New Releases 08/06/13

Top Hits
Mud (drama, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The central image in Mud, Jeff Nichols’s deft and absorbing third feature, is of a boat in a tree. It’s the kind of phenomenon — a caprice of nature that is absurd but also wondrous — designed to enchant adventurous children like Ellis [Tye Sheridan] and Neckbone [Jacob Lofland], two Arkansas boys who discover the boat on an overgrown island in the Mississippi River. They also discover the fellow who claims to own, or at least inhabit, the vessel, a leathery loner whose name is Mud. Mud is played by Matthew McConaughey, in the latest in a series of surprising, intense and often very funny performances following his escape from the commercial romantic-comedy penal colony. Magic MikeThe Paperboy, The Lincoln Lawyer  and Bernie are all very different [and differently imperfect] movies, but in all of them, and in Mud, Mr. McConaughey commands attention with a variation on a certain kind of Southern character: handsome but battered, charming but also sinister, his self-confidence masking a history of bad luck and trouble.” Read more…)

Oblivion (science fiction, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “If only it were less easy to laugh at Oblivion, a lackluster science-fiction adventure with Tom Cruise that, even before its opening, was groaning under the weight of its hard-working, slowly fading star and a title that invites mockery of him and it both. The agony of being a longtime Tom Cruise fan has always been a burden, but now it’s just, well, dispiriting.” Read more…)

The Sapphires (drama/music, Chris O’Dowd. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Sapphires tells the story of an all-female singing quartet on the way to stardom in the 1960s. As is usual in such tales, the group, known as the Cummeragunja Songbirds before their gemological rechristening, faces its share of obstacles, but in spite of internal disharmony and tough circumstances, the singers’ voices rarely falter. The movie itself, directed by Wayne Blair from a script by Keith Thompson and Tony Briggs, is sort of the opposite — a solid, stirring song sung with more sincerity than polish. [It is inspired by a true story; one of the real Sapphires, Beverly Briggs, is Mr. Briggs’s mother.] But the raggedness of The Sapphires can’t be separated from its exuberant charm. Like the Sapphires themselves, the film is determined to muscle its way into your heart, which would have to be a lump of gristle to resist it.” Read more…)

The Place Beyond the Pines (crime drama, Ryan Gosling. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Set in and around Schenectady, N.Y. [whose Mohawk name is evoked in the title], The Place Beyond the Pines has a lot to say about class, manhood and the curious operations of fate, themes that [director Derek] Cianfrance articulates with blunt conviction and, at times, impressive artistry. He goes on too long: the three-part story, spread over nearly two and a half hours, represents a triumph of sympathetic imagination and a failure of narrative economy. But if, in the end, the film can’t quite sustain its epic vision, it does, along the way, achieve the density and momentum of a good novel.” Read more…)

To the Wonder (romance/drama, Ben Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In Terrence Malick’s films — he has made six so far, three in this century — it is usually possible to discern, beneath the blossoms of metaphor and the philosophical foliage, the trellis of a more or less conventional plot. The Thin Red Line is a combat picture. The Tree of Life is a nostalgic coming-of-age story. And To the Wonder, Mr. Malick’s latest, is a romantic melodrama whose major characters fall tragically and beautifully in and out of love.” Read more…)

West of Memphis (documentary, law, justice system. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “West of Memphis, a work of fierce documentary advocacy directed by Amy Berg [Deliver Us From Evil], follows the successful crusade to free three men convicted of murder 18 years ago in a sloppy, hysterical rush to justice…. A variation of the same drama is told in The Central Park Five, the recent documentary about five teenagers wrongly convicted of raping and beating a Central Park jogger in 1989. The two films are among the latest in a rash of documentaries that strongly emphasize the importance of DNA evidence in criminal cases.” Read more…)

Cloudburst (lesbian romance/road movie, Olympia Dukakis. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
The Place Beyond the Pines
Oblivion
To the Wonder
Mud

New Foreign
Paradise: Love (Germany, drama/sex tourism, Margarethe Tiesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The Austrian writer and director Ulrich Seidl is one of a number of European filmmakers — less a school than a tendency — for whom sadism is a tool of ethical and political enlightenment. Like his compatriot Michael Haneke [most notably in Caché, Code Unknown and both versions of Funny Games] and the Danish provocateur Lars von Trier  [in his pseudo-American movies Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Manderlay], Mr. Seidl sets out to expose the bad faith and complacency of the liberal West, and to rub his viewers’ noses in their own complicity with the exploitative cruelty of the current world order. His new film, Paradise: Love [the first installation in a trilogy that will open in the United States in the coming months], is a tour de force of meticulous cruelty, a comic melodrama that elicits laughter and empathy and then replaces those responses with squirming discomfort.” Read more…)

The Silence (Germany, drama/thriller, Ulrich Thomsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The film, based on a novel by Jan Costin Wagner, unfolds a bit like an episode of the long-running CBS television series Criminal Minds, pivoting from perpetrators to investigators to the families of victims and creating suspense less from the classic whodunit question than from the when and why. Some of the characterizations seem a bit too on the nose: the retired policeman [Burghart Klaussner] still obsessed with the earlier crime; the calm, disciplined killer [Ulrich Thomsen] and his weak-willed sidekick; the detective [Sebastian Blomberg] half-crazed with grief over the recent death of his wife. But the names in those parentheses supply a strong reason to see The Silence, along with some others, notably Katrin Sass (in the role of the first girl’s mother) and Roeland Wiesnekker (as the second victim’s father). These actors are partly responsible for the current flourishing of German-language cinema… and [director Baran bo] Odar gives them plenty of room to work.” Read more…)

New British
Midsomer Murders: Set 22

New TV
The Borgias: Season 3
Political Animals: The Complete Series

New Documentaries
West of Memphis (law, justice system, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “West of Memphis, a work of fierce documentary advocacy directed by Amy Berg [Deliver Us From Evil], follows the successful crusade to free three men convicted of murder 18 years ago in a sloppy, hysterical rush to justice…. A variation of the same drama is told in The Central Park Five, the recent documentary about five teenagers wrongly convicted of raping and beating a Central Park jogger in 1989. The two films are among the latest in a rash of documentaries that strongly emphasize the importance of DNA evidence in criminal cases.” Read more…)

Sushi: The Global Catch (food, environmental issues. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 57. From Rachel Saltz’s New York Times review: “[Director Mark] Hall’s film has both a story and a mission. The story involves how sushi went from being a local specialty in Japan, where some chefs still undergo rigorous training — it takes two years to master rice making alone — to a food available seemingly everywhere and in every way. [Consider, for example, the Sushi Popper, a sushi roll packaged like ice cream push-ups.] That story leads directly to the mission: The abundance of new consumers has meant the dramatic depletion of some species, especially the bluefin tuna, the Porsche of the seas.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Cloudburst (lesbian romance/road movie, Olympia Dukakis, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)