New Releases 9/15/15

Top Hits
Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson bio-pic, Paul Dano. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The first thing you see in ‘Love & Mercy’ is an extreme close-up of Brian Wilson’s ear. It’s a startling image, and it holds out a twofold promise: that the film will take viewers inside its protagonist’s head and that it will pay particular attention to the role that sound played in his life. For the most part, this movie, a smart, compassionate, refreshingly unconventional biopic directed by Bill Pohlad, makes good on both promises, exploring the mental world and the artistic method of a great artist. It’s a loving tribute to the Beach Boys and the man responsible for their distinctive sound, but it goes to deeper and stranger places than most movies of its kind.” Read more…)

The Overnight (drama/romance, Adam Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 65. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Bland meets bold in ‘The Overnight,’ a comedy that coyly dips its toe and a few other body parts in the new sexual revolution. With its couple-on-couple story, the movie comes across as a skittish redo of Paul Mazursky’s 1969 sex comedy, ‘Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,’ about two chummy straight married couples who end up between the sheets together.” Read more…)

Cinderella (live action Disney fairy tale, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 67. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Poor Cinderella — she still can’t catch a break. In the 1950 Disney animated musical, her friendly neighborhood mice know the score and give it song: ‘Night and day, it’s Cinderelly! ‘Make the fire, fix-a breakfast, wash the dishes, do the mopping, and the sweeping and the dusting.’ They always keep her hopping!’ In Disney’s latest version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, the mice stick to squeaking and look about as real as most computer-generated rodents. And, fascinatingly, much remains the same, including a fairy tale that opens with clear skies but soon plays the poor-little-girl blues before you-know-who comes along. ‘Maleficent’ and its revisionism are so last year. Why Cinderella, why now? If you’re the Walt Disney Company the answer can only be: Why not?” Read more…)

United Passions (sports drama, Gerard Depardieu. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 1. From Danie; M. Gold’s New York Times review: “‘United Passions’ is one of the most unwatchable films in recent memory, a dishonest bit of corporate-suite sanitizing that’s no good even for laughs. Directed by Frédéric Auburtin from a script he wrote with Jean-Paul Delfino, “United Passions” tracks the rise of the World Cup through three FIFA presidents: Jules Rimet [Gérard Depardieu], who thought up the tournament in the 1920s; João Havelange [Sam Neill], who expanded its reach in the ’70s and ’80s; and particularly [Sepp] Blatter [Tim Roth], who came aboard in the ’70s and succeeded Mr. Havelange in the ’90s.” Read more…)

Furious_7Furious 7 (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In a recent interview in Variety, Vin Diesel predicted that ‘Furious 7’ would win the best picture Oscar at next year’s Academy Awards. ‘Unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever,’ he added, though that issue may already be settled. If Mr. Diesel’s prophecy doesn’t come true, it won’t necessarily be a matter of merit. Movies much worse than this lucky-number episode of an overachieving franchise — movies far less sure of their intentions, sincere in their themes or kind to their audiences — have snapped up statuettes. There will no doubt be better movies released in 2015, but ‘Furious 7’ is an early favorite to win the prize for most picture.” Read more…)

Closer to the Moon (Cold War-era historical drama, Vera Farmiga. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 47. Fropm Manohla Dargis’ new York Times revew: “‘Closer to the Moon,’ a fictionalized tale about a weird chapter in Romanian history, tries hard to slap a smiley face on a calamity. In 1959, a group of formerly true-believing Romanian Communists, all Jewish, did the unthinkable when they robbed a branch of the state [and only] bank. They were soon caught, but the story went from curious to crackpot when officials decided that the robbers would portray themselves in a state-produced film titled ‘Reconstruction,’ recreating their gangsta roles with secret meetings, gats and getaway cars.” Read more…)

Nightingale (psychological drama, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 67. From Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times television review: “‘Titanic’ may be one of the most technically ambitious and expensive movies ever made, but ‘Nightingale,’ a film that will be shown Friday on HBO, seems even harder to pull off because it is so astoundingly simple. This is an 83-minute film set in a single location with only one actor. There are no dream sequences, flashbacks or special effects. And within those confines, the star, David Oyelowo [‘Selma’], is nothing less than amazing. Mr. Oyelowo gives a riveting, disorienting and suspenseful tour of an unraveling mind.” Read more…)

Reality (satire, Alain Chabat. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 55. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The indecipherability of ‘Reality,’ the latest absurdist deathtrap from Quentin Dupieux [‘Rubber,’ ‘Wrong’], begins with its title: ‘Reality’ is actually the name of a girl [Kyla Kenedy] who spots a blue VHS tape inside the guts of the hog her father has shot. A hog ingesting a videotape — or even the continued use of tapes — makes as much sense as anything else in this sardonic, self-devouring comedy, in which dreams, movies within movies and reality [such as it is] mix.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Reality

New Foreign
The Boxer’s Omen (Hong Kong, 1983, martial arts, Kao Lei)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Crime and Punishment (1935, crime drama based on Dostoievsky novel, Peter Lorre. From Andre Sennwald’s 1935 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The shadow of Dostoievsky slants darkly across Josef von Sternberg’s ambitious and prettily photographed screen version of ‘Crime and Punishment,’ at the Radio City Music Hall. It broods sardonically over Mr. von Sternberg’s carefully lighted canvases, in his master-mind murderer, his ingenue harlot and his pedestrian police inspector. Although Peter Lorre is occasionally able to give the film a frightening pathological significance, this is scarcely Dostoievsky’s drama of a tortured brain drifting into madness with a terrible secret. It is Dostoievsky eviscerated and converted into nickel-plate detective melodrama. The production is handsome and as we might expect from a cameraman of Mr. von Sternberg’s skill, visually striking. But the major virtues of the film end there.” Read more…)

New British
Happy Valley (mini-series drama, Sarah Lancashire. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. From Mike Hale’s new York Times television review: “‘Happy Valley’ is, more than anything, a tour de force for its star, Sarah Lancashire, a veteran actress best known for her stint on the nighttime soap opera ‘Coronation Street.'” Read more…)

Arthur & George (period mystery, Martin Clunes. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 73.)

New TV
AquariusAquarius: Season 1 (cop series set in the 1960s, David Duchovny. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 58. From Alessandra Staney’s New York Times television review: “Sixties music is a vital part of ‘Aquarius,’ an NBC series set in 1967 Los Angeles, but one of the classic songs not on the soundtrack is ‘For What It’s Worth.’ That Buffalo Springfield hit is best known by the line ‘Stop, children, what’s that sound’ and is woven into almost every retrospective look at the counterculture. Written by Stephen Stills in 1966, ‘For What It’s Worth’ wasn’t about Vietnam; it was inspired by the Sunset Strip teenage riots, protests against a curfew that often ended in clashes with the police and arrests. A teenage riot features prominently in the first episode of ‘Aquarius,’ so in this context, the Buffalo Springfield song couldn’t be more fitting. The show’s creators preferred to avoid the obvious. Unusual choices can be found throughout ‘Aquarius,’ and they are part of what makes this drama so good.” Read more…)

Empire: Season 1 (hip-hop industry drama, Terrence Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Alessandra Staney’s New York Rimes television review: “‘Empire,’ a series that begins Wednesday on Fox, is a classic ’80s-era nighttime soap opera retrofitted for the age of Jay Z and Beyoncé. There is glitz, bling, skulduggery and family feuding, played out to the pounding rhythm of hip-hop and rap. The story is not surprising — almost every turn seems obvious and a little hackneyed — but it is surprisingly enjoyable.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (true crime, Robert Durst. Metacritic: 76. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “What’s clear, and not surprising, is that ‘The Jinx’ is a beautifully put together documentary in the Errol Morris mode — the influence of ‘The Thin Blue Line’ is paramount — that’s as engrossing and easy to watch as any dark, high-class cable crime drama. Mr. Jarecki uses the entire toolbox, including extensive re-enactments and moody, staged scene-setting shots. His years of work on the story are reflected in the panoply of material he deploys: not just the usual crime-scene photos and TV news clips but also pages from the missing wife’s diary, tapes of Mr. Durst’s prison phone calls and video from a sealed deposition given by his brother Douglas, who refused to be interviewed by Mr. Jarecki.” Read more…)