New releases 3/14/17

Top Hits
Fences (August Wilson drama, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “But even as it properly foregrounds [playwright August] Wilson’s dialogue — few playwrights have approached his genius for turning workaday vernacular into poetry — ‘Fences’ is much more than a filmed reading. Mr. Washington has wisely resisted the temptation to force a lot of unnecessary cinema on the play. The action ventures beyond Troy and Rose’s yard — into their house and onto the street, mostly — to give them a bit more room to move and the audience a little more to look at. Confinement, however, is a theme implied in the play’s title, and opening it up too much would risk diluting the power of watching large personalities colliding in a narrow place.” Read more…)

Passengers (sci-fi, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 41. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “At its most gripping, “Passengers,” directed by Morten Tyldum [‘The Imitation Game’] from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts [a collaborator on the scripts for ‘The Darkest Hour,’ ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Doctor Strange’], conveys the panic and despair of finding yourself trapped in a luxurious corporate prison in the middle of nowhere. Solitary confinement, even amid opulence, is solitary torture.” Read more…)

Collateral Beauty (drama/romance, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 12%. Metacritic: 23. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The five stages of grief sometimes seem applicable to movie reviewing, except that I usually skip denial, rarely get around to acceptance and generally just settle into anger, which is where I am with ‘Collateral Beauty.’ Many of the words that I would like to use to describe this waste of talent and time, which riffs on Dickens’s eternal ‘A Christmas Carol’ and tries to manufacture feeling by offing Tiny Tim, can’t be lobbed in a family publication. So, instead, I will just start by throwing out some permissible insults: artificial, clichéd, mawkish, preposterous, incompetent, sexist, laughable, insulting.” Ouch! Read more…)

Elle (drama, Isabelle Huppert. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The opening scene of ‘Elle’  is a shocker: a brutal sexual assault witnessed by a house cat and filmed with pitiless detachment. “The opposite of a trigger warning,” as a friend of mine said. Everything that follows is, in some ways, even more shocking, as the movie — a masterpiece of suave perversity, directed by Paul Verhoeven — leads its audience through a meticulously constructed maze of ambiguity, scrambling our assumptions and expectations at every turn, dispensing discomfort and delight and daring us to distinguish one from the other.” Read more…)

Shanghai (thriller, John Cusack. Rotten Tomatoes: 4%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It is never a good sign when a movie produced and distributed throughout much of Asia in 2010 doesn’t make its American theatrical debut until five years later. And given the temperamental and editorial idiosyncrasies of the Weinstein Company, which executive-produced and controls distribution of ‘Shanghai,’ a period espionage thriller directed by Mikael Hafstrom, you might be forgiven for expecting either an unfairly squelched masterpiece or an unholy mess.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Fences
Elle
Passengers

New Foreign
Being 17 (France, coming of age gay drama, Kacey Mottet Klein. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “To fight or to fall in love: That is the choice two antagonistic high school classmates face in ‘Being 17,’ a touching drama about raging hormones, bullying and sexual awakening — and the strongest film in many years by the post-New Wave French director André Téchiné.” Read more…)

Canoa (Mexico, history-based drama, Enrique Lucero, Criterion Collection)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Last Best Year (1990, drama, Mary Tyler Moore. From John J. O’Connor’s 1990 New York Times TV review [requires log-in]: In tonight’s exquisitely crafted ABC movie, Ms. Peters plays Jane Murray, a gifted career woman who, while being dumped by her married lover, discovers that she has cancer. Not wanting to be a burden on anyone, Jane is ready to withdraw from life and leave quietly. But her doctor urges her to see Wendy Allen, a psychologist, portrayed by Ms. Moore. What takes place is that rare occurrence in films of any sort — a female bonding. Coming to know each other closely and deeply, the two women begin discovering who they are in their own separate ways.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
For the Love of Spock (bio, television history, Leonard Nimoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 74. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “At the outset of his documentary ‘For the Love of Spock,’ the director Adam Nimoy [son of Leonard Nimoy] imparts its origins. He intended to examine his father’s ‘Star Trek’ character, Mr. Spock, and his place in culture for that franchise’s 50th anniversary. But in February 2015, Leonard Nimoy died, and the project became more of a tribute to his life. This film nimbly straddles biography and ‘Trek’ valentine [Adam is a longtime television director], but also recounts the fraught if ultimately devoted ties between Adam and Leonard.” Read more…)