New releases 11/14/17

Top Hits
Wind River (thriller, Jeremy Renner. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter of last year’s socially conscious crime drama ‘Hell or High Water,’ proves an undeniably strong director with his second effort in that job, ‘Wind River.’ The movie opens on a breathtaking night sky and snow-capped mountains, with a young woman running over a long stretch of open land. ‘There’s a meadow in my perfect world,’ a female voice says. The juxtaposition of the imagery and the poetics make for a peculiar opening. Eventually it all makes tragic sense.” Read more…)

Atomic Blonde (action, Charlize Theron. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Atomic Blonde’ is going to make an excellent highlight reel. It already is one, in a manner of speaking, given that its strengths are lavishly violent, inventively choreographed fights that have been glued together by nonsense and Charlize Theron. The nonsense involves spies chasing secrets in Berlin just before the fall of the wall, which may suggest John le Carré but plays closer to a dumb and dumber take on Boris and Natasha. Mostly, the movie is an excuse to watch a beautiful, deviously clever female avatar as she is stripped naked, dolled up and repeatedly beaten down only to rise again.” Read more…)

The Secret Scripture (drama, Vanessa Redgrave, Rooney Mara. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 37.)

New Foreign DVDs
Aquarius (Brazil, drama, Sonia Braga. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Aquarius’ is a marvelous and surprising act of portraiture, a long, unhurried encounter with a single, complicated person. And that is enough to make it a captivating film, an experience well worth seeking out. But there is also, as I’ve suggested, more going on than the everyday experiences of a modern matriarch. Clara’s particularity is precisely what makes her such a resonant and representative figure, because it’s her idiosyncratic spirit that is threatened by the sterility and greed represented by her mercenary antagonists.” Read more…)

Zoology (Russia, fantasy/drama, Natalya Plavenkova. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Universal Cult Horror Collection: House of Horrors, Murders In the Zoo, The Mad Doctor of Market Street, The Mad Ghoul, The Strange Case of Doctor RX
The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. 2: Dr. Cyclops, Cult of the Cobra, The Land Unknown, The Deadly Mantis, The Leech Woman

New British
Churchill (biopic, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 44. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Winston Churchill the character has appeared in dozens of films, TV movies and mini-series over the years, and the portraits always hew to the gruff British bulldog conception of this 20th-century leader. ‘Churchill,’ a new movie directed by Jonathan Teplitzky from a script by Alex von Tunzelmann, is laudable in its effort to shine a light on the Churchill who struggled in private with crippling depression — ‘the black dog,’ he called it. His accuracy-in-metaphor was such that sufferers of subsequent generations have frequently adopted the term. The movie’s ambition is the good news. The bad news is that it is a hash, choosing to jumble the historical record and frame a Churchill bout with depression against the D-Day invasion of France by Allied forces.” Read more…)

Murder On the Orient Express (Agatha Christie mystery, David Suchet)

New Television
Billions: Season 2

New Documentaries
Kedi (street cats of Istanbul. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Kedi’ [‘Feline’], a frequently enchanting documentary directed by Ceyda Torun, showcases some of these feline personalities and the humans who look after them. There’s a good deal of projection in the verbal accounts of the animals’ lives, but the movie, with its mobile camera low to the ground or looking down at cat-navigated rooftops, doesn’t do much to contradict the indirect anthropomorphizing. There’s a lot of action at piers and fish markets.” Read more…)

Whose Streets (activism, racism, Ferguson, militarized policing. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 81. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times revciew: “‘Whose Streets?,’ a documentary about the unrest and activism in Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, is choppy, sometimes unfocused, and in every respect the opposite of slick. Its directors, Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, are novice filmmakers, true; but I also suspect this movie’s form is deliberate, part of its message. This is direct and frequently powerful filmmaking that doesn’t much care about meeting my aesthetic standards.” Read more…)

Spy In the Wild (nature, animal behavior. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Hamilton: Building America (American history, Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow)

New releases 11/7/17

Top Hits
Cars 3 (animated Pixar feature, Owen Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The conventional reviewers’ wisdom about Pixar’s ‘Cars’ movies is that they are colorful and engaging but hardly as breathtaking as much of the other output from that animation studio. There are some who think Pixar should aim for awe-inspiring every time, because why not? Then there are crankier critics who will point out that driverless talking cars just aren’t terribly interesting, and can be a little goofy. ‘Cars 3,’ directed by Brian Fee from a script by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson and Mike Rich [the story is credited to a whole other pit crew that includes Mr. Fee], isn’t going to win any converts among those with an animus toward talking cars. But if you can roll with it, the movie is both breezy fun and a pain-free life lesson delivery vehicle.” Read more…)

Your Name (anime animated feature, Michael Sinterniklaas [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It isn’t until well into “Your Name,” a wistfully lovely Japanese tale about fate and time, that its two teenage characters meet. By that point, Mitsuha (a girl yearning to leave her small town) and Taki (a boy in Tokyo) have come to know each other as well as two people can. For reasons they don’t understand, each’s consciousness has been temporarily jumping into the other’s physical shell, only to jump back. This happens at night, which means that Mitsuha regularly wakes up in Taki’s body, and he wakes up in hers, a swap that he likes to confirm by fondling his (her) breasts.” Read more…)

Ingrid Goes West (comedy, Aubrey Plaza. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 71. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Ingrid Goes West’ comes close to saying something sharp about how social media promotes envy and the illusion of connectivity, but when a comedy chooses such an obvious target, it should have the courtesy to aim from an oblique angle.” Read more…)

Killing Ground (action thriller,Hariet Dyer. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 59. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review; “‘Killing Ground’ features a man and a woman who make head-slappingly dumb choices as they flee from a pair of killers who are just as inept. Yet in the end, the most regrettable decision may be that of audience members who fork over money to see the movie.” Read more…)

The Journey (drama, Timothy Spall. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 53. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Wishful thinking predominates in Nick Hamm’s drama ‘The Journey,’ an imaginary account of a conversation between former giants in Northern Ireland’s Troubles: the Rev. Ian Paisley, who spearheaded the Democratic Unionist Party [he died in 2014], and Martin McGuinness, a Sinn Fein leader [who died in March]… Though the script tilts to the didactic, the performances are absolutely delicious, with Mr. Meaney droll and understated and Mr. Spall fiery and derisive, yet not above a joke.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Willard (1971, horror, Bruce Davison)

New Foreign DVDs
The Tower: Tales from a Vanished Land (Germany, mini-series drama, Jan Josef Leifers)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Philadelphia Story (1940, Criterion edition, romantic comedy classic, Katharine Hepburn. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “All those folks who wrote Santa Claus asking him to send them a sleek new custom-built comedy with fast lines and the very finest in Hollywood fittings got their wish just one day late with the opening of ‘The Philadelphia Story’ yesterday at the Music Hall. For this present, which really comes via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, has just about everything that a blue-chip comedy should have—a witty, romantic script derived by Donald Ogden Stewart out of Philip Barry’s successful play; the flavor of high-society elegance, in which the patrons invariably luxuriate, and a splendid cast of performers headed by Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart and Cary Grant. If it doesn’t play out this year and well along into next they should turn the Music Hall into a shooting gallery.” Read more…)

Strange Illusion (1945, Edgar Ulmer-directed drama, James Lydon)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Willard (1971, horror, Bruce Davison. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Willard,’ which opened yesterday at the Penthouse Theater, attempts to be the kind of horror film that allows us to share the satisfaction of Willard’s revenge, as he goes around the neighborhood letting his rats run opportunely loose, while simultaneously sharing—with pleasure—the terror of his victims. The movie, however, persists in crossing its lines of stimulation, resulting in a series of little short-circuits that effectively limit pleasure to an occasional line or bit of business.” Read more…)

Girlfriends (1978, drama, Melane Mayron)

New British
Dreamchild (1985, historic Alice in Wonderland drama, Nicola Cowper. From Stephen Holden’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The collision of fading Victorianism with the rough-and-tumble world of American enterprise is a running theme throughout Gavin Millar’s ‘Dreamchild,’ a small sentimental gem of a movie that is at heart a cinematic memory play.” Read more…)

Poldark: Season 3 (costume drama, Aidan Turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
The Crown: Season 1 (drama, Claire Foy. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 81.)

New Television
Westworld: Season 1 (HBO sci-fi series based on Michael Crichton book, Anthony Hopkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74.)

New Gay & Lesbian
A Date for Mad Mary (drama/romance, Charleigh Bailey. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.)

New Children DVDs
Cars 3 (animated Pixar feature, Owen Wilson [voice])

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.)

New releases 10/24/17

Top Hits
War for the Planet of the Apes (sci-fi/action, Andy Serkis. Rotten Tomatoes 93%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘War for the Planet of the Apes,’ directed by Matt Reeves, is the grimmest episode so far, and also the strongest, a superb example — rare in this era of sloppily constructed, commercially hedged cinematic universes — of clear thinking wedded to inventive technique in popular filmmaking. The distinction of this run of ‘Planet of the Apes’ movies has been its commitment to the venerable belief that science fiction belongs to the literature of ideas, and its willingness to risk seeming to take itself too seriously. Each episode has pursued a stark ethical or political problem, and each has shifted the moral ground from human to ape… Really, though, it’s a lot of fun, in spite of the somber picture I’ve been painting. Mr. Reeves, who also directed ‘Dawn,’ has a dark vision, but also a light touch when necessary, and, above all, a commitment to creating a world that is coherent as well as fantastical.” Read more…)

The Emoji Movie (animated feature, T.J. Miller [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 10%. Metacritic: 12. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For a long time, Hollywood has been propagating the idea that the panderingly, trendily idiotic can be made to seem less so, by polishing it up with bright shiny gloss and enlisting engaging talented performers and writers. I can’t be entirely certain of this, but I would say ‘The Emoji Movie’ takes this notion to the outer limits of credibility.” Read more…)

Landline (comedy, Edie Falco. Rotten Tomatoes 74%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Landline’ was directed by Gillian Robespierre, who wrote it with Elisabeth Holm. They also collaborated on ‘Obvious Child,’ which starred Ms. Slate, and which was notable for the mixture of sweetness and candor it brought to the subject of abortion. There was something bracing, as well as brave, about that film’s honesty. Oddly, the new one is much more cautious and decorous in its treatment of the emotional dynamics of a complicated family.” Read more…)

Annabelle: Creation (horror, Stephanie Sigman. Rotten Tomatoes 69%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘is the third cinematic outing for the demon-hosting doll of the title, after a guest spot on ‘The Conjuring’ in 2013 and a star turn the next year in ‘Annabelle.’ The narratives lurch backward, with each film acting as a prequel to its predecessor. Should this trend continue, we could very well see one of Annabelle’s ancestors causing catastrophic delays in the building of the pyramids.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
War for the Planet of the Apes

New Foreign DVDs
Personal Shopper (France, supernatural drama, Kristen Stewart. Rotten Tomatoes 79%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “If ‘Personal Shopper,’ Mr. Assayas’s new movie, is a supernatural thriller and an unnerving inquiry into the drift and mystery of modern life, it is also a raw and smoldering study in grief. Kristen Stewart, who plays Maureen, has something in common with other stars of Mr. Assayas’s films, notably Maggie Cheung in ‘Irma Vep’ and ‘Clean’ — a quality of self-enclosed detachment that becomes its own peculiar form of intensity. She possesses an uncanny ability to turn her natural charisma into diffidence. You can’t take your eyes off her, even as she seems to be making every effort to deflect your attention, to obscure her radiance, to disappear onscreen.” Read more…)

Heartstone (Iceland, drama/coming of age/LGBT, Baldar Einarsson. Rotten Tomatoes 86%. Metacritic: 70.)
Center Of My World (Germany, coming of age/LGBT, Louis Hofmann. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
River of Grass (1995, Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut, comedy, Lisa Bowman. Rotten Tomatoes 93%. Metacritic: 69. From Stephen Holden’s 1995 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘River of Grass’ has the look and feel of a sophisticated home movie featuring everyday people instead of actors, and it is wonderful at conveying a sense of suffocating ennui. Too wonderful, since the story is so sketchily told and the dialogue is so fragmentary that it doesn’t quite cohere. The characters remain hazy ciphers in the torpid atmosphere of a place you’ll never want to visit.” Read more…
From Brian Tallerico’s review on RogerEbert.com on the release of the restored version of “River of Grass” on DVD: “The kind of meandering apathy that Reichardt is going for in ‘River of Grass’ can be tough to connect to as a viewer, and it’s interesting that her films became more resonant when they switched from what is kind of a comedy to drama. How do we deal with our insignificance? Cozy and Lee don’t really deal with anything. We barely care about Cozy and Lee because it feels like Reichardt barely cares about Cozy and Lee. There are enough times when Reichardt’s wit and skill comes through to make it worth a look in its restored version, especially if you’re a fan of her later work, but it’s almost too ethereal, it slips through your fingers when you try to grab it.” Read more…)

New British
The Durrells in Corfu: Season 2 (bio/drama series, Keeley Hawes. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Documentaries
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (environment, climate change, advocacy, Al Gore. Rotten Tomatoes 78%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “In a summer movie landscape with Spider-Man, a simian army waging further battle for the planet and Charlize Theron as a sexy Cold War-era superspy, it says something that one of the most compelling characters is Al Gore. ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,’ a follow-up to ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary from 2006, is a reboot that justifies its existence — and not just because Mr. Gore has fresh news to report on climate change since his previous multimedia presentation played in multiplexes.” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Heartstone (Iceland, drama/coming of age/LGBT, Baldar Einarsson. Rotten Tomatoes 86%. Metacritic: 70.)
Center Of My World (Germany, coming of age/LGBT, Louis Hofmann. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New releases 10/17/17

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Spider-Man: Homecoming

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

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

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

New releases 10/10/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Baby Driver

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

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

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

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

Wuthering Heights (1992, costume drama, Juliette Binoche)

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

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

New releases 10/3/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New TV
House of Cards: Season 5

New releases 9/26/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 9/19/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 9/12/17

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray Discs
The Mummy

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

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

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

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