New releases 11/22/16

Top Hits
war_dogsWar Dogs (comedy, drama, Jonah Hill. Rotten Tomatoes 60%. Metacritic  57. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “‘Based on a true story,’ the movie ‘War Dogs’ says, and indeed it is. Which proves conclusively that truth is stranger than fiction. The film, a comic drama, is about two school chums who are reacquainted in their 20s and, improbably, become arms suppliers to the United States military. One of them, David [Miles Teller], is a reluctant recruit into a business begun by the other, Efraim [Jonah Hill], who has discovered a world of Pentagon contracts just waiting for bids.” Read more…)

Kubo and the Two Strings (animated feature, Charlize Theron [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Metacritic  84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The action is gorgeously fluid, the idiosyncratic 3-D visual conceits [including floating eyeballs undersea] are startling, and the story and its metaphors resolve in unexpected and moving ways. The director, Travis Knight, has put together a picture that hits a lot of all-ages-entertainment sweet spots while avoiding hackneyed conventions, and ends up delivering what feels like a sincere family-friendly message. The movie’s blend of stop-motion animation for the main action with computer-generated backgrounds is seamless, creating what is the most visually intoxicating of all Laika’s movies.” Read more…)

hell_high_waterHell or High Water (crime drama, Chris Pine. Rotten Tomatoes 98%. Metacritic  88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’s Times review: “If there’s such a thing as an easygoing thriller, then ‘Hell or High Water’ is it. The stakes may be steep, but the characters can seem more nonchalant than nervous. Maybe it’s as simple as the heat: In the roasted landscape of West Texas, where this cops-and-robbers tale plays out, nothing moves faster than it has to.” Read more…)

Mechanic: Resurrection (action, Jason Statham. Rotten Tomatoes 26%. Metacritic  38. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The German director Dennis Gansel, making his Hollywood debut, lacks the glossy flair of earlier Statham directors like Mr. West and Louis Leterrier [‘The Transporter’]. If not for Mr. Jones, ‘Resurrection,’ while competently edited, would be devoid of humor, an area where Mr. Statham has shown promise in the past. [See: the Melissa McCarthy vehicle ‘Spy.’] \Mostly, the movie suggests the action equivalent of 1970s European soft-core, all diffuse sun-drenched exteriors populated by attractive stars on an exotic working vacation.” Read more…)

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog doc, impact of digital technology. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic  76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ is Werner Herzog’s documentary about the internet. For some readers, that sentence will be sufficient. One of our most intellectually ambitious filmmakers — a self-professed seeker of ecstatic truths, a tireless foot soldier of cinema — tackles what he calls ‘one of the greatest revolutions’ humanity has experienced. The combination of Mr. Herzog’s doggedly curious sensibility and the mysteries of the digital universe seems both improbable and irresistible.” Read more…)

beatles_eight_days_a_weekThe Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years (Ron Howard-directed concerts documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic  72. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Sure, they were great, but it’s possible to get too much of the Beatles, isn’t it? Nah. Ron Howard’s new documentary, ‘The Breatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years,’ is 90 percent familiar and a bit hagiographic as well, but just try watching it without smiling.” Read more…)

Hands of Stone (Roberto Duran boxing bio-pic, Edgar Ramirez. Rotten Tomatoes 45%. Metacritic  54. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Robert De Niro redefined film acting by subjecting himself to a reported 60-pound weight gain to play a gone-to-seed version of Jake LaMotta, the middleweight boxer, in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film, ‘Raging Bull.’ Mr. De Niro, lithe, lean and lethal as LaMotta in his prime, became a bloated, bulbous ball of hostility and confusion for LaMotta’s post-boxing life. [He won a best actor Oscar for his pains.] But as much as ‘Raging Bull’ is an exacting portrait of an athlete and his sport, it is not a “boxing movie.’ ‘Hands of Stone,” in which Mr. De Niro plays Ray Arcel, the American trainer who worked with the Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán in the 1970s and early ’80s, is absolutely a boxing movie. A corny and sometimes clumsy one, it scatters pleasures here and there, Mr. De Niro’s alert performance among them.” Read more…)

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (action/comedy, Lily James. Rotten Tomatoes 42%. Metacritic  45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As it turns out, fighting zombies does nothing to improve on the original Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen’s heroine from ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ In ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ a character claiming to be Elizabeth Bennet [Lily James], wields swords and other deadly blades, fires guns and occasionally flashes a leg in order to stomp on a zombie head. Battling the undead keeps her, friends and family safe from the flesh-eating hordes, but the character has been so radically transformed from Austen’s that Elizabeth already feels like a goner.” Read more…)

The Childhood of a Leader (costume drama, Robert Pattinson. Rotten Tomatoes 89%. Metacritic  68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Family and fascism march in lock step in ‘The Childhood of a Leader.’ A visually sumptuous, slow-boil freakout set in France in the aftermath of World War I, it hinges on an unruly boy, Prescott [Tom Sweet], who goes to battle with his authoritarian parents as his American father [Liam Cunningham] is helping negotiate the peace terms with Germany. Having arrived as part of President Woodrow Wilson’s political retinue, the unnamed father has moved into a sprawling, dilapidated farmhouse. There, he and his European wife [also nameless, and played by Bérénice Bejo] settle into their own uneasy peace, one increasingly disturbed by their eccentric son.” Read more…)

Unexpected (comedy, Cobie Smulders. Rotten Tomatoes 66%. Metacritic  65. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “There is barely a false note in Kris Swanberg’s intelligent, well-mannered drama ‘Unexpected,’ which tells parallel stories of two unforeseen pregnancies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Mechanic: Resurrection
Hell Or High Water
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years

New Foreign DVDs
Mia Madre (Italy, comedy/drama, John Turturro. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic  70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love, death, cinema — they’re all there in ‘Mia Madre,’ bumping up against one another beautifully. It’s the story of a movie director, Margherita [Margherita Buy], who, while shooting a difficult movie about labor strife, learns that her mother, Ada [Giulia Lazzarini], may be dying. Yet even as tragedy surges, flooding scenes and tear ducts, Margherita’s featured performer, an outsize American star named Barry [John Turturro], enters laughing, bellowing, acting. The Italian director Nanni Moretti knows how to turn on the waterworks, but he also knows about that burlesque called life.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Red Dust (1932, drama/comedy, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From M.H.’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The dialogue is not especially bright or strong, but some of the lines spoken by Vantine, who is impersonated by Jean Harlow, aroused laughter from the audience. Miss Harlow’s presence in the picture apparently attracted a host of other platinum blondes, for on all sides there were in the seats girls with straw-colored hair. Miss Harlow’s performance suits the part. Mr. Gable is efficient in his rôle. Miss Astor offers a striking contrast to Miss Harlow. Tully Marshall makes the most of a minor rôle, as does Gene Raymond, who appears as Willis.” Read more…)

New British
Janet King: Series 2
Poldark: Season 2

New Documentaries
lo_and_beholdLo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog doc, impact of digital technology. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic  76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ is Werner Herzog’s documentary about the internet. For some readers, that sentence will be sufficient. One of our most intellectually ambitious filmmakers — a self-professed seeker of ecstatic truths, a tireless foot soldier of cinema — tackles what he calls ‘one of the greatest revolutions’ humanity has experienced. The combination of Mr. Herzog’s doggedly curious sensibility and the mysteries of the digital universe seems both improbable and irresistible.” Read more…)

When Two Worlds Collide (economics, environment, indigenous activism. Rotten Tomatoes 90%. Metacritic  71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘When Two Worlds Collide,’ a documentary directed by the first-time feature filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Matthew Orzel, chronicles a conflict that resulted in one particularly effective piece of civil disobedience — a move by indigenous protesters to cut off commercial trucking routes — before it deteriorated into violence and death.” Read more…)

Chicken People (chicken raising, competitions. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic  81.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Helen T. Verongos’ Times review: “They hold grudges. They have best friends. They aren’t big on foreplay, and you can revive them with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if they choke during a shampoo. They are chickens: the ones with perfect combs, pedicured toes and gleaming feathers that compete on the show circuit. ‘Chicken People,’ directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes, looks at dozens of devotees of these fair fowl. The hens and roosters in this documentary are pampered royalty, and their caretakers find fulfillment in the pursuit of perfection.” Read more…)

New Music
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years (Ron Howard-directed concerts documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic  72. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Sure, they were great, but it’s possible to get too much of the Beatles, isn’t it? Nah. Ron Howard’s new documentary, ‘The Breatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years,’ is 90 percent familiar and a bit hagiographic as well, but just try watching it without smiling.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Kubo and the Two Strings (animated feature, Charlize Theron [voice])
Call of the Wild (1992, Jack London adventure tale, Ricky Schroeder)