New Releases 05/14/13

Top Hits
Cloud Atlas (science fiction/drama, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 55. From A. O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Cloud Atlas is a movie about migratory souls and wayward civilizations, loaded with soaring themes and flights of feeling, as vaporous and comprehensive as its title. Big ideas, or at least earnest intellectual conceits, crowd the screen along with suave digital effects and gaudy costumes. Free will battles determinism. Solidarity faces off against domination. Belief in a benevolent cosmic order contends with fidelity to the cruel Darwinian maxim that ‘the weak are meat the strong do eat.'” Read more…)

Texas Chainsaw (horror, Alexandra Daddario. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 31. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Let’s see, how many name actors have enrolled in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre school of hard blows over that horror franchise’s history? There are Viggo Mortensen [class of 1990]; Matthew McConughey and Renee Zellweger [1994]; Jessica Biel [2003]; and Matt Bomer of White Collar [2006]. Now add Alexandra Daddario [of Percy Jackson & the Olympians], Scott Eastwood [yes, Clint’s son] and Tremaine Neverson [a k a the singer Trey Songz], who graduate with flying limbs in the new, generic sixth installment, Texas Chainsaw 3D.” Read more…)

Liz & Dick (romance, Lindsay Lohan. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 26. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “There are moments in “Liz & Dick when Lindsay Lohan looks a lot like Elizabeth Taylor. There are others in which she looks like Elizabeth Taylor doing a Saturday Night Live impersonation of Lindsay Lohan. Liz & Dick, being shown on Sunday on Lifetime, could be worse. Some scenes, though there are too few of them, are kind of fun. The film’s real failure is that it’s not terrible enough. Instead it is a respectful and oddly cramped tribute to the legendary love affair between Taylor and Richard Burton that isn’t vulgar enough to be entertainingly campy and is too wedded to the myth to riff imaginatively on the couple’s gaudy, outsize celebrity.” Read more…)

If I Were You (comedy/drama, Marcia Gay Harden. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 28. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Buried in the bloat of Joan Carr-Wiggin’s interminable If I Were You are the seeds of what might have been a lean, snappy farce about duplicitous, adulterous games. The story of Madelyn [Marcia Gay Harden], a boozy middle-aged marketing executive who impulsively bonds with her husband’s girlfriend, has its goofy moments but lacks focus, precision and structure. The pace is sluggish and the humor spotty. Just when you think it might settle into a comfortable rhythm, it throws in unnecessary characters and takes a mystifying tangent.” Read more…)

Upstream Color (drama/sci-fi, Shane Carruth. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 80. From Msanohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, a deeply sincere, elliptical movie about being and nature, men and women, self and other, worms and pigs, opens with two scenes: Two teenage boys biking around a leafy suburb, and elsewhere, a man harvesting little white worms from orchid root balls. The teenagers slowly tracing circles on the pavement are so attractively framed by the soft, shimmery light and blurred background that they look as if they could have biked out of a Terrence Malick movie. The teenagers join the man, who does nasty things with worms and could be a concerned florist, an experimental entomologist, a budding serial killer or just a run-of-the-mill science-fiction freak.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Cloud Atlas
Texas Chainsaw
Upstream Color
Jubal (1956, western, Glenn Ford. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review in verse [requires log-in]: “‘WON’T you slip into my bedroom?’/ Coos the fat ranch-owner’s wife/ To the ambulating cowboy/ Who has come into her life./ ‘Tis the nicest little bedroom;/ Cozy place to park your spurs/ While my husband’s branding cattle./ You take “His” and I’ll take “Hers”.’/ ‘Nothing doing,’ says the cowboy./ ‘Why not?’ asks the fat man’s frau./ ‘Cause your husband treats me kindly,’/ Says the cowboy. So that’s how/ All the trouble starts in Jubal,/ Latest western roundelay/ That Columbia Pictures offered/ At the Mayfair yesterday.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Borgen: Season 1 (Denmark, drama series, Sidse Babett Knudsen. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “A reason Downton Abbey, a Masterpiece drama about masters and servants, was such a huge hit in the United States is that it appealed as an old-world version of The West Wing — instead of electoral politics and all the president’s aides, Downton Abbey romanticized patrilineal power and the weird upstairs-downstairs bonds built into the British class system. Borgen is in that league, even though it is a political drama set in, of all places, the Danish Parliament. The same Danish team behind the original version of The Killing created Borgen, and it too focuses on a strong woman, only this time she leads not a homicide investigation, but an entire country.” Read more…)

New Classics
Jubal Blu-Ray (1956, western, Glenn Ford, in New Blu-Ray section. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review in verse [requires log-in]: “‘WON’T you slip into my bedroom?’/ Coos the fat ranch-owner’s wife/ To the ambulating cowboy/ Who has come into her life./ ‘Tis the nicest little bedroom;/ Cozy place to park your spurs/ While my husband’s branding cattle./ You take “His” and I’ll take “Hers”.’/ ‘Nothing doing,’ says the cowboy./ ‘Why not?’ asks the fat man’s frau./ ‘Cause your husband treats me kindly,’/ Says the cowboy. So that’s how/ All the trouble starts in Jubal,/ Latest western roundelay/ That Columbia Pictures offered/ At the Mayfair yesterday.” Read more…)

Abraham Lincoln: Political Genius (1930, D.W. Griffith bio-pic, Walter Huston. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “David Wark Griffith, the old master of the early silent screen, presented last night at the Central his first audible film, an episodical conception of the life of Abraham Lincoln. It is quite a worthy pictorial offering with a genuinely fine and inspiring performance by Walter Huston in the rôle of the martyred President. Through Mr. Griffith’s intimate knowledge of the vagaries of the camera, Mr. Huston is thoroughly believable in the rôle, even though in life he does not approach Lincoln’s stature of six feet three inches. This actor’s diction is firm and pleasing, and toward the close of the production the incidents are suspenseful, particularly during the passages devoted to Sheridan’s victory.” Read more…)

New British
The Bletchley Circle: Cracking A Killer’s Code (thriller, Anna Maxwell Martin. Metacritic: 73. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “Churchill called the thousands of puzzle-solvers and clerks who spent World War II at Bletchley Park secretly breaking enemy codes ‘my geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled.’ And almost as extraordinary as their work was — some say the decryption of Germany’s Enigma machine hastened the end of the war by as many as two years — their loyalty to the Official Secrets Act is almost impossible to fathom. Codebreakers kept silent about their war effort for decades; the British government didn’t officially recognize Bletchley Park veterans until 2009. Nowadays, it is still possible to read newspaper obituaries of 90-year-olds who never told their spouses, parents or siblings what they really did during the war. The Bletchley Circle, a three-part series that begins Sunday on PBS, finds an imaginative way to give overdue credit to those unrecognized government servants, most of whom were women.” Read more…)

New TV
Dexter: Season 7