New Releases 3/29/16

Top Hits
Hateful_EightThe Hateful Eight (western/action, Kurt Russell. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie is a western, a tale of vengeance and double-dealing set in a frontier outpost some time after the Civil War. In spite of the vast screen, the sprawling length and the larger-than-life genre archetypes, it’s a curiously small-scale entertainment. After a preliminary stagecoach ride through snow-lashed mountains, the ragged story settles into a confined space, where the main characters [a motley crew of outlaws and bounty hunters] drink coffee, warm themselves by the fire, and talk about this and that until it’s time for them to start killing one another. In its blending of verbiage and violence, its deft manipulation of tension, its blurring of the line between slapstick and shock, and its intricate weave of allusions to obscure and canonical films of the past, ‘Hateful Eight’ is — what’s the term I’m looking for? — a Quentin Tarantino movie” Read more…)

Concussion (drama/sports/medicine, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 55. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The sickening crunch of football players crashing against each other, helmet to helmet, echoes through ‘Concussion’ like an alarm. There’s another appalling sound here, too, created by the collision of corporate avarice — in the blurred form of the National Football League — and a doctor fighting a righteous fight. In the hands of a filmmaker like Michael Mann, who took on Big Tobacco in his 1999 thriller, ‘The Insider,’ the clash between industry and humanity would be front and center and very loud. But while ‘Concussion’ has some fine things going for it, notably science and Will Smith, it lacks the exciting, committed filmmaking that rises to the level of its outrageous topic.” Read more…)

Point Break (action, Edgar Ramirez. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 34. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Over the course — or should I say obstacle course? — of ‘Point Break,’ people hurl themselves off cliffs, down slopes, through waves, out of windows (and planes), and up rock faces. In Ericson Core’s remake of Jathryn Bigelow’s brilliant 1991 thriller, the story of an athlete turned F.B.I. agent is mostly an excuse for showcasing impressive stunts.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Hateful Eight
Point Break

New Foreign
MediterraneaMediterranea (Burkina Faso, drama, Koudous Seihan. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘Mediterranea’ is impressive for the degree to which it lends its characters complex human dimensions and gives equal weight to everyone’s joys and frustrations. Well-intentioned films about African immigrants tend to portray them as exotic outsiders with pure souls who are grateful for any largess. Neither Ayiva nor Abas could be described as a saintly innocent. Ayiva, who communicates with his African family via Skype, is a likable, principled man, but he is not a naïf.” Read more…)

Tokyo Story (Japan, 1953, classic drama/Criterion edition, Chishu Ryu. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1972 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is important to remark the characteristic look of the Ozu movies—the product of an almost immobile camera usually shooting from a low position, and the absolute rejection of such sleights of cinema as the fade or the dissolve—and to note that this look is in itself an example of the seemly patience the films mean to invoke. Tokyo Story really deals with three generations passing through life, but mostly with the generation that is passing out of it, and it understands that a calm reticence may be the true heroism of ordinary old age.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Poem_Is_Naked_PersonLeon Russell: A Poem Is a Naked Person (Les Blank-directed, bio, music. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As he appears in ‘A Poem Is a Naked Person’ — a documentary made in the early ’70s and now receiving a belated and welcome United States theatrical release — Leon Russell is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and wearing his signature top hat. With silver hair and an air of sagacity belying his youth at the time [he was born in 1942], Mr. Russell seems to have sprung from the commingled imaginations of J. R. R. Tolkien and Mark Twain. He’s a wizard and a mountebank, an old-timey song-and-dance man dabbling in ancient magic. This film, commissioned by Mr. Russell and directed by Les Blank, is among other things a strange and gorgeous artifact of its moment.” Read more…)

Dreams Rewired (technology, society, history. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 62. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Dreams Rewired,’ a montage of clips from nearly 200 vintage films, is a lively, visually enthralling attempt to gaze into the future by remembering the past. The snippets — mostly obscure excerpts from dramas, cartoons and scientific and educational films — are seamlessly fused into a whoosh of images, many of them zany, all from the 1880s to the 1930s. The later ones have sound. Directed by Manu Luksch, Martin Reinhart and Thomas Tode, a German-Austrian team, and written by Ms. Luksch and Mukul Patel, ‘Dreams Rewired’ reminds you that anxieties about the potentially destructive effects of new technologies are nothing recent.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Leon Russell: A Poem Is a Naked Person (Les Blank-directed, bio, music)