New Releases 10/6/15

Top Hits
Avengers: Age of Ultron (comic book action, Robert Downey Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Another summer season, another superhero spectacular — these are the days [and nights] of our moviegoing lives. The one under review today, Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ isn’t half-bad, largely because of its director, Joss Whedon. Here’s a guess: Some viewers will love it, others will hate it, and still others will yawn at its very existence. None of this matters because the most relevant thing about a movie like this is that its quality is almost entirely irrelevant. It was created to crush the box office, entertainment media and audience resistance, and mission, you know, already accomplished. In an age of lock-step entertainment, pushback isn’t just immaterial; it is also suspect.” Read more…)

Insidious Chapter 3 (horror, Dermot Mulroney. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 52. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “In 2011, James Wan’s ‘Insidious,’ the tale of a family terrorized by malign spirits, was the little horror movie that could: On a budget of $1.5 million, it made almost $100 million worldwide. Its sequel, in 2013, cost about $5 million and took in around $162 million. How did these modest pictures, virtually devoid of gore, nudity and cursing, prove so profitable? With decent actors, for one thing. And with simple but cohesive plots, tidy production values, effective ‘Boo!’ moments and a sense of humor. What more could a 14-year-old at the mall on a Friday night ask for? Most likely, ‘Insidious: Chapter 3,’ directed by Leigh Whannell [who wrote the first two].” Read more…)

Magic_Mike_XXLMagic Mike XXL (drama, Channing Tatum. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 60.  A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “It may have been the subtlety of the [the first ‘Magic Mike’s] critique of contemporary social conditions that made it a hit, or it may have been something else. In any case, success begets sequels, and the challenge facing ‘Magic Mike XXL’ — similar to the one faced by ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ — is how to manage enlarged expectations while remaining true to the scrappy, modest authenticity of the original. Rather than trying to replay the first episode and expand on its themes, this installment tosses it all aside like a handyman’s tool belt and throws itself headlong into the intoxicating carnality of what is demurely called ‘male entertainment.’ The plot is as flimsy as a G-string and thoroughly spoiler-proof.” Read more…)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (comedy/drama, Thomas Mann. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “On paper, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ should be dreadful. That’s not quite fair. On paper, Mr. Andrews’s book is lovely: sensitive and rueful and attuned to both the solipsism and the ethical seriousness of adolescence. But it’s also full of the sort of themes, emotions and situations that can turn maudlin and embarrassing on the way from page to screen… Speaking as one such cinephile, I will confess to experiencing some irritation at the start. But I found that my resistance slowly but decisively crumbled, thanks to Mr. Gomez-Rejon’s warm, low-key direction and the perceptive, lived-in performances of Mr. Mann, Mr. Cyler and Olivia Cooke as Rachel, the film’s third title character and its riskiest proposition.” Read more…)

The New Haven Trilogy: Three Films by American Beat (New Haven history, architecture, public spaces—co-director Elihu Rubin presented a screening of “On Broadway” at Best Video Performance Space on October, 5, 2015)

New Foreign
The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (Sweden, comedy, Robert Gustafsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 58. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The film genre that might be called Old People Behaving Hilariously gets an appealing new entry with ‘The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,’ a sometimes daffy, often droll Swedish movie. Among other things, this film dares to ask the controversial question: Can a cadaver dog distinguish between a body that’s dead and one that is merely triple-digit old?” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
He Ran All the Way (1951, crime drama, John Garfield. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A very thin thread of plausibility is stretched exceedingly taut in the new melodrama at the Paramount, Bob Robert’s ‘He Ran All the Way.’ Telling a harsh and hacking story of a fugitive murderer who holes himself up in the drab apartment of a middle-class family whose members he terrorizes into keeping mum, this thriller depends for its impact upon the maintenance of belief that the family would go about its business and still keep silent — which is stretching it fine.” Read more…)

New TV
The Leftovers: Season 1 (thriller/sci-fi/supernatural HBO series, Justin Theroux. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 80. From New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley’s review: “This series may never explain what happened to the people who disappeared, but the measure of its worth is that it may not have to. As with any good drama, the mystery lies in human nature more than in the supernatural. Once the show gets going, and it takes more than one episode to do so, ‘The Leftovers’ bores into the characters and the fissures that crack their community so astutely that the cause is almost secondary.” Read more…)

American Horror Story: Season 4 Freak Show (horror series, Jessica Lange. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 69. From New York Times television critic Alessandra Stanley’s review: “This season in particular, ‘American Horror Story’ is a glorious mess, a preposterous, celebratory splatter of midcentury design, eclectic pop music and slasher-film violence. The story pays homage to Tod Browning’s 1932 cult film, ‘Freaks’ and Southern gothic, tied together with a connoisseur’s appreciation of vintage Americana and B horror movies.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief (in depth look at Scientology, director Alex Gibney. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 80. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Soon into Alex Gibney’s investigative documentary ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,’ you hear him lob a question at Lawrence Wright, the author of the 2013 nonfiction book the movie is based on. ‘Scientology is such a subject of fascination for people,’ Mr. Gibney says off camera. ‘How did you get engaged in the story?’ On camera, Mr. Wright, a staff writer for The New Yorker who functions as the movie’s leading voice of reason and rationality, explains that he’s always been interested in religions and beliefs. ‘I’ve studied Jonestown, radical Islam,’ Mr. Wright says. ‘They’re oftentimes good-hearted people, idealistic, but full of a kind of crushing certainty that eliminates doubt. You know, my goal wasn’t to write an exposé; it was simply to understand Scientology, trying to understand what people get out of it, you know, why do they go into it in the first place.’ Mr. Wright’s sober, measured screen presence makes a sharp, dissonant contrast to his reference to both radical Islam and Jonestown, words that cut through his delivery like Klaxon horns.” Read more…)

The New Haven Trilogy: Three Films by American Beat (New Haven history, architecture, public spaces—co-director Elihu Rubin presented a screening of “On Broadway” at Best Video Performance Space on October, 5, 2015)