New releases 3/28/17

Top Hits
Patriots Day (true-life action, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes 80%. Metacritic 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Movies that depict heinous real-life criminal acts and attempt to grapple with their human toll are provocative undertakings, particularly when they’re made so soon after the actual events. As it happens, “Patriots Day” works so well on a dramatic level that my qualms were silenced almost entirely from the start.” Read more…)

Silence (Martin Scorsese religious/historic drama, Andrew Garfield. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic 79. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is a story of faith and anguish. It tells of a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Rodrigues, who in 1643 heads into the dark heart of Japan, where Christians are being persecuted — boiled alive, immolated and crucified. Rodrigues [Andrew Garfield] sets out to help keep the church alive in Japan, a mission that perhaps inevitably leads to God. The film’s solemnity is seductive — as is Mr. Scorsese’s art — especially in light of the triviality and primitiveness of many movies, even if its moments of greatness also make its failures seem more pronounced.” Read more…)

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (J.K. Rowling’s fantasy, Eddie Redmayne. Rotten Tomatoes 73%. Metacritic 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Is anyone safe?’ That alarmed question nearly shrieks off a newspaper in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’ rattling the story almost before it’s begun. A big, splashy footnote to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter screen series, it opens a new subdivision in the wizardry world that she created, even as it turns back the clock. Unlike Harry’s reality, which unfolds in a present that looks like ours but with dragons, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ takes place in a 1926 New York, where dark forces cut swaths of destruction alongside chugging Model T’s. Ms. Rowling is just getting revved up, but her time frame suggests her sights are on another world catastrophe.” Read more…)

20th Century Women (drama, Annette Bening. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love and loss go hand in hand in ’20th Century Women,’ a funny, emotionally piercing story about a teenager and the women who raise him. It opens in 1979, when cool kids danced to Talking Heads [‘This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco’] and President Carter bummed everyone out talking about our ‘crisis of confidence.’ There’s something in the air — or so it seems, although the California light here tends to blot out the shadows. When a car bursts into flames soon after the movie opens, it looks about as threatening as an art installation. Apocalypse later, man.” Read more…)

Why Him? (comedy, Bryan Cranston. Rotten Tomatoes 40%. Metacritic 39. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “From the moment we spy the dead-moose art installation that graces the home of Laird [James Franco] in ‘Why Him?,’ we suspect that the glass tank of urine in which it floats will at some point crack and douse one or more characters. It’s no fun at all being right.” Read more…)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Julie Taymor-directed Shakespeare play, Kathryn Hunter. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. From Ben Brantley’s New York Times theater review: “There was no way that Julie Taymor was ever going to dream a little ‘Dream.’ The director who redefined spectacle on Broadway for better [‘The Lion King’] and for worse [‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’] has now given New York a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that doesn’t so much reach for the heavens as roll around in them, with joyous but calculated abandon.” Read more…)

A Monster Calls (fantasy, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes 87%. Metacritic 76. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The formidable creature looming over ‘A Monster Calls’ is one of the more unnerving, impressive special-effects creations of the year. Whether it and the movie in general are too intense for younger children is something parents need to ask themselves. A PG-13 rating is sometimes an overreaction to a curse word or two, but here it’s a useful caution. The central human character is a 12-year-old, Conor O’Malley [Lewis MacDougall], who as the movie opens is having one heck of a nightmare: He and his mother [Felicity Jones] are in a churchyard as the ground begins collapsing around them, and she is in danger of being sucked away into an abyss. No subtlety or pussyfooting around here; we soon learn that the mother is fatally ill and in the midst of a drawn-out death.” Read more…)

Planet Earth II (David Attenborough nature documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 96. From Jeremy Egner’s New York Times television rarticle about the making of ‘Panet Earth II’: “The most memorable screen performance of 2016 won’t be recognized at the Oscars in a couple weeks. For one thing, it appeared on television. For another, it was given by an iguana. Actually, describing a young marine iguana’s capture and improbable escape from scores of racer snakes as a ‘performance’ slights the stakes of this scene from the nature documentary ‘Planet Earth II,’ which arrived in Britain in November and makes its American debut Saturday, Feb. 18, on BBC America. The sequence was at once a life-or-death flight, a waking nightmare and a slithery metaphor, the riot of snakes descending inexorably like so many demons of 2016 — deaths of icons, appalling international tragedies, the emotional body blows of a punishing presidential campaign. That baby lizard was all of us and, in the end, against all odds, we survived the onslaught.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Patriots Day
A Monster Calls
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them

New Foreign
A Tale of Love and Darkness (Israel, historic drama, Natalie Portman. Rotten Tomatoes 65%. Metacritic 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Natalie Portman’s directing debut, addresses a hugely complicated and consequential moment in 20th-century history: the founding of the state of Israel. There is no simple way to tell the story, and Ms. Portman’s film, closely based on a memoir by the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, is full of mixed emotions and chronological tangles. But despite the geopolitical momentousness — and present-day potency — of its concerns, it’s an elegant and intimate movie, a thing of nostalgic whispers and sighs rather than polemical slogans and shouts.” Read more…)

Labyrinth of Lies (Germany, historic drama, Alexander Fehling. Rotten Tomatoes 81%. Metacritic 62. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The earnest post-Holocaust drama ‘Labyrinth of Lies’ can be viewed as a sequel of sorts to ‘Judgment at Nuremberg,’ the much-decorated 1961 Stanley Kramer film about the Nuremberg trials of the 1940s, in which top-ranking Nazis were tried for crimes against humanity. The trials are still imprinted in many people’s minds as the ultimate moment of reckoning, after which a horrific chapter of history was more or less closed and the world moved on. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. ‘Labyrinth of Lies,’ which opens in 1958, resurrects a later chapter in the aftermath of the Holocaust that has largely faded from view, at least for many Americans: the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the 1960s, in which 22 former mid- and lower-level functionaries at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp were tried for murder.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Delinquents (1957, Robert Altman’s first film, teen rampage, Tommy Laughlin)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
ZPG Zero Population Growth (1972, dystopian thriller, Oliver Reed. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New york Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Z.P.G.,’ initials that stand for zero population growth, is a sometimes funny [unintentionally], untimely meditation on the earth’s over-population problems, set in some future smog-bound England where the World Deliberation Council has decreed that for 30 years there shall be no babies born. Women mad for motherhood who refuse to be content with mechanical dolls programmed to say ‘Mummy, I love you Mummy,’ take to giving birth in cellars and stealing each other’s offspring.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: One More Time With Feeling (documentary on creation of album “Skeleton Tree”. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 92. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “It’s impossible not to empathize with Nick Cave as he and the Bad Seeds record his devastating song ‘I Need You’ in Andrew Dominik’s 3-D black-and-white film, ‘One More Time With Feeling,’ about the making of Mr. Cave’s 16th album, ‘The Skeleton Tree.’ The album’s most powerful song, ‘I Need You’ is a naked groan of grief and despair that has the feel of a majestic processional hymn with thick choral textures. As it advances on funereal drum beats, the singer declares, ‘I’ll miss you when you’re gone away forever/’cause nothing really matters.’ In a breaking voice that echoes Peter Gabriel and Jim Morrison at their most incantatory, Mr. Cave repeatedly cries, ‘I need you,’ with a vulnerability that will make you shiver.” Read more…)

1916: The Irish Rebellion (Irish history, Liam Neeson [narrator])
Planet Earth II (David Attenborough nature documentary. Rotten Tomatoes %. Metacritic .)

New Music DVDs
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: One More Time With Feeling (documentary on creation of album “Skeleton Tree”)

New Children’s DVDs
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (J.K. Rowling’s fantasy, Eddie Redmayne)
A Monster Calls (fantasy, Liam Neeson)