New Releases 8/25/15

Top Hits
AlohaAloha (romance, Bradley Cooper. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “While I can’t make any excuses for ‘Aloha’ — to the extent it can even figure out what movie it wants to be, it’s not a very good one — I can leaven my disappointment with mercy. Mr. Crowe is a huge fan of forgiveness, and so [occasional appearances to the contrary] am I. I can even say that I had a good time, a better time than I had at ‘Vanilla Sky’ or ‘Elizabethtown.’ But now I’m starting to get a little depressed. I enjoyed ‘Aloha’ the way you can enjoy a catch-up beer with an old friend you don’t have much in common with anymore. Set among military service people and contractors in Hawaii, it’s a loose, leisurely hangout movie, funny and sprawling and full of eccentric, interesting folks.” Read more…)

Citizenfour (Oscar winner, government surveillance, civil liberties, Edward Snowden. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “There are two ways to look at ‘Citizenfour,’ Laura Poitras’ documentary about Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose revelations of widespread surveillance launched a hundred Op-Ed columns a year ago. The first and most obvious is as a piece of advocacy journalism, a goad to further argument about how security and transparency should be balanced in a democracy, about how governments abuse technology, about how official secrets are kept and exposed. The second is as a movie, an elegant and intelligent contribution to the flourishing genre of dystopian allegory… Cinema, even in the service of journalism, is always more than reporting, and focusing on what Ms. Poitras’s film is about risks ignoring what it is. It’s a tense and frightening thriller that blends the brisk globe-trotting of the ‘Bourne’ movies with the spooky, atmospheric effects of a Japanese horror film. And it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state.” Read more…)

New Foreign
La_SapienzaLa Sapienza (Italy, drama, Fabrizio Rongione. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The characters in ‘La Sapienza,’ Eugène Green’s new film, tend to look directly into the camera when they speak, to speak clearly and grammatically, and to refrain from interrupting one another. The rhythm of the editing is similarly deliberate: The camera looks at one person, then another, and patiently surveys a landscape or the interior of an old and magnificent building. This graceful, unhurried style, with its blend of austerity and artifice and its roots in classical French theatrical traditions, is Mr. Green’s signature. American by birth and ardently European by residence and vocation, he elevates formal decorum to a moral principle. ‘La Sapienza,’ quiet and conversational as it seems, is a passionate defense of — and perhaps also an elegy for — an old and dignified ideal of civilization.” Read more…)

War Witch (Democratic Republic of the Congo, war drama, Rachel Mzanza. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The fourth feature directed by Kim Nguyen, a Montreal-based filmmaker of Vietnamese descent, ‘War Witch’ shows a lot of gunfire but little actual bloodshed. There is nothing so overtly grisly that you might want to avert your eyes. This discretion lends the film an almost disembodied feeling, as if the horrors Komona witnesses and perpetuates were somehow unreal to her, although they are not.” Read more…)

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (France, thriller, Michel Houellebecq. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 64. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A fictional movie or perhaps not exactly, ‘The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq’ had its premiere at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, a year before the Charlie Hebdo killings. There’s no direct connection between the movie and the murders, but both are part of that contested terrain known as Michel Houellebecq. By this, I mean less the real Mr. Houellebecq [whoever he is] than that site in which writerly production meets intellectual validation or condemnation, vociferous public debate and political denunciation. It is this site, this authorial marker that is presumably on view in ‘The Kidnapping,’ a divertingly eccentric, often comically absurd movie about a novelist, also named Michel Houellebecq, who finds something like happiness after being abducted.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Great Gatsby (1939, drama, Alan Ladd. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. From Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review [log-in required]: “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story of the ‘prohibition crowd,’ which he told with real irony and pity in ‘The Great Gatsby’ back in 1925, has been brought to the screen by Paramount with particular emphasis upon the aspects of the sentimental romance that formed the thread of the novel’s fragile plot. Except for a few pictorial tracings of parties and brittle high-life, the flavor of the Prohibition era is barely reflected in this new film at the Paramount. Indeed, there are reasons for suspecting that Paramount selected this old tale primarily as a standard conveyance for the image of its charm boy, Alan Ladd. For most of the tragic implications and bitter ironies of Mr. Fitzgerald’s work have gone by the board in allowing for the generous exhibition of Mr. Ladd.” Read more…)

New British (Commonwealth) DVDs
Harry (New Zealand police drama, Oscar Knightley)

New TV
The Good Wife: Season 6 (legal drama, Julianna Margulies)

New Documentaries
CitizenfourCitizenfour (Oscar winner, government surveillance, civil liberties, Edward Snowden. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “There are two ways to look at ‘Citizenfour,’ Laura Poitras’ documentary about Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose revelations of widespread surveillance launched a hundred Op-Ed columns a year ago. The first and most obvious is as a piece of advocacy journalism, a goad to further argument about how security and transparency should be balanced in a democracy, about how governments abuse technology, about how official secrets are kept and exposed. The second is as a movie, an elegant and intelligent contribution to the flourishing genre of dystopian allegory… Cinema, even in the service of journalism, is always more than reporting, and focusing on what Ms. Poitras’s film is about risks ignoring what it is. It’s a tense and frightening thriller that blends the brisk globe-trotting of the ‘Bourne’ movies with the spooky, atmospheric effects of a Japanese horror film. And it is also a primal political fable for the digital age, a real-time tableau of the confrontation between the individual and the state.” Read more…)

Iris (Albert Maysles doc, artist bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are few better ways right now to spend 80 movie minutes than to see ‘Iris,’ a delightful eye-opener about life, love, statement eyeglasses, bracelets the size of tricycle tires and the art of making the grandest of entrances. Directed by Albert Maysles — one half of the legendary documentary team that made ‘Grey Gardens’ — this is a documentary about a very different kind of woman who holds your imagination from the moment she appears. You can’t take your eyes off Iris Apfel [she wouldn’t have it any other way], but, then, why would you want to?” Read more…)