New Releases 12/8/15

Top Hits
Minions (animated feature, Sandra Bullock [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s fitting that the little yellow critters scampering through ‘Minions’ look as identical as genetically modified corn kernels, save for a googly eyeball or two. Franchises operate on an axis of sameness and difference, so it’s amusing that one incorporates that truism into its actual character design. And while “Minions” explores nominally new narrative ground, it folds neatly into a series that now includes two features [‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’], various shorts, books, video games, sheet music and a theme park attraction. So, you know, different but also the same.” Read more…)

Partisan (thriller, Vincent Cassel. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 52. From Helen T. Verongos’ new York Times review: “Usually, partisans stand for something, but in this movie, which is stripped of a specific time frame and relevant geopolitical context, the term becomes hollow. The screenwriters, Ariel Kleiman [who is also the director] and Sarah Cyngler, have cut their story loose from any real significance, leaving us with Gregori, who has no discernible political views and no unifying beliefs, even delusional ones. Without this foundation for the character, the actor doesn’t stand a chance. As a cult leader, he is full of grand gestures but as aimless as a tiny plastic man in a terrarium.” Read more…)

Ant-Man (superhero feature, Paul Rudd. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Directed by the comedy specialist Peyton Reed [‘Bring It On,’ ‘The Break Up,’ ‘Yes Man’] from a script credited to Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish and Paul Rudd [who stars], this film is a passable piece of drone work from the ever-expanding Marvel-Disney colony. It provides obligatory, intermittently amusing links to other corporate properties, serving essentially as a sidebar to the ‘Avengers’ franchise. Like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ last year’s off-brand Marvel hit, ‘Ant-Man’ dabbles in the bright, playful colors of the superhero spectrum, reveling in moments of cartoonish whimsy and smirky humor.” Read more…)

Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach-directed social/historical drama, Barry Ward. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “One of the pleasures of ‘Jimmy’s Hall,’ a likable period piece directed by the social-realist British filmmaker Ken Loach, is its unswerving belief in old-fashioned populist heroes. Such a hero is Jimmy Gralton [Barry Ward], a real-life Irish firebrand portrayed as an articulate, courageous natural leader without a shred of grandiosity. Jimmy is a man of the people whose defiance of the powers that be eventually lands him in deep trouble.” Read more…)

Housebound (horror, Morgana O’Reilly. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76.)
The Physician (period drama, Tom Payne)
Nature: My Life As a Turkey (reenactment of book, nature, animals)

New Blu-Ray
Ant-Man
Brief Encounter (1945, UK, drama/romance, Trevor Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “An uncommonly good little picture—and one which is frankly designed to appeal to that group of film-goers who are provoked by the ‘usual movie tripe’—is the British-made ‘Brief Encounter,’ which opened on Saturday at the Little Carnegie Theatre as the first of so-called Prestige imports.” Read more…)

In Which We Serve (1942, UK, war drama, Noel Coward. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1942 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “One of the most eloquent motion pictures of these or any other times had its American premiére at the Capitol Theatre last night. It is Noel Coward’s much-heralded British Navy film, ‘In Which We Serve,” made within the last year in England under Mr. Coward’s almost complete guidance and played by as fine a cast of actors as ever stepped up to a camera. There have been other pictures which have vividly and movingly conveyed in terms of human emotion the cruel realities of this present war. None has yet done it so sharply and so truly as ‘In Which We Serve.'” Read more..’)

Blithe Spirit (1945, UK, comedy, Rex Harrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. From an uncredited 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In returning to the cinema fold last night after a span of thirteen years the Winter Garden opened another chapter in its distinguished theatrical history on a gay and frivolous note. For in film form Noel Coward’s amusing spoof on spiritualism, ‘Blithe Spirit,’ comes through as a generally delightful divertissement. This British-produced comedy-farce is, however, no more substantial now than it was originally on the stage, and Mr. Coward’s joke about a husband’s second marriage being turned topsy-turvy by a visit from his astral first mate is a delicately balanced piece of whimsy.” Read more…)

This Happy Breed (1944, UK, domestic drama, Robert Newton. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review requires log-in]: “Noel Coward’s notable affection for the people of the British Isles and his particular talent for holding a theatrical mirror up to them are again most nicely demonstrated in the film made from his play, “This Happy Breed,” which had its belated American premiere at the little Carnegie on Saturday. Belated, we say, because this picture was produced in England four years ago. Why its release here should be tardy is a puzzler to us.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Xenia (Greece, drama/coming-of-age, Kostas Nikouli. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “At 2 hours and 8 minutes long, ‘Xenia,’ the director’s fourth feature, may be unwieldy. It has an unnecessary romantic subplot involving Ody’s relationship with a Ukrainian girl. ‘Xenia’ has been called a farce. But it is much more than that. Both the story and the performances are packed with raw emotion. Dany’s behavior may be outlandish and irritating, but you applaud his courage.” Read more…)

Jellyfish Eyes (Japan, comedy/fantasy, Takuto Sueoka. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. Metacritic: 34. From Roberta Smith’s new York Times review: “It’s no surprise that the Japanese artist-impresario Takashi Murakami has directed a feature-legth film that combines human actors and animated characters. After all, Mr. Murakami is a polymath trained in anime as well as in Nihonga, Japan’s rigorous traditional painting style, and has been moving between high and low art for over two decades. He is known for multipurpose cartoon creatures, among them petal-rimmed smiley faces and mushrooms dotted with wide, baby-doll peepers that he calls jellyfish eyes. These and other signature motifs have appeared in labor-intensive paintings, in large polychrome sculptures evoking a highbrow Disneyland and on skateboards and limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags.” Read more…)

New Classic (pre-1960)
Speedy (1928, silent comedy, Harold Lloyd. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1928 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a film with quite a strong whimsical touch, inasmuch as the theme is devoted to the last horse car in Little Old New York. The introduction of the city itself is done in a fashion that will make every New Yorker proud of the Empire City. And for that matter, wherever Mr. Lloyd takes you in this film he rather makes you regret that you haven’t been there for some time. There’s Coney Island, for instance. This chapter on the greatest amusement resort in this country is done so well that despite the crowds, the jammed subway trains, the ‘hot-dogs,’ the temporary structures, it gives something equivalent to the spirit of youth. It is pictured so well that elderly gentlemen and their spouses may find themselves tripping over to the place at which they had turned up their noses for a couple of decades.” Read more…)

New British
Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach-directed social/historical drama, Barry Ward. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “One of the pleasures of ‘Jimmy’s Hall,’ a likable period piece directed by the social-realist British filmmaker Ken Loach, is its unswerving belief in old-fashioned populist heroes. Such a hero is Jimmy Gralton [Barry Ward], a real-life Irish firebrand portrayed as an articulate, courageous natural leader without a shred of grandiosity. Jimmy is a man of the people whose defiance of the powers that be eventually lands him in deep trouble.” Read more…)

Doc Martin: Series 7 (comedy/drama series, Martin Clunes)
Shakespeare: Henry IV Part 1 (2011 Globe Theatre production, Roger Allam)
Shakespeare: Henry IV Part 2 (2011 Globe Theatre production, Roger Allam)

New Documentaries
The Square (Egypt, Arab Spring, activism, international politics. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In the language of politics, ‘the people’ is a great abstraction, an idea that can be invoked to justify noble projects and terrible crimes. ‘The Square,’ Jehane Noujaim’s stunning new documentary, is partly about the contested status of the Egyptian people between the winter of 2011, when crowds of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, and the summer of 2013, when the army ousted his successor, Mohamed Morsi, and began a violent campaign against his followers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Morsi, the military and the demonstrators — and, for that matter, Mr. Mubarak himself — all claimed to be true agents and loyal servants of the popular will. ‘The Square’ complicates such rhetoric.” Read more…)

Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (rock music, drug addiction, biography, Johnny Thunders)
Nature: My Life As a Turkey (reenactment of book, nature, animals)

New Music
Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (rock music, drug addiction, biography, Johnny Thunders)