New Releases 08/13/13

Top Hits
The Company You Keep (political drama, Robert Redford. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 57. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “A seam of melancholy runs through The Company You Keep, Robert Redford’s reflective melodrama about political idealism run amok and the wages of youthful folly. For audiences over 50, in particular, this fictional story of homegrown terrorists sprung from the 1960s counterculture should conjure complicated feelings of pride, shame, anger and regret.” Read more…)

Welcome to the Punch (action, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Watching Welcome to the Punch I kept hoping for clowns, the inflatable kind that you sock in the head and that bounce back again and again — or maybe a couple of pugilists with tragic faces and Michelangelo musculature. While this curiously titled, intently self-serious British cops-and-robbers showdown doesn’t feature any clowns, it does include plenty of mano-a-mano action and a clutch of presumably unintended laughs. This isn’t a warning. It’s a recommendation.” Read more…)

What Maisie Knew (drama, Julianne Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In their brilliant, haunting adaptation of [writer Henry James’ short novel] What Maisie Knew, set in 21st-century Manhattan, the directors, Scott McGehee and David Siegel, and the screenwriters, Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright, take liberties with the Master’s plot while remaining true to the ‘design’ that he somewhat boastfully explained in his preface to the New York edition of the book. James relayed an adult drama of marital spite, sexual jealousy, meanness and weakness entirely through the point of view of a child, who could not possibly understand everything she witnessed.” Read more…)

Olympus Has Fallen (action, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 41. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The most recent Die Hard movie — which the record shows I reviewed a little more than a month ago, although I have no recollection of it — was terrible, but it turns out not to have been the worst Die Hard movie this year. That honor, for the moment at least (it’s only March!), belongs to Olympus Has Fallen, which is not, strictly speaking, part of the franchise at all. It is more a school of Die Hard production, in which a weary and battered law enforcement professional, severely constrained by time and space, fights off a ridiculous number of bad guys.” Read more…)

The Big Wedding (rom-com, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes: 7%. Metacritic: 28. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “To say that Justin Zackham’s farce The Big Wedding takes the low road doesn’t begin to do justice to the sheer awfulness of this star-stuffed, potty-mouthed fiasco directed by the screenwriter of The Bucket List. This is a movie in which the racket kicked up by various couples ‘boinking,’ to use its favorite euphemism, is enough to wake up an entire city.” Read more…)

On the Road (road movie/ drama, Sam Riley. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 56. From the New York Times review: “America the Beautiful has rarely looked more ripe for exploration than it does in On the Road, a noble attempt by the Brazilian directo Walter Salles [The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station] to capture literary lightning in a bottle. With spacious skies stretching endlessly over open, uncongested roads bordered by amber waves of grain, and purple mountains beckoning in the distance, the movie resurrects a perennial frontier dream and invites you to barrel into the unknown with its Beat Generation legends. That elusive lightning is the electricity in the hopped-up prose of On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel, which a decade after its publication inspired countless stoned hippie odysseys to Haight-Ashbury and beyond. But can prose that snaps and sizzles be translated into an electrifying movie?” Read more…)

Emperor (war drama, Tommy Lee Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 48. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Aggrieved and exasperated: that is the signature expression of Tommy Lee Jones, a star who often conveys an attitude of terminal impatience, as if coping with the fools around him were almost more than he could bear. That gruff demeanor suits his character, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, in Emperor, the British director Peter Webber’s stolid, simplified history lesson about the delicate relationship between the United States and Japan just after World War II.” Read kore…)

New Blu-Ray
On the Road
Olympus Has Fallen
The Company You Keep
What Maisie Knew

New Foreign
The Guillotines (China, martial arts, Xiaoming Huang. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 35. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Swords flash and heads roll, spin and bounce in The Guillotines, a sumptuous tale about bad men and good, peasants and rulers and what happens to a movie when it is sliced and diced into progressively more forgettable itty bits. Directed by Andrew Lau, best known in the United States for the terrific Infernal Affairs trilogy, the new movie takes place during the Qing dynasty, China’s last imperial era.” Read more…)

New TV
Girls: Season 2
Enlightened: Season 2
Southland: Season 5

New Documentaries
The Revisionaries (education, social issues, Culture War, Texas Board of Ed. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Daniel M. Gold’s Times review: “The culture wars have their place in this year’s presidential campaign, out where voters can see them. But as The Revisionaries, a documentary by Scott Thurman, reminds us, the true battles are fought in meeting rooms across the country. At the Texas State Board of Education 15 elected commissioners decide which textbooks are used in the public schools, and what they say. And because the state constitutes such a large market, the choices are felt across the country. The Revisionaries looks at 2009 and 2010, when new books were being evaluated. The board’s dominant social-conservative faction worked to ensure that evolution was challenged in the science textbooks.” Read more…)

Hank’s (and Rob Harmon’s) Recommendations 08/13/13

hank_paperHANK’S PICS 08/13/13

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP — When a wife and mother, and former member of the Weather Underground (Susan Sarandon), turns herself in for her role, thirty years ago, in the robbery of a bank and the murder of a security guard, it upsets a whole network of former Weathermen who have since rebuilt new lives, especially one who is now forced to go on the run, pursued by both the FBI and a dogged reporter.

Directed by and starring Robert Redford, this film is a man-on-the-run thriller, a newspaper drama about going for a big story in a dying industry, as well as a film about families, lies and betrayals. It is also about the past (the Vietnam War and the violent protests against it) and the present (posing political questions that are still relevant today).

While Redford himself looks perhaps ten years too old for the part, he has assembled an incredible cast (Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrance Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Elliot and Brit Marling) to tell a fairly gripping, thought-provoking story.

While not, perhaps of the stature of Redford’s other directorial outings (ORDINARY PEOPLE, THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, QUIZ SHOW, THE HORSE WHISPERER; Redford also, more recently, directed the less compelling THE CONSPIRATOR), this is an under-rated, under-distributed film, both intelligent and entertaining, whose company you should definitely keep.

Rob_Harmon_image_for_picksROB HARMON’S PICS 08/13/13:


Today is the birthday of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, born this day in 1899 in Leytonstone, England and died on April 29, 1980 at the age of 80. My earliest fascination with Hitchcock and his films almost exactly coincides with when I was first becoming interested in film itself—middle school and high school—and the two (film and Hitchcock) have been almost synonymous in my mind ever since.

Mr. Hitchcock’s staggering influence upon the cinema survives to this day, particularly in the genres of mystery/suspense thrillers and horror, but equally important in many other respects, too numerous to list here. With a total of 53 films to his credit it is never a bad time to familiarize yourself with the Master of Suspense: let’s call this Film, or Hitchcock, 101!

To Catch A Thief MoviestillsWe’ll start with Ten Hitchcock Masterpieces:

1 • REBECCA (1940): Poor Mrs. Danvers….
2 • FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940): Intrigue for a Yank across the pond, with Europe on the brink of war.
3 • SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943): Everyone should have an Uncle Charlie.
4 • NOTORIOUS (1946): Hitchcockian romance, at its very best.
5 • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951): Hitchcock adapts Highsmith—mind who you speak to on trains….
6 • REAR WINDOW (1954): Did he, or didn’t he, see a murder?
7 • VERTIGO (1958): Dark, touching, and sad, this is perhaps Hitchcock’s most personal film.
8 • NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959): Some guys have all the fun.
9 • PSYCHO (1960): Bates Motel – twelve cabins, twelve vacancies.
10 • THE BIRDS (1963): It’s woman vs. nature.

Seen those? How about, Ten Must-Sees from Hitchcock’s British Period:

1 • THE LODGER (1926): Jack the Ripper, anyone?
2 • THE RING (1927): Excellent silent boxing drama.
3 • BLACKMAIL (1929): Guilt pursues the killer—an innovative use of early sound technology.
4 • RICH AND STRANGE (1932): Eerie, early romantic melodrama.
5 • THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934): Knowing too much is a dangerous thing, indeed…. (1956 American version: Stewart and Day give strong performances; a worthy encore!)
6 • THE 39 STEPS (1935): High adventure on the Scottish moors—a man, a woman, and a pair of handcuffs!
7 • SABOTAGE (1936): Who killed cock robin?
8 • YOUNG AND INNOCENT (1937): The camera identifies the killer.
9 • THE LADY VANISHES (1938): Intrigue among passengers on a train across Europe—a ripping good yarn!
10 • JAMAICA INN (1939): Great adventure story; Laughton memorable as the villain, Sir Humphrey Pengallan.

Still hungry? Here are Ten Further Classics from Hitchcock’s Hollywood Career:

1 • SABOTEUR (1942): It’s The 39 Steps in the good old U.S.A.!
2 • LIFEBOAT (1944): Tallulah Bankhead in a boat.
3 • SPELLBOUND (1945): Romance and psychoanalysis – a union that only Hitchcock could bring about.
4 • ROPE (1948): What’s in the trunk?
5 • STAGE FRIGHT (1950): Highly under-rated; Dietrich sings “The Laziest Gal in Town.”
6 • DIAL ME FOR MURDER (1954): Crackling good murder mystery; originally filmed in 3-D!
7 • THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955): Dead body on a mountain-top—what to do with it?
8 • THE WRONG MAN (1956): Eerie, dark drama based on a real-life case.
9 • MARNIE (1964): Hitchcock examines the female psyche—’nuff said!
10 • FRENZY (1972): Hitchcock returns home to England—who knew rigor mortis could be this much fun?