This week brings plenty of terrific films on the classic release front, but the big one is undoubtedly “Portrait of Jason,” in which filmmaker Shirley Clarke interviews Jason Collins, a fortysomething gay black man who talks about his nightclub act plans, his sexual history and his regrets. The film has long been unavailable except via bootleg, but Milestone has released a restored version on Blu-ray (along with Clarke’s Ornette Coleman documentary “Ornette: Made in America”). Other releases include a pair of Monte Hellman westerns starring Jack Nicholson, “Ride in the Whirlwind” (also written by Nicholson) and “The Shooting,” both available from Criterion.
Twilight Time also has two diametrically opposed films about exploitation: the first is Stanley Kramer’s sober post-Holocaust drama “Judgment at Nuremberg,” featuring an all-star cast including Spencer Tracy, Maximilian Schell (who won Best Actor), Burt Lancaster, and, in some of their last screen performances, Judy Garland and Montgomery Clift. On the other side of the spectrum is Otto Preminger’s terrific, truly bizarre “Bunny Lake Is Missing,” a missing child thriller that uses abrupt shifts in score (from happy to melodramatic) and inexplicable supporting characters (including Noel Coward as a lecherous landlord) to simulate the feeling of mounting paranoia and insanity that single mother Carol Lynley is put through after lack of evidence forces the investigating detective (Laurence Olivier) to suspect that she doesn’t exist.
New releases include Michel Gondry’s surreal romance “Mood Indigo,” restored to its full length after being trimmed 40 minutes for its U.S. release; Joe Swanberg’s characteristically low-key “Happy Christmas;” the megahit DreamWorks sequel “How to Train Your Dragon 2;” the uneven but not uninteresting Melissa McCarthy vehicle “Tammy;” the musical “Jersey Boys,” which sees director Clint Eastwood’s realist style mismatched with the Broadway smash; and “Let’s Be Cops,” to which we still say, “no, let’s not.”
Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York
Susan Wloszczyna, RogerEbert.com
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
The unfortunate trade-off of Eastwood’s efficient, real-deal classical direction is his stubborn commitment to the script. In this case, that means eliding everything artistically interesting that the group ever did (like, say, “The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette”) and loading the back end of the movie with a mushy hit-by-hit structure that probably worked like gangbusters on stage, but drags on screen. Read more.
Sam Fragoso, Film School Rejects
Criticwire Average: B
Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
Many fantasy films take great pains to establish the rules of their world before delving deeper into homemade worlds of make-believe. “Mood Indigo,” on the other hand, makes no effort to ground its fantastical world of whimsy in any recognizable reality, no matter how flexible or loose. Instead, Gondry throws audiences into the deep end and hopes they know how to swim. Read more.
Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune