Coming Jan. 22
"End of Watch" (R, 120 minutes, Universal): There are no dirty cops in this tense, violent -- and surprisingly affecting -- police drama from writer David Ayer. Ayer, who also directs, has created a portrait of law enforcement under pressure that proves as ennobling as it is gritty. Rapper Yahira "Flakiss" Garcia plays a scary gangbanger that L.A.P.D. officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) tangle with when, in the course of their routine patrols, they inadvertently interfere with the local operation of a ruthless Mexican drug cartel. On the down side, it's yet another movie utilizing the "found footage" gimmick. Much of the film consists of shaky, hand-held images purportedly shot by Brian for a filmmaking class he's taking. Even the villains are of the YouTube generation, bringing a video camera along for a drive-by. It's an unnecessary distraction from the story, which is a good one. Contains often intense violence, obscenity, sexual dialogue and drug use. Extras: commentary with writer/director David Ayer, deleted scenes, five featurettes: "Fate with a Badge," "In the Streets," "Women on Watch," "Watch Your Six" and "Honors."
"Searching for Sugar Man" (PG-13, 86 minutes, Sony): In the 1970s, when their country was isolated from the world because of its apartheid policies, young, white, liberal South Africans took solace in a particular record. It was "Cold Fact," by Rodriguez, a Detroit-born Mexican-American who recorded two records that went virtually unheard in the United States. After the commercial failure of both, Rodriguez vanished from the music biz. Viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, the singer's puzzling disappearance required a dramatic explanation. Although the movie eventually establishes the facts of Rodriguez's life, it's in no hurry to do so. Instead, Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul savors the hunt begun by a South African fan. The mystery finally is solved, in a way that's narratively satisfying. Indeed, "Searching for Sugar Man" pays off so neatly that viewers might suspect the movie is fiction. Contains profanity and drug references. Extras: Commentary with Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, a making-of featurette and a fan Q&A session, "An Evening With Malik Bendjelloul and Rodriguez."
"The Imposter" (R, 95 minutes, Gaiam Vivendi): In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay vanished from his San Antonio neighborhood. Three years later, a kid in a Spanish children's home claimed to be Nicholas. Aside from a gap in his front teeth, the guy didn't look much like Nicholas, but when Nicholas' older sister, Carey Gibson, arrived in Spain, she identified the stranger as her brother. That put the con man on the path to a U.S. passport and a new family. A private investigator was convinced that the kid was lying, and an FBI agent gradually came to the same conclusion. But Nicholas' mother and sister insisted that the right boy had returned. As for the impostor, he explained his appearance, demeanor and accent with an elaborate tale of sexual abuse. The complicated identity of the poseur is eventually disclosed, but first he explains, in great detail and with evident pride, how he conned Gibson. The film doesn't pretend to answer all of the questions about the still-unsolved Barclay case. But what's most fascinating are the movie's larger questions about why some people tell impossible lies -- and why others believe them. Contains profanity.
"For a Good Time, Call ..." (R, 85 minutes, Universal): Even if a good phone-sex movie does exist, this is not it. Twentysomethings Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) become roomies in Katie's too-good-to-be-true apartment. Lauren is a high-strung, pearl-wearing priss and Katie is a velour-jumpsuit-wearing, pole-dancing bombshell who moonlights as a phone-sex operator. When a mutual friend blindly sets up the women to live together, they are horrified. But when Lauren overhears Katie's phone conversation one night, she decides she doesn't want to be boring anymore. Then, ever so magically, the girls become the best of friends! Yes, we want Lauren to loosen up and we want Katie to find true love. (Predictably, she hits it off with one of her customers.) And there are a few bright moments along the way. But with the exception of Katie's endearing if improbable love interest and a gratifying Seth Rogen cameo, there's no one in the mix likable enough to pull for, or even laugh at. Contains explicit sexual language and themes, profanity and drug use.
"Pina 3D" (PG, 103 minutes, in German, French, English, Spanish, Croatian, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Korean with English subtitles; from The Criterion Collection): It's not every day that a director comes along and sweeps away a genre's pesky cobwebs, but Wim Wenders does just that with his documentary (and Oscar contender). Wenders doesn't reveal any basic facts about his subject, the late German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. Instead, he has crafted a 3-D collage of dance, unconventional interviews, archival footage and words that describes her very essence. Those unfamiliar with her work get a crash course during "Pina," which features snippets of her choreography. Much of the film, though, consists of tributes to Bausch, courtesy of her talented dancers. Wenders also makes stunning use of 3-D technology. Every sinewy muscle is on display, every inhale and exhale. You might call it arresting or spectacular, heart-rending or thrilling. But, as Bausch knew, none of the usual descriptors can do justice to the object. This is one film that just needs to be experienced. Contains partial nudity. Extras: Commentary with Wenders; making-of featurette and deleted scenes (both available in 3-D versions); behind-the-scenes footage; interview with Wenders; booklet featuring a piece by novelist and essayist Siri Hustvedt, reprinted pieces by Wenders and choreographer Pina Bausch, information on the dances featured in the film, and portraits of the dancers.
Also: "Keep the Lights On," "Nobody Walks," "Nature Calls," "Officer Down ," "Abel's Field," "American Experience: The Abolitionists" (PBS), "Birders: The Central Park Effect," "Hard Romanticker" (Japan), "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" (Japan, Takashi Miike's remake of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 classic "Harakiri"), "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" (Encore channel documentary, Anchor Bay), "Tai Chi Zero," "Death Race 3: Inferno," "Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft" and "Deadly Blessing: Collector's Edition" (1981).
Television series: "The Men Who Built America" (three-disc set of the History channel miniseries), "Wild Kratts: Lost at Sea" and "Scarecrow & Mrs. King: The Complete Fourth & Final Season" (1986-87, five-disc set).