New releases 6/17/14

Top Hits
The Grand Budapest Hotel (comedy, Ralph Fiennes. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “It’s a tough choice, but if I had to pick the most Wes Anderson moment in The Grand Budapest Hotel, it would be the part when inmates escape from a prison using tiny sledgehammers and pickaxes that have been smuggled past the guards inside fancy frosted pastries. This may, come to think of it, be the most Wes Anderson thing ever, the very quintessence of his impish, ingenious and oddly practical imagination. So much care has been lavished on the conceit and its execution that you can only smile in admiration, even if you are also rolling your eyes a little. The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Anderson’s eighth feature, will delight his fans, but even those inclined to grumble that it’s just more of the same patented whimsy might want to look again. As a sometime grumbler and longtime fan, I found myself not only charmed and touched but also moved to a new level of respect.” Read more…)

The Lego Movie (animated feature, Chris Pratt [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The visual environment created by the filmmakers [Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 Jump Street wrote and directed; the animation is by Animal Logic] hums with wit and imagination. Although the images are computer generated, they move, for the most part, according to the pleasingly herky-jerky logic of hand-guided stop-motion. You are always aware that you are looking at a world of interlocking plastic blocks, an illusion enhanced in the 3-D version of the film. Smoke, sand and water are all made out of Lego, as are high-rise cities, pirate ships, mountains and a zone of free-form fantasy called Cloud Cuckoo Land.” Read more…)

Ernest & Celestine (France, animation/comedy/drama, Forest Whitaker. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A tale of mice and bears, derring-do and dentistry, this lovely animated movie originated in a cycle of children’s books by the Belgian writer and artist Gabrielle Vincent [1929-2000]. The books have simple stories, titles like Celestine and Ernest’s Picnic, and Vincent’s enchanting illustrations, which are characterized by graceful lines, muted colors and blurred edges that focus your attention on animals that, in their poignant delicacy, evoke Beatrix Potter. The screen character designs are broader and more overtly comic, but the three directors — Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier — have retained enough of Vincent’s charming vision that the movie feels intimate and personal, as if it, too, had sprung from a single hand.” Read more…)

House of Cards: Season 2 (political drama series, Kevin Spacey. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 76. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “Season 2 is as immersed in the battlegrounds of governing as The West Wing was: entitlements, Chinese cyberespionage, anthrax scares, parliamentary procedure, government shutdowns. But that Aaron Sorkin series on NBC ennobled politics. House of Cards, which was adapted from a 1990 British series of the same title, eviscerates it. And while the second season picks up where Season 1 left off [the tagline is ‘The race for power continues’], this continuation is possibly even darker and more compelling than the first.” Read more…)

Alan Partridge (comedy, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Can unpleasantness be its own kind of charm? The British comedian and actor Steve Coogan has built a career around the answer “well yes, sort of.” American audiences that know him for his uncharacteristically sweet turn in Philomena or his role as the miniature Roman soldier in Night at the Museum movies may have a distorted view of his talents. As a character named ‘Steve Coogan’ [in The Trip and elsewhere], he has satirized the fragile vanity of the semicelebrity class. But his greatest creation may be a broadcaster named Alan Partridge, a man whose Wikipedia entry helpfully describes him as ‘an insecure, superficial and narcissistic “wally.”‘” Read more…)

Mother of George (indie drama, Danai Gurira. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “There is something irresistible about a movie that begins with a wedding [think of The Godfather], and there are few movie weddings as beautiful as the one at the start of Mother of George, Andrew Dosunmu’s gorgeous and delicate new drama. The party, a swirl of color, music and sentiment, observed with an eye for telling details of behavior, sets the tone — exuberant, dignified, a little bit anxious — for what is to follow.” Read more…)

Broken Side of Time (drama from local filmmaker Gorman Bechard, Lynn Mancinelli)
Son of Batman (animated comic book action)

New Blu-Ray
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Lego Movie

New Foreign
Ernest & Celestine (France, animation/comedy/drama, Forest Whitaker, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A tale of mice and bears, derring-do and dentistry, this lovely animated movie originated in a cycle of children’s books by the Belgian writer and artist Gabrielle Vincent [1929-2000]. The books have simple stories, titles like Celestine and Ernest’s Picnic, and Vincent’s enchanting illustrations, which are characterized by graceful lines, muted colors and blurred edges that focus your attention on animals that, in their poignant delicacy, evoke Beatrix Potter. The screen character designs are broader and more overtly comic, but the three directors — Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier — have retained enough of Vincent’s charming vision that the movie feels intimate and personal, as if it, too, had sprung from a single hand.” Read more…)

Omar (Palestine, drama/thriller, Adam Bakri. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: :”Hany Abu-Assad’s new film, Omar, is about Israeli-Palestinian violence and also about three friends, young men who seem familiar almost as soon as we see them together. Tarek [Eyad Hourani] is the leader, Amjad [Samer Bisharat] is the joker, and Omar [Adam Bakri] is the sensitive one, handsome and athletic with the soul of a poet. He and Amjad are both in love with Tarek’s sister Nadia [Leem Lubany], but their rivalry is kept in check by their affection for each other and by strict customs governing courtship and family life. As he did in earlier films like Rana’s Wedding [2003] and Paradise Now [2005], a sympathetic portrait of two would-be suicide bombers, Mr. Abu-Assad, a Palestinian born in the Israeli city of Nazareth, juxtaposes the routines of everyday life in the West Bank with the brutal facts of Israeli occupation and the resistance to it.” Read more…)

New British
Alan Partridge (comedy, Steve Coogan, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Can unpleasantness be its own kind of charm? The British comedian and actor Steve Coogan has built a career around the answer “well yes, sort of.” American audiences that know him for his uncharacteristically sweet turn in Philomena or his role as the miniature Roman soldier in Night at the Museum movies may have a distorted view of his talents. As a character named ‘Steve Coogan’ [in The Trip and elsewhere], he has satirized the fragile vanity of the semicelebrity class. But his greatest creation may be a broadcaster named Alan Partridge, a man whose Wikipedia entry helpfully describes him as ‘an insecure, superficial and narcissistic “wally.”‘” Read more…)

New TV
House of Cards: Season 2 (political drama series, Kevin Spacey, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 76. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “Season 2 is as immersed in the battlegrounds of governing as The West Wing was: entitlements, Chinese cyberespionage, anthrax scares, parliamentary procedure, government shutdowns. But that Aaron Sorkin series on NBC ennobled politics. House of Cards, which was adapted from a 1990 British series of the same title, eviscerates it. And while the second season picks up where Season 1 left off [the tagline is ‘The race for power continues’], this continuation is possibly even darker and more compelling than the first.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Upsetter: The Life & Times of Lee Scratch Perry (reggae titan/eccentric bio)

New Music
The Upsetter: The Life & Times of Lee Scratch Perry (reggae titan/eccentric bio, in New Music)

New Children’s DVDs
The Lego Movie (animated feature, Chris Pratt [voice], in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The visual environment created by the filmmakers [Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 Jump Street wrote and directed; the animation is by Animal Logic] hums with wit and imagination. Although the images are computer generated, they move, for the most part, according to the pleasingly herky-jerky logic of hand-guided stop-motion. You are always aware that you are looking at a world of interlocking plastic blocks, an illusion enhanced in the 3-D version of the film. Smoke, sand and water are all made out of Lego, as are high-rise cities, pirate ships, mountains and a zone of free-form fantasy called Cloud Cuckoo Land.” Read more…)

Ernest & Celestine (France, animation/comedy/drama, Forest Whitaker, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A tale of mice and bears, derring-do and dentistry, this lovely animated movie originated in a cycle of children’s books by the Belgian writer and artist Gabrielle Vincent [1929-2000]. The books have simple stories, titles like Celestine and Ernest’s Picnic, and Vincent’s enchanting illustrations, which are characterized by graceful lines, muted colors and blurred edges that focus your attention on animals that, in their poignant delicacy, evoke Beatrix Potter. The screen character designs are broader and more overtly comic, but the three directors — Benjamin Renner, Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier — have retained enough of Vincent’s charming vision that the movie feels intimate and personal, as if it, too, had sprung from a single hand.” Read more…)