New Releases 2/2/16

Top Hits
Truth (drama, Robert Redford. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The title of ‘Truth,’ a gripping, beautifully executed journalistic thriller about the events that ended Dan Rather’s career as a CBS anchorman, should probably be appended with a question mark. More than most docudramas about fairly recent events, it is so well written and acted that it conveys a convincing illusion of veracity.” Read more…)

Suffragette (historical drama, Meryl Streep. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Movies about the injustices of the past — and about the struggles to overcome them — are frequently prisoners of their own good intentions. Too often, attempts to illuminate the dark parts of history cast a complacent, flattering light on the present and turn history into a morality play or a horror show. The audience is invited to look back at how terrible things used to be and reflect on how much better they are now. The note of hard-won triumph that comes in the final scenes has the effect of tying up loose ends and suppressing uncomfortable continuities. ‘Suffragette,’ directed by Sarah Gavron from a screenplay by Abi Morgan, could easily have fallen into this kind of trap… But this one has an argument to make, or rather a series of arguments about the workings of patriarchal power, the complexities of political resistance and the economic implications of the right to vote.” Read more…)

Man Up (romantic comedy, Simon Pegg. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “‘Man Up,’ a destined-for-romance story in the spirit of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ has just enough edge to distinguish it from a Lifetime movie. It also has Lake Bell and Simon Pegg, versatile and likable actors who help the mild story considerably.” Read more…)

Rock the Kasbah (comedy, Bll Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 8%. Metacritic: 29. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Clichéd, enervating, insulting — it’s tough to settle on a single pejorative for ‘Rock the Kasbah,’ though abysmal might do. Crammed with performers who apparently didn’t read the script before signing on, the movie offends your intelligence on every level, starting with its use of Afghanistan as a Western playground.” Read more…)

Freeheld (fact-based social drama, Julianne Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Freeheld,’ a television movie of the week gone uninterestingly wrong, stars Juloanne Moore as a real New Jersey detective turned gay rights activist. Slinging a Farah Fawcett-esque shag and an accent as thick [and sloppy] as a triple-decker sandwich, Ms. Moore plays Laurel Hester, an Ocean County detective who becomes headline news after she can’t secure her pension benefits for her lover, a mechanic, Stacie Andree [Ellen Page]. In better hands this might have made a heart-rending, personal story, but ‘Freeheld’ is as generic as the bullet points in a gay rights brochure, even when Steve Carell roars in as an activist, leading with his lungs and a purple yarmulke.” Read more…)

Bridge of Spies (espionage, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Bridge of Spies,’ a gravely moody, perfectly directed thriller, Steven S[ielberg returns you to the good old bad days of the Cold War and its great fictions, with their bottomless political chasms and moral gray areas. With a story that has been plucked from the historical record, given a nice dusting and a little sweetening, the movie centers on a 1962 spy swap involving a Soviet mole, Rudolf Abel; an American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, shot down by the Soviets; and an American student, Frederic L. Pryor, who had ended up on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall at the worst possible time. All were chess pieces in a ghastly game that, the film balefully suggests, continues without end.” Read more…)

Our Brand Is Crisis (political thriller, Sandra Bullock. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 53. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A lethally effective charm delivery system, Sandra Bullock doesn’t need to do much to win you over. That’s true even in ‘Our Brand Is Crisis,’ a hard-working comedy in which she plays Jane, a very un-Sandra Bullock character: a mercenary political consultant trying to strategize a former Bolivian president, Castillo [Joaquim de Almeida], back into office. With his fat cigars, gilded lifestyle and assorted dead civilians cluttering his past, Castillo seems to be a very bad man, so what’s a nice girl like Jane doing in this campaign? What, for that matter, is Ms. Bullock?” Read more…)

Meadowland (drama, Luke Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 67. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “People respond to grief in myriad ways, some of them even positive, but in television and the movies, the go-to reaction is the downward spiral, because that gives actors a chance to try all their emotive tricks. ‘Meadowland,’ a drama directed by Reed Morano from a script by Chris Rossi, follows that familiar template, but its stars, Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson, do a fine job of making you forget how often you’ve seen similar treatments.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Truth
Bridge of Spies

New Foreign
Breathe (France, drama, Josephine Japy. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 78. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review:”The scary, spellbinding performance of Lou De Laâge in ‘Breathe,’ the story of a high school friendship that goes bad, is so gripping that Ms. De Laâge’s dangerous mixture of sensuality and bravado brings to mind Angelina Jolie in ‘Girl, Interrupted’ and Jeanne Moreau’s Catherine in ‘Jules and Jim.’ She is the kind of seductive daredevil who challenges admirers to follow her into the fire, no matter what the consequences.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Mad Genius (1931, pre-Code drama, John Barrymore. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “From the viewpoint of production and John Barrymore’s portrayal, ‘The Mad Genius,’ the current picture at the Hollywood, is admirable, but in the matter of some of the other performances and the dialogue this contribution leaves much to be desired. The spirit of the mad genius Tsarakov [Mr. Barrymore] seems to have influenced this film in an extraordinary fashion.” Read more…)

New Television
Show Me a Hero (HBO mini-series, fact-based social drama, Oscar Isaac. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85.)

New Documentaries
No One Dies in Lily Dale (supernatural, spiritualism)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Freeheld (fact-based social drama, Julianne Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Freeheld,’ a television movie of the week gone uninterestingly wrong, stars Juloanne Moore as a real New Jersey detective turned gay rights activist. Slinging a Farah Fawcett-esque shag and an accent as thick [and sloppy] as a triple-decker sandwich, Ms. Moore plays Laurel Hester, an Ocean County detective who becomes headline news after she can’t secure her pension benefits for her lover, a mechanic, Stacie Andree [Ellen Page]. In better hands this might have made a heart-rending, personal story, but ‘Freeheld’ is as generic as the bullet points in a gay rights brochure, even when Steve Carell roars in as an activist, leading with his lungs and a purple yarmulke.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (animated feature, Salma Hayek [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 61. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ new York Times review: “The burning question during my freshman year in college was whether ‘The Prophet,’ a slim volume of poetic essays by the early-20th-century Lebanese writer and artist Kahlil Gibran, was more spiritually profound than Captain Beefheart’s seminal album, ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ I still haven’t decided. On boomer bookshelves the world over, grubby copies of the text, most likely given by a first love, nestle alongside the collected works of Rod McKuen. Our window for welcoming poetry — and probably enlightenment — is narrow but deep, and any author who slips through it can be life-altering. But ‘Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet,’ an animated attempt to turn the essays into a family movie, won’t give you goose bumps of nostalgia; it’s more likely to put you to sleep.” Read more…)