New releases 12/27/16

Top Hits
snowdenSnowden (contemporary fact-based drama, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt.  Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden,’ a quiet, crisply drawn portrait of the world’s most celebrated whistle-blower, belongs to a curious subgenre of movies about very recent historical events. Reversing the usual pattern, it could be described as a fictional ‘making of’ feature about ‘Citizenfour,’ Laura Poitras’s Oscar-winning documentary on the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. That film seems to me more likely to last — it is deeper journalism and more haunting cinema — but Mr. Stone has made an honorable and absorbing contribution to the imaginative record of our confusing times. He tells a story torn from slightly faded headlines, filling in some details you may have forgotten, and discreetly embellishing the record in the service of drama and suspense.” Read more…)

Dog Eat Dog (crime drama, Willem Dafoe.  Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 53. From Glenn Kenny’s new York Times revew: “Despite its slim running time — barely over an hour and a half — ‘Dog Eat Dog’ somehow feels like six different movies. The first one, which depicts an especially appalling double murder through the speedy, sickly colorful perspective of an extended drug binge, is probably the least effective of the batch. But it lets you know that the filmmakers are not coming at you from a benevolent place, and that impression never lets up.” Read more…)

The Dressmaker (revenge drama/comedy, Kate Winslet.  Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 57. From A.O. scott’s New York Times review: “It’s the early 1950s, and Tilly Dunnage [(Kate) Winslet] has returned to her dusty Australian hometown in search of vengeance. She moves in with her dotty mother, Molly [(Judy) Davis], and promptly sets tongues wagging and bad memories stirring. As a child [then known as Myrtle], Tilly was bullied by a rich kid and blamed for his death. That supposed crime will be revisited, and the closets of this wicked little hamlet will disgorge their skeletons.” Read more…)

Coming Through the Rye (coming-of-age story, Alex Wolff.  Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 64. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review:”With the glossy ‘Coming Through the Rye,’ the director James Sadwith pays heartfelt tribute to both J.D. Salinger, the reclusive writer of ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ who died in 2010, and the book itself. He also affectionately fictionalizes his own past [he wrote the script], drawing from his actual meeting in adolescence with Mr. Salinger.” Read more…)

In a Valley of Violence (western, Ethan Hawke.  Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’  New York Times review: “Ignore the clichés and underdeveloped characters, though, and there are plenty of substitute pleasures. Jeff Grace’s wonderfully expressive musical score adds the urgency the plot lacks, and John Travolta, playing a hard-nosed marshal who intuits Paul’s traumatic past, has rarely been this enjoyably commanding. And if the sniping sisters who run the hotel [Taissa Farmiga and Karen Gillan] exude a modernity that can detach them from the story, they also bring a tumbling, clumsy vitality. The movie would be grimmer — and quieter — without them.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Snowden

New Foreign
man_called_oveA Man Called Ove (Sweden, comedy/drama, Rolf Lassgård. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Sweden’s official entry for a best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards proves that Swedish pictures can be just as sentimental and conventionally heartwarming as Hollywood ones. Granted, few Hollywood films would deign to tell the story of a protagonist’s life through a series of flashbacks brought on by unsuccessful suicide attempts. But still.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Phynx (1970, rock ‘n’ roll spy spoof, Ray Chippeway and lots of old-time Hollywood stars cameos)

New British
Undercover (thriller mini-series, Sophie Okonedo.  Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 58.)
Jericho of Scotland Yard (detective series, Robert Lindsay)

New releases 12/20/16

Top Hits
sullySully (true-life hero drama, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, “Sully,” is about a man who is excellent at his job. Specifically, it tells the story of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and how, on a frigid January afternoon in 2009, he came to land a plane on the Hudson River. The movie is economical and solid, and generally low-key when it’s not freaking you out. That it unnerves you as much as it does may seem surprising, given that going in, we know how this story ends. But Mr. Eastwood is also very good at his job, a talent that gives the movie its tension along with an autobiographical sheen.” Read more…)

Goat (hazing drama, Nick Jonas. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times revoew: “Directed by Andrew Neel from a script by David Gordon Green, Mike Roberts and Mr. Neel, the movie is shot in hand-held, quasi-documentary style, although Mr. Neel weirdly forgoes a lot of what would have been useful exposition in the first quarter. The movie is similarly indirect in its approach to the admittedly inarticulate characters’ psychology. But in depicting the atrocities of the frat’s ‘Hell Week,’ it is painstakingly explicit, a junior varsity variant on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s study of fascist sadism, ‘Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.'” Read more…)

Storks (animated feature, Andy Samberg [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 56. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Birds have been fine — memorable, even — as secondary characters in animated fare. Zazu in ‘The Lion King.’ Scuttle in ‘The Little Mermaid.’ But giving a bird or birds top billing is another matter, as demonstrated by ‘Storks.’ This film, directed by NIcholas Stoller and Doug Sweetland, is a harmless enough way to occupy a youngster for an hour and a half. It’s just not especially rich in extraordinary characters or moments.” Rea more…)

magnificent_sevenThe Magnificent Seven (action/Western re-make, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 54. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “This time, the seven are riding — and shooting — under the adequate if unremarkable direction of Antoine Fuqua. Working with truckloads of dust and high-contrast cinematography that tends to turn shadows into bottomless inky blots, Mr. Fuqua approaches the western like an ardent fan, leaving no genre element untouched, from gun spinning to trick riding to atmospherically flapping dusters. The story — the script is credited to Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk — pretty much follows the line of the 1960 film, with some tweaks that speak to contemporary mores, including a gun-toting frontierswoman, Emma [Haley Bennett].” Read more…)

Hitchcock/Truffaut (cinema history, interview. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Just as a snooty reader might be enticed to the novels of Stephen King by a thumbs-up from The New York Review of Books, movie buffs were likely to view Truffaut’s enthusiasm for Hitchcock as a sufficient entree to their discerning fold. But the book, an engrossing record of Truffaut’s days-long interview with his idol in 1962 [excerpts of which are included in this film], did more than just reposition its subject’s reputation. It also provided riveting insight into the art and craft of moviemaking, revealing Hitchcock’s mastery of time and space and his unwavering preference, honed by his period of making silent movies, for image over dialogue.” Read more…)

Hairspray Live (musical, Kristin Chenoweth. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 66. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times television review: “Based on the 1988 John Waters film, the musical’s story of social outcasts and racial barriers is set in 1962, and it should amaze and distress us with its continued relevance in 2016. The broadcast, though, didn’t generate as much power as it could have because of all the shots of the cast members golf-carting from one set to another, of viewing parties in various cities and so on. Only Jennifer Hudson, who played Motormouth Maybelle, found the real strength of this Tony Award-winning musical, delivering a knockout rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been,’ a gospel-infused power number, late in the show.” Read more…)

Dad’s Army (comedy, Bill Nighy. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 38.)

New Blu-Ray
Sully

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
ruthlessRuthless (1948, Edgar Ulmer-directed drama, Zachary Scott. From the 1948 New York Times review by “T.I.P.” [requires log-in]: “A long, tedious recital about how a poor lad worked his way up the Wall Street ladder in the fabulous Twenties, brutally trampling over friend and foe, is being unfolded on the screen of the Gotham in ‘Ruthless.’ Without ever managing to bring the story to a dramatic point, the authors build a financial pirate of titanic proportions, a man so possessed by avarice and so cruelly cold and inhuman that he assumes a degree of monstrousness unrelated to reality. In short, it is impossible to become concerned about a character so patently fabricated.” Read more…)

No Man of Her Own (1950,film noir, Barbara Stanwyck. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The appearance of Barbara Stanwyck as a dame plagued by the swarming consequences of some indiscreet social offense is one to which movie audiences should be well accustomed by now. Along with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, she is one of the steadiest sufferers on the screen. Seems like every time Miss Stanwyck makes a picture she makes a false step—fictionally speaking, that is. People know what to expect.” Read more…)

City That Never Sleeps (1953, film noir, Gig Young. From “H.H.T.”‘s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A half-hearted attempt to document nocturnal Chicago as the ‘City That Never Sleeps’ rarely camouflages the routine crime melodrama that bowed in with the Palace’s new stage bill yesterday. This Republic offering can claim an erratic exploration of the Chicago skyline — obviously injected in hopeful reminiscence of what ‘The Naked City’ did to our town—a good, murkily photographed chase finale and a ready, willing and fairly able cast, headed by Gig Young, Mala Powers, William Talman and Edward Arnold. And all, unfortunately, in vain.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
hitchcock_truffautHitchcock/Truffaut (cinema history, interview. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Just as a snooty reader might be enticed to the novels of Stephen King by a thumbs-up from The New York Review of Books, movie buffs were likely to view Truffaut’s enthusiasm for Hitchcock as a sufficient entree to their discerning fold. But the book, an engrossing record of Truffaut’s days-long interview with his idol in 1962 [excerpts of which are included in this film], did more than just reposition its subject’s reputation. It also provided riveting insight into the art and craft of moviemaking, revealing Hitchcock’s mastery of time and space and his unwavering preference, honed by his period of making silent movies, for image over dialogue.” Read more…)

New releases 12/13/16

Top Hits
florence_foster_jenkinsFlorence Foster Jenkins (comedy, Meryl Streep. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 71. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Meryl Streep will get most of the attention accorded the crowd-pleasing ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ thanks to a performance that may single-handedly set off a boom in the earplug industry. But the actor you should keep your eye on is Simon Helberg. It is his reactions to her vocal travesties that really make the movie sparkle.” Read more…)

Ben-Hur (costume drama action, Jack Huston. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 38. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “For any filmmaker foolhardy enough to embark on a remake of ‘Ben-Hur,’ the kitschy 1959 sword-and-sandals epic that captured 11 Oscars and elevated Charlton Heston to Hollywood sainthood, the first order of business is to create a bigger and better version of that movie’s climactic chariot race. The best thing about the reimagined ‘Ben-Hur,’ directed by Timur Bekmambetov [‘Wanted,’ ‘Abraham lIncoln: Vampire Hunter’] from a screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley, is that it delivers a contest as thunderously stirring as any action sequence from the “Fast and Furious” franchise.” Read more…)

Bridget Jones’s Baby (rom-com, Renee Zelleger. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 59. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “Like the recent ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,’ or the film spinoffs of ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ trades on nostalgia for the characters’ quaint misbehavior and silly fantasies of yesteryear. Renée Zellweger, crinkly eyed and adorable at 47, plays a more poised and confident Bridget, still chasing what she calls ‘happily ever after.’ But the question nags: What planet does she think she inhabits? The London shown here might as well be Planet C, as in cute.” Read more…)

Suicide Squad (comic book action, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Scholars of classical Hollywood sometimes speak of ‘the genius of the system,’ a phrase coined by the French critic André Bazin to refer to the ability of the old studio machinery to turn out works of inventive and beautiful popular art. But times change. ‘Suicide Squad,’ the latest product of the DC-Warner Bros. partnership, is a good example of the idiocy of the system. This is not to say that it’s a completely terrible movie — it is certainly not worse than ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ ‘Captain America: Civil War’ or, heaven knows, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ — but rather that its virtues and shortcomings are more systemic than specific.” Read more…)

Southside With You (Barack & Michelle Obama bio/romance/drama, Parker Sawyers. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Sweet, slight and thuddingly sincere, ‘Southside With You’ is a fictional re-creation of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. It’s a curious conceit for a movie less because as dates go this one is pretty low key but because the writer-director Richard Tanne mistakes faithfulness for truthfulness. He’s obviously interested in the Obamas, but he’s so cautious and worshipful that there’s nothing here to discover, only characters to admire. Every so often, you catch a glimpse of two people seeing each other as if for the first time; mostly, though, the movie just sets a course for the White House.” Read more…)

miss_peregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton-directed fantasy adventure, Eva Green. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 57. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The movies have long made room for phantasmagoric visionaries, the strange ones, the different ones, who like to peek under rocks [or peel back the skin] to peer at what squirms beneath. Fitting their deliriums into bright, shiny, commercially palatable vehicles can be difficult, as Tim Burton’s career attests. Time and again, Mr. Burton has tried to smooth down his singular art, rather like one of Cinderella’s stepsisters sawing off a bit of her foot to squeeze into a happily-ever-after slipper. Mr. Burton should never hack off his strange bits; they can be glorious. Ah, but he slips beautifully into his latest, ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.'” Read more…)

Little Men (family drama, Greg Kinnear. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “There is hardly a shortage of buddy movies about mismatched men bonding under duress, but films that chart the emotional weather of everyday male friendship are rare. Literature has more to offer, at least as far as boys are concerned. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn have a rich and renewable legacy. And it may be that association that imparts a novelistic vibe to Ira Sachs’s ‘Little Men,’ beyond the Louisa May Alcott echo in the title. It’s a subtle movie, alert to the almost imperceptible currents of feeling that pass between its title characters.” Read more…)

Equity (Wall Street drama, Anna Gunn. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Equity’ itself, however, is bracing, witty and suspenseful, a feminist thriller sharply attuned to the nuances of its chosen milieu. In setting and mood, it bears some resemblance to J. C. Chandor’s ‘Margin Call,’ which similarly infused sleek and sterile corporate spaces with danger and dread. But unlike that film or Adam McKay’s ‘The Big Short,’ Ms. Menon’s movie is not about the system in crisis. It’s about business as usual.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Florence Foster Jenkins
Ben-Hur
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Suicide Squad

New Foreign
man_facing_southeastMan Facing Southeast (Argentina, 1986, sci-fi, Hugo Soto. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As an example of Latin American fiction, ‘Man Facing Southeast’ is lower-middle-brow Garcia Marquez and bourgeois Borges. ‘Man Facing Southeast’ is one of those sentimental films that find madness both poetic and romantic. Is Rantes what he says he is? The movie answers firmly, ‘Yes and no.’ [Director Eliseo] Subiela mixes his metaphors with a vengeance. Though Julio knows, at heart, that Rantes is psychotic, the doctor begins to see himself as Pontius Pilate to Rantes’s outer-space Jesus. The movie goes along with this, picturing Rantes, at one point, as the Jesus in tableau vivant based on Michelangelo’s Pieta. Rantes is also able to perform minor miracles.” Read more…)

Los Olvidados (Mexico, 1950, Luis Buñuel-directed surrealist drama, Estela Inda. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. “Los Olvidados” is now seen as a classic of both surrealist and Latin American cinema. But New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was no fan when he reviewed the movie in 1952 [requires log-in]: “A brutal and unrelenting picture of poverty and juvenile crime in the slums of Mexico City is presented in ‘The Young and the Damned’ [the U.S. title for ‘Los Olvidados’], a Mexican semi-documentary that was put on yesterday at the Trans-Lux Fifty-second Street. Although made with meticulous realism and unquestioned fidelity to facts, its qualifications as dramatic entertainment — or even social reportage—are dim. For it is obvious that Luis Buñuel, who directed and helped write the script, had no focus or point of reference for the squalid, depressing tale he tells. He simply has assembled an assortment of poverty-stricken folk—paupers, delinquents, lost children and parents of degraded morals—and has mixed them altogether in a vicious and shocking melange of violence, melodrama, coincidence and irony.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
asphalt_jungleThe Asphalt Jungle (1950, Criterion Collection, John Huston-directed film noir, Sterling Hayden, Marilyn Monroe. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This film, derived by Ben Maddow and John Huston from [novelist W.R.] Burnett’s book and directed by Mr. Huston in brilliantly naturalistic style, gives such an electrifying picture of the whole vicious circle of a crime—such an absorbing illustration of the various characters involved, their loyalties and duplicities, and of the minutiae of crime techniques—that one finds it hard to tag the item of repulsive exhibition in itself. Yet that is our inevitable judgment of this film, now on the Capitol’s screen. For the plain truth is that this picture—sobering though it may be in its ultimate demonstration that a life of crime does not pay—enjoins the hypnotized audience to hobnob with a bunch of crooks, participate with them in their plunderings and actually sympathize with their personal griefs. The vilest creature in the picture, indeed, is a double-crossing cop. And the rest of the police, while decent, are definitely antagonists.” Read more…)

New British
Steaming (1984, Joseph Losey-directed drama, Vanessa Redgrave. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Steaming,’ adapted from Nell Dunn’s play, which had a brief Broadway run during the 1981-1982 season, is about a group of English women who meet each week in a grubby, going-to-pieces, public bathhouse to sweat out their psyches, trade secrets and raise their consciousnesses. They represent, of course, the kind of societal cross section one used to find in William Saroyan’s barrooms or falling to their doom off Thornton Wilder’s ‘Bridge of San Luis Rey.’ The trouble with ‘Steaming’ is that not even a cast of first-rate actresses can give these dreary characters a dimension or interest that hasn’t been supplied by the screenplay, written by Patricia Losey, the director’s wife.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
hooligan_sparrowHooligan Sparrow (human rights, China, women’s rights, protest, free speech. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 78. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “One of the strengths of ‘Hooligan Sparrow’ is that it makes those stakes real, visceral and urgent, partly by laying bare just how difficult it can be to make a documentary like this. It’s the debut feature of Nanfu Wang, who inserts herself into the fray early in a short, tense scene in which — while facing the camera alone in a room — she nervously explains that the police are about to question her about her recent activities. The scene, with its unease and suggestive violence, doesn’t draw you in; it yanks you, a canny strategy that instantly puts the viewer on Ms. Wang’s side and turns the presumably [or at least relatively] disinterested audience into a kind of collaborator. ‘Hooligan Sparrow,’ which Ms. Wang also shot and skillfully edited, has the pulse of a mainstream thriller but without the pacifying polish and tidiness.” Read more…)

New releases 12/6/16

Top Hits
jason_bourneJason Bourne (action, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The good news and the bad news is that ‘Jason Bourne,’ directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Matt Damon as everyone’s favorite amnesiac assassin, feels like old times. The band is back together for a reunion tour, and if some of the original members are missing, the new additions have learned the chords and are even permitted to try out a few fresh riffs.” Read more…)

Don’t Think Twice (drama/comedy, Mike Birbiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “‘Has anybody here had a particularly hard day?’ That’s the standard question addressed to the audience before each performance of the Commune, a New York improvisational comedy troupe anatomized in Mike Birbiglia’s smart, bittersweet comedy, ‘Don’t Think Twice.’ That question could be asked of the group itself when it faces sudden changes.” Read more…)

Other People (drama, Jesse Plemons. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 68. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “A deeply personal film — its writer-director, Chris Kelly, based it on his own experiences — ‘Other People’ chronicles a year in the death of a loved one; a family’s attempt to reconnect; and the welter of issues that leave David feeling as if he is a failure. He and his boyfriend have broken up; he may not have an apartment or a job to return to. Even with tragedy looming, everyday anxieties set his agenda. ‘Other People’ tries to lighten its heavy load with mixed results.” Read more…)

secret_life_petsThe Secret Life of Pets (animated feature, Louis C.K. [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 61. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Secret Life of Pets,’ written by Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch and directed by Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud, is like one of those picture books about how to deal with a new baby, but with talking animals. Which is, all in all, pretty good fun. Talking-animal cartoons generally are, if they have even a modest quantity of wit or cross-species insight. And while this movie never achieves — and does not really aim for — the emotional richness or visual inventiveness of the better Pixar features, or the sly social consciousness of ‘Zootopia,’ it has a playful absurdity and a winning, friendly spirit.” Read more…)

The Hollars (comedy, John Krasinski. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 53. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Too much happens too quickly in ‘The Hollars’ or the story to be credible, but the film has some likable qualities, among them the fun of seeing actors in unexpected roles. The movie is directed by John Krasinski of ‘The Office,’ who also plays John Hollar, an unsuccessful illustrator in New York. John returns to his tiny Middle American hometown when his mother, Sally [Margo Martindale], falls ill.” Read more…)

Ordinary World (comedy, Billie Joe Armstrong. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 55. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is usually pretty appealing when he dabbles in acting, and he’s appealing again in ‘Ordinary World.’ But after a promising start the script lets him down, and the film turns into a predictable midlife-crisis yarn.” Read more…)

heart_of_dogHeart of a Dog (documentary, Laurie Anderson. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times Pick: “‘Heart of a Dog’ is about telling and remembering and forgetting, and how we put together the fragments that make up our lives — their flotsam and jetsam, highs and lows, meaningful and slight details, shrieking and weeping headline news. This purposefully fissured quality extends to the movie itself, which is by turns narratively straightforward and playfully experimental, light and heavy [it’s a fast 75 minutes], accessible and opaque, concrete and abstract. And while it’s drizzled in sadness — one of its recurrent images is of rain splattered across glass — it joyfully embraces silliness, as when a blind dog named Lolabelle plays the piano. It’s a home movie of a type, if one that, like a stone skipped across a still lake, leaves expanding rings in its path.” Read more…)

Kicks (coming of age story, Jahking Guillory. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Sephen Holden’s Times review: “Teenage life in the East Bay neighborhood of Richmond, the setting of Justin Tipping’s promising debut feature film, ‘Kicks,’ is so rough that it’s little wonder that the movie’s 15-year-old protagonist, Brandon [Jahking Guillory], fantasizes that he is watched over by an imaginary spaceman. Because Brandon is small for his age and has delicate features, he is a natural target for bullies. Lacking the macho swagger of his peers, he is not a romantic magnet for the girls who throw themselves at his friends. He dwells in an anxious limbo where the harsh realities of big-city life coincide with a childlike longing for a magical escape.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jason Bourne
Don’t Think Twice
The Secret Life of Pets

New Foreign
La Luna (Italy, 1974, Bernardo Bertolucci-directed drama, Jill Clayburgh. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. From Vincent Canby’s 1979 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This, I suppose, explains my skeptical reactions to Bernardo Bertolucci’s new film, ‘Luna,’ about a beautiful, successful, willful, American star of grand opera and her brief, unsatisfactory love affair with her 15-year-old son, who is a junkie — which may well be the most obscure movie metaphor of all time. The film, which opens the 17th annual New York Film Festival tonight at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, is one of the most sublimely foolish movies ever made by a director of Mr. Bertolucci’s acknowledged talents.” Read more…)

New British
The Secret Agent: Season 1 (Victorian-era drama, Toby Jones. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review:”What this ‘Masterpiece Theater’-style presentation has to say about contemporary terrorism is less clear. The screenwriter, Tony Marchant, keeps the main incidents of Conrad’s plot but lays them out chronologically, losing the revelations and shadings of the novel’s flashbacks and flash-forwards. This goes along with a general literalness and glumness — little of the satire and humor of the novel has seeped into the mini-series.” Read more…)

Britain’s Bloody Crown (history documentary, reenactment, War of the Roses)
Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty (history documentary, reenactment, Plantagenets)

New Documentaries
Heart of a Dog (documentary, Laurie Anderson)
Paper Tigers (education issues, alternate approaches)

New Children’s DVDs
The Secret Life of Pets (animated feature, Louis C.K. [voice])

New releases 11/29/16

Top Hits
dont_breatheDon’t Breathe (horror, Jane Levy. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 71. From Anita Gates’ New York Times review: “People who go to see movies like ‘Don’t Breathe’ — some of them, anyway — tend to laugh when people are killed onscreen. And when people believed to be dead open their eyes. Even I laughed when the watchdog, which the three attractive young thieves had drugged into slumber, appeared in the hallway, growling. Ha! Guess he woke up, dudes.” Read more…)

Pete’s Dragon (family/fantasy, Bryce Dallas Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The director David Lowery’s independent film pedigree [his previous feature was the accomplished, although self-serious, outlaw romance ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’] suggests that he would apply a singular perspective to this material. But “Pete’s Dragon” is largely as impersonal as it is fleet.” Read more…)

Soundbreaking (music production, Beatles. Metacritic: 78. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times television review: “The performer is often only the public face of a well-known song; its body is formed in the studio. That part of the creative process is explored in the richly detailed PBS series ‘Soundbreaking: Stories From the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music,’ an eight-parter that begins Monday, Nov. 14.” Read more…)

bfgThe BFG (Roald Dahl family/fantasy, Ruby Barnhill. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 646. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The BFG’ — it stands for ‘big friendly giant’ — is a small, friendly movie, an attempt to reconcile the scale and dazzle of modern filmmaking with the quiet, mischievous charm of Roald Dahl’s book. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by his frequent collaborator Melissa Mathison [who died in November], it chronicles the relationship between the title character [Mark Rylance] and a young orphan named Sophie [Ruby Barnhill].” Read more…)

Dough (comedy, Jonathan Pryce. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 46. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Take an aging white Jewish baker, add a young black Muslim immigrant, and what do you have? The ingredients for a pleasant but pat story in which bridges are built across religious, racial and generational divides in a way that happens far more often in feel-good movies than in real life.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Pete’s Dragon
The BFG

New British
Brief Encounters: Season 1 (British dramedy series, Penelope Wilton. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times television review: “It’s 1982, and times are hard in England. How does a woman help shore up the family finances? In the delicious British dramedy ‘Brief Encounters’ … the answer for several entrepreneurs is selling lingerie and sex toys to repressed women at Tupperware-like parties. The six-episode series may feel more 1950s than 1980s, but the results are often hilarious.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Soundbreaking (music production, Beatles)
Alex de Renzy: Three Documentaries (drugs, sex industry, early 1970s cinema verite)

New Music
Soundbreaking (music production, Beatles)

New Children’s DVDs
Pete’s Dragon (family/fantasy, Bryce Dallas Howard)
The BFG (Roald Dahl family/fantasy, Ruby Barnhill)

New releases 11/22/16

Top Hits
war_dogsWar Dogs (comedy, drama, Jonah Hill. Rotten Tomatoes 60%. Metacritic  57. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “‘Based on a true story,’ the movie ‘War Dogs’ says, and indeed it is. Which proves conclusively that truth is stranger than fiction. The film, a comic drama, is about two school chums who are reacquainted in their 20s and, improbably, become arms suppliers to the United States military. One of them, David [Miles Teller], is a reluctant recruit into a business begun by the other, Efraim [Jonah Hill], who has discovered a world of Pentagon contracts just waiting for bids.” Read more…)

Kubo and the Two Strings (animated feature, Charlize Theron [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Metacritic  84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The action is gorgeously fluid, the idiosyncratic 3-D visual conceits [including floating eyeballs undersea] are startling, and the story and its metaphors resolve in unexpected and moving ways. The director, Travis Knight, has put together a picture that hits a lot of all-ages-entertainment sweet spots while avoiding hackneyed conventions, and ends up delivering what feels like a sincere family-friendly message. The movie’s blend of stop-motion animation for the main action with computer-generated backgrounds is seamless, creating what is the most visually intoxicating of all Laika’s movies.” Read more…)

hell_high_waterHell or High Water (crime drama, Chris Pine. Rotten Tomatoes 98%. Metacritic  88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’s Times review: “If there’s such a thing as an easygoing thriller, then ‘Hell or High Water’ is it. The stakes may be steep, but the characters can seem more nonchalant than nervous. Maybe it’s as simple as the heat: In the roasted landscape of West Texas, where this cops-and-robbers tale plays out, nothing moves faster than it has to.” Read more…)

Mechanic: Resurrection (action, Jason Statham. Rotten Tomatoes 26%. Metacritic  38. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The German director Dennis Gansel, making his Hollywood debut, lacks the glossy flair of earlier Statham directors like Mr. West and Louis Leterrier [‘The Transporter’]. If not for Mr. Jones, ‘Resurrection,’ while competently edited, would be devoid of humor, an area where Mr. Statham has shown promise in the past. [See: the Melissa McCarthy vehicle ‘Spy.’] \Mostly, the movie suggests the action equivalent of 1970s European soft-core, all diffuse sun-drenched exteriors populated by attractive stars on an exotic working vacation.” Read more…)

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog doc, impact of digital technology. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic  76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ is Werner Herzog’s documentary about the internet. For some readers, that sentence will be sufficient. One of our most intellectually ambitious filmmakers — a self-professed seeker of ecstatic truths, a tireless foot soldier of cinema — tackles what he calls ‘one of the greatest revolutions’ humanity has experienced. The combination of Mr. Herzog’s doggedly curious sensibility and the mysteries of the digital universe seems both improbable and irresistible.” Read more…)

beatles_eight_days_a_weekThe Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years (Ron Howard-directed concerts documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic  72. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Sure, they were great, but it’s possible to get too much of the Beatles, isn’t it? Nah. Ron Howard’s new documentary, ‘The Breatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years,’ is 90 percent familiar and a bit hagiographic as well, but just try watching it without smiling.” Read more…)

Hands of Stone (Roberto Duran boxing bio-pic, Edgar Ramirez. Rotten Tomatoes 45%. Metacritic  54. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Robert De Niro redefined film acting by subjecting himself to a reported 60-pound weight gain to play a gone-to-seed version of Jake LaMotta, the middleweight boxer, in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film, ‘Raging Bull.’ Mr. De Niro, lithe, lean and lethal as LaMotta in his prime, became a bloated, bulbous ball of hostility and confusion for LaMotta’s post-boxing life. [He won a best actor Oscar for his pains.] But as much as ‘Raging Bull’ is an exacting portrait of an athlete and his sport, it is not a “boxing movie.’ ‘Hands of Stone,” in which Mr. De Niro plays Ray Arcel, the American trainer who worked with the Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán in the 1970s and early ’80s, is absolutely a boxing movie. A corny and sometimes clumsy one, it scatters pleasures here and there, Mr. De Niro’s alert performance among them.” Read more…)

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (action/comedy, Lily James. Rotten Tomatoes 42%. Metacritic  45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As it turns out, fighting zombies does nothing to improve on the original Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Austen’s heroine from ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ In ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,’ a character claiming to be Elizabeth Bennet [Lily James], wields swords and other deadly blades, fires guns and occasionally flashes a leg in order to stomp on a zombie head. Battling the undead keeps her, friends and family safe from the flesh-eating hordes, but the character has been so radically transformed from Austen’s that Elizabeth already feels like a goner.” Read more…)

The Childhood of a Leader (costume drama, Robert Pattinson. Rotten Tomatoes 89%. Metacritic  68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Family and fascism march in lock step in ‘The Childhood of a Leader.’ A visually sumptuous, slow-boil freakout set in France in the aftermath of World War I, it hinges on an unruly boy, Prescott [Tom Sweet], who goes to battle with his authoritarian parents as his American father [Liam Cunningham] is helping negotiate the peace terms with Germany. Having arrived as part of President Woodrow Wilson’s political retinue, the unnamed father has moved into a sprawling, dilapidated farmhouse. There, he and his European wife [also nameless, and played by Bérénice Bejo] settle into their own uneasy peace, one increasingly disturbed by their eccentric son.” Read more…)

Unexpected (comedy, Cobie Smulders. Rotten Tomatoes 66%. Metacritic  65. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “There is barely a false note in Kris Swanberg’s intelligent, well-mannered drama ‘Unexpected,’ which tells parallel stories of two unforeseen pregnancies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Mechanic: Resurrection
Hell Or High Water
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years

New Foreign DVDs
Mia Madre (Italy, comedy/drama, John Turturro. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic  70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love, death, cinema — they’re all there in ‘Mia Madre,’ bumping up against one another beautifully. It’s the story of a movie director, Margherita [Margherita Buy], who, while shooting a difficult movie about labor strife, learns that her mother, Ada [Giulia Lazzarini], may be dying. Yet even as tragedy surges, flooding scenes and tear ducts, Margherita’s featured performer, an outsize American star named Barry [John Turturro], enters laughing, bellowing, acting. The Italian director Nanni Moretti knows how to turn on the waterworks, but he also knows about that burlesque called life.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Red Dust (1932, drama/comedy, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From M.H.’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The dialogue is not especially bright or strong, but some of the lines spoken by Vantine, who is impersonated by Jean Harlow, aroused laughter from the audience. Miss Harlow’s presence in the picture apparently attracted a host of other platinum blondes, for on all sides there were in the seats girls with straw-colored hair. Miss Harlow’s performance suits the part. Mr. Gable is efficient in his rôle. Miss Astor offers a striking contrast to Miss Harlow. Tully Marshall makes the most of a minor rôle, as does Gene Raymond, who appears as Willis.” Read more…)

New British
Janet King: Series 2
Poldark: Season 2

New Documentaries
lo_and_beholdLo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Werner Herzog doc, impact of digital technology. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic  76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World’ is Werner Herzog’s documentary about the internet. For some readers, that sentence will be sufficient. One of our most intellectually ambitious filmmakers — a self-professed seeker of ecstatic truths, a tireless foot soldier of cinema — tackles what he calls ‘one of the greatest revolutions’ humanity has experienced. The combination of Mr. Herzog’s doggedly curious sensibility and the mysteries of the digital universe seems both improbable and irresistible.” Read more…)

When Two Worlds Collide (economics, environment, indigenous activism. Rotten Tomatoes 90%. Metacritic  71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘When Two Worlds Collide,’ a documentary directed by the first-time feature filmmakers Heidi Brandenburg and Matthew Orzel, chronicles a conflict that resulted in one particularly effective piece of civil disobedience — a move by indigenous protesters to cut off commercial trucking routes — before it deteriorated into violence and death.” Read more…)

Chicken People (chicken raising, competitions. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic  81.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Helen T. Verongos’ Times review: “They hold grudges. They have best friends. They aren’t big on foreplay, and you can revive them with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if they choke during a shampoo. They are chickens: the ones with perfect combs, pedicured toes and gleaming feathers that compete on the show circuit. ‘Chicken People,’ directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes, looks at dozens of devotees of these fair fowl. The hens and roosters in this documentary are pampered royalty, and their caretakers find fulfillment in the pursuit of perfection.” Read more…)

New Music
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years (Ron Howard-directed concerts documentary. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic  72. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Sure, they were great, but it’s possible to get too much of the Beatles, isn’t it? Nah. Ron Howard’s new documentary, ‘The Breatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years,’ is 90 percent familiar and a bit hagiographic as well, but just try watching it without smiling.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Kubo and the Two Strings (animated feature, Charlize Theron [voice])
Call of the Wild (1992, Jack London adventure tale, Ricky Schroeder)

New releases 11/15/16

Top Hits
finding_doryFinding Dory (Pixar animated feature, Ellen DeGeneres. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Now Dory has her own movie, imaginatively called ‘Finding Dory,’ a merchandising opportunity for Disney and a welcome end-of-the-school-year diversion for parents and children. While it may not join the top tier of Pixar features, ‘Dory,’ directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus Ma’Lane, is certainly the best non-‘Toy Story’ sequel the studio has produced. That may sound like faint praise given the startling mediocrity of “Monsters University’ and ‘Cars 2,’ but what ‘Dory’ lacks in dazzling originality it more than makes up for in warmth, charm and good humor.” Read more…)

Fort Tilden (New York Times Critic’s Pick, comedy, Clare McNulty. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “Take the potty-mouthed, woman-centric millennial sensibility of HBO’s ‘Girls,’ turn down the drama and turn up the comic amorality, and you have ‘Fort Tilden,’ the highly amusing debut feature from Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers. Rarely has a movie so humorously illustrated the meaning of ‘frenemy.'” Read more…)

Game of Thrones: Season 6 (HBO fantasy series, Peter Dinklage. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73.)

New Blu-Ray
Finding Dory (regular Blu-Ray & 3D Blu-Ray)

New Foreign DVDs
Summertime (France, lesbian romance, Cecile de France. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Delphine and Carole meet in Paris in the early ’70s, a time of post-’68 agitation and fertile ground for French filmmakers mining their nation’s recent history for resonant stories. Catherine Corsini’s ‘Summertime,’ with the clarity of hindsight and a deep reservoir of empathy, examines the commingling of the personal and the political from a fresh angle. This is a film about the struggle for sexual freedom and women’s rights, and also about the power of region, class and custom in the lives of its characters.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
macbethMacbeth (1948, Orson Welles Shakespeare adaptation. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Orson Welles’ sprotean film production of William Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth,’ cut, re-cut, re-recorded and oft exhibited far and wide in the past three years, finally obtained a local haven at the Trans-Lux Sixtieth Street yesterday and turned out to be less of a vagary than its history might lead one to expect. As a matter of fact, this final rendering, which Mr. Welles directed and in which he stars, may not possess the searching insight and the dramatic clarity that one might desire but it has a great deal in its favor in the way of feudal spectacle and nightmare mood.” Read more…)

Pimpernel Smith (1941, World War II-era drama/thriller, Leslie Howard. From T.S.’s 1942 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Having saved a good many heads from the French revolutionary guillotine in the film of a few years back, the Scarlet Pimpernel is back in a new disguise. ‘Mister V’ [now called ‘Pimpernel Smith’] is what he calls himself in the new arrival at the Rivoli, and this time he is a crotchety, vacant-minded archaeologist smuggling deserving souls out of the reach of the Nazi terror. Out of his adventures amid the gutterals and brown shirts, Leslie Howard as producer, director and leading player has created an uneven but decidedly exciting melodrama. Perhaps Mister V’s exploits sometimes have a familiar ring, No matter, [‘Pimpernel Smith’] is still a pulse-quickening variation on a dangerous theme. Singapore may fall, but the British can still make melodramas to chill the veins.” Read more…)

New British
Capital (mini-series, satire/drama, Toby Jones)
The Living and the Dead: Season 1 (supernatural series, Colin Morgan)
The Syndicate: All or Nothing (comedy/drama series, Kay Mellor)

New Television
Better Call Saul: Season 2 (drama series, Bob Odenkirk. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85.)
Game of Thrones: Season 6 (fantasy series, Peter Dinklage)
Looking: The Complete Series & the Movie (HBO series, gay life in San Francisco. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Gay & Lesbian
Summertime (France, lesbian romance, Cecile de France)
Looking: The Complete Series & the Movie

New Children’s DVDs
Finding Dory (Pixar animated feature, Ellen DeGeneres)

New releases 11/8/16

Top Hits
indignationIndignation (drama, Logan Lerman. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “‘Indignation’ might be dismissed as a small, exquisite period piece, but it is so precisely rendered that it gets deeply under your skin. There are a lot of words, and every one counts. You feel the social pressures bearing down on characters who, in accordance with the reticence of the times, tend to withhold their emotions and suffer in silence.” Read more…)

Morris From America (coming of age story, Craig Robinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Morris From America,’ Chad Hartigan’s charming new film, begins with a father-son discussion of hip-hop, an argument about beats, flows and hooks. It’s partly an affectionate intergenerational dispute; 13-year-old Morris [Markees Christmas] is skeptical of his father’s old-school dogma, while his dad, Curtis [Craig Robinson], dismisses his son’s taste as too pop. The conversation also provides a clue about the movie’s own strategies. It’s a pop confection with a rough, honest texture, real but not raw and suffused with an infectious sweetness that lingers after the final shot.” Read more…)

sausage_partySausage Party (adult animated feature comedy, Bill Hader. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. Believe it or not, a New York Times Critic’s Pick! From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The opening barrage of profanity serves as a tactical warning to parents who might have wandered in with their kids on the assumption that this was a cute little cartoon about the secret lives of groceries. Which it is, actually. But if you do bring the little ones — not that I condone it! — you may have to answer questions not only about what all those veggies and snacks are doing during the extended supermarket orgy scene, but also about the existence of God. In adult company, you might find yourself debating whether the film is a Christopher Hitchens-style atheist polemic or a more pragmatic, William Jamesian exploration of the varieties of religious experience. I won’t spoil that one for you.” Read more…)

Phantom Boy (animated feature, Fred Armisen [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review:”The 2010 animated film ‘A Cat in Paris’ was a nifty enough confection to have been nominated for an Academy Award; ‘Phantom Boy’ is the second effort from its directors, Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and it’s not nearly as nifty, alas.” Read more…)

Anne of Green Gables (new version, Ella Valentine. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66.)

New Blu-Ray
Taxi Driver

New Foreign DVDs
loloLolo (France, romance/comedy, Julie Delpy. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 50. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “With ‘Lolo,’ Julie Delpy [‘2 Days in New York’] makes a much simpler addition to her prickly, idiosyncratic comedies, which have doubled as a frank running commentary on life [as with her roles in Richard Linklater’s films]. In Ms. Delpy’s broadest effort yet — which she directs, and wrote with Eugénie Grandval — she plays a Paris fashionista who dotes on a snooty son and finds their clingy bond getting in the way of a rejuvenating romance.” Read more…)

Tikkun (Israel, drama, Aharon Traitel. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review:”A heady, sometimes headlong blend of fable and nightmare, with overtones of David Lynch and Franz Kafka and arresting wide-screen black-and-white images, Avishai Sivan’s second feature, ‘Tikkun,’ is the latest evidence of the vitality of Israeli cinema, which has recently been moving away from politics-inflected realism in wilder, more allegorical directions. It is set within the insular world of Jerusalem’s Hasidic Jews, and also in a dream world of the director’s own devising, a place where faith, skepticism and lust entwine in disturbing and surprising ways.” Read more…)

New British
Janet King: Series 1

New Television
Outlander: Season 1 Vol. 2

New Documentaries
Rockaway: Before and After (urban life, history, ecology)

New Children’s DVDs
Anne of Green Gables (new version, Ella Valentine)

New releases 11/1/16

Top Hits
star_trek_beyondStar Trek Beyond (sci-fi/action, Chris Pine. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “So you can understand why [Captain] James T. [Kirk], a good soldier and also a bit of a loose cannon, might want to break out of the rut, and the title of the latest movie, ‘Star Trek Beyond,’ teases the audience with the promise of novelty and risk. It’s not necessarily a criticism to note that not much materializes. Directed by the action maven Justin Lin from a script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, the film answers the question ‘Beyond what?’ with a diffident ‘Well, nothing, really. Don’t worry!’ It should have been called ‘Star Trek Within’ in honor of its determination to color inside the lines, obeying the ironclad conventions of brand and genre. Which is not, in itself, a bad thing. Not every wheel needs reinventing, and one of the abiding pleasures of ‘Star Trek,’ in its old and newer iterations, lies in its balance of stubborn consistency and canny inventiveness.” Read more…)

Bad Moms (comedy, Mila Kunis. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Are women trending? I guess they are! Suddenly, they seem to be just everywhere, onscreen and offscreen, in comic-book flicks, in childhood-destroying comedies and even in the presidential race. The latest big-screen evidence that women are hot [kind of], and not simply in a frat-boy way, is ‘Bad Moms,’ a funny, giddy, sentimental laugh-in from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote the 2009 hit comedy ‘The Hangover.'” Read more…)

Nine Lives (family comedy, Kevin Spacey. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 11. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walken at least chose to be in ‘Nine Lives.’ The cast member you really feel bad for is the cat. It presumably was forced into the job by its manager, or agent, or whatever. Its résumé may never recover.” Read more…)

anthropoidAnthropoid (World War II drama/thriller, Cillian Murphy. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “It takes Sean Ellis’s World War II thriller ‘Anthropoid’ a while to build steam, but once it does, hang on. An account of the true Czech-British mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich — the principal architect of the Final Solution, and often called the Butcher of Prague — the film follows Jozef Gabcik [Cillian Murphy] and Jan Kubis [Jamie Dornan], who parachute into Nazi-occupied territory near Prague in December 1941. They soon learn how untrustworthy certain locals can be. But a connection is made with an underground contact [Toby Jones] who aids their endeavor, as well as a Resistance leader [Marcin Dorocinski] who fears devastating reprisals if the goal is met.” Read more…)

The Sea of Trees (drama, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 23. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘The Sea of Trees’ is another name for the Aokigahara forest in Japan, such a popular spot for suicides that some believe that the spirits of the dead linger there to trap unwary wanderers. Or perhaps to snare incautious filmmakers, as it’s also the setting for Gus Van Sant’s movie of the same name, a numinous meditation on grief that’s more likely to inspire laughter than tears.” Read more…)

Imperium (thriller, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Daniel Radcliffe might seem a long way from Hogwarts in ‘Imperium,’ a bleak movie about an F.B.I. agent’s undercover foray into the world of neo-Nazis, but then again, maybe not. In the child-friendly ‘Harry Potter’ films, Harry was perpetually doing battle against the wizarding world’s version of racism and a toxic hatred that seemed to grip those around him like a disease. The difference is that in ‘Imperium’ his character, Nate Foster, doesn’t have magic to fall back on.” Read more…)

The Young Messiah (family/religious, Adam Graves-Neal. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 33. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Limping into theaters this weekend was yet another entry in the current avalanche of religious-themed movies: Cyrus Nowrasteh’s ‘The Young Messiah,’ which imagines the life of Jesus at age 7. Adapted from Anne Rice’s 2005 best seller ‘Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt’ [the reverent script is by Mr. Nowrasteh and his wife, Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh], and devoid of dramatic tension, the film hits New Testament basics as it depicts the flight of Joseph, Mary and their son from Alexandria, in Egypt, to Nazareth and eventually to Jerusalem.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Star Trek Beyond
Anthropoid
Bad Moms

New Foreign DVDs
no_home_movieNo Home Movie (Belgium, Chantal Akerman documentary/memoir. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The last time the filmmaker Chantal Akerman appears in ‘No Home Movie’ she’s tying her shoelaces. Seated on a bed in a dark, sparsely furnished room with a single window, she doesn’t say anything. She just ties her shoes, draws the curtains and exits, letting the shot linger on the empty room. Her mother, Natalia, has been failing and Ms. Akerman’s melancholy hangs over the scene like funeral crepe. The first time I watched it, her heavy silence was painful to see; the second time, watching had turned into raw feeling because Ms. Akerman is now gone.” Read more…)

Ugly, Dirty & Bad (Italy, comedy, Nino Manfredi)

New British
The Battle of the Sexes (comedy, 1960, Peter Sellers. From A.H. Weiler’s 1960 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since James Thurber’s heroes are startled and confused by the twentieth century’s uncommonly confident woman, docile dogs and even the spring’s first crocus, it has been debatable whether they could be shifted without damage from prose to pictures. That delicate trick has been turned fairly neatly in the British-made ‘The Battle of the Sexes,’ which began at the Murray Hill Theatre yesterday.” Read more…)
The Durrells in Corfu: Season 1 (feel-good Brit series, Keeley Hawes)

New Documentaries
gleasonGleason (sports, football, terminal illness,family dynamics, Steve Gleason. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In a 2006 football game against the Atlanta Falcons, the New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason made a bold headlong leap that blocked a punt. The recovery of that ball led to a touchdown for the Saints, and Gleason and his team, representing the city that had been so terribly battered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, became national symbols of indomitability. A major theme of ‘Gleason,’ a documentary directed by Clay Tweel about that athlete and philanthropist, is that indomitability is no walk in the park: In 2011, the retired footbsll player learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S. [The physicist Stephen Hawking also has what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.]” Read more…)
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (bio, modern art history, Peggy Guggenheim. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Daniel M. Gold’s Times review: “‘ Peggy Guggenheim: art Addict,’ Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s sleek, entertaining portrait of the collector and gallerist who assembled one of the great troves of Modern art, cannot be accused of hagiography. From curators to historians to biographers, art world denizens describe Guggenheim’s flaws and failings: She had no formal training; she used art to promote herself; she was a narcissist. And that’s just in the first five minutes.” Read more…)

Close To You: Remembering the Carpenters (music bio, Karen Carpenter)

New releases 10/25/16

Top Hits
captain_fantasticCaptain Fantastic (drama/comedy, Viggo Mortensen.  Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ new York Times review: “A story of love and extremes, the pleasurably freewheeling ‘Captain Fantastic’ centers on a family that has found its bliss in splendid, unplugged isolation. Somewhere in deepest Oregon, amid the tall pines and soaring mountains, young and old hunt and holler and drop lines from Noam Chomsky. The clan’s father isn’t a superhero, but because he’s played by Viggo Mortensen he’s the next best thing. Mr. Mortensen, whose intensity has the sting of possession, has a way of making you believe his characters can do whatever they set their minds to: fly, leap over buildings, save the world.” Read more…)

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba (historical drama, Giovanni Ribisi.  Rotten Tomatoes: 8%. Metacritic: 37. From Helen T. Verongos’ New York Times review: “Ultimately, however, ‘Papa,’ based on an autobiographical screenplay, goes soft at its center. Adrian Sparks, white-bearded and bearish in the title role, lacks the dynamism and bombast we expect. Ms. Richardson comforts and coaxes and exasperatedly, bitingly demeans, but she and Mr. Sparks play past each other instead of engaging.” Read more…)

Lights Out (horror, Teresa Palmer.  Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic:58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Using his 2013 micro-movie as a jumping-off point, the Swedish director David F. Sandberg extracts maximum frights from the simplest of conceits: Diana materializes in darkness and vanishes in light. Whipping up an eerie blend of haunted-house thriller and supernatural-stalker story, he proves less adept at managing Eric Heisserer’s overly detailed screenplay than at choreographing visual scares.” Read more…)

Mr. Church (drama, Eddie Murphy.  Rotten Tomatoes: 15%. Metacritic: 37.)

New Blu-Ray
Captain Fantastic
Through the Looking Glass

New Foreign DVDs
The Executioner (Spain, 1963, drama/black humor, Criterion collection, Nino Manfredi)

Beck: Episodes 10-12 (Sweden, detective series, Peter Haber)

New Television
Outlander: Season 2 (historical drama series. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%.)

New Documentaries
Limo Ride (cult non-fiction, romp/buddy movie)