New releases 10/18/16

Top Hits
cafe_societyCafé Society (Woody Allen romance, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “There’s no point in growing misty-eyed. ‘Café Society’ is not ‘Radio Days’ or ‘Bulets Over Broadway.’ We can live with that. I’m happy to report that it’s not ‘The Curse of the Jade Scorpion’ or ‘Magic in the Moonlight,’ either. Which is to say that it’s neither another example of bad, late Woody Allen nor much in the way of a return to form. It is, overall, an amusing little picture, with some inspired moments and some sour notes, a handful of interesting performances and the hint, now and then, of an idea.” Read more…)

Our Kind of Traitor (thriller, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The director Susanna White makes a lot of strange choices, including the dark, fussy visuals best described as stained-glass noir. As an Expressionist choice, it doesn’t make much sense. Then again, neither does much of ‘Our Kind of Traitor,’ which has loads of twists and all the ritualistic pessimism you expect, but none of the political and moral outrage that might have elevated this genre story into a [author John] le Carré one.” Read more…)

Independence Day: Resurgence (sci-fi action, Liam Hemsworth. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 32. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The lackluster, at times abysmal writing wouldn’t much matter if ‘Resurgence’ popped visually or featured a charismatic star who could lift a movie as effortlessly as Will Smith did in the first feature. Mr. Smith, unfortunately, declined to appear in the sequel, leaving his two co-stars from ‘Independence Day,’ Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, to give it that old school try alongside veterans like Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner, far and away the movie’s most valuable player. All deliver professional, winking performances, but they’re also stranded in an overly crowded cast that gives too much time to younger performers who, for the most part, slide right off the screen.” Read more…)

night_ofThe Night Of (acclaimed HBO crime/legal drama, John Turturro. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 90. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “‘The Night Of,’ the tense and exquisite limited series on HBO, beginning on Sunday, is also a deeply detailed procedural, but with a difference. It has more in common philosophically with the podcast ‘Serial’ [whose first subject, Adnan Syed, was just granted a new trial]; Netflix’s ‘Making a Murderer’; and this year’s two O.J. Simpson series — true-crime stories that suggest that who is locked up, for what, is largely a matter of resources and random fate.” Read more…)

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Disney family whimsy, Johnny Depp. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 34. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The best and maybe the only way to appreciate ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is to surrender to its mad digital excess and be whirled around through time and space in a world of grotesque overabundance. This sequel to Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ directed by James Bobin [‘The Muppets’], is so cluttered with an unwieldy mixture of Victoriana and special-effects gadgetry that every nook and cranny is crammed with stuff. There’s more to gape at than the eye can take in.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Café Society

New Foreign DVDs
Beck: Episodes 4-9 (Sweden, detective series, Peter Haber)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
gassssGas-s-s-s (1970, Roger Corman-directed sci-fi/comedy, Cindy Williams. From Vicent Canby’s 19712 New York timrs review [requires log-in]: “To the extent that Roger Croman’s ‘Gas’ is an end-of-the-world movie, you might—if you were taking leave of your right senses—describe it as both his ‘Weekend’ and his ‘Shame,’ although it’s far less funny than Godard and a good deal more pretentious than Bergman. According to the Corman vision, which has actually become less poetic since ‘Attack of the Crab Monsters’ in 1957, a strange nerve gas turns everyone who is over 25 into an instant ancient, thus leaving the world to the young people, who lose no time in repeating the mistakes of their elders.” Read more…)

Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970, adventure/drama, Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. From Vincent Canby’s 1970 New York times review [requires log-in]: “There are points of interest in ‘Little Fauss and Big Halsy,’ which opened yesterday at Cinema I, but most have to do with issues beside, behind, and, I guess, beneath the film. It is not so much a bike movie, or a movie about contemporary life styles, as you might believe from the ads, as another in a continuing series of betrayed male relationships that seems central to the screen career [‘The Leather Boys,’ ‘The Ipcress File,’ ‘The Lawyer,’ etc.) of Sidney J. Furie.” Read more…)

Neighbors (1981, comedy, John Belushi. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. From Janet Maslin’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Thomas Berger’s darkly funny novel ‘Neighbors’ certainly wasn’t tailor-made for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, but casting them in the film version was a good idea. Mr. Belushi makes a stolid and suspicious Earl Keese, a man whose life becomes a shambles when the wrong people move next door. And Mr. Aykroyd is a suitably menacing choice for Vic [called Harry in the novel], the brassy new neighbor who, for no reason that is ever explained, does everything in his power to drive Earl wild.” Read more…)

New British
Royal Wives at War (docudrama based on 1936 abdication crisis, Emma Davies)

New Television
The Night Of (acclaimed HBO crime/legal drama, John Turturro. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 90.)

New releases 9/23/14

Top Hits
Neighbors (comedy, Seth Rogen. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Neighbors’ is not a great film and does not really aspire to be. It is more a status report on mainstream American movie comedy, operating in a sweet spot between the friendly and the nasty, and not straining to be daring, obnoxious or even especially original. It knows how to have fun. How very grown-up.” Read more…)

Words and Pictures (romance, Clive Owen. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 49. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘Words and Pictures’ has a host of flaws, but the performances by Mr. Owen and Ms. Binoche have a crackling vitality, and the screenplay’s strongest moments set off the kind of trains of thought that dedicated teachers hope to spur in their students. Cantankerous though these two teachers can be, you would be lucky to have them in your classroom.” Read more…)

The Signal (sci-fi, Laurence Fishburne. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 53. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “William Eubank’s ‘The Signal’ demonstrates the fine line between paranoid science-fiction fantasy and demo reel. Both involve impressive visions of reality reimagined, and both defy logic extravagantly and yet somehow casually, too. Mr. Eubank’s diverting but disconnected film might fairly be described as a little bit of each.” Read more…)

Ida (Poland, drama, Agata Trzebuchowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Pawel] Pawlikowski, a Polish-born writer and director who has spent most of his career in England, has reached into his country’s past and grabbed hold of a handful of nettles. “Ida” is a breathtakingly concise film — just 80 minutes long — with a clear, simple narrative line. But within its relatively brief duration and its narrow black-and-white frames, the movie somehow contains a cosmos of guilt, violence and pain. Its intimate drama unfolds at the crossroads where the Catholic, Jewish and Communist strains of Poland’s endlessly and bitterly contested national identity intersect.” Read more…)

The Rover (dystopia drama, Guy Pearce. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: :[Director David] Michôd’s first feature, ‘Animal Kingdom,’ was a brutal and pungent tour of the Melbourne underworld, brought alive by spring-loaded performances [Jacki Weaver’s, supremely and a gamy, violent sense of humor. This time, he demonstrates once again that he has a knack for violence and suspense. [The sound design in particular is brilliantly sinister.] But he can’t find much of interest beyond the puffed-up, stripped-down glumness that is this genre’s default mood.” Read more…)

Romeo + Juliet (Shakespeare play in modern dress, Hailee Steinfeld. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Passions and nostrils flare in the latest screen version of ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ a sufficiently entertaining, adamantly old-fashioned adaptation that follows the play’s general outline without ever rising to the passionate intensity of its star-cross’d crazy kids. Adapted by Julian Fellowes, who’s taken liberties with the original text, and dutifully directed by Carlo Carlei, it deploys the familiar emotional beats — if not all the lines — along with the usual mixture of comedy, romance and tragedy. Shot in the actual Verona and at other Italian attractions, it looks pretty, feels light and moves fast, with a 118-minute running time that’s in keeping with the original’s “two hours’ traffic of our stage.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Neighbors
The Signal

New Foreign
Ida (Poland, drama, Agata Trzebuchowska, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Pawel] Pawlikowski, a Polish-born writer and director who has spent most of his career in England, has reached into his country’s past and grabbed hold of a handful of nettles. “Ida” is a breathtakingly concise film — just 80 minutes long — with a clear, simple narrative line. But within its relatively brief duration and its narrow black-and-white frames, the movie somehow contains a cosmos of guilt, violence and pain. Its intimate drama unfolds at the crossroads where the Catholic, Jewish and Communist strains of Poland’s endlessly and bitterly contested national identity intersect.” Read more…)

Like Father Like Son (Japan, drama, Fukiyama Masaharu. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The Japanese melodrama ‘Like Father, Like Son’ turns on the kind of cruel twist — children switched at birth — that’s the stuff of tear-wringing headlines and fiction. It begins with the revelation that two 6-year-old boys were given at birth to the wrong families, which now need to decide on the best thing to do. For one set of parents, Ryota [Masaharu Fukuyama] and Midorino [Machiko Ono], a comfortably middle-class couple nestled high in a glass tower, the revelation that their only son, Keita [Keita Ninomiya], isn’t a blood relation is a blow to their tiny family. It’s also a wedge that — day by day, hurt by hurt — transforms these loving parents into sparring partners.” Read more…)

The Last of the Unjust (France, Holocaust documentary, Claude Lanzmann. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This challenge weighs heavily on his latest offering, ‘The Last of the Unjust,’ which seems to focus, for nearly four hours, on the actions and reminiscences of a single man, Benjamin Murmelstein, a prominent rabbi in Vienna who became the last Jewish ‘elder’ of the Theresienstadt ghetto. I say ‘seems’ because while Murmelstein’s animated, high-pitched speech and cherubic, bespectacled face dominate the screen, ‘The Last of the Unjust’ is also, unmistakably, about Mr. Lanzmann himself, and about his status as a leading interpreter of the Holocaust. It feels more personal than ‘Shoah,’ ‘Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.’ or ‘The Karski Report’ in ways that are both fascinating and troubling.” Read more…)

New Television
Modern Family: Season 4
Modern Family: Season 5
Scandal: Season 3

New Documentaries
The Last of the Unjust (Holocaust documentary, Claude Lanzmann, in New Foreign. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This challenge weighs heavily on his latest offering, ‘The Last of the Unjust,’ which seems to focus, for nearly four hours, on the actions and reminiscences of a single man, Benjamin Murmelstein, a prominent rabbi in Vienna who became the last Jewish ‘elder’ of the Theresienstadt ghetto. I say ‘seems’ because while Murmelstein’s animated, high-pitched speech and cherubic, bespectacled face dominate the screen, ‘The Last of the Unjust’ is also, unmistakably, about Mr. Lanzmann himself, and about his status as a leading interpreter of the Holocaust. It feels more personal than ‘Shoah,’ ‘Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 P.M.’ or ‘The Karski Report’ in ways that are both fascinating and troubling.” Read more…)