New releases 8/23/16

Top Hits
Nice_GuysThe Nice Guys (action/comedy, Russell Crowe. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The climax of Shane Black’s ‘The Nice Guys’ involves a hectic, gunfire-riddled chase through a crowded Los Angeles hotel in pursuit of a film canister that rolls and bounces and Frisbees like something out of a cartoon. What’s in the can — a dirty movie with a political message — is ostensibly vital to the plot, but it’s also a nostalgic totem, an expression of Mr. Black’s devotion to the old days, when pornography was printed on celluloid and promoted on marquees.” Read more…)

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (fantasy, Chris Hemsworth. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 35. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The conventional wisdom holds that none of these disasters happen on purpose, that nobody ever sets out to make a bad movie. ‘The Huntsman’ challenges that idea, since it seems to be exactly the movie that the money behind it wanted to see made. Its badness is not extreme, but exemplary: It’s everything wrong with Hollywood today stuffed into a little less than two hours.” Read more…)

The Man Who Knew Infinity (period drama, Dev Patel. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 56. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “It’s time for Dev Patel to add fresh paints to his palette. This talented actor — who got his feature start in Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ — has largely specialized in handsome, earnest and well-meaning characters[(in both ‘Best Exotic Matigold Hotel’ movies and the canceled HBO series ‘The Newsroom’]. Now comes ‘The Man Who Knew infinity,’ Matthew Brown’s respectful and, yes, earnest biopic about the early-20th-century mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, who found the divine in integers. Ramanujan, who was mentored by the Cambridge professor G. H. Hardy, eventually became the first Indian to hold a fellowship at Trinity College.” Read more…)

Maggies_PlanMaggie’s Plan (comedy, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Rebecca] Miller’s choices are hard to argue with. She steers gracefully through a zigzagging plot, slowing down for quiet, contemplative stretches and pausing for jokes that are irrelevant but irresistible. She finds a tricky balance of farce, satire and emotional sincerity, a way of treating people as ridiculous without denying them empathy. They are all flawed, difficult and easy to laugh at, but the mockery is devoid of contempt, and arises from the simple fact that they all — John and Georgette in particular — take themselves so seriously that we don’t have to.” Read more…)

Sunset Song (period drama, Peter Mullan. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The rolling green meadows and the radiant face of Chris Guthrie [Agyness Deyn], a bright, hard-working Scottish farm girl in Terence Davies’ film ‘Sunset Song’ fuse into a luminous vision of the land and the people tending it. The movie immerses you in the intoxicating beauty of the natural world, but it doesn’t ignore the hardships of the peasantry who toil day in and day out to raise crops and put food on the table. ‘Sunset Song” is adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel, set mostly on the fictional Estate of Kinraddie in northeastern Scotland in the years before World War I, and considered a British literary classic. The movie, which has the look and feel of a magnificently illustrated historical novel, proceeds at a deliberate, meditative pace that rewards patient attention.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (Hong Kong, romance, Jamie Chung. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 54. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Stories don’t come much thinner than the one in ‘Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,’ a will-they-or-won’t-they romance that invests a lot in the attractiveness of that city. Ruby [Jamie Chung], a Californian visiting Hong Kong for the first time, can’t decipher the urban landscape well enough to locate the friends she’s trying to meet. Fortunately, Josh [Bruan Greenberg], an expat East Coaster who has been living in Hong Kong for years, is nearby when her cellphone dies and he offers to guide her to her buddies. As they walk and walk and walk, flirtation occurs, but the moment is broken by a minor revelation that, in the context of this sweet but uneventful film, would constitute a spoiler. Suffice it to say that hooking up, for these two, would not be without consequences.” Read more…)

New British
Taste_of_HoneyA Taste of Honey (1961, Criterion Edition British drama, Rita Tushingham. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1962 New York Tikes review [requires log-in]: “Shelagh Delaney’s ‘A Taste of Honey,’ which justifiably drew theatregoers like flies, to London and Broadway, is more memorable on film. The British-made drama, which was unveiled at the ‘Paris Theatre yesterday, has been given specifically effective scope in the movie medium. Freed from the constricting confines of the stage, the shining honesty, the trials, the disenchantment of the drama’s low-born Lancashire principals have become all the more striking and true. The dedicated producers have concocted a bitter ‘Honey’ that is rare and travels well.” Read more…)

Inspector Lewis: Season 8
Endeavour: Season 3

New Television
Roots (mini-series re-make, Laurence Fishburne)

New Documentaries
WeinerWeiner (politics, scandal, Anthony Weiner. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘What’s wrong with you?’ That question, posed to the disgraced New York City mayoral candidate Anthony D. Weiner in the infuriating and depressing but rivetingly watchable documentary that bears his name, is never answered and only barely addressed in the film, directed by Josh Kriegman [a former Weiner aide] and Elyse Steinberg. As almost everyone knows, Mr. Weiner’s meteoric political career was ended — or at least interrupted — by a sexting scandal in which he, sometimes under the preposterous pseudonym Carlos Danger, flirted with and exhibited himself to women.” Read more…)

The Brainwashing of My Dad (politics, radio, media. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “A lot of people, especially on the liberal side of the spectrum, will certainly identify with ‘The Brainwashing of My dad,’ Jen Senko’s documentary about how right-wing news programs, talk shows and Internet sites turned her once reasonable father into a raging embodiment of intolerance and suspicion. The film, though, feels as if it’s arriving late to its discoveries and, given the current political climate, as if it’s only scratching the surface.” Read more…)

The Other Side (forgotten America, social issues, underclass. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘The Other Side’ opens in lush, verdant woodland. Camouflaged men [one or two blend into their surroundings so well that they are difficult to spot within the frame] stalk or crouch amid the trees and brush, brandishing assault weapons. At the edge of the forest, a naked man is asleep in some tall grass. He awakens, gets up and starts walking down a narrow two-lane road. The camera follows him. Although it’s being marketed as something like a documentary, this film, directed by Roberto Minervini, is, in fact, something oddly different. To call it a cross between reality television and art film would perhaps be more accurate. Whatever genre it belongs to, ‘The Other Side’ is powerful and disturbing.” Read more…)

Dark_HorseDark Horse (horse racing, social class. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Bred from a crazy broodmare [‘She was just mental,’ one character says] and raised on an unkempt allotment in an unremarkable Welsh village, the gangly foal known as Dream Alliance seemed unlikely to set the racecourse on fire. Yet ‘he looked classy,’ one of Dream’s many part owners, Brian Vokes, recalls. “He looked the part.” Spanning a decade of trepidation and triumph, ‘Dark Horse’ is the thoroughly disarming story of that foal’s canter through the class barrier to challenge his Thoroughbred betters. Behind him, he dragged the hopes of a depressed former coal mining town forced back on its heels by the pit closures of the 1980s and the absence of financial alternatives.” Read more…)

Paths of the Soul (Buddhism, Tibet. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Paths of the Soul’ is rare in several respects, not least that it is a depiction of Buddhism in Tibet that has passed muster with Chinese censors. Directed by Zhang Yang, it dramatizes a 1,200-mile pilgrimage by the actual residents of the Tibetan village of Nyima. The movie so upends the traditions of documentary and narrative filmmaking that ‘dramatizes’ may be inaccurate — the filmmakers followed the real pilgrims for a full year, after all. But the movie is so well made and engaging that such distinctions will make little difference to the viewer.” Read more…)

Papirosen (family, history, Argentina, The Holocaust. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “In ‘Papirosen,’ the Argentine filmmaker Gastón Solnicki trains his camera on four generations of his wildly volatile Jewish family, folding 10 years of modern footage into a visual collage that covers more than half a century. But instead of a dignified stroll down genealogy lane, Mr. Solnicki has made a sparking, gossipy soap opera that’s riddled with emotion and stuffed with strong characters.” Read more…)

New Releases 11/13/12

Top Hits

Savages (action, Taylor Kitsch. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “One of the jokes in Savages, Oliver Stone’s feverish, fully baked, half-great adaptation of Don Winslow’s ferocious and funny drug-war novel of the same name, is that the film’s title is flung back and forth between north and south — an epithet that is also eventually claimed as a badge of honor. The Southern California marijuana dealers on one side of the conflict that energizes the film’s zigzagging narrative are appalled by the brutality of the Mexican narco-traffickers, for whom torture and mutilation are routine ways of doing business. Some of the Mexicans, in turn, are disgusted by the sloth and shallowness of the gringos, who seem to lack any sense of dignity, tradition, family or honor. Savagery is in the eye of the beholder.” Read more…)

The Watch (comedy, Ben Stiller. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 36. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Directed by Akiva Schaffer from a screenplay by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the movie clumsily juggles two loosely connected concepts. In the spirit of  The Hangover, it is a whimsical, potty-mouthed buddy movie that lunges for laughs with bursts of profanity; it is also a spoof of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which the aliens disguise themselves as humans.” Read more…)

Dark Horse (drama, Jordan Gelber. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Abe [Jordan Gelber] is a tubby underachiever in his 30s who lives with his parents, sleeping in a bedroom full of action figures, movie posters and other emblems of interminable childhood. In other words he is, in the context of recent American cinema, not unusual. But Dark Horse is a Todd Solondz movie, which means, among other things, that Abe is neither a sweet Apatovian schlub nor a stoner saint like the title character in Mark and Jay Duplass’s Jeff, Who Lives at Home. He is, instead, an emblem of loneliness and failure, whose cocoon of self-delusion and misplaced vanity is carefully dismantled by the sharp, remorseless tweezers of Mr. Solondz’s sensibility.” Read more…)

Brave (Pixar/Disney animated feature, Kelly Macdonald. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “From her wild and woolly locks to her Clydesdale, the gorgeous high-stepper Angus on whom she races across the softly rendered Scottish hills and glens, Merida has been created as something of an anti-Rapunzel [at least before Rapunzel received a girl-power makeover for Disney’s 2010 movie Tangled]. Merida is active instead of passive, a doer rather than a gal who hangs around the castle waiting for Prince Charming to rescue her. More to the point and to the movie’s marketing, she is Pixar’s first female protagonist, which means that there’s a lot more riding on her head than that ginger mop. After 17 years of feature filmmaking and 12 box-office hits, Pixar has — ta-da! — entered the big business of little girls.” Read more…)

2 Days in New York (romantic comedy, Chris Rock. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At the opening of her photography show, Marion, the high-strung heroine of 2 Days in New York, has an awkward encounter with a critic. Frustrated by his poker face and his noncommittal responses, and stressed out by everything else going on in her life [about which more shortly], Marion launches into an unhinged, obscene tirade at the poor man. Later in the film a karmically empowered pigeon drops an airborne excretory insult on him. Since Marion is played by the director of the film, Julie Delpy, I will take this as a warning.” Read more…)

Vamps (horror/comedy, Alicia Silverstone. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 57. From Rachel Saltz’s New York Times review: “Nice girls don’t drink human blood. But they can still be vampires. Just give them a rat and a straw, and they’re good to go. The image of Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter slurping away at furry beverages is probably the grossest thing in Vamps, written and directed by Amy Heckerling. It’s also probably the funniest.” Read more…)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 (animated comic book feature, Peter Weller [voice])

New Blu-Ray

Brave

Savages

The Watch

Lawrence of Arabia

New Foreign

A Burning Hot Summer (France, drama, Louis Garrel. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Philippe Garrel, whose films include Regular Lovers [set against the turmoil of France in May 1968] and Frontier of Dawn [a love story involving one man and two women], creates worlds that spring from a poetic, deeply personal sense of life rather than a screenwriting manual. People find and lose love, make up or don’t. They pass the time, time passes them by. In A Burning Hot Summer [a pulpy title that sounds better in the original, Un Été Brûlant], two men fall into friendship, and while little happens, everything is at stake.” Read more…)

Weekend (France, 1967, Godard satire, Mirielle Darc. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. From Renata Adler’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend, which was shown last night at the New York Film Festival, is a fantastic film, in which all of life becomes a weekend, and the weekend is a cataclysmic, seismic traffic jam—with cars running pedestrians and cyclists off the road, only to collide and leave blood and corpses everywhere.” Read more…)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life:

The Decameron (1971, comedy/drama based on Boccaccio, Franco Citti. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking 10 tales out of the 100 in Boccaccio’s Decameron, Pasolini has created one of the most beautiful, turbulent and uproarious panoramas of early Renaissance life ever put on film. It is also one of the most obscene, if obscene defines something that is offensive to ordinary concepts of chastity, delicacy and decency, although I’d hardly call the film offensive to morals.” Read more…)

    The Canterbury Tales (1972, comedy/drama based on Chaucer, Hugh Griffith. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%.)

    Arabian Nights (1974, comedy/fantasy, Ninetto Davoli. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)

Twilight’s Last Gleaming (1977, thriller, Burt Lancaster. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From a Nicolas Rapold New York Times article about Twilight’s Last Gleaming‘s recent re-release: “Twilight’s Last Gleaming epitomized a paranoid, quintessentially ’70s moment in American history and imagination. As a thriller, it is a nerve-racking procedural. Its parallel strands of action shatter into two, three and four split-screens that observe the silo, the White House and the special-assault squads outside the missile base. All of this is enhanced by a raft of old-guard stars: Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Joseph Cotten, Melvyn Douglas.” Read more…)

Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980, western, Kris Kristofferson. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Heaven’s Gate is a legenday film. Assailed upon its 1980 release as an expensive disaster, over the past three decades a critical re-examination has led to the film now being seen in a far more positive light. This new DVD release is a painstakingly remastered Criterion edition. New York Times critic Vincent Canby wrote in 1980 [requires log-in]: “Heaven’s Gate is something quite rare in movies these days – an unqualified disaster.” [Read more of Canby’s review…] But this past September in the New York Times “Arts & Leisure” section, Dennis Lim wrote of the contemporary reappraisal: “Present-day viewers may well find that time has been kind to Heaven’s Gate, which plays more than ever like a fittingly bleak apotheosis of the New Hollywood, an eccentric yet elegiac rethinking of the myths of the West and the western, with an uncommonly blunt take on class in America. [‘It’s getting dangerous to be poor in this country,’ someone says. The rejoinder: ‘It always was.’] But this defiant last gasp of the downbeat ’70s, opening two weeks after Ronald Reagan was elected president, was plainly a movie at odds with its time. Reached at his home in Hawaii, [the film’s star Kris] Kristofferson said he believes the themes of the film, with its grim view of American capitalism, were what made it so unpalatable.” Read more…)

New British DVDs

Call the Midwife: Season 1

New Documentaries

The Queen of Versailles (travails of fallen billionaires. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “It has been said that we live in a new gilded age, in which the rich take it as their sovereign right and civic duty to get richer, while the rest of us look on in envy, simmer with resentment or dream of rebellion. The Queen of Versailles, a new documentary by Lauren Greenfield about life on the thin, fragile, sugarcoated top layer of the upper crust, captures the tone of the times with a clear, surprisingly compassionate eye.” Read more…)

Last Call at the Oasis (environment, water resources, Erin Brockovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Jay Famiglietti, one of a handful of expert witnesses in Jessica Yu’s Last Call at the Oasis, is a thoughtful scientist with an engaging manner who specializes in water. In particular, he studies — and tries to raise public awareness about — the rapid depletion of water supplies caused by agricultural overuse, rampant development and global climate change. His analyses are thorough and clear, and he presents them, at public meetings and straight to Ms. Yu’s camera, with good-natured patience. For the most part, that is. At one point, contemplating a future of unchecked consumption and political paralysis, he sums it all up in blunt layman’s terms: ‘We’re screwed.'” Read more…)

Half the Sky (women’s human rights, Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn)

New Children’s DVDs

Pixar Short Films Collection: Vol. 2