New Releases 09/17/13

Top Hits
World War Z (action epic, Brad Pitt. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 63. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie, loosely adapted from Max Brooks’s 2006 novel of the same title, is under two hours long. Its action set pieces are cleverly conceived and coherently executed in ways that make them feel surprising, even exciting. Brad Pitt, playing a former United Nations troubleshooter pressed back into service to battle the undead, wears a scruffy, Redfordesque air of pained puzzlement. And, best of all, World War Z, directed by Marc Forster from a script with four credited authors, reverses the relentless can-we-top-this structure that makes even smart blockbusters feel bloated and dumb. The large-scale, city-destroying sequences come early, leading toward a climax that is intimate, intricate and genuinely suspenseful.” Read more…)

The East (thriller, Brit Marling. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The East is a neat little thriller about ends and means and ethical quandaries. The title refers to a mysterious network of anti-corporate militants whose activities — called ‘jams’ — shade from prankish agitprop toward outright terrorism. The members of the group, who live off the grid in an abandoned house in the wilderness somewhere near the Mason-Dixon line, are determined to hold the poisoners and polluters of the executive class accountable for their actions. Sometimes, as in the case of a pharmaceutical company that has peddled dangerous antibiotics, this means giving the bosses a literal taste of their own medicine.” Read more…)

The Bling Ring (crime drama, Emma Watson. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In her last two movies — the sublime Somewhere and the seductive Marie Antoinette — Sofia Coppola has focused her rigorous attention on characters living inside bubbles of privilege, fairy tale precincts where the invisible magic of wealth and power makes wishes come true. Stephen Dorff’s drifting movie star and Kirsten Dunst’s capricious young queen both lead pampered existences of a kind that make them easy objects of envy and resentment, but Ms. Coppola examines them with detached, quiet sympathy, refusing to mock or judge. She anatomizes the spiritual conditions of people who might have seemed to be case studies in shallow, carefree materialism. The Bling Ring, her new feature (and her fifth over all), continues in this vein from a somewhat different perspective. It is not about the paralysis of having more than you could possibly want, but rather about the addictive thrills of wanting what you can’t quite have and trying to get it.” Read more…)

Behind the Candelabra (Liberace biopic, Michael Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 82. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “There’s something uncanny, even brilliant, about Michael Douglas’ impersonation of Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s biographical film Behind the Candelabra. Sashaying across Las Vegas stages and epic suburban living rooms with a drum major’s puffed-up grandeur and a lounge lizard’s predatory smile, Mr. Douglas gives a performance so assured, so free of camp or cringe, that you quickly surrender any doubts you might have had about his playing a famously flamboyant, closeted-in-plain-sight gay entertainer.” Read more…)

Raising Adam Lanza (documentary, biography, social issues, violence. From Mike Hale’s New York Times‘ Critic’s Notebook on PBS’s post-Newtown documentaries on guns in America: “The focus shifts firmly to psychology in Tuesday’s ‘Frontline’ episode, ‘Raising Adam Lanza,’ which follows two reporters for The Hartford Courant as they investigate the relationship between Lanza, the Newtown gunman, and his mother, Nancy, who was the first of his 27 victims. Despite too many lame All the President’s Men-style scenes of the reporters traveling to interviews and batting around ideas with their editors — including some dangerously speculative theorizing about the Lanzas — the program has the advantage of delivering new information about the mother and son, from several acquaintances who had not spoken previously in public.” Read more…)

Cockneys Vs. Zombies (horror comedy, Michelle Ryan. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “There’s not much difference between regular English soccer fans and the undead variety in Cockneys vs. Zombies: Even when expired, they’re still ready to rumble with anyone wearing the colors of a rival team. And that’s pretty much the point of this spirit-of-the-Blitz comedy from Matthias Hoene. Filled with East End grit and EastEnders escapees, the ragtag story is merely an excuse to remind us, all too emphatically, that Londoners won’t lie down.” Read more…)

Greetings From Tim Buckley (musical biopic, Penn Badgley. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Biopics come in a number of flavors, though most turn out either to be hagiographies that clean up the little and big messes of famous lives, burnishing legends for maximum nostalgia, or analytical postmortems that try to put their subjects into play with history and the world. Greetings From Tim Buckley takes a look at two musicians who died young and were largely strangers, Tim Buckley and his son Jeff Buckley, and goes right for worship: it’s sweet, sentimental, almost inevitably touching if not especially persuasive, brushing against the thorns in each man’s life without drawing blood.” Read more…)

Love Is All You Need (romcom, Pierce Brosnan. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 60. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: The first sign of trouble in the romantic comedy Love Is All You Need is the clichéd and incessant use of ‘That’s Amore.’ Ever since that early-’50s Dean Martin hit was used in Moonstruck in 1987, the song has been pop culture’s Pavlovian signal to wallow in the jollier side of all things Italian. Much of this movie, about a wedding that goes awry, is set in Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples. But as the story progresses the tune’s insistent levity is contradicted by the awful behavior of some pigheaded characters.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
World War Z
The East
Behind the Candelabra
The Bling Ring

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987, action/horror, Michael Caine. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%.)

New TV
Vegas
Bates Motel: Season 1

New Documentaries
Radio Unnameable (community radio, WBAI, Bob Fass. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Radio host Bob] Fass, whose sonorous baritone still can be heard on [WBAI-FM], offering provocation and comfort to insomniacs and late-shift workers, is the subject of Radio Unnameable, a new documentary by Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson. Drawing on archival photographs and audiotape, the filmmakers pay tribute both to an influential voice in broadcasting and to the times whose ideals and follies he helped articulate. Robin Williams used to joke that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t there. That may be so, but Mr. Lovelace and Ms. Wolfson assemble a motley, graying assortment of characters who seem to have forgotten nothing. Mr. Fass narrates old war [and antiwar] stories with vivid clarity and impeccable timing, and his accounts are fleshed out by a Greek chorus of friends, co-workers and fellow travelers.” Read more…)

Raising Adam Lanza (biography, social issues, violence, in Top Hits. From Mike Hale’s New York Times‘ Critic’s Notebook on PBS’s post-Newtown documentaries on guns in America: “The focus shifts firmly to psychology in Tuesday’s ‘Frontline’ episode, ‘Raising Adam Lanza,’ which follows two reporters for The Hartford Courant as they investigate the relationship between Lanza, the Newtown gunman, and his mother, Nancy, who was the first of his 27 victims. Despite too many lame All the President’s Men-style scenes of the reporters traveling to interviews and batting around ideas with their editors — including some dangerously speculative theorizing about the Lanzas — the program has the advantage of delivering new information about the mother and son, from several acquaintances who had not spoken previously in public.” Read more…)

The Hill (urban policy, racism, New Haven, local documentarian Lisa Molomot, in Top Hits)
School’s Out: Lessons From a Forest Kindergarten (education experiment in Switzerland, local documentarian Lisa Molomot, in Top Hits)