New releases 9/3/19

Top Hits
Booksmart (comedy, Kaitlyn Dever. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Booksmart’ is sharp but not mean, warm without feeling too soft or timid. The social stereotypes that have been a staple of the American high school experience as imagined in movies and TV shows going back to John Hughes — or ‘Happy Days,’ or Dobie Gillis — are still intact, but they function as myths to be debunked rather than truths to be upheld.” Read more…)

Men In Black: International (comedy/sci-fi, Chris Hemsworth. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 38. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The usual slimy, strange and tentacled creatures slither and galumph through ‘Men in Black: International.’ Some are cute — like the itty-bitty being voiced by Kumail Nanjiani — but some look like leftovers from other fantasy franchises. The critters mingling with humans at Men-in-Black HQ could be on hiatus from the ‘Star Wars’ movies, while a ferocious extraterrestrial suggests a prototype from the ‘Alien’ series. Nearly everything here reminds you of something else, often better, cleverer, funnier.” Read more…)

The Last Black Man In San Francisco (drama, Jimmie Fails. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The astonishing ‘Last Black Man in San Francisco’ is about having little in a grab-what-you-can world. It’s the haunting, elegiac story of Jimmie Fails — playing a version of himself — a young man trying to hold onto a sense of home in San Francisco. His parents are missing in action and someone else lives in the family’s old house. Given to dreamy, faraway looks, Jimmie seems not quite there, either. But he remains tethered to the city, somehow exalted by it. And when he slaloms down its hills on his skateboard, he doesn’t descend — he soars.” Read more…)

Ma (horror/thriller, Octavia Spencer. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 53. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Ma,’ a clammy, sloppy, sometimes funny thriller about an enabler of underage drinking, could and maybe should have been advertised as ‘from the director of “The Help” and the producer of “Get Out.”’ The cognitive dissonance of seeing those two titles in one phrase is pretty good preparation for the crossed signals and jammed circuits that make this movie interesting. Which isn’t the same as good, exactly. The director [Tate Taylor] and the screenwriter [Scotty Landes] take a premise with all kinds of potential — a middle-aged woman first befriends and then terrorizes a bunch of teenagers — and find various ways to mess it up, while also delivering a few jolts and laughs along the way.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Men In Black: International

New Foreign DVDs
Alps (Greece, 2012, drama, Aggeliki Papoulia. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s 2012 New York Times review: “A lot of the recent news from Greece has been sad and disturbing. The same could be said about some recent Greek films, though the words might have a slightly different meaning. This too is apt, since one theme of the movies in question — I’m thinking of ‘Dogtooth’ and ‘Attenberg’ as well as Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘Alps,’ the subject of this review — is the absurd and alarming divergence of language from its objects.” Read more…)

New TV
True Detective: Season 3 (HBO mystery, Mahershala Ali. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 73. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “If you score “True Detective” Season 3 on originality, it fails — for repeating both its own history and the already-dated cable genre of glum loners confronting the evils men do. But if you treat it as a do-over — if the series, like one of its haunted antiheroes, is retracing its steps to try to get things right — then it’s fine. Often quite good. Far more consistent.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes (history, Holocaust, heroism. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Narrated by Isabella Rossellini, the movie unfolds in a somewhat standard testimonial documentary format, mixing old photographs, re-enactments and a heavy-handed soundtrack. It provides a reasonable primer on Italy’s complicated history with the Holocaust and the Italian resistance.” Read more…)

New releases 8/27/19

Top Hits
Rocketman (Elton John bio pic/music, Taron Egerton. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Actor Taron] Egerton, with what can only be called flamboyant understatement — and also, I suppose, understated flamboyance — in effect plays both the Lady Gaga and the Bradley Cooper parts in a fresh iteration of ‘A Star Is Born.’ His Elton is the hard-living road warrior and the preternaturally gifted ingénue, the sacrificial hero and the plucky survivor, the rock god and the camp icon. The actor delivers a tour de force of self-effacement, a bravura demonstration of borrowed charisma.” Read more…)

The Secret Life of Pets 2 (animated feature, Patton Oswalt [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 55. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Times review: “Too scattered narratively to cohere, and yet somehow still funny enough to justify its existence, ‘The Secret Life of Pets 2’ makes for an entertaining trifle. In this sequel to the 2016 animated hit — which followed the misadventures of some Manhattan pets while their owners were at work — our protagonist Max [voiced by Patton Oswalt, taking over from Louis CK, who fell from favor after revelations of sexual misconduct] visits a farm where he has to tap into his more animalistic, confident side under the tutelage of a grizzled sheepdog named Rooster [voiced by a surprisingly engaged-sounding Harrison Ford].” Read more…)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (action, Michael Dougherty. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 48. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The beloved movie monster Godzilla both goes big and goes home in this sequel to the 2014 ‘Godzilla.’ For those of you who haven’t been keeping your scorecards updated, that movie was a reboot of a reboot, the uninspiring ‘Godzilla’ of 1998. ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is franchise fodder, however. The series is being steered to encompass a battle between Godzilla and King Kong, like the one the Japanese Big G films from the ’60s once enacted.” Read more…)

The House that Jack Built (Denmark, Lars Von Trier-directed crime drama, Matt Dillon. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 42. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “So it’s a sort of relief that, for as sick and violent and sadistic as Lars von Trier’s new film is, ‘The House That Jack Built’ fails to conjure anything as diabolical and morally outrageous as nonconsensual head-to-heinie[as in the ‘The Human Centipede’ torture trilogy]. His movie is missing the clarity of vision to whip psychopathology into something rousingly intellectual. It fails to make depravity an experience that either stimulates or appalls. If I wanted to leave von Trier’s movie, it wasn’t because I was nauseated.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The Secret Life of Pets 2

New Foreign DVDs
The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (Japan, 1952, Yasujiro Ozu-directed drama, Shin Saburi. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Vincent Canby’s 1973 New York Times review of an American release [requires log-in]: “All of the Ozu films we have seen in this country [‘Tokyo Story,’ ‘Late Spring,’ ‘End of Summer,’ ‘Floating Weeds’] have been social comedies, but they have been told entirely in terms of character. More than any of these other films, “The Flavor of Green Tea” looks as much like a social history as it does a classic Ozu work. The movie, which opened yesterday at the Quad Cinema 3, is essentially a comedy, what the Japanese call a tsuma-mono, or wife film, about an upper-middle-class marriage, one that has been arranged in the old-fashioned way and now is falling gently apart as the childless couple approach middle age.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Garden (1990, Derek Jarman-directed drama, Tilda Swinton. From Janet Maslin’s 1990 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The spirit of ‘The Garden,’ Derek Jarman’s virtually wordless 90-minute assemblage of turbulent images, is a peculiar blend of reflectiveness and fury. Mr. Jarman, whose 1987 film ‘The Last of England’ had a comparable free-associative vehemence, this time turns his thoughts to AIDS, Christianity and intolerance, combining these themes into a feverish vision of far-reaching decay.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Sickies Making Films (film history, cultural history, movie censorship)

New releases 8/20/19

Top Hits
A Dog’s Journey (family, Dennis Quaid. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The preponderance of viral dog videos proves that the animals are sufficiently attractive, intelligent and resourceful that they don’t need stories about their reincarnation to entertain and warm hearts. Nevertheless, we now have ‘A Dog’s Journey,’ the sequel to ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ [2017], all about a multiple-incarnation pooch on a mission to protect a human.” Read more…)

The Hustle (comedy, Rebel Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 35. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Comedy is in a weird place these days. Stand-up performers and late-night television hosts lean into the politics of the moment, while most movies with an urge to be funny tread cautiously, afraid of giving offense to any segment of the audience. ‘The Hustle’ does some of that — it pushes no buttons and tests no boundaries — but in the service of a higher cause. Or maybe a lower one. Silliness is the watchword. Always silliness.” Read more…)

Brightburn (horror, Elizabeth Banks. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 44. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Brightburn’ [the title refers to the Breyers’ hometown], is a superhero origin story reimagined as a horror movie. What if Clark Kent, instead of being grateful to the parents who raised him and a defender of truth, justice and the American way, had been a power-hungry sociopath whose motto was ‘take the world’?” Read more…)

Life and Nothing More (drama, Regina Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘Life and Nothing More’ begins on a bus ride to court and ends at a prison, but not for the reasons viewers — or, more to the point, the legal system — might intuit. The film touches on a lot of hot-button matters, including the 2016 election; racial profiling; and the difficulties of being a single parent and of earning a living wage. But it keeps the issues largely in the background. The goal, as the title suggests, is simply to present lives as they’re lived from moment to moment.” Read more…)

The Sun Is Also a Star (romance, Yara Shahidi. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “What, I wondered, had brought me to that dark room where two nice-looking teenagers [Yara Shahidi of ‘black-ish’ and Charles Melton of ‘Riverdale’] were canoodling in a karaoke booth, and then on an empty Roosevelt Island tram car hovering above the East River? Was it fate? A series of decisions I had made earlier in my life, or that someone else had made for me? Might I find the answers in the writings of Carl Sagan or the poems of Emily Dickinson? If you are fascinated by this line of inquiry, you might enjoy this super-sincere young-adult romance, directed by Ry Russo-Young from Tracy Oliver’s screenplay and based on Nicola Yoon’s best-selling novel.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Aniara (Sweden, sci-fi, Emelie Jonsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 58. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Aniara’ is closely based on a poem written by the Swedish writer Harry Martinson in 1956. In adapting Martinson’s tale of a spaceship hurtling into the abyss, the filmmakers Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja take a muted approach, using sets that are more corporate than futuristic and directing their actors to underplay the melodrama.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927, silent film of novel, Margarita Fischer. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1927 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This present version is [director Harry] Pollard’s second filming of the subject. His first attempt was made twelve years ago, and in it he also acted the rôle of Uncle Tom. In this current film translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous classic Mr. Pollard has presented some scenes with unusual skill, particularly those in which Topsy and Eva are beheld. The early episodes are frequently like a child’s visualization of the incidents of the book. Harvey Thew and A. P. Younger, two writers of opposite natures, have linked up some of the episodes with the Civil War, despite the fact that Mrs. Stowe wrote this work in 1851. There is always an unremitting effort to make this picture tearful, which is possibly to be expected.” Read more…)

New British
Babylon (1980, social drama/reggae, Brinsley Forde. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “‘Babylon’ is a 39-year-old nugget of a movie about young British Jamaicans and their itinerant reggae scene built around sound systems, freestyling and parties with rich, low lighting. The film is making its American debut on Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it’s got an episodic vividness and blanket-load of warmth, but also a harsh view of day-to-day life for black people in South London — on its streets, in its public housing, at its video arcades. If the police aren’t trying to shake down and beat up these guys, some fed-up white lady has come to their chill spot to complain [not unreasonably] that their music is too loud by telling them [unreasonably] to go back to their country and calling them “jungle bunnies.’” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Biggest Little Farm (environmental advocacy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “If you’ve entertained ‘Green Acres’-inspired reveries on the joys of ‘farm living,’ this documentary may rid you of them in short order. But it may also revive your wonder at the weird but ultimately awe-inspiring ways in which humans can help nature do its work.” Read more…)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (cinema history, feminism, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At the beginning of Pamela B. Green’s lively and informative new documentary, a bevy of movie people — directors, actors, scholars and others — are asked if they know anything about Alice Guy-Blaché, who is the subject of the film. A few of them do [Ava DuVernay, for one], but most admit that they have no clue. Viewers who are similarly ignorant shouldn’t feel bad, and in the best pedagogical spirit Green turns blank looks and sheepishly shrugged shoulders into a teaching moment. ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ seeks both to help rescue Guy-Blaché from oblivion and to explain how she got there in the first place.” Read more… [Note: According to A.O. Scott, “Several of (Guy-Blaché’s movies) have been issued by Kino Lorber in the indispensable ‘Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers’ collection.” That collection is available to rent at Best Video Film & Cultural Center.)

New releases 8/13/19

Top Hits
All Is True (bio-pic/costume drama, Kenneth Branagh. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 59. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “With some movies, it’s best not to allow worries over historical accuracy to derail our enjoyment. And there’s plenty to enjoy in ‘All Is True,’ Kenneth Branagh’s fondly poignant look at William Shakespeare’s final years.” Read more…)

Trial By Fire (drama, Laura Dern. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 51. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Like the 1995 picture ‘Dead Man Walking,’ ‘Trial by Fire’ was created by filmmakers who believe that capital punishment is barbaric both as policy and in practice. This fact-based film takes the argument a step further in its details: While ‘Walking’ was about a confessed killer who sought spiritual redemption, ‘Trial by Fire’ details the state killing of a man many believe to have been innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.” Read more…)

Notes On an Appearance (drama, Zia Anger. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 61. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In ‘Notes on an Appearance,’ a controversial political theorist who haunts the action has written a book called ‘Everything Is Permitted.’ That phrase might well have been the guiding philosophy of this experimental mystery film. The writer and director, Ricky D’Ambrose, has called it a ‘scrapbook movie.’ Watching it requires learning how to watch it. Static shots are edited in a deliberately primitive style, eliding crucial bits of narrative. The camera often fixates on ostensible clues: a postcard, books, mysterious home movies in which no one is seen.” Read more…)

The Souvenir (drama, Honor Swinton Byrne. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 92. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Souvenir’ is one of my favorite movies of the year so far, but I almost want to keep it a secret. Partly because it’s the kind of film — we all have a collection of these, and of similar books and records, too — that feels like a private discovery, an experience you want to protect rather than talk about. A direct message like this, beamed from another person’s sensibility into your own sensorium, isn’t meant to be shared. That other person, in this case, is Joanna Hogg, who wrote and directed.” Read more…)

Charlie Says (psychological crime thriller/drama, Hannah Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 56. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In her powerful and deeply affecting ‘Charlie Says,’ Mary Harron revisits the Manson cult in a dramatization largely told from the perspective of his female followers. It’s a tough, difficult story that, anchored by Guinevere Turner’s script, Harron recounts with lucid calm, compassion and intelligent interpretive license.” Read more…)

Icebox (contemporary drama/immigration, Anthony Gonzalez. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79.)

Unplanned (drama, Ashley Bratcher. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 10.)

New Blu-Ray
Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Comics action, Robert Downey Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 78. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “At three hours and one minute, it’s shorter than ‘Titanic,’ ‘The Godfather Part II’ or Luchino Visconti’s ‘The Leopard.’ And while the time doesn’t exactly fly, it doesn’t drag either. The two hours and forty minutes of “‘Infinity War’ [also directed by Joe and Anthony Russo] felt infinitely longer. Settling scores, wrapping up loose ends and taking a victory lap — the main objects of the game this ostensibly last time around — generate some comic sparks as well as a few honest tears.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Shadow (China, action/martial arts, Chao Deng. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “After the limp 2017 film ‘The Great Wall,’ the director Zhang Yimou was clearly looking to enact a return to form. With ‘Shadow,’ Zhang has done more than that: He’s created a martial-arts movie landmark, as strong in its performances as it is spectacularly novel in its violence.” Read more…)

The Other Side of Everything (Serbia, documentary, recent Yugoslav history through personal family lens. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “They were just a couple of unmarked doors, and they were always locked. The soft sounds of voices and the clinking of crockery as meals were prepared drifted through to the section of the elegant Belgrade apartment where the director Mila Turajlic grew up. Only much later would she learn what lay behind those doors, and why. Yet their eventual opening would liberate more than just the two rooms carved off and allotted to strangers by a long-ago government: It would help one woman decide it was time to pass the political baton. That woman is Srbijanka Turajlic, the director’s mother, a proud Yugoslav and the dynamic and fearless subject of ‘The Other Side of Everything.’” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Blackmail (1929, first Hitchcock sound film, suspense, Anny Ondra)

New TV
Homeland: Season 7 (thriller/drama. Claire Danes. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 81.
The Spanish Princess (historical drama, Harriet Walter. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 73.)

New Documentaries
The Inland Sea (Criterion Collection, travelogue, social observation. From Vincent Canby’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In Lucille Carra’s all too short, invigorating new film, “The Inland Sea,” as in the Donald Richie travel memoir on which it is based, there are two inland seas: the “nearly landlocked, lakelike body of water bounded by three of Japan’s four major islands,” which is the vanishing heart of ancient Japan, and the somewhat less well-known sea of the author’s own inner self.” Read more…)

Searching for Ingmar Bergman (bio, film history, Ingmar Bergman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This year marks the centennial of Ingmar Bergman’s birth. The Swedish playwright, theater director and filmmaker, who died in 2007, remains one of the most praised and, to a certain extent, most misunderstood 20th-century artists. The praise stems from his cinematic mastery and treatment of profound themes; the misunderstanding, from the conventional wisdom that because Bergman treated profound themes, his work must be a slog. But Bergman was a gripping storyteller. You could even call him an entertainer.” Read more…)

Halston (fashion, bio, Halston. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 64. From Wesley Morris New York Times review: “Sometimes a documentary doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. It’s got access to all of the important people, who come through as their most maximal selves. It’s got a good story to tell and a life to unpack and tons of old photographs and miles of archival footage to delight, intrigue and astound. If you’ve got all of that and your documentary is called ‘Halston,’ you don’t need anything else. And yet for reasons unfathomable to me, the people who made this movie don’t trust what they’ve got: the tale of one of the crucial fashion imaginations in Roy Halston Frowick, who went, titanically, by that middle name.” Read more…)

New releases 8/6/19

Top Hits

Pokemon Detective Pikachu (family adventure, Ryan Reynolds. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 53. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “A video game is, in fact, what ‘Detective Pikachu,’ directed by Rob Letterman, is based on, but its sense of cinematic history extends at least to the long-long-ago of 1988 and ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit,’ to which it owes what might be called a debt.” Read more…)

Plus One (rom-com, Maya Erskine. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 66. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Alice [Maya Erskine] is getting over a breakup. Ben [Jack Quaid] is so busy looking for a perfect partner that he never gives relationships a chance to work. In ‘Plus One,’ these longtime friends from college agree to be each other’s dates to what might otherwise be an unbearable marathon of weddings — weddings whose other attendees immediately recognize that they make a natural couple. [The audience will have figured that out from the premise.]” Read more…)

Descendants 3 (Disney fantasy, Dove Cameron. From Brian Lowry’s CNN review: “The tragic death of Cameron Boyce cast an unexpected cloud over ‘Descendants 3,’ the latest edition of the Disney Channel musicals built around the kids of Disney heroes and villains. The show goes on, yielding an at-best serviceable addition to a promising concept that’s beginning to feel worn and tired.” Read more…)

Poms (comedy, Diana Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 36. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The combined ages of the cheerleaders in ‘POMS’ is well over 500 years, but the movie’s jokes feel even older. An uncomfortable blend of sickness and silliness, this dancing-past-the-graveyard comedy suggests that the many travails of aging can be endured if you only gather enough friends and surrender enough dignity. It might be right; yet there must be better ways to prove it than throwing together some fine actors, then humiliating the heck out of them.” Read more…)

The Curse of La Llorona (horror, Linda Cardellini. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. Metacritic: 41. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The scares are plentiful and sometimes ticklishly funny in ‘The Curse of La Llorona,’ an enjoyably old-fashioned ghost story. It’s the latest installment in a rapidly expanding horror series that started with ‘The Conjuring’ [2013] and now includes the ‘Annabelle’ flicks [about a devil doll] and ‘The Nun’ [a demon nun]. The connective tissue among these titles can be very thin; here, the most obvious link is Father Perez [Tony Amendola], who’s on hand again to explain that, why, yes, evil exists — boo!” Read more…)

Amazing Grace (music, gospel, concert, Aretha Franklin. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 94. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “For all kinds of terrible reasons, the movies don’t have that many great shots of black women. They just don’t. But there’s a shot of Aretha Franklin in ‘Amazing Grace’ that might be the greatest image of a black woman that I’ve ever seen in an American movie. It’s just a medium close-up, straight on, of her at the podium of the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, almost evenly framed between two microphones and a pair of Afros that complement hers. The camera doesn’t move. And neither does she, except to sing and even then: she’s moving you.” Read more…)

Head Count (horror, Isaac W. Jay. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 49.)

New Blu-Ray

Long Shot
Action Point

New Foreign DVDs

Girls of the Sun (Kurdistan, war/feminist drama, Golshifteh Farahani. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Inspired by a 2014 ISIS raid on Kurdish territory, ‘Girls of the Sun,’ unlike the women who populate it, is weak and often corny. The story is inherently dramatic and the action scenes [sinuously photographed by Mattias Troelstrup] have real punch, but [director Eva] Husson is more interested in exalting her subjects than humanizing them.” Read more…)

Sauvage/Wild (France, drama, Félix Maritaud. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 75. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The opening scene of ‘Sauvage / Wild’ alerts viewers to be up for anything. A doctor [Lionel Riou] takes the symptoms of a patient [Félix Maritaud] and asks him to undress. The doctor turns out to work for the French equivalent of the I.R.S., and the patient — the film’s protagonist — turns out to be a prostitute. This role-playing exercise is hardly the most surprising tryst we will witness over the course of this sexually frank debut feature from the French writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet.” Read more…)

Tiger Milk (Germany, coming of age, Flora Li Thiemann)

New Documentaries

Meeting Gorbachev (Werner Herzog-directed bio, world affairs, history, Mikhail Gorbachev. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “Geopolitics has never been high on Werner Herzog’s list of concerns, at least in his documentaries. Even when he glances toward current events [‘Lessons of Darkness,’ ‘Into the Abyss’], the thrust tends to be philosophical — his interests run more to quixotic quests and humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of nature. That makes him an odd fit to interview Mikhail S. Gorbachev, whose leadership of the Soviet Union helped bring the Cold War to an end. Then again, if the moral of ‘Meeting Gorbachev,’ directed by Herzog and André Singer, is that contemporary politicians have ignored the lessons of Gorbachev’s leadership, then perhaps the former Soviet president’s push for peace makes him right at home in Herzog’s gallery of underheralded visionaries.” Read more…)

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined A Generation (cultural history, music, hippies in mud. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66.)
First To the Moon: The Journey of Apollo 8 (history, science, technology, adventure. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Amazing Grace (music, gospel, concert, Aretha Franklin)

New releases 7/30/19

Top Hits

Long Shot (comedy, Seth Rogen. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “‘Long Shot’ isn’t going to save the romantic comedy, but it’s an adrenaline shot of pure pleasure to the genre’s failing heart. The outline is familiar: Two people meet, retreat and then circle each other, all while talking and talking. The romantic comedy turns on people who fit together — in bed, on the dance floor — but also talk to each other, exchanging words that stop flowing and faltering only with a culminating kiss and teasing fade-out. The difference here is that unlike a lot of romances, the woman retains her power and identity, and that’s how the movie likes it.” Read more…)

Hellboy (action, David Harbour. Rotten Tomatoes: 18%. Metacritic: 31. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Exuberantly British and quite possibly off its rocker, ‘Hellboy’ is a crack pipe of a movie. Rebooting Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 and 2008 appropriations of Mike Mignola’s comic-book character — a rosacea-hued colossus with filed-down horns and do-gooder goals — the British director Neil Marshall turns all the dials to 11 and keeps them there. This aural and visual assault poses the question: Exactly how much stimulation do studios think audiences need?” Read more…)

Fast Color (sci-fi/drama, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Fast Color’ is many things — a dreamlike dystopian drama; a warm celebration of family and female power; a teasing hint of superhero-origin story — none of which fully explains its gentle grip on our attention. What it is not, is speedy, with a narrative that moves carefully, even languidly, and visuals so beautifully patient that we have time to memorize their texture and import. Special effects are all the more so for being used sparingly, and the movie’s few characters feel no need to be constantly explaining themselves. For fairly long stretches, there are no major incidents — which is not the same as saying that nothing happens.” Read more…)

Family (comedy, Taylor Schilling. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Family,’ Laura Steinel’s lightweight first feature, relies on audiences buying into the old chestnut that difficult women would be happier [or just easier to be around] if forced to care for a child. In this version, the woman is a tactless workaholic who needs to connect with her feelings; just don’t expect those to entail an even greater appreciation for her job.” Read more…)

Body At Brighton Rock (thriller, Karina Fontes. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 53. From Joe Leydon’s Variety review: “Filmmaker Roxanne Benjamin spends a tad too much time on the character-establishing setup during the first act of her ‘Body at Brighton Rock.’ Once she has lured her audience into joining her plucky but ill-prepared protagonist into a secluded area of a picturesque state park, however, the first-time director efficiently ratchets up the suspense — gradually, arrestingly — and doesn’t let up until she springs a final twist that plays like O. Henry by way of Stephen King.” Read more…)

The Intruder (horror, Dennis Quaid. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 39. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Intruder,’ a real-estate-based thriller set in California’s Napa Valley, is more silly than scary. This doesn’t seem to be entirely intentional, and it isn’t altogether unwelcome. The idea of Dennis Quaid popping up in your kitchen in the middle of the night might not exactly be the stuff of nightmares. Quaid, playing a deranged ex-homeowner named Charlie Peck, seems to know this. And the director, Deon Taylor, does too.” Read more…)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (drama/mystery, Taissa Farmiga. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 63. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “In ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle,’ a playfully arch and unsettling film based on Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel, there’s nobody obvious to root for; everyone is dour, foolish, phony or deranged. Possibly even murderous. Under Stacie Passon’s precise direction, this gothic fable of isolation and violence expertly treads a fine line between tragedy and camp.” Read more…)

Domino (action, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 40. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Director Brian] De Palma can’t realize all the elaborate effects he clearly wanted [the film’s climax occurs at a bullfight that’s conspicuously not crowded]. But his direction often compensates with B-movie energy, particularly when he’s able to concentrate on his perverse vision. The death-dealing, all-voyeurism-all-the-time world that De Palma has been imagining in some form or another since the late ’60s, has, he recognizes, finally come into actual being, and it’s worse than he, or anyone, ever imagined.” Read more…)

Action Point (comedy, Johnny Knoxville. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 36. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “If it’s fair to chide ‘Jackass the Movie’ as an extended episode of the MTV show, then it’s fair to point out that ‘Action Point,’ effectively a spinoff of that series, is a lazy summer romp in the ‘Meatballs’ tradition with a handful of ‘Jackass’-style stunts as the scantiest of hooks.” Read more…)

Black ’47 (action/drama set in 19th century Ireland, Hugo Weaving. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 65. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Lance Daly, the movie, which was handsomely staged and shot, provides some lively historical detail concerning the exploitation of Irish Catholics. In an aptly harrowing scene, it depicts ‘Souperism,’ wherein evangelical Protestants offered a meal to poor, starving Catholics in exchange for conversion. But the period and its horrors take a back seat to an occasionally exhilarating action-revenge plot, with James Frecheville as the quiet soldier turned killing machine, and Hugo Weaving as a British man hunter with whom he shares a connection.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

Long Shot
Action Point

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)

A Rage to Live (1965, drama, Suzanne Pleshette)

New TV

BoJack Horseman: Seasons 1 & 2 (animated N*tfl*x [boo! hiss!] series. Rotten Tomatoes: 67% [Season 1], 100% [Season 2]. Metacritic: 59/90.)

New Documentaries

Hail Satan? (free speech, religion, The Satanic Temple. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “As the Scandinavian academic Jesper Aagaard Petersen explains in the film, Satanists were trolls before the contemporary sense of that word existed. The Satanic Temple, founded in 2013, is basically the Yes Men with an ethos, using humor and outrageous behavior to call attention to hypocrisy, particularly when it comes to incursions of religion into the public sphere.” Read more…)

The Most Dangerous Year (civil rights, transgender rights, family. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The thorniest scenes show tensions playing out at hearings and public meetings, where both sides clash. While ‘The Most Dangerous Year’ can be intensely personal — [director Vlada] Knowlton [who has a transgender daughter] speaks of the pain she felt watching visitors to a strawberry festival sign the petition for the anti-transgender ballot measure — it is primarily an informational documentary, not a film with artistic pretensions. But it makes its case effectively.” Read more…)


New releases 7/16/19

Top Hits
Shazam! (superhero action, Zachary Levi. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Ever since Christopher Nolan took Batman to their mutually productive dark place, the DC cinematic super-universe has been as somber as a grave. There have been exceptions, shimmers of light amid the doom. Outside the animated realm, though, the stories and mood have been downbeat… Given this, the bright, popping red of the superhero costume in ‘Shazam!’ is an early warning sign, as obvious as a matador’s cape, that the dreary and crepuscular have given way to something less self-serious and end-of-the-world grim. It’s a nice change of pace for a big-screen mega-comic, if not a revolutionary shift.” Read more…)

Relaxer (comedy/fantasy, Joshua Burge. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Sad and strange and defiantly gross, ‘Relaxer’ is a surreal survival tale swirling with childhood trauma and Y2K paranoia. Few directors have as steely a grip on mental damage as [director Joel] Potrykus, and [actor Joshua] Burge, a regular collaborator, is his perfectly pained muse. Some may find this movie unbearable; yet there’s a place for pictures that push us to the limits of forbearance. Sometimes, even the loathsome have stories worth telling.” Read more…)

Teen Spirit (pop music dreams, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 57. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Teen Spirit,’ Max Minghella’s sweet and touching directing debut, is both proudly clichéd and refreshingly different. The rhythmic beats of his rise-to-fame story, about a teenage singing hopeful who enters a televised competition, are comfortingly familiar. Yet the poignant, almost despondent mood created by his visual choices and the raw vulnerability of his star, Elle Fanning, transform the pop energy of the soundtrack into a yearning cry to be heard.” Read more…)

Breakthrough (faith drama, Chrissy Metz. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 46. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Bilge Ebiri’s Times review: “In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery. Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, ‘Breakthrough,’ tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
Dogman (Italy, drama, Marcello Fonte. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The worlds that the director Matteo Garrone creates onscreen sometimes seem as far out and darkly mysterious as an alternate universe. Best known for ‘Gomorrah,’ a blistering story about a people under siege by the Neapolitan mafia, Garrone looks at an Italy that is dramatically at odds with its touristic image, its charming hill towns and bourgeois niceties… ‘Dogman,’ Garrone’s latest, again takes on Italy and its enduring discontents, this time in a coastal town that appears as if it hasn’t fully recovered — but from what: war, the economy, organized crime, the government? That question lingers each time the camera holds on the story’s principal setting, a depopulated stretch of beach flanked by squat anonymous buildings, many seemingly derelict. In the sandy center are the remains of what looks like an abandoned amusement park, including a swing set and a ride ornamented with a dragon, a proud emblem of better or maybe just busier days.” Read more…)

The Baker’s Wife (France, 1938, drama/comedy, Raimu. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “On top of ‘Harvest,’ which reverently told how the seed was sowed and the grain reaped, the French now have added an impious chapter about the flour, its baking and ‘The Baker’s Wife.’ A perfectly scandalous story it is, too; the kind of story Frenchmen were born to tell—the French being, as our old school books used to explain, “a gay people, fond of dancing and light wines.” Certainly no other breed could have told it so cutely, with such disarming good humor, with such tolerance and wit.” Read more…)

Ash Is Purest White (China, crime drama, Zhao Tao. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 785. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Packets of money change hands, and eventually a gun is fired, but ‘Ash Is Purest White,’ Jia Zhangke’s enthralling new feature, isn’t really a crime drama. The aura of romantic, outlaw chic that hovers around Bin and Qiao soon dissipates, replaced by the clearer, grimmer air of reality. Jia, an essential figure in China’s ‘sixth generation’ of filmmakers and one the most inventive and engaged directors of the 21st century, has long concerned himself with the effect of enormous social and economic forces on the intimate experiences of individuals.” Read more…)

T-34 (Russia, war drama, Alexander Petrov)

New Television
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Would You Be Mine Collection (30 Classic Episodes from 1979-2000)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Female On the Beach (1955, crime/drama, Joan Crawford. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A rich widow moves into a beach house at the beginning of ‘Female on the Beach,’ the new Universal melodrama that came to the Palace yesterday. And before this ungracious lady knows it, she is falling heedlessly in love with the very neighbor who had been loved by her predecessor, also a rich widow, now deceased.This is the situation into which Joan Crawford is propelled in this slow and old-fashioned mystery thriller, which accompanies the vaudeville bill.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Grace Quigley (1985, comedy, Katharine Hepburn, Nick Nolte. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A LOT of talented people have labored long and fruitlessly to make something presentable of ‘Grace Quigley,’ a movie you might not want to take home to meet the folks, not because it’s so rude and unpredictable, which it unhappily isn’t, but because it’s so thoroughly muddled and unintentionally sad.” Read more…)

Eye of the Devil (1966, suspense, Sharon Tate)
Don’t Make Waves (1967, comedy, Sharon Tate)

New releases 7/9/19

Top Hits
Pet Sematary (Stephen King horror remake, Jason Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “”[Stephen] King’s novel was adapted for the screen in 1989. Directed by Mary Lambert, that ‘Pet Sematary’ was a squirrelly, wild-eyed movie. This version is more Hollywood smooth. It’s very well-acted by Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow and especially Jeté Laurence as young Ellie. Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, showing puzzling distrust of their strong source material, overload the movie with arbitrary jump scares. And they replace King’s despairing, tragic denouement with something altogether more glib.” Read more…)

Saint Judy (legal drama, Michelle Monaghan. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 51. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Judy Wood is a real-life lawyer who — after moving to California and getting a job with an immigration law firm — discovered a passion that, by this film’s telling, led her to a case that changed asylum policies in the United States. Directed by Sean Hanish from a script by Dmitry Portnoy, ‘Saint Judy’ begins by underscoring the title character’s resourcefulness, then playing up her pluckiness and single-mom status.” Read more…)

Mia and the White Lion (family drama, Daniah De Villiers. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 52. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “There are several uniquely impressive elements to the adventure drama ‘Mia and the White Lion,’ but they’re undermined by a choppy, at times contrived and implausible script by Prune de Maistre [wife of director Gilles de Maistre] and William Davies.” Read more…)

Little (comedy, Regina Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Little’ is about what happens when an adult woman [Regina Hall] is punished for her bullying, vainglorious ways by turning into her 13-year-old self [Marsai Martin]. As the premise for a comedy, this kind of body switch is just about foolproof. ‘Big,’ ’13 Going on 30,’ the several variations on the ‘Freaky Friday’ theme — it’s almost always fun to watch grown-up souls inhabiting immature physiques, and vice versa. And so it is here, even if this go-round leaves a lot of potential hilarity on the table.” Read more…)

The Kid (western, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Starting as violently as it plans to continue, Vincent D’Onofrio’s ‘The Kid’ drops us into a savage altercation as Rio [Jake Schur], 13, kills his abusive father before slicing the face of his scummy uncle, Grant [Chris Pratt]. Primed by the boy’s affectless narration (here, when characters aren’t practicing brutality, they’re talking about it), we intuit that what will follow for Rio and his older sister, Sara [Leila George], is unlikely to be pretty. Set in the American Southwest in 1879, ‘The Kid’ feels less like an actual movie than a table-napkin idea for one.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
High Life (sci-fi from French director Claire Denis, Robert Pattinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As is often the case in [director Claire] Denis’s movies, ‘High Life’ vibrates with low-key erotic energy that can feel exciting, a little dangerous. [She wrote it with Jean-Pol Fargeau.] One reason is the obvious seductive appeal of performers like [Robert] Pattinson, [Juliet] Binoche and [Andre] Benjamin, whose faces and bodies are alternately flooded with flattering light or eye-straining washes of red and blue. But Denis doesn’t just prettify her actors: She lingers on their forms, their skin, stressing texture that becomes tactile.” Read more…)

Pet Sematary

New Foreign
3 Faces (Iran, drama, Behnaz Jafari. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A road movie that opens into a political allegory, ‘3 Faces’ is filled with unexpected turns. It is the latest from the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, a master of narrative diversion, who again has taken the twinned roles of director and driver, as he did in the documentary “Taxi” (2015). Here, playing himself, or a version of the filmmaker Jafar Panahi, he spends a large part of the movie behind the wheel of an S.U.V., motoring through the Iranian countryside to help an actress find a missing, possibly dead woman. They succeed but also find other women, including one who’s a ghost in a haunted world.” Read more…)

New British
Dead of Night (1945, horror anthology, Michael Redgrave. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Such folks as like to drag their friends into the parlor, turn out the lights and swap tales of the weird and supernatural will certainly enjoy the new film at the Winter Garden, the British-made ‘Dead of Night.’ For this is precisely a package of those curious and uncanny yarns designed to raise secret goose-pimples and cause the mind to make a fast check on itself. And although the stories here related are probably familiar to all who are devotees of such mysticisms, they are tightly and graphically told.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The General (1926, silent film comedy classic, Buster Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From a 1971 Vincent Canby New York Times review on the occasion of a screening of The General” on public television [requires log-in]: “The General” really is a masterpiece, pure though by no means simple. If you can see only one movie this week [to paraphrase a rather bossy friend], at home or in a theater, then there is no doubt that it should be ‘The General,’ which is a farce, a history, a romance and, principally, a triumph of one man’s movie art, which, in turn, enriches the possibilities of all movies.” Read more…)

The Rising of the Moon (1957, Irish comedy/drama vignettes dir. by John Ford, Tyrone Power. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With the reticence of a true Hibernian, John Ford has publicly proclaimed he considers his current picture, ‘The Rising of the Moon,’ the best thing he has ever done. This is, indeed, a modest reckoning, in the light of Mr. Ford’s previous films—such classics as ‘Stagecoach,’ ‘The Informer,’ ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Long Voyage Home’ However, it may be agreed with him that “The Rising of the Moon,” which came yesterday to the Fifty-fifth Street Playhouse, is a little picture with lively humor and exceptional charm.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Code of Silence (1985, action, Chuck Norris. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Chuck Norris goes upscale in ‘Code of Silence,’ as a big-city police inspector who stalks through art galleries and public libraries to catch his prey. Mr. Norris hasn’t abandoned his usual fans; this film has a body count as high as that of ‘Missing in Action,’ and a climactic sequence in which Mr. Norris, as a one-man army, is helped by a heavily armed miniature tank. But ‘Code of Silence,’ which opens today at the UA Twin and other theaters, is Mr. Norris’s bid for a wider audience, and it succeeds to a considerable degree.” Read more…)

The Presidio (1988, action thriller, Sean Connery. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. From Janet Maslin’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Sean Connery is a fine actor under any circumstances, but he doesn’t do much acting in ‘The Presidio,’ which opens today at Loews 84th Street and other theaters. What he does is to recite his lines while staring over Mark Harmon’s shoulder. For his part, Mr. Harmon does much the same thing, staring past Mr. Connery to deliver the other half of the leading men’s back-and-forth banter in a style that the director Peter Hyams obviously intends as gutsy and crisp.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Eternity Has No Doors of Escape: Encounters with Outsider Art (art history, art brut, outside art)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Tell It to the Bees (romance/drama, Anna Paquin. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 53.)

New releases 7/2/19

Top Hits
The Best of Enemies (civil rights drama, Taraji P. Henson. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In 1971, C.P. Ellis was the Exalted Cyclops of the Durham, N.C., klavern of the United Klans of America. Ann Atwater was a fair-housing activist, advocating for better treatment for the city’s African-American residents. The beginning of their unlikely real-life friendship is the subject of ‘The Best of Enemies,’ the latest muddled and well-meaning big-screen attempt to find solace in the history of American racism. Don’t get me wrong. The facts of the story, chronicled in a book by Osha Gray Davidson, are eye-opening and inspiring, and the film, written and directed by Robin Bissell, includes some fascinating details about the granular challenges of local politics. As Ellis and Atwater, Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson do what you expect Oscar-nominated actors to do: They clarify and complicate their characters, paying attention to their individuality even as the movie loads them up with symbolic baggage.” Read more…)

Storm Boy (Australia, coming-of-age, Geoffrey Rush. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 67. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Storm Boy’ tries to present itself as a modern fable, where the lessons learned relate directly to present-day concerns over the environment, industrialization and the marginalization of indigenous cultures. But these themes come across as didactic rather than moving. The cinematography is frequently beautiful, in large part because of the majesty of South Australia’s Coorong region, where the movie was shot. But the ham-fisted dialogue saps the energy from the images, drawing attention to the thinness of archetypal characters. And the centrality of white characters who learn from a noble native undermines the film’s attempts at political relevance.” Read more…)

The Public (drama, Alec Baldwin. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 46. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Apart from Frederick Wiseman’s ‘Ex Libris: The New York Public Library,’ few movies have celebrated book-lending institutions as havens of fair-mindedness and pluralism, so it’s tempting to give a pass to ‘The Public’ as a rousing, lovingly made civics lesson, even if its screenplay does not seem fated for shelves. Emilio Estevez wrote, directed and served as a producer on the film; he is also its star. Inspired by an essay that appeared in The Los Angeles Times in 2007, the movie isn’t the actor-filmmaker’s first brush with earnest Americana. [His ensemble piece ‘Bobby’ (2006) tried to capture the optimism at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968 as admirers of Robert F. Kennedy awaited his arrival.] But it may be his most substantive.” Read more…)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral (comedy, Tyler Perry. Rotten Tomatoes: 12%. Metacritic: 39. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “What Perry lacks in filmmaking rigor — like its predecessors, ‘Family Funeral’ is a bit of a mess, formally and technically — he makes up for in generosity. The movie is the usual plateful of low humor and high melodrama, in no particular hurry to make its way through a busy plot.” Read more…)

The Case for Christ (religious/inspirational, Mike Vogel. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 50.)
Okko’s Inn (Japanese animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 68.)

New Blu-Ray
Taking Tiger Mountain (1983, dystopian adventure, Bill Paxton [first role])

New Foreign
Styx (Germany, adventure, Susanne Wolff. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 78. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A taut moral thriller, ‘Styx’ is a story of what happens when self-reliance runs into other people’s desperation. The lives of others don’t seem of much concern to a German doctor, Rike [Susanne Wolff], when she sets off on her adventure. Alone on a 30-foot sailing yacht, she is headed to Ascension Island, a mid-Atlantic speck roughly halfway between Africa and South America. With grit, provisions and a pretty coffee-table book about the island that suggests her romanticism, or perhaps naïveté, Rike is following Charles Darwin to Ascension. It’s a dream journey that will slam into the refugee crisis. One woman’s dream can look like someone else’s worst nightmare, even if the director Wolfgang Fischer initially makes Rike’s passage into existential isolation seem inviting.” Read more…)

A Man and A Woman: 20 Years Later (France, 1986, romance, Anouk Aimee. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%.)
Detective Montalbano: Eposodes 33 & 34 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)
Spiral: Seasons 4, 5 (France, gritty cop procedural series, Caroline Proust)

New British
Endeavour: Season 6 (mystery series, Shaun Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 80.)
Orphan Black: Season 5 (sci-fi, Tatiana Maslany. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83.)

New TV
My Brilliant Friend: Season 1 (HBO drama set in Italy, Valentina Acca. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “HBO’s new series ‘My Brilliant Friend,’ based on the wildly popular Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante, is a different but no smaller challenge [than adapting ‘Game of Thrones’]. The story of a febrile and rivalrous friendship between two girls in a working-class Italian neighborhood in the 1950s, it is as intimate as “Game of Thrones” is sweeping.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Taking Tiger Mountain (1983, dystopian adventure, Bill Paxton [first role])
The Big Fix (1978, mystery/comedy, Richard Dreyfuss. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Documentaries
The River and The Wall (documentary, adventure, immigration. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘The River and the Wall’ comes on as innocent and glossy as a travelogue, but its scenic delights are the sugar coating on a passionate and spectacularly photographed political message. Traveling 1,200 miles along the Rio Grande, from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico, the director, Ben Masters, and four friends slowly and genially build an ecologically devastating case against the construction of President Trump’s much-ballyhooed border wall.” Read more…)

Combat Obscura (Marine-made war documentary, re-purposing of footage shot for official purposes. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 56. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Combat Obscura’ opens with multiple disclaimers stating that nothing onscreen reflects official policy or has Defense Department endorsement. Given that the next moment the screen shows an explosion — and someone shouts ‘that’s the wrong building!’ — the reason for the warnings is immediately apparent. As a United States Marine in Afghanistan, Miles Lagoze, the director, worked as a videographer, documenting scenes of war for official release. [We see a clip of such material on CNN midway through the film.] Somehow, Lagoze kept his hands on unreleased footage he and others shot in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, and made it the basis for this film.” Read more…)

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (African-American life in Hale County, Alabama. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky famously defined the work of a filmmaker as ‘sculpting in time.’ In his book of that title, Tarkovsky elaborated that the filmmaker, starting with ‘an enormous, solid cluster of living facts,’ ought to discard what is not needed and keep only what is ‘integral to the cinematic image.’ For the director RaMell Ross’s first feature, ‘Hale County This Morning, This Evening,’ he has carved a film of less than 80 minutes out of 1,300 hours of footage shot over several years. The particularity and power of the larger cinematic image he has created through a multiplicity of moments are impossible to adequately describe in critical prose.” Read more…)

Active Measures (Russian espionage, 2016 election. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 68. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Eager to make you uncomfortable, ‘Active Measures’ piles on the ire as it outlines Russian efforts to manipulate world events, particularly the 2016 American presidential election. Directed by Jack Bryan, this documentary starts by summarizing Vladimir V. Putin’s career through the time of his election as Russia’s president. In the heaps of interviews, video clips and flow charts that follow, we hear of links between Mr. Putin and Donald J. Trump; of extensive work done by Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, for Russia; and of foreign shell companies that launder funds for organized crime.” Read more…)

The Russian Five (sports, hockey, Russian players. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “This documentary, directed by Joshua Riehl, recounts the story of the Detroit Red Wings of the 1980s and the early- to mid-90s. The team was a study in calamity. It hadn’t won a championship since 1955, and morale was abysmal, hence its nickname, the Dead Wings. The franchise was sold in 1982 to Mike Ilitch, the founder of the Little Caesars pizza chain, and the team’s management moved forward with a risky plan: To recruit star athletes from the Soviet Union.” Read more…)

New releases 6/25/19

Top Hits
Dumbo (live action remake of Disney elephantine classic, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 51. From Manohla Dargis New York Times review: “In his live-action remake of Disney’s ‘Dumbo,’ Tim Burton plays with a legacy that he has helped burnish for decades, only to set it gleefully ablaze. Ho-hum until it takes a turn toward the fascinatingly weird, the movie is a welcome declaration of artistic independence for Burton, who often strains against aesthetic and industrial restrictions. Watching him cut loose (more recklessly than his flying baby elephant) is by far the most unexpected pleasure of this movie, which dusts off the 1941 animated charmer with exhilaratingly demented spirit.” Read more…)

Giant Little Ones (coming-of-age, Josh Wiggins. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 67. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The film’s saving grace turns out to be the range of experiences that Franky and Ballas are allowed to explore. As they provoke each other, they also carry out ardent relationships with girls, and they each have friends and family members who are gay or who experiment with gender. Where many coming-of-age films build their stories around the discovery of a fixed selfhood, ‘Giant Little Ones’ succeeds when it chooses to treat youthful identity as open to shift with accumulated experience.” Read more…)

They Shall Not Grow Old (World War I documentary, colorized & brought to life by Peter Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 91. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Having sold out at event screenings since December, ‘They Shall Not Grow Old,’ which opens for a full run this week, is poised to become the only blockbuster this year that was filmed from 1914 to 1918, on location on the Western Front. Commissioned to make a movie for the centennial of the Armistice, using original footage, Peter Jackson has taken a mass of World War I archival clips from Britain’s Imperial War Museum and fashioned it into a brisk, absorbing and moving experience.” Read more…)

The Hummingbird Project (thriller, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “For ‘The Hummingbird Project,’ a sturdy, involving thriller set in the financial realm, the writer-director Kim Nguyen has cited heady inspirations like Michael Lewis’s book ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt’ [2014] and a Wired magazine article from 2012 on high-speed trading. But strip away the topical trappings and what is left is another variation on the obstacle course tension and male bonding of ‘The Wages of Fear’ — or a dark variation on marathon road-trip goofs such as ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ and ‘Death Race 2000.’” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Ishtar (1987, comedy, Warren Beatty & Dustin Hoffman. From Janet Maslin’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s impossible to discuss ‘Ishtar,’ which opens today at the Ziegfeld and other theaters, without noting the extravagant rumor-mongering that has surrounded its making. Much has been said about the film’s enormous cost [undisclosed, but somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million], its delayed release and Miss May’s reported fussiness in casting her camels and shaping her sand dunes. Thanks to Miss May’s perfectionism and the sizable egos of her two male stars, it was noisily anticipated that this version of a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby ‘Road’ movie might amount to a ‘Road to Ruin.’ But ‘Ishtar’ isn’t ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ It isn’t ‘Heaven Can Wait,’ either, since it lacks the self-destructiveness of the former and the latter’s more effortless charm. It’s a likable, good-humored hybrid, a mixture of small, funny moments and the pointless, oversized spectacle that these days is sine qua non for any hot-weather hit. The worst of it is painless; the best is funny, sly, cheerful and, here and there, even genuinely inspired.” Read more…)

They Shall not Grow Old

New Foreign
Peppermint Soda (France, 1977, Diane Kurys-directed drama set in 1960s France. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Janet Maslin’s 1979 New York Times review: “The only thing more impressive than the wit and talent Diane Kurys demonstrates in her writing and direction of ‘Peppermint Soda’ — an expert, utterly charming movie that miraculously happens to be her first — is Miss Kurys’s memory. Here is a letter-perfect recollection of what it’s like to be a 13-year-old, in this case a French schoolgirl, with skinny legs and a bossy sister and a mother who doesn’t understand she may be ruining her’ daughter’s life if she keeps on refusing to let the kid wear stockings. Miss Kurys presents details like these, and enough others to span an entire school year, with a flawless understanding of how the events most earth-shattering to a girl in her early teens can mean not a fig to anyone around her.” Read more…)

Panique (France, 1946, nourish drama, Michel Simon. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Luisa Spagnoli (Italy, bio-pic, Luisa Ranieri)

New British
Manhunt (3-episode mystery mini-series, Martin Clunes. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Detour (1945, film noir classic, Criterion Collection, Tom Neal. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1992 New York Times reflection on ‘Detour,” on the occasion of a revival screening at Film Forum [requires log-in]: “[‘Detour’] set in a world in which man’s condition is no less absurd, although a little more cartoonlike, than it is in the seminal Albert Camus novel, ‘The Stranger.’ The Camus protagonist is also able to think with some clarity, while [director Edgar g.] Ulmer’s Al Roberts [Tom Neal] remains a victim of fate and his own half-baked attempts both to do the right thing and to save his neck. Just as Ulmer’s direction demonstrates the extraordinarily evocative mise en scene that can sometimes be achieved with virtually no money at all, Martin Goldsmith’s script is a model of film narrative pared down to essentials. It is short, concise, rich in character and almost viciously detached from the grim events it relates.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman, comedy of manners, Christopher Eigeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Roger Ebert’s 1990 review: “The movie was written and directed by Whit Stillman, who, in his mid-30s, obviously still is fascinated by the coming-of-age process he went through as a preppie. He has made a film Scott Fitzgerald might have been comfortable with, a film about people covering their own insecurities with a facade of social ease. And he has written wonderful dialogue, words in which the characters discuss ideas and feelings instead of simply marching through plot points as most Hollywood characters do.” Read more…)

The Tamarind Seed (1974, romantic espionage drama, Julie Andrews. From Vincent Canby’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Tamarind Seed’ is not gothic fiction, technically speaking. It has the form of a contemporary love story set against a background of cold war intrigue stretching from London and Paris to Barbados and Canada. But don’t be fooled by the time and places. The game is given away by the film’s total absorption in the chastity of its heroine, a woman who considers a goodnight kiss as the first, irrevocable step toward total degradation.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Bisbee ’17 (American history, labor history, immigrants rights, human rights. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Bisbee, Ariz., not far from the Mexican border, is a quiet former mining town, one of many such places scattered across the American West. Tombstone, site of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and a popular tourist destination, is just up the road. Bisbee has a notably violent episode in its past as well, an event that is the subject of ‘Bisbee ’17,’ Robert Greene’s clearsighted and gratifyingly complicated new documentary. Starting on July 12, 1917 — a few months after the United States entered World War I and in the midst of labor agitation across the mining industry — sheriff’s deputies rounded up around 1,200 people thought to be union activists, forced them into boxcars and transported them to the New Mexico desert. What came to be known as the Bisbee Deportation lingered at the margins of local memory, not forgotten but not much discussed either.” Read more…)