New releases 2/23/21

Top Hits
The Last Vermeer (war drama, Guy Pearce. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 56. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Dan Friedkin [no relation to the director William; this Friedkin’s father, Thomas, is a renowned stunt pilot] and adapted from the nonfiction book ‘The Man Who Made Vermeers’ by Jonathan Lopez, the movie opens with the discovery of ‘Jesus and the Adulteress,’ a work reputedly by Vermeer, stashed away by Hermann Göring. [Actor Claes] Bang’s character, Joseph Piller, is eager to track down whoever sold it to the Nazis, despite his misgivings about the firing squads he sees dispensing rough justice in Amsterdam.” Read more…)

Archenemy (superhero action, Joe Manganiello. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s RogerEbert.com review: “Since it was first popularized in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen comic/graphic novel in the mid-’80s, the ‘superhero on the skids’ trope hasn’t had all that many iterations on film. There was 2008’s ‘Hancock,’ starring Will Smith as the titular drunkard/anti-Superman; and of course the character of Wolverine, featured in several pictures, has his ups and downs. In ‘Archenemy,’ the fellow with above-average powers, who guzzles booze in alleyways and punches walls to no avail while complaining ‘I used … to punch holes … in space,’ bemoans his lost powers while insisting on not being called a superhero.“ Read more…)

The Croods: A New Age (animated feature, Nicolas Cage [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 56. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “No one would call it a huge leap on the evolutionary ladder, but the animated sequel ‘The Croods: A New Age’ is slightly funnier than its serviceable 2013 predecessor. That movie followed a family of cave persons — whose patriarch was the lunkheaded but big-hearted Grug [voiced by Nicolas Cage] — as they left the safety of the rocky alcove they called home and, thanks to the creativity of an outsider, Guy [Ryan Reynolds], embraced more innovative ways of thinking.” Read more…)

A Call to Spy (historical drama/thriller, Sarah Megan Thomas. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 65. From Lovia Gyarke’s New York Times review: “‘A Call to Spy’ is a welcome, albeit imperfect, addition to the existing slate of movies about World War II. The propulsive historical drama, which was written by Sarah Megan Thomas (she also plays Virginia Hall, one of the three leads) and directed by Lydia Dean Pilcher, explores the lives of three remarkable women who served as spies for the Allied nations.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Last Vermeer
The Croods: A New Age

New Foreign
Mandabi (Senegal, 1968, comedy directed by Ousmane Sembene, Criterion Collection, Makhouredia Gueye. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Roger Greespun’s 1969 New York Times review [requires login]: “‘Mandabi’ which played last night at the New York Film Festivals, is the second feature to have been directed by Ousmane Sembène, the Senegalese novelist and filmmaker. As a comedy dealing with life’s miseries, it displays a controlled sophistication in the telling that gives it a feeling of almost classic directness and simplicity. What Sembène does not make his camera do means more than what many virtuoso directors do make their cameras do.” Read more…)

Jiang Ziya (China, animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Peter DeBruge’s Variety review: “This parallel tale feels more respectful, composed and rendered in such a way that nearly every frame (certainly a great many of its wide shots) might be considered artful — as in the sunset-tinged sight of Jiang Ziya, framed by wheat fields, his back to the ‘camera,’ facing the Ruins of Return. Maxfield Parrish, meet your match. Directors Teng Cheng and Li Wei have dedicated serious attention to creating a stunning dramatic atmosphere for a story that, truth be told, is still plenty confusing to non-Chinese audiences.” Read more…)

Le Joli Mai aka The Lovely Month of May (France, 1963, Chris Marker documentary. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. From Vincent Canby’s 1966 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Director Chris] Marker has a penetrating camera and a penetrating mind. Both are employed with a searching persistence in this film, dissecting Paris, dissecting the people who live in Paris. It is not the tourist’s Paris or even the Parisian’s Paris, but rather the Paris of the social worker, the newspaperman, the policeman, the man whose work takes him down the forbidding alleyways, the menacing dead-end streets and who asks questions, endlessly asks questions, questions, questions.” Read more…)

Oki’s Movie (South Korea, 2010, comedy/drama anthology, Jung Yu-mi. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s Times review: “The four interrelated tales of ‘Oki’s Movie,’ Hong Sang-soo’s beguiling new film, are preceded by ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ played over handwritten credits. Elgar’s stately march becomes an ironic refrain to the misadventures and regrets of the three recurring characters, two men and a woman, who navigate different stages in their lives at a film school. The unsubtle musical theme is also a sharp contrast to Mr. Hong’s casually brilliant feat of storytelling, akin to an ingeniously wrought suite of literary short fiction.” Read more…)

A Touch of Zen (Taiwan, 1971, martial arts, Hsu Feng. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As a Renaissance man also credited with the film’s art direction and costumes, King Hu, who reportedly spent several years on this king-sized [three-hour] project, is obviously as dedicated to visual beauty and meditative Zen concepts as he is to action. And his views of gloomy bamboo forests, sun-dappled, green or rocky mountain crevasses and rushing rivers and waterfalls make truly spectacular backgrounds to both the peaceful and warring moods of the monks and the combatants.” Read more…)

Six In Paris (France, 1965, vignettes/drama, Barbet Schroder. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Corn Is Green (1945, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The regnant and moving performance that Ethel Barrymore gave as the light-spreading English school teacher in Emlyn Williams’ stage play, ‘The Corn Is Green,’ has been challenged by Warners’ Bette Davis in that studio’s film version of the play, a generally faithful transcript of the original which came to the Hollywood yesterday. And whenever Miss Davis is permitted to back away from the camera and really act, it must be said that her trenchant characterization is a close match to that of the legitimate’s ‘queen.’ For Miss Davis gives a clear and warm conception of the middle-aged spinster who throws her dominating zeal into the patient cultivation of the mind of a Welsh mining lad.” Read more…)

New TV
Underground: Season 2 (adventure/drama/history series, Jurnee Smollett. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

New Documentaries
You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski (reading, literature, bohemianism, Charles Bukowski. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “Charles Bukowski, the legendary gutter-rat-of-Los-Angeles author and poet, had such a pungent public image — the raw-meat face, like a bulldog’s mug sculpted out of hamburger; the fights and fornications and benders; the notes-from-the-underground beatnik derelict mystique — that watching “You Never Had It: An Evening with Bukowski,” you may be surprised to hear how tender and gentle and calmly pensive his voice is. He speaks not in a cantankerous bellow but a mellifluous purr, like a Norman Mailer who’d been mellowed out by Los Angeles.” Read more…)

The Thin Blue Line (1988, Criterion Collection, dir. by Errol Morris, crime, justice issues, civil liberties. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Janet Maslin’s 1988 Times review [requires log-in]: “Errol Morris, the director of ”The Thin Blue Line,’ has fashioned a brilliant work of pulp fiction around this crime. Mr. Morris’s film is both an investigation of the murder and a nightmarish meditation on the difference between truth and fiction, an alarming glimpse at the many distortions that have shaped [then-death row inmate Randall] Adams’s destiny.” Read more…)

X: The Unheard Music (1986, music bio, punk rock, concert footage, X. From Janet Maslin’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “W. T. Morgan, who wrote and directed the film, gives it a fast, loud, kaleidoscopic style, flashing lots of different images and never lingering on anything for very long. The effect is appropriate to X’s music, but can’t easily sustain something as long as a feature-film format. Still, ‘The Unheard Music’ is a revealing look at the band, and it touches a lot of different bases.” Read more…)

Best Video co-sponsors virtual panel on “Hip Hop & Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” Thurs., Feb. 25, 6:30 PM

Join us for an evening of thoughtful discussion on using Hip Hop as a tool to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, hosted by Hamden author and Quinnipiac University Sociology Professor, Dr. Don C. Sawyer III.

You can register for the Zoom event here.

This panel will feature themes, real stories and research from Dr. Sawyer’s book, “Hip-Hop and Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline” as well as input and community conversation with local community experts and academic researchers in the field of Hip Hop including Frank Brady, Lauren Kelly, Frederick Douglas Knowles, Dr. Tasha Iglesias, and Devon Glover (aka Sonnet Man).

“’Hip-Hop and Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline’ was created for K–12 students in hopes that they find tangible strategies for creating affirming communities where students, parents, advocates and community members collaborate to compose liberating and just frameworks that effectively define the school-to-prison pipeline and identify the nefarious ways it adversely affects their lives.”

Sponsoring Organizations: Ignite the Light, Best Video Film and Cultural Center, Spring Glen Church, Elm City Lit Fest, Theta Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Hamden Dept. of Arts and Culture.

New releases 2/16/21

Top Hits
Lovecraft Country: Season 1 (drama/fantasy/horror series, Jurnee Smollett. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 79. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “There were a lot of ways ‘Lovecraft Country’ could have gone wrong, but timing didn’t turn out to be one of them. It’s a good moment to get attention for a scary-monster series that rejuvenates the horror genre by making the heroes Black and putting America’s racist history at the center of the story.” Read more…)

The Informer (action/adventure, Joel Kinnaman. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 61. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In the double-agent saga ‘The Informer,’ the director, Andrea Di Stefano, isn’t going to wow anyone with flashy technique. But the movie has a surfeit of the sudden reversals and interlocking loyalties that can make for an absorbing time killer.” Read more…)

Happy Cleaners (drama/family, Yun Jeong. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Li-Wei Chu’s From the Intercom—a site dedicated to publicizing the releases of Asian and Anglo-Asian artists—review: “Anyone looking for Asian American representation on screen need not look further than Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee’s family drama ‘Happy Cleaners.’ A film that details the experience of a second-generation Korean American family in Flushing, New York, ‘Happy Cleaners’ gives an introspective look at the inter-generational and cultural conflicts that many families face.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Breaking Surface (Sweden/Norway, action/drama, Moa Gammel. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Lisa Trifone’s Third Coast Review review: “Even if its overarching themes aren’t entirely unique, ‘Breaking Surface,’ a chilling [and chilly] thriller about two sisters and their deep-water diving excursion gone very wrong, certainly gets points for its original take on these tried and true conventions. From a cast led by women in intensely physical roles to impressive independent production value in the underwater world of scuba diving, writer/director Joachim Hedén delivers a ticking-clock drama that, at just 82 minutes, gets right to the action and keeps the momentum high throughout.” Read more…)

God of the Piano (Israel, drama, Naama Preis. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Itay] Tal’s style has a simultaneous simplicity and density that has an affinity with the works of Lucrecia Martel and Michael Haneke. Rarely does a debut feature showcase a talent so fully formed. This is a remarkably potent film.” Read more…)

Alone With Her Dreams (Italy, drama, Marta Castiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From John DeFiore’s Hollywood Reporter review: “Telling the story of a girl whose parents must leave her behind while seeking work in France, the story [from a novel by Catena Fiorello] makes a fine showcase for young thesp Marta Castiglia, a natural with intelligent eyes and no interest in child-actor pandering. Though the film is ultimately just as invested in the girl’s sour grandmother, whose secrets help make sense of a hard left turn the story takes near its end, Alone [which marks both the director’s feature debut and Castiglia’s] makes the most of a fraught moment in its protagonist’s life” Read more…)

Hill of Freedom (South Korea, comedy, Ryo Kase. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, who began his career completing films at a relatively swift pace, has been on a real tear lately. Because of the vicissitudes of distribution, viewers in the United States who follow his work are catching up with it out of production order. ‘Yourself and Yours,’ reviewed last week, was made in 2016, and this week’s ‘Hill of Freedom’ in 2014. Coincidentally, a jumbling of time is related to the content of the movies themselves. ‘Hill’ is predicated on a particularly daring temporal arrangement.” Read more…)

Our Mothers (Guatemala, drama, Armando Espitia. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The fiction feature directorial debut of the Guatemalan filmmaker César Díaz is a modestly scaled picture with massive implications. Díaz’s background is in editing, and there’s a strong documentary component in his filmography. So it’s fitting that in this picture the protagonist is a forensic anthropologist — one who is working on a project that goes back decades rather than centuries, which is usually what we see in movies featuring anthropologists.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Long Song (drama set in 1830s Jamaica, Tamara Lawrance. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 78. From Caroline Framke’s Variety review: “That the tragic heroine of this story is Black slave July [Tamara Lawrance] rather than her corseted white mistress — played by period drama veteran Hayley Atwell, no less — immediately marks ‘The Long Song’ as a very different kind of Masterpiece series. Outside of something like Andrew Davies’ 2019 ‘Sanditon’ adaptation, which cast Crystal Clarke as a Jane Austen character born in the West Indies, there really haven’t been any PBS Masterpiece dramas that spotlight Black characters, let alone have them steer the entire series. ‘The Long Song,’ an adaptation of Andrea Levy’s 2010 novel, not only centers a very specific Black character and experience, but deliberately dares any skittish viewers expecting something quite different to look away.” Read more…)

The Suspect (1944, noir-ish British drama, Charles Laughton. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Another study of an amiable, middle-aged fellow who commits murder out of desperation and his attempts at concealing his connection is being offered in ‘The Suspect,’ yesterday’s new arrival at Loew’s Criterion. This is a very leisurely excursion into crime, somewhat overburdened with politeness. “ Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Mannequin (1937, melodrama/romance, Joan Crawford. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1938 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A glib, implausible and smartly gowned little drama, as typically Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as Leo himself, ‘Mannequin,’ at the Capitol, restores Miss Joan Crawford to her throne as queen of the woiking goils and reaffirms Katharine Brush’s faith in the capitalist system. That system, as Miss Brush, Faith Baldwin and Frances Marion see it, infallibly provides every poor but pure button-hole stitcher with an eventual millionaire who respects her and dangles a tempting wedding ring.” Read more…)

Spy In Black (1939, spy drama aka “U-Boat 29”, Conrad Veidt. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1939 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The early arrival of a U-boat on Broadway was only to be expected after the vague alarms recently sounded off Massachusetts, the Grand Banks and Alaska. And of course the logical base for such a charming little visitor [it answers to the name of ‘U-Boat 29’] was the Globe, where land, air and underwater marvels are continuously on view, even in peace time. What didn’t necessarily follow but what fortunately does, is the fact that ‘U-Boat 29’ is the most exciting spy melodrama since the advent of the Second World War.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Parallax View (1974, thriller, Criterion Collection, Warren Beatty. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 65. From Roger Ebert’s 1974 review: “‘The Parallax View’ will no doubt remind some reviewers of ‘Executive Action’ [1973], another movie released at about the same time that advanced a conspiracy theory of assassination. It’s a better use of similar material, however, because it tries to entertain instead of staying behind to argue. And the ending has an inexorable logic to it.” Read more…)

Tough Guys (1986, action comedy, Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 54. From Walter Goodman’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “When Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas star together in a movie, certain expectations are aroused, and, for much of the way, ‘Tough Guys’ satisfies them. The two pros settle comfortably into the roles of a couple of train robbers, whose last exploit, holding up the Gold Coast Flyer, sent them to jail for 30 years. When we meet them, they are on their way out into the strange world of Los Angeles, circa 1986, abounding in homosexuals, health fanatics and young folks in more peculiar get-ups than even our heroes’ dusted-off wide-lapeled jackets, jazzy ties and snappy fedoras.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Mayor (documentary, Middle East, Palestine. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The director David Osit’s documentary ‘Mayor’ indirectly deals with the prospect of Palestinian statehood by looking at the concept of a state — the workings of government — at the city level. An early scene shows Musa Hadid, the mayor of Ramallah in the West Bank, discussing municipal branding: How can the city get residents to identify traffic lights, sidewalks and street signs with local governance?” Read more…)

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (music, concert, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and cine-revelers of every type, to the mesmerizing motion picture and humbly titled extravaganza, ‘Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.’ Thrill to Dylan, a troubadour with a white-smeared face and a peacock feather in his wide-brimmed hat, as he electrifies and sometimes confuses audiences with his melodious musings. Rejoice as Joan Baez sings and laughs and testifies about her old pal Bob. Gasp as Joni Mitchell warbles and strums her song ‘Coyote’ in Gordon Lightfoot’s pad as Dylan plays along.” Read more…)

 

New releases 2/9/21

Top Hits
Freaky (horror/comedy, Vince Vaughn. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Having settled into his horror-comedy groove with the ‘Happy Death Day’ movies, the director Christopher Landon repeats his blood-and-badinage formula with the body-swap farce, ‘Freaky.’ This time, though — despite a bright palette and intrepid performances — the blueprint feels a little tired. The smutty humor and high-school setting [complete with mean-girl posse and snarky-smart gay friend] are as familiar as Millie [Kathryn Newton], the lonely heroine in love with the handsome athlete [Uriah Shelton].” Read more…)

Greenland (disaster movie, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Magazine review: “‘Greenland’ is the furthest thing you can imagine from the schlock-spectacular Armageddon narratives of a Roland Emmerich or a Michael Bay. We go to those movies to enjoy elaborate mayhem visited upon armies of cardboard characters, but Greenland dares to make its catastrophe feel real and its people feel relatable. It’s just escapist enough to fill our disaster-flick needs, but don’t be surprised if Ric Roman Waugh’s film sometimes feels like too much, especially in the middle of an ongoing real-life calamity.” Read more…)

The Little Prince (animated feature, Jeff Bridges. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s 2015 Times review: “The masterstroke of ‘The Little Prince,’ Mark Osborne’s reimagining of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 children’s classic, is its side-by-side use of two styles of animation. Today’s cold, corporate world, in which gray-faced, hunched-over adults grimly slog through life, is depicted in severe, rectilinear computer-generated animation. The magical universe of Saint-Exupéry’s wistful, poetic novella is rendered in stop-motion animation, with pastel shades that evoke his original watercolor illustrations. ’The Little Prince’ is really a movie within a movie; the author’s delicate, fanciful story is folded into a harsh, modernist commentary on depersonalization and conformity in the contemporary workplace.” Read more…)

Wander Darkly (drama, Sienna Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Surviving a car crash, even a minor one, is a singular experience. In ‘Wander Darkly,’ a film written and directed by Tara Miele, Adrienne (Sienna Miller) has an extra-singular experience — she dies in her auto accident, but lives on.” Read more…)

Host (horror, Haley Bishop. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Kyle Turner’s New York Times review: “If the future of filmmaking is remote and socially distanced, a Zoom séance isn’t such a bad place to start. Rob Savage, the director and co-writer of ‘Host,’ finds a surprising amount of ingenuity in mining the horror of yet another quarantine conference call.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Greenland
The Long Day Closes

New British DVDs
The Long Day Closes (1993, bio/drama directed by Terence Davies, Leigh McCormack. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 85. From Stephen Hoden’s 1993 New York Times review [requires login]: “‘The Long Day Closes,’ which opens today at the Film Forum, is the sequel to Mr. Davies’s film ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives,’ which opened in New York in 1989. Like its forerunner, ‘The Long Day Closes’ is an autobiographical scrapbook of working-class family life in northern England in the mid-1950’s. But where ‘Distant Voices’ offered a fairly naturalistic look at the past, ‘The Long Day Closes’ is filled with surreal, expressionistic touches that lend it the aura of a phantasmagoric cinematic poem.” Read more…)

Miss Scarlet & The Duke: Season 1 (Victorian-era British mystery series, Kate Phillips. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 67.)

New Documentaries
Billie (bio, music, Billie Holiday. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Billie’ has one of the most unusual and [at least in its initial presentation] disturbing hooks for a documentary in some time. It begins by talking not of Billie Holiday but of Linda Lipnack Kuehl, an arts journalist who in 1971 embarked on a biography of the singer Holiday. That work was never completed; Kuehl died in 1978, in what officials deemed a suicide. Kuehl amassed a formidable research archive, including tape recordings of interviews with Holiday’s collaborators, friends and lovers… this movie’s director, James Erskine, acquired the rights to her entire collection, and ‘Billie’ is the first project he derived from it.” Read more…)

Welcome to Chechnya (human rights, LGBTQ rights, Russia. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacrific: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Documenting a secretive and ongoing human rights atrocity, David France’s ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ spotlights a network of courageous activists who smuggle L.G.B.T.Q. individuals out of Russia’s Chechnya region during what is widely viewed as an anti-gay purge. Tales of entrapment, abduction and torture unfold as evacuees settle briefly into a secret shelter before being spirited to Canada or ‘somewhere in Eurasia’ to await the result of asylum applications.” Read more…)

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (documentary, race, cinema history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Jason Bailey in the New York Times: “Those who are fascinated by horror but don’t have the stomach (or nerves) for a full-scale feature might enjoy this thoughtful survey of scary movies, as seen through the lens of African-American creation and representation. The director Xavier Burgin assembles a cornucopia of entertaining clips and a deep bench of horror critics, historians, actors and filmmakers to walk through this history.” Read more…)

New releases 2/2/21

Top Hits
Synchronic (thriller/sci-fi, Anthony Mackie. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “There’s brainy sci-fi, and then there’s very brainy sci-fi. It’s rare that very brainy sci-fi packs a genuinely emotional, or even just sensationalistic, wallop. But the filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead [of 2017’s ‘The Endless’] are working up an impressive batting average in this department. Their new movie, ‘Synchronic,’ is inspired, at least to some extent, by the wreckage wreaked by designer drugs of dubious legality.” Read more…)

Let Him Go (drama/thriller, Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. from Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “A high point of the mostly meh 2013 Superman movie ‘Man of Steel’ was the presence of Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the title character’s earth parents. These stars showed a mature chemistry that one would have wanted to experience in a mature motion picture. As it turns out, Costner and the screenwriter-director of ‘Let Him Go,’ Thomas Bezucha [adapting a novel by Larry Watson], seem to have thought similarly. In this drama set in the 1960s, Lane and Costner [one of the movie’s executive producers] play Margaret and George Blackledge. George is a former sheriff, now a horse farmer — although we learn that Margaret is the real rider.” Read more…)

I’m Not Here (Drama, J.K. Simmons. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 45. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘I’m Not Her’” makes reference to Schrödinger’s cat, which was simultaneously alive and not alive until observed. Watching ‘I’m Not Here” doesn’t bring it to life as a movie, any more than the screenplay’s allusions to quantum entanglement add novelty to its fragmentary structure or its hollow insights about regret.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (music, concert, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and cine-revelers of every type, to the mesmerizing motion picture and humbly titled extravaganza, ‘Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.’ Thrill to Dylan, a troubadour with a white-smeared face and a peacock feather in his wide-brimmed hat, as he electrifies and sometimes confuses audiences with his melodious musings. Rejoice as Joan Baez sings and laughs and testifies about her old pal Bob. Gasp as Joni Mitchell warbles and strums her song ‘Coyote’ in Gordon Lightfoot’s pad as Dylan plays along.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Series 11 (British Agatha Christie mystery series, David Suchet)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Veronica Lake. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1942 New York Times review: “Preston Sturges need make no excuses for the dominance of comedy on the screen, since he has done more than any one over the last two years to give brightness and bounce and authority to this general type of fare. But apparently he thinks it time that some one break a lance in the muse’s defense—and maybe he also is anxious to quiet a still, small voice within himself. For his latest film, ‘Sullivan’s Travels,’ which rolled into the Paramount yesterday, is a beautifully trenchant satire upon ‘social significance’ in pictures, a stinging slap at those fellows who howl for realism on the screen and a deftly sardonic apologia for Hollywood make-believe.” Read more…)

I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951, drama/romance, Susan Hayward. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Stories about such chameleon-like characters as [actress Susan] Hayward plays in ‘I Can Get It for You Wholesale’ are difficult to put over with complete success and that is why this film falters as a character study, though Miss Hayward does nobly. She gets able assistance from Sam Jaffe as her other partner and George Sanders comes through as a heel with a heart of gold as the fashionable merchant prince.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Horror of Party Beach (1964, horror/musical/camp, John Lyon. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. From Eugene Archer’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The question in ‘The Horror of Party Beach’ is, Which is more horrible—the monsters or the rock ‘n’ roll? Or, for that matter, is the terror twist of this incredibly foolish quickie more offensive than its companion-piece at the Paramount, a little epic called ‘The Curse of the Living Corpse’? One man, Del Tenney, is responsible for both 20th Century-Fox movies. The most to be said for him is that he has not stinted on the gore.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
An Honest Liar: Truth and Deception in the Life of James “The Amazing” Randi (bio, magician, paranormal skeptic. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Magicians are the most honest people in the world,’ the illusionist James Randi says at the beginning of ‘An Honest Liar.’ ‘They tell you they’re gonna fool you, and then they do it.’ Documenting a lifetime spent gulling audiences and pursuing con men, the directors Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom have produced a jaunty, jovial portrait with a surprising sting in its tail.” Read more…)

White Riot (music, racism, anti-racism, British cultural history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Since rock is no longer the dominant form of popular music, it’s hard to say how much good reviving the story of the British-born organization Rock Against Racism could do. But one of the many things that ‘White Riot,’ a documentary about RAR directed by Rubika Shah, brings home is that the world could still use more somethings against racism.” Read more…)

Belushi (bio, show business, John Belushi. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “John Belushi’s entrances onstage raise a grin with the promise of unruly energy. But his early exit from life after a drug overdose in 1982 left a legend that tends to seal his tomb. So it’s touching to learn something new from ‘Belushi,’ R.J. Cutler’s warmly told documentary: the man who once impersonated a zit also wrote soul-baring [and sometimes adorable] love letters.” Read more…)

Nationtime (race, American history, Jesse Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77.)
Ken Burns: Here & There (bio, cinema history, filmmaking process)

New releases 1/26/21

Top Hits
Come Play (horror, Azhy Robertson. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 56. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The Babadook goes paperless in ‘Come Play,’ a thriller in which a spindly creature from another realm torments a child and his family through phone screens and tablets. The monster’s name is Larry, and his deal, we learn from a nursery rhyme in a spontaneously manifesting e-book, is that he wants a friend. He has selected Oliver [Azhy Robertson, from ‘Marriage Story’], a boy with autism who does not speak — he uses a phone app to vocalize — and who, like Larry, is lonely.” Read more…)

Monsoon (drama, Henry Golding. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “This is a thoroughly personal film, in ways that don’t always translate. Driven more by mood than plot, the movie spends a great deal of time absorbing the sights and sounds of the former Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City] and, later, Hanoi. But the ambience doesn’t register with full force, or do the heavy lifting entrusted to it.” Read more…)

Fatman (dark Christmas comedy, Mel Gibson. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 40. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Hoping to deliver a Yuletide story for our dark, divided times, the directors and brothers Ian Nelms & Eshom Nelms came up with ‘Fatman,’ a soot-black comedy with a heaping side of social commentary.” Read more…)

The Cleansing Hour (horror, Ryan Guzman. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Adam Vaughn’s Film Festival Today review: “The most unfortunate obstacle in the way of director Damien LeVeck [‘Dark, Deadly, and Dreadful’] is the overused and worn subgenre of supernatural/possession films, particularly when said subgenre is currently at max capacity in our pop culture. That being said, ‘The Cleansing Hour’ gives the possession genre a fresh new angle and incorporates a modern, social-media driven aesthetic.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Synchronic (thriller/sci-fi, Anthony Mackie. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “There’s brainy sci-fi, and then there’s very brainy sci-fi. It’s rare that very brainy sci-fi packs a genuinely emotional, or even just sensationalistic, wallop. But the filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead [of 2017’s ‘The Endless’] are working up an impressive batting average in this department. Their new movie, ‘Synchronic,’ is inspired, at least to some extent, by the wreckage wreaked by designer drugs of dubious legality.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
That Man From Rio/Up to His Ears (France, comedy, 1964/1965, Jean-Paul Belmondo. Rotten Tomatoes (That Man from Rio): 92%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review of “That Man from Rio” [requires log-in]: “Call it a comedy thriller or a tongue-in-cheek travesty on all the archeological mystery-adventure movies and all the ‘chase’ films that have ever been made. Virtually every complication, every crisis involving imminent peril, that has ever been pulled in the movies, especially the old silent ones, is pulled in this. And they are pulled in such rapid continuity and so expansively played, with such elan and against such brilliant backgrounds, that they take your breath away.” Read more…

From Robert Alden’s 1966 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Philippe de Broca, a man who all but single-handedly has been restoring fun to the movies, is back in town again with a dandy. His latest effort, a French film called ‘Up to His Ears,’ landed at the Paris Theater yesterday. It is a wild one, a funny one, a motion picture that the aficionado of slap-stick will be talking about for years to come. Would that the whole trouble-filled world were one larger-than-life De Broca movie.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
In Name Only (1939, drama/romance, Carole Lombard. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From an unsigned 1939 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The story, while obvious, is thoroughly convincing, thanks to the ‘natural’ attack which John Cromwell has taken upon it and to some delightfully pleasing dialogue. Mr. Grant is in top form as the done-wrong-by husband who—unlike the husband in Bessie Bruer’s original novel—is a thorough gentleman, a surpassing wit and a charming fellow withal. Miss Lombard plays her poignant role with all the fragile intensity and contained passion that have lifted her to dramatic eminence. Kay Francis, on the other side of the fence this time, is a model cat, suave, superior and relentless. And a generally excellent cast contribute in making this one of the most adult and enjoyable pictures of the season.” Read more…)

Address Unknown (1944, drama, Paul Lukas. From T.M.P.’s 1944 New York Times review: “To reveal the new climax would be unpardonable, but take it from one who read the book that the film ends with a bang—a bang which had the audience bolt upright in their seats yesterday afternoon. ‘Address Unknown’ is not just another anti-Nazi picture. It is an absorbing study of a man being driven crazy through fear, and the central character is played with dynamic forcefulness by Paul Lukas.” Read more…)

Swing High, Swing Low (1937, musical/comedy, Fred MacMurray. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1937 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray skip through the formular devices of ‘Swing High, Swing Low’ [nee ‘Burlesque’] with their usual ease at the Paramount, raising a routine story to a routine-plus picture. The plus is extremely small, sometimes being almost invisible.” Read more…)

Tom, Dick & Harry (comedy/romance, Ginger Rogers. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review: “The Cinderella complex hasn’t been recognized in the psychology books yet, but four out of five young ladies are pleasantly afflicted with it, we suspect. And it is of these day-dreaming maidens, of one especially who thinks in wildly romantic terms, that Director Garson Kanin and Writer Paul Jarrico are telling with much humor and charm in RKO’s ‘Tom, Dick and Harry,’ which was wafted airily into the Music Hall yesterday. Of all the Hollywood bubbles which have been blown this way of late, here, we are happy to report, is one which doesn’t go poof in your face.” Read more…)

New TV
Snowpiercer: Season 1 (sci-fi based on 2013 movie, Jennifer Connelly. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 55. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “It took seven years, and some stops and starts, for the 2013 South Korean film ‘Snowpiercer’ to get remade as an American television series. It was just long enough for the film’s director, Bong Joon Ho, to give the show a publicity boost by winning multiple Oscars this year for ‘Parasite,’ his latest violent allegory about the haves and have-nots. There was never any question, though, that the series [premiering Sunday on TNT] would have the brutal, bloody single-mindedness of Bong’s ‘Snowpiercer’ ironed out of it for commercial TV.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Changin’ Times of Ike White (music, bio, Ike White. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank Scheck’s Hollywood Reporter review: “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The description comes from Winston Churchill about Russia, but it could just as easily be applied to the subject of Daniel Vernon’s documentary about musician Ike White. If you haven’t heard of White, you’re not alone. An accomplished singer, composer and guitarist, he released only one album, 1976’s ‘Changin’ Times,’ which received critical acclaim but quickly lapsed into obscurity. But his music, as good as it is [you can hear the album in its entirety on YouTube] pales in comparison to his story, unearthed in this endlessly fascinating film.” Read more…)

The Ventures: Stars on Guitars (music documentary, rock ’n’ roll history, surf music)

New releases 1/19/21

Top Hits
Dreamland (crime drama set in 1930s, Margot Robbie. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 57. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The myth of Bonnie and Clyde dies hard, especially because of Arthur Penn’s romanticized crime film, which hit screens with a splatter in 1967. That movie’s special mix of Hollywood chic and frenzied violence rekindled the legend and kept it smoldering. Americans love their outlaws and really love them running wild, partly because the world’s most powerful country clings to its foundational us-versus-them identity. The hollow genre exercise ‘Dreamland’ is the latest to take its lead from America’s favorite bandit couple, even as it tries to chart its own course.” Read more…)

Wander (thriller, Aaron Eckhart. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 54. From Glenn Kenny’s RogerEbert.com review: “‘Wander’ does pick up when we meet Arthur and Jimmy. Not just because they’re played by Aaron Eckhart and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. Also because their roles are unusual: They’re the hosts of a podcast investigating conspiracy theories, broadcasting from near their RVs in the remotest of locales, the better to avoid detection.” Read more…)

The Climb (comedy, Michael Angelo Covino. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The comedy of male immaturity reached its peak a little more than a decade ago, when ‘Step Brothers’ brought the genre to obnoxious perfection. ‘The Climb’ takes what seems to be a more elevated — more grown-up — consideration of some of the same themes. It’s about two best friends from childhood struggling with some of the challenges of heterosexual adult life, principally women.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Martin Eden (adventure/adaptation of Jack London novel, Luca Marinelli. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The entirety of the 20th century — its promises, illusions and traumas — sweeps through the audacious and thrilling ‘Martin Eden.’ An ingenious adaptation of the Jack London novel, the film follows its title character, a humble young man as he embarks on a program of self-improvement. Like a hero out of Horatio Alger, Martin strives to change and to advance. A voracious autodidact, he succeeds. But his rags-to-rich path with its hard work, perseverance and bourgeois education, proves far more complicated and finally more shattering than most upward-mobility fairy tales.” Read more…)

A Special Day (Italy, 1977, drama, Criterion Collection, Marcello Mastroianni. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1977 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In Ettore Scola’s funny, humane ‘A Special Day’—an acting tour de force for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni—Antonietta and Gabriele are never really a couple, but their brief encounter lights up the screen with the kind of radiance you get only from great movie actors who also are great stars. ‘A Special Day,’ which opened yesterday at the Beekman Theater, takes place on the day of Hitler’s 1938 state visit to Rome, where he was given a gigantic, hysterically enthusiastic reception by Mussolini, the King, the diplomatic corps, leading Italian industrialists [whose names are still familiar] and 90 percent of the city’s population and a military parade that lasted almost as long as Mussolini’s campaign in Ethiopia.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Sudden Fear (1952, film noir, Joan Crawford. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From A.W.’s 1952 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since she is an actress who is sturdy enough to bear the weight of an unsensational yarn, Joan Crawford should be credited with a truly professional performance in ‘Sudden Fear,’ which came to Loew’s State yesterday. In this romantic suspense story, Miss Crawford, playing a rich, successful playwright, who gives her heart and hand to the wrong actor, does notably well in an exercise which involves practically all the emotions.” Read more…)

New TV
Westworld: Series 3 (sci-fi series based on Michael Crichton novel, Evan Rachel Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64.)

New Documentaries
Born To Be (transgender issues, LGBTQ. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “In 2016, Mount Sinai Hospital opened its Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in Manhattan. The documentary ‘Born to Be,’ directed by Tania Cypriano, follows the work of one of that center’s pioneering surgeons, Dr. Jess Ting.” Read more…)

Driving While Black: Race, Space And Mobility In America (race issues, American history, civil rights. Metacritic: 92. From Brian Lowry’s XNN review: “‘Driving While Black’ has a specific modern meaning. “Driving While Black: Space, Race and Mobility in America” turns out to be an extremely rich and detailed PBS documentary, exploring the long history of restrictions on Black movement, from slavery through the present. As part of that journey, the two-hour film addresses not only modern-day issues of policing but deeper ones about the American Dream denied.” Read more…)

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.