Whatever Works: I surrendered to my fate as a lifelong Woody Allen fan and apologist years ago, but even I'm mistified by the general hostility towards his latest. Many critics seized on the fact that was an old script that Allen wrote in the 70s and reworked for star Larry David, as if this made it musty and out-of-date; to the contrary, it is a bit of cinematic archaelogy, taking us back to a Woody that was looser, jokier, and funkier--and David is a great Allen protagonist.
The Achievers- The Story of the Lebowski Fans: In its best moments, this homemade documentary isn't really about The Big Lebowski at all; it's about the very nature of fandom, and how popular culture can create a common language that allows those less skilled in social interactions to relate with each other and form genuine bonds.
Orphan: I missed this one in theaters, and can't imagine I'll make my way to it on DVD anytime soon. It's fronted by people I like (Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Fermiga) and who doesn't like a good creepy kid movie (though Fermiga appears to be making a career out of them)? But something about it rubbed me the wrong way--it looks just a little too obvious, particularly in the look of the evil girl. Of course she can't just be bad; she has to be a scowling refugee from a Grimm Brothers fairy tale.
Z: I caught this one on the big screen at Film Forum last year and it kind of knocked my socks off; the fact that it took this long for Criterion to snatch it up is frankly surprising, since it's right in their wheelhouse. Rich says they do right by it, though.