New in Theaters:
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

Rumors and hyperbole always swirled around El Bulli, the fabled restaurant near Barcelona, as thickly and incessantly as foodies buzzed around its culinary ring-leader, Ferran Adria. Stories about Adria’s fantastical offerings were traded among the culinary jet-set and the kind of gastronomic adventurers who photograph what they’re eating for their blogs, with rapt and lavish descriptions of things like trout egg tempura, tagliatelli of shaved foie gras, something called popcorn clouds, and all that liquid nitrogen. His team of chefs were lauded for their experimental approach to food, which deconstructed ingredients and then remixed them into fantastic new creations, much a DJ might whip up a thrilling new composition out of old clips and samples…

The documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress is playing now in limited release — seeing it is the closest you’re likely to get to experiencing Adria’s cooking. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com. 

New in Theaters:
Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens is one of those films where the hero can’t help but stride into each shot in poster-ready iconic fashion – Black Swan and Iron Man cinematographer Matthew Libatique does a smart job of framing Daniel Craig against the sun-burnt desert, those ice-blue eyes blazing – but lesser characters like Sam Rockwell’s nebbishy bartender get squinched into the corner. It’s also the kind of film where the town preacher (Clancy Brown) is a tough, whiskey-drinking sort who dispenses hard-bitten theological bon mots during target practice…
Cowboys and Aliens is now playing everywhere in the known universe. You can read my full review at PopMatters.

New in Theaters:
The Guard

Taking a page from the darker verges of his In Bruges performance (already a pretty black piece of work, there), Brendan Gleeson stalks onto the screen in The Guard like his character couldn’t decide whether to get up for work that morning or shoot himself in the head. Not because he’s depressed, but maybe just to see what it was like. For today, Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) is on the scene, but who knows what tomorrow will bring?… 

The Guard is playing now in limited release; check it out. You can read my full review at filmcritic.com.

New in Theaters:
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

What Conan O’Brien can’t stop doing is punching people. He lunges at them, pummeling their shoulders. Sometimes they hit back, but not as hard. Because, hey, he’s the boss, and he needs to unwind. This habit is one of several exposed in Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop. Rodman Flender’s keen-eyed documentary begins just after the battle over The Tonight Show, which involved O’Brien, Jay Leno, and the NBC brass in late 2009 and early 2010. When the dust settled, O’Brien walked away many millions of dollars richer while Leno had the show. As part of his severance, O’Brien could not appear on television for six months. 

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is in theaters now. You can read the full review at PopMatters.

New in Books:
A Dance with Dragons

There are times when you just don’t even want to hear about another book. Each year is much like the last, with the number of should-read and can’t-wait-to-read titles piling up in your mind and on the shelf and under the desk and spilling out of your bag and into the hallway. But word had come from a friend about an author named Naomi Novik. She’d written a novel that he said was just superb historical fiction, with expertly realized descriptions of the arcana of Napoleonic War-era naval combat that landed right in the middle of the Venn diagram of our intersecting interests. Even better, he said, there are dragons, and they talk. I was hooked before even cracking the spine…

George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons went on sale yesterday. You can read my complete article (about Martin and other lengthy series) at the Barnes and Noble Review.

New in Theaters:
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Repeat a distorted version of the truth often enough, and it becomes accepted fact, regardless of the realities on the ground. This verity has rarely been more vividly evoked than in Chad Freidrichs’s moving and revelatory documentary about the legacy of St. Louis’s infamous Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex. As Freidrichs shows, the lessons supposedly learned from this ignominious episode weren’t entirely wrong but they certainly weren’t all correct, either. As usual, it was the poor and powerless who received the blame, while the powers that be escaping censure and pointing fingers back at those whom they were to have been helping…
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is playing now in limited release. You can read my full review at filmcritic.com.