New Releases 2/25/14

Top Hits
Gravity (sci-fi/action, Sandra Bullock. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 96. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The defiance of impossibility is this movie’s theme and its reason for being. But the main challenge facing the director, Alfonso Cuarón [who wrote the script with his son Jonás], is not visualizing the unimaginable so much as overcoming the audience’s assumption that we’ve seen it all before. After more than 50 years, space travel has lost some of its luster, and movies are partly to blame for our jadedness. It has been a long time since a filmmaker conjured the awe of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the terror of Alien or captured afresh the spooky wonder of a trip outside our native atmosphere. Mr. Cuarón succeeds by tethering almost unfathomably complex techniques — both digital and analog — to a simple narrative. Gravity is less a science-fiction spectacle than a Jack London tale in orbit.” Read more…)

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Thor: The Dark World (comic book action, Chris Hemsworth. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “As if underscoring their film’s essential witlessness, the folks at Marvel Entertainment have inexplicably missed the opportunity to make a splash by opening Thor: The Dark World on a Thursday. But repackaging a Norse god as an alien superhero takes chutzpah, not humor [unless you count the Viking ship that serves as his spacecraft], and movie studios have yet to lose money by assuming that their audiences have the intellectual discernment of newborns.” Read more…)

Nebraska (drama, Bruce Dern. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The only consequential violence in [director Alexander] Payne’s Nebraska, based on a script by Rob Nelson, is a punch in the face that has been well earned by the recipient. [Lately Mr. Payne seems to allow himself one or two such righteous blows per movie: Think of George Clooney clocking Matthew Lillard in The Descendants and Sandra Oh busting Thomas Haden Church’s nose with a motorcycle helmet in Sideways.] This is a comedy, with plenty of acutely funny lines, a handful of sharp sight gags and a few minutes of pure, perfect madcap. But a grim, unmistakable shadow falls across its wintry landscape. The world it depicts, a small-town America that is fading, aging and on the verge of giving up, is blighted by envy, suspicion and a general failure of good will. Hard times are part of the picture, and so are hard people.” Read more…)

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Blue Is the Warmest Color (France, romance/drama, Adèle Exarchopoulos, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Blue Is the Warmest Color is a feverish, generous, exhausting love story, the chronicle of a young woman’s passage from curiosity to heartbreak by way of a wrenching and blissful attachment to another, slightly older woman. Although there is plenty of weeping and sighing, the methods of the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, are less melodramatic than meteorological. He studies the radar and scans the horizon in search of emotional weather patterns and then rushes out into the gale, dragging the audience through fierce winds and soul-battering squalls.” Read more…)

Mr. Nobody (drama/fantasy, Jared Leto. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 63.)

New Blu-Ray
Gravity
Thor: The Dark World
Nebraska

New Foreign
Blue Is the Warmest Color (France, romance/drama, Adèle Exarchopoulos, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Blue Is the Warmest Color is a feverish, generous, exhausting love story, the chronicle of a young woman’s passage from curiosity to heartbreak by way of a wrenching and blissful attachment to another, slightly older woman. Although there is plenty of weeping and sighing, the methods of the director, Abdellatif Kechiche, are less melodramatic than meteorological. He studies the radar and scans the horizon in search of emotional weather patterns and then rushes out into the gale, dragging the audience through fierce winds and soul-battering squalls.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
King of the Hill (1996, Depression-era drama, Jesse Bradford. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. From Janet Maslin’s 1993 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “When present-day movies try to recreate the Depression, they tend to concentrate on period details: old cars, quaint costumes, dusty rugs on boarding-house floors. King of the Hill, the new film by Steven Soderbergh, which has been adapted from A. E. Hotchner’s boyhood memoir, captures something more basic: the way it felt to have that rug pulled out from underneath one without warning, and the recognition that most of one’s acquaintances were trapped in similar situations. With warmth, wit and none of the usual overlay of nostalgia, King of the Hill presents the scary yet liberating precariousness of life on the edge.” Read more…)

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New Documentaries
Muscle Shoals (recording studio, Southern music, Aretha Franklin, in New Music. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “If you want to bob your head along to a jukebox sampler of glorious American songs, then Muscle Shoals is the documentary for you. But if you want to learn how the area near the small Alabama city of Muscle Shoals, which hugs the south bank of the Tennessee River, became a renowned music center — the place where Percy Sledge’s Civil Rights-era chartbuster ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ was born and where Aretha Franklin poured sweat and tears into ‘I Never Loved a Man [the Way I Love You]’ — then you will need to look and listen elsewhere.” Read more…)

The Crash Reel (sports, snowboarding, Kevin Pearce. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 79.)
Charles Bradley: Soul of America (music, soul music, Charles Bradley, in Hot Docs.)

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New Music
Muscle Shoals (recording studio, Southern music, Aretha Franklin, in New Music. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “If you want to bob your head along to a jukebox sampler of glorious American songs, then Muscle Shoals is the documentary for you. But if you want to learn how the area near the small Alabama city of Muscle Shoals, which hugs the south bank of the Tennessee River, became a renowned music center — the place where Percy Sledge’s Civil Rights-era chartbuster ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ was born and where Aretha Franklin poured sweat and tears into ‘I Never Loved a Man [the Way I Love You]’ — then you will need to look and listen elsewhere.” Read more…)

Charles Bradley: Soul of America (music, soul music, Charles Bradley, in Hot Docs)