New releases 10/26/21

Top Hits
The Suicide Squad (comic book action, Idris Elba. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Joke, joke, kill, kill — that more or less sums up ‘The Suicide Squad,’ the latest installment in the DC Comics franchise. Shiny, busy and self-satisfied to a fault, this chapter follows the comic-book movie template, now with 20 percent more gore. It also has enough cinematic allusions to give critics something to chew on.” Read more…)

Stillwater (drama/thriller, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A truism about American movies is that when they want to say something about the United States — something grand or profound or meaningful — they typically pull their punches. There are different reasons for this timidity, the most obvious being a fear of the audience’s tricky sensitivities. And so ostensibly political stories rarely take partisan stands, and movies like the ponderously earnest ‘Stillwater’ sink under the weight of their good intentions.” Read more…)

On the Rocks (comedy, Bill Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It isn’t surprising how effortlessly Bill Murray takes possession of Sofia Coppola’s gently comic ‘On the Rocks’ — though this hijacking may be more of a sly directorial surrender. Casting Murray is a surefire way to win over an audience. It also means yielding at least part of the movie to him, which is what happens here. He plays a bigger-than-life sybarite whose daughter enlists him to help with her marital woes. If that sounds like a dubious idea for a grown child, it’s also a playful conceptual gambit for a director whose father, Francis Ford Coppola, casts his own long shadow.” Read more…)

Joe Bell (drama, Reid Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “By and large, audiences don’t go to the movies to watch unprepossessing people engage in tedious pursuits — however noble or well-intentioned. And I have seen few cinematic sights more tedious this year than Mark Wahlberg trudging across America as the title character of ‘Joe Bell,’ a droopy drama with its feet on the blacktop and its heart set on redemption.” Read more…)

No Man of God (crime/drama, Elijah Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 65. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘No Man of God’ can’t help but play like the special Ted Bundy episode of ‘Mindhunter’ we haven’t gotten to see yet. The movie, directed by Amber Sealey, dramatizes what it sees as the rapport that developed between Bundy [Luke Kirby] and the F.B.I. profiler Bill Hagmaier [Elijah Wood], who visited Bundy in prison and tried to pick his brain.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
On the Rocks
The Suicide Squad

New Foreign DVDs
New Order (Mexico, dystopia drama, Naian González Norvind. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco frequently devises narrative puzzles that hinge on unusual and emotionally fraught moral and ethical dilemmas. They’re usually on an intimate scale, as in his 2016 medical drama ‘Chronic.’ His latest film, ‘New Order,’ which created a sensation at home and on the festival circuit, takes a contained approach to a big event: insurrection.” Read more…)

Dead Pigs (China, 2018, comedy/drama, Haoyu Yang. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 73. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “A couple of years before directing ‘Birds of Prey,’ Cathy Yan made ‘Dead Pigs,’ a movie that suggests that her penchant for indulgent stylization predates a studio budget. Inspired by several true stories — including a 2013 incident in which thousands of pig carcasses were found in the Huangpu River — the film weaves together a colorful confection of tales about corruption and class inequities in modern-day China. It’s a tonal wild ride with eccentric characters, neon-lit settings and elaborately absurd detours.” Read more…)

A Day in the Country (France, 1936, drama dir. by Jean Renoir, Sylvia Bataille. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review on the occasion of the film’s 2015 Criterion Collection release: “Abandoned yet nearly perfect, Jean Renoir’s ‘A Day in the Country’ [1936] is a movie whose incomplete aspects only accentuate its freshness and spontaneity. ‘A Day in the Country,’ out from Criterion on Blu-ray and DVD, has an emotional complexity — a mixture of joyous melancholy and skeptical pantheism — that belies its 41-minute running time. This tale of a Sunday outing, adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant, is also the movie in which the filmmaker most directly engaged his patrimony as the son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.” Read more…)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italy, 1970, horror dir. by Dario Argento, Eva Renzi. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Like almost everything else in the film, the title is wonderfully fancy and eighty percent irrelevant. But like almost anything else in the film, it reflects an elegant, enterprising, occasionally desperate sensibility much given to fabricating sequins from non sequiturs.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, sci-fi, Criterion Collection, Grant Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review, which doesn’t reflect the positive contemporary critical consensus: “The first inkling that something is definitely wrong in ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man,’ which popped up at the Globe yesterday, comes early in the film when Grant Williams realizes that his pants cuffs are inexplicably dragging the floor. Shortly after this—and long before he makes his last stand against the bugs in the basement—the ‘incredible’ of the title takes on an unintended meaning. For, unless a viewer is addicted to freakish ironies, the unlikely spectacle of Mr. Williams losing an inch of height each week, while his wife, Randy Stuart, looks on helplessly, will become tiresome before Universal has emptied its lab of science-fiction clichés.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Send Me No Flowers (1964, comedy, Rock Hudson. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a beautiful farce situation, and Julius Epstein has written it, from a play by Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore, with nimble inventiveness and style. And Norman Jewison has directed so that it stays within bounds of good taste, is never cruel or insensitive, and makes something good of every gag.” Read more…)

Street Trash (1987, cult, Mike Lackey. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. From Walter Goodman’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Street Trash,’ now befouling the Eighth Street Cinema, is the stuff that civil-libertarian nightmares are made of. It claims no redeeming social value, and you don’t have to be a Supreme Court nominee to question whether the Founders could have foreseen anything like it when they wrote the First Amendment.” Read more…)

New TV
The Stand (TV mini-series adaptation of Stephen King novel, Whoopi Goldberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 56. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “This new version of ‘The Stand’ [a four-episode mini-series written by King came out on ABC in 1994] was spearheaded by Josh Boone, who directed ‘The New Mutants,’ one of the few big-studio popcorn movies to open in theaters during the pandemic. It’s a reasonably skilled and unobjectionable job of transcription and compression, stutter-stepping among time lines to keep track of King’s manifold plot strands and characters.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Desert of Forbidden Art (Soviet Union cultural history, repression, human rights, art. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “True stories of individuals who risked everything to save people or artworks or historical records from tyrants are always stirring, but at this point there have been enough of them to constitute a genre. So how to keep yours from seeming formulaic? Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev, who wrote and directed the gorgeous documentary ‘The Desert of Forbidden Art,’ knew that for their subject, a man named Igor Savitsky, the answer was to make the art he saved, in effect, the film’s co-star.” Read more…)

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (movies, film technology, cinematic technique. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Documentaries about film technology, at least those that aspire to reach some portion of a mainstream audience, have to make wonkiness ingratiating. ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound,’ a cogent and winning picture directed by Midge Costin, does this in a variety of ways.” Read more…)

New releases 10/19/21

Top Hits
Old (thriller dir. by M. Night Shyamalan, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 55. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In the opening pages of ‘Dino,’ a 1992 biography of Dean Martin by Nick Tosches, the author cites a haunting Italian phrase: ‘La vecchiaia è carogna.’ ‘Old age is carrion.’ When some vacationing families are deposited on a secluded beach recommended to them by a smarmy resort manager in “Old,” the new movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, we see a trio of vultures atop a tree take to the sky.” Read more…)

In the Earth (horror/thriller, Hayley Squires. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Movies evolve, and one day it will be possible to look at ‘In the Earth’ and not see the contingencies of pandemic filmmaking. The director, Ben Wheatley, started writing it at the beginning of the lockdown in Britain, and elements of the finished product — the outdoor setting; references to quarantine, a third wave and a disease ravaging a city; the actors’ surgical masks at the beginning — bear unavoidable hallmarks of the past year.” Read more…)

Sophie Jones (drama/coming-of-age, Jessica Barr. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 72. From Courtney Howard’s Variety review: “Navigating the precarious aspects of growing up while simultaneously buried deep in the throes of grief is one young woman’s struggle in director Jessie Barr’s ‘Sophie Jones.’ This meaningful drama, co-written and starring Barr’s cousin Jessica, taps into the immediacy of being a teenager and the intimacy of sorrow, yielding astute insights. The pair set their story during the fertile period in a maturing teen’s life when hormones and complex emotions run roughshod. With Nicole Holofcener on board as executive producer, it’s a poignant exploration of this arduous age, rooted in staggering authenticity.” Read more…)

F9: The Fast Saga (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The spirit of Wile E. Coyote hovers over the action, which splits the difference between preposterous and sublime. Giant magnets are deployed in midair and in city traffic. Vehicles skid, slam, swerve and fly. Flashbacks to Dom and Jakob’s early years wielding wrenches in their dad’s pit crew at a blue-collar California racetrack recall the origins of the ‘Fast and Furious’ universe in a simpler style of action filmmaking. The director Justin Lin, happily brandishing all the expensive digital tools at his disposal, makes ‘F9’ feel scrappy and baroque at the same time.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films Blu-Ray (Criterion Collection):
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (blaxploitation, 1971, Melvin Van Peebles. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 71. From Stephen Holden’s 1995 New York Times reassessment when “Sweet Sweetback'”screened as part of a Film Forum blaxploitation series: “Gore, profanity, and sex are splattered over the screen so routinely today that no movie from the 1970’s could possibly match the contemporary Hollywood action film in visceral nastiness, right? Before agreeing, check out Melvin Van Peebles’s 1971 film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,’ which will play at Film Forum from July 14 through July 16. This sulphurous nightmare of racial paranoia and revenge eclipses even ‘Reservoir Dogs’ in evoking a world of infinite seaminess, injustice and cruelty.” Read more…)

The Story of a Three Day Pass (interracial romance in Paris, 1967, Harry Baird. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “‘I never decided to become a director,’ Van Peebles, now 88, said in a Directors Guild of America interview conducted by his son, the filmmaker Mario Van Peebles. ‘I just decided to show folks, especially minorities, like I saw them, not like they kept being shown around in cinema.’ With ‘The Story of a Three Day Pass,’ Melvin Van Peebles shattered the usual mirrors presented in movies, with a crash that reverberated far beyond one soldier’s weekend off.” Read more…)

Watermelon Man (comedy, 1970, Godfrey Cambridge. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Jesse Cataldo’s appreciation at the Website Spectrum Culture: “Yet singular as it remains, ‘Sweet Sweetback’ did not spring from a vacuum, and could not have been made without ‘Watermelon Man.’ Van Peebles’ 1970 comedy was one of incendiary and subversive films made within the studio system. The film was far from a failure in its time, turning a modest profit, but studio interference convinced Van Peebles to ditch his three-picture contract with Columbia, funding his next feature through independent financing. ‘Watermelon Man’ is remembered as a precursor to a more distinctive, innovative follow-up. Its diminished reputation ignores how remarkable this weird comedy is on its own terms and how well it has aged, its unwavering focus on the brass tacks of discrimination as timely as ever.” Read more…)

Don’t Play Us Cheap (musical, 1972, Esther Rolle)

F9: The Fast Saga

New Foreign DVDs
The Weasel’s Tale (Argentina, comedy, Graciela Borges. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Schemers meet their match in ‘The Weasels’ Tale,’ Juan José Campanella’s crowd-pleasing Argentine comedy. A former diva, Mara [grande dame Graciela Borges], shares a rambling remote mansion with her milquetoast husband, Pedro [Luis Brandoni], and two suave parasites she used to make movies with: a director, Norberto [Oscar Martínez], and a screenwriter, Martín [Marcos Mundstock]. They pass the time trading reminiscences and barbs, until a slick city couple, Bárbara [Clara Lago] and Francisco [Nicolás Francella], show up and angle to buy the property.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Belgravia (Julian Fellowes Victorian period costume drama mini-series, Alice Eve. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 70. From The New York Times list of best television of 2020: “Many elements of the story were familiar for ‘Downton’ fans: societal ferment, musical-chair heirs, dissolute gentlemen, duplicitous servants. More important, the storytelling was as sharp and the performances as satisfying, particularly from Tamsin Greig and Harriet Walter, as ‘Downton’ at its best.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
High Sierra (1941, crime/noir, Criterion Collection, Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino.Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “We wouldn’t know for certain whether the twilight of the American gangster is here. But the Warner Brothers, who should know if anybody does, have apparently taken it for granted and, in a solemn Wagnerian mood, are giving that titanic figure a send-off befitting a first-string god in the film called ‘High Sierra,’ which arrived yesterday at the Strand. Yes-sir, Siegfried himself never rose to more heroic heights than does Mr. Humphrey Bogart, the last of the great gunmen, when, lodged on a high mountain crag with an army of coppers below, he shouts defiance at his tormentors ere his noble soul take flight.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
On Broadway (theater, culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Maya Phillips’ Times review: “A sunset view of the New York City skyline, speckled with lights, while George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ plays. Old Broadway marquees. Moving snapshots from a Broadway of more recent past — a flight of Hogwarts wizards, the swinging and snapping Temptations, the triumphant gaze of a brown-skinned Alexander Hamilton. ‘On Broadway’ sure knows how to work a theater-lover’s heart.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
PAW Patrol: Marshall & Case on the Chase!

New releases 10/12/21

Top Hits
Free Guy (action/comedy, Ryan Reynolds. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “‘Free Guy’ is as agreeable as its main actor; Reynolds taps into his endless well of nice-guy charisma to deliver an adorable brand of humor that feels like ‘Deadpool’ Lite. And the various comic-relief characters [Lil Rel Howery as Guy’s clueless best friend, Waititi as the toxic boss] and cameos [a priceless Channing Tatum and a Marvel surprise] make for a perfectly enjoyable experience.” Read more…)

Cruella (live action Disney family/adventure/comedy, Emma Stone. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Cruella’ is a vaguely retro costume party with a doggedly retro playlist — a treat for fashion-curious kids whipped up by the boomers and Gen Xers who hold the keys to the Disney I.P. storage locker. And there’s a millennial Oscar winner in the titular role. When I say it has something for everyone I’m not being sarcastic, though I’m also not being entirely complimentary.” Read more…)

The Green Knight (fantasy/adventure, Dev Patel.) Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “From Wagner to ‘Game of Thrones’ and back again, pop-cultural medievalism has a habit of leavening sublimity and solemnity with heavy doses of intended or inadvertent silliness. The most sincere compliment I can pay ‘The Green Knight’ is that it often feels like a tribute to ‘The Seventh Seal’ by way of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ Or maybe vice versa, with some Led Zeppelin deep cuts thrown in.” Read more…)

Sweet Thing (drama, Lana Rockwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 73. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “What makes this simple story special is the style that the writer and director Alexandre Rockwell brings to the screen. Rockwell cast his wife and two children as Eve, Billie and Nico, and their ease and familiarity lends the film naturalistic warmth. His high contrast black-and-white film photography captures the shimmer of light in Billie’s hair. The shadows of her mother’s home sink into oblivion. The movie’s eclectic soundtrack — with songs from Billie Holiday, Van Morrison and Arvo Pärt — sets a nostalgic mood.” Read more…)

The Vigil (horror, Dave Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “What could go wrong with just a few hours spent next to a dead body, anyway? So much. Keith Thomas’s slim but effective ‘The Vigil’ milks terror from a minimalistic setup, relying on the shapes we make out with squinted eyes in the shadows.” Read more…)

The Inheritance (drama, Chris Jarell. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Lovia Gyarkye’s Times review: “‘The Inheritance,’ Ephraim Asili’s debut feature film, beautifully abandons genre to consider questions about community, art and Black liberation. The experimental film opens with the story of Julian [Eric Lockley], a young Black man who has recently inherited his grandmother’s house in West Philadelphia. Inspired by his partner, Gwen [Nozipho Mclean], Julian turns the house into a collective, and it quickly becomes a site of robust intellectual exchange, inspired artistry, joy and humor.” Read more…)

Fried Barry (horror/comedy, Gary Green. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. From Nick Allen’s RogerEbert.com review: “‘Fried Barry’ wants to look at the world from the inside of a kicked-over garbage can. That’s a noble idea, given that you usually don’t get people studies mixed with Midnight movie muck, which includes all of the gore, chewed up hot dogs, and heroin needles with which you can accompany a droning synth score. But viewers with either interest, of getting dirty or getting mindful, will be short-changed.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Cruella
Free Guy
The Green Knight

New Foreign DVDs
Charlatan (Czech Republic, historical drama, Ivan Trojan. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 66. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “As the world’s biggest fan of Peter Watkins’s twisted and superb ‘Edvard Munch,’ I harbor a soft spot for filmmakers who muss up the perfectly coifed looks and reassuring habits of biographical films. The great writer-director Agnieszka Holland — a connoisseur of those deemed “difficult” by society — does not disappoint with ‘Charlatan,’ her fictionalized story of the persecuted Czech herbalist Jan Mikolasek.” Read more…)

Spring Blossom (France, romance, Suzanne Lindon. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “Lindon wrote ‘Spring Blossom’ at the age of 15 while attending high school in Paris and directed it at age 19. The movie owes a debt to naturalistic coming-of-age dramas by French directors like Maurice Pialat, but Lindon’s interpretation of that work occasionally feels like a pastiche. At the same time, she rejects the trope of the angsty teenager, capturing adolescent alienation with buoyancy and subtle whimsy.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (bio, personality, food, Anthony Bourdain. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “There’s scarcely a dry eye in the frame at the conclusion of Morgan Neville’s vivid, jam-packed documentary, ‘Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,’ but this isn’t a hagiography. Bourdain, who died almost exactly three years ago at the age of 61, was many things — chef, sensualist, addict, world traveler — any one of which could have served as the movie’s lodestar. Yet it was as a writer that he found renown, and it is around his words that ‘Roadrunner’ constructs its ominous, uneasy shape.” Read more…)

Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters (dance, bio, Bill T. Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “What happens to a work of art when time displaces it from its original context, and from the impetus that inspired it? That’s a question that can elicit dry theories. But in ‘Can You Bring It?: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters,’ a new documentary directed by Tom Hurwitz and Rosalynde LeBlanc Loo, the answer is passionate and moving.” Read more…)

New releases 10/5/21

Top Hits
Space Jam: A New Legacy (animated feature/live action, Lebron James. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The 1996 live-action/animation mash-up comedy ‘Space Jam,’ in which Michael Jordan met the Looney Tunes crew, has a settled reputation as one of those pictures everybody saw but few critics found satisfactory. This did not dissuade Warner Media from constructing a starring vehicle for contemporary basketball titan LeBron James around the same conceit. Only hypertrophied. Naturally. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by six credited writers, ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ has a bit more on its hectic mind than its predecessor did.” Read more…)

First Date (action/comedy, Shelby Duclos. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review: “‘First Date’ is a boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-evade-goon-squad action romance from Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, a debut filmmaking team putting their faith in Jean-Luc Godard’s maxim that ‘all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.’ Hey, that cliché sold Quentin Tarantino’s first scripts, and this likable homage moves at a clip, as though the young writer-directors are impatient to introduce themselves to producers beyond their immediate families.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Munyurangabo (USA/Rwanda, 2007, post-genocide drama, Jeff Rutagengwa. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch, author of the definitive English-language book on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, wrote about that country’s progress, 15 years after the killing, toward national reconciliation and political normalcy. “Munyurangabo,” a quiet, probing film by Lee Isaac Chung that was first shown at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, examines similar themes in a different key, using the fine-grained techniques of cinematic neorealism to illuminate the psychological and emotional landscape of a still-traumatized place.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Of Human Bondage (1934, drama, Leslie Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “W. Somerset Maugham’s widely circulated novel, ‘Of Human Bondage,’ has come through the operation of being transferred to the screen in an unexpectedly healthy fashion. It may not possess any great dramatic strength, but the very lifelike quality of the story and the marked authenticity of its atmosphere cause the spectators to hang on every word uttered by the interesting group of characters.” Read more…)

Serenade (1956, musical Mario Lanza. From A.H. Weiler’s 1956 New York Times review: “Although ‘Serenade’ gave the Warner Brothers their full share of script headaches, their efforts to transpose a touchy subject to the screen appear to have paid off. The laundered version of James M. Cain’s somewhat shocking novel, published in 1937, which arrived yesterday as the Music Hall’s Easter attraction, is guaranteed not to startle the customers.Although it now is a basically simple but lengthy tale of an opera singer who is deeply hurt by one love and redeemed by another, it serves to bring Mario Lanza back to the movies.” Read more…)

That Midnight Kiss/ The Toast of New Orleans (1949/1950, musicals, Mario Lanza. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review of “That Midnight Kiss” [requires log-in]: “No one can say that Metro has done things by quarters—or even halves—in bringing forth Mario Lanza, its latest singing man. It has launched the beaming young tenor in a juicy leading role alongside of Kathryn Grayson in a lark called “That Midnight Kiss.” Furthermore, it has loaded this package with music and talent galore, a muchness of colorful production and plenty of pleasant romance. The consequence is a launching of which any opera veteran might be proud.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Power and The Glory (1961, made for TV Graham Greene adaptation, Laurence Olivier. From Jack Gould’s 1961 New York Times review: “Last night’s production of ‘The Power and the Glory,’ starring Sir Laurence Olivier, was an absorbing paradox such as might occur only in television: At one and the same time it was both a proverbial milestone and a major disappointment… Yet as a two-hour entity designed for showing both on home TV and later in motion picture theatres, ‘The Power and The Glory’ was a great expectation that remained largely unfilled. It was extremely elaborate and methodically deliberate. But in its pursuit of epic dimensions, the presentation somehow mislaid the tiny and elusive kernel of inspiration and humanness that would have touched and moved the individual viewer to share in the priest’s agonizing torment and final redeeming sacrifice.” Read more…)

Rad (1986, sports/young adult, Lori Loughlin. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 24. From Walter Goodman’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The bicycle acrobatics behind the credits at the opening of ”Rad” are so spectacular that you wonder what the movie can do to improve on them. The short answer is, nothing. It’s all uphill once the tale gets under way of the hometown rider of a BMX, a type of two-wheeler designed to fly and bounce as well as roll, who beats the arrogant and corrupt outsiders in the big race.” Read more…)

Uncle Sam (1997, horror, Robert Forster. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%.)

New releases 9/28/21

Top Hits
The Forever Purge (horror, Ana de la Reguera. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Forever Purge’ tries for political relevance by introducing immigrant protagonists, but it easily excuses racism from the other leads. (After all, Dylan doesn’t seem so bad compared with the bands of white supremacists stalking the film.) Words like ‘colonialism’ and ‘the American dream’ are thrown around, to little avail.” Read more…)

Boys From County Hell (horror/comedy, Jack Rowan. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 56. From Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Chris Baugh, this is as much a slap-happy creature feature as it is a touching dramedy about friendship and family bonds. Much of the credit goes to the actor Jack Rowan, who’s all pluck and charm as the young man who defends his blue-collar hamlet against an ancient evil.” Read more…)

The Power (horror, Rose Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “In 1970s Britain, as the government and trade unions were warring, blackouts were regularly ordered to conserve power. During one of these pitch-black nights, a timid young woman named Val [Rose Williams] finds herself working the dark shift on her first day of duty as a trainee nurse at a run-down London hospital. The writer and director Corinna Faith doesn’t wait for the lights to dim to unleash the uneasiness in ‘The Power.’ The creaky, eerie atmosphere is felt even in daylight as Val starts to hear children’s indecipherable whispers.” Read more…)

Domino: Battle of the Bones (comedy, Lou Beatty, Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In the comedy ‘Domino: Battle of the Bones,’ the sports heroes of Compton, Calif., aren’t Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings or Angels. Here, the stars of the neighborhood are bones players — a game better known as dominoes. Their championship comes with a plastic trophy and a $10,000 grand prize. The movie has a tall task to make dominoes seem action-packed, and it overcompensates by stacking its hand with over-the-top theatrics.” Read more…)

42nd Street: The Musical ( musical comedy, Bonnie Langford)

New Blu-Ray
The Sparks Brothers Blu-Ray (music, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Sparks, the musical entity invented and fronted by Ron and Russell Mael, is sometimes rock, sometimes pop, sometimes art song, always idiosyncratic. They’re a cult band with an ever-renewing cult and a career that spans 50 years. ‘The Sparks Brothers,’ an energetic documentary directed by Edgar Wright, explains their appeal in part by emphasizing how it cannot be explained.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Gaia (South Africa, horror, Monique Rockman. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Mother Nature might be predator, prey or another supernatural being altogether in ‘Gaia,’ infiltrating her targets with unfurling shoots and roots and sudden fungal outcrops, until she’s eventually growing from within them. Or so it seems in first-time feature director Jaco Bouwer’s cool, taciturn ecological horror, which isn’t in any kind of hurry to show us exactly what dark forces are at play in the woods that encircle a tensely matched trio of human characters. We do, however, see their effects, manifested as the film’s own. In an elegant fusion of digital and prosthetic artistry, patches of moss burst through skin like a nasty rash; human flesh is aggressively and involuntarily camouflaged by flora.” Read more…)

Throw Down (China, 2004, drama, Aaron Kwok. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Bursting with gangsters, gambling and human weakness in general, ‘Throwdown’ is so strange and idiosyncratic that it’s almost surreal. The prolific director Johnnie To [‘Breaking News’] claims to be paying tribute to the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa; but after watching the film, his assertion seems either delusional or wickedly provocative. Mr. To’s ‘Throwdown’ and Kurosawa’s first film, ‘Sugata Sanshiro’ [1943], may share a central theme — the less lethal martial art of judo — but there the similarity ends.” Read more…)

Seven Days… Seven Nights aka Moderato Cantabile (France, 1960, drama, Jeanne Moreau. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The main thing is the mood of melancholy that is developed by the director, Peter Brook. Out of a story of Marguerite Duras, who wrote ‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour,’ and a taut, cryptic, sad-eyed performance by a still healthy-looking Jeanne Moreau, he has fashioned a slowly ambulating succession of wistful images that have the emotional content of a haunting sonata or a poem.” Read more…)

Lucky Luciano (Italy/USA, Francesco Rosi-directed crime biopic, Gian Maria Volonté. From Cinescope blog’s post on the film: “But this is the antithesis of the individualized biopic, as Rosi deliberately gives zero psychological depth to Luciano, strips him of any glamour or romantic allure, and makes sure our thoughts never wander into considering how it might feel being in his shoes. Luciano is just a cog in the system, and whether it’s him, Giuliano, Al Capone or any other ambitious power-hungry mob boss, makes no difference to the big picture.” Read more…)

Illustrious Corpses (Italy, 1976, Francesco Rosi-directed mystery/suspense, Lino Ventura. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Until one realizes that one has been manipulated to rather predictable ends, ‘Illustrious Corpses’ is a dazzling example of fashionably radical Italian film making—elegantly composed, breathlessly paced, photographed in the beautiful, drained colors of a landscape in mourning for the sun. It’s all so beautiful, in fact, that when you see a long shot of a Sicilian piazza in which everything, including the sky, is the same matching beige, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a high-fashion model, dressed to the scarlet nines, posing amid beige urchins.” Read more…)

A Full Day’s Work aka Une Journée Bien Remplie (France, mystery/suspense/comedy, 1973, Jacques Dufilho)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Stolen Life (1946, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review: “The understandable ambition that every actress must feel to play dual roles in a movie, thus multiplying her presence by two, has been ratified by Bette Davis on her own histrionic behalf in her first self-produced Warner picture, “A Stolen Life,” which came to the Hollywood yesterday. But a friend of Miss Davis who has generally found her thoroughly sufficient in single roles must observe that she has proved no advantage by playing her dramatic vis-à-vis.” Read more…)

Winter Meeting (1948, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review: “Of all the frustrating experiences that Bette Davis has had in films—and, heaven knows, she has had aplenty; indeed, she has had little else—the one she now has in “Winter Meeting,” which came to the Warner yesterday, is clearly the most bewildering, not only for her but for us. For in this rather chilling encounter, Miss Davis discovers to her dismay that she’s in love with a mopish young fellow who really wants to become a priest.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Love & Basketball (sports/romance, 2000, Criterion Collection, Sanaa Lathan. From Elvis Mitchell’s 2000 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s in the small touches that this movie comes alive, and it’s rare that directors can pull off this kind of thing. Generally they overemphasize the hackneyed plot and leave no room for fresh, airy touches that reflect a writer’s soul and a director’s understanding of actors. Ms. Prince-Bythewood is just the opposite, and ‘Love and Basketball’ is the first step, however unsteady, of an intriguing new talent.” Read more…)

New releases 9/21/21

Top Hits
Censor (horror/suspense, Niamh Algar. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Gloomy in tone and gray in palette, ‘Censor’ returns often to a drab screening room where Enid [Niamh Algar], a conscientious British film censor, scrutinizes a stream of gory exploitation movies. It’s the 1980s, and the violence driving the unregulated home-video market has incited a moral panic that’s filling the tabloids and politicians’ outraged speeches.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
I Carry You With Me (Mexico, gay & lesbian romance, Armando Espitia. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Turning time and memory into an elliptical portrait of what it means when borders become barriers, ‘I Carry You With Me,’ the first narrative feature from the documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing, trades distance for empathy. Dramatizing Iván’s story, and his longtime relationship with his partner, Gerardo Zabaleta (both men are friends of the director), Ewing and her co-writer, Alan Page, paint a journey — and a love story — defined by compromise.” Read more…)

Atlantis (Ukraine, sci-fi, Andriy Rymaruk. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Conventional cinematic dystopian futures almost always compensate for their bleakness with nifty gadgets or, at the very least, incredibly fast and dangerous cars chasing one another. Not ‘Atlantis,’ Ukraine’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. Written, directed and shot by Valentyn Vasyanovych, the movie is an especially economical, even ruthless exercise in what could be called ‘slow cinema,’ with no shiny widgets in sight.” Read more…)

Never Gonna Snow Again (Poland, comedy, Alec Utgoff. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 69. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “In ‘Never Gonna Snow Again,’ a searching, cryptic satire of bourgeois insularity in modern Poland, the magic hands of an immigrant Ukrainian masseur are tasked with easing a litany of woes, from middle-class guilt to climate change anxiety to terminal cancer — though no one thinks to ask him about his own interior aches and pains. After last year’s moody but mildly received English-language diversion ‘The Other Lamb,’ prolific Polish auteur Malgorzata Szumowska returns to home turf in this Venice competition entry, and the result is her most compelling and hauntingly realized film to date.” Read more…)

New Television
Mare of Easttown (HBO crime series, Kate Winslet. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “‘Mare of Easttown,’ which was created and written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, is in the tradition of Middle American miserabilism, a genre HBO has cultivated before in ‘I Know This Much Is True’ and other series. They’re shows that aren’t about much of anything besides their characters’ despair and the painstakingly rendered small-town or suburban milieus that inevitably cause it. In ‘Mare of Easttown,’ which takes the form of a crime drama, the fruits of middle-class American life include addiction, adultery, beatings, abduction, rape and murder, and that’s just in the five episodes available to critics.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The One and Only Dick Gregory (bio, civil rights, race, stand-up comedy, activism, Dick Gregory. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. From Jason Zinoman’s New York Times review: “‘The One and Only Dick Gregory,’ an aptly titled new documentary, does justice to this fabled performance, setting the scene and the stakes. But what stands out most about this revolutionary moment in comedy is what a small role it plays in the overall portrait here. Gregory, who died in 2017, lived so many lives that he presents a challenge for anyone trying to document them.” Read more…)

The Human Factor (Mideast peace, diplomacy, human psychology. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Human Factor’ presents a cogent and involving view of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, mainly from 1991 until the end of Bill Clinton’s first term, told through the recollections of United States negotiators charged with brokering a peace. It shows how much any international agreement relies on a rare alignment of concrete compromises and personal trust — what the former Middle East envoy Dennis B. Ross here calls the ‘human factor.’” Read more…)

New releases 9/14/21

Top Hits
Zola (comedy/mystery, Taylour Paige. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Directed by Janicza Bravo [‘Lemon’] from a script she wrote with the Tony-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris [‘Slave Play’], ‘Zola’ is adapted from a thread that galvanized Twitter back in 2015, when it was somewhat less dominated by expressions of political contempt and moral self-righteousness than it is now. There was more room for crazy stories, and on Oct. 27 of that year, A’Ziah King started posting the profane, hair-raising, occasionally hilarious tale of an ill-starred excursion to Florida that involved sex work, gun play and a highly problematic frenemy.” Read more…)

How It Ends (apocalyptic comedy, Zoe Lister Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 57. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The film’s writers and directors, Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, ensure that each reconciliation has an arc that builds from confrontation to explanation to resolution, and they are also careful to ensure that each scene stands on its own. The film plays as a series of perfectly enjoyable sketches strung together, an excuse for veteran actors to chew on playful dialogue.” Read more…)

Slaxx (horror, Romane Denis. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64.From Erik Piepenburg’s capsule New York Times review: “Kephart and her co-writer, Patricia Gomez, aren’t just out for sicko laughs. They also ask viewers to think — as deeply as possible in a 77-minute movie — about conspicuous consumption, the exploitation of child labor and the hypocrisy of corporate do-gooderism. Their mayhem has a message.” Read more…)

Together Together (comedy/drama, Patti Harrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Gently funny and disarmingly poignant, ‘Together Together’ is unusually attuned to the isolation of single fathers. At a baby shower, Matt looks on enviously as guests encircle Anna; in his surrogacy support group, he’s the only person without a partner. A scene where he struggles alone to tie a baby sling is one of the saddest sights I’ve seen all year.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Bluebeard (France, 1963, Claude Chabrol-directed mystery, Charles Denner. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But [director Claude] Chabrol and his script writer, the astonishing Françoise Sagan, have steered dear of melodramatics and accept the whole thing in a sly, sardonic mood. Again, as in the [Charlie] Chaplin film [‘Monsieur Verdoux,’ inspired by the same true crime], not a single act of violence is shown, outside of some intercut news shots of battle action in World War I. Suavely, with the air of a French hairdresser or a salesman of cheap antiques [which he actually is], the principal in this ghoulish business woos his victims to their doom.” Read more…)

Blue Panther (France, 1965, Claude Chabrol-directed mystery/suspense, Marie Laforêt)

Rififi in Paris aka The Upper Hand (France, 1966, mystery/suspense, George Raft)

New British DVDs
Unforgotten: Season 4 (UK crime drama, Nicola Walker)

New releases 9/7/21

Top Hits
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (DC superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 54. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “I know I’m leading you astray, beginning this review of Zack Snyder’s extended “Justice League” cut with hope when what follows will sound more like despair. And yet hope is at the core of this four-hour marathon of a film — and is also what it fails to understand.” Read more…)

Beasts of No Nation (war drama, Criterion Collection, Abraham Attah. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is based on Uzodinma Iweala’s harrowing, linguistically dazzling novel of a child soldier’s life. Mr. Iweala’s distinctive prose style is sometimes echoed in Agu’s voice-over narration, but the boy’s point of view is more immediately conveyed in the watchful eyes and sensitive features of Abraham Attah, the nimble young actor who plays him.” Read more…)

Small Axe (drama anthology, UK West Indian community, John Boyega. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “When the British filmmaker Steve McQueen conceived the five films he collectively named ‘Small Axe,’ he could not have foreseen the drastically disrupted world into which they would be released — a world that could shift, and perhaps intensify, the impact with which they would land. Narratively diverse but thematically intertwined, the anthology [beginning with ‘Mangrove’ last month and continuing on Amazon with new releases through next week] shines a sociopolitical spotlight on London’s West Indian community from the mid-1960s to the ’80s.” Read more…)

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (horror, Vera Farmiga. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Conjuring’ movies offer a fascinating peek into the American psyche. Based on the lives of the Northeastern paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise demands viewers invest in a worldview ruled by Christian dogma, where Godly good must battle satanic evil. ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is by far the most well-constructed, terrifying entry in the franchise, but its plot relies all too heavily on that same bizarre evangelism.” Read more…)

The Duke of Burgundy (gay & lesbian/drama, 2014, Sidse Babett Knudsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Here are two somewhat contradictory things I can tell you about ‘The Duke of Burgundy,’ which takes its name from a species of butterfly. It is, I’m fairly certain, quite unlike any other Sapphic S-and-M lepidoptery-themed psychological romance you have ever seen. At the same time, though, its uniqueness rests on a passionate, you might say slavish, devotion to a particular cinematic style of the past. Peter Strickland, who seeded and tended this exquisite hothouse flower of high-toned eroticism, is unabashedly fetishistic in his love of old exploitation movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The Duke of Burgundy

New Foreign DVDs
My Wonderful Wanda (Germany, drama/comedy, Agnieszka Grochowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 54. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The film, written by Oberli and Cooky Ziesche, satirizes class divides and xenophobia [‘the Pole’ constantly carries a derogatory connotation here], but never takes the satire far enough to be memorable, challenging or anything beyond whimsical, as Wanda and the Wegmeister-Gloors negotiate the future of the unborn child. The story also suffers from its division into three acts and an epilogue; it loses emotional momentum with each new section.” Read more…)

The Clockmaker of St. Paul (France, 1974, debut drama feature by Bertrand Tavernier, Philippe Noiret. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film, an adaptation of the Georges Simenon novel ‘The Clockmaker of Everton,’ is a rather startling combination of old and new talents. Maybe reconciliation is the better word. The screenplay is by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost—who wrote the adaptation of ‘Le Diable au Corps’ and are closely identified with the French cinema establishment of the 1940’s against which the New Wave a reaction—but it is the first feature to be directed by Bertrand Tavernier, a young French critic and film scholar who belongs to the post‐New Wave generation.” Read more…)

Je T’Aime Je T’Aime aka I Love You, I Love You (France, 1968, sci-fi/romance dir. by Alain Resnais, Claude Rich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Manohla Dargis’ 2014 New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “Most stories begin once upon a time and, after the usual chronological tramp toward the inevitable and an occasional detour into the past or future, end happily ever after [or not]. In ‘Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime,’ a magnificent film from out of the past, the French director Alain Resnais takes dozens of interludes from one man’s life — images of everyday banality and commonplace delights, scenes of him at work and at play — and arranges them nonchronologically.” Read more…)

The Widow Couderc (France, 1971, mystery, Simone Signoret. From Nora Sayre’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since Simone Signoret appears in all too few movies these days, it’s so good to see her on the screen that one tends to be almost undemanding of the picture—which, in this case, is a modest film of high quality that never quite gets off the ground, despite its many fine details and a beautiful evocation of the French countryside.” Read more…)

The Gang/Three Men to Kill (France, crime/gangster directed by Jacques Deray, Alain Delon)

New British DVDs
What We Did On Our Holiday (comedy, 2014, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A family of bickering, broken adults has its priorities realigned by three children and a terminally ill grandpa in ‘What We Did on Our Holiday,’ a damp-eyed comedy whose banal title isn’t the only thing needing improvement. Transferring their successful sitcom formula — scene-stealing kids plus frazzled parents — to the Scottish Highlands, the writing and directing team of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin [‘Outnumbered’] piles on the contrivances.” Read more…)

Moonlighting (drama, 1982, Jeremy Irons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Working in a style that appears to have little connection with any of his earlier films, including the French-language ‘Le Depart’ and the English-language ‘The Shout,’ Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish film maker who has been living in England for years, has made a new film of the sort of introspective intensity seldom achieved on the screen. Movies journey into men’s minds at some peril. ‘Moonlighting’ possesses such clarity of vision and simplicity that it seems to have been made in one uninterrupted burst of creative energy. It’s a small, nearly perfect work of its kind.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Thunderbolt (mystery/suspense, 1929, dir. by Josef von Sternberg, Fay Wray. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1929 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The dialogue in this production was written by Herman J. Mankicwicz. It is of the wise-cracking species. Jules and Charles Furthman are responsible for the story and Josef von Sternberg officiated as the director. It is a musical comedy plot striving to masquerade as a drama.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968, comedy, Mary Tyler Moore. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?’ which opened here yesterday at the Trans-Lux East, is a comedy for the old at heart of all ages. By picturing the things it lampoons in a soft focus, the movie ultimately sentimentalizes them. A fruit-eating bird of tropical America, a splendidly plumaged toucan who flies straight enough but walks with a list to starboard, arrives in New York and begins to spread a fearfully cute virus. Its victims are relieved of all anxieties and inhibitions.” Read more…)

The Road to Salina (1971, mystery, Rita Hayworth. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “R’oad to Salina,’ which opened yesterday at the Paris Theater, thus begins with a good deal of trashy promise, but then, like someone who gets drunk without ever experiencing a pleasant high, it falls on its face several reels before the plot requires. It’s both disoriented and disorienting—an English language mystery melodrama, made by Frenchmen, played by Americans [Rita Hayworth, Mimsy Farmer. Robert Walker and the late Ed Begley], set in Mexico and shot on Lanzarote, off the West Coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.” Read more…)

The Black Marble (1980, thriller/comedy, Paula Prentiss. From Roger Ebert’s 1980 review: “The movie’s not altogether a comedy, although we laugh; it’s a love story that kids itself and ends up seriously; it contains violence but is not really violent. What it always does is keep us off balance. Because we can’t anticipate what’s going to happen next, the movie has a persistent interior life; there’s never the sense that a scene is included because it’s expected.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Apocalypse ’45 (war, World war II, archival film, oral history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “Startling images appear throughout ‘Apocalypse ’45,’ a transfixing documentary that depicts the final months of World War II in rare detail. The film combines vivid archival footage from war reporters with the accounts of an array of veterans. Its project is to immerse us in the horrors of warfare, and to convey the ways its witnesses cope with war’s psychic toll.” Read more…)

All the Streets Are Silent (hip hop, skateboarding, street culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 60. From Isabelia Herrera’s New York Times review: “‘All the Streets Are Silent,’ a documentary from the director, Jeremy Elkin, is a portrait of that time, capturing the transformative moment when hip-hop and skateboarding culture converged in New York. It draws on archival footage of influential figures like Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter, among dozens of others, and incorporates new interviews with major players like Fab 5 Freddy and Darryl McDaniels, of Run-DMC. Throughout, Elkin explores how racial associations with both subcultures crumbled as their worlds collided.” Read more…)

New releases 8/31/21

Top Hits
In the Heights (musical, Anthony Ramos. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A dream can be a fantasy or a goal, an escape or an aspiration, a rejection of the way things are or an affirmation of what could be. ‘In the Heights,’ adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Tony-winning Broadway show, embraces all of these meanings. After more than a year of desultory streaming, anemic entertainment and panicky doomscrolling, it’s a dream come true.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Germany, drama remake, Welket Bungué. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Alfred Döblin’s masterpiece “Berlin Alexanderplatz” received its most famous dramatization not at the movies but on TV, with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15-hour adaptation in 1980. Burhan Qurbani’s ambitious film by the same name re-centers the Weimar Era original on a 21st-century immigrant from Guinea-Bissau who seeks the straight and narrow but works for a psychopathic drug dealer.” Read more…)

Summer of 85 (France, romance/gay & lesbian, Félix Lefebvre. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “The prolific French director François Ozon wants ‘Summer of 85’ to be more than a gay coming-of-age romance in the vein of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ With an elliptical narrative that jumps back and forth from Alexis’s summer fling to an unspecified future in which he is being interviewed by a suspicious caseworker about the death of David, the film also aims to be pulpy and provocative, teasing the idea that its lovesick protagonist turns homicidal with jealousy.” Read more…)

Bäckström: Series 1 (Sweden, police procedural, Kjell Bergqvist)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Jane Eyre (costume drama made for TV, 1971, George C. Scott. From John J. O’Connor’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In fact, the approach may be at touch too rational. Though the production was shot in England, a few miles north Of Yorkshire, in locations ‘as authentic as the present day will permit,’ and though the performances are uniformly good, the whole is curiously slack, the mysterious passions of the novel tinged with just a bit too much ordinary logic.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (biography, music, personality, Lydia Lunch. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The musician, writer and spoken-word artist Lydia Lunch is an immediately provocative figure. The name alone, right? Escaping a horrifically abusive home in Rochester, N.Y., at 16, she took one look at the burgeoning 1970s punk rock scene on Manhattan’s Bowery and was determined to both join and upend it. ‘I had a suitcase and $200,’ she recalls in ‘Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over,’ a vigorous documentary directed by Beth B, whose own work as an underground filmmaker began in the same milieu as Lunch’s early efforts.” Read more…)

New releases 8/24/21

Top Hits
Riders of Justice (comedy/thriller, Mads Mikkelsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “The Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen understands that the most difficult tragedies to process are the inexplicable ones, the kind where there’s no one to blame. This idea is at the core of his gold-hearted, yet gleefully bloody deconstruction of the revenge thriller and the meat-headed masculine urges that typically underscore the genre.” Read more…)

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (animated feature, James Corden. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 43. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’ wants to have its carrot and eat it, too. For anyone who complained that the 2018 live action-animation hybrid ‘Peter Rabbit’ betrayed Beatrix Potter’s whimsical vision, and seemed less concerned with the plunder of Mr. McGregor’s vegetables than with its own raid of corporate music catalogs, the sequel, once again directed by Will Gluck, pre-empts such objections.” Read more…)

The Water Man (drama, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The keen affinity the actor David Oyelowo has for his fellow performers is the best thing about ‘The Water Man,’ his feature directorial debut. Scripted by Emily A. Needell, the picture is a family drama with a supernatural angle, centered on illness.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Perfumes (France, comedy, Emmanuelle Devos. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Tomris Laffly’s Variety review: “Elegantly directed and perceptively written with conventional yet feel-good notes around friendship and second chances, ‘Perfumes’ isn’t primarily about the reserved and haughty artisan Anne, however. Rather, the lovably disheveled Guillaume [Grégory Montel of ‘Call My Agent’] serves as our entry point to Magne’s story, which signposts well in advance how these two polar-opposite, fraught souls would eventually enmesh to save one another, like two lush scents combined to unleash one another’s powers.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Black Windmill (mystery/thriller, 1974, Michael Caine. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 50. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “I feel some pangs about this picture: It’s an admirably professional job, and distinctly entertaining. But the plot scatters into a flurry of devices for chases and escapes, and there are no lunges of astonishment, despite all the athletics.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Truffle Hunters (food, foraging, rural Italian culture, gastronomy. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The history of human gastronomy is full of mysteries. Who figured out that an oyster was something to eat? That fruit juice left sitting around for a while would get you drunk? That a kid would eat the middle of an Oreo first? I am now convinced that these imponderables pale in comparison to the question of the truffle. How did this subterranean fungus, the best specimens of which look like woebegone potatoes, come to be among the most prized and pricey of delicacies?” Read more…)