New releases 10/31/17

Top Hits
The Glass Castle (memoir/drama, Brie Larson. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Glass Castle’ wrestles with two conflicting impulses: the longing for order and the desire for wildness. The main object of that ambivalence is Rex Walls, a big-talking, big-dreaming ne’er-do-well played with the usual guile and gusto by Woody Harrelson.” Read more…)

The Dark Tower (action, Idris Elba. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 34. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often in ‘The Dark Tower,’ you catch a glimpse of what might have been: the might-have-been narrative ambition, the might-have-been pop mythology, the might-have-been genre assemblage. Based — loosely seems altogether too generous a word — on the Stephen King series, the movie is an unappealing hash of moviemaking clichés that, after much scurrying and blathering, devolves into a generic shoot’em-up. About the only thing holding it together is Idris Elba, whose irrepressible magnetism and man-of-stone solidity anchors this mess but can’t redeem it.” Read more…)

It Comes At Night (thriller, Joel Edgerton. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “What happens is both shocking and, in retrospect, brutally inevitable. ‘It Comes at Night’ is pretty terrifying to sit through, but it may be even scarier after it’s over, when you sift through what you’ve seen and try to piece together what it may have meant.” Read more…)

Person to Person (comedy/drama, Abbi Jacobson. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 53. From Nicole Herrington’s New York Times review: “Despite some notable names in ‘Person to Person,’ it’s the lesser-known actors who leave an impression. But maybe that’s not entirely surprising for a movie loosely about authenticity and the little absurdities that abound in New York City. In expanding his 2014 short film, the writer and director Dustin Guy Defa re-enlisted his friend Bene Coopersmith, a Red Hook record shop owner with limited acting experience, for this low-budget indie feature unfolding over the course of a day and divided into several separate story lines. Mr. Coopersmith’s, though, is one of the more watchable and entertaining. He’s a real character.” Read more…)

Kidnap (action, Halle Berry. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 44. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The greatest strength of ‘Kidnap’ is that it casts the maternal instinct as a primordial will to enact violence, to drag a man from a moving van, to beat a kidnapper with a shovel. We see Karla find her best weapons in blunt objects, and to its credit, ‘Kidnap’ is a blunt movie.” Read more…)

Little Sister (New York Times Critic’s Pick, comedy/drama, Addison Timlin. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A strange, spiky movie that refuses to beg for our affection, ‘Little Sister,’ the fifth feature from Zach Clark, molds the classic homecoming drama into a quirky reconciliation between faith and family. At the center — though far from centered — is Colleen [Addison Timlin], a nun in training who quietly ministers to the needy in her Brooklyn neighborhood. An out-of-the-blue email from her mother, Joan [a clenched Ally Sheedy], calls her home to North Carolina, where her older brother [Keith Poulson] has returned from the Iraq war after barely surviving a land-mine explosion. His severe disfigurement and mental anguish, however, are only the latest stresses on a family whose deep dysfunction has resulted in Colleen’s estrangement.” Read more…)

Marfa Girl (drama, Adam Mediano. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 37. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Marfa Girl’ is the latest exploration — and exploitation — of teenage sexuality from Larry Clark, the photographer and filmmaker who has been splitting the difference between fearless honesty and leering prurience for more than four decades. ‘Tulsa,’ the 1971 book of portraits that made his reputation, still has the power to shock and unsettle with its blunt portrayal of drug use and promiscuity among the provincial American young. But the scandal of Mr. Clark’s more recent movies, including ‘Wassup Rockers’ and ‘Ken Park’ and this new one, resides more in its tedium and lack of insight than its strenuously provocative content.” Read more…)

Descendants (family fantasy, Kristin Chenoweth. Metacritic: 63.)

New Foreign DVDs
Hermia & Helena (Argentina, comedy/drama, Agustina Muñoz. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Starting with ‘Rosalinda’ in 2010, the Argentine filmmaker Matías Piñeiro has been making what he calls ‘Shakespeareads,’ modern-day stories inspired by the playwright’s heroines. Which is not to say that you need to brush up on your Shakespeare to engage with ‘Hermia & Helena,’ the latest in Mr. Piñeiro’s series and the first one set in the United States.” Read more…)

Slack Bay (France, comedy, Juliette Binoche. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This is a spirited and often gorgeous film [Guillaume Deffontaines, the cinematographer, makes the eyes of even the most ostensibly unattractive characters supernaturally beautiful], but it’s not an easy one. As it turns out, modes of farce and fantasy enable [director Bruno] Dumont to pull the rug out from under the viewer in a number of new and upsetting ways. Be prepared.” Read more…)

Three (China, action, Vicki Zhao. Metacritic: 71.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Show Girl in Hollywood (1930, comedy/musical, Alice White. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Flashes of fun and several interesting glimpses of work on a set and behind the cameras in a film studio are the main assets of ‘Show Girl in Hollywood,’ an audible pictorial adaptation of J. P. McEvoy’s novel, ‘Hollywood Girl,’ which is now holding forth at the Winter Garden. In film form this story is somewhat puerile, one in which subtlety is conspicuous by its absence.” Read more…)

S.O.S. Tidal Wave (1939,drama/thriller, Ralph Byrd. From Frank S. Nugent’s New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In more distress than it realizes, the Criterion is hammering out ‘S O S Tidal Wave,’ a synthetic quickie produced in a flash by Republic Pictures. We have a vague recollection of seeing the destruction of New York by earthquake and flood once before. The shots of the Empire State Building crumbling, a liner piling up against the Subtreasury walls, Times Square melting away—these all have a familiar look. Was it ‘End of the World,’ ‘Atlantis,’ or another? It doesn’t matter really.” Read more…)

The Sea Wolf (1941, adventure, Edward G. Robinson. From J. Hoberman’s 2017 New York Times DVD review: “Of the many film adaptations of ‘The Sea-Wolf,’ one of Jack London’s most popular novels, published in 1904, none surpasses the atmospheric, action-packed and anti-fascist Warner Bros. version, first released in 1941. Restored to its original 100-minute running time on a new Warner Archive disc, ‘The Sea Wolf’ is a triumph of studio filmmaking. The movie marshaled the talents of an expert director, Michael Curtiz; a politically engaged writer, Robert Rossen; and a high-energy cast headed by Edward G. Robinson, Ida Lupino and John Garfield; with help from a distinguished composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and a newly acquired fog machine seemingly operating at full throttle. The mise-en-scène is moody. The movie may have been shot in a studio tank but the schooner on which it mainly takes place is lit to suggest the stippled patterns of a film noir nightclub.” Read more…)

Big City (1948, musical, Margaret O’Brien. From A.W.’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “At a time when tolerance, an often elusive virtue, is most needed, a film thematically stressing brotherly love should be a shining golden nugget in a world of dross—a veritable needle in a haystack of hate. But ‘Big City,’ which obviously was turned out with much love by the artisans at Metro, displays only the slightest speck of intolerance to justify its story and hardly any reason for the standard and, sometimes maudlin, sentimentality with which it is copiously laced. For this newest Margaret O’Brien vehicle, which arrived at Loew’s Criterion on Saturday, seems designed basically to tax that wistful young lady’s talents to extremes, to say nothing of audiences’ lachrymal glands.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Nightwatch (1997, thriller, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. From Stephen Holden’s 1998 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “All the world’s a morgue and the people in it either corpses or panting homicidal necrophiles in Ole Bornedal’s laughably garish thriller, ‘Nightwatch.’ Well, not all the people. Although an obsession with necrophilia doesn’t apply to everyone in this putrid fun house of a movie, it often feels that way.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Dawson City: Frozen Time (New York Times Critic’s Pick, cinema history, history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The filmmaker Bill Morrison customarily constructs his movies with footage from other films that are very old and whose prints are very worn. No matter the ostensible subject of his individual pictures, the overarching theme is impermanence; his best-known work, ‘Decasia’ [2002], is an artfully edited assemblage of found footage whose visual appeal is the crumbling of the film emulsion itself. So it’s a bit of a shock that ‘Dawson City: Frozen Time’ begins with a brightly colored, completely intact clip from a television show about baseball in which Mr. Morrison appears, talking to an enthusiastic host about newly discovered footage related to the Black Sox baseball-betting scandal of 1919. Mr. Morrison’s film tells the story of how that footage, and several hundred other reels of volatile nitrate film from the 1910s and ’20s, were discovered decades after they were presumed to be permanently lost. But part of the point of ‘Dawson City’ is that the film prints had actually been forgotten — buried underground in an era when not much thought was given to their artistic or historical value.” Read more…)

New Children DVDs
Descendants (family fantasy, Kristin Chenoweth. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 56.)