Pick Of The Week: New
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros.)
Now that it’s over, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy seems likely to be remembered as the definitive populist statement of our time. Some may be irritated by the prospect—whether they’re wary of Hollywood’s market blitz of superhero movies and/or they wish Nolan’s movies would lighten up a little—but it still seems miraculous that Nolan could make three films that reflect the fear and anxiety of post-9/11 America while still satisfying audiences as mega-budgeted action spectacles. The Dark Knight Rises has the difficult task of paying off the previous two entries while working as a standalone finale, but Nolan introduces a great villain in Bane (Tom Hardy) and turns the film into a telling Rorschach test for people of every ideological persuasion. Special features include an hour-long documentary on the Batmobile and a “Second Screen app” for smartphone or tablet users who want some background on scenes as they unfold.
Pick Of The Week: Retro
Purple Noon (Criterion)
René Clément’s Purple Noon was destined for inexplicable obscurity before Martin Scorsese backed a restoration and rerelease in 1996 that brought it renewed attention. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, the film stars Alain Delon on the great shapeshifter of the title, a man whose adeptness at shedding identities is equal to the mystery underpinning his desire to seek new ones. Sent to Italy to talk his wealthy friend (Maurice Ronet) into leaving his decadent life and returning to America to take over the family business, Delon instead attaches himself to Ronet and Ronet’s girlfriend (Marie Laforet) and eventually covets his identity for himself. The Criterion edition has an interview with a Clément scholar, and archival interviews with Delon and Highsmith.
Don’t Break The Seal
Butter (Anchor Bay)
From the let’s-make-fun-of-the-yokels school of indie political comedy, Jim Field Smith’s Sundance stinker stars Jennifer Garner as an adult variation on Tracy Flick in Election—a font of relentless positivity and diabolical ambition. Except this film isn’t about the fight for elected office, even of the low-level high-school variety, but a look at the cutthroat world of competitive butter-carving. Says The A.V. Club’s Sam Adams: “Butter is a venue for writer Jason Micallef and director Jim Field Smith to lob spitballs at people about whom they seem to know nothing, and care less. The only consolation is that, like a butter sculpture, their flavorless creation will melt in the heat, leaving behind only a greasy, rancid puddle.”
Finding Nemo (BD) (Disney)
The Blu-ray edition of the Pixar favorite turns HDTVs into the beautiful aquariums they were always intended to be. It’s also a reminder of how terrifying and wrenching the film is, with lots of hungry sharks and fish-children in peril.
The Odd Life Of Timothy Green (Disney)
The craziest-sounding movie of the summer—about a rural couple that has trouble conceiving children but winds up with the creepy, garden-grown boy of their dreams—turns out to be mere pabulum. A letdown for fans of laughing at dumb, weird movies.
Hope Springs (Sony)
There are times—many, in fact—when this Meryl Streep-Tommy Lee Jones drama about an aging couple looking to revitalize their marriage resembles something like actual adult behavior. Just for acknowledging the difficult of bringing romance into a marriage coasting on inertia, the film seems like Hollywood at its most radical.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Fox)
A poetic portrait of African-American fringe-dwellers outside New Orleans by a white Wesleyan grad? Beasts Of The Southern Wild has had a “Kick Me” sign on it since winning mostly raves at Sundance and beyond, but Ben Zeitlin’s slice-of-life is often resonant and features an incredible lead performance by five-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis.
Thunderstruck (Warner Bros.)
Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant is among the most electrifying and charismatic superstars in the NBA, which of course means he joins Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal in getting his own embarrassing basketball-themed fantasy movie. At least Jordan and Shaq’s movies spent some time in theaters first.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (IFC)
The Chinese art-world celebrity and political dissident Ai Weiwei has been in and out of prison and secret detention facilities for years, but the government has failed to muzzle him. Though The A.V. Club’s Keith Phipps laments that Ai’s story is still ongoing, he believes the film’s “To Be Continued…” conclusion is part of a strategy to “[raise] awareness of one man’s ongoing attempts to better the world through art.”
A strong assortment of indie filmmakers—Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, and a collected called “Radio Silence”—come together for a better-than-average found-footage horror anthology that exploits new and old video technology in innovative and terrifying ways.
Though only a mildly entertaining look into the legacy of baseball’s quirkiest pitch, this documentary confirms, through interviews with R.A. Dickey, Tim Wakefield, Phil Niekro, and Charlie Hough, that the secret to throwing a good knuckleball is being among the most amiable men in the sport.
Silent Night (Anchor Bay)
Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue, and Jaime King head up a motley cast for this remake of the ‘80s slasher non-classic Silent Night, Deadly Night, but can it possibly equal the majesty of a topless Linnea Quigley getting impaled by wall-mounted deer antlers? All signs point to “no.”
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos follows up the brilliant Dogtooth with an equally dark but more perplexing and unsatisfying allegory. The film concerns a shadow agency that offers an unusual service to help ease people through the grieving process.