New releases 4/8/14

Top Hits
August: Osage County (drama, Meryl Streep. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Another way to think of August: Osage County, which was directed by John Wells and adapted by Tracy Letts from his own play, is as a thespian cage match. Within a circumscribed space, a bunch of unquestionably talented performers is assembled with no instructions other than to top one another. One twitchy confession must be excelled by another. The same with smoldering, sarcastic speeches, explosions of tears, wistful jags of nostalgia and imperious gazes of disgust.” Read more…)

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (horror, Andrew Jacobs. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 42. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The Paranormal Activity franchise aims straight at its Latino fan base with the fifth installment of the series, The Marked Ones, and the changes — goodbye, white suburbia; hello, gritty diversity — recharge the batteries somewhat. But there’s no escaping that the found-footage phenomenon has gone from fresh and original to just plain annoying.” Read more…)

Justin Bieber’s Believe (music, Justin Bieber. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 39. From Jon Caramanica’s New York Times review: “The key moment in Justin Bieber’s Believe, he new hagiographical film, comes in the second half, in a segment that touches ever so lightly upon Mr. Bieber’s tumultuous public image over the last year. The scene is London, last March: A small cluster of paparazzi is egging Mr. Bieber on, and he takes the bait, jumping at the photographers and being held back by a bodyguard. At least half of the conversation [on both sides] is bleeped.” Read more…)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (fantasy, Ian McKellen. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The good Mr. Jackson dukes it out with the bad throughout The Desolation of Smaug. There are, once again, too many busy, uninterestingly staged battles that lean heavily on obvious, sometimes distracting digital sorcery. But there are also pacific, brooding interludes in which the actors — notably Mr. Freeman, an intensely appealing screen presence — remind you that there’s more to Middle-earth than clamor and struggle.” Read more…)

Grudge Match (action comedy, Robert De Niro, Sly Stallone. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 35. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Old jocks never die; they just team up. One veteran action hero may not be able to open a movie nowadays, but put two or more shoulder to shoulder in the same film, as in the Expendables series, and there’s gold to be mined and a senior male fan base to be activated. That’s the shrewd marketing philosophy behind Grudge Match, the overlong, drab, not-so-funny sports comedy that teams Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as onetime boxing champions in an unlikely rematch 30 years after their last bout. Rocky versus the Raging Bull; how about that for a tagline?” Read more…)

A Field In England (historical drama/thriller, Julian Barratt. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 73. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “A Field in England tosses fascinating ingredients into its bubbling pot, and while the resulting dish — a blend of historical action drama, character study and psychedelic kaleidoscope — doesn’t entirely cohere, it gives off a pungent aroma. It is the 17th century in England, where the civil war between Roundheads and Royalists rages. A band of soldiers — a coward [Reece Shearsmith]; a bumpkin [Richard Glover]; a lout [Julian Barratt]; and comparatively bright roughnecks [Ryan Pope and Peter Ferdinando] — desert from battle, only to fall under the authority of a domineering Irishman [Michael Smiley], who forces them to work in a field where he believes buried treasure resides.” Read more…)

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (drama/thriller, Christina Ricci. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 55.)

New Blu-Ray
August: Osage County
The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug

New Foreign
A Touch of Sin (China, drama, Wu Jiang. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 58. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A blistering fictionalized tale straight out of China, A Touch of Sin is at once monumental and human scale. A story of lives rocked by violence, it has the urgency of a screaming headline but one inscribed with visual lyricism, emotional weight and a belief in individual rights. You can feel the conviction of its director, Jia Zhang-ke — one of the few filmmakers of any nationality who weighs the impact of social and political shifts on people — in every shot. In A Touch of Sin, the world isn’t an amorphous backdrop, pretty scenery for private dramas, it is a stage on which men and women struggle to fulfill basic moral obligations, including recognizing one another’s humanity.” Read more…)

New British
A Field In England (historical drama/thriller, Julian Barratt, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 73. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “A Field in England tosses fascinating ingredients into its bubbling pot, and while the resulting dish — a blend of historical action drama, character study and psychedelic kaleidoscope — doesn’t entirely cohere, it gives off a pungent aroma. It is the 17th century in England, where the civil war between Roundheads and Royalists rages. A band of soldiers — a coward [Reece Shearsmith]; a bumpkin [Richard Glover]; a lout [Julian Barratt]; and comparatively bright roughnecks [Ryan Pope and Peter Ferdinando] — desert from battle, only to fall under the authority of a domineering Irishman [Michael Smiley], who forces them to work in a field where he believes buried treasure resides.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (photography, art, Gregory Crewdson. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 58. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “In Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, the director Ben Shapiro accompanied Mr. Crewdson from 2005-9, focusing primarily on the creation of his major series “Beneath the Roses.” Originally conceived as a movie [Mr. Crewdson admits to being profoundly influenced by David Lynch’s Blue Velvet], the photographs have a theatrical resonance that Mr. Shapiro sees no need to embellish.” Read more…)