New releases 1/12/21

Top Hits
Jungleland (boxing drama, Charlie Hunnam. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 53. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Steely Dan once famously mocked ‘show business kids makin’ movies of themselves.’ If ‘Jungleland,’ directed by Max Winkler, son of the actor Henry, is any indication, those kids should stick to that pursuit because they don’t have a clue about other people.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Babylon Berlin: Season 3 (Germany, pre-World War II German drama series, Volker Bruch. From Mike Hale’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook article: “Parallels to our current situation can probably be found everywhere if you look hard enough, but the picture in ‘Babylon Berlin’ of honest cops trying to do their jobs while the social order collapses around them is certainly apt. While the incipient fascists, as well as the writers of ‘Demons of Passion,’ look forward to perfecting the human race in machine-like terms, one character after another — an obsessive forensics technician, an overextended detective — snaps and melts down in violent rage.” Read more…)

New TV
Star Trek: Picard: Season 1 (Star Trek franchise series, Patrick Stewart. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 76. From Mike Hale’s New York Times TV review: “‘Picard,’ the second streaming ‘Star Trek’ series [after ‘Discovery’], is a peak-TV experience, and it immediately feels — on the surface, at least — as if it could be the franchise’s best small-screen offering.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Our Time Machine (art, family, Alzheimer’s. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun, ‘Our Time Machine’ shows Maleonn, an energetic and still boyish-looking fellow now in his 40s, enlisting his parents as collaborators in a multidisciplinary work called “Papa’s Time Machine.” The work is a tribute to his parents and also a way to preserve portions of the past, which are slipping away from Ma Ke as dementia erodes his memory.” Read more…)

Epicentro (Cuba, documentary, Cold War, imperialism. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 70. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Epicentro’ takes a similarly free-form approach to exploring vestiges of imperialism in Cuba, a country Sauper portrays as having been picked apart by Spain, the United States and finally privileged tourists — including Sauper himself. The connections he draws are unexpected and frequently fascinating, although in this film the synthesis isn’t as clear as in the others.” Read more…)

New releases 1/5/21

Top Hits
Love and Monsters (action/adventure, Dylan O’Brien. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Lovia Gyarkye’s New York Times review: “‘Love and Monsters’ lacks the self-seriousness of typical dystopian flicks but, despite its surprisingly perfunctory title and relatively thin plot, it doesn’t completely lack depth. In addition to the tried and true lessons Joel learns along the way [the value of love, courage and confidence], the film remarks on the importance of documentation and archival work.” Read more…)

Yellow Rose (country music/immigration drama, Eva Noblezada. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The writer-director Diane Paragas spins a story that is both politically timely and personal. [Like Rose, she is a Texas-raised Filipino-American.] ‘Yellow Rose’ is often affecting as its gifted heroine dreams while drifting between parental figures, including her aunt (Lea Salonga). Yet Paragas’s use of the white savior cliché rings false, especially considering our current political climate.” Read more…)

12 Hour Shift (heist caper, Angela Bettis. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “How quickly we pivot from honoring our frontline workers. In the exploitation splatter comedy ’12 Hour Shift,’ two nurses manage an organ-trafficking network out of their Arkansas hospital. The drug-addled Mandy [Angela Bettis], who takes her orders from Karen [Nikea Gamby-Turner], brings fresh harvests to the soda machine just outside the building’s doors.” Read more…)

Inside the Rain (drama/comedy, Aaron Fisher. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 49. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “Based on [actor/director Aaron] Fisher’s own life experiences, ‘Inside the Rain’ switches erratically between comedy and drama while juggling many half-realized plot threads. But the movie’s strange, inconsistent rhythm ultimately works as a reflection of Ben’s manic and depressive states. Fisher’s performance is disarmingly blunt and deadpan, offering an up-close portrait of mental illness as a banal reality.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)

Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood (Criterion Collection 6-movie set):

Morocco (1930, romance/drama, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Strange things happen in most Foreign Legion stories after they have undergone a major operation in a film studio, and ‘Morocco,’ an audible pictorial adaptation of ‘Amy Jolly,’ a play by Benno Vigny, is no exception. Aside from some expertly directed scenes and effective staging, this production is chiefly interesting because it served to introduce the attractive German film favorite, Marlene Dietrich. This player won favor abroad in a picture called ‘The Blue Angel,’ which was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who is also responsible for this current presentation.” Read more…)

Dishonored (1931, espionage thriller, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Although there may seem to be more glamour than truth about many of the incidents in Marlene Dietrich’s new picture, an espionage adventure called ‘Dishonored,’ the presence of the beautiful German actress, coupled with Josef von Sternberg’s capable direction, cause it to be a highly satisfactory entertainment.” Read more…)

Shanghai Express (1932, adventure/romance, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 83. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is an exciting ride they take in ‘Shanghai Express,’ Marlene Dietrich’s new picture which came to the Rialto last night. It has a killing by stabbing, men popped off by machine gun fire, the revelation as to the real identity of a few of the passengers and a romance between a woman of many casual affairs and a British Army surgeon. It is by all odds the best picture Josef von Sternberg has directed” Read more…)

Blonde Venus (1932, melodrama, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlene Dietrich’s latest film, ‘Blonde Venus,’ over which B. P. Schulberg, until recently head of Paramount’s Hollywood studio, and Josef von Sternberg, the director, clashed last spring, is a muddled, unimaginative and generally hapless piece of work, relieved somewhat by the talent and charm of the German actress and Herbert Marshall’s valiant work in a thankless role. It wanders from Germany to many places in America, over to France and then back to New York, but nary a whit of drama is there in it.” Read more…)

The Scarlet Empress (1934, Catherine the Great biopic, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From A.D.S.’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since the verdict has to be in the negative, let it be pronounced quickly. For Mr. von Sternberg, having sacrificed story, characterization and life itself to his own hungry and unreasonable dreams of cinema greatness, has at the same time created a barbaric pageant of eighteenth century Russia, which is frequently exciting. His scenes are like the vast, tortured world of another William Blake.” Read more…)

The Devil Is a Woman (1935, drama/romance, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. From Andre Sennwald’s 1935 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is not hard to understand why Hollywood expressed such violent distaste for Josef von Sternberg’s new film. For the talented director-photographer, in ‘The Devil Is a Woman,’ makes a cruel and mocking assault upon the romantic sex motif which Hollywood has been gravely celebrating all these years. His success is also his failure. Having composed one of the most sophisticated films ever produced in America, he makes it inevitable that it will be misunderstood and disliked by nine-tenths of the normal motion picture public.” Read more…)

The Hunted (1948, film noir, Belita)

New British (& British Commonwealth) DVDs
Mystery Road: Series 2 (Australia, mystery, Aaron Pedersen. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “And along with the tangibility of the physical environment, there’s the authentic feel of the show’s depiction of the lives of the Indigenous characters, who make up the majority of the cast. That’s no surprise, given that both directors, and three of five writers of the season’s six episodes are Indigenous themselves.” Read more…)

Elizabeth Is Missing (drama, Glenda Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 85. From Lucy Mangan’s Guardian review: “It is a harrowing, compelling, unsentimental, altogether magnificent performance. It will surely win awards, but, unlike on many other occasions, you don’t think about that as it is unspooling before you.” Read more…)

Best Video will be open normal (current) hours New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day

Best Video Film & Cultural Center will be open for our normal curbside hours on Thursday, Dec. 31, and Friday, Jan. 1. The cafe is open from 8 AM-1 PM and the curbside hours for video pickup are 3-7 PM.

We wish everybody a safe, healthy and happy New Year and a great 2021.

New releases 12/29/20

Top Hits
Honest Thief (thriller, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 46. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The writer and director Mark Williams doesn’t aim for surprise or suspense, so much as he aims to show competence. The action sequences zip along pleasantly, clearly mapping the positions taken in the cat-and-mouse game between an honest crook and crooked cops. The actors are given enough space to build up some chemistry, whether the teams we watch are the romantic pairing of Neeson and Walsh, or Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos as the two conflicted agents.” Read more…)

The Last Shift (drama, Richard Jenkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Richard Jenkins is one of this country’s great character actors. The near-hangdog, generally unprepossessing appearance and bearing he cultivates in many of his roles is unimpeachably effective when he’s portraying a kindly, sympathetic Everyman, as in the 2014 mini-series ‘Olive Kitteridge.’… And of course, it’s not just his manner. Jenkins has the skill to make you see how his characters think. Or, in the case of his latest, ‘The Last Shift,’ the first movie he’s carried as a lead actor since his Oscar-nominated work in 2008’s ‘The Visitor,’ how they don’t think.” Read more…)

Lowdown Dirty Criminals (New Zealand, comedy, James Rolleston. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Luke Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “Director Paul Murphy’s Wellington-set crime comedy, ‘Lowdown Dirty Criminals,’ seems to have fallen out of a time warp, feeling dated almost immediately. In the first scene the filmmaker deploys Guy Ritchie-esque freeze frames and kicks off a nonlinear Tarantino-like structure – which were particularly popular techniques for stories about gangsters and nogoodniks during the 90s and in the early years of the new century.” Read more…)

Dating Amber (comedy/romance/gay & lesbian, Fionn O’Shea. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 58. From Tracy Brown’s Los Angeles Times review: “[Lola] Petticrew and [Fionn] O’Shea are the standouts that carry this film, making Amber and Eddie more than just versions of recognizable archetypes. O’Shea, in particular, has the difficult task of preserving Eddie’s humanity even as he lashes out in pent-up self-loathing to keep the audience’s sympathies on his side. Not all of the ancillary characters and their stories are fully developed in the film’s quick 92 minutes, but ‘Dating Amber’ convincingly channels the angst and awkwardness that can be a part of teenagers’ struggles with their identity.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Conspirators (1944, espionage drama, Hedy Lamarr. From Bosley Crowther’s 1944 New York Times review: “For a spy picture made by Warner Brothers and played by that studio’s star gang of urbane Continentals and weasels of various stripe, ‘The Conspirators,’ yesterday’s entry at the Strand, is a disappointing show. And, indeed, it would be quite as vexing if it came from a less able lot. For all of the sharp, metallic flavor and the savoir-faire of plot expected in spy melodramas are conspicuous by their absence from this film.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
You Cannot Kill David Arquette (bio, wrestling, personality, David Arquette. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “There is an operatic neediness to Arquette’s obsession that suits the circus of wrestling, and it suits the documentary too. The movie matches wrestling’s larger-than-life proportions by building a mythic tale out of a reject’s quest for redemption.” Read more…)

My Darling Vivian (bio, music, Johnny Cash. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “Supported by abundant archival footage, [Vivian] Liberto and [Johnny] Cash’s four daughters — Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara — make revisionist cases for their mother in separate talking-head interviews. They recall the increasingly longer stretches of their father being away. Alone, their mother warded off everything from rattlesnakes on their property to threats from the Ku Klux Klan, who thought that Liberto, an Italian-American born in Texas, was black.” Read more…)

UPDATE: Holiday hours—Best Video will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas

UPDATE: Due to an unexpected staff shortage, Best Video Film & Cultural Center will be closed Christmas Eve as well as Christmas. Our apology for any inconvenience.

Best Video Film & Cultural Center will be open normal curbside hours on Christmas Eve, Tues., Dec. 24. That means 8 AM-1 PM at the cafe and 3-7 PM on the video side.

BVFCC will be closed Christmas Day so that our staff can enjoy the day safely with family and/or friends. We wish all our members, friends, and supporters a happy and safe holiday. We open again for curbside hours on Sat., Dec. 26.

Best Video Film & Cultural Center will be open our currently scheduled curbside hours for both the cafe and video side on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.

Best Video in 2020—by the numbers

Despite the severe limitations of the pandemic, Best Video Film & Cultural Center has accomplished much thanks to public support.

By the numbers:

• 1

Thanks to the overwhelming support shown to Best Video Film & Cultural Center in The Great Give, we invested in 1 beautiful deck that enabled us to present safe, socially-distanced entertainment!

• 15,846

Almost 16,000 titles on DVD, Blu-Ray, and, yes, even some VHS tapes went out the door to members to watch over the course of the year. Of that, 7,710 were rented before we temporarily closed on March 22; 8,136 have gone out since we reopened for curbside service on May 21. So, to the oft-asked question, Do people still rent videos?, the answer is unequivocally yes!

• 59 & 80

We presented or hosted 59 music shows this year, encompassing 80 acts, including the four shows of children’s music. We had presented 36 shows as of the time when we had to stop indoor events. But building the deck enabled us to safely relaunch live music. In the weather-friendly window, we managed to put on 23 more shows. In addition to the shows, we had three monthly Second Wednesday Open Mics and numerous acoustic—bluegrass and Irish music—jam sessions.

• 8 & 3 & 1

Before we had stop indoor events, we presented 8 film screenings. Best Video Film & Cultural Center helped organize the Hamden Black Film Mini-Series in the fall, co-presenting 3 movies on the Black experience with Hamden Arts & Culture, Spring Glen Church, Ignite the Light and community members. And we streamed 1 film, the acclaimed indie movie “Ham On Rye,” which is available in a virtual screening through this month.

Some ways to support Best Video without spending an additional dollar!

There are some ways you can support Best Video Film & Cultural Center without spending an additional dollar! Here are three:

• Like our Facebook pages for Best Video Film & Cultural Center and Best Video Performance Space and share our posts. Word of mouth was always huge for the original Best Video and it is just as important for Best Video Film & Cultural Center. When you talk up your love for Best Video and its mission of “bringing film, music, and people together,” it is invaluable to keeping us around for the long term!

• You can support Best Video Film & Cultural Center through purchases on Amazon.com. This isn’t one we talk up a lot but if you make your Amazon purchases through smile.amazon.com rather than Amazon.com, you can designate a portion of the proceeds to go to a non-profit, including Best Video Film & Cultural Center (see image above).

• Best Video Film & Cultural Center has begun generating donations through the Stop & Shop Giving Tag Program. The Stop & Shop Giving Tag Program, which launched in May 2019, is a reusable bag program that facilitates community support with the goal to make a difference in the communities where shoppers live and work. When a shopper purchases the $2.50 reusable Community Bag at any Stop & Shop store, they have the opportunity to direct a $1 donation to a local non-profit by using the attached Giving Tag. BVFCC has already begun generating donations through the use of the Giving Tag.

New releases 12/22/20

Top Hits
Kajillionaire (comedy, Evan Rachel Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “This nagging sense of something darker crouching beneath the film’s bright images is one of the things that makes ‘Kajillionaire’ so fascinating. Even so, the narrative doesn’t find its thematic groove until an airline-insurance swindle introduces the family to Melanie [an indispensable Gina Rodriguez], a peppy and preternaturally wise optician’s assistant. Breezing her way into their schemes, Melanie is the switch that will illuminate the Dynes’s dysfunction and their director’s surprisingly moving intent.” Read more…)

The Craft: Legacy (horror, Cailee Spaeny. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 54. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “But Zoe Lister-Jones’s ‘The Craft: Legacy,’ produced by Blumhouse [‘Get Out’], is a disappointing distillation of the original that’s mostly devoid of personality. Avoiding the bad apple story line that Fairuza Balk’s Nancy so brilliantly embodied in the ’90s version, this new ‘Craft’ makes toxic masculinity the girls’ greatest enemy [the misogynistic bully falls under a spell that makes him say things like ‘womxn’]. But even that modernization feels predictable.” Read more…)

The War With Grandpa (comedy, Robert De Niro. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 34. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘The War With Grandpa’ is relentlessly anodyne, from the cartoony lettering of the opening credits on. Even its bad-taste jokes, culminating in some awkward corpse inspection at a funeral, land in the nicest way possible.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Barking Dogs Never Bite (South Korea, 2000, comedy, Sung-Jae Lee. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 66. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “Bong Joon-ho’s black-comic satire ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’ has been re-released after 20 years, and in many ways it could be seen as a thematic forerunner to his Oscar-winning hit Parasite, with its vision of strange people and strange secrets in a basement. But it’s entirely distinctive on its own [bizarre] terms: a film about animal cruelty [loosely inspired by the 19th-century children’s novel A Dog of Flanders by Marie Louise de la Ramée, perennially popular in Korea] and it begins with a huge ‘no animals were harmed’ disclaimer. As well it might.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Psychomagic, A Healing Art (Alejandro Jodorowsky-directed documentary, therapy, surrealism. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 56. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For almost 70 years, the Chilean-born artist Alejandro Jodorowsky has been the utility infielder of lowercase-’s’ surrealism. He’s a performer, graphic novelist, poet and, most prominently, a cult filmmaker. With the documentary ‘Psychomagic, a Healing Art,’ he introduces the world to the work he has been involved in since the ’70s.” Read more…)

Nelson Algren Live (literary, bio, Willem Dafoe)

New releases 12/15/20

Top Hits
Tenet (Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi, John David Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jessica Kiang’s Times review: “The hotly anticipated ‘Tenet’ … is reassuringly massive in every way — except thematically. Ideally presented in 70-millimeter Imax, Nolan’s preferred, towering aspect ratio, arrayed with the telegenic faces of a cast of incipient superstars, gorgeously shot across multiple global locations and pivoting on an elastic, time-bending conceit (more on that later/earlier), the film is undeniably enjoyable, but its giddy grandiosity only serves to highlight the brittleness of its purported braininess.” Read more…)

Alone (thriller, Jules Wilcox. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70.From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The first rule of Flight Club is to run very, very quietly; the second rule of Flight Club is — well, you get the idea. Jessica [Jules Willcox], the fleeing heroine of John Hyams’s ‘Alone,’ manages to break that rule more than once; yet this minimalist survival thriller unfolds with such elegant simplicity and single-minded momentum that its irritations are easily excused.” Read more…)

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (horror/comedy, Jim Cummings. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. From Brian Tallerico’s RogerEbert.com review: “Jim Cummings broke out with a character study that rocked the SXSW Film Festival in ‘Thunder Road,’ but he takes an unexpected turn into genre filmmaking with his fantastic follow-up, ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow.’ More than just your standard horror/comedy, ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ is a tonal balancing act, a movie that doesn’t go for laughs or horror as much as weave various tones and styles through its excellent script. I thought Cummings was a talent to watch after ‘Thunder Road,’ and now I’m sure of it.” Read more…)

The Opening Act (comedy, Jimmy O. Yang. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “Imagine, for a moment, that a stand-up comic is just like a superhero. On stage, he’s a master of the universe, armored and impervious, slinging jokes like lightning bolts. He defeats all adversaries, from hecklers to the potential indifference of the audience; laughter, of course, is his way of killing. If that’s what a stand-up comic is, then ‘The Opening Act,’ Steve Byrne’s wryly likable shoestring indie comedy about a young man trying to make it in the world of stand-up, might be described as a stand-up-comedy origin story.” Read more…)

The Beach House (horror, Noah LeGros. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Elisabeth Vincentelli’s New York Times review: “Despite its relatively tight focus — four characters, one location — the writer-director Jeffrey A. Brown’s debut feature has an ambitious scope made all the more intriguing by its lack of clear answers. The characters may have stumbled into bad edibles, a fog teeming with mysterious life, a nasty parasite, the beginning of the end of the world, or all of the above.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Tenet

New Foreign DVDs
Aviva (France, drama, Bobbi Jene Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From Brian Seibert’s New York Times review: “Already, the film has established what’s fresh about it: its questioning of gender, its use of dance not as an entertaining interlude but as a primary mode of expression. Already, it has established a self-conscious tone that undermines its formal boldness and wit.” Read more…)

Madre (Spain, drama, Marta Nieto. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “A parent’s worst nightmare, unfolding in real time, opens this Spanish drama. Elena [the superb Marta Nieto] gets a call from her young son, Iván. He’s vacationing in France with his father, from whom Elena is estranged. Iván’s dad went to their camper to fetch something, supposedly, and the 6-year-old boy is alone on a deserted beach. The bars on his cellphone are going down, he says. And so is the sun.” Read more…)

We Are Little Zombies (Japan, drama, Keita Ninomiya. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “When four suddenly orphaned Japanese 13-year-olds meet at a crematory, they instantly connect over their shared inability to cry — and the likely commingled remains of their parents. ‘Today, Mommy turned to dust,’ Hikari [Keita Ninomiya], a somber video-game addict, tells us in a voice-over. It’s not the most lighthearted way to begin a movie, yet ‘We Are Little Zombies’ is nothing if not ebullient.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ladybug Ladybug (1963, Cold War-era drama, William Daniels. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Frank and Eleanor Perry, the talented husband-wife team who made the popular ‘David and Lisa,’ have studiously tried again to dramatize the behavior of young people under conditions of severe stress and strain. Their new picture, ‘Ladybug, Ladybug,’ which came to Cinema II yesterday, is an estimation of the way a group of American schoolchildren in a peaceful rural community would react to a sudden threat of a bomb attack.” Read more…)

You’re A Big Boy Now (1966, comedy/romance dir. by Francis Ford Coppola, Elizabeth Hartman. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Francis Ford Coppola is a gifted young man. Already a seasoned scenarist at the age of 27, he has now uncocked a magnetically exasperating comic strip of a movie, which he wrote and directed, titled ‘You’re a Big Boy Now.’ The Seven Arts release was made entirely in New York, with a good cast headed by Peter Kastner [another old fogey, aged 22], Elizabeth Hartman, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn and Julie Harris.” Read more…)

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969, Depression-era drama, Jane Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 72. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Gloria [played by Jane Fonda], a Typhoid Mary of existential despair, is the terrified and terrifying heroine of Sydney Pollack’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,’ the film adaptation of Horace McCoy’s Depression novel that opened yesterday at the Fine Arts Theater. The movie is far from being perfect, but it is so disturbing in such important ways that I won’t forget it very easily, which is more than can be said of much better, more consistent films.” Read more…)

Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970, drama, Faye Dunaway. From Roger Greenspun’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The people, the events, the styles vary. But the theme remains substantially the same—the public promotion and the private cost of glamour—which is, of course the movies’ own morality play, their way of dramatizing mutability. That theme has overcome much analytic understanding (which is never the point) and has survived decades of movies good and bad. In Jerry Schatzberg’s ‘Puzzle of a Downfall Child,’ it appears again — in a version that, despite some lapses and many excesses, is very good indeed.” Read more…)

Marie: A True Story (1985, true life drama, Sissy Spacek. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Films about lone crusaders battling corruption are helped immeasurably when the hero is presented as a person of some complexity – when a Karen Silkwood is introduced as a flawed, ordinary figure, then transformed and even ennobled by a determination to seek justice. The best of the post-Watergate movies in this mode have made a point of underscoring their characters’ imperfections, so that their heightened social consciousness stands out in sharper contrast. ‘Marie,’ which like ‘Silkwood’ and ‘Serpico’ and ‘Norma Rae’ depicts one person’s fight against corporate or institutional injustice, is a fast-paced, well-acted drama that takes a simpler approach. Its heroine’s unqualified nobility is the greatest limitation to an otherwise tight, suspenseful and highly involving story.” Read more…)

New releases 12/8/20

Top Hits
Possessor (sci-fi/thriller, Andrea Riseborough. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Possessor,’ about an assassin who works by taking over the mind and body of someone who can get close to the victim without suspicion, could have sprung from the imagination of David Cronenberg and, like his early films, ‘Possessor’ is equal parts cerebral and visceral. But this film is the work of the writer-director Brandon Cronenberg, his son. It depicts horrific murders in appalling detail as it relentlessly interrogates the experience of inhabiting a foreign body.” Read more…)

Proxima (sci-fi, Eva Green. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Torn between the maternal and the cosmic, the tactile and the unearthly, ‘Proxima’ feels as unsettled as its heroine. And while the film’s feminist thrust is admirable, Winocour’s decision to sacrifice this for a cheap, sentimental finale is infuriating.” Read more…)

The 24th (history/war/race drama, Trai Byers. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 56. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Set in Jim Crow-era Texas during World War I, Kevin Willmott’s ‘The 24th’ dramatizes real-life events so inherently appalling — and so presently relevant — that we should never feel less than engaged. Yet this stultifyingly earnest movie makes its points with such a heavy hand that its horrors struggle to resonate.” Read more…)

Wild Horses (western, Robert Duvall. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 44. From Stephen Holden’s 2015 New York Times review [may require log-in]: “Could Robert Duvall’s incoherent melodrama ‘Wild Horses’ have been salvaged by a skillful editor? Probably not. Mr. Duvall’s first directorial effort since ‘Assassination Tango’ in 2003, this film is the story of Scott Briggs [Mr. Duvall, now 84], a hard-bitten Texan rancher deep into his twilight years. It has majestic man-on-horse-under-the-Southwestern-sky cinematography, and in its best scene, Scott’s three grown sons get drunk in a roughneck bar and stumble into a brawl with some cowboys. But such moments are too scattered to make this jumble of a film come together.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Grass (Republic of Korea, Kim Minhee. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This movie, like most of [director Hong Sang-soo’s] others, doesn’t pass judgment on its largely passive protagonist. In fact, it suggests that observing the people that pass through one’s sight and hearing is an entirely valid mode of living.” Read more…)

Song Without a Name (Peru, drama, Pamela Mendoza. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “What’s curious about ‘Song Without a Name’ is that even as the plot meanders, the film remains grandly composed, with spectacular tableaus that make the Peruvian hillsides look like scenes from a John Ford western. Georgina becomes a silhouette slipping down barren mountains; when she enters the newspaper offices, the walls appear to entrap her. The narrative drifts, but the alienation communicated by the movie’s images feels purposeful and striking.” Read more…)

The Audition (Germany, drama, Nina Hoss. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Music teacher] Anna is played by Nina Hoss, the outstanding actor who lit up Christian Petzold’s ‘Phoenix’ and who’s been outstanding in other films by that director. ‘The Audition,’ directed by Ina Weisse [and co-written with Daphne Charizani], doesn’t concentrate entirely on Anna’s work with the student, played by Ilja Monti, but presents it as part of a package of dissatisfactions.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Handsome Harry (2009, drama, Jamey Sheridan. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 59. From Stephen Holden’s 2010 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The death of a Navy buddy from the Vietnam War, Thomas Kelly [Steve Buscemi], whom he hasn’t seen in years, is the catalyst for an increasingly anguished journey of self-discovery [lead character] Harry [Sweeney] feels obliged to make. On his deathbed in a V.A. hospital outside Philadelphia, Kelly, afraid of going to hell, pleads with Harry to contact Dave Kagan [Campbell Scott], a sailor in their unit who was Harry’s best friend, and apologize for his role in Kagan’s near-fatal beating.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
NOVA: Secret Mind of Slime (science, nature, intelligence of slime molds. From the PBS Website: “Meet slime molds: brainless blobs that can learn, make decisions, and navigate mazes! NOVA ‘Secret Mind Of Slime’ dives deep into the questions and science behind the “intelligence” of slime molds. These creatures are not animals, nor plants, nor fungi, yet they appear to learn and to make decisions without brains, expanding the boundaries of intelligence beyond the animal kingdom.” Read more…)