New releases 4/29/14

Top Hits
Labor Day (drama/romance, Kate Winslet. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 52. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Labor Day occupies the same psychic territory as ‘Peyton Place,’ Grace Metalious’s heavy-breathing 1956 novel, later to be a movie and television series. Both share a similar erotic fantasy of threatening, sexy male dominance. Frank is that fixture of pulp romance, a Real Man who embodies a woman’s secret dreams of a dangerous but sensitive stud as handy in the bedroom and kitchen as he is in the garage.” Read more…)

The Legend of Hercules (action, Scott Adkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 3%. Metacritic: 22. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Legend of Hercules, a new 3-D work of Classical beefcake scholarship, directed by Renny Harlin, is likely to be met with ridicule. At the crowded preview screening I attended on Thursday night in Manhattan, there were audible hoots of derision, which were, for the most part, well earned. But really, this movie, with its relatively modest running time and not-quite-household-name cast, is no more ridiculous than, let’s say, the Thor movies, and a lot less pretentious.” Read more…)

Gloria (Chile, comedy/drama, Paulina Garcia. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The great accomplishment of Gloria, the Chilean writer-director Sebastián Lelio’s astute, unpretentious and thrillingly humane new film, is that it acknowledges both sides of its heroine’s temperament without judgment or sentimentality. In a North American movie — a fizzy Hollywood comedy of empowerment or a glum indie kitchen-sink melodrama — a woman like Gloria would most likely invite either pity or condescending encouragement. But Gloria, played with dignity and gusto by Paulina García, is too complicated for such treatment.” Read more…)

Devil’s Due (horror, Zach Gilford. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 33. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “From Rosemary’s Baby [1968] to The Brood [1979], demon spawn has been erupting from innocent wombs, to the surprise of mothers who unaccountably fail to greet this vile emission with a pillow to the face — presuming it has one, of course. Maternal instincts aside, Devil’s Due, the latest monster-in-utero movie, brings nothing new to the birthing table except the already tiresome found-footage contrivance.” Read more…)

A Farewell to Fools (drama/comedy, Harvey Keitel. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 40.)
Bad Country (action thriller, Willem Defoe)

New Blu-Ray
Labor Day

New Foreign
Gloria (Chile, comedy/drama, Paulina Garcia, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The great accomplishment of Gloria, the Chilean writer-director Sebastián Lelio’s astute, unpretentious and thrillingly humane new film, is that it acknowledges both sides of its heroine’s temperament without judgment or sentimentality. In a North American movie — a fizzy Hollywood comedy of empowerment or a glum indie kitchen-sink melodrama — a woman like Gloria would most likely invite either pity or condescending encouragement. But Gloria, played with dignity and gusto by Paulina García, is too complicated for such treatment.” Read more…)

Il Sorpasso (Italy, 1962, drama/comedy, Vittorio Gassman. From the unsigned 1963 New York Times Review [requires log-in, contains spolier]: “Mr. Risi’s fast-paced direction and, more important, the truths he underlines, give his uncluttered film meaning and poignancy as well as mere speed. He is fortunate in his principals, too. Vittorio Gassman makes a superbly brash, coarse, hail-fellow-well-met Bruno who, in one of his rare moments of honest sadness, warns Roberto away from his ‘easy life’ because ‘I’ve never had a real friend.’ As the diffident, introspective Roberto, Jean-Louis Trintignant, who has been seen here in a variety of French films, is excellent as his opposite number, an impressionable youngster whose shame and fears finally turn to admiration of his strange friend’s ‘easy life.'” Read more…)

The Rocket (Laos, drama, Sitthiphon Disamoe. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “This is the most recent movie from the Australian director Kim Mordaunt, whose last was the documentary Bomb Harvest, about an Australian explosives disposal specialist and Laotian children who gather bomb scrap metal. The prevalence of unexploded bombs is a running motif in The Rocket and, in one of the sharpest, most effective scenes, a surreal interlude in an abandoned mountainside village, large missiles can be seen propping up homes.” Read more…)

New Classics (pre-1960)
The Strange Woman (1946, period drama, Hedy Lamarr. From A.W.’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Undoubtedly every actress this side of ten yearns for a tour de force and Hedy Lamarr, who plays the title role in The Strange Woman, which came to the Globe on Saturday, can consider that yearning wholly realized. For the somber drama of a Suave sinner in Bangor, Me., of a century ago affords Miss Lamarr her meatiest assignment in years, a chance at large chunks of choice dialogue and an opportunity to wear a wardrobe that won’t go unnoticed by the ladies. But as a study of a singular distaff temperament set off by a coterie of ruined males, this adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ best-selling novel of a few years back has a way of telegraphing its punches. A revealing dissection of a predatory femme fatale it nevertheless lacks motivation for some of its supporting players, pace and suspense to make it completely moving drama.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Bettie Page Reveals All (social history, bio, Bettie Page. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 64. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Directed by Mark Mori, written by Douglas Miller and — best of all — narrated by Page in her low, gruff Southern drawl, Bettie Page Reveals All covers much of the material that’s been related elsewhere, but with some nice differences. For starters, Mr. Mori actually seems to have liked Page, for whom he displays genuine, believable affection, and he shares the bad along with the good without giggles, judgment or rank sensationalism. Her voice-over, stitched together from less than optimal audio interviews, suggests that Page liked him in turn. This helps warm up the story, particularly when she discusses her often-brutal childhood, which was marked by sexual abuse and a stay in an orphanage, and some of the equally desperate interludes that marred her adulthood.” Read more…)

Men at Lunch (social history, photography. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 53. From Miriam Bale’s New York Times review: “On Sept. 20, 1932, 11 workers sat on a beam 69 floors above Manhattan during the construction of Rockefeller Center. The photograph of this moment, one of the most famous images of New York, is called ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscraper’ [even though a cigarette and a liquor bottle in the hands of these workmen are as noticeable as any sandwiches]. Opening 81 years to the day after that photograph was taken is Men at Lunch, a documentary about the picture’s resonance as a symbol of Everymen and about the mystery of who those men really were.” Read more…)

Approved for Adoption (documentary memoir, animation, ethnic history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 73. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times revew: “It’s common for animated movies to tell stories about feeling like a fish [or a mermaid] out of water, but the hand-drawn hybrid Approved for Adoption is an actual memoir steeped in that sensation. Adopted at 5 by a Belgian family, Jung Henin was a difficult child from South Korea who ultimately sought refuge from his identity crisis in drawing. This episodic film, directed by Mr. Henin and Laurent Boileau, traces his rambunctious childhood up through an awkward adolescence, complete with parental shouting matches and camaraderie with his many siblings.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
The Rise and Fall of The Clash