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…)

New releases 5/9/17

Top Hits
Fifty Shades Darker (erotic drama, Dakota Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 33. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The big tee-hee about the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon is that it’s brought ostensibly scandalous heterosexual sex — with its whips and restraints — out of the shadows and into the mainstream. The likes of Madonna and the photographer Helmut Newton had primed that pump long ago, turning dominance, submission and toys into an acceptable spectacle. But it apparently took a writer as terrible as E L James, the author of the ‘Fifty Shades’ series, to really hit the commercial sweet spot. The result is a clutch of best sellers, a hit movie [based on the first book, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’] and now a sequel, ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ that’s almost bad enough to recommend.” Read more…)

A Fantastic Fear of Everything (horror-comedy, Simon Pegg. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 31.)
The Void (horror/sci-fi, Aaron Poole. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Blu-Ray
Fifty Shades Darker
A Fantastic Fear of Everything

New Foreign
Things To Come (France, drama, Isabelle Huppert Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Mia] Hansen-Love observes the vagaries of Nathalie’s situation with compassion and lucidity. Her films — this is her fourth feature — often turn on intimate calamities, like a husband’s suicide [in ‘Father of My Children’] or a painful breakup [in ‘Goodbye First Love’]. But she is temperamentally allergic to melodrama, and far less interested in the easy shocks and tidy consolations of plot than in the meandering, almost random texture of lived experience. The French title of ‘Things to Come’ [it’s also the name of an old British science-fiction movie] is ‘L’Avenir,’ which more literally means ‘the future’ and which more accurately conveys the film’s open-ended, exploratory structure.” Read more…)

New TV
Orange Is the New Black: Season 4 (prison drama, Taylor Schilling.  Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86.)
Divorce: Season 1 (HBO comedy, Sarah Jessica Parker. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 60.)

New releases 5/2/17

Top Hits
I Am Not Your Negro (documentary, civil rights, literature, bio, James Baldwin. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Whatever you think about the past and future of what used to be called ‘race relations’ — white supremacy and the resistance to it, in plainer English — this movie will make you think again, and may even change your mind. Though its principal figure, the novelist, playwright and essayist James Baldwin, is a man who has been dead for nearly 30 years, you would be hard-pressed to find a movie that speaks to the present moment with greater clarity and force, insisting on uncomfortable truths and drawing stark lessons from the shadows of history. To call ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ a movie about James Baldwin would be to understate Mr. Peck’s achievement. It’s more of a posthumous collaboration, an uncanny and thrilling communion between the filmmaker — whose previous work includes both a documentary and a narrative feature about the Congolese anti-colonialist leader Patrice Lumumba — and his subject.” Read more…)

A Dog’s Purpose (family, Josh Gad. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 43. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The movie, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and based on a novel by W. Bruce Cameron, serves up one cloying story after another as it drags us through the multiple lives of a dog named Bailey [voiced by Josh Gad]. Bailey dies, as dogs do, yet keeps being reincarnated, as a different breed and sometimes a different sex.” Read more…)

The Comedian (comedy, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 40. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Is it too much to want someone to bring the funny in a movie about a comic? The enervating, would-be laugh-in ‘The Comedian’ opens this week, presumably on the strength of its headliner, Robert De Niro. He’s ill-served by this movie, but he’s been worse elsewhere, which isn’t much of a comfort as this one drags into hour two.” Read more…)

Gold (adventure, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Actor Matthew] McConaughey is a ball of profane, entrepreneurial energy bouncing around in a vacuum. The story swings from the Nevada desert to the Indonesian rain forest to Wall Street boardrooms, and the screen bristles with signifiers of capitalist activity: meetings, phone calls, stock tickers. But the movie isn’t really doing any work. It’s just looking busy.” Read more…)

Rings (horror, Johnny Galecki. Rotten Tomatoes: 6%. Metacritic: 25. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “‘Rings,’ the latest sequel in the franchise that began with the Japanese film ‘Ringu,’ is short on outright frights, but some effort certainly went into the storytelling. For one thing, by the time this one’s over, fans will know a lot more about the mysterious Samara, the dead girl who continues to terrify the living via a grainy videotape. And those nearing or in college — the demographic being aimed at here — will learn an important lesson: Beware of any professor who tries to recruit you for a research study.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Do the Right Thing

New Foreign DVDs
The Salesman (Iran, drama, Shahab Hosseini. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At the beginning of ‘The Salesman,’ Emad [Shahab Hosseini] and Rana [Taraneh Alidoosti] must evacuate their Tehran apartment. There are cracks in the walls, and the high-rise building is in danger of collapsing. That flawed edifice might stand as a kind of inverse metaphor for the film itself, which is a marvel of meticulous construction. With exquisite patience and attention to detail, Asghar Farhadi, the writer and director, builds a solid and suspenseful plot out of ordinary incidents, and packs it with rich and resonant ideas. Admirers of his earlier films — including ‘About Elly,’ ‘The Past’ and ‘A Separation,’ a foreign-language Oscar winner in 2012 — will not be surprised. Mr. Farhadi has distinguished himself in his generation of Iranian filmmakers as an astute psychological realist and a fastidious storyteller.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Reefer Madness (1936, understated cautionary tale, Kenneth Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%.)

New Documentaries
I Am Not Your Negro (documentary, civil rights, literature, bio, James Baldwin)

Children’s DVDs
The Red Turtle (Japanese animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 86. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The film, a French-Belgian-Japanese co-production made under the auspices of Studio Ghibli [home of the great Hayao Miyazaki] in Tokyo is also notable, at least in contrast to most American commercial animation, for the absence of celebrity voices or, indeed, of any human speech at all. The score, by Laurent Perez del Mar, does include some wordless choral vocalizing, but the story, like the visual style, is simple and elemental, like a picture book that needs no words.” Read more…)

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (live action Disney, Gabrielle Anwar. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Stephen Holden’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Many of the scenes in ‘Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,’ a sweet, old-fashioned movie about a girl who loves horses, are bathed in a soft golden light. That’s because the past, in movies of this sort, is always more magical than the present, even if that past is the Depression, the era of this G-rated family picture.” Read more…)

New releases 4/25/17

Top Hits
La La Land (Oscar-nominated musical, Emma Stone. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 93. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Director Damien] Chazelle, whose previous features [‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’ and ‘Whiplash’] were full of music and brash, youthful energy, is a natural showman and a canny craftsman. He wears his influences on his sleeve, but he wears them lightly. For all its echoes and allusions, ‘La La Land’ is too lively and too earnest for mere pastiche. It doesn’t so much look back longingly at past masters like Vincente Minnelli, Nicholas Ray, Stanley Donen and Jacques Demy [to name a few] as tap into their mojo, insisting on their modernity and its own classicism in the same gesture.” Read more…)

The Girl With All the Gifts (horror/thriller, Gemma Arterton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Girl With All the Gifts,’ directed by Colm McCarthy, is a moderately engrossing, reliably gory British variation on the tried-and-true zombie-apocalypse theme with a first-rate cast. The formula, worked almost to death — or is it undeath? — on ‘The Walking Dead’ and elsewhere, has been tweaked a bit. The shambling, vacant-eyed cannibals are called “hungries,” and their infection seems to be fungal rather than viral. Also, some are cute, normal-seeming children, including the title character, a young girl named Melanie [Sennia Nanua].” Read more…)

The Daughter (drama, Geoffrey Rush. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Constructed gingerly around a soon-to-explode family secret, ‘The Daughter’ — a soapy take on Henrik Ibsen’s ‘The Wild Duck’ — creates a superficial tension by situating its escalating emotions within icily contained visuals. For a while, this slow-burn approach by the writer and director, Simon Stone, works: Stabilized by mostly unimpeachable performances, the movie hugs the rails of credibility more tightly than its melodramatic material deserves.” Read more…)

Underworld: Blood Wars (action, Kate Beckinsdale. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 23. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The ‘Underworld’ franchise — in which vampires and werewolves, called Lycans, use guns and swords to settle a centuries-old feud — showed signs of growing more playful with its fourth installment, ‘Underworld: Awakening’ [2012], which moved away from the series’s labored mythology and threw in Stephen Rea as a mad scientist. Any hope of a similarly limber fifth outing dies immediately in ‘Underworld: Blood Wars.'” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
La La Land

New Foreign
Anatahan (Japan/USA, 1953, World War II-era drama, Akemi Negishi Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From an unsigned 1977 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The ‘reconstructed’ version of Josef von Sternberg’s ‘The Saga of Anatahan,’ which opened yesterday at the Thalia Theater, is virtually a one-film retrospective of that great, idiosyncratic, often off-putting director’s work. The film, in a fine new print, has been put together from footage that was originally released here in 1954—and reviewed in The New York Times on May 18, 1954, as ‘Ana-Ta-Han’—with supplemental nude footage that von Sternberg cut into the first version in 1958.” Read more…)

Ophelia (France, 1962, Shakespeare-inspired drama, Alida Valli. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “When it takes 12 years for a renowned director’s movie to reach our screens, the product is apt to be a jewel or a dog. Claude Chabrol’s Ophelia,’ made in 1962, has just emerged from the kennel, and although the picture has a bit of historical interest, much of it strays far from the film maker’s own talents.” Read more…)

New British
The Pied Piper (1972, musical/costume/legend, Donald Pleasance. From Vincent Cany’s 1972 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “You wouldn’t know by reading the ads but ‘The Pied Piper,’ which opened at a number of theaters here yesterday with a totally befuddled science-fiction film called ‘Z.P.G.,’ is a new work by Jacques Demy, the very talented, idiosyncratic French director who came out of the Nouvelle Vague with ‘Lola’ and then went on to develop what amounted to a new kind of contemporary fairy tale with ‘The Umbrella of Cherbourg’ and ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort.'” Read more…)

The Witness for the Prosecution (Agatha Christie period whodunit, Toby Jones Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar (1967, live action Disney, Ron Brown)

New Documentaries
Disturbing the Peace (conflict resolution, Palestinian-Israeli relations, nonviolence Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “How much bloodshed can a divided populace stand? In Stephen Apkon and Andrew Young’s documentary, ‘Disturbing the Peace,’ we meet Combatants for Peace, an advocacy-activist group comprising Israelis and Palestinians who have reached their limit and renounced violence. Most are former military or paramilitary personnel seeking a two-state solution to Israel’s agonized convulsions. Their stories are compelling — and persuasive.” Read more…)

New Childrens’ DVDs
Charlie, The Lonesome Cougar (1967, live action Disney, Ron Brown)

New releases 4/18/17

Top Hits
Split (thriller, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At once solemn and preposterous, sinister and sentimental, efficient and overwrought, ‘Split’ represents something of a return to form for its writer and director, M. Night Shyamalan. Or maybe I should say a return to formula. The movie, shot in and around Philadelphia, Mr. Shyamalan’s hometown, proceeds nimbly and with suave misdirection toward a pair of rug-pulling final twists that an attentive viewer will probably be able to anticipate. It’s not exactly a Choose Your Own Adventure, but you can opt either for the pleasure of surprise at the end or for the satisfaction of working out the puzzle as you go along.” Read more…)

The Founder (McDonalds founder bio-pic, Michael Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Ray Kroc, the whirling center of ‘The Founder,’ doesn’t come across as a meat-and-potatoes man — much less a mogul destined to peddle burgers and fries. As played by Michael Keaton, an actor who generates terrific centrifugal force, Ray seems more like a guy who fuels up on 10 cups of coffee before calling it a night with a bottle of Scotch. ‘The Founder’ never figures out what makes him spin and run and keep on running, but it does give you Mr. Keaton zinging around like the Road Runner. His kinetic performance doesn’t enhance the movie; it is the movie.” Read more…)

Sleepless (action, Jamie Foxx. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 33. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At least since the 2009 film ‘Taken,’ the dad-to-the-rescue action movie has been a staple of the winter release calendar. ‘Sleepless,’ a sort-of-remake of the French thriller ‘Sleepless Night,’ represents Jamie Foxx’s foray into late-midcareer Neesonism.” Read more…)

Ocean Waves (Japanese animated feature from Studio Ghibli. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Studio Ghibli’s] 1993 film, ‘Ocean Waves,’ was produced for television and initially conceived as a slight break from time-consuming meticulousness. A tale of young love, adapted from a novel by Saeko Himuro, it was directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, who supervised junior staff artists. The undertaking proved to be as quality-conscious as that of any of the studio’s other works. Now released in the United States for the first time, it is a fascinating variant on Ghibli’s house style.” Read more…

New Blu-Ray
Split
Ocean Waves

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Migrants (1974, Tennessee William drama made for TV, Cloris Leachman)

New Documentaries
Don’t Blink: Robert Frank (art, photography, filmmaking, Robert Frank. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Laura Israel’s new film is called ‘Don’t Blink—Robert Frank,’ and it’s at once a welcome admonition and an efficient motto. This compact, fast-moving portrait of the artist proceeds through a flurry of images, many of them gleaned from Mr. Frank’s long and prodigious career. The man himself, barreling through his early 90s with a mixture of impatience, resignation and good humor, has spent a lifetime looking, mostly at North American people and landscapes, but also somehow inward, using cameras as instruments of documentation and introspection.” Read more…)

Before the Flood (National Geographic, environmental issues, climate change, Leonardo DiCaprio. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 63. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Even if you subscribe to the view that a problem isn’t a problem until a Hollywood celebrity tells you it is, ‘Before the Flood’ feels out of phase. It’s a documentary in which Leonardo DiCaprio sounds the alarm abou global warming, something that could not possibly have escaped anyone’s attention in recent years and is at this point probably beyond discussion: Either you think climate change is real or you don’t, and the battle lines aren’t likely to be shifted by an earnest movie star.” Read more (and maybe read the comments criticizing the review, too)…)

New Childrens’ DVDs

Ocean Waves (Japanese animated feature from Studio Ghibli)

New releases 4/11/17

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Hidden Figures
Lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 4/4/17

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Star Wars: Rogue One

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

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

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

New releases 3/28/17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 3/21/17

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

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

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

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

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

New Blu-Ray
Sing
OJ: Made in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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