New Releases 12/24/13

Top Hits
Insidious: Chapter 2 (horror, Rose Byrne. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 40. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A mess from start to finish — though, judging by the ending, this story won’t be over any time soon — Insidious: Chapter 2 is the kind of lazy, halfhearted product that gives scary movies a bad name. From its robotic acting to its generic props [enough already with the self-motivated children’s toys], this shoddy sequel, tacked together with the cynicism of a carnival barker, suggests that the director, James Wan, is long overdue for a vacation.” Read more…)

Europa Report (sci-fi, Christian Camargo. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Banishing showy effects and cheap scares, the Ecuadorean director Sebastián Cordero has meticulously shaped a number of sci-fi clichés — from the botched spacewalk to the communications breakdown — into a wondering contemplation of our place in the universe. Taking the high road throughout, he presents curious, idealistic explorers whose motives are as pure as the film’s compositions. [The production designer Eugenio Caballero and Enrique Chediak, the director of photography, are clearly a match made in heaven.]” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Insidious: Chapter 2

New Foreign
Caesar Must Die (Italy, drama, Salvatore Striano. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s easy to imagine that the performers in Caesar Must Die, a riff on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, are cut from coarser, more authentic material than that found in most productions. The movie, after all, is set in an Italian prison and cast almost entirely with real inmates. The prisoners’ rough faces and darting eyes, the crooked arc of one man’s nose and the unnervingly sly line of another’s smile, suggest so much [murder most foul, to borrow a line], as do the occasional shivery biographical asides, particularly about the mafia, that jostle alongside the play’s poetry. These men, surely, know about betrayal, vengeance and power, a knife in the gut and hands washed in blood.” Read more…)

Una Noche (Cuba, drama, Dariel Arrechaga. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The feature directorial debut of Lucy Mulloy, a New York documentarian, Una Noche surges with vitality so palpable that, for its duration, you feel as if you were living in the skins of characters often photographed in such extreme close-up that they seem to be breathing in your face. You feel the sun on their bodies and get goose bumps when they shiver from the cold.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
More Than Honey (bees, environment. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 70. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “If bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would have four years left to live. That assertion, attributed to Albert Einstein but perhaps apocryphal, is voiced in More Than Honey, a fascinating but rambling documentary about the decimation of the world’s bee population through the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Directed and written by Markus Imhoof, a Swiss filmmaker, the movie is a tutorial on the biology and social behavior of bees and their exploitation in the age of industrial agriculture. Mr. Imhoof is descended from a long line of beekeepers whose cultivation of bees and harvesting of their honey are still carried out in more or less traditional ways. The film approvingly contrasts Mr. Imhoof’s family tradition with the techniques of modern agribusiness in which bee colonies are trucked from place to place to pollinate enormous orchards.” Read more…)