New Releases 4/28/15

Top Hits
Inherent Vice (thriller/comedy, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In Paul Thomas Anderson’s cinematic love-in ‘Inherent Vice,’ Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc Sportello, a Los Angeles shamus in Jesus sandals trucking through the sunshine and noir like a stoner Philip Marlowe. Based on the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel, the film is set in 1970, the year after Charles Manson freaked the city out and its good vibrations faded into an endless summer bummer. That’s the gospel according to Joan Didion, at any rate, who in ‘The White Album’ writes that many people she knew believed the 1960s ended Aug. 9, 1969, the day the Manson Family began its Helter Skelter frenzy. Somehow Doc, a hippie crowned in a halo of pot smoke, never got the message.” Read more…)

The Gambler (thriller, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 55. From Manhla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘The Gambler’ is based on the terrific lowdown and gritty 1974 movie of the same title starring James Caan. That film was beautifully directed by Karel Reisz from James Toback’s script about his experience as a gambler and college lecturer; the new one was directed by Rupert Wyatt from a screenplay by William Monahan, who also wrote Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award windfall ‘The Departed.’ Without a script in hand, it’s tough to tell how significant a contribution a writer makes to a movie, what was retained or changed from page to screen. All that’s clear in this ‘Gambler’ is that almost everything that makes the original so pleasurably idiosyncratic, from its daft ideas to the peekaboo bear rug spread over Mr. Caan’s often-bared chest, has been expunged from the remake. Read more…)

The Boy Next Door (suspense, Jennifer Lopez. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 30. From Nicolas Rapold’s  New York Times review: “He can fix garage doors, beat up bullies and analyze “The Iliad,” but don’t be fooled: The new almost-20-year-old neighbor, Noah [Ryan Guzman], is a nightmare for an almost divorced schoolteacher, Claire Peterson [Jennifer Lopez], in ‘The Boy Next Door.’ She succumbs to his flattery and his sculpted body one night, after walking out on a date, and the rest of the movie is devoted to showing how bad an idea that passionate mistake was.” Read more…)

Paddington (family, Hugh Bonneville. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 77. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In stark contrast to their furry, blundering star, the makers of ‘Paddington’ have colored so carefully inside the lines that any possibility of surprise or subversion is effectively throttled. Perhaps burdened by an excess of respect for Paddington Bear’s creator, the children’s author Michael Bond, or maybe just unwilling to deter the built-in market for the inevitable movie-related merchandising, the filmmakers have settled on safe.” Read more…)

The Wedding Ringer (comedy, Kevin Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 35. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Jimmy Callahan, the professional best man of ‘The Wedding Ringer,’ warns his client more than once that theirs is strictly a business relationship. No actual friendship is intended or implied as Jimmy [Kevin Hart] fills the role of best bud for the self-described yutz Doug Harris [Josh Gad] before and during his wedding, for whom he also assembles a team of degenerate groomsmen.” Read more…)

Boy Meets Girl (romance/LGBT, Michael Welch. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 68. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Boy Meets Girl,’ or — as the subtitle should say, ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Being Transgender’ — is a romantic comedy that’s so progressive it hurts. Placing sex and gender identity at the center of almost every conversation, the writer and director, Eric Schaeffer, is so keen to demythologize that the film’s potentially most affecting moments are too often smothered by the hackneyed characters and setups that surround them.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Gambler
The Boy Next Door
Inherent Vice

New Foreign
Mommy (Canada, drama, Anne Dorval. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The French-Canadian writer, director and actor Xavier Dolan is only 25, but ‘Mommy,’ his fifth feature film in five years, seems like the work of an even younger filmmaker. I mean this, mostly, as a compliment. Stories of adolescence — young adult novels, coming-of-age movies, teenage-targeted television series — are usually the work of adults, and therefore often temper their emotional immediacy with nostalgia, condescension or grown-up wisdom. But ‘Mommy,’ the story of a troubled young man and his mother, seethes and howls with unchecked feeling. Shot in the square, narrow dimensions of a cellphone video, it is a pocket opera of grandiose self-pity, a wild and uncompromising demand for attention, a cri de coeur from the selfie generation.” Read more…)

Le Silence de la Mer (France, 1949, war drama, Howard Vernon. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Classic (pre-1960)
Ride the Pink Horse (1947, film, noir, Robert Montgomery. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Nobody writing for movies likes more than ironic Ben Hecht to muse on the dizzy and eccentric rotations of the merry-go-round of life. And that is what he is doing, in a hard-boiled and often violent way, in the script which he and Charles Lederer wrote for ‘Ride the Pink Horse.’ That is likewise what Robert Montgomery has intriguingly captured on the screen in this taut and macabre melodrama which came to the Winter Garden yesterday.” Read more…
From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray release: “Dissertations have surely pondered the place that Mexico [and territory that once belonged to Mexico] occupies in Hollywood film noir. The landscape is freighted with historical conflict — materially poor but culturally rich, a lawless realm that is also a sanctuary, an exotic garden of simple goodness and violent desire, all notions figuring in ‘Ride the Pink Horse,’ directed by and starring Robert Montgomery… Praised by the pioneering French survey ‘A Panorama of American Film Noir’ for its ‘enigmatic situations’ and ‘somewhat barbarous poetry,’ the movie is a typical expression of postwar disillusionment — except that the returning G.I. [Montgomery] is a petty gangster gone to New Mexico to shake down a war profiteer [Fred Clark]. And rather than navigating a neon jungle, he finds himself lost in the back alleys of a colonial pueblo, flooded with Anglo tourists for the annual fiesta.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Trial and Error (1997, comedy, Michael Richards. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. From Janet Maslin’s 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Actor Michael] Richards teams up wittily with Jeff Daniels in ‘Trial and Error,’ a comedy that’s much fresher and sunnier than it has any real right to be. Jonathan Lynn, the director of ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ has essentially made the same film all over again in a different setting, but the formula still works.” Read more…)

New British
Wolf Hall (costume drama mini-series, Mark Rylance. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 86.)

New Documentaries
Last Days in Vietnam (war, American history, Rory Kennedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Perhaps the most striking thing about ‘Last Days in Vietnam,’ Rory Kennedy’s eye-opening documentary about the 1975 evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon, is how calmly it surveys what was once among the angriest topics in American political life. The story is full of emotion and danger, heroism and treachery, but it is told in a mood of rueful retrospect rather than simmering partisan rage. Ms. Kennedy, whose uncle John F. Kennedy expanded American involvement in Vietnam and whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the ensuing war’s most passionate critics, explores its final episode with an open mind and lively curiosity.” Read more…)

Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies (health, science, Ken Burns. Metacritic: 78. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “This absorbing series, directed by Barak Goodman, has as an executive producer, Ken Burns, who knows something about how to make a documentary about a war and how to make history come alive. It’s a timeline of humanity’s long effort to cure cancer, going back to the preindustrial age but concentrating on the last 75 years or so. The series is structured as an ever-evolving medical detective story, but the filmmakers give it heart as well by juxtaposing the history lessons with present-day personal profiles of cancer patients.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Boy Meets Girl (romance/LGBT, Michael Welch)

New Children’s DVDs
StarStruck: Extended Edition (Disney music movie, Sterling Knight)