New releases 7/18/17

Top Hits
Free Fire (action comedy, Brie Larson. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The cinema innovator and iconoclast Jean-Luc Godard never actually said, ‘All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun,’ but it has become a well-known adage, anyway — because it’s true. ‘Free Fire,’ directed by Ben Wheatley from a script he wrote with Amy Jump, applies a more-is-more ethos to the formula: The ingredients here include a best actress Academy Award winner, Brie Larson; dozens of firearms; and a slew of male characters of varying levels of smugness and idiocy to help out with the shooting. The film is a formal exercise in spectacle under constraint: An extended standoff in a contained space surprisingly full of hazards.” Read more…)

Kong: Skull Island (action/sci-fi, Tom Hiddleston. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 62. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “In ‘Kong: Skull Island,’ the big guy has a new look and a new gal pal, Mason Weaver [Brie Larson], who’s somewhat feistier and certainly more sensibly dressed than her predecessors. She points and she shoots, and not just her camera. ‘Skull Island’ pretty much exhumes the same story conceived for the 1933 classic. This time, the adventurers include a group of government-backed scientists run by Bill Randa [John Goodman], who has his glinting eyes on a mysterious, seemingly unexplored island. Mysteries were made for solving, and this island, Randa reasons, may contain all manner of wonders, or perhaps something beyond human imagining.” Read more…)

The Promise (historical epic, Oscar Isaac. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 49. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Weighed down by the worthiness of its intentions, ‘The Promise’ is a big, barren wartime romance that approaches the Armenian genocide with too much calculation and not nearly enough heat. It can happen all too easily. An otherwise highly competent director [in this case, Terry George] succumbs to the lure of addressing a real-life atrocity [here, the still-contested slaughter of more than a million peaceful Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I]. Somewhere along the way, though, the need to do justice to the slain and call out the perpetrators becomes a pillow that smothers every spark of originality.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Kong: Skull Island
The Promise

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Who’s Minding the Mint (1967, comedy, Jim Hutton. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Who’s Minding the Mint?’ is all nonsense, and most of it fun. Like the other picture, it also happens to be clean. It has to do with a young Bureau of Engraving clerk who accidentally destroys $50,000 and sneaks in the building one night to mint it back with some money minded pals. The first two-thirds of this romp is snugly amusing and perkily turned, as written by R. S. Allen and Harvey Bullock and nimbly directed by Norman Maurer. The performances of an unglittery cast are dandy, from Jim Hutton and Dorothy Provine to old-timer Walter Brennan and back to Milton Berle.” Read more…)

New British
A Room With a View (1986, Merchant Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster novel  Helena Bonham Carter. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New york Times review [requires log-in]: “Because common sense triumphs, ”A Room With a View” is not only uncharacteristically benign for Forster, but also blithely, elegantly funny, which is a fit description of the first-rate film adaptation that opens today at the Paris. As they’ve been doing now for over 20 years, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who wrote the screenplay for ”A Room With a View”; James Ivory, who directed it, and Ismail Merchant, the producer, have created an exceptionally faithful, ebullient screen equivalent to a literary work that lesser talents would embalm.” Read more… [Of note is what Canby wrote about Daniel Day Lewis, who recently announced his retirement from acting: “Spectacular, too, is a new young actor named Daniel Day Lewis, who plays the insufferable Cecil Vyse with a style and a wit that are all the more remarkable when compared to his very different characterization in ‘My Beautiful Laundrette.'”])

Grantchester: Season 3 (mystery series, Janes Norton)
My Mother & Other Strangers (romance/historical drama mini-series, Hattie Morahan)

New Documentaries
With Great Power (comic book history, Marvel Comics, Stan Lee)
Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (environment, waste, plastics)

New releases 7/11/17

Top Hits
A Quiet Passion (Emily Dickinson bio-pic, Cynthia Nixon. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “An admirer can be forgiven for approaching ‘A Quiet Passion,’ Terence Davies’s new movie about Dickinson’s life, with trepidation. The literalness of film and the creaky conventions of the biopic threaten to dissolve that strangeness, to domesticate genius into likable quirkiness. But Mr. Davies, whose work often blends public history and private memory, possesses a poetic sensibility perfectly suited to his subject and a deep, idiosyncratic intuition about what might have made her tick.” Read more…)

The Fate of the Furious (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The new movie’s title, ‘The Fate of the Furious,’ seems like a nod to the lingering existential crisis created by Mr. Walker’s death, as do the tears that fall in the story. They’re shed over time but before they are, the movie does what’s expected, which is cut loose attractive characters in different choreographed formations in assorted machines and locales. Directed by F. Gary Gray [‘Straight Outta Compton’], this one opens in Havana, where the young local beauties swirling around Dom and Letty move and dress more or less like the other young beauties in the series, as if they were part of a continuing global house party, this time with Che Guevara and prettily peeling buildings.” Read more…)

The Lost City of Z (historic drama, Charlie Hunnam. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘The Lost City of Z,’ a lush, melancholic story of discovery and mystery, a mesmerizing Charlie Hunnam plays a British adventurer in the Amazon who is consumed by ‘all the glories of exploration,’ as Joseph Conrad once wrote of a different journey. Enveloped by the forest, the explorer and his crew face snakes, piranhas, insects and that most terrifying of threats: other people, who at times bombard the strangers with arrows. Undaunted, he perseveres, venturing more deeply into a world that first becomes a passion and then something of a private hallucination. It’s 1906, and while wonders like moving pictures are rapidly shrinking the world, the dream of unknown lands endures.” Read more…)

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (comedy/drama, Richard Gere. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “It’s only after the plot has unfolded, with antic elegance and brazen unpredictability, that the risks involved become apparent. The dangers are everywhere: overly broad humor; obnoxiously shticky performances; sentimental tribalism; easy moral point-scoring. None materialize. It’s startling, given how much farce is on display — in the rise-and-fall structure of the narrative; in the madcap scenes of narrowly missed [or fully achieved] catastrophe; in the play of mistaken and forged identities — how much genuine feeling also comes through.” Read more…)

Their Finest (comedy/drama, Gemma Arterton. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love and laughter flow so naturally in ‘Their Finest’ that it is almost (almost) easy to forget there’s a war on. An unalloyed charmer, the movie tells a story of familiar British grit and resolve during World War II from an attractively different angle: that of an advertising copywriter, Catrin Cole [Gemma Arterton], who’s recruited by the government to join the film industry. Britain wants the United States to enter the war, and has decided cinematic propaganda is the way it can persuade the movie-mad Yanks to sign up. The world is facing a historic catastrophe, after all; but for this ambitious young woman it’s also a bittersweet opportunity.” Read more…)

A Woman, A Part (drama, Maggie Siff. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 66. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Touching on issues of artistic survival and the porous boundary between work and pleasure, [director Elisabeth] Subrin, an accomplished visual artist and filmmaker, sifts addiction, celebrity and the plight of the aging actress into something rarefied yet real. A strong, intelligent screen presence, [actress Maggie] Siff can make the simplest line feel pregnant with possibility. And [supporting actress Cara] Seymour is the perfect counterpoint, giving Kate a warm vulnerability that’s never overplayed or milked for sentiment.” Read more…)

Smurfs: The Lost Village (animated feature/blues music, Demi Lovato [voice. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 40)

New Blu-Ray Discs
The Lost City of Z
The Fate of the Furious

New TV Series
The Affair: Seasons 2 & 3 (HBO drama series, Dominic West)

New Documentaries
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits (politics, elections, voter suppression, Kris Kobach, Koch Brothers, Greg Palast)

New releases 7/4/17

Top Hits
The Zookeeper’s Wife (World War II-era drama set in Poland, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 57. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘Schindler’s List’ With Pets’: That’s my suggested alternate title for ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife.’ This mild-mannered Holocaust film probably wasn’t conceived as family fare but is so timid and sanitized it almost feels safe for children. Except for its scenes involving animals, this handsome, excessively fastidious screen adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s 2007 nonfiction best seller is a polite but pallid recycling of Holocaust movie tropes with epic pretensions. The book tells the true story of a Polish couple who rescued about 300 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto during the Holocaust and sheltered them in their zoo.” Read more..)

Song to Song (romance/music, Rooney Mara. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 53. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “One of the loveliest images in ‘Song to Song,’ the latest from Terrence Malick, is of ripples expanding across a small pool of water, echoes of a woman’s quick step. Mr. Malick, one of cinema’s philosopher kings, embraces fluidity as a visual principle and his films are filled with life’s ebb and flow — its swirling waters, swooping birds, stirring trees, billowing curtains, and gliding people and cameras. He loves silence and stillness, and the image of sunlight caressing a woman’s motionless face. But he is a searcher, and that searching informs his visual style with its restless, moving pictures.” Read more…)

New releases 6/27/17

Top Hits
T2 Trainspotting (Scottish drama/sequel, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Ghosts of the past, both literal and figurative, haunt ‘T2 Trainspotting,’ Danny Boyle’s droll and wistful return to the Scottish reprobates who, 21 years ago in ‘Trainspotting,’ made heroin addiction a blast and bodily waste a metaphor for squandered lives. Excremental flourishes notwithstanding, that gloriously scabrous picture also kick-started the careers of its director and stars, most of whom are back to illustrate the consequences of a misspent youth. Renton [Ewan McGregor] has returned to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, ready to face the music for absconding with his pals’ share of the loot from the previous movie’s drug deal. Simon [Jonny Lee Miller] is still scraping by on the criminal fringes, trying to transform his rundown bar into an upscale brothel. And Begbie [Robert Carlyle] — whose drug of choice has always been violence — has just wangled an appropriately bloody escape from prison.” Read more…)

Saban’s Power Rangers (comic book action, Elizabeth Banks. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 44. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “‘Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!,’ says Alpha 5, the robot sidekick to Zordon, in ‘Saban’s Power Rangers,’ uttering his signature exclamation. Alpha 5 [voiced by Bill Hader] is not the only holdover in this slick repackaging of ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,’ the shrill and unfathomably popular 1990s Fox Kids’ series [adapted by Haim Saban from a Japanese TV show] about teenage superheroes in color-coded costumes. But Mr. Hader’s dialed-down take reflects the movie’s tempered refinement of the original.” Read more…)

CHIPS (action/comedy, Dax Shepard. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 28. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A fascination with posteriors — both human and feline — isn’t the worst thing about ‘CHIPS,’ but it’s up there. Borderline incoherent and unrepentantly lewd, this buddy-cop comedy [based on the 1977-83 television series of the same name] substitutes cars, ’copters and motorcycles for actual characters. The language might be mature, but don’t be misled: There’s nothing here that rises above the level of the playground.” Read more…)

The Belko Experiment (horror, John Gallagher Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 44. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Greg McLean [whose 2005 film, ‘Wolf Creek,’ had a similar morbid interest in bullying its audience] from a script by James Gunn [currently relegated to delighting adolescents of all ages with the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ franchise], the movie might have been better served by a director not hellbent on rubbing pretty much every head wound in the viewer’s face. Mr. McLean, perhaps determined to leave no cliché unturned, also wallows in the cheap and hackneyed irony of choreographed slaughter accompanied by Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.” Read more…)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (horror, Emile Hirsch. Rotten Tomatoes 87%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Unheralded and unhyped, ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ sneaks into theaters like a chilly treat among the Christmas comedies and Force-fed mythologizing. The first solo English-language feature from the Norwegian director André Ovredal — an infinitely more disciplined follow-up to his 2011 film, ‘Trollhunter’ — this shivery tour through a young woman’s innards turns putrefaction into a puzzle.” Read more…)

This Beautiful Fantastic (romance, Jessica Findlay Brown. Rotten Tomatoes 69%. Metacritic: 51. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “With spring imminent, backyard putterers are turning their thoughts to the garden, which makes ‘This Beautiful Fantastic,’ a charming tale about one, all that much sweeter. Gardens, of course, must be cultivated, and thus they are rich allegorical territory for storytellers of all sorts. Simon Aboud, the writer and director here, works some obvious parallels as he tells the story of a timid young woman, her cranky old neighbor and the garden that separates them, but enjoyable performances keep the tale from becoming too heavy-handed.” Read more…)

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

Wilson (comedy, Woody Harrelson. Rotten Tomatoes 46%. Metacritic: 49.From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie version of ‘Wilson.’ directed by Craig Johnson [‘The Skeleton Twins’] from a screenplay by [graphic novelist Daniel] Clowes, illustrates the difficulty of translating an idiosyncratic temperament from one visual medium to another. The dark, comic poignancy of the book is drowned in garish, self-conscious whimsy, and the work of a talented ensemble is squandered on awkward heartstring snatching.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
T2 Trainspotting

New Foreign DVDs
Detective Montalbano: Episodes 29 & 30 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Rhapsody in Blue (1945, musical, Robert Alda. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%.)

New Documentaries
Off the Rails (mental illness, justice system, mass transit, Darius McCollum. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “The documentary ‘Off the Rails,’ Adam Irving’s first film, is an assured and thoughtful debut. He presents the story of Darius McCollum, a man with a long history of taking New York City subway trains and buses for joy rides even though he is not a transit employee. But Mr. Irving’s subtext is a criminal justice system that has no way to deal with an offender like Mr. McCollum, who has Asperger’s syndrome, other than to keep throwing him in prison.” Read more…)

New releases 6/20/17

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

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

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

New releases 6/13/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New TV Series

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

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

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

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

New releases 6/6/17

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Beauty and the Beast

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 5/30/17

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
The Shack
Before I Fall
Fist Fight

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 5/23/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Logan
Get Out
The Great Wall

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 5/16/17

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
XXX: Return of Xander Cage

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

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

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

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