New releases 9/18/18

Top Hits
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (sci-fi/action, Chris Pratt. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 51. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The posters for ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ promise that “The Park Is Gone.” Perhaps that’s meant to be foreboding, but it mostly sounds like an end to fun. The “Fallen Kingdom” part is also frankly a little obscure. The mistake, however, might be to suppose that these words mean anything at all. Sense is a thing this movie doesn’t have much interest in making.” Read more…)

Fahrenheit 451 (sci-fi/dystopian thrlller, Michael B. Jordan. Rotten Tomatoes: 34%. Metacritic: 47. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “Even if you are not familiar with the Ray Bradbury source novel, ‘Fahrenheit’ makes it quickly, hammeringly clear that it is a cautionary tale. You’ll get that from the urban-noir aesthetic, the school-indoctrination sessions and the fact that Montag’s job as a ‘fireman’ involves not fighting fires but starting them — burning humanity’s last remaining books as well as their digital reproductions, all of which have been outlawed.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

New Foreign DVDs
The Guardians (France, drama, Nathalie Baye. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Guardians,’ unmistakably a war movie, is as quiet as a sigh. We barely hear a shot or a shell, and news of the horror of trench warfare — the story starts in 1915 — reaches us mostly through the words of men who have returned, briefly, from the front. Brothers, husbands, sons, these soldiers show up one at a time, unannounced, to their home in a rustic valley somewhere in France. And then they go away again, sometimes forever.” Read more…)

Summer 1993 (Spain, coming-of-age drama, Laia Artigas. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Summer 1993’ balances delicately on the aftermath of a tragedy, but its tone is far from dismal. Melancholy, yes, and even momentarily wrenching; yet its emotional arc bends insistently from inarticulate sadness to gentle catharsis. Unfolding during a sun-dappled summer in the Catalonian countryside, this autobiographical debut [culled from the childhood memories and family stories of the writer and director, Carla Simón] is light on drama yet dense with unspoken feeling.” Read more…)

I Killed My Mother (Canada, 2009, gay & lesbian/drama, Xavier Dolan. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Rachel Saltz’s Times review: “The bluntly audacious title of the writer-director Xavier Dolan’s debut feature, ‘I Killed My Mother,’ is both a twist on a Freudian joke and a complicated assessment of the hero’s over-cathected relationship with his parent in chief. ‘Deep down I love her,’ the 16-year-old Hubert Minel [Mr. Dolan] says in one of the movie’s confessional black-and-white interludes, ‘but it’s not the love of a son.’ Sorry, Hubert, but it is the love of a son, though, as Mr. Dolan shows, it can look a lot like romance, with all its messy ‘I hate you, I love you, I hate you’s.'” Read more…)

Coming Home (China, drama, Chen Daoming. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 81. Ftom A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Zhang Yimou and Gong Li constitute one of the great director-actress pairings in movie history. In the 1980s and ’90s they worked together on a remarkable run of movies — including ‘Red Sorghum,’ ‘Raise the Red Lantern,’ ‘Shanghai Triad’ and ‘To Live’ — that were central to the resurgence of Chinese cinema and made international stars of both of them. Ms. Gong, noble, fragile and indomitable, was for Mr. Zhang a muse, an alter ego and an emblem of China’s suffering and resilience at important moments in the nation’s history. ‘Coming Home,’ only their second collaboration in the past 20 years, reunites them in an intimate, politically resonant story set in the final years and the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Complete Hal Roach Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly Comedy Collection (1933-36, 21 short comedy films)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Gold (1974, conspiracy thriller, Roger Moore)

New British
The Miniaturist (period thriller, Anya Taylor-Joy. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 69.)

New TV
The Looming Tower (mini-series drama based on book about run-up to 9/11, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 74. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review; “The show didn’t get made only because of the events it covers, now nearly 17 years in the past. It got made because of the book itself: Lawrence Wright’s definitive and mesmerizing ‘The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,’ the best seller and Pulitzer Prize winner published in 2006. Sales and prizes, though, are no guarantee that a book will make it to the screen with its spirit intact. Neither, apparently, is the involvement of the author.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Nana (biography, Holocaust history. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%.)

New Gay & Lesbian
I Killed My Mother (Canada, gay & lesbian/drama, Xavier Dolan. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 71.)

New releases 9/11/18

Top Hits
Ocean’s 8 (action, Sandra Bullock. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 61. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The party gets started early in ‘Ocean’s 8,’ a frothy female-driven caper. Stuffed with talented, beautiful women playing naughty, this is the latest addition to the cycle that was once about an improbably suave thief, Danny Ocean [George Clooney], and his mostly male band of charming accomplices. Danny is now out of the picture, and Sandra Bullock has stepped in to play his sister, Debbie Ocean, who’s soon overseeing her own con with a knowing smile and the usual suspects, including a partner in crime, a hacker, a pickpocket and a distraction, played with fizz and delectable timing by Anne Hathaway.” Read more…)

Hearts Beat Loud (drama/music, Nick Offerman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 65. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A bubble gum movie with a soundtrack to match, Brett Haley’s ‘Hearts Beat Loud’ doesn’t try very hard to sell itself or press its point. How could it, with Nick Offerman as one of the two leads? The man has made a career [primarily as a misanthropic government worker on ‘Parks and Recreation’] of leaning back and asking the audience to come to him, and, by and large, we have.” Read more…)

Goldstone (Australia, crime/thriller, Aaron Pedersen. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 78. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Given how few people live in the tiny mining outpost of ‘Goldstone,’ the abundance of wickedness is astonishing. Yet this parched Outback western, awash in noirish mannerisms and a sunstroke-inducing palette, harbors a robust social conscience beneath its hotbed of bribery and sex trafficking.” Read more…)

Superfly (action/remake, Trevor Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 52. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The American Dream is invoked several times in ‘Superfly.’ The mentions come from the movie’s lead character, and from a song on the soundtrack. These days, it seems, the phrase is often used ironically. It’s all about the accumulation of wealth and a sybaritic lifestyle. There’s no spiritual dimension, no sense of genuine civic aspiration. Within those cynically defined contemporary parameters, Youngblood Priest [Trevor Jackson, dressed to the nines and sporting what one character derides as ‘Morris Day hair’] is doing well.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Oceans 8
From Beyond (H.P. Lovecraft horror, Jeffrey Combs. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘From Beyond’ … is funny in the way of pulp fiction condescended to by superior intellects and special-effects experts. ‘From Beyond’ is an updated adaptation of an old H. P. Lovecraft tale about those malignant creatures that share our world, unseen, existing in their fourth dimension just waiting to get back into ours. With the help of computer technology and something called a ”resonator,” Dr. Pretorious has provided the means by which these beings can return.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Cold Water (France, 1994, Olivier Assayas coming-of-age drama, Virginie Ledoyen. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review on the occasion of its first U.S. release in 2018: “Nodding to François Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ and Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Pierrot le Fou,’ ‘Cold Water” is a self-aware descendant of the French New Wave. Like Truffaut and Godard, [director Olivier] Assayas turned from critic to filmmaker after a stint with Cahiers du Cinéma; the French-Hungarian actor Laszlo Szabo, a frequent supporting player in New Wave films, has a scene here as Gilles’s father. But ‘Cold Water,’ which Mr. Assayas has characterized in some ways as being autobiographical, is even more forcefully a post-New Wave generational statement.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
For a Good Time, Call… (2011, comedy, Ari Graynor. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 55. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “‘For a Good Time, Call …’ doesn’t aspire to be more than a broad, sloppy, old-fashioned sitcom with a sexy gimmick. But it is quite funny, and at the screening I attended, the loudest laughs came from young women in the audience. There are the usual sitcom intrusions and ridiculous plot twists.” Read more…)

The Tree of Life (2011, drama, Criterion Collection, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review [requires log-in]: “The Day of Judgment, prophesied for last weekend, has apparently been postponed, but moviegoers eager for rapture can find consolation — to say nothing of awe, amazement and grist for endless argument — in ‘The Tree of Life,’ Terrence Malick’s new film, which contemplates human existence from the standpoint of eternity. Recently showered with temporal glory at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or, this movie, Mr. Malick’s fifth feature in 38 years, folds eons of cosmic and terrestrial history into less than two and a half hours. Its most provocative sequences envision the origin of the universe, the development of life on earth [including a few soulful dinosaurs] and then, more concisely and less literally, the end of time, when the dead of all the ages shall rise and walk around on a heavenly beach.” Read more…)

New TV
This Is Us: Season 2 (comedy/drama, Milo Ventimiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)

New Documentaries
Filmworker (cinema history, movie making, Stanley Kubrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Intrigued by Kubrick’s exacting and innovative methods — for example, shooting ‘Barry Lyndon’ as much as possible with candles, torches and sunlight — [actor and documentary subject Leon] Vitali set off to study the craft of moviemaking. His quest led him back to Kubrick, just as the director was starting to work on his 1980 film, ‘The Shining.’ In short order, Mr. Vitali became a casting consultant [he auditioned child actors for the role of Danny Torrance] and then a factotum for Kubrick. In ‘Filmworker,’ a documentary directed by Tony Zierra, Mr. Vitali tells his story.” Read more…)

That Summer (Edith & Edie Beale, Grey Gardens from a different perspective. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘That Summer,’ a new documentary directed by Goran Hugo Olsson, sheds further light on the Beales with footage shot before the making of ‘Grey Gardens.’ The photographer Peter Beard, whose camera appreciated both the wilds of Africa and the supermodels and superstars of the 1960s and ’70s, opens the film from his Montauk home. Now 80, he pages through a coffee-table book of his own photography and reminisces.” Read more…)

New releases 9/4/18

Top Hits
Hereditary (horror, Toni Collette, Rotten Tomatoes: 89. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At one point in ‘Hereditary,’ Ari Aster’s highly effective new horror movie, a character screams ‘Get out!’ It’s not yet clear what she means — or who, exactly, she’s addressing — but the line is both a pretty good jolt and a clever meta-joke. Invoking the title of the movie that set a new standard for commercial success, cultural prestige and societal relevance in an often-underestimated genre may be a way of acknowledging the raised expectations of the audience. What ‘Hereditary’ shares with ‘Get Out’ — apart from a house full of white people behaving strangely — is an ambitious energy, a sense that the creaky old machinery of horror can be adapted to new and exciting uses.” Read more…)

Adrift (adventure, Shailene Woodley. Rotten Tomatoes: 72. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The most recent English-language films from the Icelandic action auteur Baltasar Kormakur — ‘Everest’ from 2015 and the new ‘Adrift’ — would make an apt, if grueling, double feature, a surf-and-turf of real-life survivalism. Deep-frozen Jake Gyllenhaal followed by Shailene Woodley on the half-shell, floating across the South Pacific in a dismasted schooner with Sam Claflin languishing in the stern.” Read more…)

American Animals (true crime/heist, Evan Peters. Rotten Tomatoes: 86. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In December 2004, in the midst of final exams, four young men robbed the rare-book room at the library of Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A Vanity Fair article a few years later described the heist as one part “’Ocean’s 11,’ one part ‘Harold & Kumar,’ which might raise your hopes for ‘American Animals,’ a new movie that reconstructs the crime. But the film, written and directed by Bart Layton, can’t quite decide what it wants to be: a slick, speedy caper; a goofball comedy; or a commentary on the state of the American soul. It’s none of those — a tame and toothless creature that is neither fish nor fowl.” Read more…)

Dark River (drama/mystery, Ruth Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 79. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “The Yorkshire depicted in Clio Barnard’s third feature, ‘Dark River,”’has much in common with that of Francis Lee’s recent triumph, ‘God’s Own Country’: a place of hard labor and lowering skies, of bleating sheep and repressed sexuality. Yet even in the swelling canon of British rural miserabilism, this unrelentingly intense psychodrama burrows beneath the skin.” Read more…)

Beast (crime/drama, Jessie Buckley. Rotten Tomatoes: 95. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Moll’s a wild one,’ someone remarks early in ‘Beast,’ Michael Pearce’s thrilling, unsettling debut feature. With her electric twist of Titian curls and dark, secretive gaze, Moll [a riveting Jessie Buckley] has the look of a volcano that’s primed to erupt. Stirring murder mystery, love story and psychodrama into a mesmerizing slurry, Mr. Pearce turns his native island of Jersey into a sunlit trap where Moll chafes against her domineering mother [an icy Geraldine James] and conservative community.” Read more…)

Ideal Home (comedy, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 66. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “The director of ‘Ideal Home,’ Andrew Fleming, based the movie on his own experience as the second parent to his partner’s child, and the movie thrives by depicting the idiosyncratic textures of gay relationships. ‘Ideal Home’ is genuinely funny, and the poignant and pithy script is aided by the chemistry between its stars, who are equally adept with comedic punch lines as they are with dramatic gut punches. Refreshingly, the film’s tone seems pitched more to gay audiences than straight ones.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Hereditary
Beast

New Foreign DVDs
Western (Germany, thriller, Meinhard Neumann. Rotten Tomatoes: 72. Metacritic: 56. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The title of Valeska Grisebach’s beautifully complicated, rigorously straightforward third feature, ‘Western,’ has at least two meanings. The German workers who come to a remote rural valley in Bulgaria to build a hydroelectric plant are emissaries of the West, bringing the ambiguous benefits of capitalist development to a former Eastern Bloc nation. It’s not the first time Germans have been here, as several people point out, even if the crew hardly resembles an occupying army. But they do call to mind the cavalrymen in a movie like ‘Fort Apache’: interlopers in someone else’s territory, surrounded by a local population that is wary of their presence and sometimes hostile to it.” Read more…)

The Desert Bride (Argentina, romance, Paulina Garcia. Rotten Tomatoes: 86. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Desert Bride,’ an Argentine-Chilean feature from the directors Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato, tells a slight story so gingerly that the film almost seems to recede into the horizon as you watch it. A road movie of sorts, it steers clear of melodrama or sentimentality, but it also never risks hitting anything. To be fair, such restraint may be intended as a reflection of the protagonist, Teresa [the Chilean actress Paulina García, who earned raves a few years ago for the film ‘Gloria’], who has spent more than half her life working unassumingly as a maid in Buenos Aires.” Read more…)

Godard Mon Amour (France, drama/romance, Louis Garrel. Rotten Tomatoes: 54. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Godard Mon Amour,’ the latest offering from the pasticheur Michel Hazanavicius [‘The Artist,’ ‘OSS: 117’], chronicles an eventful year or so in the life of the cineaste Jean-Luc Godard. The period covered by the film includes the 37-year-old Godard’s marriage to the 19-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsky [on whose memoir it’s based] and the uprising of French students and workers in May 1968, a revolt that, among other things, shut down that year’s Cannes Film Festival. On being informed of the existence of Mr. Hazanavicius’s project, Mr. Godard — who is now 87 and whose latest film, ‘Le Livre d’Image,’ will be in Cannes next month — is reported to have called it a ‘stupid, stupid idea.’ Au contraire! [All due respect.] It’s a brilliant idea. It just happens to be a terrible movie.” Read more…)

The Great Silence (Italy, 1968, spaghetti western, Klaus Kinski. Rotten Tomatoes: 100. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review on the occasion of the film’s first U.S. release in 2018: “I’m not generally one for nostalgia, but I do regret the loss of a certain kind of craziness that used to flourish in movies — the kind that is on rich and ripe display in ‘The Great Silence,’ a 1968 Italian western by Sergio Corbucci that is only now receiving a proper theatrical release in this country. There is something about the film’s brazen mixing of incompatible elements that defies categorization, imitation or even sober critical assessment. It’s anarchic and rigorous, sophisticated and goofy, heartfelt and cynical. The score, by Ennio Morricone, is as mellow as wine. The action is raw, nasty and blood-soaked. The story is preposterous, the politics sincere.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Kismet (1944, adventure/fantasy, Ronald Colman. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. from P.P.K.’s 1944 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Kismet,’ the venerable stage-piece with which the late Otis Skinner rode to his greatest fame, came to life again yesterday at the Astor in the M-G-M Technicolor production with Ronald Colman in the starring role aided by Marlene Dietrich, James Craig, Edward Arnold, Joy Ann Page and others.Under the newest cinematic treatment the addition of color and modern dimensional effects have heightened the conscious attempt at fantasy.” Read more…)

The Girl From Jones Beach (1949, romance, Ronald Reagan. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In re the question of feminine adornment, which happens to be the one pursued with single-minded attention in the Warners’ ‘The Girl from Jones Beach,’ it must be said that Virginia Mayo upholds the case for the form-fit bathing suit. And it must be further remarked that the Warners have tried their best not to jeopardize her case by obscuring her brilliant presentation with a bulky or brain-taxing brief.Many thanks to the Warners for not putting too much in the way of Miss Mayo’s able demonstration of the use of the bathing suit. And thanks to them also for enrolling Ronald Reagan to play the part of the gentleman upon whom Miss Mayo makes the biggest impression in this new comedy at the Strand.For Mr. Reagan is a fellow who has a cheerful way of looking at dames, especially at one who is as cheering as Miss Mayo proves herself to be.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (bio, popular culture, television history, Fred Rogers aka Mister Rogers. Rotten Tomatoes: 99. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “By sheer coincidence — unless it is, somehow, a sign of the times — the two best American movies in theaters right now both happen to be about Protestant ministers grappling with their vocations in a fallen and frightening world. One of these men of the cloth is a fictional character, Ernst Toller, the anguished pastor [played by Ethan Hawke] who ministers to a dwindling flock in Paul Schrader’s ‘First Reformed.’ The other is a real person: Fred Rogers, a graduate of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary whose millions of congregants assembled in front of their parents’ television sets from the late 1960s until the early years of this century, absorbing his benign and friendly secular wisdom.” Read more…)

New releases 8/28/18

Top Hits
Book Club (comedy/romance, Diane Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 53%. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The stories it has to tell about feminism and female sexuality are left mainly implicit in the script [by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms; Mr. Holderman directed] because they are written in the faces of its stars. And much in the way that their characters use reading as a pretext for hanging out and drinking wine — there will be wine in every paragraph of this review, as there is wine in nearly every scene of this film — the filmmakers understand that what will satisfy the audience is time in the company of Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen.” Read more…)

Woman Walks Ahead (western, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 51%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The best way to enjoy Susanna White’s ‘Woman Walks Ahead’ — a fictionalized account of an event in the life of the 19th-century artist and Native American rights activist Catherine Weldon — is to view it less as a historical record than a fish-out-of-water romance. Albeit one that gets no more physical than a desperate cuddle.” Read more…)

Who Are We Now (drama, Julianne Nicholson. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 83%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. FRom Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The writer-director Matthew Newton’s film is about the idea of justice in everyday life, as epitomized by a speech Mr. Smits’s character gives to the doubtful Jess in a key scene. Superbly acted and confidently shot, ‘Who We Are Now’ delivers substantial dramatic pleasures while posing pertinent questions.” Read more…)

Upgrade (thriller/action, Logan Marshall-Green. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66%. Ftom Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Upgrade’ is an energetic, superficially slick, latter-day B-movie of the ‘but dumb’ category. That is, it’s kind of like ‘RoboCop,’ but dumb, and also like ‘Ex Machina,’ but dumb. In this respect the movie manages to be pretty funny; and the grisliness of the action, while in a sense entirely deplorable, adds to the kicks. As do the plot twists, which are satisfying in a — you guessed it — dumb way.” Read more…)

Tag (action comedy, Ed Helms. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 53%. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “While ‘Tag,’ directed by Jeff Tomsic and distributed by the venerable Warner Bros. studio, is indeed about that popular, sublimely simple children’s pastime, it is actually an R-rated feature film whose cast consists almost entirely of actors in their 40s. In 21st-century America, we work hard to keep children away from mischief, idle fun and unsupervised play. Their lives are structured around play dates, test prep and lockdown drills. Silly stuff is strictly for grown-ups. Which is to say that ‘Tag’ is a late, anxious variation on the dominant theme of modern American film comedy, namely the headlong flight from maturity.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Tag
Book Club

New Foreign DVDs
Memories of Underdevelopment (Cuba, 1968, social drama, Sergio Corrieri. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the new restoration: “Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s ‘Memories of Underdevelopment,’ shot in Cuba some 50 years ago and showing for a week at Film Forum in an excellent 4K digital restoration, is a first-rate movie and a remarkable document… While closely adapted from [Edmundo] Desnoes’s novel, Alea’s film is greatly enriched by interpolated newsreel material. Sergio’s alienation is placed in the context of pre-revolutionary poverty and post-revolutionary political trials, as well the aftermath of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. ‘Memories’ is a very much a new wave film in its freewheeling mix of cinéma vérité-style hand-held street scenes and playful freeze frames.” Read more…)

The Paris Opera (France, documentary, opera director Stéphane Lissner. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 54%. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “At its most fun, ‘The Paris Opera’ functions as a stealth backstage chronicle, notably when the man singing the part of Hans Sachs in Wagner’s ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ calls in sick, setting off a scramble to find a last-minute understudy somewhere in Europe. The baritone Michael Kupfer-Radecky assumes the task with humor as bountiful as his voice.” Read more…)

In Syria (France, war drama, Hiam Abbas. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Swan (1956, romance, Grace Kelly. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Let this be said at the outset: any sly suggestions that ‘The Swan’ is a piece of contrived publicity for some recent romantic goings-on are absolutely baseless and should be discredited. Its characters have no similarity to actual persons, living or dead. It says so, in fine type, at the bottom of one of the credit cards.However, it is true that this picture, which arrived yesterday at the Music Hall, robed in such beauty of production as can be afforded by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is a slender and charming fable, as soft as a summer breeze, about a princess in a Ruritanian country that was a myth before World War I.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Country (1984, drama, Jessica Lange. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Country,’ which opens the 22d New York Film Festival tonight at Lincoln Center, is a good, decent, 1930’s Depression movie set in the mid-1980’s, about the problems of farmers as they attempt to cope with the vagaries of Federal farm policies, which are no more easy to predict than the extremes of weather in the Middle West. Although written by William D. Wittliff, directed by Richard Pearce [‘Heartland’], who took over the job of direction from Mr. Wittliff, and co- starring Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor, the film, more than anything else, reflects the drive, conviction and intelligence of Jessica Lange, it” Read more…)

New TV
Banshee: Season 1 (action drama, Antony Starr. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 62%.)
Paterno (drama, biopic, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 68%.)

New Documentaries
RBG (Bio, politics, feminism, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 72%. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, but she’s probably the first justice to become a full-fledged pop-cultural phenomenon. ‘RBG,’ a loving and informative documentary portrait of Justice Ginsburg during her 85th year on earth and her 25th on the bench, is both evidence of this status and a partial explanation of how it came about.” Read more…)

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (jazz, bio, John Coltrane. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 69%. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary’ portrays the legendary saxophonist as a tirelessly forward-thinking artist. [His music, the philosopher Cornel West says in the film, was more of a thermostat than a thermometer.] But as a biographical movie, ‘Chasing Trane’ sticks to a conventional, dully informative format. Its ideal venue is a Coltrane tribute event or a classroom.” Read more…)

Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson (activism, politics, history)
The Paris Opera (France, documentary, opera director Jean-Stéphane Bron)

New Music DVDs
Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (jazz, bio, John Coltrane)
The Paris Opera (France, documentary, opera director Jean-Stéphane Bron)

New releases 8/21/18

Top Hits
First Reformed (thriller, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “What a strange path I have had to take to find you. Roughly translated, those are the last words in Robert Bresson’s ‘Pickpocket,’ a movie that figures prominently in the work of Paul Schrader, who has alluded to its final scene in many of his films, including ‘American Gigolo,’ ‘Light Sleeper’ and his new one, ‘First Reformed.’ A tortuous spiritual journey through debasement and self-deception leads, in the end, to an experience of communion, the discovery of another soul who had been there all along, awaiting recognition. Which is more or less how I feel — improbably, miraculously, at long last — about Mr. Schrader. He is 71, and has had a long and varied career, but ‘First Reformed’ nonetheless feels like a fresh discovery. More than that: an epiphany.” Read more…)

Deadpool 2 (superhero action, Ryan Reynolds. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The script, by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds [who once again plays the title character], is loaded with winky, fourth-wall-piercing eruptions of meta, the kind of humor that can make even the slow-witted and literal-minded feel devilishly clever. Works for me, I guess. But this sequel to the R-rated, X-Men-adjacent surprise blockbuster of 2016 works maybe a little too hard in the service of a dubious cause.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Deadpool 2

New Foreign DVDs
La Dolce Vita (1960, Italy, Criterion Collection, Federico Fellini drama, Marcello Mastroianna. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 93. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ [‘The Sweet Life’], which has been a tremendous hit abroad since its initial presentation in Rome early last year, finally got to its American premiere at Henry Miller’s Theatre last night and proved to deserve all the hurrahs and the impressive honors it has received.” Read more…

In 1997 Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert wrote an encomium to “La Dolce Vita”:

Movies do not change, but their viewers do. When I saw “La Dolce Vita” in 1960, I was an adolescent for whom “the sweet life” represented everything I dreamed of: sin, exotic European glamour, the weary romance of the cynical newspaperman. When I saw it again, around 1970, I was living in a version of Marcello’s world; Chicago’s North Avenue was not the Via Veneto, but at 3 a.m. the denizens were just as colorful, and I was about Marcello’s age.

When I saw the movie around 1980, Marcello was the same age, but I was 10 years older, had stopped drinking, and saw him not as a role model but as a victim, condemned to an endless search for happiness that could never be found, not that way. By 1991, when I analyzed the film a frame at a time at the University of Colorado, Marcello seemed younger still, and while I had once admired and then criticized him, now I pitied and loved him. And when I saw the movie right after Mastroianni died, I thought that Fellini and Marcello had taken a moment of discovery and made it immortal. There may be no such thing as the sweet life. But it is necessary to find that out for yourself.

Read more…)

Leonor (France, 1975, arthouse horror, Liv Ullmann)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Song of Love (1947, musical/biopic, Katharine Hepburn. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “At least, it is obvious that Metro hasn’t forgotten ‘A Song to Remember’ of a few years back — as witness its boldly imitative ‘Song of Love,’ which came to the Music Hall yesterday. Excepting a lack of Technicolor, this adipose musical film follows precisely the formula of that previous popular splurge in classic song.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Assault on a Queen (1966, heist action adventure, Frank Sinatra)

New TV
Elementary: Season 5 (modern day Sherlock Holmes mystery series, Jonny Lee Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
The Terror: Season 1 (period adventure/drama, Jared Harris. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 76.)

New Documentaries
Human Flow (human rights, migration, refugees, Ai Weiwei. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “There are moments in ‘Human Flow,’ a bracing, often strangely beautiful movie by the artist Ai Weiwei, when it can be hard to see the individuals who make up the roiling, surging rivers onscreen. This difficulty in isolating specific people — really seeing them as sovereign beings rather than as an undifferentiated mass — is crucial to the meaning of the documentary, which charts the global refugee and migrant crisis. Shot over the course of one year in 23 countries, the movie tracks the here and there of people whose relentless ebbing and flowing make startlingly visible what news headlines repeatedly suggest: that ours is an age of ceaseless churn with no calm in sight.” Read more…)

We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited (music, social history, Johnny Cash)

New Music DVDs
We’re Still Here: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited (music, social history, Johnny Cash)

New releases 8/14/18

Top Hits
Avengers: Infinity War (superhero action, Robert Downey Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes 83%. Metacritic: 68.)
The Yellow Birds (drama/war, Tye Sheridan. Rotten Tomatoes 45%. Metacritic: 56.)
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (comedy/music/romance, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes 48%. Metacritic: 50.)
Bad Samaritan (thriller, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes 51%. Metacritic: 46.)
The House of Tomorrow (coming of age, Asa Butterfield. Rotten Tomatoes 76%. Metacritic: 58.)
Breaking In (crime/drama, Gabrielle Union. Rotten Tomatoes 25%. Metacritic: 42.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Sitting Pretty (1948, comedy, Clifton Webb)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982, drama/western, Criterion Collection, Edward James Olmos)

New TV
Mr. Mercedes: Season 1 (thriller series, Brendan Gleeson. Rotten Tomatoes 85%. Metacritic: 71.)
Documentary Now: Season 1 & 2 (Comedy spoofs of documentary genres, Fred Armisen. Rotten Tomatoes 94%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Documentaries
My Generation (history, music, culture, Michael Caine host. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%.)
Marx Reloaded (history, economics, politics, Marxism)

New releases 8/7/18

Top Hits
Life of the Party (comedy, Melissa McCarthy. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 46.)
Measure of a Man (comedy, Blake Cooper. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 53.)
Revenge (thriller, Matilda Lutz. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 81.)
On Chesil Beach (romance, Saoirse Ronan. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Blu-Ray
Happy End (France, drama, Isabelle Huppert, Blu-Ray only. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 72.)
Revenge
Life of the Party

New Foreign DVDs
Bye Bye Germany (Germany, postwar drama, Moritz Bleibtreu. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 64.)
Zama (Argentina, costume drama, Daniel Gimenez Cacho. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 89.)
John From (Portugal, drama, Julia Palha)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality! (cinema history, Thomas Edison talkies from 1913!)

New TV
Here and Now: Season 1 (drama, Tim Robbins. Metacritic: 46.)

New Documentaries
The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality! (cinema history, Thomas Edison talkies from 1913!)

New releases 7/31/18

Top Hits
Tully (comedy, Charlize Theron. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Marlo [played by Charlize Theron] is doing the contemporary supermom thing and, refreshingly, she isn’t doing it with 1950s clichéd desperate smiles. Directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody [this is their third movie together], ‘Tully’ admits that this figure is a noxious delusion, one that isn’t suitable for real women. Nevertheless they’re made to feel guilty for not doing it all or scolded for trying to live up to impossible standards. And soon enough the golden nimbus surrounding Marlo vanishes, swept away by the reality of hustling two children off to school while waiting for her water to break.” Read more…)

The Miracle Season (sports/inspiration, Helen Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 44. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “That ‘The Miracle Season’ is based on a true story makes it tough to endure and to review, because it’s no pleasure to report that filmmakers have turned real-life tragedy and tenacity into a manipulative weepie. From lighting to music cues, ‘The Miracle Season’ never misses a chance to lunge for your tear ducts, treating its characters less as flesh-and-blood humans than as props for delivering bromides.” Read more…)

Kings (drama, Halle Berry. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 34. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The first English-language film from the Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven [her 2015 movie ‘Mustang’ was a foreign language Oscar nominee] is well-acted across the board, and contains more than a few outstanding, unpredictable scenes. But in tying its story to this particular moment in American history, the movie bites off more than it can coherently chew.” Read more…)

The Party (comedy, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Written and directed by Sally Potter, who has made other movies worth seeing — ‘Thriller,’ ‘Orlando,’ ‘Ginger & Rosa’ — ‘The Party’ is a brittle, unfunny attempt at comedy that features some very fine actors and a lot of empty chatter. It takes place inside a few rooms on the ground-level floor of Bill and Janet’s comfortable London digs. There, they are giving a party to celebrate Janet’s recent appointment as a government functionary of the unnamed opposition party. From the way she furtively coos into her cellphone, it is clear that Janet has some secrets.” Read more…)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (action, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 54. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “Mixed martial arts fans awaiting another chapter in the ‘Kickboxer’ movie series can rest easy: ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation’ has arrived in all its brutal, lunkheaded glory to scratch that particular itch. This sequel to 2016’s ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ — a reboot of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme hit ‘Kickboxer’ [which spawned four sequels in the 1990s] — is essentially an overlong excuse to showcase an endless string of fight sequences. Scenes are either preludes to fights, preparations for fights or the fights themselves.” Read more…)

The Recall ( sci-fi, Wesley Snipes)

New Blu-Ray
Point Break (1991)
The Bad Batch
I Kill Giants
Cold Turkey
Kickboxer: Retaliation
I Am Heath Ledger
Bad Santa 2
Only the Brave
The Young Pope: Season 1
Sing Street
The Endless
Borg vs. McEnroe
Terminal
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Mine
The Pirates of Somalia
Kung Fu Yoga
The Star
Going in Style
Savannah Smiles (1982)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Letter (1929, drama, Jeanne Eagels. From Dave Kehr’s 2011 New York Times DVD review: “Long overshadowed by William Wyler’s 1940 remake starring Bette Davis, the first filming, from 1929, of W. Somerset Maugham’s stage play ‘The Letter’ has re-emerged, thanks to a new DVD edition from Warner Archive. As the only surviving sound film of the radically innovative Broadway star Jeanne Eagels, the film is an important piece of theater history, preserving the performance style of a brilliant, eccentric and spectacularly self-destructive actress [who would die of a drug overdose seven months after the film’s release]. But, stiff as it may be in cinematic terms, ‘The Letter’ is also a crucial piece of film history. One of the first talking films — or ‘audible photoplays,’ as The New York Times then called them — to impress critics with the artistic possibilities of a technology still widely regarded as a gimmick, ‘The Letter’ represented an important step on the way to the normalization of sound.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Day After (1983, nuclear war drama, Jason Robards. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From John Corry’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Day After,’ ABC’s much-discussed vision of nuclear Armageddon, is no longer only a television film, of course; it has become an event, a rally and a controversy, much of it orchestrated. Part of the controversy has to do with whether ‘The Day After’ makes a political statement, which it does, although the statement is muddy, and part of the controversy has to do with how we confront the nuclear abyss. Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement. In fact, both sides have something going for them in their arguments, even if the champions of the film, for the moment, are being heard more clearly than the detractors.” Read more…)

Latino (1985, drama/war, Robert Beltran. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The passion is there, but it’s subverted by the perfunctory nature of the fiction [director Haskell Wexler] has concocted about Eddie Guerrero, a Mexican-born officer in the Green Berets, and his politicization in Honduras while training United States-sponsored, Nicaraguan ‘contras,’ or counterrevolutionaries. The film, which was made under obviously difficult conditions, mostly in Nicaragua, looks both authentic and exceptionally handsome. It’s acted with conviction by Robert Beltran, as Eddie Guerrero; Annette Cardona, as the Nicaraguan woman with whom Eddie falls in love; Tony Plana, as one of Eddie’s fellow Green Berets, and Luis Torrentes, as a young Nicaraguan forced to join the contras at the point of a gun. Unfortunately for the film, Mr. Wexler’s screenplay makes only minimal use of the freedom allowed by fiction to dramatize the contradictory nature of human behavior -something not easily conveyed in documentaries.” Read more…)

New TV
Counterpart: Season 1 (thriller series, J.K. Simmons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times TV review: “One Howard Silk, a meek career bureaucrat who visits his comatose wife every night in the hospital, has ‘kind eyes,’ according to a nurse. The other Howard Silk, a sarcastic, deadly spy, does not. And yet the two Howard Silks — genetically identical but temperamentally diverse characters in the alternate-dimensions thriller ‘Counterpart,’ beginning Sunday on Starz — have the same eyes. They belong to the actor J.K. Simmons, whose double-barreled performance makes the show the most entertaining new series of the winter. Counterpart,” created by Justin Marks [writer of the 2016 ‘Jungle Book’ remake], is a clever and suspenseful if somewhat familiar mix of futuristic speculation and retro atmosphere.” Read more…)

New releases 7/24/18

Top Hits
Ready Player One (action, Tye Sheridan. Rotten Tomatoes 73%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Aided by his usual cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, and by the production designer Adam Stockhausen, [director Steven Spielberg] turns a vast virtual landscape of battling avatars into a bustling pop-cultural theme park, an interactive museum of late-20th- and early-21st-century entertainment, a maze of niche tastes, cultish preoccupations and blockbuster callbacks. Mr. Spielberg navigates this warehouse with his usual dexterity, loading every frame with information without losing the clarity and momentum of the story.” Read more…)

Little Pink House (drama based On New London eminent domain case, Catherine Keener. Rotten Tomatoes 74%. Metacritic: 55. From Jeannette Catsoulis’  New York Times review: “In its earnest attempt to present a landmark legal case as a classic underdog story, ‘Little Pink House,’ based on Jeff Benedict’s 2009 book of the same name, succeeds neither narratively nor visually. And not because the setup lacks drama: The true story of Susette Kelo’s yearslong battle to save her waterfront home in a declining Connecticut town would conclude in the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s simply that the writer and director, Courtney Moorehead Balaker, fails to translate that drama into the language of movies.” Read more…)

Different Flowers (comedy, Shelley Long. From Monica Castillo’s New York Times review: “As with many siblings, the sisters at the center of Morgan Dameron’s ‘Different Flowers’ fit together like a pair of mismatched socks. Millie [Emma Bell] is the seemingly put-together grown-up about to marry her longtime sweetheart [Sterling Knight]. Her sister, Emma [Hope Lauren], is more of a wild child. But when Millie decides to become a runaway bride on her wedding day, Emma is the perfect match to sneak her out of the church.” Read more…)

Love After Love (drama, Andie MacDowell. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “For anyone who has recently lost a spouse or parent, “Love After Love” may be almost impossible to watch. Others, though, are unlikely to fare much better, given that this unflinching debut feature from Russ Harbaugh delivers something rarely seen in American movies: a warts-and-all examination of extended grief.” Read more…)

Sweet Country (Australia, “western,” Sam Neill. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Savage and somber, ‘Sweet Country’ is, on its face, the story of a manhunt. Set in Alice Springs, Australia, in 1929, the movie tracks the fate of Sam [a fine Hamilton Morris], an Aboriginal stockman forced to flee after killing a white farmer in self-defense. Around this spare story, though, the director Warwick Thornton constructs a searing indictment of frontier racism as remarkable for its sonic restraint as its visual expansiveness. The opening shot might be a metaphorical mallet — a cauldron of water slowly coming to the boil while a violent, slur-slathered argument plays out offscreen — but the coarseness is in keeping with the movie’s pointed, symbolic style.” Read more…)

Sweet Sweet Summertime (family, Nico Christou)

New Blu-Ray
Ready Player One

New Foreign
Pauline at the Beach (France, 1983, romance/drama, Amanda Langlet. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This is the halcyon setting of ‘Pauline at the Beach,’ Eric Rohmer’s effortlessly witty, effervescent new French film that opens today at the Lincoln Plaza 1. ‘Pauline at the Beach’ is a comedy of romantic manners about six civilized people, each of whom works stubbornly, and at cross purposes, to enlighten someone else about the true nature of love. It’s a sunny month in the country.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) (1946, comedy/drama/romance, David Niven. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Dave Kehr’s 2009 New York Times review of a previous DVD release: “Like much of Powell’s wartime work, from ‘The Spy in Black’ [1939] to ‘A Canterbury Tale’ [1944], ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ seems to have been made in response to a particular propaganda need — in this case to smooth over the strained relations between Britons and Yanks that had arisen during the war’s four years of forced cohabitation. British interests are represented by a handsome young R.A.F. officer played by an actor famous on both sides of the Atlantic, David Niven. The American presence is incarnated by a relative newcomer, the Broadway actress Kim Hunter, who would go on to star as Stella in the Brando-Kazan ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ [as well as to play the simian scientist Zira in three ‘Planet of the Apes’ pictures].” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
I Walk Alone (1947, film noir, Burt Lancaster. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s a mighty low class of people that you will meet in the Paramount’s ‘I Walk Alone’ —and a mighty low grade of melodrama, if you want the honest truth — in spite of a very swanky setting and an air of great elegance. For the the people are mostly ex-gangsters, night club peddlers or social black sheep and the drama is of the vintage of gangster fiction of some twenty years ago.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Half the Picture (sexism, women directors, unequal representation, film history, Ava DuVernay. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic: 76. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In ‘Half the Picture,’ [dirctor Amy] Adrion surveys the scene by interviewing dozens of movie-industry professionals, from directors to government officials. All of Ms. Adrion’s subjects are women, and each one agrees that the film industry operates as a system of gendered inequality, where women — especially women of color — are not afforded the same opportunities as men behind the camera.” Read more…)

Generation Zapped (wireless technology, health threats, infertility, cancer, throw away your phone)

New Children’s DVDs
Sweet Sweet Summertime (family, Nico Christou)

New releases 7/17/18

Top Hits
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson animated feature, Bryan Cranston [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A miniaturist who likes to max out, Wes Anderson creates elaborate counter worlds that look like ours while remaining uniquely Andersonian. Together they comprise a kind of Wes World, in which reality seems as if it has been filtered through a sieve and then carefully arranged with white gloves in a vitrine. The results can be thrilling or wearying, and sometimes both, as is the case with his latest, ‘Isle of Dogs,’ an animated movie set in a fantasy Japan. There, cat-fancying villains of the future conspire to eradicate dogs, prompting one character to plaintively ask, ‘Whatever happened to man’s best friend?’ It’s an earnest, heart-heavy question in a movie, by turns droll and melancholic, that can be easier to admire than to flat-out love.” Read more…)

Rampage (action, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 45. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “You know what might make an intriguing, revealing movie? The story of how, over 30 years after its debut, a relatively innocent arcade game starring a giant ape and other oversize beasts underwent a corporate transmogrification and became a turgid, logy sci-fi/action blockbuster. It is unlikely that such a film will be made; instead, this week, we just have that turgid, logy blockbuster. ‘Rampage,’ based on the 1986 arcade game” Read more…)

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (supernatural thriller, Lucy Hale. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 35. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Like the young people in the entertainingly gooey 2008 horror movie ‘The Ruins,’ the group of college friends in ‘Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare’ discover too late that their Mexican vacation has left them with a nasty infection. This time, though, the contagion isn’t a flesh-eating plant, but a demon-driven game that doubles as a death trap.” Read more…)

Super Troopers 2 (action comedy, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 41. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. Yes, let me repeat that: A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This comedy’s 4/20 opening date is, as you might expect [particularly if you’re a fan of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe responsible for the movie], a stoner joke. But this non-indulger will attest that you don’t have to be high to find this long-impending sequel to 2002’s ‘Super Troopers’ very funny indeed. The Broken Lizard troupe — Kevin Heffernan [the stocky one who’s the butt of the fat jokes], Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, and Jay Chandrasekhar — shares writing and acting duties and defers directing to Mr. Chandrasekhar. I’d be lying if I said their maleness didn’t show. Their humor gets its slapstick from the Three Stooges, its non sequitur verbal mojo from the less-cerebral routines of the Firesign Theater, with a dash of Monty Python tossed in.” Read more…)

You Were Never Really Here (action/thriller, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Before long we understand that Joe is a rescuer and avenger rather than a predator: a survivor of war and child abuse who now specializes in delivering young women from evil. That Joe is officially a good guy isn’t much comfort, either to him or to the audience, who will spend the 90 minutes of Lynne Ramsay’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’ in his fractured, anxious and desperately sad reality.” Read more…)

Disobedience (romance/drama/gay & lesbian, Rachel Weisz. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Based on the novel of the same title by Naomi Alderman, ‘Disobedience’ delicately and far too bloodlessly charts the intricacies of Ronit’s return to a tight religious community that no longer wholly welcomes her. One who does, though hesitantly, is Dovid [a very good Alessandro Nivola], a once-close comrade who is her father’s probable successor. Ronit also resumes her relationship with a former lover, Esti [Rachel McAdams], Dovid’s wife. The women’s reunion rapidly rekindles a passion that — with stolen kisses and progressively steamier intimacy — disturbs this world’s scrupulous order, a disruption that is more about hidebound tradition than about religious belief.” Read more…)

I Feel Pretty (comedy, Amy Schumer. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 47. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Amy Schumer puts out so much energy in ‘I Feel Pretty’ that it’s hard not to feel charged up, too. The movie is seriously suboptimal, but she is such a force for good — for comedy, for women — and the laughs land often enough that you can go, if somewhat begrudgingly, with the messy flow. But dear lord she needs to work with better material, with funnier, sharper, far smarter scripts and with directors who can do something, anything, with the camera. There’s more cinematic intelligence in the best bits on her Comedy Central show ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ than in her three starring vehicles.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Rampage
Isle of Dogs
You Were Never Here
I Feel Pretty

New Foreign
Have A Nice Day (China, animated neo-noir thriller, Changlong Zhu [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Leisurely and deliberate, intelligent and casually cruel, ‘Have a Nice Day’ is a stone-cold gangster thriller whose violence unfolds in passionless bursts. Opening with a quotation from Leo Tolstoy’s last and bleakest novel, ‘Resurrection,’ this wittily animated feature from the Chinese writer and director Liu Jian presents a generic, follow-the-money tale as a Darwinian commentary on ruthlessly modern materialism.” Read more…)

The Housemaid (Vietnam, horror/romance, Nhung Kate. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 61.) From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Mixing a lathered-up love triangle with a ghostly murder-mystery, Derek Nguyen’s ‘The Housemaid’ wraps a painful chapter in Vietnamese history in Gothic-melodrama trappings. The result is a good-looking but overstuffed genre pileup that confuses as often as it compels.” Read more…)

Maborosi (1995, Japan, drama, Makiko Esumi. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 94. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Hirokazu Kore-eda’s exquisitely beautiful film ‘Maborosi’ follows the spiritual odyssey of Yumiko [Makiko Esumi], a young Japanese woman recovering from her husband’s inexplicable suicide. But that description doesn’t begin to evoke the essence of a movie that is a pictorial tone poem of astonishing visual intensity and emotional depth. Watching the film, which has little dialogue and many lingering shots of the Japanese landscape, one has an uncanny sense of entering the consciousness of the main character and seeing through her eyes, all without really knowing her.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1 (heartwarming drama, Amrita Acharia. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Teresa (1951, Fred Zinneman-directed neorealiat drama, Pier Angeli. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Fred Zinnemann, the American director who did that excellent foreign film, ‘The Search,’ has now come up with another in the same simple, sterling class. ‘Teresa’ is its title and it tells a compassionate tale of the marriage and postwar adjustments of an American soldier and his young Italian bride… It merits the rare appreciation of all who are interested in honest, ature films.” Read more…)

New Faces (1954, comedy, Mel Brooks [writer], Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde)

New Documentaries
Dealt (magic, triumph over adversity, Richard Turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 66. From Monica Castillo’s New York Times review: “The card magician Richard Turner reveals that he has more than just a few tricks up his sleeve in Luke Korem’s captivating documentary ‘Dealt.’ Mr. Turner’s magic prowess lies in his nimble hands that manipulate any deck of cards. But behind the facade of a self-assured showman is the secret Mr. Turner tries to keep to himself: He’s blind.” Read more…)

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements (PBS, science, chemistry, history, Michael Emerson [host])

New Children’s DVDs
The Lego Ninjago Movie (animated feature, Dave Franco [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘When are the Wegos coming on?’ the young boy sitting next to me asked his father. His impatience was reasonable enough. Here we were, five minutes into ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie,’ gazing at a live-action prologue with Jackie Chan, a kid and a cat in a store full of exotic knickknacks. Soon enough, the Wegos awwived, and the latest installment in a nearly foolproof franchise was underway, a fast-moving mélange of brazen corporate promotion, winking pop-culture cleverness and earnest lesson-learning. I realize that makes this movie sound indistinguishable from nearly every other piece of family-targeted animated big-screen entertainment out there, and I’m sorry to report that the Lego movie enterprise has lapsed into intentional mediocrity.” Read more…)