New Releases 3/18/14

Top Hits
American Hustle (drama/comedy, Christian Bale. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The director here is David O. Russell, who, more than any other contemporary American filmmaker, has reinvigorated screwball comedy, partly by insisting that men and women talk to one another. To that end, that chatter, written by Mr. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, is fast, dirty, intemperate, hilarious and largely in service to the art of the con, specifically the Abscam scandal that almost incidentally inspired the story. The real scandal dates back to 1978 and an F.B.I. investigation into political corruption that found agents posing as wealthy sheikhs anxious to buy off public officials.” Read more…)

Frozen (animated feature, Kristin Bell. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Allegorically, Frozen lacks the purity and elemental power of a classic myth like Beauty and the Beast, but at least its storytelling is fairly coherent, and its gleaming dream world of snow and ice is one of the most visually captivating environments to be found in a Disney animated film. There are moments when you may feel that you are inside a giant crystal chandelier frosted with diamonds.” Read more…)

Mandela: a Long Walk to Freedom (biopic, Idris Elba. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Long Walk to Freedom sustains the measured, inspirational tone of a grand, historical pageant. Events that are worth films of their own are compressed into a sweeping, generalized history. Gripping, dynamically choreographed scenes of street violence are harrowing but short, as the story hurtles forward at breakneck speed. If the lack of specifics about politics is frustrating, how could it be otherwise? Mr. Mandela’s biography and South African history are so rich and inextricably linked that it is impossible to reduce it to a nearly two-and-a-half-hour movie without it feeling rushed and incomplete.” Read more…)

Saving Mr. Banks (comedy/drama, Emma Thompson. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Saving Mr. Banks, released by Disney, is a movie about the making of a Disney movie [Mary Poppins], in which Walt Disney himself [played by Tom Hanks] is a major character. It includes a visit to Disneyland and, if you look closely, a teaser for its companion theme park in Florida [as yet unbuilt, when the story takes place]. A large Mickey Mouse plush toy appears from time to time to provide an extra touch of humor and warmth. But it would be unfair to dismiss this picture, directed by John Lee Hancock from a script by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, as an exercise in corporate self-promotion. It’s more of a mission statement.” Read more…)

Kill Your Darlings (Beat Generation drama/origin story, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Long before Allen Ginsberg became the benevolent, bearded Buddha of the counterculture — and one of the most beloved American poets — he was a skinny, anxious Columbia freshman who fell in with a group of literary rebels. John Krokidas’s debut feature, Kill Your Darlings, is intent on studying these not-yet-Beats in their fledgling state, as they write the first drafts of their own legends.” Read more…)

Rewind This! (home video, video store culture, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
American Hustle
Saving Mr. Banks
Frozen
Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom
Kill Your Darlings

New British
Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet (1933, Sherlock Holmes mystery, Reginald Owen. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1933 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Murder will out — if Sherlock Holmes is around. He is now to be seen at the Mayfair in a 1933 form, probably not recognizable to those who have seen the old drawings in London’s Strand Magazine in which his adventures appeared for so many years. But the astuteness and marvelous deductive powers of the Conan Doyle character are nevertheless not dimmed in the film version of A Study in Scarlet, which was offered last night at the Mayfair. Nor, judging by the audience’s reaction to this melodrama, has the interest in the well-known episode in the life of the famous criminologist lost any of its thrilling quality.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (cinema, philosophy, Slavoj Zizek. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 71. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Sophie Fiennes’s second collaboration with the public intellectual Slavoj Zizek, sets out a daunting task. Titling a film that way, even tongue in cheek, recalls the Monty Python sketch about summarizing Proust, only with an even broader remit. Less dynamically than in this film’s predecessor, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, Mr. Zizek again harvests insights and subtexts in movies, with a bit of current events thrown in.” Read more…)

Rewind This! (home video, video store culture, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Children’s DVDs
Frozen (animated feature, Kristin Bell, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Allegorically, Frozen lacks the purity and elemental power of a classic myth like Beauty and the Beast, but at least its storytelling is fairly coherent, and its gleaming dream world of snow and ice is one of the most visually captivating environments to be found in a Disney animated film. There are moments when you may feel that you are inside a giant crystal chandelier frosted with diamonds.” Read more…)