New releases 6/8/21

Top Hits
Shoplifters of the World (comedy, Helena Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Shoplifters of the World,’ a loving gift to superfans of the English band The Smiths, is, we are told at the beginning, ‘based on true intentions.’ I can’t argue with that: Written and directed by Stephen Kijak [who made the fantastic 2008 documentary ‘Scott Walker: 30 Century Man’], this sweetly nostalgic look at lost boys and lonely girls feels like it comes straight from the heart.” Read more…)

City of Lies (true crime/procedural, Johnny Depp. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 44. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “At heart a movie about one man’s self-destructive obsession [Poole was forced to resign two weeks shy of his pension], ‘City of Lies’ has an underlying, unexpected poignancy. The look is grimy and the atmosphere is grim; but what could have been a moody character study or a taut conspiracy thriller is instead a dreary procedural, a misbegotten mush of flashbacks, voice-overs and dead ends.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Center Stage (China, 1992, drama, Maggie Cheung. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Chain Lightning (1950, drama/adventure/romance, Humphrey Bogart. From A. Weiler’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Make no mistake about it, Warner Brothers, who obviously want audiences to know where they’re going, are aware that we’re living on a supercharged planet. And, in ‘Chain Lightning,’ which, zipped into the Strand on Saturday, they are proving that they are first on the jet-propelled bandwagon with Hollywood’s initial excursion into the wild blue yonder aboard the propellerless, supersonic aircraft. Like its title, this vehicle moves with exciting speed when it is airborne, but it slows down to a plodding walk as routine as a mailman’s rounds when it hits the ground.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Busting (1974, action, Elliott Gould. From Vincent Canby’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Peter] Hyams, who wrote and directed ‘Busting,’ brings off something of a feat by making a contemporary cop film that is tough without exploiting the sort of right-wing cynicism that tells us all to go out and buy our own guns. It is also comparatively humane. That is, it acknowledges that when cops and robbers are shooting it out in public places, the bystanders often get hurt.” Read more…)

Crescendo (1970, mystery/suspense, Stefanie Powers)

New Documentaries
Stray (feral dogs in Istanbul. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “As simple as its title and as complex as the city it briefly illuminates, ‘Stray,’ Lo’s sharp-eyed documentary about the street dogs of Istanbul, unspools without narration or anything like a plot. Instead, the restless rhythms of the mutts’ uncertain existence lend a poetic randomness to a movie that’s more contemplative than cute.” Read more…)

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words (politics, legal system, race, bio, Clarence Thomas. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 41. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “The producers, Michael Pack and Gina Cappo Pack, spent more than 30 hours interviewing [Justice Clarence] Thomas and his wife, Virginia. Simply getting to watch Thomas expound on his thoughts for an extended length of time constitutes its own kind of novelty — a surprise that begins to wear off when it becomes clear that Thomas will mostly be rehashing the life story he already recounted in his 2007 memoir.” Read more…)

Punk The Capital: Building A Sound Movement (music, popular culture, punk rock)

New releases 6/1/21

Top Hits

The Courier (drama/history, Benedict Cumberbatch. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘The Courier,’ a true life-based spy thriller set in the early 1960s — and staged to appeal to audiences old enough to have lived through them — stubbornly resists involving or affecting us until it’s almost over. By that time, though, you might have fallen asleep. Ideally, that shouldn’t happen while watching two stand-up guys — one British, one Russian — perhaps narrowly prevent a nuclear apocalypse. But the director, Dominic Cooke [whose 2018 feature debut, ‘On Chesil Beach,’ touchingly conveyed the tragedy of broken intimacy], is either unable to generate tension or simply chooses not to.” Read more…)

Boogie (sports drama/coming of age, Taylor Takahashi. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 54. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Boogie’ makes for a confident feature debut from the writer and director Eddie Huang, who is best known for creating the sitcom ‘Fresh Off The Boat.’ But ‘Boogie’ bears little resemblance to that earlier broad comedy. Boogie takes himself and his basketball ambitions seriously. And, taking cues from its protagonist, the movie doesn’t play around with cinematic craft or technique either.“ Read more…)

A Dark Song (horror/supernatural, Catherine Walker. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%,. Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘A Dark Song,’ the moodily intense first feature from the Irish director Liam Gavin, is a striking marriage of acting and atmosphere. Virtually a chamber piece with just two primary characters, the movie dives into the black arts with methodical restraint and escalating unease.” Read more…)

The World to Come (romance/gay & lesbian, Katherine Waterston. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “Though shot in Romania, ‘The World to Come,’ directed by Mona Fastvold, conjures an almost artisanal feeling of life in rural upstate New York in 1856. Generically, it plays like a western — a romance in untamed territory where snowy landscapes foster isolation, not explorative possibilities.” Read more…)

Greener Grass (comedy, Jocelyn DeBoer. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch that doesn’t know when to dial back the weird, ‘Greener Grass’ can be painful to watch. A deadpan take on suburban hell — I hesitate to call it a comedy, black or otherwise — the movie takes competitiveness to such excruciatingly surreal lengths that every would-be joke feels agonizingly strained.” Read more…)

Kinky Boots: The Musical (musical, Matt Henry)

New Blu-Ray

The Courier
Greener Grass

New Foreign

The Sweet Requiem (Tibet, drama. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The location shooting, with its nighttime shots of jam-packed multilane roads and eerily empty alleys, deftly conveys both the bustle and the quiet moments of Delhi working-class life. The plot intrigues are arguably appropriate to genre pictures, but ‘Requiem’ manages to play out as an urgent but understated drama. The film puts its points across with a delicacy and sobriety rare in moviemaking.” Read more…)

New British DVDs

The Mallorca Files: Series 1 (BBC procedural, Ele Rhys)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)

Nightmare Alley (1947, film noir, Criterion Collection, Tyrone Power. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Elvis Mitchell’s 2000 New York Times review of a “Nightmare Alley” theatrical re-release [requires log-in]: “I can’t understand how anyone could get so low,” the wily carny Stan [Tyrone Power] says of the gibbering geek, the chicken-head-biting freak who’s the lowest attraction at the sideshow. It’s an ominous piece of foreshadowing that begins ‘Nightmare Alley,’ the 1947 adaptation of the grim novel by William Lindsay Gresham. [Jules Furthman wrote the screenplay, adding a few shafts of optimism to the bleakness of the original material, in which no one gets off easily.]” Read more…)

New Documentaries

A Glitch In the Matrix (epistemology, technology, “reality”. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In the 1950s, Vladimir Nabokov asserted, not entirely playfully, that ‘reality’ is a word that should only ever have quotation marks around it. Contemporary technology has enabled thinkers to become more elaborate about the nature of the quotation marks. “‘A Glitch in the Matrix,’ directed by Rodney Ascher — who also made ‘Room 237,’ a 2013 film that gave certain Stanley Kubrick enthusiasts a platform to theorize about ‘The Shining’; many seemed to have too much time on their hands — explores the notion that we’re all living inside a computer simulation.” Read more…)

New releases 5/25/21

Top Hits
Long Weekend (rom-com, Zoe Chao. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 55. From Katie Walsh’s Los Angeles Times review: “There’s something about Vienna. Something off, that is. The love interest of writer-director Stephen Basilone’s ‘Long Weekend,’ Vienna, as played by Zoe Chao (who has perfected the art of quirky ’n’ cute) is just too good to be true. She looks adorable in vintage tees. She goes to Peter Sellers movies alone in the middle of the day.” Read more…)

Happily (rom-com, Joel McHale. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 58. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Writer/director Ben] Grabinski has both wit and energy, and these qualities, along with a game cast, help keep ‘Happily’ afloat for far longer than most made-in-L.A. dark domestic comedies. But the movie wants to do too many things, and grows diffuse.” Read more…)

The Sound of Silence (drama, Peter Sarsgaard. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 66. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “There’s something about a movie that goes out of its way to embrace the quiet — to make the audience really listen and be fully aware of every snippet of sound or sliver of silence — that feels refreshingly rare. In a medium that can be so reliant on character banter and song-stuffed sound cues, it can be powerful to be forced to concentrate on hearing noiselessness, so that the little sound that does occur is that much more meaningful. ‘The Sound of Silence,”’ the feature debut of the director Michael Tyburski [who also wrote the screenplay with Ben Nabors], attempts to wield this power but does more telling than showing.” Read more…)

The Invitation (horror, Logan Marshall-Green. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘The Invitation’ flirts with ideas that it doesn’t develop, including the nature of trauma and the allure of salvation, particularly when it comes to the kind of spiritual hokum that can send reasonable people around the bend and not just in Southern California. If the movie works as well as it does, it’s because [director Karyn] Kusama can coax scares from shadows, silences and ricocheting looks.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Invitation

New Foreign
Rififi (France, 1955, crime/drama dir. by Jules Dassin, Criterion Collection, Jean Servais. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 97. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Do you want to see a tough gangster picture? Do you want to see a crime film that makes the characters of Mickey Spillane seem like sissies and, at the same time, gives you the thrill of being an inside participant in a terrific Parisian robbery? Then go to see ‘Rififi,’ which opened at the Fine Arts last night. This is perhaps the keenest crime film that ever came from France, including ‘Pepe le Moko’ and some of the best of Louis Jouvet and Jean Gabin.” Read more…)

Flowers of Shanghai (China, 1998, drama, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%.) From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1998 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Set in 1884 in the brothels of the English concession in Shanghai, the director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s tale of peevish prostitutes and their gentleman callers is a sumptuous-looking film that may please the eyes of connoisseurs of chinoiserie but is unlikely to satisfy audiences in search of nuanced characters, emotional engagement, dramatic momentum or reverberant history.” Read more…)

Shadow Lines (aka Nyrkki): Season 1 (Finland, period spy thriller, Katja Küttner)

New British DVDs
The Salisbury Poisonings (true crime/espionage drama, Anne-Marie Duff. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 70. From New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz’s article on the series’ relationship to the actual events of an alleged Russian poisoning attack in the UYK city of Salisbury: “This series is less a spy story than a cautionary tale about the collateral damage that can occur when international intrigue runs amok, said Declan Lawn, a former investigative journalist with the BBC who researched and wrote the series with the journalist and documentary filmmaker Adam Patterson… ‘You know when you watch a James Bond movie and he drives through the city center wrecking everything around him and turning over market stalls and so on?’ Mr. Lawn said in an interview. ‘This is a story of the people who have to pick up the pieces.’” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Apartment for Peggy (drama, Jeanne Crain. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “George Bernard Shaw’s lamentation about youth being wasted on the young is made to seem pitifully feeble by the current evidence on the Roxy’s screen. For ‘Apartment for Peggy,’ the new-color picture which opened in that theatre yesterday, is a delightful and thoroughly heartening estimation of the capacities of modern youth. And it is also a cheering indication of the progressing talent of a young man. George Seaton, who wrote and directed it, wrote and directed ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ too.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Offence (1973, drama dir. by Sidney Lumet, Sean Connery. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Vincent Canby’s 1973 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As it progresses, ‘The Offence,’ for all its elaborate setting of scene and for all its introduction of subsidiary characters [beautifully played by Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant, among others, sort of gets smaller and smaller, instead of bigger. The entire film, it turns out, exists for a single sequence, a brutal station-house confrontation between the detective and his prime suspect [Ian Bannen], between a lower-class psychotic and a middle-class neurotic, between a closet sadist and an admitted masochist. In a sense, they are lovers, made for each other.It’s highly theatrical — perhaps just a little too highly theatrical for the more or less realistic context — but it’s been staged by Lumet for maximum effect.” Read more…)

New releases 5/18/21

Top Hits
The Father (drama, Anthony Hopkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “At once stupendously effective and profoundly upsetting, ‘The Father’ might be the first movie about dementia to give me actual chills. On its face a simple, uncomfortably familiar story about the heartbreaking mental decline of a beloved parent, this first feature from the French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller plays with perspective so cleverly that maintaining any kind of emotional distance is impossible.” Read more…)

The Nest (drama/mystery, Jude Law. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Nest’ is the first feature Sean Durkin has written and directed since his formidable debut, the cult-detox drama ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ [2011]. The long wait burdens the new movie with high expectations. In contrast to the dreamlike subjectivity of ‘Martha Marcy,’ ‘The Nest’ is a coldly observational study of a Reagan-Thatcher-era family divided in ambitions, nationality and — with respect to the children — parentage.” Read more…)

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (drama/gay & lesbian, Steven Silver. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 53. From Beandra July’s Hollywood Reporter review: “An agonizing tale about the weight society hoists upon too many black gay men’s weary shoulders, it’s the kind of film that lingers in your mind days after you’ve seen it, as much due to the relevant subject matter as to Tunde’s penetrating gaze. The cinematography plays with foreground and background, often deploying a visual vocabulary of two-shots where one character is in focus and the other is blurry, both usually in profile.” Read more…)

Minari (drama, Steven Yeun. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A warm sense of familiarity is one of the film’s charms. The chronicle of an immigrant family, often told through the eyes of a child, is a staple of American literature and popular culture. But every family — every family member, for that matter — has a distinct set of experiences and memories, and the fidelity to those is what makes ‘Minari,’ in its circumspect, gentle way, moving and downright revelatory.” Read more…)

Shithouse (comedy, Cooper Raiff. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Raiff’s talkathon is both more and less than it appears: more in that it takes structural chances [a lengthy, awkward day-after follows Alex and Maggie’s time-stopping evening of outpourings], and it locates a few kernels of truth about the difficulties of adapting to an unfamiliar place. But its insights rest in generic characters, who are simply too perfect as foils despite their ostensible flaws.” Read more…)

The Twentieth Century (Canada, comedy/drams, Dan Beirne. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Matthew Rankin’s loony debut feature, ‘The Twentieth Century,’ presents a feverish reimagining of turn-of-the-20th-century Canada. An exuberant feat of visual design, it’s meticulously weird and full of rambunctious humor.” Read more…)

Test Pattern (drama, Brittany S. Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “Test Pattern” achieves a lot with very little: The film’s nonlinear editing and cannily scored silences invite our interpretations, locating in them the entanglements of race and gender. [Director Shatara Michelle] Ford pushes us, if not to definitive answers, then to the right questions.” Read more…)

Raya and the Last Dragon (animated feature, Awkwafina [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “Faith in the goodness of other people — even those from distant lands and of different persuasions — is the governing theme of ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ which the directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and the screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, set in a fantasyland version of Southeast Asia complete with floating markets, water taxis and lots of shrimp congee.” Read more…)

Tom & Jerry: The Movie (blended animated-live action feature, Chloe Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 32%. From Jason Bailey’s New York Times review: “Affectionate nostalgia can attach itself to the most inexplicable and undeserving of recipients, which is about the only explanation for the existence of ‘Tom & Jerry,’ a new feature-length expansion of the cartoon shorts of the 1940s and 1950s [and endless television rebroadcasts thereafter]. Those were simple, slapstick cat-and-mouse chase comedies; here, the characters are uneasily blended, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’-style, into a live-action New York City.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Supernova (gay & lesbian drama, Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “It’s rare to see a cinematic drama executed with such consistent care as ‘Supernova,’ written and directed by Harry Macqueen and starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. And here, that care pays off to devastating effect.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Baxter (France, 1989, horror/comedy, Lisa Delamare. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Vincent Canby’s 1990 Times review [requires log-in]: “Its satire is deadly sharp, often funny, sometimes mean and, at the end, a tiny bit sentimental. Though it frequently looks at the world through the eyes of Baxter, whose thoughts are heard on the soundtrack, the film doesn’t allow itself to be hobbled by consistency.” Read more…)

Madame Rosa (France, 1977, drama, Simone Signoret. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Vincent Canby’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Though it’s not an Israeli movie, ‘Madame Rosa’ makes profoundly moving the kind of emotions that have earlier been involved rather than effectively demonstrated by Mr. Mizrahi in even ‘The House on Chelouche Street.’ ‘Madame Rosa,’ which opens today at the Plaza Theater, is sweet and tough in conventional ways, but it also acknowledges something you don’t often see except in the films of directors like Renoir and Truffaut, that the greatest courage may often be the will to go on, to continue, in the conviction that there is nothing but darkness beyond.” Read more…)

Twilight’s Kiss (China, gay &lesbian/drama/romance, Tai Bo. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 71. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Pak, a 70-year-old Hong Kong taxi driver, fits cruising into his daily routine, away from the eyes of his suspicious wife. Then at a park he meets Hoi, a twinkly-eyed retiree with a dapper mustache, and the two nurture a deeper, tender connection that’s at the heart of ‘Twilight’s Kiss,’ a look at love that comes late and is burdened by a lifetime of hidebound norms.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Suitable Boy (UK/India period drama directed by Mira Nair, Tanya Maniktala. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 73. From Bilal Qureshi’s New York Times article about the adaptation of the novel “A Suitable Boy” to television: “When ‘A Suitable Boy’ was published in 1993, the 1,349-page tome about post-Independence India, written by Vikram Seth, became one of the longest English-language novels in print. Superlative reviews around the world ensured its place in the door-stopping canon of modern literary classics… Now, after several stalled attempts, the beloved novel has been adapted into a lavish new six-part series, directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair [‘Salaam Bombay!,’ ‘Monsoon Wedding’]. When it debuted on BBC One in July, it was lauded in Britain as the network’s first prime-time drama filmed on location in India with an almost entirely Indian cast. In India, the reaction was more complicated: Members of the ruling Hindu nationalist party have called for a boycott over its depictions of interfaith romance.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932, pre-Code drama dir. by Dorothy Arzner, Criterion Collection, Fredric March. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There have been many strange changes in story titles, but few of them as strange as that of the picture at this theatre. Imagine Cleo Lucas’s novel, ‘I. Jerry, Take Thee, Joan,’ being known in shadow form as ‘Merrily We Go to Hell’! This production is another with excellent acting, especially by Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March, but the many scenes showing constant intoxication of a newspaper man who writes a successful play are not particularly interesting or edifying.” Read more…)

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 4:
      Jewel Robbery (1932, comedy/crime/romance, William Powell. From A.D.S.’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “What they have tried to accomplish in transplanting Laszlo Fodor’s Viennese comedy, ‘Jewel Robbery,’ to the cinema pastures is probably more praiseworthy than the way they have accomplished it. The new resident at the Strand has most of the staples of excellent warm-weather comedy. The situation is as capricious, the dialogue as sprightly and the settings as sinfully luxurious as they ought to be.” Read more…)
      Lawyer Man (1932, drama/romance, William Powell. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The latest picture to turn the light on the activities of a keen-witted member of the bar is ‘Lawyer Man,’ which is now at the Hollywood. Sometimes this feature recalls turns in ‘The Mouthpiece,’ but the current offering is none the less quite entertaining.” Read more…)
      They Call It Sin (1932, drama, Loretta Young. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Loretta Young, who was seen recently as the unfortunate mother in ‘Life Begins,’ has a more congenial rôle in this current feature. It is that of a girl from a Kansas town who invades New York City with every intention of becoming the bride of a young man of means whom she had met on her native heath, but, in the end, she is quite satisfied to settle down as the bride of his best friend. This is the principal difference between the story of ‘They Call It Sin’ and that of other films concerned with provincial maidens who risk the pitfalls of a big city.” Read more…)
      Man Wanted (1932, comedy/drama/romance, Kay Francis)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, comedy, Criterion Collection, Sean Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 61. From Janet Maslin’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Can there be anything about life in high school, particularly life in a suburban California high school, that the movie-going public hasn’t already seen? Well, maybe there can. A little bit of it turns up in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ a jumbled but appealing teen-age comedy with something of a fresh perspective on the subject.” Read more…)

Being There (1979, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Peter Sellers. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. From Roger Ebert’s 1997 writeup as a “Great Movie”: “Satire is a threatened species in American film, and when it does occur, it’s usually broad and slapstick, as in the Mel Brooks films. ‘Being There,’ directed by Hal Ashby, is a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it. It has the appeal of an ingenious intellectual game, in which the hero survives a series of challenges he doesn’t understand, using words that are both universal and meaningless.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Wojnarowicz (art, gay & lesbian, AIDS activism, censorship, David Wojnarowicz. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Directed by Chris McKim, this exemplary documentary on the artist (which is also a mini-chronicle of the East Village art scene of 1970s and ’80s New York) takes advantage of Wojnarowicz’s penchant for self-documentation, drawing on the cassette journals he began keeping even before he was a fully formed creator. The documents Wojnarowicz maintained in this period, during which his art became inextricable from his activism, guide the viewer into the second American hellscape Wojnarowicz experienced: the AIDS epidemic.” Read more…)

Searching for Secret Heroes (blues musicians, musicology, Sam Charters)

New releases 5/11/21

Top Hits
Land (drama, Robin Wright. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The beauty of the mountain regions of Alberta, Canada, is presented in modes both lush and piercingly sharp in Robin Wright’s feature directing debut, ‘Land.’ Wright also plays the lead role, Edee, a grieving woman who wants to get away from the world.” Read more…)

Pixie (thriller/comedy, Olivia Cooke. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 45. From Cath Clarke’s Guardian review: “Pixie is her name and trouble is her game. ‘She won’t just break you, she’ll take a Kalashnikov to your heart,’ is the warning at the start of this hectic gangster comedy from St Trinian’s director Barnaby Thompson. It features a strong lead performance from Olivia Cooke as Pixie, the step-daughter of a smalltime gangster in the west of Ireland. She’s written as a 21st-century femme fatale, a woman who uses her brains, beauty and cunning to sucker a succession of chumpish men into helping her rob drug dealers of MDMA with a street value of €1m.” Read more…)

The Mauritanian (drama, Tahar Rahim. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 53. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Directed by Kevin Macdonald and based on [Mohamedou Ould] Slahi’s 2015 memoir, the story focuses mainly on the efforts of the defense lawyer Nancy Hollander [Jodie Foster] to obtain a hearing for Slahi and, hopefully, his release. She’s more hindered than helped in this endeavor by a junior associate, Teri Duncan [Shailene Woodley], who’s written with a gullibility that borders on unprofessional.” Read more…)

Beast Beast (drama, Shirley Chen. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 55. From Amy Nicholson’s Variety review: “Writer-director Danny Madden’s ‘Beast Beast’ clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus.” Read more…)

Lapsis (drama/thriller, Dean Imperial. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Lapsis’ is set in an alternate present, but it doesn’t feel that way. A low-budget dig at corporate rapaciousness and the gig economy, this gently comic satire feels entirely in step with the world outside our front doors.” Read more…)

The Marksman (action, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 44. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Slow and simple and minimally violent, ‘The Marksman,’ directed by Robert Lorenz, cares more about bonding than brutality. Predictable to a fault, the movie coasts pleasurably on [Liam] Neeson’s seasoned, sad-sweet charisma — an asset that’s been tragically imprisoned in mopey-loner roles and generic action thrillers.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Mauritanian

New Foreign DVDs
Nina Wu (China, thriller, Wu Ke-Xi. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beatrice Loayza’s Times review: “It’s easy enough to slap the #MeToo label on ‘Nina Wu’ and call it a day. Yes, its titular heroine [a remarkable Wu Ke-Xi, also a co-writer] is an actress brutalized and exploited by a misogynist film industry, and the Taiwanese director, Midi Z, never pulls his punches. Yet this startlingly evocative, complex and confrontational new film is not interested in justice or didacticism.” Read more…)

The Columnist (Netherlands, thriller/satire, Katja Herbers. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 58. From Beatric Loayza’s New York Times review: “A writer is thrown into the cyber snake pit when her op-ed criticizing Black Pete — a traditional Dutch Christmas character who typically appears in blackface — is published. Suddenly, swarms of disinhibited men inundate her Twitter account with death threats and misogynist nastiness. Oh, to be a woman online. In ‘The Columnist,’ a glossy and intentionally ridiculous psycho-thriller, the writer, Femke Boot [Katja Herbers], refuses to let the haters bring her down. She makes sure of that by becoming a literal troll hunter who spends her evenings stylishly executing unkempt dudes.” Read more…)

Trances (Morocco, 1981, music documentary, Nass El Ghiwane. From an unsigned 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Ahmed El-Maanouni’s ‘Transes,’ a French-Moroccan documentary, is about an immensely popular Moroccan musical group called Nass el-Ghiwane.The five-man combo, we are told, has had the same kind of electrifying effect on popular North African music in the 1970’s that the Beatles had on the popular music of Britain, Europe and America in the 60’s; thus the title ‘Transes,’ French for the trances of its audiences.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Lady In the Dark (1954, pioneering color TV musical with a book by Moss Hart, music by Kurt Weill, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Ann Sothern. From V.A.’s 1954 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It was a wonderful show. Its professional touch from all directions stood out like Easter flowers in Rockefeller Plaza, and its taste was all but impeccable, with one or two minor exceptions. ‘Lady in the Dark’ was real theatre. It had vitality, it had mood and it had illusion—all the way from start to finish.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Rocks In My Pockets (2014, animation, mental health, family history, Signe Baumane. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s 2014 Times review: “With ‘Rocks in My Pockets,’ Signe Baumane presents a sharp, surprising and funny animated feature, plumbing the depths of depression via her family history. Guided by Ms. Baumane’s almost musically accented voice-over, this hand-drawn debut feature is based upon the mental struggles of her Latvian grandmother and other relatives. It’s told with remorseless psychological intelligence, wicked irony and an acerbic sense of humor.” Read more…)

The Reason I Jump (autism, neuro-diversity, Naoki Higashida. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In the book ‘The Reason I Jump,’ published in 2007, the author Naoki Higashida, who wrote it when he was 13, says he hopes to explain ‘what’s going on in the minds of people with autism.’ Higashida, a nonspeaking autistic person, structures the book as a Q. and A., answering questions like, ‘How are you writing these sentences?’ and ‘What are your thoughts on autism itself?’ The film adaptation, directed by Jerry Rothwell [the documentary about Greenpeace ‘How to Change the World’], is at once a supplement and an effort to find a cinematic analogue.” Read more…)

Some Kind of Heaven (The Villages, senior citizen life in USA. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Cerified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘Some Kind of Heaven,’ a documentary co-produced by The New York Times, pierces the bubble of The Villages, a Florida retirement community northwest of Orlando that has grown to the size of a small city. The architecture and even the local lore foster an illusion of history. Rather than present a cross-section of this 30-square-mile golf-opolis, the director, Lance Oppenheim, making his first feature, focuses on three sets of characters.” Read more…)

New releases 5/4/21

Top Hits
Judas and the Black Messiah (historical drama, Daniel Kaluuya. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. Metacritic: 85. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ represents a disciplined, impassioned effort to bring clarity to a volatile moment, to dispense with the sentimentality and revisionism that too often cloud movies about the ’60s and about the politics of race. It’s fascinating in its own right, and even more so when looked at alongside other recent movies.” Read more…)

The Little Things (thriller, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by John Lee Hancock and starring Denzel Washington as a weary professional with keen instincts and a battered conscience, ‘The Little Things’ is an unapologetic throwback. It broods over the psychologically and spiritually damaging effects of police work as its two main detectives (Rami Malek alongside Washington) pursue an elusive, malignant murderer of women.” Read more…)

The Professor & The Madman (drama/biography, Sean Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 27. From Jay Weissberg’s Variety review: “For those that have been anticipating this curious, much-delayed oddity, the good news is that Gibson is fine; it’s everything else that doesn’t work. Given that Gibson is refusing to do publicity (and doubtless neither will co-star Sean Penn), the film’s chances of attracting audiences seem minuscule. But at least the possibility finally exists. Only Safinia and his closest collaborators know just how much tinkering went on following his departure, but editing, alongside truly uninspired dialogue, are the picture’s biggest flaws.” Read more…)

Cowboys (drama, Steve Zahn. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The conflicts at the heart of ‘Cowboys’ are timely, coming in a moment when trans children and their rights are at the forefront of American political debate. But the writer and director Anna Kerrigan doesn’t sensationalize her story. Her characters don’t speak as if they were addressing the audience from a pulpit.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Judas and the Black Messiah

New Foreign
Moka (France, drama, Emmanuelle Devos. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Something has to give, obviously, and the movie’s climax has sufficient twists and turns for a conventional payoff. But the movie, adapted from a novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, is ultimately more concerned with the genuinely tragic dimensions of the story than its suspense angles. That point is driven home with a final scene that is likely to move audience members to tears, just as it does Diane. ‘Moka’ is also a first-rate showcase for two of French cinema’s finest actors, Ms. Devos and Ms. Baye, both of whom do career-high work here.” Read more…)

The Day of the Beast (Spain, 1995, horror, Álex Angulo. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1999 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “If Quentin Tarantino had gotten his directorial hands on ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or ‘The Exorcist,’ the results might very well have resembled ‘The Day of the Beast.’ Part black comedy, part lurid cartoon, part paranoid theological melodrama with a heavy metal undercurrent, this subtitled Spanish film arrives today at Cinema Village trailing half a dozen Goyas, the Spanish equivalents of Oscars.” Read more…)

Viy (Russia, 1967, horror, Natalya Varley. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.)

New British DVDs
Atlantic Crossing (historically-based mini-series, Kyle MacLahlan. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From Caroline Hallemann’s Town & Country review: “Inspired by the real-life experiences of the Norwegian royal family during the German occupation of their country in World War II, ‘Atlantic Crossing’ fictionalizes Crown Princess Märtha’s journey to safety in the U.S., and her influential relationship with President FDR. It’s that combination of royal history and political drama that really scratches the same itch as ‘The Crown.’ Plus, no major spoilers, but Queen Elizabeth’s parents even show up for a few episodes.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Reflecting Skin (1991, drama, Viggo Mortensen. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Vincent Canby’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film is the first to be written and directed by Mr. Ridley, the Englishman who wrote the screenplay for ‘The Krays.’ He seems to have a lot on his mind, though none of it is yet sorted out. He is reported to have said that he conceived ‘The Reflecting Skin’ at a period in his life when he was reading “Alice in Wonderland” and looking at a lot of paintings by Andrew Wyeth. You can make of that what you will.” Read more…)

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963, suspense, George C. Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review: “In ‘The List of Adrian Messenger,’ John Huston pulls a stunt that helps neither his reputation nor his plainly mediocre mystery film. He has some well-known Hollywood actors got up in disguises appear as assorted small characters in the picture without identifying them in the cast. Then, when the drama is over, he has them pull off their rubber masks and show themselves, with winks and simpers, as though they were clever, indeed. They aren’t.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Hemingway (bio, writing, Ernest Hemingway. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “‘Hemingway’ doesn’t separate art and artist. Hemingway didn’t either. He created a public “avatar” that sometimes overshadowed his work [and threatened to make him a self-caricature] and wrote his life into his art [sometimes with cruelty toward friends and peers]. But the documentary also recognizes that life and art don’t always correlate neatly or simply. The resulting biography is clear-eyed about its subject but emotional about his legacy. “ Read more…)

M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity (art, bio, dorm room posters, M.C. Escher. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 74. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The film is strongest when it uses animation to illustrate Escher’s ideas, as when it unbends the curves of a lithograph to more clearly show what it depicts: a man in a gallery looking at a picture of the very scene he is in, a perspective repeated endlessly. We learn how Escher applied ideas from the mosaics at the Alhambra in Spain to imagery from the natural world. He describes the associative thinking — his mind jumping from a hexagon to a honeycomb to a bee — that inspired his subject matter and says he feels a kinship to Bach’s use of repetition and variation.” Read more…)

F.T.A. (antiwar activism, vaudeville, cultural politics, Vietnam war, Jane Fonda Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 75. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times write-up of this movie’s re-release: “‘F.T.A.’, an agitprop rockumentary that ran for a week in July 1972, reappears as an exhumed relic, recording the joyfully scurrilous anti-Vietnam War vaudeville led by Jane Fonda that toured the towns outside American military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan. The movie, directed by Francine Parker, who produced it along with Fonda and Donald Sutherland, opened the same day that Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam made news. The film, greeted with outrage and consigned to oblivion, has been restored by IndieCollect, and is enjoying a belated second (virtual) run.” Read more…)

Anime/Animation
Death Note: The Complete Series (2006, anime, fantasy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New releases 4/27/21

Top Hits
Crisis (drama, Armie Hammer. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 40. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Applying the panoramic approach of Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Traffic’ to the subject matter of, well, ‘Traffic,’ ‘Crisis’ examines the intractability of the opioid epidemic through a three-pronged narrative. The writer-director, Nicholas Jarecki, who made the engrossing, ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’-ish thriller ‘Arbitrage’ [2012], awkwardly pretzels a checklist of social problems into the form of a drama.” Read more…)

The Mortuary Collection (horror anthology, Clancy Brown. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 69. From Roxana Hadadi’s RogerEbert.com review: “Reminiscent of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ but with more R-rated gore, ‘The Mortuary Collection’ is an impressively nasty horror anthology. Spanning a variety of subgenres, from creature feature to body horror to the undead, the movie veers from predictable narrative beats more than once, cackling with menacing glee all the while.” Read more…)

Vanquish (action, Morgan Freeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 7%. Metacritic: 21. From Dennis Harvey’s Variety review: “‘Vanquish’ isn’t bad so much as inert — nothing here is convincing, tense, kinetic, outrageous, or silly enough to give the movie even fleeting life. The script is so by-the-numbers, the performers can hardly hide their disinterest, a feeling soon to be shared by viewers lured by the promise of these stars in a violent revenge tale.” Read more…)

Creep (horror, Mark Duplass.) Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. From Andy Webster’s 2015 New York Times review: “Most of the tension rests on [Mark] Duplass’s performance, which doesn’t approach, say, [Michael] Keaton’s troubled renter in ‘Pacific Heights’ or Jessica Walter’s obsessed fan in ‘Play Misty for Me.’ Still, the film is remarkable, considering its minimal means and surprising lack of bloodshed, given the genre. Does it stay with you? A little.” Read more…)

The Lodge (horror, Riley Keough. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “You’ll want nothing so much as a woolly sweater when you see “The Lodge,” a film so wintry in tone and setting that no movie-theater thermostat will banish its chill. Even so, the directors, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala [the Austrian pair who made ‘Goodnight Mommy’ in 2015], have coaxed only a disappointingly timorous horrorscape from that marvelously glacial mood. There’s no denying their competence — they have style to burn — and their cinematographer, Thimios Bakatakis, is a wonder at painting dark and dread-filled interiors and ominously snow-blanketed surroundings.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Better Days Blu-Ray (China, drama, Zhou Dongyu. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 83. From Jessica Kiang’s Variety review: “There are even times when this genre-inflected story of star-crossed love becomes so potent it threatens to undermine the film’s social realist credentials, and the very serious point it is making about the unchecked (in fact, systemically encouraged) ruthlessly Darwinian social order of Chinese schooling. But however archetypal the characters become — sometimes it feels like Xiao Bei is the bad-boy boxer and Chen Nian is the good-girl hope-for-redemption from a classic film noir — the electrifyingly real performances, especially from a riveting, guttingly empathetic Zhou, convince us of the emotional truth of even the most schematic of twists.” Read more…)

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone Blu-Ray (1990, gangster epic, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From Dave Itzkoff’s New York Times article on the revising of “Godfather III” into “Godfather, Coda”: “For a new theatrical and home-video release this month, Coppola has rechristened the film as ‘Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.’ The new name pays tribute to Puzo, his ‘Godfather’ co-screenwriter and author of the original novel, and includes the title they originally intended for the film that became ‘Part III.’ The director has changed its beginning and ending and made alterations throughout to excavate and clarify the narrative that he always believed it contained about mortality and redemption.” Read more…)

New Foreign
The Salt of Tears (France, drama, Oulaya Amamra. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Philippe Garrel’s] new feature, “The Salt of Tears,” is at first glance not too much different from most of his other 21st-century pictures, such as “La Jalousie,” nor from movies going back to the beginning of the once avant-garde director’s narrative work, like “L’Enfant Secret” (1979). It’s in black and white, for one thing. However, its widescreen frame isn’t customary in Garrel’s work — but proves apt for this story. Renato Berta’s cinematography lends an expansiveness to its ordinary settings, both urban and semirural.” Read more…)

Memories of Murder (South Korea, 2003, crime/mystery, Criterion Collection, Kang-ho Song. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. From Manohla Dargis’ 2005 New York Times review [requires login]: “‘Memories of Murder’ is such a taut, effective thriller it’s a shame you have to read subtitles to gauge just how good a movie it is. If you don’t speak Korean, that is. The problem isn’t the film’s South Korean provenance or that it centers on two detectives tracking a serial killer, perilously overworked terrain. The problem is that persuading audiences to watch foreign-language films by directors they’ve never heard of has never been easy even if — and here’s my shameless hard sell — the movie in question works better than most Hollywood thrillers and even those ‘Law & Order’ procedurals.” Read more…)

Shirin (Iran, 2008, drama dir. by Abbas Kiarostami, Hedye Tehrani. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From the 2008 Hollywood Reporter review: “A tough yet fascinating watch once you get into it, ‘Shirin’ marks another interesting twist in the eclectic artistic career of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. This feature-length film is simply a parade of close-ups of 113 Iranian actresses who are watching a film which we never see. Some viewers will panic when they realize there’s never going to be a reverse shot, while others will succumb to a hypnotic series of beautiful faces and a charming fairy tale read on the soundtrack.” Read more…)

Oslo, August 31st (Norway, drama, Petter Width Kristiansen. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s 2012 New York Times review [may require log-in]: “Joachim Trier’s ‘Oslo, August 31st’ is a perfectly linear story that bristles with suspense and ambiguity. The title and the structure make literal the recovery movement mantra ‘one day at a time,’ and also show just how long and how full of danger a single 24-hour span can be.” Read more…)

What Have You Done to Solange (Italy, horror, Fabio Testi. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Tor’s review at Bloody Good Horror: “‘What Have You Done to Solange?’ is a stand out film by a director who got too few chances to stretch his wings. It is a film that doesn’t employ the stalwart styles of the genre as rote but uses them to point out actual socio-cultural conflicts of the time. What is even more amazing is that it manages to exploit, inform and entertain all at the same time and in equal measure. If you choose one Giallo to watch that wasn’t made by Dario Argento you be hard pressed to do better than ‘Solange.’” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Cast A Dark Shadow/Wanted for Murder (1955/1946, British film noir, Eric Portman/Dirk Bogarde. From Bosley Crowther;’s 1957 New York Times review of “Cast A Dark Shadow” [requires log-in]: “The British, who can make a fine art of murder on stage and screen, again have come through with a thoroughly polished job of civilized homicide in ‘Cast a Dark Shadow,’ which was thrown on the Guild Theatre’s screen yesterday. Unfortunately, the felon is a psychotic gent who plays hob with suspense by constantly showing his hand to the audience. And his associates often are garrulous citizens who speak up too frequently on unimportant matters. It would be criminal to criticize their uniformly fine portrayals or the meticulous plotting of this somber adventure.” Read more…

From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review of “Wanted for Murder” [requires log-in]: “A sublimely serene demonstration of Scotland Yard’s way of running down a dignified English gentleman who happens, in his odd moments, to be a homicidal maniac, given to strangling young ladies, is afforded in the British film, ‘Wanted for Murder,’ which wandered into the Victoria yesterday. Enthusiasts of fright and violence are advised not to push and shove. For this is one of those dramas of a studied and literate sort which gives the impression that it was written and made between sips of tea.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Keep Your Powder Dry (1945, drama/comedy, Lana Turner. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The three girls most prominently in evidence are Lana Turner as a former night club hound, Laraine Day as a wised-up general’s daughter and Susan Peters as an humble soldier’s wife. And the idea is that Miss Turner and Miss Day feud throughout their training stage, while Miss Peters sits sweetly on the sidelines and acts very noble now and then. Of course, in the end, the feuding trainees make up in a burst of gallantry, receive their officer commissions and march bravely off to war.” Read more…)

The Bride Wore Red (1937, comedy, Joan Crawford. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1937 New York Times review: “Gowns by Adrian and settings by Cedric Gibbons do not entirely conceal the underlying shabbiness of The Bride Wore Red, one of those seasonal discoveries of Cinderella which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer turned into the Capitol yesterday. Now it has Miss Joan Crawford who puts on an emotional circus as the shoddy cabaret girl (with dreams) who has been given two glorious weeks with high society in the Tyrol and tries desperately to have the clock stopped before her witching hour strikes.”)

A Woman’s Secret (1949, film noir, Maureen O’Hara)

New American Back Catalog DVDs
Uptight (1968, drama, Ruby Dee. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Jules Dassin’s ‘Up Tight’ is an earnest hybrid of a movie — the transposition of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel ‘The Informer’ from the Dublin of “the troubles” to the Cleveland of April, 1968, in the hours immediately following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. The betrayed Irish patriot has been turned into a black militant, and the British occupation force into the white Establishment. None of this really works, but ‘Up Tight’ is such an intense and furious movie that it’s impossible not to take it seriously.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Ottolenghi & The Cakes of Versailles (food, baking, pageantry, Yotam Ottolenghi. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Did you know that drinkable chocolate predated the chocolate bar? It’s one of the many historical tidbits dropped for your delectation in ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ a fun documentary directed by Laura Gabbert. In 2018, the renowned Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi [who contributes a column to The Times’s Food section] was commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to reimagine the sweet stuff enjoyed by the court of French royalty in the period from 1682 to 1789. After which said royalty encountered an inconvenience: the French Revolution.” Read more…)

The Last Blockbuster (cinema history, video store culture, Kevin Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Taylor Morden and narrated with engaging energy by the actor Lauren Lapkus [‘Orange Is the New Black,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory”’], the nostalgia appeal of the movie extends a bit beyond its subject. Its talking heads — including the director Kevin Smith; the actors Jamie Kennedy and Ione Skye; the comedians Brian Posehn and Doug Benson; and members of the music groups Savage Garden and Smashmouth — make the documentary feel like a supersized episode of the old VH1 show ‘Best Week Ever.’” Read more…)

New releases 4/20/21

Top Hits
Body Brokers (drama, Jack Kilmer. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 64. From Noel Murray’s Los Angeles Times review: “‘Body Brokers’ is too fascinating and deeply felt to dismiss. For every bluntly melodramatic moment, there are three or four that are bracingly real, detailing Utah’s disillusionment as he realizes not all of his ‘helpers’ are on the up-and-up. The plot here is too plain, but the details are vivid and the outrage palpable. If nothing else, this movie is one hell of an education.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on “The Exorcist” (filmmaking, movie history, William Friedkin. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From Glenn Kenny’s RogerEbert.com review: “If you’ve read the great director’s memoir or seen him introducing his films at rep houses, you know that Friedkin, now 85, is operating in a kind of avuncular mode. An autodidact raised in poverty in Chicago, he is remarkably erudite in conversation, or ‘conversation,’ and from the very beginning the correspondences he makes between the formation of his own aesthetic and the way “fate” conspired to lead him to direct ‘The Exorcist’ are dazzling.” Read more…)

There’s Always Tomorrow (1955, romantic melodrama, Barbara Stanwyck. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Have mercy on Dad. That’s the thesis of Universal’s ‘There’s Always Tomorrow,’ a little tale of domestic relations that came to the Palace yesterday. Here is the situation:Fred MacMurray is comfortably wed to Joan Bennett. He has a nice business, three blossoming children and a tidy home. But his family takes him for granted—treats him slightly worse than a dog. Then along comes Barbara Stanwyck, an old sweetheart—successful, unattached. She is nostalgic, sympathetic. Naturally, Dad falls. What happens next is cut to order—routine procedure, as they say.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Spiral: Seasons 7 & 8 (France, mystery series, Caroline Proust)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
History Is Made at Night (1937, drama, Criterion Collection, Charles Boyer. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1937 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Walter Wanger’s ‘History Is Made at Night,’ which the gentle week-end zephyrs wafted into the Rivoli, is as unreasonably likable a film as we have chuckled over and snorted at this season… As a literary exercise, it is nothing short of multidexterous: a farce with one hand, melodrama with the next, comedy with a third, tragedy a fourth. We have no idea what the average would be. Only an extremely clever cast could have kept the story within credible limits. And that is the picture’s saving virtue: it has an ingratiating group of players, each carrying out his assignment to the letter.” Read more…)

So Proudly We Hail (1943, World War II, Claudette Colbert. From Bosley Crowther’s 1943 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For the basic fault in this picture is that it sets up the illusion of place but fails to maintain it with the illusion of genuine people there. And so we behold the horror of Bataan through a transparency, through the studiously disheveled glamour of the Misses Colbert, Goddard and Lake.” Read more…)

New releases 4/13/21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New releases 4/6/21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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