New Releases 6/16/15

Top Hits
Welcome to Me (comedy/drama, Kristwen Wiig. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “From the start, ‘Welcome to Me,’ shot in front of a sparse audience in the studios of a struggling infomercial outfit, seems to be headed for disaster. Based on that description, you might be tempted to say the same about ‘Welcome to Me,’ which is the name of a new movie directed by Shira Piven from a screenplay by Eliot Laurence and starring Kristen Wiig as Alice. Just describing the film is equivalent to listing the many ways it could have gone wrong. To build a comedy around the predicament of a mentally ill main character is to risk either gross insensitivity or a maudlin romanticism that is just as offensive. To take up the subject of subprime television is to court banality and bad faith. But ‘Welcome to Me,’ while not perfect, is the opposite of a disaster. By turns touching, amusing and genuinely disturbing, it defies expectations and easy categorization, forgoing obvious laughs and cheap emotional payoffs in favor of something much odder and more interesting.” Read more…)

The Cobbler (comedy/drama, Adam Sandler. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 22. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The good news is that ‘The Cobbler’ isn’t another ‘Grown-Ups’ sequel. Adam Sandler, as he did with Jason Reitman’s little-seen ‘Men, Women & Children,’ works outside his sophomoric-humor comfort zone in this urban fairy tale directed by Tom McCarthy [‘The Station Agent’]. The bad news is that he is not very well served. ‘The Cobbler,’ which Mr. McCarthy wrote with Paul Sado, speaks to the fabulist side of Mr. Sandler, the one that appeared in ‘Click’ and ‘Bedtime Stories.’ But it’s an uneasy fit, in a trite story.” Read more…)

Unfinished Business (comedy, Vince Vaughn. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 32. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “A ‘EuroTrip’ with balance sheets, the slick, innocuous comedy ‘Unfinished Business’ fails to seal the deal. Dan Trunkman [Vince Vaughn] is a St. Louis executive and father whose company is being restructured by Chuck Portnoy [Sienna MIller], a shark already demanding too many hours from employees. Enraged, Dan starts a rival outfit, hiring Tim McWinters [Tom Wilkinson], an older colleague forced into retirement, and Mike Pancake [Dave Franco], a young, pretty dullard.” Read more…)

Chappie (sci-fi action, Sharlto Copley. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Frankenstein’s monster gets a titanium makeover in ‘Chappie,’ a science-fiction blood-spurter and would-be heart-warmer that wavers uncertainly between laughter and tears. Set in South Africa in the usual bummer future — yet again, it’s man against man, as well as machine — the movie imagines a scenario in which tin-can police march in lock step with their human analogues to roust the usual tattooed and dreadlocked gun-toting degenerates.” Read more…)

Run All Night (gangster action, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 59. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Yes, ‘Run All Night’ is another action film starring Liam Neeson, with a title as generic as you might expect. But the movie, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Mr. Neeson in the efficient airborne thriller ‘Non-Stop,’ has two saving graces: a tight script and terrific acting.” Read more…)

Beyond the Reach (action/thriller, Michael Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 34%. Metacritic: 33. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “How many times can a guy lose his marbles? If the guy is Michael Douglas, apparently as many times as he wants. Mr. Douglas does his unhinged thing again in ‘Beyond the Reach,’ a sun-baked suspense tale that doesn’t add anything to the human-hunts-a-human genre but is effectively served.” Read more…)

Go For Sisters (crime drama, Edward James Olmos. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 59. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “As long as ‘Go for Sisters’ is focused on its characters, it remains on firm ground. But the flimsy detective story draped over them is underdeveloped and too sluggishly paced to take hold. This self-financed movie, reportedly made for less than a million dollars, badly needs a dash of Hollywood-style action.” Read more…)

The Lazarus Effect (sci-fi/horror, Mark Duplass. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 31. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The researchers in ‘The Lazarus Effect’ devise a serum that resurrects the dead by stimulating brain activity. The film itself seems best watched with as few neurons firing as possible.” Read more…)

Reach Me (drama, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 21. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Casting Sylvester Stallone as a gossip-site publisher obviously modeled on Matt Drudge is one of many counterintuitive ideas that backfire in ‘Reach Me.’ In this preposterous ensemble piece, residents of the greater Los Angeles area become better people through the extended influence of a motivational book.” Read more…)

Time Lapse (sci-fi thriller, Danielle Panabaker. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 50.)

New Foreign
Wild Tales (Argentina, comedy, Ricardo Darin. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As high-spirited as its title suggests, ‘Wild Tales’ opens on a savage note and ends, well, that’s for you to find out. In between its shocker start and equally startling windup, this Argentine anthology offers up a scabrous, often unsettlingly funny look at human behavior in extremis. It’s a mad, mad social Darwinian world, churning with men and women who, whether pushed a lot or just a little, are all eager to do the worst to one another. They pounce and then they pummel, engaging in drag-down fights that leave them black and blue and sometimes stone-cold dead.’ Read more…)

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel, social drama, Ronit Elkabetz. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 90. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “This makes for gripping cinema from start to finish, almost implausibly so. ‘Gett’ is the third movie featuring Viviane that Ms. Elkabetz has written and directed with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, after ‘To Take a Wife’ and ‘Shiva’ a.k.a. ‘Seven Days,’ and their work here is assured, streamlined and bold. As if to underscore the highly subjective quality of the storytelling in ‘Gett’ [he said, she said, they said], the Elkabetzes use only point-of-view shots throughout, which tethers every image — of the judges, of Viviane’s legs, of Elisha’s profile — to the perspective of one of the characters.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Staircase (1969, comedy/drama, Richard Burton. A late 1960’s movie based on a Charles Dyer play, “Staircase” stars Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as aging gay men living in London. Read Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in] for a heaping helping of vintage homophobia: “Harry and Charlie are exploited as freaks, and ‘Staircase,’ which Stanley Donen has directed from Charles Dyer’s adaptation of his own play, is clearly something of a casting stunt: Marc Antony and Julius Caesar as a pair of decaying lovers in a lower middle-class London banlieu. Although Burton and Harrison are interesting actors whose styles command attention even when the material does not, ‘Staircase’ is essentially a stunt movie. Like homosexuality, which confuses one love object for another, the film is full of grotesque substitutes, false teeth, false hair, feminine pronouns for masculine. All of this might have made a more meaningful film if Dyer hadn’t also substituted invective for wit, self-deprecation for self-knowledge, and soap opera for drama. What story line there is concerns the increasing tension between Harry and Charlie as the latter prepares to answer a summons for having appeared at the Adam’s Apple nightclub in drag, or, as the summons put it: ‘in a manner calculated to bring depravity.'” Read more…)

New Television
The Newsroom: Season 3 (HBO drama, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 63.)
The Killing: Season 2 (drama, Mirielle Enos. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 68.)

New Documentaries
The Wrecking Crew (music history, rock music, Hal Blaine. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 66. From Jon Caramanica’s New York Times review: “For a stretch in the 1960s, those faces beaming from album covers were lying to you: The music inside was often played by others. Those others were usually members of the Wrecking Crew, a loose cabal of versatile Los Angeles session musicians fluent in rock, soul, country and getting out of the way. This sentimental documentary is directed by Denny Tedesco, whose father, Tommy, was a lauded guitar player of that era. [He died in 1997.] Mostly, it’s hagiography, with stars like Cher and Brian Wilson used as character witnesses to the players’ greatness.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
The Wrecking Crew (music history, rock music, Hal Blaine. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 66. From Jon Caramanica’s New York Times review: “For a stretch in the 1960s, those faces beaming from album covers were lying to you: The music inside was often played by others. Those others were usually members of the Wrecking Crew, a loose cabal of versatile Los Angeles session musicians fluent in rock, soul, country and getting out of the way. This sentimental documentary is directed by Denny Tedesco, whose father, Tommy, was a lauded guitar player of that era. [He died in 1997.] Mostly, it’s hagiography, with stars like Cher and Brian Wilson used as character witnesses to the players’ greatness.” Read more…)