New releases 5/6/14

Top Hits
Veronica Mars (action, Kristen Bell. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 62. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The current cultural directive to give the people what they want explains the existence of the Veronica Mars movie, a likable, unmemorable, feature-length footnote to the admired television series that became a cause when it was canceled in 2007. A sleuth from the fictional, filthy rich town of Neptune, Veronica traversed high school and college for three seasons, solving mysteries while cracking wise about the privileged locals. She looked like a Southern California cheerleader and alternately talked like Sam Spade and Noam Chomsky, a combo that made her television’s very own Little Miss Sunshine and Noir.” Read more…)

The Selfish Giant (UK, drama, Conner Chapman. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times revew: “For today’s socially conscious British filmmakers, northern England is more or less what southern Italy was to the postwar neorealists: a landscape of social misery, both picturesque and harsh. Instead of a disenfranchised peasantry clinging to tradition in the face of modernity, contemporary British cinema finds a demoralized postindustrial underclass fighting for dignity at the margins of the global economy. Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, named one of the best films of 2013 by the British journal Sight & Sound, takes place in and around the West Yorkshire city of Bradford. Suggested by an Oscar Wilde fairy tale, it concerns two boys, Arbor and Swifty, whose friendship is an oasis of warmth in a cold world.” Read more…)

Still Mine (drama, James Cromwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Still Mine, like Michael Haneke’s Amour and Sarah Polley’s Away From Her, is an old-age love story told with minimal sentimentality. If Amour, with its unflinching vision of dementia, is the toughest of the three, and Away From Her is the saddest, Still Mine, directed and written by Michael McGowan, has a similar spiky integrity. Dry-eyed and observant, it refuses to pity Craig and Irene Morrison [James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold], the aged couple at its center.” Read more…)

New British
The Selfish Giant (UK, drama, Conner Chapman, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times revew: “For today’s socially conscious British filmmakers, northern England is more or less what southern Italy was to the postwar neorealists: a landscape of social misery, both picturesque and harsh. Instead of a disenfranchised peasantry clinging to tradition in the face of modernity, contemporary British cinema finds a demoralized postindustrial underclass fighting for dignity at the margins of the global economy. Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, named one of the best films of 2013 by the British journal Sight & Sound, takes place in and around the West Yorkshire city of Bradford. Suggested by an Oscar Wilde fairy tale, it concerns two boys, Arbor and Swifty, whose friendship is an oasis of warmth in a cold world.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Players Club (1998, comedy/drama, Ice Cube, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. From Janet Maslin’s 1998 New York Times review [m,ay require log-in]: “The rapper Ice Cube makes his directorial debut with The Players Club, a hearty throwback to the formula behind 70’s blaxploitation films: sex, violence, cash, trash and flash. Set in what is euphemistically called ‘a gentleman’s club,’ it constructs a 100 percent predictable soap opera around clean-cut Diana Armstrong [LisaRaye], who is a college student and single mom. ‘All this dancin’, and finals was just around the corner!’ she complains, articulating the film’s central dilemma: Diana is wholesome and nice, but she has to strut her stuff at the club for fiscal reasons.” Read more…)

Richard Pryor 2-Movie Collection (in Top Hits):
Moving (1988, comedy, Richard Pryor)
Greased Lightning (1977, comedy, Richard Pryor)

New Documentaries
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (bio, sports, politics, history, Muhammad Ali. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was not the only American to refuse to serve during the Vietnam War, but he was, by some measures, the most famous, the loudest and the baddest. Tracing the road to Mr. Ali’s act of defiance in 1967, Bill Siegel’s film The Trials of Muhammad Ali tries to recover the cultural éclat of the moment after decades of pop-history shorthand have reduced it to sound bites about the Vietcong.” Read more…)

These Birds Walk (Pakistani runaways, society. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s Times review: “Asad, a kind young van driver in Karachi, Pakistan, carries two kinds of passengers: lost children and corpses. He takes the children to a home for runaways or back to their parents; he is paid [usually] for the corpses. These Birds Walk, a fleet-footed and exquisitely shot and scored documentary, follows Asad’s drives but circles back to the home, which employs him. It’s a purgatorial place, but the film’s directors, Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq, have bottled its residents’ quicksilver lives, as well as the light that streams in.” Read more…)

The Story of the Jews (history, religion, ethnicity, Simon Schama)