Of Monsters and Men

The-Armstrong-LieI’m in New York trying to avoid being trampled on my way to breakfast. But black or no, it’s still Friday and that means new movies are opening ; they’re just doing so in the shadow of the studio holiday pictures that opened on Wednesday.

Here’s what’s what:

AKA Doc Pomus: “AKA Jerome Solon Felder” would be a more fitting title, since it’s almost certain more people have heard of his alias than his real name. William Hechter and Peter Miller’s documentary, narrated by Lou Reed, gives the man his due.

The Armstrong Lie: John has a number of the same problems with Alex Gibney’s overly personal study of Lance Armstrong as I did — Gibney’s unable to separate his own disillusionment with Armstrong (whose 2009 Tour de France comeback Gibney had been documenting until the doping scandal finally overtook them both) from the stuff that actually matters, and at over two hours it’s crushingly long and repetitive.

Black Nativity: An old Langston Hughes play becomes a Tyler Perryesque motion picture experience in the hands of director Kasi Lemmons, whose electric debut Eve’s Bayou seems more and more like a fluke with every passing year. Rad is unmoved.

Concussion: Deadwood‘s Robin Weigert is a woman jolted out of her dull life by a head injury in Stacie Passon’s gauzy erotic drama, which Susan finds considerably more gauzy than erotic.

Hawking: Rad finds Stephen Finnigan’s documentary about the legendarily tragic (tragically legendary?) physics genius a little too timid and superficial. Me, I’m happy to drag out the old LaserDisc of Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time.

If I Were You: Marcia Gay Harden plays a woman who befriends her husband’s mistress in what’s supposed to be a farce — but actually plays better as drama, according to Jose. I will take his word for it.

Philomena: Stephen Frears’ new drama is a nuanced and charming road movie about an Irish woman (Judi Dench) and an English man (Steve Coogan, who co-wrote and co-produced) coming to terms with one another, and a few things besides, while searching for the son she gave up for adoption half a century earlier. Sounds schmaltzy. Isn’t.

Narco Cultura: Remember the musical number that opened that one episode of Breaking Bad? That was a narcocorrido, a ballad composed to lionize the great drug warrior Heisenberg — and it turns out the genre is a booming industry. Rad really likes Shaul Schwartz’ look at the artists who turn bloody deeds into stirring song.

Tokyo Waka: A City Poem: Glenn finds some things to like in John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson’s impressionistic documentary about the crows of Tokyo. (Well, a few more than I did, anyway.)

And that’s it! Keep an eye on my Twitter feed this weekend for dispatches from Manhattan, and possibly an image of someone punching me because I looked like I might be about to touch a sweater he or she was going to buy.

Yeah, I’m so not here for the sales.

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