New Releases 07/09/13

Top Hits
Spring Breakers (crime/drama, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Welcome to the party, dude, [director Harmony] Korine seems to be saying [or is he snickering?], now sit back, relax and enjoy the show. He proves an excellent ringmaster and a crafty one too. In Spring Breakers he bores into a contested, deeply American topic — the pursuit of happiness taken to nihilistic extremes — but turns his exploration into such a gonzo, outrageously funny party that it takes a while to appreciate that this is more of a horror film than a comedy.” Read more…)

Dead Man Down (action, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 39. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Such is Dead Man Down, a thriller that piles on its absurdities so fast and with such apparent obliviousness that you hope (pray) you’ll soon be watching either a diverting art-film intervention, like Werner Herzog’s remake of Bad Lieutenant, or joy riding with one of those rarest of screen delights: the demented howler. Dead Man Down, unfortunately, turns out to be too innocuous to qualify as either actually good or delectably bad. Yet while Colin Farrell and his sensitive, hardworking eyebrows help keep it from becoming a full-bore lampoon, the gangland clichés, nutty plot and seemingly random casting choices [F. Murray Abraham, Armand Assante, Isabelle Huppert] stoke your hopes that true movie madness may rise out of the darkening shadows and pessimism.” Read more…)

Boy (New Zealand, drama, James Rollesten. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From David DeWitt’s Times review: “Next year’s Oscars, if they were to include the just-for-fun idea of outstanding performance by a setting, should have a nominee in Boy. This movie from New Zealand, filmed in a Maori village near the Bay of Plenty, belongs in the pantheon of quaint and quirky locales that make for memorable films. At least I hope so, for Boy explores the area’s rugged natural beauty without ignoring its poverty — and, more important, without expecting place to do all the work of the movie. This unpretentious comic tale of a youngster’s growing relationship with a long-absent father has a surprising rhythmic genius: joy juxtaposed with humiliation, silliness with sadness, fantasy with reality, and none of it formulaic. The editing feels fresh, as does the film.” Read more…)

Admission (comedy, Tina Fey. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 48. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “I must confess that I don’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Admission, which had the potential to be a sharp, satirical jab at the soft belly of middle-class anxiety, chose instead to be a warm and wacky fable of wish fulfillment. [director Paul] Weitz lines up a target placed at the explosive intersection of class, race, region and every other source of societal anguish, and then does not so much miss as aim in another direction — or several — letting fly a volley of darts that land as lightly as badminton birdies.” Read more…)

The Gatekeepers (Israel/Palestinian conflict. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Gatekeepers, a new documentary by the Israeli director Dror Moreh, consists of interviews with six men, all of them retired, most of them bald, one of them a grandfatherly type, well into his 80s, in suspenders and a plaid shirt. They reminisce about past triumphs and frustrations, but Mr. Moreh’s amazing, upsetting film, which opens Monday for a weeklong awards-qualifying run in advance of a wider release next year, is the opposite of nostalgic. It is hard to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict.” Read more…)

The Haves and the Have Nots (comedy, Palmer Williams Jr.)
The Power of Few (thriller, Christopher Walken. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%.)
Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (drama, Vanessa Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 27.)

New Foreign
The Life of Oharu (Japan, 1952, historical drama, Toshiro Mifune. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Kenji Mizoguchi, one of Japan’s most respected directors, who is known here principally for his highly poetic period drama Ugetsu, is again involved in the stylized past in Life of Oharu, which was shown here for the first time yesterday at the Toho Cinema. As an evocation of a noble-ridden society that took unheeding toll of its lower castes, the film makes a sharp, if obvious, point. But the basic story, slowly unfolded with the majestic solemnity of vignettes on silk screens, is as obvious and lachrymose as a soap opera.” Read more…)

Boy (New Zealand, drama, James Rollesten, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 70.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From David DeWitt’s Times review: “Next year’s Oscars, if they were to include the just-for-fun idea of outstanding performance by a setting, should have a nominee in Boy. This movie from New Zealand, filmed in a Maori village near the Bay of Plenty, belongs in the pantheon of quaint and quirky locales that make for memorable films. At least I hope so, for Boy explores the area’s rugged natural beauty without ignoring its poverty — and, more important, without expecting place to do all the work of the movie. This unpretentious comic tale of a youngster’s growing relationship with a long-absent father has a surprising rhythmic genius: joy juxtaposed with humiliation, silliness with sadness, fantasy with reality, and none of it formulaic. The editing feels fresh, as does the film.” Read more…)

New TV
Portlandia: Season 3

New Docs
The Gatekeepers (Israel/Palestinian conflict, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Gatekeepers, a new documentary by the Israeli director Dror Moreh, consists of interviews with six men, all of them retired, most of them bald, one of them a grandfatherly type, well into his 80s, in suspenders and a plaid shirt. They reminisce about past triumphs and frustrations, but Mr. Moreh’s amazing, upsetting film, which opens Monday for a weeklong awards-qualifying run in advance of a wider release next year, is the opposite of nostalgic. It is hard to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict.” Read more…)