New releases 10/17/17

Top Hits
Girls Trip (comedy, Queen Latifah. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As in the recent ‘Rough Night,’ the women in ‘Girls Trip’ are old college friends who, after going down their respective paths, are reuniting for better and, at times, for worse. In ‘Rough Night,’ the regulation naughtiness ends up with the women, who are mostly white, accidentally [uh-oh] killing a man. That isn’t on the menu for the black women in ‘Girls Trip,’ who, despite being fictional also exist in our world and so presumably would have a much harder time giggling their way out of spilling blood. That makes “Girls Trip” seem tamer than a movie like ‘Rough Night.’ But ‘Girls Trip’ is also funnier; it’s also more appealing because it knows that there’s more at stake existentially for women, and especially for black women, than out-grossing men.” Read more…)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (comic book action, Tom Holland. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “For its initial hour, ‘Homecoming’ moves along breezily enough, though sometimes with too much forced airiness. It works best when it sticks close to Peter and is content to be a light, good-natured story of a teenager who’s navigating through, and often badly fumbling, the competing demands of school, home and his emergent Spidey self. Mr. Holland looks and sounds more like a teenager than the actors who’ve previously suited up for this series, and he has fine support from a cast that includes Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend. Other good company includes Donald Glover, as a wrong-time, wrong-place criminal, and Martin Starr, who plays his teacher role with perfect deadpan timing.” Read more…)

Lady Macbeth (costume drama/romance, Florence Pugh. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 76. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It takes a while to figure out who the title character in ‘Lady Macbeth’ really is. You may think you know her, that she’s the one who sleeps with death, the one pouring evil into her husband’s ear. Certainly the invocation of Shakespeare tips that there’s something dangerous about the lady of its house, an opaque beauty called Katherine [a very fine Florence Pugh]. Yet part of this movie’s ticklish nastiness is that at first it isn’t at all clear whether she will be the master of doom or its helpmate. At just 17, Katherine looks like the innocent flower, but something wicked this way comes seductively, then savagely.” Read more…)

The Book of Henry (family drama, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 31. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “I’m sure that I’ve forgotten some of the clichés and nonsense stuffed into ‘The Book of Henry,’ but here’s a partial list: a sensitive child genius; a comically dysfunctional family; an overwhelmed single mother; a sassy waitress with a tattoo on her breast played by a name comedian; children acting like parents; parents acting like children…” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Spider-Man: Homecoming

New Foreign DVDs
The Midwife (France, bittersweet drama, Catherine Deneuve. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Catherine Deneuve has played a wide variety of roles over the course of a career now spanning seven decades. But despite her exemplary range, many American viewers maintain an image of her as an aloof, exquisite, possibly imperious, possibly enigmatic beauty. This is largely because she looks like, well, Catherine Deneuve. The woman can’t help it. Even when portraying the needy, nearly shambolic Béatrice in ‘The Midwife,’ Ms. Deneuve is capable of vibrating with an elegance that implies both hauteur and froideur.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Step (dance, education, inspiration, Baltimore. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 81. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This documentary has a classic twinned narrative: The girls must get into college [that’s the school’s main goal], and there’s a big step competition coming up. ‘Step’ manages to tell both stories in under 90 minutes, with a city rived by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody as its fraught backdrop.” Read more…)

Mondo Hollywood (1968, time capsule of weird Los Angeles in the 1960s)

New releases 10/10/17

Top Hits
Baby Driver (action, Ansel Elgort. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Baby Driver,’ the director Edgar Wright is out to show you a most excellent time. He’s never been one of those filmmakers who expect you to be blinded by the bright sheen of his résumé, which includes comical genre rethinks like the zombie flick ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and the cop caper ‘Hot Fuzz.’ Mr. Wright works for your love, hard enough that you notice the whirring machinery if perhaps not the strain. He wants it easy and breezy, although mostly he wants it cool, whether the latest means to his end, Baby (Ansel Elgort), is smooth-moving like Gene Kelly or burning rubber like Steve McQueen.” Read more…)

The Dinner (thriller, Richard Gere. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘We’re gonna talk tonight,’ the politician Stan Lohman [Richard Gere] says at the beginning of the ridiculous restaurant meal that serves as the framework for ‘The Dinner.’ Stan’s determination is cheering, especially when we learn that one of his dinner guests — his brother, Paul [Steve Coogan] — is resolutely incapable of listening to any voice but his own. And that’s a huge problem for the movie, never mind for Stan.” Read more…)

The Beguiled (period thriller, Nicole Kidman. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 77. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “I have called the film a fairy tale but you could also describe it as a horror movie, a quasi-western and a revenge melodrama, perhaps too many things at once. Most effectively, though — and largely thanks to Ms. Kidman’s regal, witty performance — it’s a comedy, a country-house farce about the problems caused by an inconvenient guest.” Read more…)

Maudie (acclaimed drama, Sally Hawkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Maudie’ is one of those movies that triumph over their worst instincts (and your well-honed doubts). There’s a lot to get past, including an opener that engages in some generic place-setting, and a pushy score that insistently tries to lighten the darker moods. But stick with the movie for its leads, Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, a beautifully matched pair who open up two closed people, unleashing torrents of feeling.” Read more…)

47 Meters Down (action/thriller/sharks, Mandy Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Featuring multiple variations of ‘It’s gonna be fine!’ and ‘The shark almost got me!,’ the superlatively lame dialogue spoken by the heroines of’ ’47 Meters Down’ — two sisters who choose the wrong boat for their shark-cage diving expedition in Mexico — threatens to turn this would-be horror movie into a hoot. In the lulls between bouts of yammering, however, the director, Johannes Roberts, concentrates on building a solid atmosphere of desperation as a winch accident deposits the women unceremoniously on the ocean floor. Captured by Mark Silk’s darting camera, and in water so clouded that the computer-generated predators more than pass visual muster, their misadventures are casually entertaining.” Read more…)

Manifesto (drama/modern art/politics, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “As an installation, ‘Manifesto’ may have seemed like a sensory onslaught. As a movie, it’s a very elaborate intellectual exercise, immaculate in every technical detail. [The sound design, by Fabian Schmidt and Markus Stemler, is particularly extraordinary.] And Ms. Blanchett’s work here is aptly cerebral. As virtuosic as her performances are, they’re purposely conscious of themselves. As an oblique examination and critique of political and art history and their various interactions over the 20th century, ‘Manifesto’ is both witty and provocative. It is not, however, a motion picture for people seeking a plot.” Read more…)

The House (comedy, Amy Poehler. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 30. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Based on trailers and the durable, slightly stale charm of its stars, ‘The House’ might be mistaken for a genial, silly movie about nice people making questionable decisions. Instead, it is a dark, startlingly bloody journey into the bitter, empty, broken heart of the American middle class, a blend of farce and satire built on a foundation of social despair.” Read more…)

The Little Hours (comedy, Alison Brie. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A randy handyman, naughty nuns and a clothing-optional coven cause no end of agita in ‘The Little Hours,’ a 14th-century farce that, given its comically credentialed players, ought to be a great deal funnier. Inspired by stories from Giovanni Boccaccio’s ‘The Decameron’ — seasoned with a sprinkling of Monty Python — the writer and director, Jeff Baena, turns an Italian convent into a hotbed of repressed desires. Boccaccio might have had medieval audiences rolling in the aisles, but Mr. Baena squanders an R rating and a roster of household names while managing to raise little more than a smile.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Baby Driver

New Foreign DVDs
The Lure (Poland, horror/musical, Marta Mazurek. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As folkloric Polish musical sex-comedy horror movies go, ‘The Lure’ is pretty interesting. The first feature directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska, the film follows two mermaid sisters onto land, where they look for love, feast on human flesh and find work singing and stripping at a nightclub that might have come from an early David Lynch movie or a vintage-’80s music video.” Read more…)

Le Gai Savoir (1969, France, Jean-Luc Godard-directed political drama, Jean-Pierre Léaud. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In this time of increasingly personal cinema, the films of Jean-Luc Godard make those of most of his contemporaries look about as original and individual as monogramed Volkswagens… What Godard finally made is a kind of treatise on the need for de-education, particularly in relation to language and the meaning of words. It is a film whose style is very much its content, which, actually, is somewhat less revolutionary than a description of it makes it appear. I suspect that when Godard ultimately makes his most revolutionary movie, he will have found a way to dispense with camera, film, projector, screen and, perhaps, even audience. In ‘Le Gai Savoir’ Godard is still communicating with us by means of beautiful, comparatively conventional, if fragmented, images and sounds.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Othello (1952, Orson Welles Shakespeare adaptation, Orson Welles. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “How much of Shakespeare’s Othello you are likely to be able to perceive in Orson Welles’s motion picture version of it, which came to the Paris yesterday, is something this dazzled reviewer would not like to have to guarantee. Shakespeare himself, set down before it, might have a tough time recognizing his play. For the great Mr. Welles apparently decided, when he set out to make and play this film in the authentic locale of Venice some six or eight years ago, that the text and even the plot of the original were incidental to the dark and delirious passions enclosed in its tormented theme.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Enemy Mine (1985, sci-fi, Dennis Quaid. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “THIS season’s ‘Dune’ is ‘Enemy Mine,’ a costly, awful-looking science-fiction epic with one of the weirdest story lines ever to hit the screen. The poster for ”Enemy Mine” may look slightly facetious, what with Dennis Quaid locked in a profile shot with what appears to be a giant lizard, as the man and the lizard exchange confrontational stares. However, this image is completely in earnest. What’s worse, it represents the movie perfectly.” Read more…)

Wuthering Heights (1992, costume drama, Juliette Binoche)

New Documentaries
Saving Pelican #895 (environmentalism, wildlife rescue)
Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty (VH-1 Classic Album series, music analysis, Grateful Dead)

New Music DVDs
Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty (VH-1 Classic Album series, music analysis, Grateful Dead)

New releases 10/3/17

Top Hits
A Ghost Story (drama/fantasy, Casey Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “For perfectly good reasons, the literature of grief dwells on the experiences of the living, the survivors who grapple with the pain of loss and the puzzle of absence. But maybe the dead have feelings, too. That, when you think about it, is the premise of a great many ghost stories, and also of ‘A Ghost Story,’ David Lowery’s ingenious and affecting new film.” Read more…)

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (action, Johnny Depp. Rotten Tomatoes 29%. Metacritic: 39. New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott did not like this movie: “This review will be short and dismissive. The movie under consideration — “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” — is, by contrasts, long and punishing. Its pleasures are so meager, its delight in its own inventions so forced and false, that it becomes almost the perfect opposite of entertainment.” Read more…)

Realive (sci-fi, Tom Hughes. Rotten Tomatoes 83%. Metacritic: 59. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Like a ‘Black Mirror’ episode combined with a philosophy seminar, ‘Realive’ has plenty of brains. Yet it has a heart, too, and that adds a surprising amount of emotion to this above-average science-fiction film. Set in the past, present and future, all story lines center on Marc (Tom Hughes). His life is charted from his first breath (the movie’s opening shows an actual birth, up close) through scenes of his childhood before moving to a time near today, when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer. Marc decides to cryo-freeze his body in hopes of later being cured, leading to his reanimation — or rebirth, if you will — in 2084. It’s no surprise that his plans have unexpected consequences.” Read more…)

The Wizard of Lies (Bernie Madoff financial skullduggery, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes 72%. Metacritic: 67. From Noel Murray’s New York Times television review: “Putting its own prestige TV stamp on a portrait of a casually destructive billionaire, HBO brings us the original movie ‘The Wizard of Lies,’ a little over a year after ABC aired its own mini-series ‘Madoff.’ Both tell the story of the convicted Wall Street fraudster Bernie Madoff, with ’70s acting icons in the lead: Richard Dreyfuss for the network, Robert De Niro for premium cable. But the two take very different approaches to the life of a man who admitted to running an elaborate Ponzi scheme. ‘The Wizard of Lies’ doesn’t try to be as comprehensive as ‘Madoff.’ It’s more about who Madoff is than about what he did.” Read more…)

The Survivalist (dystopia thriller, Martin McCann. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis”s Times review: “Impressively lean and rigidly controlled, ‘The Survivalist’ achieves, at times, the primitive allure of a silent movie. And that’s not simply because of the characters’ reticence (the entirety of the dialogue could probably fit on a single page), but because the film’s Irish writer and director, Stephen Fingleton, has an intensity of purpose that infects his characters’ every move and gesture.” Read more…)

House of Cards: Season 5 (political drama series, Kevin Spacey. Rotten Tomatoes 71%. Metacritic: 60.)

New Foreign DVDs
A Woman’s Life (France, period drama, Judith Chemla. Rotten Tomatoes 76%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A Woman’s Life” — a more literal translation of the French title would just be ‘A Life’ — is the new film by Stéphane Brizé. Based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant, it traces the fluctuating fortunes of Jeanne Le Perthuis des Vauds (Judith Chemla), an aristocratic landowner in 19th-century France, through marriage and motherhood. In some ways, the movie is a striking departure from Mr. Brizé’s previous feature, ‘The Measure of a Man,’ which starred Vincent Lindon as a displaced worker buffeted by the disruptions of 21st-century capitalism. But in spite of their obvious differences of gender, class and period, the two protagonists share a common plight, and Mr. Brizé’s interest in them is rigorously consistent. He is concerned, above all, with individual dignity, and the forces that conspire to undermine it.” Read more…)

13 Minutes (Germany, WWII-era drama, Christian Friedel. Rotten Tomatoes 76%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York times review: “A charming hedonist becomes an unlikely would-be assassin in ’13 Minutes,’ a respectful but labored biopic of a village carpenter whose 1939 plot to blow up the Führer was foiled by bad timing. Though ruthlessly romanticized and swimming in Holocaust-drama clichés — like the pallidly venomous Nazi interrogator — the story of how Georg Elser [an endearing Christian Friedel] transformed from mischievous ladies’ man to determined bomb maker is worth the telling. And for a while, it’s even quite gripping as we watch Elser painstakingly plant his intricate device in a vast beer hall in Munich where Hitler is to speak.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Painted Veil (1934, drama, Greta Garbo. From Andre Sennwald’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Pettish folk, out of an evident spirit of wish-fulfillment, are forever discovering that Greta Garbo has outlived her fame. They are knaves and blackguards and they should be pilloried in the middle of Times Square. She continues handsomely to be the world’s greatest cinema actress in the Oriental triangle drama, ‘The Painted Veil,’ which begins an engagement at the Capitol this morning. Tracing its ancestry to Somerset Maugham’s novel, which it resembles only in the casual surface qualities of the narrative, Miss Garbo’s new film is a conventional, hard-working passion-film which manages to be both expert in its manufacture and insincere in its emotions. Since it allows Miss Garbo to triumph once more over the emotional rubber-stamps that the studios arrange for her, we must not be ungenerous about “The Painted Veil.” Richard Boleslawski has made a visual treat of it, and Herbert Marshall and George Brent head an excellent group of subsidiary players.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Connection (1961, drama, Warren Finnerty. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther panned “The Connection” upon its 1962 theatrical release [requires log-in]: “Outside of the notoriety that ‘The Connection’ has because it is the center of a contention over the legality of censorship in this state, there is little about it to warrant the clamorous interest of the average moviegoer or to distinguish it as a significant piece of cinematic art.” [Read more…]
But time has treated Shirley Clarke’s indie drama about jazz musician junkies well. Milestone Films has been busy restoring Clarke’s catalog and released “The Connection” on DVD. Steve Boone on writes, “It’s amazing, the realities that can co-exist in the same moment in time. While Shirley Clarke was filming ‘The Connection,’a New York independent film that captures the blistering intelligence and roiling emotions of jazz and the cold sweat of heroin addiction, Hollywood was churning out virgin cocktails like ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ Clarke was on a whole ‘nother level. Milestone Films is putting out new DVD’s and Blu-rays of “The Connection” so pristine that we can’t miss the genius this time around. Clarke’s raging, tickling lyricism [edited by her own hand] brings out the explosive honesty and stealthy compassion in Jack Gelber’s screenplay [adapted from his own stage play]. There is an indictment of a whole way of life stitched in there, and I’m not talking about the junkie way of life. I’m talking about the square, judgmental, blinders-on way of life that was Hollywood’s specialty at the time.”)

New TV
House of Cards: Season 5

New releases 9/26/17

Top Hits
The Devil’s Candy (horror, Ethan Embry. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Jennette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “To enjoy ‘The Devil’s Candy,’ then, one must tolerate slapdash writing [by the director, Sean Byrne] and profoundly irritating adult behavior. Yet Mr. Byrne — relying almost entirely on a doom-metal soundtrack, game performers and a grungy palette of oily browns and moldy greens — somehow whips his ingredients into an improbably taut man-versus-Satan showdown. In this, he’s helped immeasurably by Simon Chapman, a cinematographer who knows where to park his camera and when to hold it steady.” Read more…)

Transformers: The Last Knight (action, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 15%. Metacritic: 28. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Get to the fifth installment of a film series, especially a sci-fi action one with a reputation for mindless bloat, and you can generally assume you’ll be looking at the franchise’s most dreadful offering yet. But — surprise — the fifth “Transformers” movie, ‘The Last Knight,’ is far from the worst in this continuing experiment in noisy nonsense based on Hasbro toys. That is thanks largely to two words: Anthony Hopkins. What Mr. Hopkins, a knighted Emmy and Oscar winner, is doing in a ‘Transformers’ movie is unclear, but he brings a goofy dignity to the enterprise that elevates this chapter over its recent brethren.” Read more…)

All Eyez On Me: The Untold Story of Tupac Shakur (biopic, Demetrius Shipp Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 38. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “During his brief fireball of a career, the rapper Tupac Shakur was a galvanic, frequently confounding figure. ‘All Eyez on Me,’ a fictionalized film biography of Shakur, directed by Benny Boom and starring Demetrius Shipp Jr., is not only a clumsy and often bland account of his life and work, but it also gives little genuine insight into his thought, talent or personality.” Read more…)

Greater (sports drama, Neal McDonough. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 35.)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Transformers: The Last Knight
The Last Waltz
Double Exposure (1982, psychological thriller, remastered by Vinegar Syndrome, Michael Callan, includes DVD)
Orgy of the Dead (1965, written by Ed Wood, horror/camp/comedy, Criswell)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post 1960)
Cyborg 2087 (1966, sci-fi, Michael Rennie)

New British
Janet King: Series 3 (Australia legal series, Marta Dusseldorp)

New Documentaries
David Lynch: The Art Life (bio, art-making, movies, David Lynch. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The ‘Twin Peaks’ television revival is finally arriving in May, but David Lynch fans have had a long spell of contenting themselves with leftovers. [The director’s last feature was ‘Inland Empire’ in 2006.] The documentary ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ benefits from confining itself to a less-examined period. It closes with Mr. Lynch’s work on his first feature, “Eraserhead” (1977), following his artistic development from an upbringing in which he says his mother refused to let him have coloring books — the lines were somehow too restrictive — through his education as a painter.” Read more…)

Stray Dog (veterans’ issues, poverty, society, personality profile. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review:A young boy at a picnic asks Ron Hall about the medals and badges that decorate his leather motorcycle vest. ‘It’s a way of telling people who you are,’ Mr. Hall explains. ‘Stray Dog,’ Debra Granik’s new documentary, is all about who this man is. Mr. Hall, whose nickname gives the film its title, is a Vietnam veteran, a biker, the manager of a trailer park in southern Missouri, the patriarch of a multicultural family and much more. He’s a complicated American, and Ms. Granik honors that complexity.” Read more…)

New releases 9/19/17

Top Hits
Wonder Woman (superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Wonder Woman,’ directed by Patty Jenkins from a script by Allan Heinberg, briskly shakes off blockbuster branding imperatives and allows itself to be something relatively rare in the modern superhero cosmos. It feels less like yet another installment in an endless sequence of apocalyptic merchandising opportunities than like … what’s the word I’m looking for? A movie. A pretty good one, too. By which I mean that ‘Wonder Woman’ tells an interesting, not entirely predictable story [until the climax, which reverts, inevitably and disappointingly, to dreary, overblown action clichés]. It cleverly combines genre elements into something reasonably fresh, touching and fun. Its earnest insouciance recalls the ‘Superman’ movies of the ’70s and ’80s more than the mock-Wagnerian spectacles of our own day, and like those predigital Man of Steel adventures, it gestures knowingly but reverently back to the jaunty, truth-and-justice spirit of an even older Hollywood tradition.” Read more…)

The Hero (drama, Sam Elliott. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 61. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jennette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Salty of hair and weary of manner, Lee [Sam Elliott], an aging actor now reduced to using his treacle-and-tobacco voice to peddle barbecue sauce, knows he’s a cliché. And it’s that awareness, conveyed in every pained glance and drawled syllable, that saves ‘The Hero.’ Without Lee’s complicity in the triteness of his story — and Mr. Elliott’s ability to sell it as a melancholy burden — this low-key feature by Brett Haley wouldn’t be half as pleasurable.” Read more…)

The Big Sick (romantic comedy, Kumail Najiani. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love means having to say you’re sorry — early and often. That’s one of the truisms in ‘The Big Sick,’ a joyous, generous-hearted romantic comedy that, even as it veers into difficult terrain, insists that we just need to keep on laughing. Outwardly, the story seems familiar: A really nice guy falls for a woman he may not be worthy of and nearly blows it. What gives the movie both fizz and sting — and shows that there’s plenty of juice and possibility left in the American romantic comedy — are its particulars, especially the comic Kumail Nanjiani, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, a Pakistani-American struggling to make it in stand-up while fumbling through the rest of his life.” Read more…)

Certain Women (drama triptych, Laura Dern. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. scott’s New York Times review: “Though not technically a western, Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Vertain Women’ takes place in a region of broad skies, rocky landscapes and pent-up feelings. Human beings are sparse, and words are even scarcer. But Ms. Reichardt, a transplanted Easterner based in Portland, Ore., is a poet of silences and open spaces, and her plain-looking, taciturn films have their own kind of eloquence, the specific gravity of rare minerals.” Read more…)

Swallows and Amazons (family adventure based on 1930s English book series, Rafe Spall. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 65.)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Wonder Woman
Separate Tables (1958, drama, Burt Lancaster)
The Candy Tangerine Man + Lady Cocoa (blaxploitation, Vinegar Syndrome remaster with DVD)
The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Vinegar Syndrome remaster of sexploitation director works, also with DVD)

New Foreign DVDs
The Treasure (Romania, comedy, Cuzin Toma. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Treasure,’ like ’12:08 East of Bucharest’ and ‘Police, Adjective,’ rewards repeated viewing. It’s quite funny — Costi, Adrian and Cornel act out a low-key farce as they traipse through the yard looking for subterranean clues — and rich with unstated implications. [Director Corneliu] Porumboiu, as usual, is playing a long game, keeping you engaged with his rigorous formal wit until he can deliver a series of narrative and visual coups at the end. The final shot, accompanied by an improbable but perfect musical cue, is an astonishing cinematic gesture, an appalling, hilarious statement about modern values, the state of the world, human nature and everything else. This is a movie that lives up to its name.” Read more…)

By The Time It Gets Dark (Thailand, political historic drama, Arak Amornsupasiri. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘ By the Time It Gets Dark,’ the second feature from the Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong, tiptoes around an event in October 1976, when students at Thammasat University in Bangkok were violently suppressed while protesting the return of a military leader. That context is never fully clarified in the movie, a continually mutating narrative that has little interest in providing bearings or telling a straightforward story, though we see the crackdown staged for a photo shoot, and the preparation for the protests in a flashback.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Vietnam War (Ken Burns & Lynn Novick documentary, history, war, social conflict, activism. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 88. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “The war in Vietnam offers no uplift or happy ending. It’s simply decades of bad decision after bad decision, a wasteful vortex that devoured lives for nothing. It was, the narrator Peter Coyote says, ‘begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculations.’ ‘The Vietnam War’ is less an indictment than a lament. This is where Mr. Burns and Ms. Novick’s primary-source interviews are so effective. Arguably, the most important Ken Burns effect is not a visual trick but the refocusing of history on first-person stories. Geoffrey C. Ward’s script has a big-picture historical arc — presidents and generals, battles and negotiations, domino theory and madman theory. The narrative wends nimbly from Washington to the battlefield [both sides] to living rooms, TV studios, campuses and convention halls. But the film’s power comes from the oral histories.” Read more…)

New releases 9/12/17

Top Hits
Beatriz at Dinner (comedy, Salma Hayek. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The hopeless polarization of American society is both a truism and a taboo. We may be divided by class, race, ideology and any number of other forces, but many of us also cling to the belief — or the delusion — that a larger consensus still holds us together. Failing that, we can at least still be nice to one another when the occasion requires. Can’t we? ‘Beatriz at Dinner,’ a new film directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White, unflinchingly addresses that question, and declines to provide a comforting answer.” Read more…)

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (animated feature, Kevin Hart [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 69. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “It’s a frenetic animated film from DreamWorks whose title is really all you need to know. If your child would be amused by seeing the word “underpants” in the name of a movie, this one will entertain. The film, based on Dav Pilkey’s book series, is about two friends, George [voiced by Kevin Hart] and Harold [Thomas Middleditch], who spend their spare time pulling pranks and creating D.I.Y. comic books about Captain Underpants, a superhero whose outfit boldly acknowledges that many superhero costumes in fact are little more than fancy undies.” Read more…)

The Mummy (action/adventure, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 34. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “You’ve no doubt been told that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. If I followed that rule, I’d be unemployed. But still. There’s no great joy in accentuating the negative. So I will say this in favor of ‘The Mummy’: It is 110 minutes long. That is about 20 minutes shorter than ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,’ about which I had some unkind things to say a couple of weeks ago. Simple math will tell you how much better this movie is than that one. If you have no choice but to see it — a circumstance I have trouble imagining — you can start in on your drinking that much sooner.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray Discs
The Mummy

New British
Broadchurch: Season 3 (mystery series, David Tennant)
Decline and Fall (comedy series, Jack Whitehall)

New TV
This Is Us: Season 1 (dramedy series, Mandy Moore)
Designated Survivor: Season 1 (political thriller series, Kiefer Sutherland)

New Documentaries
Germans and Jews (anti-semitism, reconciliation. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 73. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Don’t expect simple answers in ‘Germans & Jews.’ Just prepare for formidable questions. Those are the real reasons to see this incisive documentary. More than 200,000 Jews live in Germany, and according to the film, Berlin has the fastest-growing Jewish population in Europe — startling facts, given the country’s history. The filmmakers speak with individuals there to learn how they reckon with the past, which pervades so many aspects of contemporary German life.” Read more…)

Festival (1967, Newport Folk Festival, music, history, Joan Baez)

New releases 9/5/17

Top Hits
Band Aid (romance/comedy, Zoe Lister-Jones. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic: 67. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “And while the songs have adequate toe-tapping potential, they are primarily a storytelling device, a way of lending this couples-therapy comedy some distinction. [In addition to writing, directing and starring in the movie, Ms. Lister-Jones composed the music for the tunes, mostly with Kyle Forester, and wrote the lyrics.]” Read more…)

Paris Can Wait (romance, Diane Lane. Rotten Tomatoes 44%. Metacritic: 48. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Paris Can Wait,’ a smugly affluent Euro trifle and the first narrative feature from Eleanor Coppola [the wife of Francis Ford Coppola], is little more than an indulgent wallow in gustatory privilege. By the time the final meal is devoured, you’ll be wanting nothing so much as an antacid.” Read more…)

Rough Night (comedy, Scarlett Johansson. Rotten Tomatoes 46%. Metacritic: 51. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “How low can she go? That’s the question in the soft vanilla comedy ‘Rough Night,’ about five women who blunder into disaster over the course of a carousing bachelorette weekend. If you’ve seen ‘The Hangover’ and its sequels or various other movies of this familiar ilk, you have more or less seen ‘Rough Night.'” Read more…)

Megan Leavey (war drama, Kate Mara. Rotten Tomatoes 84%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “When the story you’re telling involves a Marine and her combat dog, you know it’s going to be high on emotion, both the pulse-pounding and the heartstring-tugging varieties. The key is to not overplay the hand. Gabriela Cowperthwaite seems to recognize that in her direction of ‘Megan Leavey,’ letting this irresistible real-life story tell itself with a minimum of manufactured sentiment.” Read more…)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (true life drama, Oprah Winfrey. Rotten Tomatoes 66%. Metacritic: 64. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times television review: “One of the most acclaimed nonfiction books of 2010, ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ began as an investigation of a medical miracle but became a gripping, poignant story about racism, shoddy scientific ethics and a sprawling family’s painful experiences with both. If it sounds as if effectively truncating such an intricate, provocative book into a 93-minute movie would be nearly impossible, well, the film version that has its premiere Saturday night on HBO proves the point. This fascinating tale really wanted to be a six- or eight-episode mini-series.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Sherlock Holmes (1916 silent film restoration)
Army of Darkness

New Foreign
Raw (France, horror, Garance Marillier. Rotten Tomatoes 90%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Raw,’ Julia Ducournau’s jangly opera of sexual and dietary awakening, is an exceptionally classy-looking movie about deeply horrifying behavior. Infusing each scene with a cold, unwelcoming beauty, the Belgian cinematographer Ruben Impens makes his camera complicit in the trashy goings-on. Sneaking beneath bedsheets and sliding over young flesh, his lens takes us places we may not want to go.” Read more…)

The Wedding Plan (Israel, rom-com, Noa Koler. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The premise and the title of ‘The Wedding Plan’ suggest a bubbly rom-com, but this prickly, delicately layered film from Rama Burshtein — an ultra-Orthodoz director based in Israel — has the tangled ambiguity of a Talmudic lesson. Like Ms. Burshtein’s ‘Fill the Void’ [2013], the story of a religious woman who must decide whether to marry her dead sister’s husband, ‘The Wedding Plan’ manages to be respectful of traditions while at the same time feeling modern, even progressive.” Read more…)

Like Crazy (Italy, comedy/drama, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Rotten Tomatoes 81%. Metacritic: 74. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Cultural sensitivity about mental illness has increased to the extent that using a psychiatric hospital or its residents as metaphors for society in general is considered in bad taste, at least. But either nobody has told this to the Italian film director Paolo Virzì, or he just doesn’t care. The analogy he draws between Italy and two initially opposed women in an institution is the linchpin of his ‘Like Crazy,’ an energetic, visually attractive but ultimately irritating comedy-drama.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Sherlock Holmes (1916, silent classic, William Gillette)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Birthday Party (1968, William Friedkin-directed version of Harold Pinter play, Robert Shaw. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In this brief shot, which opens the movie adaptation of Harold Pinter’s ‘The Birthday Party,’ William Friedkin, the director, captures in simple visual terms the verbalized purgatory of Pinter’s stage play. There are both the hint of menace, never defined, and the suggestion of the dislocation of familiar things, which can be both terrifying and funny. Subsequently, however, the movie becomes an almost literal screen translation of material conceived for the stage. It is beautifully acted and photographed and its soundtrack has a kind of ferocious presence, but it’s a movie that doesn’t really have a life of its own.” Read more…)

New British
Endeavour: Season 4 (mystery series, Shaun Evans)

New releases 8/29/17

Top Hits
Baywatch (action/comedy, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 37. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The film, directed by Seth Gordon [‘Identity Thief,’ ‘Horrible Bosses’], can be viewed from several perspectives, most notably the abdominal, the pectoral and the gluteal. If torsos and tails are not your thing, other aspects of human anatomy are also available for study. Arms and legs, for example. But though acres of flesh are exposed to view — most of it pleasingly sculpted — there is very little outright nudity and no sex to speak of. You will, however, witness some rude and suggestive sight gags and an extended sequence in a morgue involving the genitals of a dead man. Those bits, and the energetic profanity in the script [written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift], represent cosmetic alterations intended to secure an R rating, at the moment a mark of credibility in the world of big-screen comedy. Make no mistake, though: The project’s essential network prime-time DNA remains intact. Like its source material, “Baywatch” is sleazy and wholesome, silly and earnest, dumb as a box of sand and slyly self-aware. It’s soft-serve ice cream. Crinkle-cut fries. A hot car and a skin rash. Tacky and phony and nasty and also kind of fun.” Read more…)

Dean (drama/comedy/romance, Demetri Martin. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 58. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Demetri Martin joins the ranks of comics who have written and directed films with the movie “Dean,” a mild but respectable story about a father and son who react to grief differently and have to recalibrate their relationship as a result. Mr. Martin plays the title character, an illustrator who has been at sea personally and professionally since his mother’s death. Kevin Kline is Robert, Dean’s father, who also feels the loss but is reconciled to moving on. Among the ways he plans to do so is to sell the house where he still lives and where Dean grew up, a decision Dean is not ready to accept.” Read more…)

My Cousin Rachel (mystery/romance, Rachel Weisz. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A young man, a strange woman and an unsettled death that may be a murder — “My Cousin Rachel” vibrates with possibility. That’s especially the case when Rachel arrives in Britain, sweeping into the family manor, wearing widow’s weeds and a Mona Lisa smile. The story’s gift and its lever, Rachel is the enigmatic, perhaps unknowable woman whose ambiguity is at once a kind of freedom (for her, at least in part) and a cause for suspicion (for everyone else, though chiefly Philip). She quickly pries open both the story and Philip, setting loose the emotions that had been straining beneath all the polite manners and smiles, the buttoned-up clothing and desires.” Read more…)

Inconceivable (thriller, Gina Gershon. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%.)
Batman and Harley Quinn (animated PG-13 superhero feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.)

New Blu-Ray Discs

New Foreign
Heal the Living (France, drama, Emmanuelle Seigner. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 82. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “If you have ever been moved to tears by a television commercial, then prepare to be devastated by ‘Heal the Living,’ one of the most gorgeous and beautifully acted sales pitches you are ever likely to encounter. What you’re being asked to buy, however, is not cereal or sugary soda; no, this juggernaut of sentiment — whether intentionally or not — plays like nothing so much as a hugely expensive advertisement for organ donation.” Read more…)

A French Village: Seasons 3 & 4 (France, historical drama series, Audrey Fleurot)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Breaking Point (1950, film noir, John Garfield. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Warner Brothers, which already has taken one feeble swing and a cut at Ernest Hemingway’s memorable story of a tough guy, ‘To Have and Have Not,’ finally has got hold of that fable and socked it for a four-base hit in a film called ‘The Breaking Point,’ which came to the Strand yesterday. All of the character, color and cynicism of Mr. Hemingway’s lean and hungry tale are wrapped up in this realistic picture, and John Garfield is tops in the principal role.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Mechanic (1972, action thriller, Charles Bronson. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. From Vincent Canby’s 1972 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Mechanic,’ which opened yesterday at the Victoria and other theaters, is about Arthur Bishop [Charles Bronson], a cool professional killer who lives in lonely splendor in the Hollywood hills, with a pool in his living room and an ache in his heart. Although Arthur is a genius at planning the accidental deaths of others [including an old associate, on whom a contract has been let], and although he spends a lot of time keeping fit [jogging, handball, karate, flying a plane], something is awfully wrong in Arthur’s life.” Read more…)

New British
Delicious: Series 1 (romance/drama, Dawn French)

New TV
Elementary: Season 4 (mystery series, Lucy Liu)
The White Princess (costume drama, Jodie Comer)

New Documentaries
Kiki (LGBTQ teens, race, dance, gender. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Jennie Livingston’s 1991 film, ‘Paris Is Burning,’ was a vivid look at an influential gay subculture in New York before the term L.G.B.T.Q. even existed. The ‘Paris’ crew, made up largely of black and Hispanic transgender women and drag performers, took its outlandish ballroom competitions from Harlem to Times Square and the Village, jolting the pop culture of the time. It also chronicled their individual struggles to survive. More than 25 years later, ‘Kiki,’ a new documentary directed by the Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno [and credited as a film by Ms. Jordeno and Twiggy Pucci Garçon], explores the contemporary Harlem gay and transgender scene. Yet the absence of elder mentors is sadly conspicuous. It’s possible that many, maybe most, of that earlier generation is no longer with us.” Read more…)

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger (art, philosophy, politics, John Berger. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 56. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “The novelist, art critic, art historian, painter and poet John Berger, who turns 90 this year, is so much a Renaissance man that calling him one almost seems like damning him with faint praise. His 1972 novel, ‘G,’ won the Booker Prize. His screenplays have yielded several critically acclaimed films, including ‘Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000’ [1976]. He was a widely seen television personality in 1960s and ’70s Britain. He is still active and prolific today, and the anthology film ‘The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger’ is a challenging, sometimes poignant engagement with the man and his work.” Read more…)

[New Children’s DVDs
Toy Story That Time Forgot (Disney animated short)
Peanuts by Schulz: School Days (cartoons)

New releases 8/15 and 8/22/17

Top Hits
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (comic book action, Chris Pratt. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 67. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ has all the digital bells and whistles as well as much of the likable, self-aware waggery of the first. In many respects, it’s not much different except it all feels a bit strained, as if everyone were trying too hard, especially its writer-director, James Gunn.” Read more…)

The Monster (horror, Zoe Kazan. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Monstrous motherhood has never gone out of fashion, including in movies — recent examples include ‘The Babadook’ and ‘Goodnight Mommy’ — that are more obvious fodder for art houses than for multiplexes. ‘The Monster’ is cleverly pitched somewhere in between, with the kind of generous splatters that evoke the good old nasty days of grindhouse horror and enough sleek, self-conscious moves for festival play dates. Part of the ticklish enjoyment in ‘The Monster’ is how the director, Bryan Bertino [‘The Strangers’], plays with genre registers and how, after opening with disquieting stillness and an isolated child, he slowly yet surely turns up the shrieks.” Read more…)

Alien: Covenant (sci-fi, Michael Fassbender. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To complain about its lack of ambition would be to misconstrue its intentions. Rather than setting out to conquer new worlds or excavate primal fears, this “Alien” is content to uphold a long-lived and well-regarded brand. Correcting some of the previous film’s mistakes — not enough alien! too much mythological mumbo-jumbo best left to movies with “Star” in the title! — Mr. Scott parcels out carefully measured portions of awe, wonder and terror on the established installment plan. This episode needs to satisfy you just enough to make sure you come back for the next one.” Read more…)

The Wall (war, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 57. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Combine two Army Rangers and one pile of stones, throw in a disembodied voice and a whole heap of sand, and you have almost the entirety of ‘The Wall,’ a compressed thriller from Doug Liman that’s more psychological standoff than traditional war game. Working with an unusually small budget [this is no ‘Edge of Tomorrow’] and an uncomfortably tight shooting schedule [14 days in the California desert], Mr. Liman answers the siren song of minimalism with gusto if not complete success. In lieu of flying shrapnel and fancy production design, the director ramps the intensity to 11, then breaks the dial.” Read more…)

Chuck (boxing/sports, Liev Screiber. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s new York Times review: “[Actor Liev] Schreiber has almost no physical resemblance to [boxer Chuck] Wepner, in his heyday a burly, mustachioed redhead. Mr. Schreiber is a terrific actor, however, and he pulls it off. His portrayal works partly because of its understatement. He doesn’t try to Jersey things up too much, so to speak; nor does Elisabeth Moss, as the philandering boxer’s long-suffering wife. Naomi Watts, on the other hand, playing a later love of Wepner’s, clearly relishes the opportunity to perform in a vintage glitter sweater and painted-on jeans.” Read more…)

Everything, Everything (romance, Amandla Sternberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 52. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “With a pair of irresistible leads and a straightforward love-overcomes-adversity story, ‘Everything, Everything’ scores a direct hit on the teenage-girl market. Others might find it pretty enjoyable as well. Stella Meghie directed this adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s young-adult novel about a teenager, Maddy, who has spent her life inside a sterile house because of an immune system disorder that leaves her catastrophically vulnerable to diseases. [Did you just have a flashback to ‘Bubble Boy’? Rest easy; this movie is a completely different animal.]” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Alien: Covenant
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

New Foreign
Goodnight Mommy (Germany, horror/thriller, Georg Deliovsky. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Like many foreign movies that venture outside their home countries, ‘Goodnight Mommy’ must live with an English title far inferior to its Austrian original, which literally translates as ‘I see, I see.’ Eyes — and what we think they see — are everything in this carefully controlled creep-out, gazing into mirrors and peering through shutters and tightly wrapped gauze. When it’s over, even those who have guessed its final twist (because we have seen it before) will immediately want to watch again, if only to check the logic of its shifting points of view.” Read more…)

La Poison (France, 1951, black comedy, Michel Simon)

Francofonia (Russia, documentary/drama, Benjamin Utzerath. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The fate of art is the main concern of ‘Francofonia,’ which takes place mostly in and around the Louvre. Its museum setting makes the film a companion piece of sorts to ‘Russian Ark,’ [director Alexander] Sokurov’s single-shot tour of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and something of an American art house hit in 2002. But while that film was a 99-minute sprint through the Russian past, this one lingers over a particular episode during the Nazi occupation of France. It takes the form of an extended cinematic essay, blending fictionalized re-enactments of plausible events with excursions into scholarship and fantasy.” Read more…)

After the Storm (Japan, drama, Hiroshi Abe. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Hirokazu] Kore-eda, whose most noteworthy family dramas include ‘Still Walking’ [2009] and ‘Like Father, Like Son’ [2014], works in a quiet cinematic register, and the slightest error in tone could upend the whole enterprise. Slow-paced, sad, rueful and sometimes warmly funny, ‘After the Storm’ is one of his sturdiest, and most sensitive, constructions.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Savage Innocents (1960, Nicholas Ray-directed drama/adventure, Anthony Quinn. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Eugene Archer’s 1961 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “By working with a visual style emphasizing violent eruptive motion rather than smoother, more graceful techniques, and by deliberately concealing his symbolic meanings beneath the bewildering surface level of his plot, Mr. Ray has simultaneously sacrificed his chances for popular acceptance and allied himself with such difficult and controversial European filmmakers as Michelangelo Antonioni [‘L’Avventura’] and Jean-Luc Godard [‘Breathless’].” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Homo Sapiens (human existence, architecture, landscapes, post-apocalypse. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The latest film from the meticulous, provocative Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter could be described as an environmental documentary. Its form is as simple as death. A stationary camera takes in, one after the other, a single image of a space constructed (or simply scarred) by humankind, and subsequently abandoned. In the first minutes of “Homo Sapiens,” we see railroad tracks, a bicycle rack and the rudiments of a train station.” Read more…)

Betting on Zero (pyramid scheme, Herbalife, financial skullduggery, Bill Ackman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 72. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Even without an upbeat ending, though, ‘Betting on Zero’ would be persuasive advocacy. [hedge fund manager William A.] Ackman comes across as sincere in his outrage and cogent in his presentations. Even more valuable is the opportunity to meet and learn about Herbalife’s purported victims, from Queens to Chicago to Oklahoma.” Read more…)

Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (bio/history, Hannah Arendt. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt,’ a vigorous and thoughtful new documentary by Ada Ushpiz, frames its inquiry into Arendt’s career with her encounter with Eichmann. But its focus is much wider than the still-potent debate over ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem,’ which was widely and fiercely attacked for what critics took to be its trivialization of Eichmann’s deeds and its lack of sympathy for his victims. Though both Arendt’s defenders and detractors are heard from, Ms. Ushpiz’s film situates the Eichmann episode within a broad and rich portrait of an intellectual determined to use the tools of rationality to comprehend historical events that seem to defy all reason.” Read more…)

Francofonia (Russia, documentary/drama, Benjamin Utzerath. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The fate of art is the main concern of ‘Francofonia,’ which takes place mostly in and around the Louvre. Its museum setting makes the film a companion piece of sorts to ‘Russian Ark,’ [director Alexander] Sokurov’s single-shot tour of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and something of an American art house hit in 2002. But while that film was a 99-minute sprint through the Russian past, this one lingers over a particular episode during the Nazi occupation of France. It takes the form of an extended cinematic essay, blending fictionalized re-enactments of plausible events with excursions into scholarship and fantasy.” Read more…)

New releases 8/8/17

Top Hits
King Arthur (myth/action, Jude Law. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The galumphing digital elephants crashing through the hectic, murky opening of ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ are an early sign that this isn’t meant to be your granddad’s Arthurian legend. And, well, why should it be or how could it be, given who’s behind the camera? The director Guy Ritchie likes his action fast and frenetic, and he’s more focused on how things look — mostly, he’s chasing that certain something called cool — than in narrative coherency or plausibility. And, anyway, those angry elephants are magical, just like the dragons swooping through the HBO show ‘Game of Thrones.'” Read more…)

The Exception (war drama, Lily James. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 60. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In recent years, some movies have reopened the World War II files — especially those parts dealing with the Nazi occupation of Europe and the resistance to it — in search of gray areas and moral puzzles rather than black-and-white tales of treachery and heroism. ‘The Exception,’ a new film based on a novel by Alan Judd, circles back to an older tradition. Apart from the swearing, the nudity and the nonmarital sex, it’s the kind of suspenseful, romantic melodrama of awakened conscience that might have been made in Hollywood or Britain in the early years of the war, before the worst of its horrors were widely known.” Read more…)

Jack Strong (2015, spy drama, Marcin Dorociński. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 41. From MIchael Rechstaffen’s Los Angeles Times review: “Fans of Cold War novelists John le Carré and Tom Clancy should warm up to ‘Jack Strong,’ a gripping political thriller based on the exploits of Ryszard Kuklinski, a high-ranking Polish army officer who shared top-secret Soviet documents with the CIA between 1972 and 1981. Effectively written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski, the Polish- and English-language film stars Marcin Dorocinski as Kuklinski [code name: Jack Strong], a colonel who had played a significant role in the Warsaw Pact 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.” Read more…)

Snatched (comedy, Amy Schumer. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 45. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In the first few scenes of ‘Snatched,’ Emily Middleton [Amy Schumer] loses her retail job and her rock ’n’ roll boyfriend. Those are the high points of the movie, quick and nasty riffs to remind you of ‘Trainwreck’ and raise your hopes for something similar. Those hopes are both fulfilled and disappointed.” Read more…)

The Sea (drama, Ciaran Hinds. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 54.)

New Blu-Ray Discs
King Arthur

New Foreign
In the Shadow of Women (France, romance/drama, Clotilde Courau. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written by Mr. Garrel, Jean-Claude Carrière, Caroline Deruas [who is married to Mr. Garrel] and Arlette Langmann, the film has a curiosity about how women deal with a selfish and unreliable man that feels more gallant than empathetic. But Mr. Garrel is always worth attending to when he takes up the rhythms and paradoxes of love, and even though this is a minor entry in his canon of melancholy romances, it is brief, brisk and intermittently affecting.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Notes on Blindness (writing, loss of sight, perseverance, John Hull. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “In 1983, John M. Hull, a professor of religion at the University of Birmingham in England, lost his eyesight and began the agonizing personal journey to hell and back that he describes in the magnificent documentary ‘Notes on Blindness.’ Adapted from Professor Hull’s memoir, ‘On Sight and Insight: A Journey Into the World of Blindness,’ the film, using mostly his words, describes with extraordinary eloquence, precision and poetic sensitivity his physical and psychological metamorphosis as he felt the world retreat until it seemed mostly out of reach.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (children’s feature, Jason Drucker. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. Metacritic: 39. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ movie franchise has been dormant for five years, so the new installment, subtitled ‘The Long Haul,’ was an opportunity to rejuvenate this never very good series with some recasting. Unfortunately, the fresh blood has been saddled with a tired story, the family road trip that goes outlandishly awry, and the result is another forgettable film.” Read more…)