New releases 7/15/14

Top Hits
Under the Skin (horror, Scarlett Johansson. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Scarlett Johansson as an extraterrestrial femme fatale cruising the streets of Glasgow in Jonathan Glazer’s cerebral sci-fi horror fantasy Under the Skin is an indelible personification of predatory allure. Wearing a dark wig and a fake-fur jacket, her character, an alien with a sinister agenda, is as fetishized an object of desire as Marlene Dietrich admired through the lens of Josef von Sternberg. You may also think of Ava Gardner, as perfect a female specimen as Hollywood ever produced, coldly working her wiles.” Read more…)

The Lunchbox (India, drama/romance, Irrfan Khan. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra’s debut feature, is a romance that takes place in Mumbai, but its style is more Hollywood than Bollywood, and Old Hollywood at that. Though Mr. Batra and his cinematographer, Michael Simmonds, shot the film on location in the bustling modern city, with a naturalism alien to both American studio-era back-lot fantasies and present-day Indian musical extravaganzas, “The Lunchbox” has the measured pace and Classical restraint of a romance from the ’30s or ’40s. The comedy is more wry than uproarious, the melodrama gently poignant rather than operatic, and the sentimentality just sweet enough to be satisfying rather than bothersome.” Read more…)

A Birder’s Guide to Everything (drams, Ben Kingsley. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 61. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “This gentle comedy, the first feature directed by Rob Meyer, is an eye opener for anyone who takes the everyday natural world for granted. It is also a quiet brief for the cultivation of intellectual curiosity and scientific exploration at an age when hormones rule so much behavior. The reminder that all around us exists a fascinating realm of almost infinite variety is stimulating. Although the movie doesn’t shrink from the notion that serious bird watching is the tiniest bit cuckoo, its overall attitude toward these juvenile naturalists and their mentor is respectfully affectionate.” Read more…)

Nymphomaniac Vols. I & II (drama, Charlotte Gainsbourg. Rotten Tomatoes: 75% (I), 60 (II). Metacritic: 64 (I), 60 (II). From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review of Nymphomaniac: Vol. I: “Given his talent for provocation, for tweaking critics and blurting out idiocies — including his unpersuasive assertion that he was a Nazi, during a news conference at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival — it would be easy to dismiss his latest, Nymphomaniac: Volume I, sight unseen. The title is preposterous, a huckster gimmick; it may also be a dig at those who, I think wrongly, label him a misogynist because of the abuse he rains down on his female characters. It’s a charge that’s dogged him since Breaking the Waves, his sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime 1996 film about a woman who endures a crucible of suffering [her paralyzed husband asks her to have sex with other men] before dying. Women suffer in Mr. von Trier’s films, yet they also dominate, shape and haunt his work.” Read more…
From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review of Nymphomaniac: Vol. II: “To keep our interest, Mr. von Trier falls back on some old tricks. He is a master of intimate dread, at moving his camera past the comfort zone into psychic and visual territory fraught with danger and shame. The scenes between Joe and a man she calls K [Jamie Bell], who tends to her needs with the help of rope, duct tape and a riding crop but refuses more conventional sexual relations, show an intriguing, unnerving blend of tenderness and cruelty. But at other moments, you are mostly aware of the effort being made to freak you out.” Read more…)

Rio 2 (animated feature, Bruno Mars [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 49. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The cinematic equivalent of attack by kaleidoscope, Rio 2 sucks you in and whirls you around before spitting you out, exhausted. A tropical tornado of cadmium and cobalt, magenta and marigold, Carlos Saldanha’s frantic follow-up to his well-received 2011 animated feature, Rio, ups the ante on sound and movement but pays scant attention to story.” Read more…)

A Night In Old Mexico (western/drama, Robert Duvall. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 45. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “Robert Duvall won his Oscar for his finely calibrated portrayal of a recovering alcoholic country singer in Tender Mercies, and much of his best work is in service to nuanced roles. Yet his most memorable performances also include some where he goes big, as in, for example, the napalm-loving Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. When he has fun, he lets us in on it. Mr. Duvall has fun in A Night in Old Mexico as Red Bovie, the latest in a series of ranchers he’s played in recent years.” Read more…)

Jodorowsky’s Dune (documentary/sci-fi, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A making-of special about a film that was never made, Jodorowsky’s Dune details the mid-1970s efforts of the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky to translate Frank Herbert’s extravagant science fiction novel Dune to the big screen. ‘Big’ being the operative word. ‘For me, Dune will be the coming of a god,’ recalls Mr. Jodorowsky, the very picture of a man who doesn’t easily adopt the mantle of failed midwife. Capitalizing on his subject’s mobile face, authoritative voice and glorious ego, Frank Pavich directs by ceding the stage to their owner, a handsome devil of 85 who remains convinced of the would-have-been magnificence of his forcibly abandoned project.” Read more…)

Byzantium (horror, Gemma Arterton. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The two thirsty women in Byzantium, Neil Jordan’s enjoyably lively and different vampire tale, don’t look or act like most bloodsuckers. True, they’re both preternaturally pale with the long flowing hair of Pre-Raphaelite beauties. But the older, Clara [Gemma Arterton], wears teetering heels and push-up bras, and when you first see her she’s wearing the kind of peekaboo black lingerie that turns undies into a steamy promise. One minute, she is delivering a lap dance to a feverish customer and the next she’s bloodied his nose.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Lunchbox
Jodorowsky’s Dune
Under the Skin
Nymphomaniac Vol. I & II

New Foreign
The Lunchbox (India, drama/romance, Irrfan Khan, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Lunchbox, Ritesh Batra’s debut feature, is a romance that takes place in Mumbai, but its style is more Hollywood than Bollywood, and Old Hollywood at that. Though Mr. Batra and his cinematographer, Michael Simmonds, shot the film on location in the bustling modern city, with a naturalism alien to both American studio-era back-lot fantasies and present-day Indian musical extravaganzas, “The Lunchbox” has the measured pace and Classical restraint of a romance from the ’30s or ’40s. The comedy is more wry than uproarious, the melodrama gently poignant rather than operatic, and the sentimentality just sweet enough to be satisfying rather than bothersome.” Read more…)

Inspector Lavardin Collection:
Chicken with Vinegar (France, 1985, mystery, Jean Poiret)
Inspector Lavardin (France, 1986, mystery, Jean Poiret. From Caryn James’ 1991 New York Times review [log-in required]: “In the long, healthy career of Claude Chabrol, from his New Wave classic The Cousins through his sumptuous Madame Bovary, which opened yesterday, Inspector Lavardin is a trifle. But this lighthearted detective movie shows that trifling entertainments do not have to be hack work. This wily film has first-rate appeal and plays into some cherished stereotypes about the French: it is blase, stylish, filled with effortless charm.” Read more…)

New British
Case Histories: Series 2
Vicious: Series 1

New TV
Hell on Wheels: Season 3

New Documentaries
Jodorowsky’s Dune (documentary/sci-fi, Alejandro Jodorowsky, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A making-of special about a film that was never made, Jodorowsky’s Dune details the mid-1970s efforts of the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky to translate Frank Herbert’s extravagant science fiction novel Dune to the big screen. ‘Big’ being the operative word. ‘For me, Dune will be the coming of a god,’ recalls Mr. Jodorowsky, the very picture of a man who doesn’t easily adopt the mantle of failed midwife. Capitalizing on his subject’s mobile face, authoritative voice and glorious ego, Frank Pavich directs by ceding the stage to their owner, a handsome devil of 85 who remains convinced of the would-have-been magnificence of his forcibly abandoned project.” Read more…)

Generation Iron (weight-lifting, Mickey Rourke [narrator]. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 61. From Nicole Herrington’s New York Times review: “Early in Vlad Yudin’s new documentary,  Generation Iron, Phil Heath is weighing whether he’s prepared to defend his Mr. Olympia title. ‘Can I get better than I just did?’ he asks. It’s more of a challenge than a question, since the answer for him and the other bodybuilders profiled here — ahead of and during last year’s Mr. Olympia contest — is always an unequivocal yes. They may have 23-inch necks and who-knows-how-many-inch thighs, but they are indefatigable in their quest for the perfectly sculptured body.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Rio 2 (animated feature, Bruno Mars [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 49.)