New in Theaters:
The Tree of Life

No matter how deep Terrence Malick loses himself in imagery, those vistas which have captivated from Badlands to The New World, he was normally able to anchor them at least fleetingly in some blooded human drama. In The Tree of Life, however, he comes closer than ever before to severing ties with story nearly completely. This leap into bold abstraction is as awe-inspiring as it is irksome—in other words, par for the course in terms of Malick’s quixotic career…
The Tree of Life — starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and some of the most jawdropping imagery ever put to film — opens Friday. See it on the big screen, if you care about cinema. Read the full review at Film Journal International.

New in Theaters:
Last Night

The possibilities and ramifications of infidelity get a thorough workout in Massey Tadjedin’s moody romance Last Night, starring Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington (Avatar). As both halves of a seemingly unhappy couple spar on the same night with potential affairs, this perfectly fine scenario settles too easily into an underperformed exercise in what-if. The promise of the film that this could have been is continually receding to the horizon the longer it goes on…
Last Night is playing now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

Filmology:
May 20th

“No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error. “

Today’s entry from Filmology is 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick’s eye-opening science-fiction masterstroke that continues to astound as much as it mystifies.
My book, Filmology: A Movie-a-Day Guide to a Complete Film Education, is available in both paperback and ebook formats.

New on DVD:
Solaris

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s addictive, serenely maddening masterpiece of love and obsession in outer orbit, the dead just won’t stay dead. But neither are they alive. Like the vision of Lazarus reborn which Martin Scorsese conjured in such creepy fashion for The Last Temptation of Christ, Tarkovsky’s reanimated souls are never quite of this world. They are human, of a sort, but just enough to make the protagonist here think twice about killing one. Again…
The 1972 Solaris (not the 2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh) will be available next week in a superb 2-disc set from Criterion. Read the full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
True Legend

Yuen Woo-Ping’s rabidly fun and cameo-packed wuxia opens with a note informing viewers that the setting is China, 1861: “It is a turbulent time.” When you have a villain with armor scales grown into his skin and a hero who trains with invisible gods in a drunken stupor, yes, it’s safe to say that things are turbulent. This turns out to be good for the audience, less so for many of the people on-screen…

True Legend is playing now…in some places. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com. 

New in Theaters:
City of Life and Death

It would be easy to write off City of Life and Death, Lu Chuan’s epic drama on the capture and subsequent pillaging of Nanking by Japanese soldiers in 1937, as an attempt to give the Chinese their own Schindler’s List.  The parallels are hard to ignore: exquisite black-and-white cinematography, heart-stopping brutality, crowds of terrified civilians in a tightly enclosed space, and slaughter being held at bay by the flimsiest of stratagems…
City of Life and Death is playing now in limited release. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.

New in Theaters: 
Beautiful Darling

James Rasin’s unfinished-feeling film on Warhol star Candy Darling falls into the category of documentaries that should have been many times more fascinating than they actually are. This is, after all, the story of a boy from a prototypically sterile Long Island suburb who grew up as James Slattery but later reinvented himself as a self-created movie star, using nothing more than a blonde wig, a high and breathy Marilyn Monroe voice, and incredible amounts of makeup. The persona created was that of the old-time film star, an aloof creature of the old studio system who just happened to be gracing the mortals with her presence for a short time before swanning off to her next shoot…
Beautiful Darling is playing now in (very) limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
Exporting Raymond

“Family is a universal thing,” Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal notes in his light-hearted documentary about translating his sitcom for a Russian audience. “But unfortunately, so is show business.” This explains the various producers sitting around with nothing much constructive to say, and critical casting decisions being made by studio executives who don’t seem to know much about comedy, or even television. There isn’t much that can explain the wild dogs wandering around the grounds of what is supposedly the biggest and most important Russian film, which also happens to look like an abandoned factory.
Exporting Raymond is playing now in limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.