Finding Vivian Maier (IFC Films)
Finding Vivian Maier
(IFC Films)

In Theaters

Believe it or not, the best new film this week is a documentary.  Finding Vivian Maier is an excellent telling of the titular nanny who, thanks to the discovery of her old negatives by co-director John Maloof, was posthumously lauded as one of the nation’s best street photographers.  Prioritize that one and skip David Gordon Green’s Joe, two boring hours about a hard-living man (Nicolas Cage) and his sorta friendship with a troubled teenager (Mud‘s The Sheridan).  The film’s trashy Texas setting and hyped-up Cage performance may seem appealing on the outside, but make no mistake: this is one of those “art for art’s sake” films with no hook and an amorphous structure that dares viewers to care about the events onscreen.

The most tempting unknown entity is Dom Hemingway, starring Jude Law as a paroled safecracker looking to get what he’s owed from the crime boss (Demian Bechir, Machete Kills) he didn’t rat out 12 years ago.  Somewhat less exciting is The Other Woman, a rom-com from The Notebook director Nick Cassavetes, about a cheated-on wife (Leslie Mann, This Is 40) and two of her husband’s mistresses (Cameron Diaz and model Kate Upton) who team up to inflict revenge on the fellow.  Also new is the PG-13 horror film The Quiet Ones and the Luc Besson co-written action flick Brick Mansions, featuring one of the late Paul Walker’s final roles.

Fleeing the Scene

The much-maligned but worthwhile Noah is gone along with the strong horror/thriller 13 Sins, better-than-Hunger-Games YA adaptation Divergent, and the Kevin Costner vehicle Draft Day (which, if you’ve seen and liked but don’t like football, I’d love to hear from you about your experience).  Good riddance to the exposition-heavy Oculus and its lack of horror timing, though as I didn’t catch God’s Not Dead I cannot say whether or not its exit is a blessing.

On DVD

Somehow, there are no new releases this week.  In the realm of new-old releases, cinephiles are pretty psyched about the fresh Blu-ray of Sorcerer, which was overseen by director William Friedkin.

Don Jon (Relativity Media)
Don Jon
(Relativity Media)

On Netflix Instant

Don Jon, the extraordinary directorial debut from Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who also wrote the script and stars), leads the way this week, followed by fellow former child star Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman, described as a haunting romantic drama that also stars Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal alert!), Melissa Leo, and Rupert Grint (a.k.a Ron Weasley).

Lastly, don’t sleep on the underrated comedy The Benchwarmers, featuring a tolerable Rob Schneider performance, a post-Napoleon Dynamite Jon Heder, and a fine turn by Jon Lovitz as a wealthy nerd with an absurd amount of toys, including the Batmobile.  With the possible exception of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, it may very well be the last decent Happy Madison production.

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