New releases 10/29/19

Top Hits
Luce (drama, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The film proceeds dialectically, with each scene adding a wrinkle to the characters’ motives. To say that it unfolds like a play is both accurate and undersells how gorgeously it has been rendered for the screen. ‘Luce’ had its origins onstage at Lincoln Center, and the screenplay was written by the playwright, J C Lee, and the director, Julius Onah. But Onah [‘The Cloverfield Paradox’], shooting on 35 millimeter, has thought through the staging in cinematic terms, lighting a school library and suburban kitchens as cold, ominous spaces.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Jirga (Australia, drama, Sam Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The real Kabul and Kandahar are almost never seen in contemporary movies, particularly those produced in the West. So the sense of going somewhere you’ve never been is palpable from almost the very beginning of ‘Jirga,’ a fictional film shot almost entirely in and around these cities in Afghanistan. Directed by Benjamin Gilmour and starring Sam Smith — an actor who gives such a distinctive performance that it’s a shame that he has such a common name — the movie is the story of a traumatized Australian soldier returning to the scene of his war crime to attempt amends.” Read more…)

La Marseillaise (France, Jean Renoir-directed historical drama, Pierre Renoir. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Matewan (1987, John Sayles-directed labor drama, Chris Cooper. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking as his source material an especially bitter and bloody confrontation between West Virginia coal miners and the company that owned their souls in 1920, John Sayles has made a film with the sweetness and simplicity of an Appalachian ballad. ‘Matewan,’ opening today at Cinema 1, is so direct in its sympathies and so unsophisticated in its methods that it seems to be an intrusion on our awareness of everything that’s happened to complicate the American labor movement between then and now.” Read more…)

Nightmare In Badham County (1976, horror/thriller, Deborah Raffin)

New British
A Discovery of Witches (mystery/supernatural, Teresa Palmer. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 66. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “‘A Discovery of Witches,’ which was made for Sky in Britain…, is an action fantasy in the multi-monster category of ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood,’ with a focus on Harlequin-style, time-jumping romance that may make it of interest to the ‘Outlander’ audience. It should meet the requirements of those who like their high-class cheese fests wrapped in European accents and antique locations. Based on the novels in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, the series imagines a triumvirate of nonhuman species — vampires, witches and demons — among whom peace is maintained by a centuries-old power-sharing arrangement.” Read more…)

New TV
Billions: Season 4 (Showtime drama, Paul Giamatti. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87.)

New Documentaries
Mike Wallace Is Here (bio, journalism, history, Mike Wallace. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In TV terms, the biographical film ‘Mike Wallace Is Here’ is effectively a feature-length recap. Using only archival footage, the director Avi Belkin distills more than five decades of the longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent’s career on camera to an hour and a half. Presenting Wallace with relatively little mediation is a natural way to tell this story, even as it creates a limitation. Documentary as autobiography, the movie shows a man who is always cultivating his appearance for an audience.” Read more…)

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (bio, music, Leonard Cohen. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Documentarian Nick Broomfield’s] new picture, ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love,’ is about the enduring love between the Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman he met on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s. It’s a story that is at once simple and threaded with startling complexities. Its emotional entanglements and narrative twists can seem the stuff of fiction. They shed sometimes discomfiting light on the expansions and excesses of the 1960s and ’70s counterculture that its main players helped to define.” Read more…)

New releases 10/22/19

Top Hits
The Lion King (live action/CGI remake of Disney animated feature, Donald Glover [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “But it’s likely that much of the audience, young and old, will have some familiarity with the narrative, whether from the 1994 animated feature or from the long-running, much-loved Broadway show. “The Lion King” currently under review isn’t meant to replace or outdo either of those, but rather to multiply revenue streams and use a beloved property to show off some new tricks. A lot of people will go, expecting to like what they see, and for the most part they won’t be disappointed.” Read more…)

The Art of Self-Defense (comedy, Jesse Eisenber. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Casey, a skinny, nervous nebbish — played, it may be redundant to add, by Jesse Eisenberg — lives alone with his dachshund in a nondescript apartment in an unidentified city. He works in the accounting department of a company that is as generic as everything else in ‘The Art of Self-Defense,’ a wobbly sort-of satire written and directed by Riley Stearns.” Read more…)

The Dead Center (supernatural thriller, Shane Carruth. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 63. From Katie Walsh’s Los Angeles Times review: “Soon after a curiously catatonic patient mysteriously appears in a chaotic emergency psych ward, bodies start dropping. While overly empathetic Dr. Daniel Forrester [Shane Carruth] tries to get answers out of this man [Jeremy Childs], across town a taciturn coroner [Bill Feehely] searches for the body of a suicide victim that has gone missing. Where these two narratives meet lies the supernatural psychological mystery of Billy Senese’s ‘The Dead Center.’” Read more…)

Angel of Mine (suspense, Noomi Rapace. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 47. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Though wearily predictable and consistently doleful, this intense study of maternal distress and incipient madness [a remake of the 2008 French drama ‘Mark of an Angel’], while remaining tightly focused on Lizzie’s mental anguish, is also attentive to its effect on those around her. Rapace’s jangly, one-note performance is rendered bearable by Yvonne Strahovski’s warmly natural turn as Lola’s increasingly furious mother, and Rob Collins is quietly sympathetic as Lizzie’s bemused and unfortunate one-night stand.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Lion King
Brightburn

New Foreign DVDs
Gebo and the Shadow (Portugal, drama, Michael Lonsdale. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Manoel] Oliveira, born in 1908, has an effortless feel for, and an inexhaustible interest in, the manners and customs of an older Europe. Even his films set in the present day evoke a world shadowed by long history and animated by ancient codes of behavior and feeling. ‘Gebo and the Shadow,’ which seems to take place in the 19th century, belongs both to that time and now.” Read more…)

The Chambermaid (Mexico, drama, Gabriela Cartol. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Chambermaid,’ Lila Avilés’s quietly stunning debut feature, is a work of closely observed workplace realism, but at times it achieves the strangeness and intensity of science fiction. The camera never leaves the high-rise Mexico City hotel where the title character is employed, and in spite of spectacular views from the picture windows, the building can feel as claustrophobic and isolated as a space station drifting in a distant galaxy. A civilization unto itself, with a rigorous hierarchy and unspoken taboos, the hotel hums with mystery and menace. Even when nothing much is happening, there is the lurking sense that anything might.” Read more…)

The Other Story (Israel, drama, Maayan Blum. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Other Story,’ an unwieldy but reasonably compelling Israeli drama from the director Avi Nesher, recalls the old Jewish joke about how two disputing parties can’t both be right. [Or can they?] Given the complexity of the tensions the movie deals with — between religious Jews and secular Israelis, and between secular Israelis and other religions — perhaps its thematic murkiness is a feature, not a bug.” Read more…)

Honeyland (Macedonia, documentary/drama, Hatidze Muratova. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This isn’t to attribute the filmmakers’ remarkable achievement to luck. They draw comedy and pathos out of the conflict. They render the thick complexity of experience with poignant clarity. Their movie is quiet, intimate and intense, but touched with a breath of epic grandeur. It’s a poem including history.” Read more…)

Sprinter (Jamaica, drama, Dale Elliott. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From Kimber Myers’ Los Angeles Times review: “Executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, ‘Sprinter’ tells a standard sports story with all the genre elements we’ve seen before. However, its unique perspective on the Jamaican experience sets it apart from other inspirational athlete films. Written and directed by Storm Saulter, this drama still follows those tropes, but in a different setting.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Merry Andrew (1957, musical comedy, Danny Kaye. From Bosley Crowther’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Merry Andrew’ is what the doctor ordered to help shake the winter blues.It isn’t the most original or inventive vehicle in which the invariable cheering [Danny] Kaye has come bouncing down the road. It is, in fact, a rather obvious and narrowly confined piece of comical contrivance for the genial performer to command. In it, he plays a schoolmaster—an English schoolmaster, by the way, which is going a litle wide, isn’t it, for the nice kid from Brooklyn he once played?—who goes on an archaeological outing in search of an ancient statue of Pan and gets mixed up with a small traveling circus and, of course, the inevitable girl. Put Mr. Kaye in a circus and you just about have a show.” Read more…)

Tamango (1958, adventure, Dorothy Dandridge)
Frank Capra’s Wonders of Life (classroom science docs from the 1950s):
Hemo the Magnificent/Unchained Goddess
Our Mr. Sun/Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Bless Their Little Hearts (1984, drama/African-American cinema, Nate Hardman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Bless Their Little Hearts,’ which opens today at the Film Forum, is a small, self-assured, independent American film that, though severely even-tempered, never disguises its own anger or that of its characters, the members of an economically cornered black family who live in the Watts section of Los Angeles… ‘Bless Their Little Hearts’ is so understated that at times it seems diffident, as if it were too shy to display its fury in more robust terms. This, however, is the style of the film that Mr. Woodberry, Mr. Burnett and their splendid cast, headed by Mr. Hardman and Miss Moore, have chosen to make, and it works beautifully.” Read more…)

Phobia (1980, John Huston-directed thriller, Paul Michael Glaser)

New British
Shetland: Season 5 (mystery, Douglas Henshall)
Press: Season 1 (journalism/drama, Charlotte Riley)

New TV
Veronica Mars (remake): Season 1 (mystery, Kristen Bell. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 78.)

New Documentaries
David Crosby: Remember My Name (bio, music, David Crosby. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Not that the highs and lows are always easy to distinguish. Even by the standards of the time, Crosby’s drug use was prodigious. A chronicle of tawdriness and glamour, ‘Remember My Name’ follows the rock ’n’ roll-biopic template so closely that if it weren’t a documentary you might complain about the same-oldness of the story.” Read more…)

Viewer Discretion Advised (TV, pop culture)
The Mask You Live In (boys, contemporary masculinity, sociology. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%.)

New Music DVDs
David Crosby: Remember My Name (bio, music, David Crosby)

New releases 10/15/19

Top Hits
Stuber (buddy comedy, Kumail Nanjiani. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 42. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often, a movie opens that you’re sure you and some friends plotted out on a bar napkin once upon a late night. You know that bigger-than-life picture: It’s the movie-I’ll-never-make fantasy, the get-rich-flick scheme that you are positive someone with money will eventually produce. Because someone with money is always making a movie like ‘Stuber,’ an entertainment that is at once knowingly derivative [it’s like ‘Lethal Weapon’!] and somehow just different enough [with ride sharing!].” Read more…)

The Wedding Guest (thriller, Dev Patel. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 57. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Wedding Guest’ soon reveals that it has one of the most misleading titles of the year. It’s a thriller, not a light comedy of manners — but exactly what sort of thriller it will be is something that the director, Michael Winterbottom, keeps tantalizingly at bay.” Read more…)

Crawl (action thriller, Kaya Scodelario. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “As ‘Crawl’ works itself into a lather of bloodied limbs and frothing water, [director Alexandre] Aja — whose slickly savage 2006 update of the Wes Craven cannibal classic, ‘The Hills Have Eyes,’ showcased his mastery of mood as well as grisliness — delivers a smoothly efficient popcorn picture. The ’gators are gnarly, the manipulation of light and shade is impressive [the plucky cinematographer is Maxime Alexandre] and the claustrophobia is eased somewhat by a barreling pace and the odd check-in with the outside world.” Read more…)

Anna (thriller, Sasha Luss. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 40. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Times review: “In Luc Besson’s ‘Anna,’ a struggling, beautiful young woman is coerced into becoming a world-class assassin, and finds herself pining for her freedom while dispatching her targets. Sound familiar? It’s roughly the same outline as the director’s 1991 hit ‘La Femme Nikita,’ which proved the French could outdo Hollywood at making action movies. “Anna” isn’t as stylish or gripping as ‘Nikita,’ but it does have its own demented charm, particularly in how it toys with structure, nesting competing narrative timelines within each other.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Crawl
Pavarotti

New Foreign DVDs
At War (France, drama, Vincent Lindon. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The great French actor Vincent Lindon has a special talent for embodying what could be a paradoxical persona: the outstanding Everyman. In ‘At War,’ the fourth feature he’s made with the director Stéphane Brizé, Lindon plays a workers’ leader at an auto plant facing closure.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Foxes of Harrow (1947, drama, Rex Harrison. From Bosley Crowther’a 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Obese’ is the word which a reviewer for this newspaper used to describe Frank Yerby’s ‘The Foxes of Harrow’ in its original novel form. The gentleman was being most courteous—if the film is even a shadow of the book. For, although this orotund picture, which came to the Roxy yesterday, is apparently lacking in several of the paunchier sections of the book, it still manifests over-stuffing with the fattiest romantic clichés.” Read more…)

New British
The Hours and Times (1991, fictional account of 1963 vacation taken by John Lennon & Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Ian Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Vincent Canby’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Hours and Times,’ written and directed by a young American named Christopher Munch, is a sharp, concise, evocative film about friendship, about its limitations and the recognition of those limitations. It is novel-size yet short [60 minutes], and utterly specific. Everything superfluous has been cut away. The film takes as its starting point the fact that in the spring of 1963 Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ brilliant, troubled manager, and John Lennon, a Beatle still very much on the road to self-discovery, shared a four-day vacation in Barcelona.” Read more…)

New TV
The Haunting of Hill House (mini-series based on Shirley Jackson novel, Henry Thomas. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 79. From Jason Zinoman’s New York Times “Critic’s Notebook”: “The new Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ — a loose adaptation [of the Dhirley Jackson novel] that ambitiously marries the terrors of a ghost story with an intricate, multigenerational family drama — opens with a reading of [Jackson’s introductory paragraph], which suggests fealty to source material. But if you listen closely, you might notice that the perspective has radically shifted, away from the book’s omniscient narrator and toward the man speaking.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
This Changes Everything (feminism, media, sexism in media, Geena Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Aisha Harris’ Times review: “‘Thelma & Louise’ was supposed to have done it. Ditto ‘The First Wives Club,’ and, more recently, ‘Frozen’ and ‘Hidden Figures.’ As the actress and activist Geena Davis puts it in “This Changes Everything,” a new documentary about Hollywood’s pervasive gender inequalities, each of those highly successful films with female leads [and in some cases, female filmmakers] had been expected to expand the opportunities for women, or so the media narrative went with each release. As the staggering statistics on gender parity continue to demonstrate, though, not much has changed.” Read more…)

Pavarotti (bio, opera, Luciano Pavarotti. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 66. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “If Luciano Pavarotti ever had a bad day, you wouldn’t know it from ‘Pavarotti,’ an upbeat documentary that recounts the opera singer’s life, or at least its better moments. Directed by Ron Howard, ‘Pavarotti’ grounds itself in the artist’s childhood in Italy and winds its way through his career to his death in 2007. High points are the film’s forte, and they’re backed by extensive and well-assembled footage” Read more…)

Jaco (bio, music, jazz, electric bass, Jaco Pastorius. From Nate Chinen’s New York Times “Critic’s Notebook”: “When Jaco Pastorius first met Joe Zawinul, the keyboardist and composer behind Weather Report, he had his introduction ready. ‘My name is John Francis Pastorius III,’ he said, as Zawinul later remembered. ‘I’m the greatest bass player in the world.’ That line appears more than once in ‘Jaco,’ an illuminating, compassionate new documentary, and its hubris comes across as both playful and deeply serious.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Pavarotti (bio, opera, Luciano Pavarotti)
Jaco (bio, music, jazz, electric bass, Jaco Pastorius)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
The Hours and Times (1991, fictional account of 1963 vacation taken by John Lennon & Beatles manager Brian Epstein, Ian Hart)

New releases 10/8/19

Top Hits
Midsommar (horror, Florence Pugh. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “We horror-movie lovers are cheap dates. A creaking door and a shocking edit can be all it takes for us to yelp in surrender, as our sympathetic nervous systems kick in and we grab our seat arms or each other. Ari Aster, who made a splash last summer with his feature directing debut, ‘Hereditary,’ understands the genre’s fundamentals. But his strength in that movie and his new one, ‘Midsommar,’ is the setup, that part when he lays out his characters, their worlds and the menace that closes on them like a claw.” Read more…)

American Woman (drama, Sienna Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 67. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘American Woman,’ directed by Jake Scott from a script by Brad Ingelsby, is, on its face, the kind of movie that many of us are afraid is getting squeezed out of the market by blockbusters and franchises. It’s a considered, conscientious character study chronicling the ups and, mostly, downs in the lives of its working-class subjects.” Read more…)

Deadwood: The Movie (western, Ian MacShane. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “This briefly resurrected wonder, which airs on HBO Friday, looks like ‘Deadwood,’ if grayer and touched by time. It sounds like ‘Deadwood,’ the profane poetry and syntactic baroqueness of David Milch’s prose preserved as if in 100-proof whiskey. Lord, it is ‘Deadwood’; not just a nostalgic exercise but a fair shorthand of what might have transpired in a fourth season.” Read more…)

Annabelle Comes Home (horror, McKenna Grace. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic:53. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Despite remaining laudably committed to its namesake’s hobby of terrorizing little girls, ‘Annabelle Comes Home,’ the latest in the demon-doll saga that began in 2013, is no more than a shameless franchise-stuffer. Burdened neither by fresh ideas nor common sense, Gary Dauberman’s lethargic screenplay (he also directed, an inauspicious debut) takes so long to get moving that Annabelle herself should demand a do-over.” Read more…)

Gwen (horror, Maxine Peake. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 63. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Handsomely cloaked in misty menace and heavy weather, an irate wind whistling through every pause in its soundtrack, ‘Gwen’ turns out to be something of a wolf in another wolf’s clothing. Following a fatherless family battling demons of some description in the bleakest peaks of Wales, the film looks and sounds the part of an elegantly haunted gothic horror movie, only to skip past standard chiller expectations to disquiet its audience in more grounded, historically rooted ways.” Read more…)

Toy Story 4 (animated feature, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 84. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Much of ‘Toy Story 4’ is great-ish. The animation is striking, the jokes amusing and the story sweet, though this being Pixar, the tale is also melancholic enough that the whole thing feels deeper than it is. In other words, the movie is exactly what you expect — not more, not less — from an estimably well-oiled machine like Pixar. It seems almost greedy to want something better, less familiar. The fault lies with the studio, which has trained us to expect greatness, partly by making movies as seemingly inimitable as ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Wall-E.’” Read more…)

Light of My Life (thriller, Casey Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 67. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Times review: “So it’s not original, but it is enlivened by some artful touches and two excellent performances. [Writer/director/actor Casey] Affleck’s familiar melancholy energy is ideal for the part of a man [known only as Dad] who is struggling to persist in a world without hope, if only to ensure his child’s survival. His simmering sadness has a self-sustaining quality — it never explodes or wears itself out.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Midsommar
Toy Story 4 (arriving Friday)

New Foreign DVDs
Three Peaks (Germany, drama, Alexander Fehling. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 57. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Three Peaks,’ an insinuating, sometimes tense and pleasingly open-ended domestic drama from the Berlin-born director Jan Zabeil, opens with a shot of three side-by-side pools. A man, Aaron [Alexander Fehling], is teaching Tristan [Arian Montgomery], to swim. Lea [Bérénice Bejo], the boy’s mother, joins them, but soon it becomes clear that Aaron is not Tristan’s father — and that young Tristan is still getting used to living as a family with his mom’s boyfriend.” Read more…)

Yomeddine (Egypt, adventure/comedy, Rady Gamal. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 62. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The star and hero of the warm drama ‘Yomeddine,’ Beshay, is a survivor of leprosy, who has lived in a leper colony in northern Egypt for most of his life. In the seclusion of the colony, he is married and makes his living picking up and selling trash from a local landfill. As played by the magnetic Rady Gamal, a cafeteria worker who was himself cured of leprosy, Beshay’s face and hands bear the scars of illness, but his pride remains intact.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Boom! (1968, drama/romance based on Tennessee Williams play, Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In spite of [playwright Tennessee] Williams’s rewriting—and maybe because of the pots of money spent on the grossly eye-blinding physical production—‘Boom!’ is still a fuzzy unconsummated work caught like so many of the playwright’s heros, midway between a real world and a symbolic one. For all of its overtones of Indian mysticism, Christian theology and Greek mythology, the movie is essentially the sort that Baby Doll would have hitched a ride into Blue Mountain to see—a tale of the very-very rich that tells the miserable critters in Dogpatch that money can’t buy happiness.” Read more…)

The Honey Pot (1967, comedy/crime, Rex Harrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “While he has put together in this picture… a sleek and saucy simulation of contemporary high comedy, it is actually more glib than sententious, more artifice than art.In his memorable, smoothly polished fashion, [director Joseph] Mankiewicz sets his stage for a fox-and-chickens confrontation that would seem to have infinite scope.” Read more…)

New British
Red Joan (drama based on true story, Judi Dench. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A story of Cambridge spies, atom-bomb secrets and a passionate affair between a demure Brit and a dashing Commie should steam up the screen and pop your popcorn. Or you would think so: but leave it to the feted British theater director Trevor Nunn to flatten the intrigue and dampen the lust that could have made ‘Red Joan’ zing.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Irish Catskills: Dancing at the Crossroads (culture, immigrant stories, Irish-Americans)

New releases 10/1/19

Top Hits
Spider-Man: Far from Home (comic book action, Tom Holland. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As is often the case with these movies, a smaller, livelier entertainment is nested inside the roaring, clanking digital machinery. The filmmakers try to enliven the big fights and action sequences by injecting a bit of self-consciousness about the illusion-driven craft they pursue, and a few sequences take place in an austere, dreamlike virtual realm where visually interesting things are allowed to happen.” Read more…)

Spider in the Web (action, Ben Kingsley. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Noel Murray’s Los Angeles Times review: “The spy thriller ‘Spider in the Web’ is a well-made albeit overly reserved drama, directed by Eran Riklis [best known for ‘Lemon Tree’] from a screenplay by Gidon Maron and Emmanuel Naccache. It’s a high-minded action film, about the grueling demands of espionage work, featuring the kind of story that’s been told many times in literary spy novels. But [actor Ben] Kingsley makes it special.” Read more…)

Driven (comedy based on true story, Jason Sudeikis. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Somewhere deep inside ‘Driven’ — Nick Hamm’s based-on-real-life crime caper — lies a fascinating movie. We catch glimpses whenever Lee Pace, playing the automobile entrepreneur John DeLorean, gilds his ho-hum dialogue in unexpected layers of foreboding. And we hear it crackling through the F.B.I. sting operation that would lead to DeLorean’s 1984 trial for drug trafficking. To make that movie, though, would have required a less glib tone and an infinitely more focused script.” Read more…)

Bodied (comedy/drama, Calum Worthy. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “With visuals as kinetic as its language, Joseph Kahn’s ‘Bodied’ is an outrageously smart, shockingly funny satire of P.C. culture whose words gush so quickly you’ll want to see it twice. Set in the world of battle rap where combatants square off to exchange what amounts to exquisitely tuned insult poetry, the story [by Alex Larsen, a.k.a. Kid Twist, a 10-year veteran of the battle rap scene] follows Adam [Calum Worthy], a gawky grad student and a paperwhite audience surrogate. Researching rap’s use of the N-word, Adam is entranced by the vim and creativity of the performers and their utter lack of linguistic inhibition.” Read more…)

Anna and the Apocalypse (horror, Ella Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Like some features that originated as short movies, ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ never earns its longer running time. [This one’s short, ‘Zombie Musical,’ was directed by Ryan McHenry, who died in 2015.] Zombies and teenagers may seem like a natural fit (certainly Disney banked on it), but ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ is more sketch than developed movie.” Read more…)

Sister Aimee (drama, Anna Margaret Hollyman. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “With ‘Sister Aimee,’ the writers and directors Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann turn a bizarre, real-life event from the 1920s — the sudden disappearance of the celebrity evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson — into a mischievous feminist fable. Confessing upfront about their gleeful fictions, the filmmakers reimagine a roughly five-week period in 1926 when McPherson [wholeheartedly played by Anna Margaret Hollyman] disappeared from a beach and was presumed dead.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Spider-Man: Far from Home

New Foreign DVDs
The Silent Revolution (Germany, drama, Leonard Scheicher. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Jay Weissberg’s Variety review: “A fascinating footnote in mid-20th-century German history gets an expectedly worthy treatment by writer-director Lars Kraume in ‘The Silent Revolution,’ one of those deeply respectful historical fictionalizations where the good people are allowed character development and the bad people largely remain very, very bad. Set in 1956 when a senior classroom of East German high schoolers subversively held a two-minute silence for those just killed in the Hungarian Revolution, the film sticks to a classic mainstream retelling [roughly based on the memoir of one of the participants] where the only unforeseen element is an odd Christian overlay.” Read more…)

New TV
Chernobyl (HBO mini-series on 1980s Soviet Union nuke meltdown. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “How do you dramatize a great big mess? The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is a subject full of gripping detail and historical and scientific import. But as a story, it’s hard to get your arms around — sprawling and repetitious, dependent on arcane particulars of physics and engineering, marked by failures to act and by large-scale action that accomplishes nothing. ‘Chernobyl,’ a five-part mini-series starting Monday on HBO [in coproduction with the British network Sky], takes what you could call a Soviet approach to telling the tale. This is incongruous, since one of the messages of the program is that Soviet approaches don’t work. But there it is: the imposition of a simple narrative on history, the twisting of events to create one-dimensional heroes and villains, the broad-brush symbolism.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Framing John DeLorean (bio/dramatization, Alec Baldwin. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Framing John DeLorean,’ a smart, hook-filled blend of documentary and fictionalized re-enactments, opens with a question: Why haven’t more movies been made about John DeLorean? Because the story of the maverick, egocentric automaker, whose name is practically synonymous with the excesses of the midcentury American car industry, is ready-made for the silver screen.” Read more…)

The Quiet One (bio, music, Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘The Quiet One,’ an engaging documentary on Wyman directed by Oliver Murray and derived from the voluminous archives that Wyman has been keeping for decades, mostly deals indirectly with Wyman’s signature achievement. [The bassist retired from the Stones in the early 1990s.] Its main thrust derives from the contradictions inherent in his life story: A mild-mannered fellow enters the music business just to play, winds up in a controversial and wildly successful rock group, and manages, for a long time, to sidestep most of this situation’s pitfalls by dint of his subdued personality and relatively sober lifestyle.” Read more…)

Maiden (adventure, sailing, Tracy Edwards. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 82. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “If you want to get an idea of how women, their lives and their contributions get written out of history, consider the Wikipedia entry on ‘The 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race,’ which includes the following two simple, factually correct sentences: ‘This race featured the first all-woman crew on Tracy Edwards’ Maiden. Although in a much smaller boat than many of their male counterparts the women fared well — claiming two leg victories in Division D.’ These lines are dutifully informative. They’re also a maddeningly incomplete record of how Edwards, who turned 27 during the race, and her young team became headline news across the world. If you want the fuller, richer story of the women’s journey — their struggles at sea and on land, including virulent sexism — the place to turn is ‘Maiden,’ a sleek, exhilarating documentary look back at their race into history.” Read more…)

The Proposal (art/architecture, Luis Barragán, Jill Magid. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘The Proposal,’ Jill Magid’s captivatingly wily documentary about her attempt to liberate the archives of the renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, wears many faces. Detailing at once an art project and a rescue mission, a love triangle and an elaborate, outlandish bargain, the movie has a surface serenity that belies its fuming emotions.” Read more…)

Robin Williams: Comic Genius (bio, stand-up comedy, Robin Williams)

New Music DVDs
The Quiet One (bio, music, Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman)

New releases 9/24/19

Top Hits
Yesterday (romantic comedy/fantasy, Beatlemania, Himesh Patel. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘I don’t believe in Beatles,’ John Lennon once sang. This silly and sincere pop confection, energetically directed by Danny Boyle [’28 Days Later,’ ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ etc.], wonders what might happen if nobody else did, either. After a traffic accident mysteriously connected to a global power outage, Jack wakes up to discover that the Fab Four have been erased from the collective cultural memory. A Google search turns up pictures of insects. There’s a gap in the B section of Jack’s record collection. When he sings ‘Yesterday’ for Ellie and some other friends, they’re blown away. They want to know when — how, for whom — he came to write such an amazing song.” Read more…)

Child’s Play (horror re-make, Aubrey Plaza. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 48. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Nothing supernatural occurs in ‘Child’s Play’ [2019], a soulless remake in every sense. The new Chucky is simply a robot, the handiwork of a disgruntled factory worker in Vietnam. The toy would normally be a devoted companion to Andy [Gabriel Bateman], who has just moved to a new home with his mother [Aubrey Plaza]. But Chucky, whose safety protocols and violence-inhibiting features have been removed, becomes fiercely protective. If he can’t be Andy’s friend, nobody can.” Read more…)

Shaft (action detective re-make, Samuel L. Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “There’s a new ‘Shaft,’ and why not? Just to be clear, the latest movie with that title, directed by Tim Story, stars both of the old Shafts: Richard Roundtree, who created the role in the 1971 original and its several sequels, and Samuel L. Jackson, who revived the franchise almost 30 years later. They play father and son, and a third generation is represented by Jessie T. Usher — a dynasty of complicated men. One smooth, one crude, one woke.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Yesterday
Shaft

New Foreign DVDs
This Magnificent Cake! (Belgium, drama/comedy animated feature about colonialism, Jan Decleir [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Charles Solomon’s Los Angeles Times review: “This Magnificent Cake!,” a stop-motion film written and directed by Marc James Roels and Emma de Swaef, is a series of feverish meditations on a brutal episode in African history. In 1885, Leopold II of Belgium, seeking “a slice of this magnificent African cake,” became de facto owner of much of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rubber, ivory and precious metals taken from the Congo made Leopold fabulously wealthy, but millions of Congolese died from overwork, torture and disease until their hellish exploitation was exposed in 1904.” Read more…)

Luz (Germany, horror, Luana Velis. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 63. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Luz,’ the first feature from the German director Tilman Singer, is both an experimental take on demonic possession and a bafflingly avant-garde psychodrama. The first is marginally easier to follow than the second.” Read more…)

Diamantino (Portugal, comedy, Carloto Cotta. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “There are moments in which this film, written and directed by Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt, feels like an early Adam Sandler comedy remixed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.” Read more…)

In the Aisles (Germany, drama, Franz Rogowski. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 67From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “A shaggy-dog tale that treats crisscrossing forklift traffic as a sight worthy of the Blue Danube waltz, the German feature ‘In the Aisles’ mostly takes place in an anonymous, highway-side megastore sized somewhere between a supermarket and a cost club. Its hero is a taciturn, newly hired stock handler, Christian [Franz Rogowski], whose hours are such that he rarely sees daylight.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Circus (1928, comedy, Criterion Collection, Charlie Chaplin. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1969 New York Times review of revival screening [requires log-in]: “‘The Circus’ discovers Charlie, in the person of the Little Tramp, standing hungry outside a traveling circus, and it leaves him, sitting in the ring, after the circus itself has pulled away. In between, Charlie joins the circus as roustabout, saves it with the humor of his monumental ineptitude, falls in love with the circus owner’s daughter [Merna Kennedy], and loses her to the handsome tightrope walker — whose suit he bravely promotes. The theme of unhappy romance is not unusual in the major Chaplin films, though it is treated with less circumstance and much less pathetic detail in ‘The Circus’ than in, say, ‘The Gold Rush’ or ‘City Lights’—both of which enjoy accidental happy endings that are more gracious than gratuitous.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Local Hero (1983, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Burt Lancaster. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Janet Maslin’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Genuine fairy tales are rare; so is film-making that is thoroughly original in an unobtrusive way. Bill Forsyth’s quirky disarming ‘Local Hero’ is both, and it’s also proof that Mr. Forsyth’s other feature film released here, ‘Gregory’s Girl,’ was more than a happy accident. The Glasgow-born Mr. Forsyth has put Scottish comedy on the map, for whatever that’s worth. He has also developed a dryly whimsical style, very close to a deadpan at times, that allows the strangest events or personages to glide by almost unnoticed. ‘Local Hero’ contains a mermaid, an enchanted village and a possibly magical rabbit. No undue fuss is made about any one of them.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (bio, literature, Toni Morrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Writers don’t live only in their books, and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s film, produced under the auspices of PBS’s venerable ‘American Masters’ series [and opening in Manhattan at Film Forum and Film at Lincoln Center on Friday] offers a look at Morrison that can complement an acquaintance with her work and inspire new reading. It’s less a biography than an extended essay, which is entirely a good thing.” Read more…)

Becoming Rocketman (bio, music, Elton John)

New Music DVDs
Becoming Rocketman (bio, music, Elton John)

New releases 9/17/19

Top Hits
Firecrackers (drama, Michaela Kurimsky. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Firecrackers,’ Jasmin Mozaffari’s astonishingly confident [and perfectly named] debut feature, opens with a flare of fury and ends on a note of anxious optimism. What happens between is often sensed more than spoken: This is a movie that, like its characters, is more fluent in feelings than in words.” Read more…)

Wild Rose ( drama/music, Jessie Buckley. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 80. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “There aren’t many country-music superstars who emerge from hardscrabble lives in Glasgow, and that unlikelihood is both the appeal and the subject of ‘Wild Rose.’ What at first appears to be another crowd-pleasing, music-driven Britcom in the vein of ‘Billy Elliot’ is cut with a strain of kitchen sink realism — an interest in the daily lives of blue-collar workers and in the trade-offs of pursuing dreams. First and foremost, the movie, written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, is a superb showcase for Jessie Buckley.” Read more…)

Pasolini (bio-pic of Italian director, Willem Dafoe. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Italian director Pier Paolo] Pasolini, who was born in 1922, led an eventful and complicated life — Barth David Schwartz’s English-language biography runs to nearly 800 pages — and died a senseless and sensationally violent death at 53. ‘Pasolini’ takes place mainly in the days leading up to his murder, but, if anything, [director Abel] Ferrara, a notorious provocateur in his own right, tries to dispel some of the feverish speculation and conspiracy-mongering that has surrounded that crime. His reverence for his subject as a fellow artist and kindred rebel spirit is evident in every frame, but he also works to strip away the layers of martyrdom and mythmaking that obscure the man and his art.” Read more…)

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Marvel superhero action, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 43. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The spectacle of superhero franchises trying to engage women can be amusing when it’s not insulting, pandering or straight-up weird. ‘Dark Phoenix,’ the 12th installment in the ‘X-Men’ franchise, certainly tries to do right, but the strain shows. It has a female-driven story but odd ideas about empowerment. On the plus side it has Jessica Chastain playing an otherworldly creature who opens a portal to another dimension and a better movie. She keeps you watching even if at times the director, Simon Kinberg, seems more into her risibly high heels.” Read more…)

East Side Sushi (drama, Diana Elizabeth Torres. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 70. From Justin Chang’s Variety review: “Given the recent rise in popularity of the mutant-sized sushi burrito and other dubious but satisfying fusion-cuisine hybrids, the time feels improbably right for ‘East Side Sushi,’ a gently winning foodie fable about a Mexican-American chef who dreams of working behind the bar at a Japanese restaurant. Writer-director Anthony Lucero’s delectable debut feature has its share of on-the-nose writing and Cinderella-story contrivances, but for the most part folds its cross-cultural insights into a pleasing underdog narrative as deftly as its heroine presses together rice and nori. Centered around a very appealing performance by newcomer Diana Elizabeth Torres, this low-budget crowdpleaser [coming off a much-laureled run on the regional fest circuit] should satisfy a few appetites in VOD play following a limited theatrical run.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Man In the Net (1959, film noir, Alan Ladd)
Beware! (1946, comedy/music, Louis Jordan)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Hail, Hero (1969, drama, Michael Douglas. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In ‘Hail, Hero!’ you can see Kirk Douglas, even younger than he was in ‘The Champion’ in 1949, in the person of his 25-year-old son, Michael. This new Douglas has his father’s extraordinary, Fearless Fosdick jaw, the suggestion of his dimpled chin and the cool, gentle eyes. He also possesses the almost manic, physical buoyancy that compels attention even when it bears little relation to the circumstances in which the actor finds himself. It’s not an especially memorable performance, but it’s an energetic one, and without Douglas, ‘Hail, Hero!’ would not even be tolerable.” Read more…)

New British
C.B. Strike: The Series (mystery, Tom Burke. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 59. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “Cormoran Strike has a more dramatic back story than your average television private eye. His dad’s a rock star, his mom was a fashion model who died in mysterious circumstances and he’s a war hero who lost his left foot in Afghanistan. In ‘C.B. Strike,’ … we meet him as he agrees to investigate the death of a young supermodel. The show’s interest in the wages of celebrity makes sense: It’s based on the mystery novels J.K. Rowling began writing, under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, after her ‘Harry Potter’ books made her one of the world’s best-known authors.” Read more…)

New TV
The Good Fight: Season 3 (TV legal drama, Christine Baranski. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79.)

Fosse/Verdon (bio-pic mini-series/choreography, Michelle Williams. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “‘Fosse/Verdon’ looks fantastic. Typographically, I mean. The title, set in a so-’70s sans serif typeface that echoes the poster for ‘All That Jazz,’ announces this FX mini-series, starting Tuesday, as a work with flair and attention to detail, for enthusiasts and connoisseurs. Literally, the title ‘Fosse/Verdon’ describes a long partnership, between the choreographer-director Bob Fosse [Sam Rockwell] and the dancer-actress Gwen Verdon [Michelle Williams]. It also implies a hierarchy — him first, her second — which set in as his career took off and their marriage fell apart. And it captures the problem of the series ‘Fosse/Verdon,’ which for all its technical panache, puts stage center an overfamiliar biopic story of a brilliant, difficult artist.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Cassandro the Exotico! (wrestling, culture, gay & lesbian. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 76. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The filmmaker Marie Losier shoots in 16 millimeter, and she clearly glories in the format. Not just the rich color saturation she squeezes from it, but the image artifacts many other camerapersons would deplore as defects. Frequently in her new documentary film, ‘Cassandro the Exotico!,’ individual shots practically bristle with what’s called ‘hair in the gate”’ [stray fragments of celluloid that look as if they want to scour the bottom of the screen]. This visual approach is apt for the title subject of this film. Cassandro, born Saúl Armendáriz, is a practitioner of lucha libre — Mexican professional wrestling, which he performs in elaborate drag.” Read more…)

Ken Burns: Country Music (music, culture, 8-part, 16-hour. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 77. From Jon Caramanica’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook on the series: “Tell a lie long enough and it begins to smell like the truth. Tell it even longer and it becomes part of history. Throughout ‘Country Music,’ the new omnibus genre documentary from Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, there are moments of tension between the stories Nashville likes to tell about itself — some true, some less so — and the way things actually were. And while from a distance, this doggedly thorough eight-part, 16-hour series — which begins Sunday on PBS — hews to the genre’s party line, viewed up close it reveals the ruptures laid out in plain sight.” Read more…)

Manson: Music from an Unsound Mind (bio, cultural history, Charles Manson)

New Music DVDs
Ken Burns: Country Music (music, culture, 8-part, 16-hour)
Manson: Music from an Unsound Mind (bio, cultural history, Charles Manson)Becoming

New releases 9/10/19

Top Hits
John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum (action, Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 73. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In “John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum,” guns have more dialogue than its hero and more capacity than seems technically possible, the spraying of bullets interrupted mainly to showcase another lethal weapon. Even more than its predecessors, this third installment in the reluctant-assassin franchise is, like most modern action movies, perfectly attuned to the needs of the foreign markets where most of its money will be made. Bangs and grunts and body slams do not require subtitles.” Read more…)

Aladdin (Disney live action re-make, Mena Massoud. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 53. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Aladdin,’ the 1992 cartoon feature with Robin Williams as a garrulous blue genie, may not be the best movie from Disney’s second golden age of animation, but like the others it has durable charms and memorable songs. ‘Aladdin,’ the new live-action re-whatever with a blue Will Smith popping out of the lamp, may not be the worst product of the current era of legacy intellectual property exploitation [it’s likely that the worst is yet to come], but like most of the others it invites a simple question: Why? The answer — spoiler alert: ‘money’ — may not surprise you.” Read more…)

The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch-directed comedy/horror, Bill Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Dead Don’t Die,’ Jim Jarmusch’s shaggy-dog zombie movie, isn’t all that scary, but one thing about it did haunt me. A character played by Selena Gomez is referred to as ‘a hipster from the big city.’ If I were on Twitter right now, I’d note that fact and say something like ‘Wow. 2019,’ except that I’m not sure I entirely understand the layers of irony and pop-cultural meta-textualism at work here. Or, for that matter, what the weary epithet ‘hipster’ even signifies at this point, especially when deployed by Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny.” Read more…)

Indivisible (war drama/faith, Sarah Drew. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 53. From Katie Walsh’s Los Angeles Times review: “The Iraq war film ‘Indivisible,’ based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, is grounded and real, made with enough finesse and craft to cross over with audiences beyond faith-based distributor PureFlix’s usual purview. Directed by David G. Evans, ‘Indivisible’ is the kind of Christian story that hails community connection as salvation alongside its spiritual beliefs.” Read more…)

Billy Elliot: The Musical Live (musical, Elliott Hanna. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 73.)

New Blu-Ray
John Wick 3
Aladdin

New Foreign DVDs
Love Exposure (Japan, 2007, action/comedy/sex farce, Takahiro Nisijima. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Perverts prowl and women’s panties tremble in ‘Love Exposure,’ a tangled, tumultuous love story from the teeming mind of Sion Sono. Clocking in at a hair under four hours, the teenage romance of Yu [Takahiro Nishijima] and Yoko [Hikari Mitsushima] is an unexpectedly involving and relentlessly entertaining collision of contradictions. He is a tormented Christian with a talent for snapping candid shots of the skivvies of unsuspecting ladies. She is a man-hating hottie who is drawn to her true love only when he’s in drag.” Read more…)

The Cloud-Capped Star (India, 1960, Criterion Collection, drama, Supriya Choudhury)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Cluny Brown (1946, Ernst Lubitsch-directed comedy, Criterion Collection, Jennifer Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From A.W.’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Let is be noted at the outset that Ernst Lubitsch has come up with a delectable and sprightly lampoon in ‘Cluny Brown,’ which on Saturday, began a pleasant visit at the Rivoli. And, let is be known also, that from this vantage point, the offering is among the year’s most delightful film comedies. For, from this adaptation of Margery Sharp’s best-selling novel, Mr. Lubitsch has produced and directed his most gayly irreverent escapade since ‘Ninotchka’ of fond memory.” Read more…)

New TV
The Alienist: Season 1 (mystery series based on Caleb Carr novel, Daniel Brühl. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 61. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “Had ‘The Alienist’ arrived in the 1990s, when the darkest shade of TV policing was ‘NYPD Blue,’ it would have been something truly different. In 2018, it follows many dramas that have interrogated our romantic ideas of the past [‘Deadwood,’ ‘The Knick’], delved into historical crime [‘Boardwalk Empire,’ ‘Peaky Blinders’] and followed eccentric investigators’ descents into the dank basements of the criminal mind [‘True Detective,’ ‘Mindhunter’]. This is hardly the mini-series’s fault. But it is its problem.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (photography, art, bio, Robert Frank. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This material covers a good deal of the same ground as the 2016 documentary on Frank, ‘Don’t Blink.’ Both films give a strong ‘lion in winter’ sense and are moving in their treatments of the tragedies of Frank’s life. If you’ve seen ‘Don’t Blink,’ you may ask whether you ‘need’ to see this. I’d say yes. ‘More light,’ as Goethe put it.” Read more…)

Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews (foreign relations, politics, bio, Vladimir Putin. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 54. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “The special, airing over four nights in hourlong segments, starting Monday, is timely because of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. But [director and interviewer Oliver] Stone has a longer game in mind. He may not see a hero in Mr. Putin, but he uses his perspective to challenge neoconservative American triumphalism about the Cold War and its aftermath. [As Donald J. Trump says in a line heard early on, ‘You think our country’s so innocent?’] Mr. Putin, meanwhile, plays the tough-but-fair leader, beset by the calumny of hypocritical Westerners. The cult of Putin is very much about physicality, and there’s plenty on display.” Read more…)

Walking on Water (art, process, Christo. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 63. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Short on details but long on delight, ‘Walking on Water’ follows the artist Christo as he creates one of his large-scale art installations. This cinéma-vérité documentary centers on ‘The Floating Piers.’ That project, an orange-hued, three-kilometer floating walkway on Lake Iseo in Northern Italy, had been planned for decades and was eventually built in 2016. Like the artist’s ‘Wrapped Reichstag’ in Berlin in 1995 or ‘The Gates’ in New York City’s Central Park in 2005, the work was dissembled shortly following its completion, this time after 16 days.” Read more…)

Echo in the Canyon (folk rock, rock music history, cultural history, Los Angeles. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 70. From Helen T. Verongos’ New York Times review: “The delight of ‘Echo in the Canyon’ is in the delicious details its subjects impart. Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas remembers Brian Wilson’s living room, a piano planted on the sand-covered floor as he wrote the Beach Boys’ influential ‘Pet Sounds’ album; Tom Petty notes that ‘Pet Sounds’ was considered to be responsible for ‘Sgt. Pepper’; a white-maned David Crosby reveals why he was ejected from the Byrds; and the narrator, the singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan, coaxes Stephen Stills to tell an embarrassing story about sneaking out the back when the police broke up one of the Laurel Canyon house party/jam sessions where the performers tried out their music, inspired each other’s work and got high.” Read more…)

Divest! The Climate Movement on Tour (politics, environment, organizing, Bill McKibben)
Appalachian Trail (National Geographic travelogue)

New Music DVDs
Echo in the Canyon (folk rock, rock music history, cultural history, Los Angeles. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 70.)

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
Booksmart

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
Rocketman

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)