New releases 4/13/21

Top Hits
Willy’s Wonderland (horror/action, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 44. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “If Rob Zombie made a slasher movie that was also an ‘attack of the killer Muppets’ movie, it might look like ‘Willy’s Wonderland.’ Directed by Kevin Lewis, from a script by G.O. Parsons, this defiantly out-of-the-box and in some ways rather cunning grunge horror film, set from dusk till dawn inside a run-down family fun center, is a tongue-in-cheek thriller that knows how preposterous it is.” Read more…)

I Blame Society (comedy, Gillian Wallace Horvat. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 66. From Liz Whittemore’s Reel News Daily review: “There is no female equivalent for the phrase ‘Balls.’ What would that even look like? Lippy? ‘I Blame Society’ is extra lippy. Starring as a version of herself, filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat says all the quiet parts out loud. Then she acts on them just to make a point. And goddamnit, virtual high five from me. This script is unapologetic, bold, and genuinely hilarious.” Read more…)

Rams (comedy remake of Icelandic movie, Sam Neill. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The rough, dirty life of Australian sheep farmers would seem an unlikely topic to yield much in the way of cinematic lyricism. Especially in a narrative involving sheep actually dying of a devastating disease. Nevertheless, ‘Rams,’ rooted in a 2016 Icelandic movie of the same name, has its pastoral moments [mostly in its breathtaking views of Western Australian landscapes], not to mention raucous comedy.” Read more…)

New Foreign
My Little Sister (Germany/Switzerland, drama, Nina Hoss. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘My Little Sister,’ a tender domestic drama from the Swiss writers and directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, faces terminal illness with a refreshing emotional candor. Lisa [Nina Hoss], a gifted Berlin playwright, stopped writing on the day that her beloved twin brother, Sven [Lars Eidinger], a celebrated theater actor, received his leukemia diagnosis. Since then, she’s been living in artistic limbo in Switzerland, where her husband [Jens Albinus] teaches at a prestigious boarding school. But the demands of Sven’s illness, and Lisa’s inability to accept his decline, only tug her closer to her brother and further from her fracturing marriage.” Read more…)

Fire Will Come (Spain, drama, Amador Arias. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The opening shots of this new film from the French-born Spanish director Oliver Laxe constitute a kind of declaration of aesthetic principles. Deep in a dark forest, the cinematographer Mauro Herce’s camera descends from a height, then glides ahead, slowly. In unobtrusive cuts, the frame reveals more detail, accentuating the bareness of the trees. The images evoke curiosity and awe without being pompous about it. And soon we see a bulldozer, piling into the wood.” Read more…)

Women Without Men (Iran, drama, Orsi Toth. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 68. From Stephen Holden’s 2010 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Every frame of ‘Women Without Men’ and every image within those frames attest to the background of its first-time director, Shirin Neshat, as a photographer celebrated for her explorations of Islamic gender issues. This visually transfixing film, which originated as a video installation, has the feel of an exhibition of Ms. Neshat’s work whose figures have stirred to life to play out a tragic feminist allegory. With its intense chiaroscuro and meticulous manipulation of color that ranges from stark black and white to richer, shifting hues in scenes set in a metaphorical orchard, the film surpasses even Michael Haneke’s ‘White Ribbon’ in the fierce beauty and precision of its cinematography [by Martin Gschlacht].” Read more…)

The Mole Agent (Chile, documentary/drama on elder abuse. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The movie’s straddling of the dramatic and the documentary forms is unsettling. Unless you unquestioningly accept its method, this chronicle can look like a glaring invasion of privacy. But the film’s people are moving, and the payoff is compassionate, humane and worth heeding.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Captive Heart (1946, war drama, Michael Redgrave. From A.W.’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The English film makers take a good look at what happened to their prisoners of war in Germany during the late conflict. That examination is unbiased and compassionate to both captive and captor, and despite a somewhat complex story line, which snags the action, this topical and discerning drama emerges as one of the season’s finest importations.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Farmer’s Daughter (1947, comedy/romance, Loretta Young. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a thoroughly pure and pristine examination of the vagaries of romance, mixed in with some healthy observations upon the chicane of politics. And it is also a cheerful comedy-drama of the sort that the movies handle well when they get on the subject of American character without too much sugar in their spoon.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
September 30, 1955 (1978, drama, Richard Thomas. From Vincent Canby’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “We seem to be in the grip of a whole new batch of movies that are as much meditations on the meaning of various aspects of American popular culture as they are demonstrations of that culture—‘Saturday Night Fever,’ ‘American Hot Wax,’ ‘Handle With Care’ now James Bridges’s funny, solemn, dead-on-accurate ‘September 30, 1955.’ The film, which opens today at the Cinema II, is all about the sturm und drang precipitated on that day, nearly 23 years ago, in one small Arkansas college town when word is received that James Dean has been killed in a car crash in California.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (bio, brain science, writing, Oliver Sacks. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The neurologist and author recounts anguish, alienation and drug addiction in the book ‘On The Move,’ which this documentary, directed by Ric Burns, shows Sacks seeing to publication in the months before his death. A deftly edited mix of archival footage, still imagery, talking-head interviews and in-the-moment narrative, ‘His Own Life’ — which in a perfect world would be a companion piece to Sacks’s book, not the substitute some might make it — illuminates details of what can only be called an extraordinary existence.“ Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Urgh! A Music War (1981, concert video, The Police, Devo, Joan Jett, more. From Robert Palmer’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Urgh! A Music War’ consists of 25 songs or song fragments performed by 24 bands. The opening and closing songs are played by The Police, the most commercially successful group involved. Apparently, the idea behind the format was that the film be ‘democratic’ and reflect the anti-elitist sentiments of the movement it documents. But few rock groups can communicate much of what they stand for or are capable of in one song.” Read more…)

New releases 4/6/21

Top Hits
Baby Done (New Zealand, comedy, Rose Matafeo. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 64. From Luke Buckmaster’s Guardian review: “{actress Rose] Matafeo’s wonderful, compulsively affable performance is core to the film’s irresistible good naturedness: its spirit, pluck, bounce. You want to be her friend, and in a strange way you feel like you are her friend. She leans into you, invites you into her world, doing so in a way that seems almost able to read the audience’s responses in real time – like a chatty seatmate on a plane, who can judge the mood and is somebody you actually want to talk to.” Read more…)

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (comedy, Kristen Wiig. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “With their 2011 hit movie, ‘Bridesmaids,’ the co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo accomplished a rare feat by weaving together a thoughtful portrait of female friendship and a bona fide gross-out comedy. Their long-awaited follow-up, ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,’ takes the duo’s gal pal humor in a new direction, muting the raunch and tossing out the emotional truths for a zanier, spoof-ier adventure complete with random musical numbers, an evil underground lair and a talking crab.” Read more…)

Shadow In the Cloud (horror/action, Chloë Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 66. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “The twists come rapidly in the movie’s first half; in the second, the narrative dissolves into a zigzag of flying bodies and explosions that bend the laws of space-time. But the implausibility of it all is a perk: There’s never a moment in this rollicking film when you can tell what’s coming next.” Read more…)

Antigone (Canada, liberal adaptation of Sophocles drama, Nahéma Ricci. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. From Jessica Kiang’s Variety review: “The very idea of a modern reworking of a classical text itself gets a modern reworking in Sophie Deraspe’s supple and impassioned ‘Antigone,’ a contemporary spin on the Greek tragedy that feels refreshingly liberated by the spirit of Sophocles’ original material, rather than slavishly devoted to its letter. Further electrified by a performance of immense self-possession and dignity from revelatory new star Nahéma Ricci, the clever screenplay [the film is also written and crisply shot by Deraspe] injects these ancient archetypes directly into the bloodstream of the modern-day immigration debate.” Read more…)

Earwig and The Witch (Studio Ghibli animated feature, Richard E. Grant [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 34%. Metacritic: 45. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “A strong-willed young heroine, a witch, a talking cat, cute magical minions: ‘Earwig and the Witch’ has many of the familiar qualities of a Studio Ghibli film. And yet Ghibli’s latest, directed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of the famed animator Hayao Miyazaki, uses ingredients from the tried-and-true Ghibli recipe while serving a film that lacks the heart the studio has always brought to its best.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Audition (Japan, 1999, horror/cult, Ryo Ishibashi. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Elvis Mitchell’s 2001 Times review [requires log-in]: “The Japanese psychological horror film ‘Audition’ has been responsible for throngs of shaken filmgoers staggering out of theaters for the last year or so; it’s ‘Fatal Attraction’ with a sense of morality instead of a need to pander—specifically, the movie’s theme is the objectification of women in Japanese society and the mirror-image horror of retribution it could create. Patronizing audiences may be a sure way to make money, but the resulting pictures are like writing on sand; ‘Audition,’ now at the Film Forum, has no such impermanence.” Read more…)

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar

New Foreign
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Hungary, drama, Natasa Stork. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beatrice Loayza’s Times review: “‘Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time,’ the second feature by the Hungarian writer-director Lili Horvat, considers the slippery relationship between consciousness and desire with a poignant hypothetical: what if you fall so hard for someone that you convince yourself they love you back? At the shattering of such an illusion is where we meet Marta [Natasa Stork], an accomplished, 40-year-old neurosurgeon who hastily leaves behind her life and career in the U.S. to reunite with the man she loves. Yet when she arrives at their agreed-upon meeting point — the Pest end of Budapest’s Liberty Bridge — Janos [Viktor Bodo] is nowhere to be found.” Read more…)

Acasă, My Home (Romania, documentary, social change & its discontents. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The film is not static. It’s dialectical — constructing its narrative as an argument between two opposed positions, neither of which is fully embraced. There is a nobility to Niculina and Gica as they try to resist the power of a state convinced of its own benevolence. And the actions of the state are not entirely unreasonable. It’s not as simple as taking the side of individualism against government, or for that matter of being in favor of parks, schools and a decent social order. That’s all fairly abstract, but ‘Acasă’ is full of ideas because it contains so much life.” Read more…)

A Snake of June (Japan, 2005, mystery/suspense, Asuka Kurosawa. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. From Donald Richie’s New York Times review: “The director of the cult-favorite Tetsuo’ films, Shinya Tsukamoto has now gotten himself a larger budget, wider distribution and a special jury award at Venice. He has retained in this tale of a lady stalked and her revenge much of the little-boy nastiness that made his earlier pictures such adolescent favorites.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Secrets & Lies (1996, drama dir. by Mike Leigh, Criterion Collection, Brenda Blethyn. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Janet Maslin’s Times review [requires log-in]: “The secrets that bring such immediacy to Mike Leigh’s tender and wrenching new film are not confined to the screen. Mr. Leigh, celebrated for his patient, Olympian methods with actors, deliberately keeps those players in the dark as a way of capturing an essential inner light. That light shines radiantly through the revelations of ‘Secrets and Lies,’ which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival and will now establish this once insular English film maker on a much broader commercial footing.” Read more…)

The South Westerlies (drama, Orla Brady. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Joel Keller’s Decider review: “Created and written by Catherine Maher, ‘The South Westerlies’ is one of those shows that’s light and fun to watch, and is fully dependent on the characters that populate the town depicted on the show. From the first moments Kate and Conor roll into Carigeen, you know that this quaint town in West Cork isn’t going to be boring by any means.” Read more…)

Mystery Road (Australia, 2013, crime/mystery that has since been followed up by a TV series, Aaron Pedersen. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Eddie Cockrell’s Variety review: “Writer-director-lenser-editor-composer Ivan Sen’s ‘Mystery Road’ is an impressively crafted, immensely satisfying contempo thriller that astutely grafts Western and film-noir elements onto the hot-button issue of tensions between indigenous and European Australians.” Read more…)

Van der Valk (mystery series set in Amsterdam, Marc Warren. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 70.)

The Good Karma Hospital Season 2 (drama series, Amanda Redman)

New TV
The Comey Rule (HBO docu-drama, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 58. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “In his book ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ [former FBI Director James Comey] appears to see his decisions, which very possibly swung the 2016 election and failed to keep the president from interfering in investigations, as noble if tragic acts of principle. As translated by the director and screenwriter Billy Ray, this is instead a slo-mo horror story, in which the worst lack all inhibition while the best are full of fatuous integrity.” Read more…)

Scarlett (1994, TV mini-series, Joanne Whalley. From John J. O’Connor’s 1994 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With ‘Scarlett,’ it’s not a question of disappointment. [Author Alexandra] Ripley’s [‘Gone With the Wind’] sequel was almost universally loathed by book critics. With expectations for the mini-series starting from that unpromising level, viewers may instead be at least mildly surprised to find the $45 million production isn’t all that bad, after all.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Odd Man Out (1947, suspense, Criterion Collection, James Mason. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The creative combination of James Mason, popular British star, and Carol Reed, the brilliant director of such films as ‘Night Train’ and ‘The Stars Look Down,’ is sure to attract wide attention to the new British picture, ‘Odd Man Out,’ which had its American première at Loew’s Criterion yesterday. And the further fact that it is fashioned from a novel by F. L. Green which is current catnip for thriller readers will not hurt the film’s draw one bit—all of which is peculiarly propitious, for ‘Odd Man Out’ is a picture to see, to absorb in the darkness of the theatre and then go home and talk about.” Read more…)

New releases 3/30/21

Top Hits
Wonder Woman 1984 (superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The first movie is set largely during World War I, which set a lofty bar for the scope and the import of future adventures. The sequel’s title, ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ suggests that some juicy Orwellian intrigues are in the offing. Will Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince [Gal Gadot], hijack a Soviet cruise missile, toss jelly beans at Ronald Reagan? As it turns out, the year mostly proves an excuse to pile on side ponytails, fanny packs and nostalgic nods to the kind of Hollywood blowouts that feature cartoonish violence and hard-bodied macho types. What is Wonder Woman doing in these campy, recycled digs? Who knows?” Read more…)

Our Friend (drama/comedy, Jason Segel. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. With a dissenting opinion in the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis writes: “As with any bad movie emerging from someone’s real-life tragedy, ‘Our Friend’ is almost more painful to critique than to watch. Based on Matthew Teague’s raw 2015 article detailing the decline of his wife, Nicole, from ovarian cancer, this drippy drama presents precisely the kind of prettified portrait of death that Teague’s candid writing sought to rebut.” Read more…)

Rams (comedy remake of Icelandic movie, Sam Neill. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The rough, dirty life of Australian sheep farmers would seem an unlikely topic to yield much in the way of cinematic lyricism. Especially in a narrative involving sheep actually dying of a devastating disease. Nevertheless, ‘Rams,’ rooted in a 2016 Icelandic movie of the same name, has its pastoral moments [mostly in its breathtaking views of Western Australian landscapes], not to mention raucous comedy.” Read more…)

The Little Stranger (horror, Domhnall Gleeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The twisting and cracking of the British class system is always fascinating to observe, and ‘The Little Stranger’ traces the details of its chosen moment of social change with precision and subtlety, and with its own layers of somewhat dubious nostalgia. Since it’s also a horror movie, subtlety can go only go so far, and the past becomes a trunk mined for spooky costumes and effects. There are a few jump scares and shocking images, but [director Lenny] Abrahamson lets the dread build slowly, nudged along by Stephen Rennicks’s mournful, eerie score and Ole Bratt Birkeland’s brown-shadowed cinematography.” Read more…)

The Turning (horror, Finn Wolfhard. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 35. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Credit to the makers of ‘The Turning’ for putting an excuse up front for any anachronisms instead of going to ludicrous lengths to modernize Henry James’s 1898 novella ‘The Turn of the Screw,’ which in this loose riff, courtesy of the veteran music video director Floria Sigismondi, has been updated to 1994. [When Kate is introduced, Kurt Cobain’s death is in the news.]” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Wonder Woman 1984

New Foreign
The Woman Who Left (Philippines, drama, Charo Santos-Cancio. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The world of ‘The Woman Who Left,’ the new film by Lav Diaz, is saturated with violence. There are killings, rapes and beatings, episodes of revenge and casual cruelty, and the subtle but no less brutal operations of poverty, corruption and social injustice. But though we occasionally witness the immediate aftereffect of these acts, we virtually never see the acts themselves. In a departure from the usual cinematic practice that amounts to a critique of prevailing assumptions about the power of visual representation, Mr. Diaz insists that words can carry meaning more effectively than pictures.” Read more…)

Another Round (Denmark, drama/comedy, Mads Mikkelsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “If you’re familiar with [Danish director Thomas Vinterbeg’s] films, you might expect something dark and satirical — like ‘The Celebration’ or ‘The Hunt,’ which wryly expose the nasty undercurrents of bourgeois existence. Middle-class lives do come unspooling in ‘Another Round,’ but this odd little film turns out to be neither farce nor moralistic provocation. It’s a sweet, strangely modest tragicomedy about the pleasures of (mostly banal) excess.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Town Like Alice (1956, World War II-era drama, Peter Finch. From A.H. Weiler’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “British film-makers, who apparently do not intend to overlook any aspect of World War II, provide a realistically grim, if not always moving illustration of the effects of conflict on a group of women and children in Malaya in ‘A Town Like Alice,’ which came to the Sutton yesterday. Although the murderous trek of these pitiable wanderers, separated from their menfolk by the Japanese invaders, is unfolded in almost documentary detail, only a few of them emerge clearly and whole. Their courage and fortitude have the awesome look of truth, but their terrible adventure is only fitfully striking and dramatic.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Interrupted Melody (1955, musical, Glenn Ford. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With the subject of poliomyelitis very much in the news these days and with the public thus extra-mindful of the prevalence and the terrors of the disease, the Music Hall has a timely picture, as well as a tender and moving one, in M-G-M’s ‘Interrupted Melody.’ It opened there yesterday.For this beautifully made color picture, which is part opera-film, part romance and part inspirational drama, is based on the life of Marjorie Lawrence, the Australian-born opera singer who suffered and overcame polio. And in telling her extraordinary story with candor, simplicity and taste, the studio has got a stirring drama, plus a handsome and melodious one.” Read more…)

A Yank at Oxford (1938, comedy, Robert Taylor. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1938 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Made in England by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to protect its British franchise (it’s something about the quota, but we won’t go into that), the Capitol’s ‘A Yank at Oxford’ turns out to be an uncommonly diverting show. It can’t be the story, for we’ve read the one about the old college spirit before. And it can’t be Robert Taylor, for we still regard that widow’s peak with a cynicism the feminine contingent rightly defines as envy. And it can’t be the track and crew events our Mr. Taylor of Oxford carries off with such Nebraskan aplomb. It must be the accents, the caps and gown, the cycles and the remarkably credible chaps Metro hired to play dean and tutor, scout and students.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Losing Ground (1982, comedy/drama/independent Black film, Seret Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From A.O. Scott’s 2015 New York Times review: “To watch Kathleen Collins’s ‘Losing Ground’ — a 1982 film making its long-awaited theatrical debut at Lincoln Center on Friday as part of ‘Tell It Like It Is,’ a sprawling survey of black independent film of New York from 1968 to 1986 — is to experience a curious blend of nostalgia and novelty. The clothes the characters wear, how they talk and what they talk about, the grainy texture of the images and the weariness of the world they capture — all of these emerge from a time capsule devoted to an era that doesn’t quite have a name. But partly because those images have remained unseen for so long, and partly because Ms. Collins, who died in 1988, was such a bold and idiosyncratic filmmaker, ‘Losing Ground’ also feels like news, like a bulletin from a vital and as-yet-unexplored dimension of reality.” Read more…)

Die! Die! My Darling (1965, horror/thriller, Tallulah Bankhead. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1965 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The addled lady in question in ‘Die! Die! My Darling!’ is the redoubtable Tallulah Bankhead, who presides over a strange manse and even stranger inmates. Dressed in widow’s weeds and looking like a doleful harridan, she is driven by a religious fervor strong enough to frighten a saint. Seems that she is mourning her son, and when Stefanie Powers, as his former fiancée, arrives from America to pay her respects, Miss B. is goaded into demoniac action.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
A Perfect Planet (nature/science/ecology, David Attenborough. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Sean O’Grady’s Independent review: “If Gaia has a voice, it is Attenborough’s distinctive, much-mimicked, slightly breathless one, and it helps make ‘A Perfect Planet’ a near-perfect program. The cinematography is as awesome in scale and majesty as anything that has gone before, capturing both vast panoramas of tropical atolls and the tiniest wrinkly detail of a giant tortoise’s backside. The theme of the series is clever and novel, each episode analyzing one of the great forces of nature that have created “the only planet in the universe, so far as we know, where there is life” – the sun, weather, oceans and so on.” Read more…)

The Projectionist (cinema history, movies, immigrant story, Nicholas Nicolaou. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 65. From Todd McCarthy’s Hollywood Reporter review: “Plainspoken Greek Cypriot immigrant Nicolas ‘Nick’ Nicolaou, who in recent decades has endeavored to keep art and neighborhood movie theaters alive in various New York City boroughs deep into the multiplex era, may not be the most charismatic of screen figures, but his earnest devotion to film and family in a time of pervasive corporatism lends him a distinct Don Quixote profile that proves endearing. After its Tribeca Film Festival premiere, this labor of love should be embraced wherever the term cinephile means anything.” Read more…)

New releases 3/23/21

Top Hits
Soul (Disney/Pixar animated feature, Jamie Foxx. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Soul’ tries, within the imperatives of branded commercial entertainment, to carve out an identity for itself as something other than a blockbuster or a technologically revolutionary masterpiece. It’s a small, delicate movie that doesn’t hit every note perfectly, but its combination of skill, feeling and inspiration is summed up in the title.” Read more…)

Days of the Bagnold Summer (comedy/coming-of-age, Earl Cave. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Regrettably, this motion picture does not chronicle a book club devoting a season to the works of Enid Bagnold. In fact, no reference is made to the author of ‘The Chalk Garden’ and ‘National Velvet.’ Instead, ‘Days of the Bagnold Summer,’ adapted from the Joff Winterhart graphic novel by the screenwriter Lisa Owens and the director Simon Bird, is a coming-of-age story that aspires to winsomeness and wisdom, but only gets so far.” Read more…)

PG: Psycho Goreman (horror/comedy, Adam Brooks. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Barry Hertz’s Toronto Globe and Mail review: “If you have never flipped through an old issue of Fangoria or eagerly scanned the back covers of the seedier-looking VHS boxes at your local rental house, Pyscho Goreman might be shocking or even unforgivably vulgar (there is one scene involving a cop and his gun that should neatly align both puritanical conservative parents and “defund the police” progressives). But if you happen to be operating on Kostanski’s very particular and peculiar wavelength, the movie is an absolute riot.” Read more…)

News Of the World (Western, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In its bones, ‘News of the World’ is a B western, lean and linear, its spare plot ornamented with efficient set pieces. [Director Paul] Greengrass, one of the most inventive and rigorous action directors currently working — his chapters in the Jason Bourne franchise remain unsurpassed for velocity and spatial coherence — honors the genre tradition rather than trying to reinvent it.” Read more…)

Promising Young Woman (mystery/suspense, Carey Mulligan. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From Jeanne Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A hard candy with a sour center, ‘Promising Young Woman’ turns sociopathy into a style and trauma into a joke. Embodying both, Cassandra [Carey Mulligan], 30, a medical school dropout still living with her concerned parents [Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown], is a weekday barista and a weekend huntress. Her prey is two-legged, but single-minded: men who equate a woman’s inebriation with consent.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Harder They Come (Jamaica, 1972, reggae music/drama, 3-disc Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition, Jimmy Cliff. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 75. From J. Hoberman’s 2019 New York Times Rewind column: “A brash bumpkin from the countryside comes to the city, dreaming of stardom. He cuts a record, gets ripped off, turns to trafficking drugs, is betrayed, and dies a folk hero at the hands of the police as his song becomes an anthem. ‘The Harder They Come’ … is a universal story set in a highly specific milieu. Powered by one of the most infectious scores in the history of cinema, it is also a pop classic — the movie that brought reggae to America and ‘launched a thousand spliffs,’ as the New York Times critic Ben Brantley joked in a 2008 review of a theatrical version in London.” Read more…)

News of the World

New Foreign
Identifying Features (Mexico, drama, Mercedes Hernández. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “Though it is a somber story, the film is enlivened and energized by striking, purposeful images. The writer-director Fernanda Valadez builds depth within her frames by staging action in the background and making liberal use of offscreen sound. Traffic glows from border highways, villains loom from the shadows. There always seems to be movement happening just outside of the characters’ field of vision, events that develop without their understanding.” Read more…)

Pinocchio (Italy, fantasy retelling, Roberto Benigni. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Since this adaptation is directed by Matteo Garrone, who made a striking film of Roberto Saviano’s true-crime book “Gomorrah” in 2009, one might anticipate a ‘Pinocchio’ with one foot in social realism. But when talking animals and fairies get into the mix, some varieties of verisimilitude are necessarily sidelined.” Read more…)

Celine and Julie Go Boating (France, 1974, comedy, Juliet Berto. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review: “The riddles and delusions of Jacques Rivette’s ‘Céline and Julie Go Boating’ are much more accessible than the enigmas of his ‘Out One/ Spectre.’ ‘Céline,’ the later movie, has the dotty logic of dreams, and the characters’ rational solemnity while talking nonsense does succeed in evoking Lewis Carroll.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Des (serial killer mini-series based on real individual, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The natural inclination in dramatizing Nilsen’s story would be to show him in action, however luridly or soberly you chose to play it. The creators of “Des,” Lewis Arnold (who directed) and Luke Neal (who wrote two episodes), avoid that route entirely. They begin with the plumber, and they don’t flash back. The show takes place largely inside police stations, jails and courtrooms, with occasional side trips to collect evidence or conduct interviews.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Hitch-Hiker (1953, film noir dir. by Ida Lupino, Edmond O’Brien. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. From A. Weiler’s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Although Collier Young and Ida Lupino, who wrote the script of their independent production, avoid unnecessary dialogue and preambles to action, it is only a temporary suspense they create. For it is only a matter of time before a viewer settles back merely to await the manner of the law’s triumph. However, Miss Lupino’s brisk direction and the solid portrayals by the three principals overcome, to a large degree, the film’s cops-versus-killer format.” Read more…)

Not Wanted (1949, melodrama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From T.M.P.’s 1949 New York Times review: “The woeful problems of a young unwed mother are being explored with commendable restraint in ‘Not Wanted,’ which arrived on Saturday at the Globe as the first independent film production effort by Ida Lupino and Anson Bond. Unfortunately, in their desire to avoid the trappings of cheap sensationalism, the producers have come up with a picture that is dramatically limp when it is not downright dull.” Read more…)

Never Fear (1949, psychological drama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ appreciation: “Written by [director Ida] Lupino and [Collier] Young, ‘Never Fear’ is a tough-minded, modest, yet memorable film about a profound existential struggle. The arc of its rehabilitation narrative is largely familiar; it was released amid a clutch of movies about disabled veterans like ‘The Men’ [1950], Marlon Brando’s big-screen debut. For inspiration, Lupino drew on a physiotherapist she had known at the real rehab center where the movie was set, the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. She also probably borrowed from her life, having contracted polio when she was 16 and under contract at Paramount.” Read more…)

The Bigamist (1953, Ida Lupino-directed drama, Ida Lupino. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From H.H.T.’s 1953 New York Times review: “Filmakers, Inc., the independent outfit masterminded by Ida Lupino and Collier Young, already has shown a penchant for such somber, unorthodox themes as illegitimacy, rape, maternal ruthlessness and pathological vagrancy, with an estimable batting average. ‘The Bigamist,’ starring Edmond O’Brien, Joan Fontaine and Miss Lupino, who directed, had a paradoxical Yuletide première at the Astor, examining possibly the most ticklish subject, in Filmakers’ best offering, to date.The picture is notable on two counts, primarily for the singular perception and skillful compactness, extending from Mr. Young’s script down to the least significant bit player. It also ascertains, if further proof is necessary, that a low-budget in adult hands can outstrip the most spectacular commercial tonnage.” Read more…)

Hard, Fast, and Beautiful (1951, drama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The wreck an ambitious mother might make of her daughter’s life when she selfishly tries to direct it for her own unacknowledged gain is hotly and luridly hinted in Ida Lupino’s most recently directed film, an item called ‘Hard, Fast and Beautiful,’ which opened at the Astor on Saturday. The mother in this instructive fable is, indeed, a most aggrandizing dame whose hopes for her tennis-playing daughter are obviously selfish from the start.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961, western, Criterion Collection, Marlon Brando. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlon Brando, like young Alexander [Alexander the Great, that is], sighs for more worlds to conquer in the universe of films.Having reached a towering pinnacle of achievement as an actor on stage and screen, he has turned to directing motion pictures, as well as acting in them. And in ‘One Eyed Jacks,’ which opened at the Capitol yesterday, he has directed himself and a fast cast in an extraordinary sort of Western film.” Read more…)

The Game (1997, thriller, Criterion Collection, Michel Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 61. From Janet Maslin’s 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Game’ is the work of David Fincher, the director whose ‘Seven’ gave grisly new cachet to cat-and-mouse manipulation and whose sleeker new film amounts to gambits 8 through 20. And Mr. Fincher, like Michael Douglas in the film’s leading role, does show real finesse in playing to the paranoia of these times. Forget political conspiracy, invading aliens or danger from the insect world: ‘The Game’ puts its yuppie potentate through worse terrors.” Read more…)

New TV
The Undoing (drama mini-series, Nicole Kidman & Hugh Grant. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 64. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “It’s possible, if you tune out the more risible aspects of the story, to enjoy [or bemoan] ‘The Undoing’ for its visual evocation of a crowded, vital, pre-pandemic New York City. In that case the most important person in the production is the brilliant cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle [‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ‘T2 Trainspotting”’], doing an entire TV series for the first time. He captures New York as both dream and nightmare.” Read more…)

The Comey Rule (HBO docu-drama, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 58. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “In his book ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ [former FBI Director James Comey] appears to see his decisions, which very possibly swung the 2016 election and failed to keep the president from interfering in investigations, as noble if tragic acts of principle. As translated by the director and screenwriter Billy Ray, this is instead a slo-mo horror story, in which the worst lack all inhibition while the best are full of fatuous integrity.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (Black history, religion, activism, spirituality, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. From Tambay Obenson’s Indiewire review: “The Black church has been, and continues to be, one of the most influential institutions created by Africans in the Americas. PBS’ two-part documentary series, ‘The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,’ preaches about the role of the church in the post-civil rights era, from the African continent to North America.” Read more…)

How It Feels To Be Free (Black history, entertainment industry, Black women, race, Nina Simone)

New releases 3/16/21

Top Hits
Coming Home Again (drama, Justin Chon. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Director Wayne Wang’s] new picture, ‘Coming Home Again,’ which he wrote with the Korean-American author Chang-rae Lee [adapted from an essay by Lee], harks back to where Wang came from both thematically and cinematically: He achieved prominence with scrappy, low-budget pictures like 1982’s ‘Chan Is Missing.’ But this movie doesn’t feel like a throwback.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973, drama, Magaye Niang. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From Vincent Canby’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Director Djibril Diop] Mambety mixes neo-realism and fantasy to create a mood of unease and aimless longing. The performances are good. Josephine Baker’s jaunty ‘Paris, Paris’ is heard on the sound track, both to evoke the city that Mory and Anta dream of and to call attention to a kind of sophistication forever beyond their ken.” Read more…)

Collective (Romania, documentary/investigative journalism. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There’s no letup in the staggering documentary ‘Collective,’ no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over. The story begins with a tragedy in Romania that consumed the country and toppled the government. The villains and heroes involved — the bureaucrats and doctors, journalists and politicians — seem too much like Hollywood types to be true. But the story and its outrages are real, from the venal pharmaceutical company owner to the whistle-blowers who had all the receipts.” Read more…)

Good Manners (Brazil, 2017, fantasy/musical, Isabél Zuaa. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Wondrously weird and a skosh too long, “Good Manners” is a dark Brazilian fable of animalistic passions and social isolation. Swerving from predictable to confounding, dreamy to demented, artful to awkward, this genre-twisting hybrid from Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra links art house and slaughterhouse with unexpected success. When you drop a werewolf child into a lesbian love affair, you don’t need musical numbers to grasp that you’re watching something unique.” Read more…)

My Sassy Girl (South Korea, 2001, comedy/romance, Tae-Hyun Cha. From Derek Elley’s 2001 Variety review: “Pic could do with considerable tightening by 15-20 minutes, but none of it would even half work without the unlikely pairing of Jeon, who makes her potentially exasperating character likable, and the baby-faced Cha, who implants just enough weirdness in Gyun-wu’s personality to make the attraction between the two believable.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Talking Heads (comedy/monolgoues, Alan Bennett. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Matt Wolf’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “And though filmed for TV as before, ‘Talking Heads’ suggests a further life in the theater. Not only is the work’s scale ideal for social distancing [there’s a lot less to worry about with a cast of one], but many of the previous ‘Talking Heads’ titles later came to London and New York stages in various groupings. Bennett’s writings must look like an even more attractive option nowadays in an industry encouraged by the pandemic to think small.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Charley Varrick (1973, action/drama, Walter Matthau. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Vincent Canby’s 1973 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There is a lot of violence in ‘Charley Varrick’—so much that I’m staggered by its comparatively benign PG rating. Yet its violence is less a disturbing reflection of any recognizable world than an essential part of the choreography of action melodrama in a make‐believe world. The fun in ‘Charley Varrick’ is not sadistic, though there are cruel moments in it, but in watching Charley attempt to outwit both the cops and the Mafia. The casting of Matthau in this key role helps tremendously.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Zappa (music, bio, iconoclasm, Frank Zappa. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Zappa’ foregrounds the laudable and often astonishing aspects of the man’s work and personality. A self-taught musician with a near-maniacal work ethic, over the years he came to regard his efforts in rock ’n’ roll as a day gig, necessary to support his more ambitious composing efforts. Despite his personal aloofness, he continues to inspire the musicians who worked with him; in interviews, the guitarist Steve Vai and the pianist and percussionist Ruth Underwood get very emotional when contemplating his loss.” Read more…)

The Reagans (bio series/politics/history, Ronald & Nancy Reagan. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “‘The Reagans’ is a consistently revisionist enterprise, resting on the premise that Ronald Reagan has been treated far too well by history — that he’s seen today as an exemplary president. That assessment isn’t as widely shared as the series indicates, but Tyrnauer is on firmer ground with his corollary argument that Reagan’s election was the pivot that brought American politics and public life to where they are today. To that end, the series provides a steady succession of parallels between Reagan and Donald J. Trump, none labeled as such but all difficult to miss.” Read more…)

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (music, Irish music, bio, Shane MacGowan. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This ostensible zest and an undeniable love of Irish culture is conveyed in a stew of movie clips, animation, onscreen chats and archival footage — much of it from when [singer-songwriter Shane] MacGowan, now 62, led the Pogues, a band that put a punk stamp on Irish music and hit big with ‘Fairytale of New York,’ a hipster Christmas tune. The director Julien Temple — who has excellent documentaries on the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer and other galvanic musicians under his belt — is very good at this sort of thing.” Read more…)

The Venerable W (dir. by Barbet Schroder, human rights, Myanmar, genocide. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The monk is perhaps the least showy of the subjects of Schroeder’s trilogy. He speaks quietly, although his mouth often twists into an expression of petulant smugness. But in a sense, this is the most terrifying of Schroder’s portraits. [Idi] Amin, as heinous as he was, was one person, as was [Jacques] Vergès. [Anti-Muslim Buddhist monk] Wirathu represents an awful idea, one that cannot be banished, and one he propagates with chilling skill.” Read more…)

One Strange Rock (nature, science, Will Smith [narrator]. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From Kathryn Shattuck’s New York Times preview: “Sure, the allure of the cosmos, in its infinite mystery, is undeniable. But ‘the strangest place in the whole universe might just be right here,’ Will Smith says as the host of “One Strange Rock.” This kaleidoscopic National Geographic series merges heavenly photography from the International Space Station with reminiscences from eight astronauts.” Read more…)

New releases 3/9/21

Top Hits
Scare Me (horror/comedy, Aya Cash. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times article about current horror anthologies: “Some new anthologies take a fresh look at the format. Josh Ruben’s horror-comedy ‘Scare Me’ stars Ruben and Aya Cash as two writers who try to outdo each other telling scary tales one night in a Catskills cabin. There are no films within the film. Instead, each story stays punchy as the actors, sound and score do the work.” Read more…)

Rent-A-Pal (thriller, Wil Wheaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This thriller, the debut feature from Jon Stevenson — who not only wrote, produced and directed it, but was also the editor — does a lot of things well. Or almost well. But finally, not well enough.” Read more…)

Mafia Inc. (Canada, mob saga, Sergio Castellitto. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Mafia Inc’ was officially inspired by a nonfiction book on the Canadian mob. The movie and its characters are fiction, though, and their unofficial inspiration appears to be other mob films. It takes brass to poach on turf decisively owned by ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Goodfellas,’ and the director, Daniel Grou, who goes by Podz, deserves credit for delivering a saga that’s never dull despite hitting overfamiliar beats.” Read more…)

Wild Mountain Thyme (romance, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 45. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This is a ‘who is going to inherit the farm’ story in which that question is abruptly resolved pretty much halfway through. It is also a romantic comedy/drama whose tone ping-pongs from grave to lyrical to absurdist willy-nilly, and hits all those registers at fortissimo volume.” Read more…)

Coherence (2013, sci-fi, Emily Foxler. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Manohla Dargis’ 2014 New York Times review: “It’s a commonplace that speculative fiction speaks to the anxieties percolating in its age. Such seems the case with the likes of “Edge of Tomorrow,” which kinks up its narrative by repeatedly cycling back to the past, suggesting that complex theories about space-time are now so mainstream that they’re the stuff of mass entertainment. The same might be said of the far more modest “Coherence,” although it’s also true that digital tools, which allow directors to shoot fast, cheap and sometimes sloppily, are also helping pry loose linear narrative’s hold on movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Castle Freak (1995, cult horror film recently remade, Jeffrey Combs)

New Foreign
Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness (Iran, drama, Sadaf Asgari. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 69. From Roxana Hadadi’s review: “[Oscar-winning director Asghar] Farhadi’s films are dense with details about Iranian domestic life, the myriad mazes of bureaucratic policy, and how the country’s interpretation of Islamic law impacts its judicial practices, and fellow countryman Massoud Bahkshi works with a similar combination of narrative considerations in ‘Yalda.’ The result is a twisty-turny plot that sometimes feels like a family drama, sometimes like a legal thriller, with Bahkshi delivering a bombshell, allowing the film’s characters time to react to it, and then dropping another secret that is even more shocking than the first.” Read more…)

Tampopo (Japan, 1985, Criterion Collection, comedy, Nobuko Miyamoto. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 Times review [requires log-in]: “’Tampopo’ is buoyantly free in form. It’s as much an essay as it is a narrative – always ready to digress into random gags and comic anecdotes. These may not have much bearing on Tampopo and her noodle education, but they all have to do with food and with the Japanese love of ritual that has made an art of slurping noodles, arranging flowers, drinking tea and committing suicide.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Dunkirk (1958, World War II drama, John Mills. From Bosley Crowther’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Perhaps it is just as well for national feelings that there has been an eighteen-year lag.For this dramatized recapitulation of the general sequence of events by which the battered and broken British Army was miraculously taken out of France is no starry-eyed glorification of a ‘triumphant retreat.’ … Nor does it soften the fact of what was clearly a dismal catastrophe with a sort of eloquent cinematic shorthand that was used to suggest the Dunkirk salvage in the long-ago ‘Mrs. Miniver.’ This is a straight-from-the shoulder, uncompromising account of a retreat that was saved from full disaster only by a miracle of amateur improvisation and national morale.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
American Guerrilla In the Philippines (1950, WW II film dir. by Fritz Lang, Tyrone Power. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But aside from these vagrant illusions, which are the consequence of coincidence, there is meager authority or credibility in ‘American Guerrilla in the Philippines.’ Indeed, the whole picture has been brought off in such a perfunctory and artificial way that it seems more a misfired fiction than a semi-documentary report.” Read more…)

The Patsy (1928, silent comedy, Marion Davies. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1928 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Of all the varied Cinderellas who have from time to time graced the screen, Marion Davies, in an adaptation of Barry Conners’s stage comedy, ‘The Patsy,’ not only holds her own in the matter of vivacity and appearance, but she also elicits more fun than one would suppose could be generated from even a modern conception of the undying rôle. She is ably assisted by the adroit direction of King Vidor, the competent acting of the supporting cast and also by the wit with which Ralph Spence’s titles are fired.” Read more…)

Show People (1928 silent comedy dir. by King Vidor, Marion Davies)
The Olive Thomas Collection: Olive Thomas: Everybody’s Sweetheart & The Flapper (documentary about early silent film star plus 1920 starring role in “The Flapper”)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
In Cold Blood (1967, true crime mystery/suspense, Criterion Collection, Robert Blake. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “THE public hazard in the kind of random violence that is occurring in our communities these days as part of the alarming upsurge of wild, neurotic crime is envisioned in terrifying images in the film Richard Brooks has made from Truman Capote’s celebrated reporting of a Kansas murder case, ‘In Cold Blood.’ This excellent quasi-documentary … sends shivers down the spine while moving the viewer to ponder.” Read more…)

Krush Groove (1985, hip-hop musical, Blair Underwood. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 37. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Unfortunately, the skimpy screenplay by Ralph Farquhar insists upon entangling the performers in the most conventional subplots imaginable. Talent contests, feeble attempts at romance and the travails of a struggling young record company are all enlisted, however briefly, in the effort to drum up backstage activities for the players, who are best watched in performance anyhow. Rap music is infinitely more original than these creaky devices, and it deserves something better. The music itself is more than abundant, sometimes accompanied by concert scenes and sometimes by impromptu clowning.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words (documentary, bio, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Despite what its title may imply, the documentary ‘Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words’ does not recount Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s career through her words alone. But it does put her words front and center, relying on video and audio clips — of an address she gave as a law professor on the Equal Rights Amendment, of her Supreme Court confirmation process, of her arguments before and from the bench — to provide a sweeping view of her ideals.” Read more…)

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion & The Power of Hollywood (film history, feminism, trailblazing female screenwriter, France Marion. From the New York Times 2000 unsigned review: “The documentary deftly uses the Frances Marion story to illuminate how she and other women were able to capitalize on the freewheeling creativity that kept the movie business humming in the early years. It helps that this prolific writer left behind plenty of commentary, which the actress Kathy Bates reads with a strong, bright voice, evoking real feeling for Marion and her vigorous outlook.” Read more…)

Queer Japan (documentary, LBGTQ life, Japan. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75. From Harry Windsor’s Hollywood Reporter review: “A cheerful spirit of open inquiry drives the documentary Queer Japan, in fact, which is tender, impressionistic rather than highly structured, and largely inexplicit — that amusingly candid vox pop notwithstanding. The filmmaker skips between cities, from Tokyo and Osaka to Kyoto and Okinawa, checking in with half a dozen principal subjects over the course of an unhurried 100 minutes. Each represents a different aspect of the hentai life — in the Japanese sense of the word, roughly denoting unconventional sexual desires or practices.” Read more…)

New releases 3/2/21

Top Hits
Monster Hunter (action, Milla Jovovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 44. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Monster Hunter’ — 80 percent monsters, 20 percent hunter — proves definitively that neither gaping wounds nor a gargantuan armored earwig can stop Milla Jovovich. Having accompanied the film’s writer and director, Paul W.S. Anderson, through multiple chapters of his ‘Resident Evil’ franchise, Jovovich is well prepared to class up this latest video game-derived nonsense.” Read more…)

Fatale (thriller, Hilary Swank. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 42. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “While this latter-day noir never builds up the froth of lurid delirium that brings genre pictures into a headier dimension, it’s got enough juice to hold your attention. [Actress Hilary] Swank, who is also one of the movie’s producers, does good work here, keeping Val credible even as she enacts jaw-dropping evils.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Tesnota aka Closeness (Russia, drama, Atrem Cipin. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 53. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This movie, which [director Kantemir] Balagov, a Nalchik native, states in an onscreen text is based on a true story, has a whole lot of ‘slow’ and one very nasty burn. Ilana gets plastered with Zalim and his pals [one of whom says, ‘Jews are good — to make soap from,’ not aware Ilana is Jewish], and the group watches a VHS tape of authentic documentary footage showing the slow torture and murder of a Russian. This is apparently footage Balagov himself saw under similar circumstances as a younger man. Whatever his ostensible point, its inclusion here is a deplorably truculent demonstration of directorial prerogative.” Read more…)

Pop Aye (Thailand, drama/comedy, Thaneth Warakulnukroh. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Like all road movies, ‘Pop Aye’ also journeys into the interior lives of its characters, a trip that is aided and abetted by other travelers who briefly hop on and off: notably, a poetic squatter; a pair of bumbling cops, who bust Thana and [the elephant] Pop Aye for eating thrown-away melon; and a transgender woman who, with grit and dignity, is holding onto a marginal existence. Each adds another detail, a splash of color and real warmth, though I wish there was more about Pop Aye, more attention, more close-ups.” Read more…)

You Go To My Head (Belgium, thriller, Delfine Baford. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “For his first feature, “You Go To My Head,” the Belgian director Dimitri de Clercq decided to see what he could do with just four crew members, two main characters and a single, stunning location. It turned out to be quite a lot.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
O.S.S. (1946, World War II-era espionage, Alan Ladd)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Straight Time (1978, drama, Dustin Hoffman. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 64. From Vincent Canby’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In ‘Straight Time,’ in the person of Dustin Hoffman, he’s a fascinating character, made romantic only to the extent that an actor of such stature invests him with importance that is otherwise denied. Max is strictly small-time. Even though ‘Straight Time,’ which opens today at the Coronet Theater, has been tailored to Max’s dimensions it’s not a small-time movie. Ulu Grosbard, the director, and Alvin Sargent. Edward Bunker and Jeffrey Boam, who wrote the screenplay, have succeeded in making an uncommonly interesting film about a fellow whose significance is entirely negative.” Read more…)

Smooth Talk (1985, drama, Criterion Collection, Laura Dern. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking Joyce Carol Oates’s short story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ Joyce Chopra, the director, and Tom Cole, who wrote the screenplay, have made ‘Smooth Talk’ a remarkably fine film about the muddle of emotions that separates the child from the adult. Though Miss Chopra and Mr. Cole have expanded the story, and supplied information Miss Oates saw fit to leave out, ‘Smooth Talk’ is as spare and lean as the source material.” Read more…)

Man Push Cart (2005, drama, Criterion Collection, Ahmad Razvi. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s 2006 Times review [may require log-in]: “Filmed in less than three weeks, ‘Man Push Cart’ is an exemplary work of independent filmmaking carried out on a shoestring. [Actor Ahmad] Razvi’s convincing performance is a muted portrait of desolation bordering on despair; only once does Ahmad lose his composure and lash out. If this bare-bones production leaves some seams showing, the sparseness mostly complements the film’s vision of a confined existence eked out in the shadows of skyscrapers.” Read more…)

Chop Shop (2007, drama, Criterion Collection, Alejando Polanco. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s 2008 Times review: “Like its prosaic title, or like those homely birds, ‘Chop Shop,’ written by [director Ramin] Bahrani and Bahareh Azimi, dwells mainly in the realm of the literal. Filmed inside shady auto-repair businesses, on bleak overpasses and in vacant lots in the shadow of Shea Stadium, this film, like Mr. Bahrani’s 2006 feature, ‘Man Push Cart,’ is concerned principally with the kind of hard, marginal labor that more comfortable city dwellers rarely notice. But there is nonetheless a lyricism at its heart, an unsentimental, soulful appreciation of the grace that resides in even the meanest struggle for survival.” Read more…)

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 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…)

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
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…)