New Releases 12/30/14

Top Hits
The Equalizer (action, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 57. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times revew: “Perhaps the best thing about ‘The Equalizer’ is how long it takes to reveal what everyone watching it knows from the start. Directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, the movie was inspired by a 1980s television series about an elite C.I.A. assassin [played by Edward Woodward] who found a second career as a freelance vigilante, specializing in payback and in pre-emptive violence in defense of the innocent. Each bit of information in the previous sentence — to say nothing of the trailers and advertisements — is a clue that Mr. Washington’s character, Robert McCall, is not the bookish, solitary Boston guy he at first seems to be.” Read more…)

The Good Lie (drama, Reese Witherspoon. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “[Actress Reese] Witherspoon is the nominal star of this warmhearted fictionalized account of the humanitarian program that brought 3,600 South Sudanese refugees to the United States shortly before the events of Sept. 11 forced an end to the program. But she doesn’t appear until nearly 40 minutes have passed. Directed by the Canadian filmmaker Philippe Falardeau [‘Monsieur Lazhar’] from a screenplay by Margaret Nagle [‘Boardwalk Empire’], ‘The Good Lie’ may be a little too soft. But it largely avoids mawkish sentimentality and casts a glow that is increasingly absent nowadays from films depicting international strife.” Read more…)

The Truth About Emanuel (Gothic suspense, Kaya Scodelario. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 41. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A tedious wallow in female damage and the indulgence of same, Francesca Gregorini’s ‘The Truth About Emanuel’ relies on a premise that even the finest actors would struggle to sell. That said, preposterousness is far from the only problem in a film that portrays womanhood as womb obsession — a fixation that begins with Emanuel herself [Kaya Scodelario], an utter pill who long since should have been in therapy.” Read more…)

The Trip to Italy (comedy/culinary pursuits/travelogue, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Ah, to be famous or just funny enough for someone to pay for your freewheeling jaunt along the Amalfi Coast! You wouldn’t always know it from his compendium of lip twitches and often comic and sour asides, but Steve Coogan is one lucky man, as is Rob Brydon, his returning partner in clowning and mileage. As in ‘The Trip,’ their 2010 excursion into British cuisine, the two have teamed up for a journey, ostensibly so that now they can review six Italian restaurants for The Observer of London. In other words, this is ‘The Trip’ with pasta.” Read more…)

Reclaim (drama, John Cusack. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 26. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The elements are familiar in Alan White’s thriller ‘Reclaim’: white, affluent Americans stuck in a lower-income tropical city with police officers of ambiguous morals [one played here by Luis Guzmán]; foot pursuits through slums; and car chases with gunplay on winding country roads. There’s even an auto teetering on a cliff as the driver tries to yank the passengers out just in time. Fortunately, there are seasoned actors in villainous roles, in this case a persuasively sleazy John Cusack and the formidable Australian Jacki Weaver [who received Oscar nominations for ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’].” Read more…)

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (drama, Anthony LaPaglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 43. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Stephen King hasn’t personally adapted one of his stories for a feature screenplay since ‘Pet Sematary,’ in 1989. But you’d never guess it from watching the low-key, assured thriller ‘A Good Marriage,’ from his novella of the same title.” Read more…)

Tusk (comedy, Justin Long. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 55. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Tusk’ is a Kevin Smith film, which is to say that it’s savvy enough to confirm that it was made by an adult, yet goofy enough to assure its audience that the adult in question remains unlikely to be caught wearing long pants.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Equalizer
The Good Lie

New Foreign
Burning Bush (Czech Republic, drama, Tatiana Pauhofova. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “On Aug. 20, 1968, Warsaw Pact troops led by the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia, putting a violent end to the reformist socialist experiment known as the Prague Spring. The following winter, a student named Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square, an act of protest that is the starting point of ‘Burning Bush,’ Agnieszka Holland’s thoughtful, gripping, crisply acted new film.” Read more…)

New British
Blandings: Season 2