New releases 11/28/17

Top Hits
Logan Lucky (action, Daniel Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Logan Lucky,’ Steven Soderbergh’s gravity-defying, ridiculously entertaining new film — one that ends a blessedly brief retirement from big-screen directing — concerns itself with a desperate attempt to even the odds. It’s a caper movie, a modern-day Robin Hood tale organized around an elaborate, improbable but curiously plausible heist. A gang that includes a wounded veteran, an unemployed former coal miner, a hairdresser and other motley members of the noncoastal nonelite conspires to knock over a Nascar race sponsored by Coca-Cola. The event sucks a lot of cash from people like them, and the thieves quite literally set out to suck it right back up.” Read more…)

Crown Heights (drama, Lakeith Stanfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “This story inspired a gripping, enraging episode of ‘This American Life,’ and ‘Crown Heights,’ written and directed by Matt Ruskin, tries to adhere both to the factual record and a careful, detail-focused documentary ethos. Like its protagonist, sensitively and shrewdly played by Lakeith Stanfield, the film is soft-spoken and thoughtful, with sweet, lyrical touches that alleviate some of the grimness without blunting the cruelty and injustice of what happened.” Read more…)

Woodshock (drama, Kirsten Dunst. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 38. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Unlike their spring 2018 fashion collection, Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s first foray into moviemaking, ‘Woodshock,’ is depressingly dull and terminally inarticulate. Oh, it’s pretty enough, in the superficially embellished style of a perfume ad or fashion video — the gifted Finnish cinematographer Peter Flinckenberg virtually empties his bag of tricks. But it’s more lacking in substance than a yard of silk chiffon.” Read more…)

Leap! (animated feature, Elle Fanning [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 48. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Nit-picking will get you nowhere with the target audience of ‘Leap!,’ an animated movie for tweens — they’re unlikely to care about critical quibbles. As for the adults who’ll get dragged to the theater: You’ve seen it all before, though it’s pleasant enough to watch again.” Read more…)

The Ottoman Lieutenant (historical drama/romance, Michael Huisman. Rotten Tomatoes: 19%. Metacritic: 26. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Forbidden love! Two men fighting over a woman! Panoramic horse rides though golden meadows while danger lurks! The film, written by Jeff Stockwell and directed by Joseph Ruben, has all the elements of a type of female fantasy that has seemed out of step since the 1950s. It aims to be an epic in the ‘Doctor Zhivago’ mold, but somehow the crashing score and picture-postcard images only diminish the world-shaking events swirling around this romantic triangle.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Logan Lucky
Leap
Disconnected (1984, cult/slasher, directed by Gorman Bechard, Vinegar Syndrome 2K restoration)

New Foreign DVDs
Clash (Egypt, drama, Nelly Karim. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 78. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Sitting through ‘Clash’ is largely a miserable experience, and that’s deliberate. The movie is set in the aftermath of the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Directed by Mohamed Diab from a script he wrote with his brother Khaled Diab, “Clash” begins in the back of an empty police truck.” Read more…)

Machines (India, documentary, work conditions, textiles. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 76. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Following in the footsteps of other documentaries from the last decade and a half — including ‘Behemoth,’ ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ and ‘Workingman’s Death’ — Rahul Jain’s ‘Machines’ casts an unflinching eye on dire poverty, trafficking in the disjunction between surreal, aesthetically striking images and sounds and the squalor those images depict… ‘Machines’ is at its strongest when interviewing the workers, who aren’t named and who, the film not so subtly implies, have become cogs in the machinery themselves.” Read more…)

Daguerréotypes (France, Agnes Varda-directed documentary. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Southerner (1945, Jean Renoir-directed drama, Zachary Scott. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The poor, white sharecropper, probably as unfashionable a subject for screen treatment as could be contemplated, has been given forthright, sympathetic and seemingly honest expression in ‘The Southerner.’ For the drama, which came to the Globe on Saturday, has invested its persevering farm family not only with the blights of poverty, pellagra and crop-destroying storm but also with dignity, humility, indigenous humor and a vestige of hope. Essentially the story of one man’s overpowering love of the good earth in the face of bitter adversity and despite the prospects of a different, easier way of life, ‘The Southerner’ is a worthy addition to the year’s roster of fine films.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Cop-Out (1967, drama, James Mason)
Disconnected (1984, cult/slasher, directed by Gorman Bechard—his first film, Vinegar Syndrome 2K restoration)

New Television
Fargo: Season 3

New Documentaries
I Called Him Morgan (jazz. Bio, Lee Morgan. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 90. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In February 1972, in the midst of a blizzard, the jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan died after being shot in a Manhattan nightclub by his common-law wife, Helen. The shooting was tragic and traumatic for those who were there — one of Morgan’s band mates stayed away from New York for many years after — but for the rest of the world, it has the qualities of a sad, strange, faded tabloid story. ‘I Called Him Morgan,’ a suave and poignant documentary by Kasper Collin, dusts off the details of Morgan’s life and death and brushes away the sensationalism, too. This is not a lurid true-crime tale of jealousy and drug addiction, but a delicate human drama about love, ambition and the glories of music.” Read more…)

Watermark (documentary, art, water uses, environment. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “So goes much of ‘Watermark,’ Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s second investigation [after ‘Manufactured Landscapes’ in 2007] into the impact of human beings on the natural world. Driven by the question “How does water shape us, and then how do we shape water?,” Ms. Baichwal and Mr. Burtynsky, a photographer noted for his large-scale industrial panoramas, travel across 10 countries and countless human activities, seeking an answer. From the denatured Colorado River delta to abalone fisheries along China’s Fujian coast, the filmmakers find a species in thrall to H2O and largely heedless of the consequences of its unnatural manipulation.” Read more…)

Machines (India, documentary, work conditions, textiles. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 76. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Following in the footsteps of other documentaries from the last decade and a half — including ‘Behemoth,’ ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ and ‘Workingman’s Death’ — Rahul Jain’s ‘Machines’ casts an unflinching eye on dire poverty, trafficking in the disjunction between surreal, aesthetically striking images and sounds and the squalor those images depict… ‘Machines’ is at its strongest when interviewing the workers, who aren’t named and who, the film not so subtly implies, have become cogs in the machinery themselves.” Read more…)

No Gods, No Masters (political history, anarchism, Sacco & Vanzetti)
Who Is Lydia Loveless (music bio, Lydia Loveless, by local filmmaker Gorman Bechard)
Mr. Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall & the NAACP (civil rights, American history, bio, Thurgood Marshall)

New Children’s DVDs
Leap! (animated feature, Elle Fanning [voice])

New releases 11/21/17

Top Hits
Brigsby Bear (comedy, Kyle Mooney. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The absurd and absurdly charming ‘Brigsby Bear’ sounds, well, unbearable. It’s the story of a young man who, after decades of being shut away from the world, splashes down in it like a space alien. There are reasons for his re-entry, though that’s getting ahead of the story, which uses a queasy crime as a jumping-off point to spin a largely sweet, often very funny fairy tale about the perils and the sustaining pleasures of obsessive fandom. Mostly, it is an account of one man’s great, mad love, one that’s mocked, tested and deemed near-pathological — a familiar plight for many superfans.” Read more…)

Beach Rats (drama, Gay & lesbian, Harris Dickinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘I don’t really know what I like,’ Frankie [Harris Dickinson] says to a man he meets on a gay hookup site in ‘Beach Rats.’ He repeats variations on that phrase throughout the film, and part of what’s refreshing about Eliza Hittman’s sophomore feature is that the character’s confusion isn’t limited to coming out.” Read more…)

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (action, Samuel L. Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 47. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard,’ directed by Patrick Hughes [‘The Expendables 3’] and written by Tom O’Connor, is not a good movie, but, in fairness, it doesn’t try to be. It occupies its genre niche — the exuberantly violent Euro-action movie-star-paycheck action comedy — without excessive cynicism or annoying pretension. The stars banter and bicker and wax sentimental about the badass women in their lives [Salma Hayek and Élodie Yung] until the time arrives for the next shootout or car chase or suite of explosions.” Read more…)

Good Time (crime thriller, Robert Pattinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Nick and Connie Nikas are brothers, like Josh and Benny Safdie, the directors of ‘Good Time.’ Nick — played by Benny Safdie — is mentally disabled, while Connie [Robert Pattinson] might charitably be described as an idiot. Motivated by a volatile mix of desperation and bravado, he involves Nick in a poorly planned, haphazardly executed bank robbery. You can bet money on a disastrous outcome, though you might not foresee the precise sequence of mayhem and farce that unfolds on the streets of Queens over a single freezing night. The caper includes an after-hours visit to an amusement park, a soda bottle full of LSD, a case of mistaken identity and plenty of chases, beatings and narrow escapes.” Read more…)

Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets (sci-fi action, Dane DeHaan. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 51. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,’ [actor Dane] DeHaan’s latest eyebrow-raiser — speaking of which, it also stars Cara Delevingne, perhaps the supreme superciliary celebrity of our time — is a bit harder to describe. It was written and directed by Luc Besson [‘The Fifth Element,’ ‘Arthur and the Invisibles’] a fact that promises greater emphasis on visual panache than on feeling or coherence. That promise is faithfully kept, but there is so much more going on. To say that ‘Valerian’ is a science-fiction epic doesn’t quite do it justice. Imagine crushing a DVD of ‘The Phantom Menace’ into a fine powder, tossing in some Adderall and Ecstasy and a pinch of cayenne pepper and snorting the resulting mixture while wearing a virtual reality helmet in a Las Vegas karaoke bar.” Read more…)

Birth of the Dragon (martial arts/bio-pic, Philip Wan-Lung. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 35. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The milieu from which Bruce Lee emerged to become the world’s first martial-arts superstar — both as a film performer and a proponent-teacher — was probably as fascinating as the man himself. The screenwriters Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson and the director George Nolfi only intermittently manage to breathe credible cinematic life into that milieu in ‘Birth of the Dragon,’ which is set in late ’60s San Francisco, where, the movie tells us, Lee taught kung fu. [It was actually Oakland.]” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
After Love (Belgium, drama, Cédric Kahn. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The Belgian director Joachim Lafosse’s ‘After Love’ is an irritating movie about irritating people. The married Boris and Marie are breaking up but for economic reasons are still sharing the same living space [to which the entire movie is confined; good thing there’s an outdoor patio]. They have lovely twin daughters in front of whom they mostly argue — vehemently and with little regard for how these displays will affect the girls.” Read more…)

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (Germany, historic drama, Josef Hader. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. From Glenn Kenny’s New York times review: “‘Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe,’ a handsome, scrupulously serious film directed by Maria Schrader from a script she wrote with Jan Schomburg, hardly deals at all with Zweig’s writing. But the movie does grapple with his thought, particularly his position on a writer’s proper place in tumultuous times. The movie begins at a PEN conference in Buenos Aires, where a fellow writer confronts Zweig about his refusal to condemn Hitler and Germany. ‘Every gesture of resistance which is void of either risk or impact is nothing but a cry for recognition,’ Zweig insists.” Read more…)

My Journey Through French Cinema (France, documentary, Bertrand Tavernier. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Bertrand Tavernier’s ‘My Journey Through French Cinema’ delivers what it promises. Even so, its explanatory title doesn’t begin to convey just how exhilarating or inspiring a documentary this truly is, and how excellent a trip this well-respected French director takes you on. Deep, thoughtful, immersive, specific yet also wide-reaching, it is an exploration of French cinema by one of its own, a cinephile whose formative movie love evolved into a directing career that includes titles like ‘Coup de Torchon,’ ‘Life and Nothing But’ and ‘Captain Conan.'” Read more…)

Harmonium (Japan, drama, Kanji Furutachi. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘For me, family is an absurdity,’ the director Koji Fukada says in the publicity materials for ‘Harmonium,’ a rigorously grim drama that glides, slowly and inexorably, toward proving his point. Yet the atmosphere of dread that Mr. Fukada tends with such ruthless precision — and more than a little sadism — depends not on creepy camera moves or other visual trickery. Instead, this chilly tale of violent secrets and unvoiced misery relies heavily on the skill of actors who seem to know that one false move could tip the whole enterprise into comedy.” Read more…)

The Villainess (Republic of Korea, action, Kim Ok-Vin. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 64. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “As directed by Jung Byung-gil, a former stuntman, the film mirrors the experience of playing a video game. The camera whips to each new target with the assurance of someone who knows all the combinations, and has instinctive, practiced access to every code and cheat. The only sign of conscious, unautomated humanity is the sound of the protagonist’s ragged breathing — an acknowledgment of the exhaustion that comes when a human being is pushed to become an action avatar.” Read more…)

New British
The Fall: Series 3

New Documentaries
In Pursuit of Silence (contemporary life. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 70. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘In Pursuit of Silence’ isn’t what you would call a well-rounded or intellectually rigorous documentary — it’s too messianic for that — but it is an interesting one. Partly inspired by George Prochnik’s 2010 book of the same title, this elegant sermon by Patrick Shen on why we should dial down the racket of our daily lives will make you consider turning off and tuning out.” Read more…)

My Journey Through French Cinema (France, documentary, Bertrand Tavernier. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Bertrand Tavernier’s ‘My Journey Through French Cinema’ delivers what it promises. Even so, its explanatory title doesn’t begin to convey just how exhilarating or inspiring a documentary this truly is, and how excellent a trip this well-respected French director takes you on. Deep, thoughtful, immersive, specific yet also wide-reaching, it is an exploration of French cinema by one of its own, a cinephile whose formative movie love evolved into a directing career that includes titles like ‘Coup de Torchon,’ ‘Life and Nothing But’ and ‘Captain Conan.'” Read more…)