New Releases 05/07/13

Top Hits
Jack Reacher (action, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 50. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Who are you, Mister?’ a young woman asks Jack Reacher [Tom Cruise], and it’s a question that recurs, not always quite so politely, throughout the movie that bears Reacher’s name. He may be an elusive individual with a sketchy background — ex-military, no fixed address, a single shirt to his name — but as an archetype he is easy enough to recognize. He is a cousin of Shane and Caine [from the old Kung Fu television series] and Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name: a paladin without portfolio who travels from town to town, dispensing righteous violence and hard-boiled aphorisms.” Read more…)

The Oranges (comedy, Hugh Laurie. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 46. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “How could a movie starring Hugh Laurie, Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Catherine Keener go so wrong? That is the mystery behind The Oranges, a dysfunctional-family comedy — excuse the cliché — that backs away in terror from its potentially explosive subject. Those wonderful actors play David and Paige Walling [Mr. Laurie and Ms. Keener] and Terry and Cathy Ostroff [Mr. Platt and Ms. Janney], longtime neighbors and close friends living in West Orange, N.J. The bomb that detonates early in the movie is David’s impulsive affair with the Ostroffs’ predatory, bad-girl daughter, Nina [Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl], who is half his age when she returns from California after her nasty breakup with a creep.” Read more…)

Letters From the Big Man (drama, Lily Rabe. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Msanohla Dargis’ Times review: “In his poem ‘The Way West, Underground,’ from his collection Turtle Island, Gary Snyder writes vividly of ‘The split-cedar/smoked salmon/cloudy days of Oregon,/ the thick fir forests.’ The book’s title refers to an indigenous creation story in which North America emerged from some soil placed on the back of a turtle by a woman who fell from the sky. In some versions of the story a muskrat helps her. The woman in Christopher Munch’s lovely, delightfully idiosyncratic Letters From the Big Man, resplendent with its own dense forests and cloudy Oregon days, has already fallen to earth and is looking for a way back up or maybe just forward. She gets help from a sasquatch.” Read more…)

Mama (horror, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review:”Guillermo del Toro, the reigning godfather of motion-picture horror, is the modern-day Val Lewton, the legendary producer of atmospheric chillers like The Curse of the Cat People. If you’re a movie fan, you know that horror doesn’t get much better than this, and when it comes to contemporary offerings it rarely gets more enjoyable than Mama. Instead of delivering buckets of guts and gore, this ghost story offers a strong sense of time and place, along with the kind of niceties that don’t often figure into horror flicks, notably pictorial beauty, an atmosphere throbbing with dread and actors so good that you don’t want anyone to take an ax to them.” Read more…)

Safe Haven (romance, Julianne Hough. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 34. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Watching this weepy sudsfest, the eighth film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, is like drawing a scented bath. The first spritz from the faucet may be scalding, but once you adjust the temperature, you can settle into a warm and caressing soup and dream the impossible dream. But before that dream can come true, you must endure one final test: a nightmarish Fourth of July of fire and fury in which the past screeches into town determined to drag you back into the bowels of hell.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jack Reacher
Mama
Safe Haven

New TV
Fringe: Season 5

New Documentaries
Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene (literature, bio, Graham Greene)

Hank’s Recommendations 05/07/13

hank_paperJACK REACHER — This film got terrible reviews; The New York Times hated it.

But I liked it (so did IMDB, with a 7.0 rating). True, you might have to be in the mood for this thriller (I was—long day). And it’s true, Tom Cruise is no longer so fresh-faced but simply grimly determined; the fuzz is off the peach. Co-star Rosamund Pike wears an expression of constant, mouth-opening alarm and both Robert Duval and Richard Jenkins are a bit long in the tooth. But the film, itself seeming from the 70s, has bite. The movie’s more than formula and less than cheesy. It’s a good adaptation of a Lee child thriller (which I read), hitting all the sweet spots. Werner Herzog plays the heavy with restrained and eloquent menace, helping to anchor a film that moves along with a pleasingly energized pace. Tom Cruise’s best thriller remains COLLATERAL (with Jamie Foxx). But this one’s satisfying.

If you had a hard day, take a Cruise at Best Video.

Devil_and_Miss_Jones_DVDTHE DEVIL AND MISS JONES – Now here’s a formula that’s fresh as the day it was born—a Depression-era comedy from 1941.

A wealthy New York City magnate takes umbrage to the headlines with a photograph of himself being hung in effigy by disgruntled employees of a large department store he owns – as well as does his sycophantic board of directors. So he takes matters into his own hand by infiltrating the store’s ranks as a lowly shoe clerk in order to unearth the unionizing rabble-rousers.

The movie is exquisitely paced (especially without intruding background music) and acted with exuberant aplomb by a cast that includes Jean Arthur, Charles Coburn, Robert Cummings, Edmund Gwenn and Spring Byington. This socially conscious classic comedy, back when—unlike today’s Depression—there was an actual vision of the future, has wit and charm and heart.