British (Commonwealth)
A Place to Call Home: Season 2 (Australian drama series)

New TV
Third Rock from the Sun: Seasons 5 & 6

New Documentaries
Finders_KeepersFinders Keepers (true life weirdness, who owns an amputated leg?, John Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “An amputated leg leads everyone in a merry dance in ‘Finders Keepers,’ the kind of documentary that makes you suspect that Christopher Guest is hiding behind the curtain. But this shockingly funny, weirdly touching custody battle between John Wood, the aggrieved amputee, and Shannon Whisnant, the fast-talking entrepreneur who unwittingly bought the appendage in a storage-unit auction, is as authentic as the North Carolina vernacular in which it unfolds.” Read more…)

Burroughs (Criterion edition, literature, Beat Generation, William S. Burroughs. From Janet Maslin’s 1983 New York Times documentary [requires log-in]: “Rarely is a documentary as well attuned to its subject as Howard Brookner’s ‘Burroughs,’ which captures as much about the life, work and sensibility of its subject as its 86 minute format allows. Part of the film’s comprehensiveness is attributable to William S. Burroughs’ cooperation, since the author was willing to visit old haunts, read from his works and even playfully act out a passage from ‘Naked Lunch’ for the benefit of the camera. But the quality of discovery about ‘Burroughs’ is very much the director’s doing, and Mr. Brookner demonstrates an unusual degree of liveliness and curiousity in exploring his subject.” Read more…)

He_Named_Me_MalalaHe Named Me Malala (human rights, education, Malala Youzafzai. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 61. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 but has continued to speak out on behalf of education for girls, is a familiar face in the West by now thanks to a best-selling book, television appearances, speaking engagements and, of course, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize [which she shared with Kailash Satyarthi]. But you may wonder about the real person behind the media phenomenon.” Read more…)

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (entertainment history, biography, Sophie Tucker. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 59. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Nowadays, Tucker may be best remembered by fans of Bette Midler, who channeled the early, bawdy days of jazz greats like Tucker with a character called Soph. Viewers of the HBO show ‘Boardwalk Empire’ may also recall the brassy singer [played by Kathy Brier] who uses some of the same comically smutty patter. It would be nice if William Gazecki’s documentary ‘The Outrageous Sophie Tucker’ helped nudge its subject even further into the limelight, where she belongs. The movie isn’t especially well made, yet because Tucker is such a gloriously rich figure — immigrant turned runaway mother turned vaudevillian turned superstar — she renders its formal and aesthetic shortcomings [mostly] irrelevant.” Read more…)