New releases 4/4/17

Top Hits
Star Wars: Rogue One (sci-fi action, Felicity Jones. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The great mystery of ‘Rogue One’ — the big payoff, the thing people like me would be pilloried for divulging, the puzzle you will congratulate yourself for solving — is where it fits in with the rest of the ‘Star Wars’ cycle. There are scattered hints early on, and later appearances by familiar characters that elicit chuckles of recognition from fans. The very last shot tells us exactly where we are, and why we should have cared about everything we just saw.” Read more…)

Youth in Oregon (comedy/drama, Frank Langella. Rotten Tomatoes 45%. Metacritic 38. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The only person involved in the making of ‘Youth in Oregon’ — a gratingly awful family drama about assisted suicide — who seems to grasp the movie’s thematic potential is its cinematographer, Ross Riege. His warmly lighted, softly smudged images convey a world becoming slowly less distinct, as if being viewed through increasingly distanced eyes.” Guess she didn’t like it. Read more…)

Office Christmas Party (comedy, Jason Bateman. Rotten Tomatoes 41%. Metacritic 42. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Nothing says Christmas like decadence, debauchery and mayhem, at least when comic actors like T. J. Miller, Kate McKinnon and Rob Corddry are involved. But how did the normally dignified Courtney B. Vance fall in with this crowd? Who knows, but he’s pretty hilarious playing against type in ‘Office Christmas Party,’ a broad, bawdy comedy full of familiar faces behaving outlandishly.” Read more…)

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch-directed drama, Adam Driver. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A movie about art, creation and how images become words [and vice versa], ‘Paterson’ seems deceptively simple. Its hero, Paterson, works in [where else?] Paterson. Every weekday, he rises early, kisses his beloved, Laura [Golshifteh Farahani], and heads off to work, where he turns the ignition on a big city bus and rumbles into the bright world. Some of that world comes to him, clambering onboard in a blur of ages, hues and conversational interests. Mostly, Paterson looks out through the bus’s windows, views that turn life into discretely framed images.” Read more…)

Noble (inspirational drama, Deirdre O’Kane. Rotten Tomatoes 84%. Metacritic 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “A feisty, passionate performance by the Irish actress Deirdre O’Kane gives the inspirational biopic ‘Noble’ a serrated edge of defiance and gumption. Its subject, Christina Noble, is an Irish children’s rights activist and writer, who traveled to Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 and established a foundation that has set up more than 100 projects in Vietnam and Mongolia that provide protection, education and health care for more than 700,000 children and their families.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Star Wars: Rogue One

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
23 Paces to Baker Street (1956, mystery, Van Johnson. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A clever idea is the basis for ’23 Paces to Baker Street,’ a Twentieth Century-Fox mystery drama, which came to Loew’s State yesterday. It is that a keen and careful blind man should lead the halt—which is to say, the police—in ferreting out and foiling a plot for a particularly noxious crime. All that our hero has to go on is an ominous conversation he overhears in a London pub between a mysterious man and woman, whom, of course—being blind—he cannot see. But he is a trained dramatic author, so he remembers every word he overhears. Later he commits them to a tape recording. He also remembers the perfume the woman wears. With these scraps of information, he tries to convince the police that a dark plot of some sort is brewing.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Paris Blues (1961, drama/jazz, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier. Rotten Tomatoes 60%. From J. Hoberman’s review of the DVD release: “‘Paris Blues’ is a small movie with large ambitions. The producer Sam Shaw conceived of it as a tribute to jazz [Duke Ellington’s music is pervasive; Louis Armstrong has a rambunctious cameo jamming and jiving], as well as a love letter to Paris and the ideals of the French Revolution. It was also a vehicle for its married co-stars, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, directed by their close associate Martin Ritt.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Ruins of Lifta (Israeli-Palestinian relations, Mideast history. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 71. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “Among the hills on the western outskirts of Jerusalem stands an abandoned group of stone buildings, the remains of Lifta, an Arab village whose residents were driven out in 1948, during what Israelis know as the War of Independence and what Palestinians call the Nakba [Catastrophe]. Plans to demolish the homes and build a new development have drawn opposition from an Israeli-Palestinian coalition seeking to preserve the site. ‘The Ruins of Lifta,’ an achingly poignant documentary by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky, investigates a debate in which dueling narratives collide — just as they do everywhere in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Read more…)