Hank’s Recommendations 11/25/14

hank_paperGOD’S POCKET

A dark, bleak, original film with a great cast (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, John Turturro and John Slattery), GOD’S POCKET authentically recreates a Philadelphia neighborhood down at its heels but not its resilience. Hoffman plays a resident with heart and loyalty, a lot of debt, an inability to please his wife and a body he can’t bury. With some of the intensity and atmosphere of “Mystic River” (though not its operatic melodrama), and featuring a suitably valedictory performance by Hoffman (far deeper and wider than his performance in “A Most Wanted Man”), this black comedy is vivid, moving and real.

COLD IN JULY

A decent homeowner shoots dead a home invader and soon finds himself in over his head and his life transformed. A suspenseful, twisty mystery thriller, COLD IN JULY stars Dexter’s Michael C. Hall displaying his considerable acting chops, Sam Shepard (who seems to be in every other movie these days) and a weathered and amusing Don Johnson, who delightfully offers up his own evergreen, sardonic acting chops. With a plot as unusual as the title suggests, this is an entertaining film with, no doubt, the welcome promise of further Don Johnson roles.

THIRD PERSON

That rare thing today—an adult drama. Written and directed by Paul Haggis, who brought us the Best Picture Oscar-winning CRASH, about racial tension in L.A., THIRD PERSON also offers a great ensemble cast (including Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, James Franco, Maria Bello and Kim Bassinger) throwing a wide net over the issues of relationship: caring, risking, protecting. Watching” becomes a key word in this Haggis script as we follow three couples in three cities, with some triangulation of interconnection. Critics were mixed on this ambitious concept, and I suspect many will love or hate it. Watch it, take a risk and see if you care. I did.

21 HOURS IN MUNICH

Two penetrating films about the vengeful aftermath of the so-called “Munich massacre” of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games in 1972 (the Israeli film SWORD OF GIDEON and Steven Spielberg’s MUNICH) were preceded by 21 HOURS IN MUNICH, a 1976 star-studded TV movie that describes the massacre and hostage-taking itself. Written by Howard Fast and starring William Holden as a police chief standing off against Franco Nero as the chief Arab terrorist and hostage-holder, this two-Emmy nominated film is briskly paced and suspenseful throughout, justifying its 200 minute length. The behind-the-scenes negotiations between Germany and Israel in determining responsibility for a response, while trying to strategize a tricky, hoped-for resolution, is a fascinating story in itself, grippingly played out by an expert cast.

New releases 9/30/14

 Top Hits

Chef (drama/comedy, Jon Favreau. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 68. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Food, glorious food! Whatever else it does or doesn’t do, ‘Chef,’ Jon Favreau’s good-natured culinary comedy, works as an appetite stimulant. And where there’s delicious food — plenty is shown being prepared, served and devoured — there’s life.” Read more…)

Transformers: Age of Extinction (sci-fi action, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 32. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’ the fourth film in an apparently inexhaustible, profoundly exhausting series based on Hasbro toys, raises, not for the first time, a basic question: Who are these movies for? This one, like its predecessors, is likely to make a lot of money all over the world, but that only makes the matter more puzzling. The ‘Transformers’ franchise seems like the most baldly and cynically commercial calculation imaginable — it is merchandising-based entertainment at its purest — and yet somehow it does not pander. Certainly not to women, who are on screen mainly to be ogled, shamed and rescued.” Read more…)

Third Person (drama, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 24%. Metacritic: 37. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The movie, which runs an interminable 137 minutes, is nothing if not ambitious. Mr. Haggis has cited Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Blow-Up’ as an inspiration. ‘Thirs Person’ is so meticulously acted by the ensemble that you are almost seduced into believing that its parts add up to a grand overview of the human condition, especially as it relates to love. But they don’t, because the main characters are shallow, selfish nincompoops, and there is no love in sight — just its absence — as these mutually suspicious go-getters jockey for advantage.” Read more…)

Decoding Annie Parker (drama, Samantha Morton. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 56. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Decoding Annie Parker’ is considerably better than the kind of disease-of-the-week fare that used to be a television cliché. In today’s colder emotional climate, the mystique of medical technology is supplanting weepy spirituality as the default mode of movies about serious illness. Tears are shed in ‘Decoding Annie Parker,’ but they aren’t accompanied by the kind of sad, misty soundtrack music that can leave you feeling used and abused. Instead of jerking tears, the movie edifies.” Read more…)

Maybe Tomorrow (drama, Dominik Tiefenthaler. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 68.)
Aeromedical (medicine, military, by local documentarian Rebecca Abbott, in Top Hits)

New Blu-Ray
Chef
Transformers: Age of Extinction

New Foreign
Sundays and Cybele (France, 1962, drama, Hardy Kruger. From Bosley Crowther’s 1962 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Heaven only knows for what rare virtue New York has been rewarded with the first public exhibition of a French motion-picture masterpiece. But so it has. And, what’s more, this work of beauty, known here as ‘Sundays and Cybèle,’ which was opened yesterday at the Fine Arts even before its opening in France, is almost by way of being a cinematic miracle. It is the first full-length production of a young writer-director, Serge Bourguignon. How can one give a fair impression of the exquisite, delicate charm of this wondrous story of a magical attachment between a crash-injured young man who is suffering from amnesia and a lonely little 12-year-old girl? By saying that it is what “Lolita” might conceivably have been had it been made by a poet and angled to be a rhapsodic song of innocence and not a smirking joke.” Read more…)

New Television
24: Live Another Day

New Documentaries
Ivory Tower (economics, student debt. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “‘Ivory Tower,’ a documentary about soaring costs and other problems confronting higher education, can’t seem to decide what points it wants to make and ends up making none. Parts of it seem like free advertising for the institutions it visits, which include Harvard, Arizona State University and experimental institutions like Deep Springs College. Other parts sound the already familiar lament that students come out of college with crushing debts and no prospects for the kinds of jobs that would enable them to pay off those debts.” Read more…)

Aeromedical (medicine, military, by local documentarian Rebecca Abbott, in Top Hits)