The 7 Best New Releases You Can Buy In March 2014: I Don't Judge Your Method Of Delivery
Clicking movie titles takes you to Amazon and clicking author names takes you to the full review.
12 Years A Slave - March 4
“It may never be possible for those of us alive today to understand the rank horror of American slavery, but 12 Years a Slave comes closer than perhaps any other film to creating a stark, grim, unadorned look at a portion of the period of American history that will always haunt us. Based on the autobiography of Solomon Northrup, the film lays out the true story of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s, shuttling between plantations for more than a decade before he found release and returned to his wife and children. The narrative hook here is not whether he will escape — the title lays out the timeline pretty frankly, and the facts are a matter of historical record — but what will be left of him when his time is served. Because that’s what he’s doing: serving time in a prison from which he cannot escape, and one he was thrown into for no reason other than that he was born black in a country founded on the idea that he could only ever be two-thirds of a real person. His sentence is horrific, and director Steve McQueen reconstructs the story in harrowing detail. McQueen’s previous films, Hunger and Shame, dealt with human bodies as objects and the tension between spiritual resistance and physical degradation, and 12 Years a Slave continues to explore those ideas in startling, gruesome, often upsetting and absolutely necessary ways that highlight the casual evil that defined the land just a few generations ago.” - Daniel Carlson
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - March 8
“I can’t explain my own fascination with The Hunger Games, much less that of a 15-year-old eager to watch a movie where she sees a character her own age kill other kids. But where the original Hunger Games was mostly a story of survival, Catching Fire transforms the series into a tale about political upheaval. The gimmick is still there — a group of tributes are selected by the one percent to kill each other off in an elaborate games course — but in Catching Fire, the gimmick has graduated to the next level. The tributes are experienced adults, all of whom have tasted the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum, and unwillingly give that up to once again face extermination.” - Dustin Rowles
Inside Llewyn Davis - March 11
“It may be best to consider Inside Llewyn Davis in the lineage of Barton Fink and A Serious Man. The new movie shares with those two a smaller mode, played out mostly in the minor key, and like those two films finds its main character — a folk singer down on his luck, in other words a prototypic Coen brothers shmuck — freewheeling and lost. Music is his medium, and the film is full of great folk covers pastiches, loving recreated by the great T. Bone Burnett, but only because the main character needs a metier of some sort. Llewyn could be anything: the thing is that he is lost, does not fit in, and does not know where he’s going. The picture posits this best in a confrontation between Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) and his some-time lover Jean (Carey Mulligan, over-acting), in which she accuses him of not considering his own future, and he tells her she’s selling out because she wants to make a living and settle down. Llewyn is a bum — a self-absorbed, casually cruel and vain man, who looks down on the mainstream, in much the same way The Dude sees everyone else as squares in The Big Lebowski — but unlike The Dude, Llewyn wants to succeed, wants to be recognised and to belong. His tragedy is his hopefulness.” - Caspar Salmon
Frozen - March 18
“Me: What did you think of Frozen?
Kid: It was awesome. It was so awesome. It was my favorite movie ever.
Me: Really? I think it was one of my favorite kids’ movies, too.
Kid: I really loved Olaf [the snowman, voiced by Josh Gad], but I thought it was going to be a peaceful movie, but Daddy, it wasn’t a peaceful movie.
Me: No, no it wasn’t. Why did you think it would be a peaceful movie?
Kid: Because I just thought it would be about the snowman and the reindeer, and they’d just be walking around la de la de la.” - DR and DR Jr
American Hustle - March 18
“American Hustle is built on deception — both the way we fool others and the lies we tell ourselves — so it makes sense that director David O. Russell manipulates narrative time and real-world influences to create something that’s simultaneously effective and misleading. The screenplay was originally titled American Bullshit, written by Eric Warren Singer, and focused on “the true story of Abscam, the FBI’s 1980 undercover sting operation of Congress to root out corruption which was the brainchild of the world’s greatest con man.” It landed on the 2010 edition of the Hollywood Blacklist, the annual round-up of the industry’s favorite unproduced scripts, but Russell’s rewritten version doesn’t look anything like that description. He even kicks things off with a blunt title card that simply reads: “Some of this actually happened.” The film does deal with con men and law enforcement, but it creates a parallel universe version of Abscam, sharing nothing but the name. Russell’s also unafraid to play loosely with pop culture in that universe, too: the film is in the late 1970s, yet the mostly period soundtrack also includes an ELO song from 2001, just for the vibe. And before the film even starts, it’s pretending to be something it’s not: it uses an old version of the Columbia Pictures logo, as well as retro-styled versions of logos for production companies, as if to announce its arrival from the past via time travel, and not as a present-day work that examines that past through the lens of history and experience.” - DC (The Man, not the comic books)
Kill Your Darlings - March 18
“We open in 1943, Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) tears himself away from his troubled homelife with poet father (David Cross) and ailing mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in order to attend Columbia University. Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) is the swirling center of outsider life at Columbia University, drawing like-minded individuals interested in freedom of thought and creation of new arts. Together, Carr and Ginsberg explore a whole new world of intellectualism with William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston, be still my heart). Lingering always in the background is Carr’s uhh, friend David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall), with his designs on Carr, threatening to interfere with Ginsberg’s own uh, friendship with Carr. Anyway, all of that is far too many names to keep track of — in short, a sordid tale of murder, idealism, and youth in the bustling city of New York.” - Amanda Mae Meyncke
The Wolf of Wall Street - March 25
“The similarities between Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers and Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street are uncanny. Spring Breakers centered around Alien (James Franco), a white gangster with a grill, guns, and a God complex, while The Wolf of Wall Street centers on Jordan Belfort, a white Wall Street broker with a similar God complex who killed not with guns, but more slowly and tortuously by stealing from the naive, and who — instead of designating status with a grill and bling — flashed his $3,000 suits and $2 million bachelor party. Both movies heavily feature an orgiastic excess of drugs and sex, and both share a similar hedonistic quality. The difference is that one took place in a spring-break destination, while the other takes place in a Wall Street, though even those are depicted in surprisingly similar ways: Boobs, banging, orgies, drugs, illegal and illicit activities, and the long-term destruction those fleeting thrills wrought upon not just the central characters, but those who get swept up in their wakes. Both Alien and Belfort even have catchy, funny, and haunting refrains: Alien’s “Spring Breeeeaaaaak” and the chest-thumping mantra that Belfort borrows from his mentor, Matthew McConaughey’s Mark Hanna.” - DR