New Releases 2/16/16

Top Hits
Trumbo (historical drama, Bryan Cranston. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 60. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis was not a fan of “Trumbo,” writing, “It’s impossible to tell if the filmmakers don’t trust the audience or simply don’t have the chops, guts or heart to do this story justice. The blacklist remains vital and lamentably topical, and it’s clear why someone thought it was a good time to pull Trumbo back into the limelight. But the man who helped give us ‘Gun Crazy,’ an American masterpiece, among many other titles, deserves a smarter portrait.” Read more…)

Steve_JobsSteve Jobs (biopic, Michael Fassbender. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The accuracy of this portrait is not my concern. Cinematic biographies of the famous are not documentaries. They are allegories: narrative vessels into which meanings and morals are packed like raisins in an oatmeal cookie; modern, secular equivalents of medieval lives of the saints; cautionary tales and beacons of aspiration. ‘Steve Jobs’ is a rich and potent document of the times, an expression of both the awe that attends sophisticated new consumer goods and the unease that trails in the wake of their arrival. The movie burnishes the image of this visionary C.E.O. even as it tries to peek behind the curtain at the gimcrack machinery of omnipotence. Mostly, though, it is a formally audacious, intellectually energized entertainment, a powerful challenge to the lazy conventions of Hollywood storytelling and a feast for connoisseurs of contemporary screen acting.” Read more…)

Criminal Activities (gangster drama, John Travolta. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 51. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “It’s a film full of machismo [there is hardly a female character in sight], absurdist dialogue and hints of humor, and it owes as much to Quentin Tarantino as the four bunglers owe to Eddie. Yet it doesn’t feel like a mere imitation; it has too much wit and too many striking performances for that.” Read more…)

The 33 (rescue drama about Chilean miners, Antonio Banderas. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “But with the help of some solid performances and James Horner’s heart-squeezing, throat-constricting score [one of the last he composed before his death in June], ‘The 33’ holds your attention and pushes the required buttons. It starts above ground, at an outdoor party where miners eat, drink, dance, impersonate Elvis Presley and engage in some necessary preliminary exposition. By the time they pile into the bus for work the next morning, we are acquainted with the most important figures. Once the earth shifts and a giant rock seals them into a refuge hundreds of feet down, we know the function each one will play.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Trumbo
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

New Foreign
Death By Hanging (Japan, 1968, drama, Kei Sato. From Vincent Canby’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For about one-third of its running time Nagisa Oshima’s Japanese film ‘Death by Hanging’ is a surprisingly uproarious contemplation of the moral issues involved in capital punishment. The prison officials, prosecutors, chaplain and witnesses argue back and forth and pick at each other with a Lewis Carroll sort of purposeful, cross illogic. Everybody becomes nettled. Someone suggests that they call it a day. “This kind of work has its failures too,” he says, but they all stay on to straighten things out, sort of.” Read more…)

Jewish Luck (Russia/Yiddish, 1925, drama/comedy, Solomon Mikhoels)

New British
The Trials of Jimmy Rose (drama, Ray Winstone)

New Television
Togetherness: Season 1 (HBO comedy series, Mark Duplass. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 79.)
Girls: Season 4 (HBO comedy/drama, Lena Dunham. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%.)
Saints & Strangers (mini-series, first encounter between Pilgrims & Native Americans. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 90.)

New Documentaries
Black_PanthersThe Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (civil rights, American history, Black history. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The beginning of ‘The Black Panthers,’ Stanley Nelson’s excellent new documentary, includes a television news report on tensions between black citizens and the police in American cities. If not for the fuzzy, monochrome images and the voice-over’s unironic use of the word ‘Negroes,’ the clip could have been broadcast last week, instead of almost 50 years ago. And if Mr. Nelson doesn’t strain to establish the present-day relevance of the story he has to tell, it’s partly because he doesn’t have to. The problems of poverty, police brutality and economic plunder that gave birth to the Panthers are with us still.” Read more…)