New Releases 3/17/15

Top Hits
Top Five (comedy/romance, Chris Rock. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. “[Actor/director Chris] Rock has far more on his mind than a catfight. In ‘Top Five,’ he sifts through — with on-point jokes, boisterous slapstick, affecting honesty and a sharply honed and earned sense of history — issues of artificiality and authenticity, the spectacle of black celebrity and the imperative of personal meaning. Andre has become famous by playing Hammy the Bear, a character that completely obscures his blackness and his maleness. Both Hammy and the Haitian revolutionary represent two familiar — and Mr. Rock seems to suggest — permitted modes of black expression: clowning and suffering. In setting Andre on his search for self, Mr. Rock has carved out a third way, in the process creating a black character who’s fully human and a comedy that’s wholly a blast.” Read more…)

The Humbling (drama, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 59. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “In [actor Al] Pacino’s tempered wild-man performance — one of his strongest in over a decade — Simon rages at the dying of the light with a zany ferocity, largely avoiding self-pity. A scene in which he picks up a shotgun and prepares to shoot himself like Ernest Hemingway, then bungles it, is played for comedy. Were it made by a different team, the movie might have been conceived as a shrill farce and been much the worse for it.” Read more…)

Annie (musical, Quvenzhane Wallis. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 33. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: :”Quvenzhané Wallis is a born movie star, with charisma to burn and a rare ability to magnetize an audience’s attention. She showed as much in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ filmed when she was just 6. In ‘Annie’ she is older and taller, less pixieish and closer to the awkwardness of adolescence, but, if anything, her ability to charm has only increased. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough.” Read more…)

Exodus: Gods and Kings (action adventure, Christian Bale. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Noah,’ with its stone giants and Emma Watson, may have been too strange for some viewers. ‘Exodus,’ by contrast, crowded with well-known actors, is nowhere near strange enough. More than anything else, it recalls the wide-screen, Technicolor biblical pageants of the 1950s and early ’60s, bland and solemn spectacles that invited moviegoers to marvel at their favorite stars in sandals and robes.” Read more…)

Son of a Gun (action, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 48. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Son of a Gun’ adds to the mystique that Australian crime films are meaner, nastier and more brutish than their American counterparts. But it changes style roughly every half-hour.” Read more…)

Low Down (drama, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 58. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Look and feel express more than the wavering story of ‘Low Down.’ based on Amy-Jo Albany’s memoir about growing up as the daughter of the bebop pianist Joe Albany. Adapted by Ms. Albany and Topper Lilien, this movie from Jeff Preiss is a stream of recollections, but the late-afternoon-light grain of its Super 16-millimeter camerawork and the gestures of warmth between its characters perhaps say more than any rise-and-fall might.” Read more…)

Veronika Decides to Die (drama/romance, Sarah Michelle Gellar)

New Foreign
The Way He Looks (Brazil, coming-of-age drama/romance, Ghilherme Lobo. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “This winning movie — directed by Daniel Ribeiro, making his feature debut — dexterously weaves the social challenges of adolescence into a story of broader self-discovery. The film is Brazil’s foreign-language entry to the Academy Awards. That’s no surprise.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
The Way He Looks (Brazil, coming-of-age drama/romance, Ghilherme Lobo. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “This winning movie — directed by Daniel Ribeiro, making his feature debut — dexterously weaves the social challenges of adolescence into a story of broader self-discovery. The film is Brazil’s foreign-language entry to the Academy Awards. That’s no surprise.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Song of the Sea (animated feature, Brendan Gleeson [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Inspired by the myth of the selkie — which, as fans of John Sayles’s 1994 jewel, ‘The Secret of Roan Inish,’ know, is a seal-like creature that can shed its skin and live for a time as a human — ‘Song of the Sea’ moves delicately but purposefully from pain to contentment and from anger to love. On land and underwater, the siblings’ adventures unfold in hand-drawn, painterly frames of misty pastels, sometimes encircled by cobwebby borders that give them the look of pictures in a locket.” Read more…)

Penguins of Madagascar: The Movie (animated feature, Benedict Cumberbatch [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 53. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Penguins of Madagascar’ promises a reasonable share of wit the minute it opens with a voice-over by Werner Herzog, in a sendup of his documentary on Antarctica, ‘Encoumters at the End of the World.’ That film posed the question of whether penguins could exhibit insanity. In the case of this spirited animated movie, the answer is assuredly yes.” Read more…)