New releases 4/11/17

Top Hits
Hidden Figures (historical drama/African-American history, Octavia Spencer. Rotten Tomatoes 93%. Metacritic 74. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book of the same title, the film, directed by Theodore Melfi [who wrote the script with Allison Schroeder], turns the entwined careers of Katherine Goble [later Johnson], Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan into a rousing celebration of merit rewarded and perseverance repaid. Like many movies about the overcoming of racism, it offers belated acknowledgment of bravery and talent and an overdue reckoning with the sins of the past. And like most movies about real-world breakthroughs, ‘Hidden Figures’ is content to stay within established conventions. The story may be new to most viewers, but the manner in which it’s told will be familiar to all but the youngest.” Read more…)

Lion (drama, Dev Patel. Rotten Tomatoes 86%. Metacritic 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Garth] Davis, with strong assistance from a cast of dignified, charismatic criers and the music of Hauschka and Dustin O’Halloran, floods the viewer with big feelings. If you have ever been a child, raised a child, lost a child or met a child — or a mother — this movie will wreck you. As a purely emotional experience it succeeds without feeling too manipulative or maudlin. I mean, it is manipulative and maudlin, but in a way that seems fair and transparent.” Read more…)

White Girl (drama, Morgan Saylor. Rotten Tomatoes 71%. Metacritic 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The movie, which observes the world from Leah’s entitled perspective, is the latest in a continuing line of shockers [including ‘Kids’ and ‘Spring Breakers’], whose depictions of greedy drug-taking and promiscuity are inescapably titillating. Had ‘White Girl’ been directed by a man, it would probably be accused of misogyny. But Ms. Wood has said that it is semi-autobiographical. When shown last winter at the Sundance Film Festival, ‘White Girl’ received some obligatory tut-tutting from nervous male critics.” Read more…)

The Whole Truth (courtroom drama, Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes 29%. Metacritic 46. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “After a screening of ‘The Whole Truth,’ a colleague remarked that it looked like a major studio release that had been tweaked to within an inch of its life, leaving only a sliver of the movie that might have been. How else to explain the involvement of two household-name stars [Keanu Reeves and Renée Zellweger] and an award-winning director [Courtney Hunt] in a plot so soulless and poorly dramatized that even the last-minute reveal is a yawn?” Read more…)

Tangled Before Ever After (Disney animated feature, Mandy Moore [voice])

New Blu-Ray
Hidden Figures
Lion

New Foreign DVDs
Toni Erdmann (Germany, comedy, Peter Simonischek. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic 93. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Toni Erdmann,’ [director Maren Ade’s] third feature, may look like farce — and it does achieve heights of pure, giddy silliness of a kind rarely seen on the big screen these days — but it is driven by a savage satirical energy, a thoroughgoing critique of the way things are. The worst humiliations Ines suffers come not from anything outrageous her father does, but rather from the everyday piggishness of the men who belittle her work, thwart her ambitions or take her for granted.” Read more…)

Our Little Sister (Japan, family drama, Ayase Haruka. Rotten Tomatoes 93%. Metacritic 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Our Little Sister,’ adapted from a popular manga series by Akimi Yoshida, has a deceptively episodic plot. Seeming to wander through small incidents and mundane busyness, it acquires momentum and dramatic weight through a brilliant kind of narrative stealth. You are shaken, by the end, at how much you care about these women and how sorry you are to leave their company.” Read more…)

All of Me (Mexico, documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New British
To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters (period bio-pic, Finn Atkins. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 71.)

New Documentaries
National Bird (whistleblowers, drone war. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 75. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “If we can eliminate enemy threats without placing boots on a battlefield, then why not do so? That’s one of the unspoken questions raised, and largely unanswered, by ‘National Bird,’ Sonia Kennebeck’s elegantly unsettling documentary about the United States’ reliance on aerial combat drones.The weapons themselves, though, demand less of her attention than their psychological impact on three former operators and current whistle-blowers.” Read more…)

All of Me (Mexico, Spanish-language documentary, immigration issues. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New Childrens’ DVDs
Tangled Before Ever After (Disney animated feature, Mandy Moore [voice])

New releases 4/4/17

Top Hits
Star Wars: Rogue One (sci-fi action, Felicity Jones. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The great mystery of ‘Rogue One’ — the big payoff, the thing people like me would be pilloried for divulging, the puzzle you will congratulate yourself for solving — is where it fits in with the rest of the ‘Star Wars’ cycle. There are scattered hints early on, and later appearances by familiar characters that elicit chuckles of recognition from fans. The very last shot tells us exactly where we are, and why we should have cared about everything we just saw.” Read more…)

Youth in Oregon (comedy/drama, Frank Langella. Rotten Tomatoes 45%. Metacritic 38. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The only person involved in the making of ‘Youth in Oregon’ — a gratingly awful family drama about assisted suicide — who seems to grasp the movie’s thematic potential is its cinematographer, Ross Riege. His warmly lighted, softly smudged images convey a world becoming slowly less distinct, as if being viewed through increasingly distanced eyes.” Guess she didn’t like it. Read more…)

Office Christmas Party (comedy, Jason Bateman. Rotten Tomatoes 41%. Metacritic 42. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Nothing says Christmas like decadence, debauchery and mayhem, at least when comic actors like T. J. Miller, Kate McKinnon and Rob Corddry are involved. But how did the normally dignified Courtney B. Vance fall in with this crowd? Who knows, but he’s pretty hilarious playing against type in ‘Office Christmas Party,’ a broad, bawdy comedy full of familiar faces behaving outlandishly.” Read more…)

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch-directed drama, Adam Driver. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A movie about art, creation and how images become words [and vice versa], ‘Paterson’ seems deceptively simple. Its hero, Paterson, works in [where else?] Paterson. Every weekday, he rises early, kisses his beloved, Laura [Golshifteh Farahani], and heads off to work, where he turns the ignition on a big city bus and rumbles into the bright world. Some of that world comes to him, clambering onboard in a blur of ages, hues and conversational interests. Mostly, Paterson looks out through the bus’s windows, views that turn life into discretely framed images.” Read more…)

Noble (inspirational drama, Deirdre O’Kane. Rotten Tomatoes 84%. Metacritic 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “A feisty, passionate performance by the Irish actress Deirdre O’Kane gives the inspirational biopic ‘Noble’ a serrated edge of defiance and gumption. Its subject, Christina Noble, is an Irish children’s rights activist and writer, who traveled to Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 and established a foundation that has set up more than 100 projects in Vietnam and Mongolia that provide protection, education and health care for more than 700,000 children and their families.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Star Wars: Rogue One

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
23 Paces to Baker Street (1956, mystery, Van Johnson. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A clever idea is the basis for ’23 Paces to Baker Street,’ a Twentieth Century-Fox mystery drama, which came to Loew’s State yesterday. It is that a keen and careful blind man should lead the halt—which is to say, the police—in ferreting out and foiling a plot for a particularly noxious crime. All that our hero has to go on is an ominous conversation he overhears in a London pub between a mysterious man and woman, whom, of course—being blind—he cannot see. But he is a trained dramatic author, so he remembers every word he overhears. Later he commits them to a tape recording. He also remembers the perfume the woman wears. With these scraps of information, he tries to convince the police that a dark plot of some sort is brewing.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Paris Blues (1961, drama/jazz, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier. Rotten Tomatoes 60%. From J. Hoberman’s review of the DVD release: “‘Paris Blues’ is a small movie with large ambitions. The producer Sam Shaw conceived of it as a tribute to jazz [Duke Ellington’s music is pervasive; Louis Armstrong has a rambunctious cameo jamming and jiving], as well as a love letter to Paris and the ideals of the French Revolution. It was also a vehicle for its married co-stars, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, directed by their close associate Martin Ritt.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Ruins of Lifta (Israeli-Palestinian relations, Mideast history. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 71. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “Among the hills on the western outskirts of Jerusalem stands an abandoned group of stone buildings, the remains of Lifta, an Arab village whose residents were driven out in 1948, during what Israelis know as the War of Independence and what Palestinians call the Nakba [Catastrophe]. Plans to demolish the homes and build a new development have drawn opposition from an Israeli-Palestinian coalition seeking to preserve the site. ‘The Ruins of Lifta,’ an achingly poignant documentary by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky, investigates a debate in which dueling narratives collide — just as they do everywhere in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Read more…)

New releases 3/28/17

Top Hits
Patriots Day (true-life action, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes 80%. Metacritic 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Movies that depict heinous real-life criminal acts and attempt to grapple with their human toll are provocative undertakings, particularly when they’re made so soon after the actual events. As it happens, “Patriots Day” works so well on a dramatic level that my qualms were silenced almost entirely from the start.” Read more…)

Silence (Martin Scorsese religious/historic drama, Andrew Garfield. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic 79. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ is a story of faith and anguish. It tells of a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Rodrigues, who in 1643 heads into the dark heart of Japan, where Christians are being persecuted — boiled alive, immolated and crucified. Rodrigues [Andrew Garfield] sets out to help keep the church alive in Japan, a mission that perhaps inevitably leads to God. The film’s solemnity is seductive — as is Mr. Scorsese’s art — especially in light of the triviality and primitiveness of many movies, even if its moments of greatness also make its failures seem more pronounced.” Read more…)

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (J.K. Rowling’s fantasy, Eddie Redmayne. Rotten Tomatoes 73%. Metacritic 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Is anyone safe?’ That alarmed question nearly shrieks off a newspaper in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’ rattling the story almost before it’s begun. A big, splashy footnote to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter screen series, it opens a new subdivision in the wizardry world that she created, even as it turns back the clock. Unlike Harry’s reality, which unfolds in a present that looks like ours but with dragons, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ takes place in a 1926 New York, where dark forces cut swaths of destruction alongside chugging Model T’s. Ms. Rowling is just getting revved up, but her time frame suggests her sights are on another world catastrophe.” Read more…)

20th Century Women (drama, Annette Bening. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love and loss go hand in hand in ’20th Century Women,’ a funny, emotionally piercing story about a teenager and the women who raise him. It opens in 1979, when cool kids danced to Talking Heads [‘This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco’] and President Carter bummed everyone out talking about our ‘crisis of confidence.’ There’s something in the air — or so it seems, although the California light here tends to blot out the shadows. When a car bursts into flames soon after the movie opens, it looks about as threatening as an art installation. Apocalypse later, man.” Read more…)

Why Him? (comedy, Bryan Cranston. Rotten Tomatoes 40%. Metacritic 39. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “From the moment we spy the dead-moose art installation that graces the home of Laird [James Franco] in ‘Why Him?,’ we suspect that the glass tank of urine in which it floats will at some point crack and douse one or more characters. It’s no fun at all being right.” Read more…)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Julie Taymor-directed Shakespeare play, Kathryn Hunter. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. From Ben Brantley’s New York Times theater review: “There was no way that Julie Taymor was ever going to dream a little ‘Dream.’ The director who redefined spectacle on Broadway for better [‘The Lion King’] and for worse [‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’] has now given New York a ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that doesn’t so much reach for the heavens as roll around in them, with joyous but calculated abandon.” Read more…)

A Monster Calls (fantasy, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes 87%. Metacritic 76. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The formidable creature looming over ‘A Monster Calls’ is one of the more unnerving, impressive special-effects creations of the year. Whether it and the movie in general are too intense for younger children is something parents need to ask themselves. A PG-13 rating is sometimes an overreaction to a curse word or two, but here it’s a useful caution. The central human character is a 12-year-old, Conor O’Malley [Lewis MacDougall], who as the movie opens is having one heck of a nightmare: He and his mother [Felicity Jones] are in a churchyard as the ground begins collapsing around them, and she is in danger of being sucked away into an abyss. No subtlety or pussyfooting around here; we soon learn that the mother is fatally ill and in the midst of a drawn-out death.” Read more…)

Planet Earth II (David Attenborough nature documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 96. From Jeremy Egner’s New York Times television rarticle about the making of ‘Panet Earth II’: “The most memorable screen performance of 2016 won’t be recognized at the Oscars in a couple weeks. For one thing, it appeared on television. For another, it was given by an iguana. Actually, describing a young marine iguana’s capture and improbable escape from scores of racer snakes as a ‘performance’ slights the stakes of this scene from the nature documentary ‘Planet Earth II,’ which arrived in Britain in November and makes its American debut Saturday, Feb. 18, on BBC America. The sequence was at once a life-or-death flight, a waking nightmare and a slithery metaphor, the riot of snakes descending inexorably like so many demons of 2016 — deaths of icons, appalling international tragedies, the emotional body blows of a punishing presidential campaign. That baby lizard was all of us and, in the end, against all odds, we survived the onslaught.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Patriots Day
A Monster Calls
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them
Silence

New Foreign
A Tale of Love and Darkness (Israel, historic drama, Natalie Portman. Rotten Tomatoes 65%. Metacritic 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Natalie Portman’s directing debut, addresses a hugely complicated and consequential moment in 20th-century history: the founding of the state of Israel. There is no simple way to tell the story, and Ms. Portman’s film, closely based on a memoir by the Israeli novelist Amos Oz, is full of mixed emotions and chronological tangles. But despite the geopolitical momentousness — and present-day potency — of its concerns, it’s an elegant and intimate movie, a thing of nostalgic whispers and sighs rather than polemical slogans and shouts.” Read more…)

Labyrinth of Lies (Germany, historic drama, Alexander Fehling. Rotten Tomatoes 81%. Metacritic 62. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The earnest post-Holocaust drama ‘Labyrinth of Lies’ can be viewed as a sequel of sorts to ‘Judgment at Nuremberg,’ the much-decorated 1961 Stanley Kramer film about the Nuremberg trials of the 1940s, in which top-ranking Nazis were tried for crimes against humanity. The trials are still imprinted in many people’s minds as the ultimate moment of reckoning, after which a horrific chapter of history was more or less closed and the world moved on. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. ‘Labyrinth of Lies,’ which opens in 1958, resurrects a later chapter in the aftermath of the Holocaust that has largely faded from view, at least for many Americans: the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials of the 1960s, in which 22 former mid- and lower-level functionaries at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp were tried for murder.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Delinquents (1957, Robert Altman’s first film, teen rampage, Tommy Laughlin)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
ZPG Zero Population Growth (1972, dystopian thriller, Oliver Reed. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New york Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Z.P.G.,’ initials that stand for zero population growth, is a sometimes funny [unintentionally], untimely meditation on the earth’s over-population problems, set in some future smog-bound England where the World Deliberation Council has decreed that for 30 years there shall be no babies born. Women mad for motherhood who refuse to be content with mechanical dolls programmed to say ‘Mummy, I love you Mummy,’ take to giving birth in cellars and stealing each other’s offspring.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: One More Time With Feeling (documentary on creation of album “Skeleton Tree”. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic 92. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “It’s impossible not to empathize with Nick Cave as he and the Bad Seeds record his devastating song ‘I Need You’ in Andrew Dominik’s 3-D black-and-white film, ‘One More Time With Feeling,’ about the making of Mr. Cave’s 16th album, ‘The Skeleton Tree.’ The album’s most powerful song, ‘I Need You’ is a naked groan of grief and despair that has the feel of a majestic processional hymn with thick choral textures. As it advances on funereal drum beats, the singer declares, ‘I’ll miss you when you’re gone away forever/’cause nothing really matters.’ In a breaking voice that echoes Peter Gabriel and Jim Morrison at their most incantatory, Mr. Cave repeatedly cries, ‘I need you,’ with a vulnerability that will make you shiver.” Read more…)

1916: The Irish Rebellion (Irish history, Liam Neeson [narrator])
Planet Earth II (David Attenborough nature documentary. Rotten Tomatoes %. Metacritic .)

New Music DVDs
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: One More Time With Feeling (documentary on creation of album “Skeleton Tree”)

New Children’s DVDs
Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (J.K. Rowling’s fantasy, Eddie Redmayne)
A Monster Calls (fantasy, Liam Neeson)

New releases 3/21/17

Top Hits
Miss Sloane (political thriller, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The palm-oil brouhaha illustrates the savage, self-righteous tone of political warfare in a movie without an iota of humor. In [director Jonathan] Perera’s long-winded screenplay, the characters tend to give little speeches instead of conversing normally. Some of the wordplay may be clever, but the attempts at witty repartee aren’t sharp enough to be remotely amusing.” Read more…)

Assassin’s Creed (action, Michael Fassbender. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The schlock-cinema connoisseur Michael Weldon once described a particularly logy Roger Corman picture as ’70 minutes of ‘Huh?!”‘ The new sci-fi film ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ based on the popular video game series, is 70 plus 46 minutes of ‘Huh?'” Read more…)

Live By Night (gangster drama, Ben Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Live by Night’ is a messy, unfocused movie about ambition, lost ideals, corrupt men and a thief whose idea of life on his own terms means pulling the trigger. It has Tommy guns and Model T’s, luxuriously polished surfaces, some fine squealing-tire action and a handful of solid performances, including one from Sienna Miller, who tramps around as a 10-cents-a-dance cynic. But what’s most striking about the movie is its earnestness. [Ben] Affleck isn’t playing with genre for kicks or as a knowing, reflexive exercise, but trying to pour new wine into a bullet-riddled vessel.” Read more…)

Sing (animated feature comedy, Matthew McConaughey [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The things you can do with computer animation these days are just more and more amazing. In ‘Sing,’ a funny animal jukebox musical cartoon written and directed by Garth Jennings [‘Son of Rambow’], there is a scene in which two postpunk porcupines, one of whom has been selected to compete in a vocal competition, argue at home about the state of their relationship, and their musical direction. During their quarrel I thought, with absolute earnestness, ‘Wow, these porcupines have an unusually spacious apartment.'” Read more…)

Grabbers (Ireland, horror, Richard Coyle. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Blu-Ray
Sing
OJ: Made in America

New Foreign
Julieta (Spain, Almodovar-directed drama, Emma Suárez. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “According to a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, ‘the art of losing isn’t hard to master.’ But making a masterwork on the subject of loss, a perennial theme in art, may be harder than it looks. The young adulthood and middle age of Julieta, the heroine of Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie, are shadowed by death and abandonment, which she does her best to handle gracefully. Mr. Almodóvar, for his part, tells her story with his characteristic later-period blend of elegant restraint and keening melodrama. ‘Julieta’ is scrupulous, compassionate and surprising, even if it does not always quite communicate the full gravity and sweep of the feelings it engages.” Read more…)

Man of Iron (Poland, 1981, Solidarnosc drama, Jerzy Radziwilowicz. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Man of Iron” is such an up-to-date report on political events in Poland that one attends to it less as a piece of fiction than as a prime-time television news special. It’s not criticism but a statement of fact to describe it as more notable as a political than an artistic achievement. Another fact is that it’s an unexpected disappointment, because it is both a continuation and an explanation of Mr. Wajda’s extraordinarily fine ”Man of Marble,” which was made in 1977, but not shown in New York until 1979.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
This Land Is Mine (1943, anti-Nazi World War II era drama directed by Jean Renoir, Charles Laughton. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1943 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In a sincere and responsible effort to penetrate beneath the melodramatic aspects of Nazi occupation of a foreign land and to contemplate freedom versus tyranny in terms of conflict within the human soul, Jean Renoir and Dudley Nichols have produced a sane, courageous film, marked only by occasional violences, entitled ‘This Land Is Mine.’ It opened yesterday at the Rivoli. And for folks who need a little jolt to bring a reminder of their freedom, as well as for those other ones who are interested simply in a story cleanly and maturely told, it is hereby recommended. It makes some points which cannot be over-stressed.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Multiple Maniacs (1970, John Waters-directed comedy, Criterion Collection, Divine. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review for the Criterion reissue: “Ah, those stodgy Nixon-era minders of the national morality. Surely they didn’t need to get as worked up as they did about the early John Waters film ‘Multiple Maniacs.’ Or did they? It does, after all, feature rosary beads as a sex toy. And there’s the rape scene involving a giant lobster. Yes, ‘Multiple Maniacs,’ which has been restored by the Criterion Collection and is being given a theatrical run, is still capable of raising eyebrows, and imagining it in its historical context — the movie was first shown in 1970 — adds to the fun.” Read more…)

Scavenger Hunt (1979, comedy, Richard Benjamin. From Janet Maslin’s 1979 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The cast of ‘Scavenger Hunt’ spends a lot of time searching for good gags, in vain. Sent out, in several greedy teams, to compete for the estate of a mean old moneybags [Vincent Price], they bring back five ostriches, a toilet, a beehive, a stuffed fish, and nothing funnier. Some of the film’s more likable actors — Cleavon Little, James Coco, Robert Morley, Tony Randall, Scatman Crothers — behave as if the material were cleverer than it is, and their composure amounts to the movie’s only real peculiarity. Otherwise, it’s just a broad, low comedy full of speech defects and pratfalls. Here’s pie in your eye.” Read more…)

New TV
Master of None: Season 1 (comedy, Aziz Ansari. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 91.)
Insecure: Season 1 (HBO comedy, Issa Rae. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84.)

New Documentaries
Tower (1966 Texas tower shooting, violence, American social history, Charles Whitman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 92. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The haunting documentary ‘Tower’ revisits a 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin that shocked the country. It may be difficult to comprehend the reaction to the horror of Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student who shot more than a dozen dead, wounding more than twice as many. A cover story in Life magazine suggested just how alien the carnage seemed at the time, noting that during the rampage Whitman’s actions were ‘so outrageous, so hard to grasp, that people could not believe it.’ Many more mass shootings later, it’s now tragically easy to believe.” Read more…)

Fire At Sea (Mediterranean refugee crisis, Oscar-nominated. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The Mediterranean is an escape route for these displaced people and, also, all too often, a graveyard. News reports of the migrants’ plight and images of overloaded boats and drowned bodies have tested the world’s capacity for indifference, and also challenged the compassion of European citizens and their leaders. The debate over what to do about this crisis, which is roiling politics in nearly every country on the Continent, provides ‘Fire at Sea’ with a context. But the film’s subject is more elusive, at once more below the radar and beyond the reach of political discourse.” Read more…)

OJ: Made in America (ESPN documentary, OJ Simpson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 96. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Though dominated by the trial, it extends the narrative in both directions, producing a detailed biography of Mr. Simpson that is also a social history of race, fame, sports and Los Angeles over the past half-century. ‘The People v. O. J. Simpson’ [also available at BVFCC] was a tightly packed, almost indecently entertaining piece of pop realism, a Dreiser novel infused with the spirit of Tom Wolfe. For its part, ‘O.J.: Made in America,’ directed by Ezra Edelman, has the grandeur and authority of the best long-form nonfiction. If it were a book, it could sit on the shelf alongside ‘The executioner’s Song’ by Norman Mailer and the great biographical works of Robert Caro.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Sing (animated feature comedy, Matthew McConaughey [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The things you can do with computer animation these days are just more and more amazing. In ‘Sing,’ a funny animal jukebox musical cartoon written and directed by Garth Jennings [‘Son of Rambow’], there is a scene in which two postpunk porcupines, one of whom has been selected to compete in a vocal competition, argue at home about the state of their relationship, and their musical direction. During their quarrel I thought, with absolute earnestness, ‘Wow, these porcupines have an unusually spacious apartment.'” Read more…)

New releases 3/14/17

Top Hits
Fences (August Wilson drama, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “But even as it properly foregrounds [playwright August] Wilson’s dialogue — few playwrights have approached his genius for turning workaday vernacular into poetry — ‘Fences’ is much more than a filmed reading. Mr. Washington has wisely resisted the temptation to force a lot of unnecessary cinema on the play. The action ventures beyond Troy and Rose’s yard — into their house and onto the street, mostly — to give them a bit more room to move and the audience a little more to look at. Confinement, however, is a theme implied in the play’s title, and opening it up too much would risk diluting the power of watching large personalities colliding in a narrow place.” Read more…)

Passengers (sci-fi, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 41. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “At its most gripping, “Passengers,” directed by Morten Tyldum [‘The Imitation Game’] from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts [a collaborator on the scripts for ‘The Darkest Hour,’ ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Doctor Strange’], conveys the panic and despair of finding yourself trapped in a luxurious corporate prison in the middle of nowhere. Solitary confinement, even amid opulence, is solitary torture.” Read more…)

Collateral Beauty (drama/romance, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 12%. Metacritic: 23. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The five stages of grief sometimes seem applicable to movie reviewing, except that I usually skip denial, rarely get around to acceptance and generally just settle into anger, which is where I am with ‘Collateral Beauty.’ Many of the words that I would like to use to describe this waste of talent and time, which riffs on Dickens’s eternal ‘A Christmas Carol’ and tries to manufacture feeling by offing Tiny Tim, can’t be lobbed in a family publication. So, instead, I will just start by throwing out some permissible insults: artificial, clichéd, mawkish, preposterous, incompetent, sexist, laughable, insulting.” Ouch! Read more…)

Elle (drama, Isabelle Huppert. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The opening scene of ‘Elle’  is a shocker: a brutal sexual assault witnessed by a house cat and filmed with pitiless detachment. “The opposite of a trigger warning,” as a friend of mine said. Everything that follows is, in some ways, even more shocking, as the movie — a masterpiece of suave perversity, directed by Paul Verhoeven — leads its audience through a meticulously constructed maze of ambiguity, scrambling our assumptions and expectations at every turn, dispensing discomfort and delight and daring us to distinguish one from the other.” Read more…)

Shanghai (thriller, John Cusack. Rotten Tomatoes: 4%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It is never a good sign when a movie produced and distributed throughout much of Asia in 2010 doesn’t make its American theatrical debut until five years later. And given the temperamental and editorial idiosyncrasies of the Weinstein Company, which executive-produced and controls distribution of ‘Shanghai,’ a period espionage thriller directed by Mikael Hafstrom, you might be forgiven for expecting either an unfairly squelched masterpiece or an unholy mess.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Fences
Elle
Passengers

New Foreign
Being 17 (France, coming of age gay drama, Kacey Mottet Klein. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “To fight or to fall in love: That is the choice two antagonistic high school classmates face in ‘Being 17,’ a touching drama about raging hormones, bullying and sexual awakening — and the strongest film in many years by the post-New Wave French director André Téchiné.” Read more…)

Canoa (Mexico, history-based drama, Enrique Lucero, Criterion Collection)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Last Best Year (1990, drama, Mary Tyler Moore. From John J. O’Connor’s 1990 New York Times TV review [requires log-in]: In tonight’s exquisitely crafted ABC movie, Ms. Peters plays Jane Murray, a gifted career woman who, while being dumped by her married lover, discovers that she has cancer. Not wanting to be a burden on anyone, Jane is ready to withdraw from life and leave quietly. But her doctor urges her to see Wendy Allen, a psychologist, portrayed by Ms. Moore. What takes place is that rare occurrence in films of any sort — a female bonding. Coming to know each other closely and deeply, the two women begin discovering who they are in their own separate ways.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
For the Love of Spock (bio, television history, Leonard Nimoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 74. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “At the outset of his documentary ‘For the Love of Spock,’ the director Adam Nimoy [son of Leonard Nimoy] imparts its origins. He intended to examine his father’s ‘Star Trek’ character, Mr. Spock, and his place in culture for that franchise’s 50th anniversary. But in February 2015, Leonard Nimoy died, and the project became more of a tribute to his life. This film nimbly straddles biography and ‘Trek’ valentine [Adam is a longtime television director], but also recounts the fraught if ultimately devoted ties between Adam and Leonard.” Read more…)

New releases 3/7/17

Top Hits
Jackie (bio-pic focusing on White House years, Natalie Portman. Rotten Tomatoes 89%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Jackie’ doesn’t try to complete that impossible, apparently unfinishable movie, the never-ending epic known as ‘The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and What It Means to History.’ Instead, set largely after his death, it explores the intersection of the private and the public while ruminating on the transformation of the past into myth. It also pulls off a nice representational coup because it proves that the problem known as the Movie Wife — you know her, the little lady hovering at the edge of both the frame and story — can be solved with thought and good filmmaking. And as in Warhol’s Jackie portraits, John F. Kennedy is somewhat of a bit player here.” Read more…)

I Am Michael (true-life drama, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes 66%. Metacritic: 56. From Jeannette Catsoylis’  New York Times review: “After watching ‘I Am Michael,’ Justin Kelly’s dreary gay-conversion biopic, I felt rather sorry for James Franco. As Michael Glatze, a gay-rights agitator who struggled to become a straight Christian pastor, Mr. Franco broods and puzzles and vacillates. But he often seems abandoned by a director whose approach is so noncommittal and dramatically limp that it strands the actor, and his character, in a bland purgatory of conflicting motivations. While intellectually laudable, Mr. Kelly’s determined objectivity is so distancing that it takes an inherently intriguing story [based on a 2011 article in The New York Times Magazine] and sucks the life out of it.” Read more…)

The Eyes of My Mother (horror, Diana Agostini. Rotten Tomatoes 76%. Metacritic: 64. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “From the very first shot, Nicolas Pesce’s ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ unsettles as a broken woman staggers along a deserted country road before collapsing in front of an oncoming truck. It will be a long time before we learn who she is or what has happened to her; meantime, there are more than enough horrors to keep us occupied.” Read more…)

Always Shine (feminist thriller, Mackenzie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes 91%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “On the surface, ‘Always Shine’ is a tense thriller about failed female alliances — much of the time it seems poised to become a remake of ‘Persona,’ as made by the horror director Alexandre Aja. But it’s not that, or rather, it’s not just that. Directed by Sophia Takal from a script by Lawrence Michael Levine [Ms. Takal appeared in Mr. Levine’s 2014 comedy, ‘Wild Canaries’], ‘Always Shine’ is a deft, assured movie with a sly self-reflexive undercurrent containing commentary on sexism and self-idealization that’s provocative, and sometimes disturbing.” Read more…)

Moana (Disney animated feature, Auli’i Cravalho. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Moana is the daughter of a chief and will someday inherit her father’s position, but she’s furious when Maui, a tattooed, muscle-bound demigod, calls her a princess. Moana [MWAH-nah] is not only part of a dynastic line but also a girl off on an adventure in the company of a cute animal sidekick [a dimwitted chicken named Heihei]. So not just any princess, in other words: a Disney princess. She may be on a quest to save her island and restore ecological balance to the planet, but Moana [voiced by Auli’i Cravalho] is also upholding a brand.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jackie
Moana

New Foreign
Tanna (Australia, drama, Marie Wawa. Rotten Tomatoes 87%. Metacritic: 75. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Named for the remote South Pacific island where it was filmed, ‘Tanna’ is a movie in which every single shot is picturesque, and more than a few of them are genuinely beautiful. For a North American viewer, it may serve two functions of cinema: showing a remote and unfamiliar place and culture, while also kicking up questions of how Western cinema sees cultural difference.” Read more…)

Miss Hokusai (Japan, animated feature, English & Japanese soundtrack, Erica Lindbeck [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 94%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Japanese animated film practically teems with plucky, inventive girls, but pictures depicting emotionally credible young women are relatively rare. That ‘Miss Hokusai’ does this very thing, and does it beautifully, is only one of the extraordinary things about it. Adapted from a Hinako Sugiura manga, ‘Miss Hokusai’ is a lively inquiry into the life of O-Ei Hokusai, a daughter of the 19th-century painter Katsushika Hokusai [one of whose most famous images, ‘The Great Wave,’ is cleverly alluded to in an early scene].” Read more…)

Departure (France, drama, Alex Lawther. Rotten Tomatoes 92%.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Film (1965, Samuel Beckett drama/comedy, Buster Keaton)

New British
Wuthering Heights (2011, Emily Brontë romance, James Howson. Rotten Tomatoes 69%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Too often, great works of literature arrive on screen weighed down by their reputations, immobilized in a straitjacket of cultural prestige. Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a wild emanation of Victorian genius half-tamed by time and term papers, and Andrea Arnold’s new film adaptation is an admirable, frustrating attempt to strip away the novel’s inherited “classic” status and restore its raw and earthy passion.” Read more…)

New TV
The Americans: Season 4 (espionage drama, Keri Russell. Rotten Tomatoes 99%. Metacritic: 95.)

New Documentaries
NotFilm (Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton, avant-garde cinema/theater. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 81. Frtom A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton] can also look like kindred artistic spirits, committed to formal rigor and possessing finely tuned comic sensibilities. It is not surprising — though it is also, somehow, astonishing — that they worked together once, on a film devised by Beckett and titled ‘Film.’ A little more than 20 minutes long, devoid of dialogue [though not of sound], it was made in New York in the summer of 1965. And it is now the subject of an intelligent, affectionate documentary by Ross Lipman, titled ‘Notfilm.'” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Moana (Disney animated feature, Auli’i Cravalho. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Moana is the daughter of a chief and will someday inherit her father’s position, but she’s furious when Maui, a tattooed, muscle-bound demigod, calls her a princess. Moana [MWAH-nah] is not only part of a dynastic line but also a girl off on an adventure in the company of a cute animal sidekick [a dimwitted chicken named Heihei]. So not just any princess, in other words: a Disney princess. She may be on a quest to save her island and restore ecological balance to the planet, but Moana [voiced by Auli’i Cravalho] is also upholding a brand.” Read more…)

Miss Hokusai (Japan, animated feature, English & Japanese soundtrack, Erica Lindbeck [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 94%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Japanese animated film practically teems with plucky, inventive girls, but pictures depicting emotionally credible young women are relatively rare. That ‘Miss Hokusai’ does this very thing, and does it beautifully, is only one of the extraordinary things about it. Adapted from a Hinako Sugiura manga, ‘Miss Hokusai’ is a lively inquiry into the life of O-Ei Hokusai, a daughter of the 19th-century painter Katsushika Hokusai [one of whose most famous images, ‘The Great Wave,’ is cleverly alluded to in an early scene].” Read more…)

New releases 2/28/16

Top Hits
Moonlight (coming-of-age drama, Trevante Rhodes. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 99. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “To describe ‘Moonlight,’ Barry Jenkins’s second feature, as a movie about growing up poor, black and gay would be accurate enough. It would also not be wrong to call it a movie about drug abuse, mass incarceration and school violence. But those classifications are also inadequate, so much as to be downright misleading. It would be truer to the mood and spirit of this breathtaking film to say that it’s about teaching a child to swim, about cooking a meal for an old friend, about the feeling of sand on skin and the sound of waves on a darkened beach, about first kisses and lingering regrets. Based on the play ‘In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney, ‘Moonlight’ is both a disarmingly, at times almost unbearably personal film and an urgent social document, a hard look at American reality and a poem written in light, music and vivid human faces.” Read more…)

Allied (romantic thriller, Brad Pitt. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Robert] Zemeckis has made more ambitious, more dazzling films — as a dogmatic anti-Gumpian, my list of favorites would include ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ and ‘Cast Away’ — but this one may be the purest and most relaxed demonstration of his mastery. Like Steven Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies,’ it infuses a venerable genre and a familiar period with new interest.” Read more…)

Rules Don’t Apply (1950s Hollywood period drama, Lily Collins. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “In his 1998 comedy, ‘Bluworth,’ [actor/director Warren] Beatty reinvented himself as a truth-spouting politician disseminating his liberal message in the language of rap: a vocabulary that, as wielded by Mr. Beatty, rang as simultaneously ridiculous and pointedly articulate. And in the smart, hugely entertaining ‘Rules Don’t Apply,’ Mr. Beatty expands his absurdist vision of politics and show business to take in Hollywood, where he has reigned as an enigmatic glamour boy turned statesman with serious talent for nearly 60 years.” Read more…)

Chronic (drama, Tim Roth. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “In the quietly devastating ‘Chronic,’ Tim Roth, never more impressive onscreen, plays David, a palliative care worker whose intimacy with death and dying both scares and shames family members who nervously peek in on loved ones they have more or less abandoned. The first English-language film by Michel Franco, the Mexican director of ‘After Lucia,’ a harrowing study of high school bullying, ‘Chronic’ stands back from its characters, which it views with a cold documentarylike detachment. Radically unsentimental, it portrays the end of life largely without the emotional concomitants of grief, suffering and solace. Its icy aura of inevitability befits a film whose central character goes from client to client like a polite, expressionless deputy of the Grim Reaper.” Read more…)

Shut In (psychological thriller, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 6%. Metacritic: 25. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “f you’re in any doubt as to the dearth of decent movie roles available to women of a certain age — certain never to see 40 again, at any rate — then buy a ticket for ‘Shut In.’ In this achingly inept thriller, you will see Naomi Watts do what she can to sell a plot of such preposterousness that the derisory laughter around me began barely 20 minutes in.” Read more…)

Doctor Strange (comic book action/fantasy, Benedict Cumberbatch. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Most Marvel movies open like Robert Downey Jr.’s stand-up routine in ‘Iron Man’ before it goes south. They deliver quips and silky come-hither nonsense, only to end up like a big green monster stuck on rewind: “Hulk smash!” again and again, ad infinitum. In between start and finish, there are moments of levity and discovery in the machined product, but too often you can’t see the movie for Marvel’s action plan. Its latest, the giddily enjoyable ‘Doctor Strange,’ is part of Marvel’s strategy for world domination, yet it’s also so visually transfixing, so beautiful and nimble that you may even briefly forget the brand.” Read more…)

London Road (true crime, Olivia Colman. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “An ungainly yet strangely captivating oddity, ‘London Road’ snags your attention from the get-go in the manner of any razor-edge experiment: By making you wonder, what on earth? As soon as that question is answered, however, you’re hooked, and this unconventional examination of the ripple effect of real-life killings on a quiet English town has worked its curious magic.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Moonlight
Rules Don’t Apply
Doctor Strange

New Foreign
The Weissensee Saga: Season 1 (Germany, 1980s period drama, Uwe Kockisch)
Kiki: Love to Love (Spain, erotic comedy, Alex Garcia. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

New British
A Place to Call Home: Season 4 (Australia drama series, Marta Dusseldorp)

New Documentaries
Kate Plays Christine (documentary/thriller, psychology, journalism, cinema, Kate Lyn Sheil. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 75. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review; “This all-but-forgotten story is dredged up in Robert Greene’s ‘Kate Plays Christine,’ a movie that provocatively blurs the line between documentary and fiction. It follows the New York actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she researches the life of Ms. Chubbuck before portraying her in this unsettling cinematic hybrid. The suicide is wrongly thought by some to have inspired Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay for Sidney Lumet’s 1976 satire, ‘Network,’ whose protagonist, Howard Beale, a network anchorman, inveighing against the evils of television, creates a national sensation by threatening to kill himself while on the air.” Read more…)

Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story (jazz, drug abuse, Frank Morgan. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75. From Jaworowski’s New York Times review:”In the 1950s, some jazz musicians believed they couldn’t get that Charlie Parker ‘happy-sad feeling without using drugs.’ So says a friend of the saxophonist Frank Morgan in ‘Sound of Redemption,’ a documentary that revels in the happy despite some seriously sad events.” Read more…)

Utopia (Australia race relations, racism, indigenous people, John Pilger. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Rachel Carson (bio, environmentalism, Rachel Carson)

New Music
Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story (jazz, drug abuse, Frank Morgan. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75.)

New Children’s DVDs
Christmas All Over Again (holiday family comedy filmed in Connecticut last year, Amber Montana.)

New releases 2/21/17

Top Hits
Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan-directed drama, Casey Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 96. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Manchester by the Sea’ is a finely shaded portrait, a study in individual misery set in a place that is observed with care and affection. Mr. Affleck and Mr. Hedges are exceptional, but the rest of the large cast is nearly as fine. [I’d single out Ms. Williams, Ms. Mol and C. J. Wilson, who plays Joe’s best pal and business partner.] The coastal Massachusetts town that gives the movie its name is picturesque in a modest, thrifty New England way. Not breathtaking, but calm and orderly, its hills flecked with tall deciduous trees and clapboard houses, its harbor ringed with low-slung, rocky islands.” Read more…)

Hacksaw Ridge (war drama, Andrew Garfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Mel Gibson can be accused of many things, but subtlety is not one of them. Even at his worst — I mean as a filmmaker, not a political thinker — he consistently proves to be an able craftsman and a shrewd showman. ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ the first feature he has directed since ‘Apocalypto,’ a decade ago, is a bluntly effective faith-and-flag war drama, the true story of a remarkable hero with a knot of moral tension at its center.” Read more…)

Nocturnal Animals (romantic thriller, Amy Adams. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 67. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “In its broadest outlines, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is about art — its creation, reception and power. Art and power are something that Susan [Amy Adfams], who runs a Los Angeles art gallery, understands. They’ve given her cultural capital and money [there’s a Jeff Koons statue next to her pool], yet she isn’t an artist. That distinction belongs to her ex-husband, Edward, a writer who soon after the movie opens sends Susan his latest, ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ a novel that he’s dedicated to her. She’s intrigued — the dedication is a seduction — and, after some domestic melodrama with her husband, Hutton [Armie Hammer], she settles in to read Edward’s novel.” Read more…)

Sophie and the Rising Sun (World War II-era romance drama, Julianne Nicholson. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 55. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The veneer of decorum that cloaks the fictional fishing village of Salty Creek, S.C., does little to smother the stink of prejudice in ‘Sophie and the Rising Sun,’ a genteel love story set in the autumn of 1941 during the run-up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Manchester By the Sea
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals

New Foreign
A French Village: Season 1 (France, World War II-era drama series, Robin Renucci)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982, Broadway stage production, Angela Lansbury)

New Documentaries
Seasons (nature doc from filmmakers of Winged Migration, forests. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 67. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Beginning in edenic tranquillity and ending in death and destruction, ‘Seasons,’ the mesmeric nature documentary from Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, doesn’t make you feel particularly proud to be human. Neither did their previous collaborations, ‘Winged Migration’ in 2003 and ‘Oceans’ seven years later, which were beautifully photographed entreaties to stop ravaging our wildlife. Having checked off fish and fowl, the filmmakers now turn to land animals, traversing millenniums to explore the fate of the vast forests that blanketed Europe after the last ice age.” Read more…)

Speed Sisters (Palestinian women race car drivers. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 65. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Unconventional in form as well as content, ‘Speed Sisters’ is a sports-underdog documentary that pays only lip service to the genre’s typical strive-setback-win narrative arc. Loose and unforced, this debut feature from Amber Fares explores the rewards and challenges of belonging to the first female streetcar racing team in the Middle East.” Read more…)

Marinoni (bicycle manufacturing, riding. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 40. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “‘Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame,’ a documentary by Tony Girardin, opens with Giuseppe Marinoni bent over a bicycle he’s building, welding torch in hand, in his workshop near Montreal. He doesn’t enjoy having the camera around, and hates talking about himself: ‘The welds can feel the stress,’ he complains. Once a champion cyclist who went to Canada to race and never left, Mr. Marinoni, 75, is now a master craftsman whose bicycles are prized by devotees.” Read more…)

Casablancas: The Man Who Loved Women (bio, supermodels, John Casablancas)

New releases 2/14/17

Top Hits
Arrival (sci-fi, Amy Adams. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Arrival’ is a science-fiction parable in a distinctly more idealistic hopeful key than most movies in this genre, one in which the best solutions don’t necessarily materialize in a gun sight. It has a little action, a bit of violence and clenched-jawed jittery men. Mostly, it has ideas and hope, as well as eerie extraterrestrials who face off with a soulful linguist-heroine, Louise Banks [Amy Adams], the story’s voice of reason and its translator. She’s thoughtful, serious, at ease with her own silence and fears. She’d get along fine with Sandra Bullock’s character in ‘Gravity,’ which like this movie leans into feeling and thinking, and reminds you again that there’s more to this genre than heavy artillery.” Read more…)

Christine (drama, Rebecca Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often, an actor takes possession of a role so thoroughly — turning each line, flickering look and gesture into an expression of being — that she becomes your way into the movie as well as the reason you keep watching. That’s the case with Rebecca Hall, the star of ‘Christine,’ a period drama about a television reporter, Christine Chubbuck, that plays more like an autopsy than like a biopic. In 1974 Ms. Chubbuck shot herself on the air, possibly becoming the first person to commit suicide on live TV. The ancient Romans had the Colosseum; we have television.” Read more…)

Gimme Danger (music bio, Iggy & The Stooges, Jim Jarmusch. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 72.. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Considering the frenzied psychedelic circus it might have been, ‘Gimme Danger,’ Jim Jarmusch’s reverent documentary portrait of Iggy Pop, one of rock’s ultimate daredevil provocateurs, is downright prim. There are casual confessions of self-destructive, out-of-control behavior by Iggy Pop and his band, the Stooges. But you don’t see it. You only hear about it, and it’s glossed over as yesterday’s bad-boy antics.” Read more…)

The Edge of Seventeen (comedy, Woody Harrelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “To call ‘The Edge of Seventeen’ one of the best films about high school kids in 25 years isn’t to say it’s a masterpiece. In its raw honesty, it barely begins to approach Marielle Heller’s far tougher, more realistic ‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl,’ whose sexually curious 15-year-old title character entices her mother’s boyfriend into a clandestine affair. But it can hold its own against ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ ‘Clueless’ and other movies that have raised the bar on teenage movies.” Read more…)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (war drama, Joe Alwyn. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 53. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In 2004, George W. Bush was in the White House, Beyoncé was in Destiny’s Child and more than 100,000 American troops were in Iraq. Whether or not this could be called a more innocent time, innocence is the central idea — the premise, the moral, the scarlet letter and the white whale — of ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,’ which takes place in that not-so-distant year. Directed by Ang Lee and adapted from Ben Fountain’s novel, a National Book Award finalist in 2012, the movie is dominated by the baby blues and shy smile of its title character, an Army specialist from a small town in Texas. Billy [Joe Alwyn] and the other surviving members of Bravo Company, having endured a hellish firefight in Iraq, find themselves in equally surreal if less perilous circumstances back in the U.S.A., where they have been conscripted into the halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day professional football game.” Read more…)

Bleed For This (sports drama, Miles Teller. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Lead actor Miles] Teller first plays his boxer as a hardheaded, generally likable mook — a bit of a bad boy, but over all an emblem of the integrity of the working-class athlete. After the accident, the portrayal deepens, and delivers substantial emotional dividends without yielding to facile sentimentality. As his trainer, Mr. Eckhart is similarly committed. Mr. Younger’s direction is focused and sometimes disarming — scenes that at first seem like slice-of-life digressions, such as a postaccident surprise birthday party for the protagonist, lead to unexpected mini-epiphanies.” Read more…)

Priceless (drama, Joel Smallbone. Metacritic: 41.)

New Blu-Ray
Arrival
The Edge of Seventeen

New Foreign
Disorder (France, thriller, Matthias Schoenaerts. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Alice Winocour’s ‘Disorder’ is a tightly wound spring of a movie, a tour de force of sound design and sly editing that implies much more than it shows. The premise is simple. A twitchy, traumatized veteran returns to France from a Central Asian war zone and picks up some security work during what he hopes will be a short interval between tours of duty. A fairly straightforward assignment ‘babysitting’ the wife and son of a well-connected rich guy turns out to be more complicated and dangerous than anyone expected.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Gimme Danger (music bio, Iggy & The Stooges, Jim Jarmusch. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 72.. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Considering the frenzied psychedelic circus it might have been, ‘Gimme Danger,’ Jim Jarmusch’s reverent documentary portrait of Iggy Pop, one of rock’s ultimate daredevil provocateurs, is downright prim. There are casual confessions of self-destructive, out-of-control behavior by Iggy Pop and his band, the Stooges. But you don’t see it. You only hear about it, and it’s glossed over as yesterday’s bad-boy antics.” Read more…)

All Things Must Pass (Tower Records story. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 73. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “‘Everybody in a record store is a little bit your friend for 20 minutes or so,’ says Bruce Springsteen in Colin Hanks’ breezy documentary ‘All Things Must Pass,’ an examination of the ill-fated trajectory of the Tower Records empire. To anyone who has ever savored a chat with a record store clerk about nuggets in a pop artist’s catalog, the sentiment is familiar. This movie makes you appreciate anew the one-on-one social dimension lost in the music industry’s headlong switch to digital downloads.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Gimme Danger (music bio, Iggy & The Stooges, Jim Jarmusch)

New Children’s DVDs
Scooby-Doo: Shaggy’s Showdown

New releases 2/7/17

Top Hits
Loving (historical drama, Ruth Negga. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are few movies that speak to the American moment as movingly — and with as much idealism — as Jeff Nichols’s ‘Loving,’ which revisits the era when blacks and whites were so profoundly segregated in this country that they couldn’t always wed. It’s a fictionalization of the story of Mildred and Richard Loving, a married couple who were arrested in 1958 because he was white, she was not, and they lived in Virginia, a state that banned interracial unions. Virginia passed its first anti-miscegenation law in 1691, partly to prevent what it called ‘spurious issue,’ or what most people just call children.” Read more…)

American Pastoral (drama, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 43. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “First, the half-good news about Ewan McGregor’s streamlined screen adaptation of Philip Roth’s 1997 novel, ‘American Pastoral’: The movie is not a desecration but a severe diminution of a complex literary masterpiece. This shallow but watchable gloss on a book that conjures a searing image of the disintegrating American dream in the 1960s, especially as it pertains to Jewish identity and aspiration, amounts to not much more than a dutiful checklist of scenes from the novel. And its elegiac tone omits Mr. Roth’s bitterly sarcastic humor.” Read more…)

Burn Country (thriller, Dominic Rains. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 60. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Dominic Rains is quietly captivating in ‘Burn Country,’ an amorphous study in table-turning directed by Ian Olds, a documentarian who is trying his first feature.” Read more…)

Trolls (Dreamworks animated feature, Anna Kendrick [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 56. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Exuberant, busy and sometimes funny, DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Trolls’ is determined to amuse. You remember Trolls — not the rude lurkers online writing nasty remarks, but those little toys with round tummies, beatific expressions and abundant hair shooting upward. Here they’re players in a fairy-tale Cold War parable.” Read more…)

Danny Says (New Haven-based Brendan Toller’s bio of Danny Fields, rock counterculture figure, punk. “Danny Says” had a rough cut screening at Best Video in 2014. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “To hear it from the new documentary ‘Danny Says,’ Danny Fields had a hand in the breakup of the Beatles and the discovery of the Ramones. He palled around with the photographer Linda Eastman ]a.k.a. Linda McCartney]. He tried playing matchmaker for Jim Morrison and Nico, an introduction that resulted in a strange stare-down. He signed MC5 and the Stooges to Elektra in one swoop. He tripped on acid on the floor of Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins’s hotel room. To paraphrase one of the many friends who share stories of Mr. Fields in this anecdotal, loosely structured movie, he’s the guy who would talk you into buying some sort of abstract painting before the work was widely understood. Variously a journalist, a publicist and a Zelig-like gadfly of the music scene, he had a consistent ear for the next new thing.” Read more…)

Frank & Lola (noir romance, Michael Shannon. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Its title is an early tip-off that “Frank & Lola” will be a new riff on Frankie and Johnny’s old troubles. Immortalized in song and onstage, these two have lent their names and heartache to a couple of films. [The movie shares its title with a Jimmy Buffett song.] They’re back in shadow form in ‘Frank & Lola,’ this time with an unpersuasively paired Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots as Las Vegas souls who, after tumbling into bed, fall for each other. Soon, Frank and Lola learn that love still hurts, especially when tendrils of jealously start twisting through the story and he confuses abandon with possession.” Read more…)

Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween (comedy, Tyler Perry. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 30. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween’ is Mr. Perry’s 16th feature film as a director, and it shows him just barely more adept in this respect as he was for his first outing, ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’ [2006]. His shot composition is rudimentary at best, his blocking of action is practically indifferent, and his editing rhythms run the gamut from hobbled to stumbling. All of which matters only to the viewer actively looking at those aspects of the picture. Mr. Perry is also an eccentric, inspired performer, and his screen-filling antics as the raucous but righteous Madea — a character who runs through Mr. Perry’s stage, film and TV work — is the truly pertinent component here.” Read more…)

The Take (action/thriller, Idris Elba. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 48. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “You’ve got to love the juxtaposition in ‘The Take,’ a tasty thriller directed by James Watkins. Tech- and media-savvy bad guys go up against that most humble of miscreants: a pickpocket. Well, against a pickpocket and a rule-breaking C.I.A. agent. The agent, Sean, is played with growly vigor by Idris Elba, and he pairs perfectly with Richard Madden [Robb Stark from ‘Game of Thrones’], who portrays Michael, the pickpocket.” Read more…)

Desierto (thriller, Gael García Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 51. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Jonás Cuarón and his cinematographer, Damian Garcia, make the desert look bleakly beautiful in ‘Desierto,’ right from the opening landscape shot. But there’s nothing beautiful about the story the film tells, and nothing redeeming, either.” Read more…)

Kevin Hart: What Now (standup comedy performance. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “A performer who can sell out a football stadium with the promise of delivering not much more than a stand-up comedy routine can safely be called ‘critic proof.’ So I understand that my opinion of the comedy offered by Kevin Hart, who set a record for packing Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in August 2015, where this concert movie was filmed, is likely to be immaterial. In any event, I thought about two-thirds of ‘Kevin Hart: What Now?’ was pretty-to-very funny, and one third meh.” Read more…)

Justice League: Dark (R-rated animated superhero feature)

New Blu-Ray
Loving

New Foreign
The Eagle Huntress (Kazakhstan, documentary, Aisholpan. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Aisholpan is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Mongolia, dividing her time between a boarding school and her nomadic family’s campsite. With the release of ‘The Eagle Huntress,’ a thrilling new documentary directed by Otto Bell, she may well become something else: a pop-culture heroine with the power to inspire girls (and not only girls) everywhere. It would not be surprising on future Halloweens to spot a handful of Aisholpans, dressed in traditional fur-and-embroidery hunting gear, pigtails fastened with pink bows, amid the throngs of Elsas and Katnisses.” Read more…)

Mediterraneo (Italy, 1991, comedy/drama, Nicola Lorusso. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. From Vincent Canby’s 192 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Gabriele Salvatores’s “Mediterraneo” is a deliberately charming comedy whose most daring conceit is that love, in one form and another, makes the world go around. Actually, it’s somewhat better than it sounds, having the good sense not to slop over into the sentimentality that awaits it at every turn.” Read more…)

Fellini’s Casanova (Italy, 1976, historical drama/romance, Donald Sutherland. From Vincent Canby’s 1977 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Fellini’s Casanova’ recalls ‘Fellini’s Satyricon.’ Though its concerns are narrower, it’s as otherworldly as that nightmare vision of the pre-Christian Roman Empire. Like that film, too, ‘Casanova’ makes no attempt to recreate an identifiable era, but, rather, to create a completely subjective impression.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Roar (1981, thriller, Tippi Hedren. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. From Simon Abrams’ review on RogerEbert.com: “If you go see ‘Roar,’ a now-infamous 1981 ethnographic action film starring untrained wild cats, you probably will go expecting to see a memorably weird curio. This is a movie with a poster, commissioned by the cult film buffs at Drafthouse Films, that uses injuries sustained by 70 cast and crew members as a selling point [the poster’s tagline: ‘No animals were harmed in the making of this film. 70 cast and crew members were.’]. ‘Roar’ may often feel like a bizarre Swiss Family Robinson adventure, but the real reason you should go see it is its surplus of lions, and tigers, and cheetahs [oh my!]. I confess that, as a feline aficionado, I got what I wanted from ‘Roar’: lots and lots of big cats. There’s not much to the film beyond that, though knowing that the film’s hulking furry stars weren’t trained does add an element of suspense to an otherwise slack thriller. Still, if you want to see cats chasing people in packs, falling over themselves to descend stairwells, and jump up trees to swipe at disposable human protagonists–you will probably enjoy ‘Roar.'” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Cameraperson (cinematography, documentary, Kirsten Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Cameraperson’ Kirsten Johnson’s transfixing documentary, defies easy summary. It’s unlike anything you’ve seen before, although if you remember films like Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman’s ‘Derrida’ or Whitney Dow and Marco Williams’s ‘Two Towns of Jasper,’ some of the images may be familiar. Ms. Johnson worked as a cinematographer on those documentaries and dozens of others, but the footage she shares here doesn’t come from the finished films. It includes outtakes, offhand moments, snatches of time when the camera just happened to be running. ‘These are the images that marked me,’ she says in an introductory note, and she has woven them together into a unique and affecting memoir.” Read more…)

Danny Says (Brendan Toller’s bio of Danny Fields, rock counterculture figure, punk. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “To hear it from the new documentary ‘Danny Says,’ Danny Fields had a hand in the breakup of the Beatles and the discovery of the Ramones. He palled around with the photographer Linda Eastman [a.k.a. Linda McCartney]. He tried playing matchmaker for Jim Morrison and Nico, an introduction that resulted in a strange stare-down. He signed MC5 and the Stooges to Elektra in one swoop. He tripped on acid on the floor of Leonard Cohen and Judy Collins’s hotel room. To paraphrase one of the many friends who share stories of Mr. Fields in this anecdotal, loosely structured movie, he’s the guy who would talk you into buying some sort of abstract painting before the work was widely understood. Variously a journalist, a publicist and a Zelig-like gadfly of the music scene, he had a consistent ear for the next new thing.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Cloud 9 (Disney snowboarding, Dove Cameron)