New Releases 11/24/15

Top Hits
Ricki and the Flash (drama, Meryl Streep. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Ricki and the Flash,’ a gentle-hearted baby boomer guilt-trip family drama directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, is bookended by two musical performances from the rock ’n’ roll bar band that gives the movie its name. It would be a spoiler to say too much about the number that ends the movie, a Bruce Springsteen cover, but the opener, sung to a sparse, appreciative audience at a scruffy club in Tarzana, Calif., is a competent version of an old hit by Tom Petty. [If that name doesn’t ring a bell, go ask your dad.] Ricki, the lead singer, sporting a blue Telecaster, heavy eyeliner and half of Bo Derek’s haircut from ’10’ [ask your dad about that too], belts out the lyrics with perfect credibility, landing somewhere between Chrissie Hynde and Bonnie Raitt on the spectrum of available reference points. Ricki is played by Meryl Streep, which may be sufficient reason to believe in her.” Read more…)

No Escape (thriller, Owen Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 38. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “In 2001, already developing a comic acting career, Owen Wilson tried to stretch. In ‘Behind Enemy Lines,’ he played a naval aviator shot down and pursued by bloodthirsty Serbian paramilitary units. Not quite an action hero, he conveyed the intense fear and desperation of a fugitive in the cross hairs. Now Mr. Wilson returns for run-for-your-life seconds. In ‘No Escape,’ he is again in hostile territory, as Jack Dwyer, an engineer who has joined a multinational corporation after his own company failed, and is moving his family to an unnamed Southeast Asian country.” Read more…)

Shaun the Sheep Movie (animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Vritic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “It wouldn’t be summer without a movie that stars one or more animals. ‘Free Willy’ [1993]. ‘Babe’ [1995]. ‘Jaws’ [1975]. ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ [1987]. And now, ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie,’ a charming and clever concoction from the stop-motion animation studio Aardman Animations, which is known for the ‘Wallace & Gromit’ franchise. The film tries something unusual in the world of animated family fare: It tells its 84-minute story without words.” Read more…)

Guidance (comedy, Pat Mills. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Pursuing his character’s self-destructive, often tasteless agenda, [actor, writer and director Pat] Mills [drawing on his own experiences and doing triple duty as the director and screenwriter] gives a performance of rancid single-mindedness. It’s a fearlessly unsympathetic role that provides plenty of space for train-wreck humor but almost no wiggle room for redemption.” Read more…)

American Ultra (action comedy, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 50. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Some of the many, many promotional spots for ‘American Ultra’ make it seem like more of a comedy than it is. That’s not said as a criticism, just a warning. If you go, expect a diverting summer action adventure with occasional laughs, not a diverting stoner comedy with occasional action.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Ricki and the Flash
Shaun the Sheep Movie
No Escape

New Foreign
1001 Grams (Norway, drama, Ane Dahl Torp. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘1001 Grams’ achieves a charming equipoise of levity and gravity, of formal rigor and soulful sentiment. It’s a quiet movie, sometimes to the point of near inaudibility, and a small one, so unassuming that, like Marie herself, it seems to want at times to disappear altogether. But here it is, sure of its proportions and also much bigger and messier than it looks.” Read more…)

A Place to Call Home: Season 1 (Australia, drama series, Marta Dusseldorp, in New British section)

New Classic (pre-1960)
The Kid From Cleveland (1949, sports drama, Russ Tamblyn, Cleveland Indians. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Rather this ‘Kid from Cleveland’ turns out to be a labored tale of the generous attempts of a sports announcer to help a wayward youth. And in these benevolent endeavors, he recruits not only Bill Veeck, the personable owner of the Indians, but apparently the whole team. In fact, Mr. Veeck and the Indians pay so much attention to this pursuit that one perceives (since the time is the present) why maybe the Indians are in third place.” Read more…)

The Devil’s Disciple (1959, history/satire, Burt Lancaster. From A.H. Weiler’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “a vegetarian who managed to roar like a man-eating lion in print, would be surprised, it is fairly safe to state, at the film version of “The Devil’s Disciple,” which was unveiled yesterday at both the Astor and Normandie Theatres. And it is likely, too, that aficionados of the master of Ayot’s plays would be a mite confused by this copiously edited and re-written edition of his noted lampoon of American Revolutionary events and some Englishmen involved in losing a valuable colony. As revealed now, ‘The Devil’s Disciple’ is, somewhat disappointingly, less the biting satire of the stage and more an unevenly paced comedy-melodrama leaning heavily toward action.” Read more…)

Voodoo Man (1944, chiller, Bela Lugosi)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Child_WaitingA Child Is Waiting (1962, John Cassavetes-directed drama, Burt Lancaster. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Some painful but compelling instruction on how to adjust emotionally to the sometimes calamitous problem of the mentally retarded child is conveyed with courageous candor and dramatic simplicity in Stanley Kramer’s new film, ‘A Child Is Waiting’… Don’t go to see it expecting to be agreeably entertained or, for that matter, really uplifted by examples of man’s nobility.” Read more…)

The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971, wacky cult film, Bruce Dern. From A.H. Weiler’s 1971 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “On the other hand, Bruce Dern, as the dour scalpelwielder responsible for ‘The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant,’ really doesn’t rate much sympathy. As a dedicated researcher who has clicked with two-headed snakes, rabbits and monkeys, if not with his photogenic, blonde wife, Pat Priest, he might have demurred in using a sex-crazed, homicidal maniac and a giant, mentally retarded farm hand for his human experiment. Movie plots notwithstanding, it soon becomes obvious that the best results he could expect would constitute an economy size menace to the community.” Read more…)

Larger Than Life (1996, comedy, Bill Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. From Stephen Holden’s 1996 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “How could a comedy based on the tantalizingly funny notion of Bill Murray transporting a circus elephant across America misfire as badly as ‘Larger Than Life’?” Read more…)

New British
Drowning By Numbers (1988, dark Peter Greenaway-directed comedy, Joan Plowright. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Janet Maslin’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The mind that embraces pure gamesmanship is rarely as fanciful as that of Peter Greenaway, who obviously plays by his own rules. Mr. Greenaway’s love of puzzles, riddles, obscure references and obsessive schematization is truly astounding, but it is rarely matched by an equivalent interest in whatever has set these maneuvers in motion. He would be perfectly capable, it often seems, of staging an elaborate whodunit without bothering to determine whether anyone was ultimately to blame.” Read more…)

A Place to Call Home: Season 1 (Australia, drama series, Marta Dusseldorp, in New British section)

 New TV
Inside Amy Schumer: Seasons 1, 2, 3 (comedy series)

New Documentaries
1971 (civil liberties, American history. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 73. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “In the age of encryption, computer hacking, WikiLeaks and Edward J. Snowden, the theft of typewritten government documents from an unlocked file cabinet 44 years ago by ordinary citizens may seem quaint. But on the evening of March 8, 1971, while much of America was distracted by the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight, burglars broke into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Media, Pa., and stole files that revealed the bureau’s unlawful surveillance of antiwar activists. Photocopies were mailed anonymously to three major newspapers, including The New York Times, but only The Washington Post published anything from the files. The uproar that followed was enormous.” Read more…)

The New Rijksmuseum (art, architecture. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Until April of this year, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, a peer of the Louvre, the Prado and the Hermitage, was mostly closed for almost a decade, thanks to an extensive, expensive and frequently controversial renovation. That hiatus, during which some of the finest Rembrandts, Vermeers and other masterpieces of Dutch art vanished from public view, would most likely be forgotten if not for ‘The New Rijksmuseum,’ Oeke Hoogendijk’s eye-opening, patience-testing new documentary. The film dwells on the logistical and bureaucratic details of the process, and if it does not exactly write a fresh chapter in the history of art, it stands as an exemplary study in the sociology of art administration.” Read more…)