New releases 6/20/17

Top Hits
Morgan (thriller, Kate Mara. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 48. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “That ‘Morgan’ is a movie about genetics is somehow appropriate, given that the origins of its director, Luke Scott, will be an inescapable component of any discussion of its merits. Unveiling a first feature seems stressful enough; but when your father is peeking over your shoulder as one of the producers, and he’s none other than Ridley Scott — who, with ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ gave us two of the most memorable science-fiction films of the past 40 years — then the weight of expectation must be especially daunting.” Read more…)

Bitter Harvest (historic drama set in 1930s Ukraine/romance, Max Irons. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 34. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Politics, romance, faith and famine are mashed into a single misshapen meatball in ‘Bitter Harvest,’ which follows two Ukrainian lovebirds through a mass starvation in the early 1930s known as the Holodomor.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Life (sci-fi, Jake Gyllenhaal. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 54. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In an opening sequence, ‘Life’ allows viewers to float through an international space station. The camera zips around corners and turns upside-down in a feat of impossible [and most likely effects-massaged] cinematography. It’s tempting to tune out the exposition and simply concentrate on the director Daniel Espinosa’s dazzling imagery, even if it now looks familiar from ‘Gravity’ and ‘Avatar.'” Read more…)

New releases 6/13/17

Top Hits
The Lego Batman Movie (animated feature, Will Arnett [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As gateway drugs go, ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ is pretty irresistible. It’s silly without being truly strange or crossing over into absurdity. Along the way it pulls off a nifty balancing act: It gives the PG audience its own Batman movie [it’s a superhero starter kit] and takes swipes at the subgenre, mostly by gently mocking the seriousness that has become a deadening Warner Bros. default. ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ can’t atone for a movie as grindingly bad as the studio’s ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ which stars Ben Affleck as the Gotham City brooder, but at least someone on that lot gets the joke.” Read more…)

The Sense of An Ending (drama, Jim Broadbent. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times Review: “Adapted from a brief but emotionally potent 2011 novel by Julian Barnes, ‘The Sense of an Ending’ initially honors its source material by taking clever, inventive cinematic liberties with it. The book, a first-person account of its aged protagonist, Tony Webster, has a bifurcated structure: ‘how I remembered these events’ and ‘what really happened.’ Flashbacks arrive in blink-and-you-miss-them bursts that then expand to explain the significance of a look or a gesture; memory becomes a form of time travel, putting Tony [Jim broadbent] inside his own recollections, taking the place of his young self.” Read more…)

John Wick: Chapter Two (action, Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “They just couldn’t leave it alone. The original ‘John Wick,’ about an über assassin who’s reluctantly drawn out of retirement, was a near perfect synergy of simple premise and intricate movement — an action movie that danced. But the lightness and winking quality that softened the slaughter are less evident in ‘John Wick: Chapter 2,’ an altogether more solemn affair weighed down by the philosophy that more is always more.” Read more…)

Growing Up Smith (coming-of-age story, Roni Akurati. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The nostalgic haze that used to be associated with the 1950s seems to have drifted forward in time in recent years, with the latest example being ‘Growing Up Smith,’ a gentle cross-cultural film about a 10-year-old boy from India who is navigating childhood with his immigrant family in a generic American suburb in 1979.” Read more…)

Akron (gay romance/coming-of-age, Matthew Frias)

New Blu-Ray
The Lego Batman Movie
John Wick: Chapter Two

New Foreign DVDs
Neruda (Chile, historical drama/biopic, Luis Gnecca. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Neruda,’ Pablo Larraín’s semifantastical biopic, is a warmhearted film about a hot-blooded man that is nonetheless troubled by a subtle, perceptible chill. Blending fact with invention, it tells the story of a confrontation between an artist [the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda] and an emerging dictatorship, and more generally illuminates the endless struggle between political authority and the creative imagination. For anyone who believes that poetry and democracy spring from the same source and provoke the same enemies, this movie provides both encouragement and warning.” Read more…)

The Son of Joseph (France, drama, Victor Ezenfis. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “Eugène Green, a nearly five-decade resident of France born in New York, makes films that draw as much on architecture, paintings, music and theater as on cinema. If his unadorned high-art allusions can make him an acquired taste, his latest farce, ‘The Son of Joseph,’ is his most accessible film since ‘The Living World,’ from 2003.” Read more…)

Frantz (France, post-World War I period drama, Paula Beer. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Can carefully constructed lies heal the emotional wounds of war? That unsettling question goes to the heart of ‘Frantz,’ François Ozon’s sleek, somber adaptation of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 antiwar film, ‘Broken Lullaby,’ set in Germany and France in the aftermath of World War I. I won’t reveal the lie that propels the story except to say that it’s a whopper: a big one invented to comfort the aggrieved at a moment when the Great War seemed to have undermined the sanity of a world thrown into chaos by mass slaughter.” Read more…)

Suntan (Greece, comedy/drama/romance, Makis Papadimitriou. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Suntan’ opens as a dumpy, raccoon-eyed but generally agreeable middle-aged physician named Kostis [Makis Papadimitriou] arrives on the Greek island of Antiparos. It’s a rainy winter, but a local roué promises that with the tourist season, opportunities for amorous activity will be overwhelming. Kostis seems unconcerned. Then summer comes, and with it one spectacularly attractive young patient. Entranced, Kostis takes to the island’s nude beaches to find the woman, Anna [Elli Tringou], and once he does, tries to ingratiate himself into her hedonistic band, which adopts him as both a quasi-mascot and an emotional punching bag.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
They Live By Night (1948, Criterion Collection Nicholas Ray-directed film noir, Farley Granger. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Based on a novel by Edward Anderson, which, in turn, was no doubt inspired by the two or three real-life sagas that we’ve had of ‘boy bandits’ and their brides, this well-designed motion picture derives what distinction it has from good, realistic production and sharp direction by Nicholas Ray. Mr. Ray has an eye for action details. His staging of the robbery of a bank, all seen by the lad in the pick-up car, makes a fine clip of agitating film. And his sensitive juxtaposing of his actors against highways, tourist camps and bleak motels makes for a vivid comprehension of an intimate personal drama in hopeless flight. As the young bandit, Farley Granger gives a genuine sense of nervous strain and is wistful and appealing in his brave approach to a piteous romance.” Read more…)

Stanley and Livingstone (1939, adventure/historical drama, Spencer Tracy. From an unsigned 1939 New York Times review [requires log-in}: “The motion picture which Darryl Zanuck and Company have fabricated on the theme of Henry M. Stanley’s successful search for the unlost missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, is one which, on the whole, celebrates worthily the story of perhaps the toughest news assignment in journalistic history. Intelligent and restrained and dignified, even to the point of playing down the moment which brought forth that favorite quotation: ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’, ‘Stanley and Livingstone’ [at the Roxy] is the best break the Fourth Estate has had on the screen since the beginning of the Stereotype Era.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
From Noon Till Three (1976, comedy/western, Charles Bronson. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘From Noon Till Three’ is neither a conventionally comic Western nor a conventional comedy, and it certainly isn’t a conventional Bronson film. More than anything else, I suppose, it is an ebulliently cheerful satire of contemporary myth-making and celebrity, cast as a fable of the Old West. Not all of it is equally successful, and it takes its time making certain points, which, being made, are made again; yet its intelligence and its narrative shape are immensely satisfying.” Read more…)

New TV Series

Versailles: Season 1 (period drama, George Blagden. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 55.)

New Documentaries
American Epic (music, folk music, American history, recording technology)
I Am JFK, Jr. (biography, politics, John F. Kennedy Jr.)

New Gay & Lesbian
Akron (gay romance/coming-of-age, Matthew Frias)

New Music
American Epic (music, folk music, American history, recording technology)

New releases 6/6/17

Top Hits
Beauty and the Beast (live action Disney romance, Emma Watson. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 65.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This live-action/digital hybrid, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles, is more than a flesh-and-blood (and prosthetic fur-and-horns) revival of the 26-year-old cartoon, and more than a dutiful trip back to the pop-culture fairy-tale well. Its classicism feels unforced and fresh. Its romance neither winks nor panders. It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.” Read more…)

Aftermath (drama, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 44. From April Wolfe’s Village Voice review: “No matter your opinion of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a person, you can’t deny this: The man is a doer. And in Elliott Lester’s grief drama “Aftermath,” the ripped Renaissance man does a subtle, absorbing performance of despair so unlike his other work that his lined and laden face at times seems nearly unrecognizable on that bulging body. This is Arnold?” Read more…)

A United Kingdom (historical drama, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The best reason to see ‘A United Kingdom,’ however, is the performance by Mr. Oyelowo, who is also one of the film’s producers. As written by Mr. Hibbert, Seretse Khama is a character of stock wisdom and nobility — on introduction, practically his first words are ‘I see an Africa that’s about unity, inclusion and equality.’ But Mr. Oyelowo, who is one of the best actors working today onstage or onscreen, imbues his portrayal of Seretse [who in 1966 became the democratically elected president of the independent Botswana] with a disarming delicacy and vulnerability that make the strengths he is later forced to show all the more convincing. It is remarkable, genuinely riveting work.” Read more…)

A Cure for Wellness (psychological thriller, Dane DeHaan. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 47. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘A Cure for Wellness’ defiantly and splendidly flouts the tenets of plausibility and coherence, which have never interested [director Gore] Verbinski very much. His résumé, after all, includes ‘The Lone Ranger’ [also written by Mr. Haythe], ‘Rango’ and, most notably, the first three ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies. He comes by his knack for enjoyable nonsense as honestly as his taste for aquatic fauna.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Beauty and the Beast

New Foreign DVDs
Land of Mine (Denmark/Germany, postwar drama, Roland Moller. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Land of Mine’ is an interesting addition to the growing roster of recent European films — Paul Verhoeven’s queasy ‘Black Book’ may be the best-known example among American audiences — that search out the grayer areas of World War II and its aftermath. Mr. Zandvliet is less interested in the stark battle between good and evil than in the shifting ground of power and responsibility, and the way that every person carries the potential for decency and depravity.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Merry Widow (1934, Ernst Lubitsch-directed musical, Maurice Chevalier. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Andre Sennwald’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a good show in the excellent Lubitsch manner, heady as the foam on champagne, fragile as mist and as delicately gay as a good-natured censor will permit. Victor Leon and Leo Stein have arranged a book to suit the Lubitsch style and the songs which fall to Miss MacDonald and Mr. Chevalier have grace and wit. All of the sets are consummately lovely and a few of them are entrancing enough to persuade a Moslem that he has departed this life for the paradise promised by the Prophet.” Read more…)

Midnight Lace (1960, thriller, Doris Day. From Bosley Crowther’s 1960 New York Times review [log-in required]: “It’s always nice to have a mystery melodrama, no matter how implausible it may be, that takes place amid elegant surroundings and involves people who are beautiful and rich. It makes one feel so luxurious to be there with the diamonds and champagne, enjoying the heat on the rich folks and knowing that you are not going to be burned. That’s how it is in the Ross Hunter-Arwin Production’s ‘Midnight Lace,’ a multi-million-dollar thriller in color, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. Everything in it is expensive—Rex Harrison, Doris Day, his suits, her clothes, his London office, their duplex flat in Grosvenor Square.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
40 Pounds of Trouble (1962, family comedy, Tony Curtis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times reciew [requires log-in]: “Every time they remake ‘Little Miss Marker,’ the famous Damon Runyon tale about a gambler who inherits a moppet and has to take care of her, they make it a little less charming, a little more commercial and crude. That is evident in ’40 Pounds of Trouble,’ which opened yesterday at the Palace and other metropolitan theaters.” Read more…)

New TV Series
The Young Pope (HBO mini-series, Jude Law. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 68. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “Religion makes great material for horror stories. It wrestles with the same mysteries as that genre does — death, the soul, the nature of evil. It traffics in awe, which is a closely related emotion to terror. Catholicism, with its richness of symbols and incense-perfumed ritual, has been a staple of scary fiction right up through Fox’s current iteration of ‘The Exorcist.’ HBO’s ‘The Young Pope,’ beginning on Sunday and showing Sundays and Mondays, is a visually sublime but textually ridiculous horror tale in which the monster is the pontiff himself.” Read more…)

New releases 5/30/17

Top Hits
Before I Fall (drama/mystery, Zoey Deutch. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The film, directed by Ry Russo-Young, written by Maria Maggenti and based on Lauren Oliver’s young-adult novel, isn’t a comedy but rather a dutiful entry in the intermittently popular dying-girl melodrama genre. The damp, forested Pacific Northwest setting puts us in the “Twilight” zone. The mood of morbid, smiling-through-tears sentimentality recalls ‘The Fault in Our Stars,’ ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,’ and ‘If I Stay.'” Read more…)

Fist Fight (comedy, Ice Cube. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 37. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “I’ll be honest with you. I was in a pretty foul mood when I went to see ‘Fist Fight.’ It was Wednesday. It was February. It was 2017. And while I can’t exactly say that the movie cheered me up, it did give me something I needed. Not catharsis or uplift but a bracing dose of profane, sloppy, reasonably well-directed hostility. We take what we can get.” Read more…)

The Shack (drama/fantasy, Sam Worthington. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 32. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “First things first: ‘The Shack,’ a Christian-themed movie with laudable ambitions, will resonate with lots of people who feel Hollywood does not generally understand or care about their world. That said, a bit more editing to remove some of the airiness would have made for a better film.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Shack
Before I Fall
Fist Fight

New Foreign DVDs
A French Village: Season 2 (France, WWII-era occupied France drama series, Audrey Fleurot)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Thieves’ Highway (1949, film noir, Richard Conte. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For here, in this vigorous dramatization of one full day in a truck driver’s life, writen by A. I. Bezzerides and directed by Jules Dassin, is pictured in images so vivid and so brutal that they will root in your mind a truly amazing demonstration of what goes on in the produce world. And here, furthermore, in this exposure, which is stunningly played by a top-form cast, is one of the best melodramas—one of the sharpest and most taut—we’ve had this year.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
New Jack City (1991, gangster/thriller, Wesley Snipes. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. From Janet Maslin’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Fortunately, Mario Van Peebles, another actor who proves to be as comfortable behind the camera as he is in front of it, directs ‘New Jack City’ with as much energy and flash as this film’s weary formula will allow. With a title that refers to the ruthless self-interest of contemporary urban street culture, ‘New Jack City’ tells of a seductively powerful drug kingpin named Nino Brown (Wesley Snipes) and the hipper-than-usual police operatives intent on bringing him down.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception, And the Spirit of I.F. Stone (independent journalism, politics, media, Amy Goodman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 63. From Simon Houpt’s Toronto Globe and Mail review: “To read the headlines over the past month, you’d think the toxic phenomenon of fake news was created from whole cloth during the recent U.S. presidential cycle. But while the new Canadian documentary All Governments Lie isn’t directly about, say, a secret child sex-trafficking ring operated by Hillary Clinton out of the back room of a Washington pizza shop (I didn’t make that up, although somebody did), it lucidly argues that powerful interests have been creating supercharged fake stories for decades to advance their own nefarious interests. And the institutional media have too often blithely played along.” Read more…)

Alive Inside (Alzheimers, healthcare, music as healing, Dan Cohen. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 67. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “In ‘Alive Inside,’ Michael Rossato-Bennett’s purposeful documentary about the rejuvenating power of music, the fountain of youth exists. And it bears an Apple logo. The film’s signature scenario shows a torpid older man being outfitted with headphones and an iPod. He hears the first strains of Cab Calloway and immediately brightens, reminisces and boogies — Alzheimer’s be damned. This looks like some kind of enchantment (and it happens with several people), but as the author and neurology professor Oliver Sacks and the musician Bobby McFerrin affirm, music just gets through to you.” Read more…)

New releases 5/23/17

Top Hits
Get Out (thriller/social comment, Daniel Kaluuya. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Get Out,’ an exhilaratingly smart and scary freakout about a black man in a white nightmare, the laughs come easily and then go in for the kill. The writer and director, Jordan Peele [of the comedy sketch show ‘Key & Peele’], knows how to make shadowy streets into menacing ones and turn silences into warnings from the abyss. His greatest stroke in “Get Out,” though, is to have hitched these genre elements to an evil that isn’t obscured by a hockey mask, but instead throws open its arms with a warm smile while enthusiastically [and strangely] expressing its love for President Obama.” Read more…)

The Great Wall (action/martial arts, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 42. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Snarling digital monsters, a glowering Matt Damon and battalions of unfaltering Chinese warriors mix it up in ‘The Great Wall,’ a painless, overstuffed spectacle that works overtime as a testament to China’s might. Set once upon a time, the movie spins a legend that never was: Every 60 years, slavering creatures emerge from beyond to sharpen their teeth on human bones and stuff their bellies on meat. The whole thing plays out as if it had been thought up by someone who, while watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and smoking a bowl, started riffing on walls, China and production money.” Read more…)

Logan (comic book action, Hugh Jackman. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Logan’ is good enough that you might forget it’s a comic-book movie. It’s another entry in the tireless X-Men saga but doesn’t play like a retread or an ad for the next installment; instead, it plays, looks and sounds like a movie — an old-school meets new-school pulp filled with intimations of mortality, and raw, ugly violence. Once again, Hugh Jackman has saddled up to play the Wolverine, a mutant who also goes by Logan, and has always been the most satisfying character in the series.” Read more…)

My Life as a Zucchini (animated feature, Will Forte [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Also, because ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ is an animated film — a loving work of stop-motion cartoon handicraft and a long-shot Oscar nominee — it is more charming than grim. The orphan at large in the world is a fixture of folklore and literature as well as social-service case files, and Mr. Barras’s film, with its bigheaded, asymmetrical modeling-clay figures and off-kilter picture-book backdrops, explores a harsh situation with gentle whimsy.” Read more…)

Rock Dog (animated feature, J.K. Simmons. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 48. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The title character of ‘Rock Dog’ isn’t likely to end up on anyone’s Top 5 list of animated heroes, but the film does have a thoroughly enjoyable rocker in it. And an appealingly nasty wolf, too… The film, based on a Chinese graphic novel and directed by Ash Brannon, keeps its animation simple and its story lines clear, which makes it reliable fare for the 10-and-younger set.” Read more…)

XX (female-directed horror anthology, Natalie Brown. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 64.)

New Blu-Ray
Logan
Get Out
The Great Wall

New Foreign DVDs
Dheepan (France, drama, Antonythasan Jesuthasan. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan,’ which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes a year ago, arrives in North American theaters having lost none of the timeliness that was widely noted last May. Screening in the South of France a few months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, as the Syrian refugee problem intensified across Europe, this story of a makeshift family, tossed from a distant war zone into a French housing project, looked to many festival observers less like a work of cinematic art than like a news bulletin. A year later, as the threat of terrorism and the humanitarian challenge of migration from Africa, Asia and the Middle East have precipitated something of a European identity crisis, Mr. Audiard’s film has acquired an almost prophetic aura. But while it certainly belongs to a long tradition of muscular, topical screen entertainment — its DNA bears traces of pre- and post-dictatorship Latin American cinema, of the early films of Costa-Gavras, of Old and New Hollywood agitprop — ‘Dheepan’ has more than headlines on its mind.” Read more…)

New British
Dark Angel (Victorian-era drama, Joanne Froggatt)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Midnight Movie Double Bill:
What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971, horror/thriller, Shelley Winters. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%.)
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972, horror/thriller, Shelley Winters. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%.)

New Children’s DVDs
My Life as a Zucchini (animated feature, Will Forte [voice])

Rock Dog (animated feature, J.K. Simmons)

New releases 5/16/17

Top Hits
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (sci-fi, Milla Jovovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 49. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Because their director, Paul W. S. Anderson, is an exceptional talent in action cinema, and because their star, Milla Jovovich, is a charismatic, exceptional and very credibly kinetic action performer, the movies in the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise, of which this is the sixth, have always been a terrific time. Provided you like that sort of thing — that sort of thing being post-apocalyptic and necessarily grim sci-fi mayhem adapted from a popular, genre-mashing video game.” Read more…)

The Space Between Us (romance/sci-fi, Asa Butterfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 33. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “With the disappearance of video stores, there is something heartening about the existence of ‘The Space Between Us,’ a cheesy hunk of science fiction from Peter Chelsom that once would have drawn curious young eyes to VHS shelves. Set in the near future, it plays like a transmission from 1986, when a boy and a spaceship’s robot pilot could raise hell in ‘Flight of the Navigator,’ and Steven Spielberg set the blockbuster template to emulate.” Read more…)

XXX: Return of Xander Cage (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 42. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Weirdly retro in style, the movie has a mocking ‘Austin Powers’ flavor. Villains travel with bikini babes Velcroed to each hip, and women slink and pose as if inspired by boom-chicka-boom music only they can hear. Characters are simply triggers for the overwrought action sequences, though between the Edward Scissorhands editing and occasional wobbling background, even those are less than distinct. Silly as it is, ‘Xander Cage’ nevertheless purveys a deeply depressing view of heroism, one without conscience, compassion or moral qualms.” Read more…)

Lovesong (romance, Jena Malone. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “When Sarah [Riley Keough] and Mindy [Jena Malone], best friends since childhood, gaze at each other in ‘Lovesong,’ emotions of longing and uncertainty, interrupted by bursts of joy and laughter, cascade across their faces. This exquisite, beautifully shot meditation on love clouded by fear and doubt is the fourth feature by the Korean-American filmmaker So Yong Kim [‘Treeless Mountain’], which she wrote with Bradley Rust Gray. Little is resolved, and it will leave you contemplating the mysteries of relationships.” Read more…)

A Street Cat Named Bob (drama/family, Luke Treadway. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 54. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “If Grumpy Cat and ‘Keanu’ haven’t sated your appetite for screen felines, try ‘A Street Cat Named Bob,’ a savvy exercise in inspirational feel-good cinema lightly seasoned with grit. Adapted from James Bowen’s autobiography [part of a Bob franchise], the movie, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, tells how an orange cat enters the life of James [Luke Treadaway], a homeless London busker struggling with heroin addiction. Though James has a sobriety adviser [a firm Joanne Froggatt, as a persuasive living argument for public health care] who finds him housing, it is the cat, which James names Bob, who teaches him about responsibility and what it’s like to feel loved.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
XXX: Return of Xander Cage

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Sleeping City (1950, film noir, Richard Conte. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Lead actor Richard] Conte does a thoroughly commendable job with the role and the situations that [screenwriter] Jo Eisinger has written for him. He makes the ingenious detective a remarkably sympathetic chap whose feeling for tired, impoverished internes is quite as sensitive as his quick deductive powers. Coleen Gray also acts very crisply as a beauteous but baleful nurse, and a new man from Broadway, Richard Taber, is sharp as an elevator man. Alex Nicol, as a worn and frightened interne, and John Alexander as a stern detective chief, round out a cast which is sprinkled with good performers doing incidental bits.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Portnoy’s Complaint (1972, adaptation of Philip Roth novel, Richard Benjamin. From a 2003 New York Times article by Joseph O’Neill about film adaptations of novels [requires log-in]: “By contrast, as you watch ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ [1972], in which Richard Benjamin unloads religious guilt and erotomaniacal escapades on a psychoanalyst, you can’t help thinking that you’re watching a less adroit, less funny (though far more risqué) version of something you’ve already seen elsewhere. So there you have a second reason for the dearth of Roth-Bellow movies, at least: Woody Allen, who has made redundant, cinematically speaking, the tragicomic suffering of any brainy Jewish male who is not Woody Allen.” Read more…)

New TV
Veep: Season 5 (HBO comedy series, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 88.)

New Documentaries
Keep Quiet (Hungary, anti-Semitism, bigotry, history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76. Ferom Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,’ says an old song about bigotry. But to hear the former far-right Hungarian politician Csanad Szegedi tell it, he was essentially a self-taught anti-Semite. In ‘Keep Quiet,’ a documentary directed by Sam Blair and Joseph Martin, Mr. Szegedi recalls the pride he felt as a student reading far-right newspapers pushing a nationalist narrative… Then Mr. Szegedi learns an inconvenient truth: He is of Jewish lineage. His grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor.” Read more…)

New releases 5/9/17

Top Hits
Fifty Shades Darker (erotic drama, Dakota Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 33. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The big tee-hee about the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon is that it’s brought ostensibly scandalous heterosexual sex — with its whips and restraints — out of the shadows and into the mainstream. The likes of Madonna and the photographer Helmut Newton had primed that pump long ago, turning dominance, submission and toys into an acceptable spectacle. But it apparently took a writer as terrible as E L James, the author of the ‘Fifty Shades’ series, to really hit the commercial sweet spot. The result is a clutch of best sellers, a hit movie [based on the first book, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’] and now a sequel, ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ that’s almost bad enough to recommend.” Read more…)

A Fantastic Fear of Everything (horror-comedy, Simon Pegg. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 31.)
The Void (horror/sci-fi, Aaron Poole. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Blu-Ray
Fifty Shades Darker
A Fantastic Fear of Everything

New Foreign
Things To Come (France, drama, Isabelle Huppert Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Mia] Hansen-Love observes the vagaries of Nathalie’s situation with compassion and lucidity. Her films — this is her fourth feature — often turn on intimate calamities, like a husband’s suicide [in ‘Father of My Children’] or a painful breakup [in ‘Goodbye First Love’]. But she is temperamentally allergic to melodrama, and far less interested in the easy shocks and tidy consolations of plot than in the meandering, almost random texture of lived experience. The French title of ‘Things to Come’ [it’s also the name of an old British science-fiction movie] is ‘L’Avenir,’ which more literally means ‘the future’ and which more accurately conveys the film’s open-ended, exploratory structure.” Read more…)

New TV
Orange Is the New Black: Season 4 (prison drama, Taylor Schilling.  Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86.)
Divorce: Season 1 (HBO comedy, Sarah Jessica Parker. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 60.)

New releases 5/2/17

Top Hits
I Am Not Your Negro (documentary, civil rights, literature, bio, James Baldwin. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Whatever you think about the past and future of what used to be called ‘race relations’ — white supremacy and the resistance to it, in plainer English — this movie will make you think again, and may even change your mind. Though its principal figure, the novelist, playwright and essayist James Baldwin, is a man who has been dead for nearly 30 years, you would be hard-pressed to find a movie that speaks to the present moment with greater clarity and force, insisting on uncomfortable truths and drawing stark lessons from the shadows of history. To call ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ a movie about James Baldwin would be to understate Mr. Peck’s achievement. It’s more of a posthumous collaboration, an uncanny and thrilling communion between the filmmaker — whose previous work includes both a documentary and a narrative feature about the Congolese anti-colonialist leader Patrice Lumumba — and his subject.” Read more…)

A Dog’s Purpose (family, Josh Gad. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 43. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The movie, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron, serves up one cloying story after another as it drags us through the multiple lives of a dog named Bailey [voiced by Josh Gad]. Bailey dies, as dogs do, yet keeps being reincarnated, as a different breed and sometimes a different sex.” Read more…)

The Comedian (comedy, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 40. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Is it too much to want someone to bring the funny in a movie about a comic? The enervating, would-be laugh-in ‘The Comedian’ opens this week, presumably on the strength of its headliner, Robert De Niro. He’s ill-served by this movie, but he’s been worse elsewhere, which isn’t much of a comfort as this one drags into hour two.” Read more…)

Gold (adventure, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Actor Matthew] McConaughey is a ball of profane, entrepreneurial energy bouncing around in a vacuum. The story swings from the Nevada desert to the Indonesian rain forest to Wall Street boardrooms, and the screen bristles with signifiers of capitalist activity: meetings, phone calls, stock tickers. But the movie isn’t really doing any work. It’s just looking busy.” Read more…)

Rings (horror, Johnny Galecki. Rotten Tomatoes: 6%. Metacritic: 25. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “‘Rings,’ the latest sequel in the franchise that began with the Japanese film ‘Ringu,’ is short on outright frights, but some effort certainly went into the storytelling. For one thing, by the time this one’s over, fans will know a lot more about the mysterious Samara, the dead girl who continues to terrify the living via a grainy videotape. And those nearing or in college — the demographic being aimed at here — will learn an important lesson: Beware of any professor who tries to recruit you for a research study.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Do the Right Thing

New Foreign DVDs
The Salesman (Iran, drama, Shahab Hosseini. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At the beginning of ‘The Salesman,’ Emad [Shahab Hosseini] and Rana [Taraneh Alidoosti] must evacuate their Tehran apartment. There are cracks in the walls, and the high-rise building is in danger of collapsing. That flawed edifice might stand as a kind of inverse metaphor for the film itself, which is a marvel of meticulous construction. With exquisite patience and attention to detail, Asghar Farhadi, the writer and director, builds a solid and suspenseful plot out of ordinary incidents, and packs it with rich and resonant ideas. Admirers of his earlier films — including ‘About Elly,’ ‘The Past’ and ‘A Separation,’ a foreign-language Oscar winner in 2012 — will not be surprised. Mr. Farhadi has distinguished himself in his generation of Iranian filmmakers as an astute psychological realist and a fastidious storyteller.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Reefer Madness (1936, understated cautionary tale, Kenneth Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%.)

New Documentaries
I Am Not Your Negro (documentary, civil rights, literature, bio, James Baldwin)

Children’s DVDs
The Red Turtle (Japanese animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The film, a French-Belgian-Japanese co-production made under the auspices of Studio Ghibli [home of the great Hayao Miyazaki] in Tokyo is also notable, at least in contrast to most American commercial animation, for the absence of celebrity voices or, indeed, of any human speech at all. The score, by Laurent Perez del Mar, does include some wordless choral vocalizing, but the story, like the visual style, is simple and elemental, like a picture book that needs no words.” Read more…)

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (live action Disney, Gabrielle Anwar. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Stephen Holden’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Many of the scenes in ‘Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,’ a sweet, old-fashioned movie about a girl who loves horses, are bathed in a soft golden light. That’s because the past, in movies of this sort, is always more magical than the present, even if that past is the Depression, the era of this G-rated family picture.” Read more…)

New releases 4/25/17

Top Hits
La La Land (Oscar-nominated musical, Emma Stone. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 93. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Damien] Chazelle, whose previous features [‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’ and ‘Whiplash’] were full of music and brash, youthful energy, is a natural showman and a canny craftsman. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but he wears them lightly. For all its echoes and allusions, ‘La La Land’ is too lively and too earnest for mere pastiche. It doesn’t so much look back longingly at past masters like Vincente Minnelli, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Donen and Jacques Demy [to name a few] as tap into their mojo, insisting on their modernity and its own classicism in the same gesture.” Read more…)

The Girl With All the Gifts (horror/thriller, Gemma Arterton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Girl With All the Gifts,’ directed by Colm McCarthy, is a moderately engrossing, reliably gory British variation on the tried-and-true zombie-apocalypse theme with a first-rate cast. The formula, worked almost to death — or is it undeath? — on ‘The Walking Dead’ and elsewhere, has been tweaked a bit. The shambling, vacant-eyed cannibals are called “hungries,” and their infection seems to be fungal rather than viral. Also, some are cute, normal-seeming children, including the title character, a young girl named Melanie [Sennia Nanua].” Read more…)

The Daughter (drama, Geoffrey Rush. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Constructed gingerly around a soon-to-explode family secret, ‘The Daughter’ — a soapy take on Henrik Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ — creates a superficial tension by situating its escalating emotions within icily contained visuals. For a while, this slow-burn approach by the writer and director, Simon Stone, works: Stabilized by mostly unimpeachable performances, the movie hugs the rails of credibility more tightly than its melodramatic material deserves.” Read more…)

Underworld: Blood Wars (action, Kate Beckinsdale. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 23. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The ‘Underworld’ franchise — in which vampires and werewolves, called Lycans, use guns and swords to settle a centuries-old feud — showed signs of growing more playful with its fourth installment, ‘Underworld: Awakening’ [2012], which moved away from the series’s labored mythology and threw in Stephen Rea as a mad scientist. Any hope of a similarly limber fifth outing dies immediately in ‘Underworld: Blood Wars.'” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
La La Land

New Foreign
Anatahan (Japan/USA, 1953, World War II-era drama, Akemi Negishi Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From an unsigned 1977 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The ‘reconstructed’ version of Josef von Sternberg’s ‘The Saga of Anatahan,’ which opened yesterday at the Thalia Theater, is virtually a one-film retrospective of that great, idiosyncratic, often off-putting director’s work. The film, in a fine new print, has been put together from footage that was originally released here in 1954—and reviewed in The New York Times on May 18, 1954, as ‘Ana-Ta-Han’—with supplemental nude footage that von Sternberg cut into the first version in 1958.” Read more…)

Ophelia (France, 1962, Shakespeare-inspired drama, Alida Valli. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “When it takes 12 years for a renowned director’s movie to reach our screens, the product is apt to be a jewel or a dog. Claude Chabrol’s Ophelia,’ made in 1962, has just emerged from the kennel, and although the picture has a bit of historical interest, much of it strays far from the film maker’s own talents.” Read more…)

New British
The Pied Piper (1972, musical/costume/legend, Donald Pleasance. From Vincent Cany’s 1972 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “You wouldn’t know by reading the ads but ‘The Pied Piper,’ which opened at a number of theaters here yesterday with a totally befuddled science-fiction film called ‘Z.P.G.,’ is a new work by Jacques Demy, the very talented, idiosyncratic French director who came out of the Nouvelle Vague with ‘Lola’ and then went on to develop what amounted to a new kind of contemporary fairy tale with ‘The Umbrella of Cherbourg’ and ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort.'” Read more…)

The Witness for the Prosecution (Agatha Christie period whodunit, Toby Jones Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar (1967, live action Disney, Ron Brown)

New Documentaries
Disturbing the Peace (conflict resolution, Palestinian-Israeli relations, nonviolence Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “How much bloodshed can a divided populace stand? In Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young’s documentary, ‘Disturbing the Peace,’ we meet Combatants for Peace, an advocacy-activist group comprising Israelis and Palestinians who have reached their limit and renounced violence. Most are former military or paramilitary personnel seeking a two-state solution to Israel’s agonized convulsions. Their stories are compelling — and persuasive.” Read more…)

New Childrens’ DVDs
Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar (1967, live action Disney, Ron Brown)

New releases 4/18/17

Top Hits
Split (thriller, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At once solemn and preposterous, sinister and sentimental, efficient and overwrought, ‘Split’ represents something of a return to form for its writer and director, M. Night Shyamalan. Or maybe I should say a return to formula. The movie, shot in and around Philadelphia, Mr. Shyamalan’s hometown, proceeds nimbly and with suave misdirection toward a pair of rug-pulling final twists that an attentive viewer will probably be able to anticipate. It’s not exactly a Choose Your Own Adventure, but you can opt either for the pleasure of surprise at the end or for the satisfaction of working out the puzzle as you go along.” Read more…)

The Founder (McDonalds founder bio-pic, Michael Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Ray Kroc, the whirling center of ‘The Founder,’ doesn’t come across as a meat-and-potatoes man — much less a mogul destined to peddle burgers and fries. As played by Michael Keaton, an actor who generates terrific centrifugal force, Ray seems more like a guy who fuels up on 10 cups of coffee before calling it a night with a bottle of Scotch. ‘The Founder’ never figures out what makes him spin and run and keep on running, but it does give you Mr. Keaton zinging around like the Road Runner. His kinetic performance doesn’t enhance the movie; it is the movie.” Read more…)

Sleepless (action, Jamie Foxx. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 33. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At least since the 2009 film ‘Taken,’ the dad-to-the-rescue action movie has been a staple of the winter release calendar. ‘Sleepless,’ a sort-of-remake of the French thriller ‘Sleepless Night,’ represents Jamie Foxx’s foray into late-midcareer Neesonism.” Read more…)

Ocean Waves (Japanese animated feature from Studio Ghibli. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Studio Ghibli’s] 1993 film, ‘Ocean Waves,’ was produced for television and initially conceived as a slight break from time-consuming meticulousness. A tale of young love, adapted from a novel by Saeko Himuro, it was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who supervised junior staff artists. The undertaking proved to be as quality-conscious as that of any of the studio’s other works. Now released in the United States for the first time, it is a fascinating variant on Ghibli’s house style.” Read more…

New Blu-Ray
Split
Ocean Waves

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Migrants (1974, Tennessee William drama made for TV, Cloris Leachman)

New Documentaries
Don’t Blink: Robert Frank (art, photography, filmmaking, Robert Frank. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Laura Israel’s new film is called ‘Don’t Blink—Robert Frank,’ and it’s at once a welcome admonition and an efficient motto. This compact, fast-moving portrait of the artist proceeds through a flurry of images, many of them gleaned from Mr. Frank’s long and prodigious career. The man himself, barreling through his early 90s with a mixture of impatience, resignation and good humor, has spent a lifetime looking, mostly at North American people and landscapes, but also somehow inward, using cameras as instruments of documentation and introspection.” Read more…)

Before the Flood (National Geographic, environmental issues, climate change, Leonardo DiCaprio. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 63. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Even if you subscribe to the view that a problem isn’t a problem until a Hollywood celebrity tells you it is, ‘Before the Flood’ feels out of phase. It’s a documentary in which Leonardo DiCaprio sounds the alarm abou global warming, something that could not possibly have escaped anyone’s attention in recent years and is at this point probably beyond discussion: Either you think climate change is real or you don’t, and the battle lines aren’t likely to be shifted by an earnest movie star.” Read more (and maybe read the comments criticizing the review, too)…)

New Childrens’ DVDs

Ocean Waves (Japanese animated feature from Studio Ghibli)