New Releases for the Week of February 19, 2016


The WitchTHE WITCH

(A24) Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Bathsheba Garnett, Sarah Stephens, Julian Richings. Directed by Robert Eggers

In New England not too long after the Pilgrims landed, a farmer is banished from the colony and forced to move his family to a plot of land on the edge of a forest reportedly haunted by witches. Soon thereafter, unsettling things begin to happen and the eyes of the family turn to their teenage daughter, who adamantly denies that she is practicing witchcraft. However as things turn more unsettling, the family’s faith and loyalty will surely be tested. One of the most acclaimed films to come out of the 2015 Sundance Festival, it finally is hitting theaters; the critical response has been so near-unanimous with praise that the studio moved it from a limited release to a wide one.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity)

Busco Novio Para Mi Mujer

(Pantelion) Sandra Echeverria, Arath de la Torre, Jesus Ochoa, Alejandro Cuétara. A middle-aged middle class man in Mexico is fed up with his shrew of a trophy wife, so he decides to come up with a plan to end his marriage; he hires a professional seducer to sweep her off her feet and inspire her to leave him. However, when the plan works all too well, he realizes that his life is so much better with her than without her.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal The Loop

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material, some language and smoking)

Race

(Focus) Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Carice van Houten, Jeremy Irons. Jesse Owens to this day remains one of the most celebrated athletes in American history. His journey taking him from a country that looked down upon him and his race to a celebrated icon of freedom and defiance against tyranny is one that is seldom told – until now.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and language)

Risen

(TriStar) Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Peter Firth, Cliff Curtis. The crucifixion of the Christ as seen through the eyes of a Roman centurion. Wait a minute; wasn’t that the plot for Hail, Caesar?

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Biblical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for Biblical violence including some disturbing images)

Snowtime!

(Shout! Factory) Starring the voices of Angela Galuppo, Lucinda Davis, Sandra Oh, Ross Lynch. What kid doesn’t love to get a day off from school to go play in the snow? Rival groups of kids battle in the ultimate snowball fight for possession of the greatest snow fort ever built. This French animated feature makes its U.S. debut.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex

Rating: PG (for mild thematic elements and rude humor)

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The Hunt for Red October


The Hunt for Red October

Sean Connery lights up the screen.

(1990) Thriller (Paramount) Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Sam Neill, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Peter Firth, Tim Curry, Courtney B. Vance, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeffrey Jones, Fred Dalton Thompson, Tomas Arana, Gates McFadden. Directed by John McTiernan

 

There are weapons of war – planes, ships, tanks, subs – that we all know about and each side keeps tabs on and has whatever countermeasures that are available to combat them. All sides have them and it keeps things honest. What if there was a weapon of war that only one side had, one which avoided the whole Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine and gave one side a critical advantage, one which in order to have would have to be used without the knowledge of the other side?

In this classic Naval thriller set during the Cold War the Soviets have done just that. The Red October is a submarine with a propulsion system that allows it to run virtually undetected by sonar (who might mistake it for whales). This is bad news for the Americans who would never know if the sub parked itself off the Atlantic seaboard and start lobbing nukes into New York City, Washington, Boston, Philadelphia…hell all over the northeast with virtually no warning.

Captain Marko Ramius (Connery) realizes that this is the only use a sub such as this would have; the Red October has nearly zero maneuvering skills and  isn’t particularly fast. He knows that the vessel he has been tasked with taking on a trial run could mean the end of everything. Therefore he enters into a pact with his senior officers, including his second-in-command Borodin (Neill) to do the unthinkable.

In the meantime the CIA is frantic. They’ve monitored a new sub leaving the shipyards and then disappearing as monitored by the USS Dallas’ crack sonar operator Jones (Vance). His captain, Bart Mancuso (Glenn) is mystified. So is the CIA. Admiral Greer (J.E. Jones) has never heard of this kind of vessel. His expert in Soviet subs is Jack Ryan (Baldwin), an analyst who is currently living in London. They put him on the first flight to DC where he is shown some pictures of a sub with an odd pair of openings in stern. Ryan takes the pictures to a sub builder (Jeff Jones) who realizes what it could mean.

Soon it becomes apparent that something extraordinary is going on. The entire Soviet fleet is scrambled, apparently searching for something. Ryan reports his findings to the President’s defense counsel, including his most senior advisor Jeffrey Pelt (Jordan). While the military men think that this signals that an attack on the U.S. is imminent, Ryan – who wrote the C.I.A.’s analysis on Ramius suddenly realizes that Ramius might be intending to defect.

Nobody really thinks Ryan is for real but Pelt wants to hedge his bets; if he can get his hands on a piece of Soviet hardware this advanced, the opportunity has to be at least explored. He sends Ryan – who is not a field agent – to the Dallas (which is by no means an easy feat) to intercept the Red October and determine his intentions – while trying to keep out of the way of the entire Soviet and U.S. Fleet which are trying to sink her.

Jack Ryan is the creation of former insurance agent and now bestselling author Tom Clancy who has made his career out of these political thrillers with military overtones. Clancy knows his military hardware and while even at this date nothing like the Red October exists (at least to the knowledge of the general public), it certainly is within the realm of possibility.  This was the first Jack Ryan novel to make it to the screen and its success both critically and commercially paved the way for three other movies to make the transition (with a fourth scheduled for Christmas 2013).

A large reason for this is Connery. He brings dignity and gravitas to the part of Ramius. Though this is a Jack Ryan film it is Ramius you will remember and it is in many ways his show. The relationship between Ramius and Borodin is crucial in the film and Connery has some pretty believable chemistry with Neill.

The sub chase sequences are as good as any you’re likely to see with the possible exception of Das Boot. I also found the political intrigue that goes on during the movie to be second to none; you get the sense that everyone is playing a game that is unique to themselves, from the ship commanders on up to the President himself. That may well be how it is in real life.

There are some who have criticized Baldwin’s low-key performance as Ryan; certainly I think Harrison Ford nailed the part better in later versions of Jack, but I don’t think Baldwin is that bad. He plays it more intellectual and less action than Ford but that’s all right – his performance is well-suited for the film, which really makes most of its action bones with the sub duels rather than individuals. In that sense it’s the captains of the various vessels involved who make the action heroes here.

There is definitely an 80s film sensibility here (it was shot in 1989) although it would open the door for the 90s political film ethos. In a very real way this is one of the movies that transitioned the 1980s action film into the 1990s special effects film. As such it’s a classic and to my mind one of a kind. I do not necessarily agree with Clancy’s political beliefs, but the man can write an excellent story and he has done so here; I’m not entirely sure if he likes the movie that came of his imagination but I know that I do.

WHY RENT THIS: Quite realistic. Details are superb. Connery, Baldwin, Jones and Glenn are amazing. Great sets and breathtaking story.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Something of a throwback to cold war attitudes.

FAMILY VALUES:  Some violence, a few adult themes and a bit of swearing.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: When the film was released on VHS, the tape was colored red.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $200.5M on a $30M production budget; this was a blockbuster.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Das Boot

FINAL RATING: 9.5/10

NEXT: Uncertainty