New Releases 3/22/16

Top Hits
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (fantasy/action, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 70. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There’s no risk that Katniss Everdeen, the warrior who has led the charge against oppression in ‘The Hunger Games’ movies, can ever return to her current incarnation. Even if she and her world are rebooted back into franchise existence by a ravenous studio, her moment was now. Katniss, as played by Jennifer Lawrence over three years and four blockbusters, has evolved from a backwoods scrapper in the first movie into a battle-scarred champion and an exemplar of female power on screen and off — and the battles she’s fought have extended far beyond the fictional nation of Panem.” Read more…)

Daddy’s Home (comedy, Will Ferrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 30. Metacritic: 42. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Daddy’s Home’ is an ugly psychological cockfight posing as a family-friendly comedy. Laugh-free — except for some farcical, life-threatening stunts at the expense of Will Ferrell’s character, Brad — it is best avoided unless a movie that has the attitude and mind-set of a schoolyard bully happens to be your thing.” Read more…)

James_WhiteJames White (drama, Christopher Abbott. Rotten Tomatoes: 92. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘James White’ burrows so deeply into the consciousness of its title character, a flailing young Manhattanite played by Christopher Abbott [‘Girls’], that his self-loathing and panic feel contagious. Who hasn’t, at a certain point in life, faced a sink-or-swim moment when a promising future suddenly began to seem out of reach? James combats the terror of grown-up responsibility with copious amounts of booze and late-night carousing in which he picks fights in bars and behaves like a brat. But Mr. Abbott’s performance makes you aware that James’s bad behavior stems from fear; deep down he has a warm heart.” Read more…)

The Letters: The Untold Story of Mother Teresa (biopic/religion, Juliet Stevenson. Rotten Tomatoes: 30. Metacritic: 25. From Ken Jaworski’s New York Times review: “‘The Letters’ doesn’t preach to the converted, or to anyone else, for that matter. Instead, this fairly standard biopic about Mother Teresa tells its tale with a minimum of flourish, resisting most opportunities to grandstand. That’s not high praise, but it’s also not an insult.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

New Foreign
Brighter_Summer_DayA Brighter Summer Day (Taiwan, 1991, drama, Chen Chang. Rotten Tomatoes: 100. Metacritic: 90. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Edward] Yang, who died in 2007 at the age of 59, is best known in the United States for ‘Yi Yi,’ his brilliant, inexhaustibly insightful chronicle of family life in modern Taipei. Of his half-dozen other features [all of which were part of Lincoln Center’s recent retrospective, ‘A Rational Mind’],  ‘A Brighter Summer Day’ is, by critical consensus, the masterpiece. And it deserves that overused designation in several specific ways. In every aspect of technique — from the smoky colors and the bustling, off-center compositions to the architecture of the story and the emotional precision of the performances — this film is a work of absolute mastery. Its imaginative authority and the scale of its achieved ambition make it not just a wonderful movie but also an essential piece of modern cinema.” Read more…)

New Classics (pre-1960)
City_LightsCity Lights (1931, legendary silent comedy in new Criterion edition, Charlie Chaplin. Rotten Tomatoes: 98. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Charlie Chaplin, master of screen mirth and pathos, presented at the George M. Cohan last night before a brilliant gathering his long-awaited non-dialogue picture, ‘City Lights,’ and proved so far as he is concerned the eloquence of silence. Many of the spectators either rocking in their seats with mirth, mumbling as their sides ached, ‘Oh, dear, oh, dear,’ or they were stilled with sighs and furtive tears. And during a closing episode, when the Little Tramp sees through the window of a flower shop the girl who has recovered her sight through his persistence, one woman could not restrain a cry.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Pearl_ButtonThe Pearl Button (Chilean history, politics, nature, dir. Patricio Guzman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s Times review: “For decades, the Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán has made nonfiction movies about his country’s troubled history, specifically the dictatorship o Augusto Pinochet and the murders and disappearances during Pinochet’s regime that continue to reverberate. The subject exerts something like a tidal pull on Mr. Guzmán, but in ‘The Pearl Button’ he turns his lyrical, probing mind to the ocean that lines Chile’s seemingly endless coast and defines his homeland.” Read more…)

Merchants of Doubt (propaganda, lobbying, public relations, spin. Rotten Tomatoes: 85. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Late last month Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, brandished a snowball on the Senate floor, suggesting that the ugly winter weather afflicting the Eastern Seaboard was evidence that global warming is a hoax. This moment of political theater was widely ridiculed [by Jon Stewart and others], but ‘Merchants of Doubt,’ Robert Kenner’s informative and infuriating new documentary, ought to remind us that the denial of climate change is hardly a joke.” Read more…)