New releases 12/25/18

Top Hits
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (drama/romance, Chloë Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Navigating troubled culture-war waters with grace, humor and compassion, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is a movie that deserves a wide and diverse audience. Based on a young-adult novel by Emily Danforth, the film arrives in theaters without a rating, which is probably just as well. The Motion Picture Association of America has a habit of using the R rating to shoo teenagers away from realistic depictions of their own lives, a prohibition that is easy enough to get around in the age of digital streaming but that nonetheless serves as an official endorsement of evasion and repression.” Read more…)

White Boy Rick (true crime, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 59. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Squint and you can sometimes make out the bigger, more complex stories in ‘White Boy Rick,’ including those of a great city violently brought low; of fragile communities left to fail and rot; and of a legal system that seems permanently broken. Too often, though, the movie traffics in genre clichés and the usual suspects, as emissaries of law [mostly white] and disorder [black] swagger and scheme at the opposite ends of the O.K. Corral.” Read more…)

En El Séptimo Día aka On The Seventh Day (lives of undocumented immigrants in Brooklyn, Fernando Cardona. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘En el Séptimo Día’ pulls off the tricky feat of feeling utterly natural as it ratchets with the mechanics of drama and suspense. A return to Brooklyn for the filmmaker turned television director Jim McKay — whose terrific Crown Heights coming-of-age movie ‘Our Song’ opened in 2001 — the film doesn’t shy from showing its range of influences or its multiculturalism. The credits and subtitles are in English and Spanish. The nonprofessional cast members are as compelling as any pros.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
White Boy Rick

New Foreign DVDs
Bag of Marbles (France, occupied France/Holocaust drama, Doran Le Clech. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 55. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This film, directed by Christian Duguay, is the second time the French author Joseph Joffo’s 1973 autobiographical novel, ‘Un Sac de Billes,’ has been adapted into a movie. [The first version, directed by Jacques Doillon in 1975, never found a U.S. release.] Mr. Duguay chooses to frame this story in a period mode highly influenced by Hollywood pictures. Despite the hardships endured by the characters, nearly every shot seems dappled with nostalgia.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Lucky Them (2014, drama, Toni Colette. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 65. From Rachel Saltz’s New York Times review: “In ‘Lucky Them,’ a seen-better-days critic, Ellie Klug [Toni Collette], writes for a seen-better-days magazine that covers alternative rock as if it were the only music in the pop universe. Ellie ignores deadlines and the marketplace, and is burdened by the kind of integrity that looks more like self-destructiveness. [In the real world, she would have been fired years ago.]”)

New Documentary DVDs
Sacred (religion, varied faith traditions. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The TV journalist Bill Moyers once said of the mythologist Joseph Campbell that he ‘was one of the most spiritual men I ever met, but he didn’t have an ideology or a theology.’ The same might be said of Thomas Lennon, who directed ‘Sacred,’ a kaleidoscopic travelogue depicting demonstrations of faith worldwide. Mr. Lennon [no relation to the ‘Reno 911!’ comedian] enlisted 40 filmmakers in 25 countries to record scenes large and small, and the results are surprisingly cohesive.” Read more…)

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (directed by Wim Wenders, bio, religion. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 63. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For much of this movie, [director Wim] Wenders frames the pope in a plain medium close-up and invites the man to speak his mind. With his kind face, intelligent gaze, and ready smile, Francis is an amiable and compelling figure. He is not what you would call starry-eyed, though. He shows considerable knowledge of the horrors of the modern world and speaks with simplicity, informed by philosophical inquiry, about what the Roman Catholic Church can do to counter it.” Read more…)

Transformer (bio, transgender identity, Janae, formerly Matt Kroczaleski. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 78.)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (drama/romance/gay conversion, Chloe Grace Moretz)

New releases 12/18/18

Top Hits
A Simple Favor (thriller, Anna Kendrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 67. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Sly and sweet with an acid finish, ‘A Simple Favor’ is a female-friendship comedy with neo-noir ambitions. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a widow raising her young son in a chilly Connecticut suburb. From her tidy, bright kitchen festooned with children’s drawings, she regularly hosts a self-produced internet program. Stephanie’s pitching recipes and positivity with a smile, but mostly she’s peddling aspirational motherhood, which, with longer hemlines, might easily veer into ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ territory.” Read more…)

Assassination Nation (action, Odessa Young. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 56. From Aisha Harris’ New York times review: “Guns, transphobia, bullying: These are some of the ‘trigger warnings’ announced onscreen within the first few moments of ‘Assassination Nation,’ an abrasive social satire about a town horrifically transformed by a wave of anonymous data hacks. The cheeky opener is an apt mood-setter, even if it does not — cannot, perhaps — adequately prepare you for the gory twists and turns to come in the writer-director [and former Best Video intern!] Sam Levinson’s black comedy.” Read more…)

The Predator (action/horror, Boyd Holbrook. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 48. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Sporting the taxonomically useless title ‘The Predator,’ the latest movie in the ‘Predator’ franchise comes courtesy of Shane Black [‘The Nice Guys’], who appeared as comic relief in the 1987 original and seems to have taken that experience to heart. The new film splits the difference between serving up snark and self-parody — a middle school is named after the producer Lawrence Gordon; there are callbacks to lines from the other films — and delivering the goods for fanboys who insist that the predator have a back story.” Read more…)

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (magical adventure, Jack Black. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 57.From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The director Eli Roth has previously indulged his cinephilia with gory exploitation throwbacks [‘Hostel’], but in ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls,’ he makes a nostalgic fun house movie geared toward a younger crowd, and it pays off. This screen version of a celebrated 1973 book by John Bellairs doesn’t have the sophistication of an adaptation like ‘Hugo,’ but no film in which Cate Blanchett head-butts a vivified jack-o’-lantern could be entirely without merit.” Read more…)

Venom (comic book action, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 35. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It would be irresponsible of me to recommend that you get to the theater late if you go see ‘Venom,’ a new movie adapted from a Marvel comic book about a kind of divided-self superantihero. By missing the first scene you will be bereft of some ostensibly essential plot material concerning a rocket crash, alien organisms fetched from the East Malaysia scene of said crash, one such alien organism taking over a variety of human bodies, and so on.” Read more…)

Fahrenheit 11/9 (political polemic, documentary, Michael Moore, Donald Trump. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “But [director Michael] Moore recognizes an affinity he shares with the president — also a showman. So he is in a nearly unique position to shame the viewer with a frank perspective on how Mr. Trump used his extrovert side to make citizens complacent about the less savory aspects of his character.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Equalizer 2
Venom
The House With a Clock In Its Walls

New Foreign DVDs
Saint Nick (Netherlands. Horror/comedy, Huub Stapel. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.)
Two Women (Russia, based on Ivan Turgenev play, Ralph Fiennes. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 54.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Endless Love (1981, romance/drama, Brooke Shields. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. From Janet Maslin’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There are two sorts of people who’ll be going to see ”Endless Love” – those who have read the richly imaginative novel on which the movie is based and those who have not. There will be dismay in the first camp, but it may be nothing beside the bewilderment in the second.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Fahrenheit 11/9 (political polemic, documentary, Michael Moore, Donald Trump. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “But [director Michael] Moore recognizes an affinity he shares with the president — also a showman. So he is in a nearly unique position to shame the viewer with a frank perspective on how Mr. Trump used his extrovert side to make citizens complacent about the less savory aspects of his character.” Read more…)

California Typewriter (writing, technology, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘California Typewriter’ might center on a small, beleaguered typewriter repair shop in Berkeley, Calif., but this quirky, obsessive documentary is about so much more than broken keys and busted type wheels. It’s really about how we create art.” Read more…)

Saving Brinton (cinema history, William Franklin Brinton. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 78. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “It’s clear five minutes into ‘Saving Brinton’ that the line between hoarder and preservationist really is fine. It’s also clear that you need sensitive, humane filmmaking to insist that one is very different from the other. The average documentary would gawk. This one reclassifies: One person’s pack rat is another’s collector. And Michael Zahs, this movie’s sturdily built, mighty bearded subject, does indeed collect.” Read more…)

McQueen (fashion, bio, Alexander McQueen. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Triumph over abuse was a motif that the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen [who died in 2010] returned to repeatedly in his legendary runway shows, as Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s compassionate documentary, ‘McQueen,’ reveals. In simulated settings like a mental hospital or a Highland moor, his models turned violence into performance and suffering into story. Their garments — often cunningly tattered or fabulously deconstructed — weren’t always wearable, but were impossible to disregard.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Happy Holidays, Garfield

New releases 12/11/18

Top Hits
Colette (historical drama/romance/biopic, Keira Knightley. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Colette’ is an origin story, a tale of metamorphosis rather than of already formed greatness. What interests Mr. Westmoreland is how a self-described country girl became a woman of the world, a transformation that in its deeper, more intimately mysterious registers remains out of reach of this movie and of the hard-working Ms. Knightley. Mostly, he suggests, an intoxicatingly free world was waiting for Colette; all she had to do was discover it.” Read more…)

Peppermint (action, Jennifer Garner. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 29. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “You have seen ‘Peppermint’ before. Directed by Pierre Morel [‘Taken’] and starring Jennifer Garner as Riley North, a hard-working suburban mom turned avenging angel, the vigilante thriller hits all the major tropes of the genre. If Hollywood diversions like ‘Death Wish’ and the bizarro ‘Face/Off’ are your bag, choosing to spend 90-plus minutes watching Ms. Garner return to her early action-hero roots and peel off dozens of evil men with ease might seem like a no-brainer. Yet ‘Peppermint’ is a belabored exercise in lazily constructed déjà vu, without the grit or stylized ham of predecessors it so baldly steals from.” Read more…)

Smallfoot (animated feature, Channing Tatum [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The movie, directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, has just enough wit and visual invention to get by. [The ‘Bad Santa’ team of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra are among those credited with the story.] But for all the hints of darkness around its edges, the film is ultimately like its heroes: cuddly, cute and harmless.” Read more…)

Galveston (thriller, Ben Foster. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 57. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “With shadowy imagery that pushes the boundaries of visibility and a mumbly lead performance from Ben Foster that strains the limits of intelligibility, ‘Galveston’ goes past film noir and lands at film murk. Fans of ‘True Detective,’ whose creator, Nic Pizzolatto, wrote the novel on which this movie is based, won’t be surprised to see a routine on-the-lam scenario treated with the solemnity of the Oresteia. But the heavy-handed filmmaking is more of a mystery coming from the actress Mélanie Laurent, who directed the elegant ‘Breathe’ [2015].” Read more…)

Lizzie (psychological thriller, Chloë Sevigny. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “There is something wildly freeing about the savage killings in ‘Lizzie,’ a distinctly feminist take on the notorious Lizzie Borden, history’s most famous, if unproven, mom-and-pop slayer. This sense of liberation derives from murders enacted with the methodical exhilaration of a jailbreak — a cathartic response to years of oppression by her miserly father, Andrew [Jamey Sheridan], and loathed stepmother, Abby [Fiona Shaw]. And when Lizzie strips naked before hacking her two tormentors to slivers, her nudity isn’t simply practical: It’s the repudiation of a 19th-century wardrobe that controlled women’s movements as thoroughly as men did.” Read more…)

The Equalizer 2 (action, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Vengeance is mine, saith the lord, but that was before Denzel Washington stepped up. One of the reigning symbolic patriarchs of genre cinema — a fraternity that includes Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson and the rather less-convincing Bruce Willis — Mr. Washington has been meting out extreme punishment for some time. He’s especially persuasive playing the kind of brutal redeemers who unblinkingly snuff out the murderous many to save a single innocent, which is exactly what he does at the start of ‘The Equalizer 2.'” Read more…)

The Nun (horror, Demian Bichir. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 46. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The protagonist searches for something in a dark, dank corridor. The camera pans to the right. The camera pans to the left — and oh, my God, now there’s something behind her! If you enjoy shots like the one described above, “The Nun,” the latest spinoff of “The Conjuring,” has that and other timeworn, reflex-testing jolts in store. The franchise has proved to be a reliable if variably elegant “boo” machine; the same applies here.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Peppermint

New Foreign DVDs
Mademoiselle Paradis (Austria, costume drama, Maria Dragus. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “It’s the kind of teasing what-if with which we begin torturing ourselves as children: If you had to choose one, would you rather be deaf or blind? Would you rather have the gift of sight for a brief time only to have it taken away, or never know exactly what you’re missing? And if regaining your vision meant losing your most unique talent, would you take that trade? For blind Austrian pianist Maria Theresia ‘Resi’ Paradis, the latter wasn’t a hypothesis or a choice, but a perverse quandary into which her body threw her — not that the draconian patriarchy of the late 18th century would have permitted her much say either way. A fresh, inquisitive portrait of her pivotal teenage years from director Barbara Albert, ‘Mademoiselle Paradis’ is less interested in its subject’s potted biography than in how her era’s vicious politics of class and gender affected her plight.” Read more…)

Nostalghia (1983, Soviet Union, drama, Domiziana Giordano. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From, Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Loveliness, I’m afraid, is really what this movie is all about. The Italian landscapes, frequently heavily misted, the ancient churches, the old towns, the occasional peasant, and the leading lady [Domiziana Giordano] are so lovely one feels that Mr. Tarkovsky’s private world was created for camera-carrying tourists.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Beyond Tomorrow (1940, holiday, Harry Carey. From Bosley Crowther’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]:”We’ve never had any particular grudge against ghosts, but we’re rapidly developing one. That goes too for the scenarists who insist on calling forth shades from the Stygian night. For when the ghosts come in, the plot usually goes out the window, and after that a mere film reviewer is apt to be as confused as if he were sitting at a séance with levitating tables, blurred apparitions and sepulchral voices. Take ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ which opened yesterday at the Palace. For its first half it is a latter-day Christmas carol, told with a gamin tenderness and warming as a hot toddy. But when its three elderly good Samaritans return from a plane crash as celluloid chimeras, its mystical peregrinations are more preposterous than moving.” Read more…)

New TV
Westworld: Season 2 (sci-fi, Evan Rachel Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “On the down side, ‘Westworld’ still treats itself more as a game to be beaten than as a story to be told. If the show has been plagued by zealous decoders, that’s because it hasn’t created characters nearly as involving as its labyrinthine plot. On the encouraging side, the video was a joke, and even a dusty attempt at humor was a welcome change of pace coming from a show whose first season was relentlessly dour, ponderous and stuck up its own maze.” Read more…)

Instinct: Season 1 (mystery, Alan Cumming. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%.)

New Documentary DVDs
Makala (Africa, economic struggles, personal story, inspiration. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Reviewers have cheered ‘Makala’ since it won the top prize last year at Cannes in Critics’ Week, a parallel festival devoted to first- and second-time feature directors. The case for it has some appeal: Rooting for its principal subject is irresistible, and — while pushing at the edges of what constitutes a documentary — it captures a type of work that movies seldom show.” Read more…)

Quiet Heroes (LGBTQ issues, AIDS crisis, discrimination, health care. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Dennis Harvey’s Variety review: “As a health crisis that began when inexpensive video equipment was becoming available, the AIDS epidemic was well-chronicled by filmmakers from a fairly early point — at least within the bounds of those living in major ‘gay mecca’ urban centers that got the bulk of alarmist public attention. A different perspective is offered by ‘Quiet Heroes,’ the Sundance-premiered documentary by Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga and Amanda Stoddard. They cast a light on Salt Lake City, a place where general cultural and religious conservatism meant most gays lived their lives in secret, and where the initial response to AIDS sufferers was particularly negative as a result. Focusing largely on the crusading efforts of two women who, backed by a Catholic hospital’s nuns, were for a time virtually the only medical professionals who’d deign to treat the HIV-positive in the area, this warmhearted feature offers a pleasingly upbeat take on a tragic era.” Read more…)

New releases 12/4/18

Top Hits
Mission: Impossible: Fallout (action, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There’s a whole lot of everything in the ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout,’ an entertainment machine par excellence that skitters around the world and has something to do with nuclear bombs, mysterious threats and dangerous beauties. Mostly, it has to do with that hyper-human Tom Cruise, who runs, drives, dives, shoots, flies, falls and repeatedly teeters on the edge of disaster, clinging to one after another cliffhanger. As usual, he works hard for our dollars and eyeballs in a movie that spins the oldies (a blonde with a knife in her garter) while pushing to greater spectacle-cinema extremes.” Read more…)

Operation Finale (thriller, Ben Kingsley. Rotten Tomatoes 58%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In May of 1960, Israeli secret agents captured Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi and one of the architects of the Final Solution, who had been hiding in Argentina. His subsequent trial, held in a Jerusalem courtroom and open to the public, was a crucial event in the global reckoning with the Holocaust. It was chronicled by Hannah Arendt in her controversial book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem,’ which popularized the phrase ‘banality of evil’ in reference to the supposedly gray, bureaucratic personality Eichmann exhibited on the stand. ‘Operation Finale,’ an earnest and effective dramatization of the efforts to find Eichmann in South America and convey him to Israel, instead emphasizes the evil of evil. And also, secondarily and not always comfortably, its charm.” Read more… For another cinematic take on this episode, see the recent film “The People vs. Fritz Bauer.”

The Happytime Murders (comedy, Melissa McCarthy. Rotten Tomatoes 23%. Metacritic: 27. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To anyone who grew up on ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘The Muppet Show’ and various Muppet movies, ‘The Happytime Murders’ will be either a crime against childhood or the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Maybe both. There is something irresistible and also shameful in the idea that furry figures with googly eyes, hinged jaws and floppy limbs might also possess filthy mouths, dirty minds and the ability to act out all their lustful, violent impulses. That they would be just like us, in other words.” Read more…)

Support the Girls (comedy, Regina Hall. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Support the Girls’ [the title refers to a carwash fund-raiser for the road-raging waitress] moves nice and easy for so long that it begins to feel drifty, unmoored. It’s not. Mr. Bujalski, who wrote as well as directed, doesn’t lean on shocks and big moments to spark tension or spur the narrative. A fine-grain realist, he creates modest, layered worlds and identifiably true characters, filling them in with details borrowed from life rather than the multiplex: a plastic milk crate used as a planter, the pleather-esque recliners in a stereo showroom, a heart-heavy woman putting heart-shaped stickers on walls.” Read more…)

Mary Shelley (biopic, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes 40%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Mary Shelley’ is a rarity: a literary biopic with an argument. Which is by no means to say that the film, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour [‘Wadjda’] forgoes the expected pleasures of the genre. You get candlelight and quill pens, Regency gowns and celebrity shout-outs ([amuel Taylor Coleridge, in the house!], and of course the usual feverish attempts to convey both the passion and the discipline of the writing process. Also good-looking young actors declaiming poetry and prose in crisply accented, grammatically flawless English. But rather than smother Mary Shelley — author of ‘Frankenstein,’ daughter of two eminent writers and wife of another — with soft cushions of antiquarian cultural prestige, Ms. al-Mansour and the screenwriter, Emma Jensen, sharpen the sense of Shelley’s modernity.” Read more…)

Anchor and Hope (comedy/romance, Oona Chaplin. Rotten Tomatoes 79%. Metacritic: 67.)
The Sun at Midnight (drama, Devery Jacobs)

New Blu-Ray
Operation Finale
Mission: Impossible: Fallout

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Jericho Mile (1979, made-for TV drama, Peter Strauss)

New TV
Sharp Objects: Season 1 (HBO drama mini-series based on Gillian Flynn novel, Amy Adams. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “‘Sharp Objects,’ a mesmerizing eight-episode series beginning Sunday on HBO, is not the gothic crime thriller you might first suspect — at least not mainly. Instead, the show’s attention is drawn backward to [lead character] Camille [Preaker’s] injuries, emotional, physical and self-inflicted. [The title alludes to her habit of cutting words into her flesh, leaving her body a dictionary of scars.]” Read more…)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2 (dystopian series, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes 91%. Metacritic: 92.)
Elementary: Season 6 (Sherlock Holmes update, Jonny Lee Miller. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New Documentary DVDs
Letter from Masanjia (human rights, labor rights, China. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times reciew: “In 2012, Julie Keith found a hidden letter in a box of Halloween decorations she bought at Kmart. The writer, Sun Yi, told of being imprisoned in a camp in Masanjia, China, where he and others were forced into slave labor. He asked the finder to help expose their plight. Ms. Keith, of Damascus, Ore., took it to The Oregonian newspaper, whose subsequent article was widely read around the world. The journey of that letter, and the tale of Mr. Sun’s detention and torture, is recounted in ‘Letter From Masanjia,’ a potent documentary that pushes the story still further after his release.” Read more…)

New releases 11/27/18

Top Hits
Searching (thriller, John Cho. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 71. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “What sets Aneesh Chaganty’s feature debut apart is its meticulously constructed storytelling device, which calls to mind ‘Unfriended [2014],’ the horror film about a group of teenagers whose video chat is interrupted by the presence of an online phantom, and its sequel ‘Unfriended: Dark Web,’ released earlier this summer. Every shot of ‘Searching’ plays out on a screen — a computer, a phone, through the lens of a clandestinely placed camera. It mostly works: It unveils a clever approach to character building, as during the opening montage of family photos, home videos and emails providing intimate details about the Kim family over several years.” Read more…)

Obey (drama, Marcus Rutherford. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “‘Obey’ is a well-directed, well-acted film that cleverly meshes news footage of the riots with staged fictional scenes, and there is a strong central performance from Marcus Rutherford as Leon, a young man just out of care, back at home with his caring but lonely and alcoholic single mum, Chelsea [an excellent performance from T’Nia Miller] and channelling his energies into boxing. When social tensions escalate, Leon finds himself in a crisis of loyalty among his friends, while falling for a beautiful social justice warrior/trustafarian white girl, Twiggy [Sophie Kennedy Clark], who is temporarily in a squat, though with the safety net of a comfortable family home out in the shires.” Read more…)

Blindspotting (comedy/crime, Daveed Diggs. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Picks. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This movie, which was written by Mr. Diggs and Mr. Casal, has an energetic-to-the-point-of-boisterous style. Its lively frequency is embedded in the writing, bolstered by Carlos López Estrada’s direction, and kept buoyant by the performers. This particular aspect of the film makes it exciting to watch, but can also be confounding. ‘Blindspotting’ often seems as if it wants to split the difference between its social concerns and its engagement level as an entertainment… But whatever my quibbles, the actual core of the movie is so pertinent that I’ve continued to think about it, hard, since I first saw it.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Searching

New Foreign DVDs
A Story from Chikamatsu (Japan, 1954, Criterion Collection, romance/drama, Kazuo Hasegawa. From Roger Greenspun’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Compared with the films of Kenji Mizoguchi with which we are already familiar [for example, ‘Ugetzu’—1953, ‘The Bailiff’—1954, or the sublime ‘Life of O’Haru’ — 1952), ‘Chikamatzu Monogatari,’ made in 1954, seems less lyrically poetic, less picturesquely strange, less immediately beautiful. But on the basis of just one viewing, I should guess that it is no less great.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers (Library of Congress, pathbreakers, 20+ hours of from 1911-29)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
On the Second Day of Christmas (1997, holiday movie, Mark Ruffalo)

New British DVDs
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, mini-series based on a 1967 novel and previously filmed by Peter Weir in 1975, Natalie Dormer. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The vaudevillian, throw-everything-at-the-wall approach may reflect the creators’ sensibilities, or the need to fill a little over five hours of running time. But it also feels as if it might be a direct, somewhat panicked reaction to the ambiguities of the story. [writers Beatrix] Christian and [Alice] Addison have taken every latent idea, every veiled suggestion, in the material and made it explicit. Every piece of subtext has been dredged up so that it can be turned into banal commentary on the benighted attitudes of the provincial patriarchy toward gender, race, class and sexuality.” Read more…)

Jack Irish: Season 2 (Australia, mystery, Guy Pearce. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times review: “‘Jack Irish,’ an Australian series whose second six-episode season goes up at Acorn TV on Monday, is in the same general category as Amazon’s ‘Bosch’ [based on books by Michael Connelly] and ‘C.B. Strike,’ the BBC-Cinemax adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s mystery novels. That is, it’s a straightforward, noirish mystery starring a laconic, mostly noble, unapologetically genre-friendly gumshoe… The show is set apart, though, by its sense of humor, a quality that’s usually rationed in TV mysteries these days to preserve an overall [and often suffocating] atmosphere of seriousness.” Read more…)

New releases 11/20/18

Top Hits
Crazy Rich Asians (comedy/romance, Constance Wu. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New york Times review: “Every romantic comedy depends on obstacles to the central couple’s ultimate happiness. ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ a busy, fizzy movie winnowed from Kevin Kwan’s sprawling, dishy novel, sets up a series of clashes — between tradition and individualism, between the heart’s desire and familial duty, between insane wealth and prudent upward mobility — that are resolved with more laughter than tears. There are squalls of intrigue and a melodramatic cloudburst or two, but nothing that threatens to spoil the festivities.” Read more…)

Kin (sci-fi, Jack Reynor. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times Review: “Frustrated teenage boys are apt to dream up elaborate fantasies about gaining all the power they don’t have. The dream factory that is cinema has now enabled the sibling filmmakers Jonathan and Josh Baker to bring one such fancy to the screen. In ‘Kin,’ Eli [Myles Truitt], the 14-year-old adopted son of the hard-working Man of Integrity Hal [Dennis Quaid, seemingly angling to play Harrison Ford’s younger brother in a future film], finds an unusual weapon in an abandoned warehouse.” Read more…)

Mile 22 (action thriller, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 38. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “A testosterone cocktail of reactionary sound bites and incoherent action that even Michael Bay might have rejected as too amped, Peter Berg’s ‘Mile 22’ makes for an appalling referendum on the state of commercial cinema in 2018.” Read more…)

Thunder Road (drama, Jim Cummings. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 83. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times article on “Thunder Road”‘s inclusion in a festival of independent film: ” Playing Jim Arnaud, the fresh-faced Mr. Cummings brings a hapless candor that suggests the character is only barely keeping up, whether it’s during a dinner conversation with the family of his squad-car partner, or playing patty-cakes with his daughter. The episodic film is essentially one long slow-motion breakdown, culminating in a very public rebuke in the parking lot of the police department.” Read more…)

The Children Act (drama, Emma Thompson. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 62. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Children Act’ makes for a more wieldy movie than this year’s earlier ‘On Chesil Beach,’ which Mr. McEwan also adapted from his own book, in that case relying on retaining rhythms and chronological jumps better suited to the page. Here, a beautifully internalized performance from [actress Emma] Thompson and the various efforts to highlight the cinematic potential in Fiona’s anguish — the climax plays out during a piano recital — can’t override the tidy ironies of Mr. McEwan’s design.” Read more…)

We the Animals (indie drama, Raúl Castillo. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A tiny, uncut gem of a movie, ‘We the Animals’ is the first narrative feature from the nonfiction filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar and, as such, its subordination of plot to character and observation makes perfect sense. Most of that observation is through the eyes of Jonah [Evan Rosado], the film’s occasional narrator and the youngest of three preteen brothers in a mixed-race, blue-collar family in upstate New York. On one level, then, ‘We the Animals’ is a classic coming-of age tale; on another, it’s a near perfect depiction of the emotional damage that can result from economic insecurity.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Crazy Rich Asians

New Foreign DVDs
Heavy Trip (Finland, comedy/music, Torstein Bjørklund. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Some Like It Hot (1959, comedy classic, Criterion Collection, Marilyn Monroe. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 97. From A.H. Weiler’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There should be no doubt this morning that the members of the happily irreverent film troupe that made ‘Some Like It Hot’ have done something constructive about the old wheeze that begins, ‘Who was that lady I saw you with?’ For, in fashioning this overlong, occasionally labored but often outrageously funny series of variations on an ancient gag, they have come up with a rare, rib-tickling lampoon that should keep them, the customers and the management of the newly refurbished Loew’s State, which reopened yesterday, chortling with glee.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Last Movie (1971, Dennis Hopper-directed cult film, Dennis Hopper. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in}: “The new film, which opened yesterday at the R.K.O. 59th Street Twin Theater, was judged the best feature at the 1971 Venice Film Festival by the International Committee for the Diffusion of the Arts and Letters of Cinema — and I can only think that someone must be kidding. I know nothing about the committee, or its perhaps awesome mission, but its name is certainly as ornate, and as immediately meaningful as the movie on which it bestowed its prize. ‘The Last Movie’ is an extravagant mess, described by its publicity material as ‘an allegory concerning the destruction of innocence’ in which ‘the naive dreams involved are the agents of death, when sophisticated games become more absurd than the mind can tolerate . . .’ I don’t know about anyone else, but my mind had a good deal of trouble tolerating the inflated pretensions of Hopper, who, it’s now apparent, is gifted with all of the insights of a weekend mystic who drives to and from his retreat in a Jaguar.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Long Strange Trip (music, drugs, acclaimed doc about the Grateful Dead. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Daniel M. Gold’s Times review: “The Grateful Dead have been such fixed dark stars in rock ’n’ roll’s cosmology that it’s surprising there has never really been an extended cinematic exploration of the band. ‘Long Strange Trip,’ ambitiously assembled and elegantly directed by Amir Bar-Lev, fills that void. The band’s main four surviving members — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — are all credited as executive producers and speak at length; Dennis McNally, the band’s publicist and biographer, whose similarly titled history was clearly consulted, is a presence as well. A bountiful trove of archival images and rare footage sketches their communal life offstage and the counterculture in which they played so formative a part.” Read more…)

The Rape of Recy Taylor (U.S. history, civil rights, race, justice. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Planting a flag firmly at the intersection of patriarchy, sexism and white supremacy, ‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’ is a documentary of multiple layers and marvelous gumption. As if apprised in advance of our current political moment, the director, Nancy Buirski, wields the titular violation as a signpost to a wider, more insidious American crime. In this way, the 1944 gang-rape of one black woman in Alabama becomes emblematic of the effacement of an entire gender.” Read more…)

Making the Grade (music education, piano lessons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Music DVDs
Long Strange Trip (music, drugs, acclaimed doc about the Grateful Dead)

New releases 11/13/18

Top Hits
Juliet, Naked (romance, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 67.)
The Meg (action/adventure, Jason Statham. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 46.)
Alpha (adventure, Kodi Smit-McPhee. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 63.)
Puzzle (drama, Kelly MacDonald. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 66.)

New Blu-Ray
The Meg
Futures Vedettes aka School for Love (France, 1955, sex farce, Brigitte Bardot)

New Foreign DVDs
What Will People Say (Norway/Pakistan, Maria Mozhdah. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 69.)
Claire’s Camera (Republic of Korea, drama, Isabelle Huppert. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 80.)
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Indonesia, drama/thriller, Marsha Timothy. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76.)
The Third Murder (Japan, crime procedural, Masaharu Fukuyama. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 68.)
Futures Vedettes aka School for Love (France, 1955, sex farce, Brigitte Bardot)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Plymouth Adventure (1952, Pilgrims story as done by Hollywood, Spencer Tracy)

New British
Hidden: Series 1 (procedural/thriller series, Sian Reese-Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)
The Crown: Season 2 (Queen Elizabeth II bio-series, Claire Foy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)
Lucky Jim (1957, Comedy, Ian Carmichael)

New Documentaries
Harry Potter: A History of Magic (British Library collection, J.K. Rowling, magic behind Harry Potter stories)
The Family I Had (family dynamics, tragedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
The Pilgrims (Ric Burns documentary, American history)
What It Takes: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers (Gorman Bechard documentary, indie country, Sarah Shook)

New Music DVDs
What It Takes: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers (Gorman Bechard documentary, indie country, Sarah Shook)

New releases 11/6/18

Top Hits
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee historical [1970s] drama, John David Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “And beyond its stranger-than-fiction, somewhat embellished real-life story — the actual Ron Stallworth actually did infiltrate the Klan, and wrote a book about it — ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is a furious, funny, blunt and brilliant confrontation with the truth. It’s an alarm clock ringing in the midst of a historical nightmare, and also a symphony, the rare piece of political popular art that works in all three dimensions.” Read more…)

Christopher Robin (animation/adventure, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “And once ‘Christopher Robin’ softens its insufferable, needlessly cynical conception of the title character, it offers more or less what a Pooh reboot should: a lot of nostalgia, a bit of humor [Brad Garrett’s vocal deadpanning as Eeyore is a standout] and tactile computer animation that, even for the effects-jaded, makes it look as if the actors are interacting with real stuffed animals.” Read more…)

Destination Wedding (romance, Winona Ryder. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 46. Jeannette Catsoulis does not like “Destination Wedding.” From her review in The New York Times: “All right, then, let’s rip off the Band-Aid: ‘Destination Wedding’ is torture. And not just because this would-be romantic comedy is grating, cheap-looking and a mighty drag: it also turns two seasoned, likable actors into characters you’ll want to throttle long before the credits roll.” Read more…)

Incredibles 2 (Pixar animated feature, Craig T. Nelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “And, like his superheroes, [director Brad] Bird is extraordinarily good at destruction, which is very much in evidence in the virtuosic, often delightful ‘Incredibles 2,’ which picks up narratively where the last movie left off. It’s still a fantasy 1962 or thereabouts as the boxy cars, clothing and midcentury modern flourishes suggest, but advances in computer animation make everything — from downy hair to brick buildings — look far sharper and more fine-grained. Here, you can almost count the stubble on Bob’s unshaven face and trace the swirls in the billowing, churning dust clouds that form after an explosion.” Read more…)

Papillon (action/adventure, Charlie Hunnam. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “But much like the original, the remake of ‘Papillon’ isn’t interested in questions of innocence and guilt or jurisprudence. Instead it’s about tough men toughing it out in tough conditions while laughing — or stoically staring or occasionally trembling — in the face of death. The grim reaper has taken up permanent residence here, and is emblematized by a looming guillotine and personified by the guards, the dandified warden and the corpses that are hauled off like sacks of garbage.” Read more…)

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (animated feature, Adwale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52.)
Loving Pablo (true crime/romance, Penelope Cruz. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 42.)

New Blu-Ray
BlacKkKlansman
Incredibles 2
Out of the Past

New Foreign DVDs
The Cakemaker (Israel, drama, Roy Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Sad and sweet, and with a rare lyricism, ‘The Cakemaker’ believes in a love that neither nationality, sexual orientation nor religious belief can deter. Some may find its reticence off-putting or even irritating, but at heart it’s just a tender love triangle with a ghost in the middle.” Read more…)

12 Days (France, documentary, mental health system. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 81. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “An uneasy calm suffuses ’12 Days,’ a documentary set at the juncture of personal liberty and the law. An opening title card offers some context: Since 2013, patients in France who have been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals must be ‘presented to a freedom and detention judge’ within 12 days and then, if needed, every six months. That’s pretty much all the background that the director Raymond Depardon provides in this movie, which suggests that the line between mental illness and health is sometimes determined by who tells your story and how. For those who have long been silenced — and often remain so — being able to tell those stories is clearly monumental.” Read more…)

La Boyita (Argentina, coming-of-age, Mirella Pascual. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83.)

 New British
Poldark: Season 4 (drama/history series, Aidan Turner)

New TV
Who Is America: Season 1 (comedy/politics, Sacha baron Cohen. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 59.)
Succession: Season 1 (HBO drama, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 70.)

New Documentaries
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (cinema history, LGBTQ history. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 67. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood’ wears a lot of hats, none of which quite fits. A salacious tell-all about the hidden sex lives of postwar movie stars; a peek at the underbelly of the repressive moral dictates of the studio system; a breezy biography of a self-described Hollywood prostitute and procurer; and a psychosexual study of a possibly damaged victim of extreme childhood abuse.” Read more…)

Big Sonia (bio, Holocaust, inspiration. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 71. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “Sonia Warshawski, a Holocaust survivor who lives in Kansas City, Kan., is the star and subject of the documentary ‘Big Sonia’ — now 91, she’s had time to accumulate character. When we meet Sonia, her tailor shop is the last remaining business in a deserted mall. She parks her Oldsmobile in a no-parking zone every morning. She loves leopard print, marveling that it never goes out of style. But between shop duties, speaking engagements and gefilte fish preparation, Sonia recounts her memories as a witness to senseless murders, including the death of her own mother in the gas chambers.” Read more…)

Mr. Capra Goes to War (cinema history, World War II, Frank Capra’s WW2 documentaries)
12 Days (France, documentary, mental health system)
The Early Films of William Ferris: 1968-75 (music, Mississippi)

 New Children’s DVDs
Incredibles 2 (Pixar animated feature, Craig T. Nelson)
Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (animated feature, Adwale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)

New releases 10/30/18

Top Hits
Mandy (action, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 81. Here you go—a Nicolas Cage flick that is a New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The movie, directed by Panos Cosmatos from a script he wrote with Aaron Stewart-Ahn [I should disclose here that Mr. Stewart-Ahn is an acquaintance] is a fantasy feature awash in physical and emotional violence. In its various genre allusions, it draws from a deep, idiosyncratic well. But despite its frequent instances of absurdist humor, it is not a film that winks at the audience with its cleverness.” Read more…)

The Spy Who Dumped Me (comedy, Mila Kunis. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In its opening minutes, ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ hops from a shootout in Vilnius, Lithuania, to a birthday celebration in Los Angeles. Audrey [Mila Kunis] is turning 30 in the wake of an abrupt breakup — via text — with one of the gunmen, a skinny dude named Drew [Justin Theroux] whose profession was a secret to Audrey. The title of this pleasantly silly, sometimes jarringly violent comedy, directed by Susanna Fogel [who wrote the script with David Iserson], isn’t terribly ambiguous, and I have now explained it fully.” Read more…)

Teen Titans Go to the Movies (animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 69. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “It’s an amusing tale for young audiences, ending with the expected messages about friendship and courage. But there are delights for adults as well, particularly in the first half, with sendups of various comic book series [some aimed at DC’s own arch-nemesis, Marvel] and an extra-large supply of spoofs on other movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Princess Bride
The Spy Who Dumped Me

New Foreign DVDs
Custody (France, drama/domestic thriller, Lea Drucker. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about domestic horror, about movies that find monsters and demons at home, movies that reckon not so much with the banality of evil as with its awful familiarity. ‘Custody,’ the spare and unsparing debut feature by Xavier Legrand, is not, strictly speaking, a horror movie. There is nothing supernatural, nothing especially out of the ordinary, about the force that terrorizes Miriam Besson [Léa Drucker] and her children. It’s Miriam’s ex-husband, Antoine [Denis Ménochet], a man who wears his everydayness like a badge of righteousness.” Read more…)

Les Parents Terribles (France, 1948, heartbreaking drama dir. By Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New’York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “In between the fantastical masterpieces ‘Beauty and the Beast’ [1946] and “Orpheus’ [1950], Jean Cocteau directed two films not frequently seen in the United States: ‘The Eagle With Two Heads’ [1948], a quasi-medieval romance, and ‘Les Parents Terribles’ [also 1948], a contemporary family melodrama. ‘Parents,’ which sometimes goes by the English-language title ‘The Storm Within,’ makes its U.S. premiere in New York this week in a fine-looking restoration.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Hallelujah The Hills (1963, avant-garde romance, New American Cinema, Peter H. Beard. From an unsigned 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Three months ago, a modest little Vermont-made farce called ‘Hallelujah the Hills’ surprised and delighted patrons of the first New York Film Festival by boisterously affirming that life can be a ball and movie-making can be fun.This festive philosophy was broached to a commercial audience for the first time yesterday at the Fifth Avenue Cinema — as close to its spiritual Greenwich Village home as current distribution policies allow. Judging from the response, it should stay there for quite a while.” Read more…)

Sisters (1973, Criterion Collection, thriller, Margot Kidder. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the restored version of “Sisters”: The 1973 slasher film ‘Sisters,’ digitally restored and playing at the Quad Cinema, as well as streaming on services like FilmStruck, was Brian De Palma’s first homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Shamelessly lurid, it’s also his best. ‘Sisters’ boasts an angsty score by Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the music for a number of Hitchcock films including ‘Psycho,’ from which ‘Sisters’ borrows much of its plot. De Palma also drew on Hitchcock’s brilliant use of editing to generate suspense, augmenting conventional crosscutting with his taste for split-screen action.” Read more…)

The Princess Bride (1987, adventure/romance, Criterion Collection, Fred Savage. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 77. From Janet Maslin’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Princess Bride’ is framed as a story told to a sick little boy, and the child is thoroughly skeptical -who wouldn’t be? Here is a full-length fairy tale full of fanciful characters, madcap adventures and a lot of other things surely not to every taste. But ‘The Princess Bride’ has sweetness and sincerity on its side, and when it comes to fairy tales, those are major assets. It also has a delightful cast and a cheery, earnest style that turns out to be ever more disarming as the film moves along.” Read more…)

Whatever (1998, drama, Liza Weil. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Stephen Holden’s 1998 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But despite its false notes and occasional stridency, ‘Whatever’ rings true enough to make it one of the more compellingly realistic films about teen-age angst and the tug of war between destructive peer pressure and independence. Ms. Weil’s transparent performance takes you so deeply inside Anna’s skin that you feel every itch and sore, every twinge of hope and self-confidence. Even when you want to shake some sense into her, you know exactly why she is doing the wrong thing.” Read more…)

 New British
Endeavour: Season 5 (Inspector Morse prequel series, Shaun Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
The Durrells in Corfu: Season 3 (bio/comedy series, Keeley Hawes)

New TV
The Americans: Season 6 (final season of espionage series, Keri Russell. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 92.)

New Documentaries
Resistance at Tule Lake (civil liberties, Japanese internment, American history, racism. From a Mike Hale New York Times review: “On the other side of the world, and the war, this rough-around-the-edges documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Konrad Aderer tells one of the less well-known stories of the Japanese-American experience in World War II. Interviewing survivors, and traveling on a pilgrimage to the desolate remains of the Tule Lake relocation camp in far Northern California, Mr. Aderer shows that the narrative of stoic obedience in the face of repression and imprisonment is radically incomplete. He reveals the widespread resistance among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps.” Read more…)

Love, Cecil (bio, photography, art, Cecil Beaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 63. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Was Cecil Beaton, the photographer, artist, diarist and theatrical designer who chronicled, and was influenced by, several periods of artistic and social upheaval in the 20th century, the last dandy? The documentary, ‘Love, Cecil,’ directed with energy and affection by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, doesn’t grapple with that question, and doesn’t have to; almost 40 years after Beaton’s 1980 death at age 76, no aesthete has come close to duplicating his output or his impact.” Read more…)

 New Children’s DVDs
Teen Titans Go to the Movies (animated feature)

New releases 10/23/18

Top Hits
Sorry To Bother You (race satire/drama/comedy, Lakeith Stanfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Stick to the script.’ That’s the first rule at the telemarketing firm where Cassius Green, an Oakland striver-slash-stoner, finds a job. Sales reps are supposed to start with ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ which is the title of Boots Riley’s movie about Cassius’s rise, fall and bizarre sideways bounces. Mr. Riley is not sorry at all. If you’re not bothered — also tickled, irked, mystified and provoked — then you’ve fallen asleep on the job. It’s fair to say that ‘Sorry to Bother You’ sticks to its own script, but crucial to add that the script in question flips, swerves, meanders and all but explodes in a flurry of ideas and inspirations.” Read more…)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (musical/comedy, Amanda Seyfried. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 60. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “Most of the musical sequences are creaky, but not that far from some of what Damien Chazelle was going for with the singing and dancing in ‘La La Land’: passionate amateurism. But that’s some of what made the first movie such a kick. Nobody was Barbra Streisand. None of the songs were Stephen Sondheim’s. You were watching very good actors do karaoke in an Anglo-Nordic telenovela. Now you’re watching them do it in a sequel, which means you’re also watching something more inscrutably sad: karaoke of karaoke.” Read more…)

I Think We’re Alone Now (drama/mystery, Peter Dinklage. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 51. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “A haunting first half can’t offset the absurd ending of ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ a post-apocalyptic tale with a late plot twist that feels as if it comes out of left field. And right field. And center field, the stands and the dugout, too.” Read more…)

An Elephant’s Journey (family/adventure, Elizabeth Hurley)

New Blu-Ray
Sorry To Bother You
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

New Foreign DVDs
The Idol (Palestine, drama, Tawfeek Barhom. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 66. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Hany Abu-Assad’s ‘The Idol’ expands on the underdog story of Mohammed Assaf, an acclaimed Palestinian pop singer from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Assaf earned fame by winning ‘Arab Idol’ in 2013 after trekking to auditions in Egypt. As portrayed in this admiring fictionalized feature, he just about has the power of traveling singers of myth, able to cross insurmountable barriers and sway hearts with his honeyed voice. But Mr. Abu-Assad’s pop filmmaking is resolutely simple in its approach and efficiently sentimental.” Read more…)

A Kid (France, family drama, Pierre Deladonchamps)

New Documentaries
Uncle Howard (gay & lesbian history, culture, New York, Howard Brookner, William S. Burroughs. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Uncle Howard’ begins with a scene portraying its director, Aaron Brookner, as a man on a mission. Filmed with a shaky video camera, he follows the poet John Giorno into his apartment, hot on the trail of a cache of films made by Mr. Brookner’s uncle, Howard Brookner. Howard Brookner completed only three features before dying of AIDS in 1989. The first two were documentaries, and he took his subjects seriously enough to spend years with them. He began his 1983 movie, ‘Burroughs,’ about the provocative Beat writer William S. Burroughs, in 1978, while studying film at New York University. Two fellow students, the future filmmakers Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, worked with Howard on that project, and Aaron interviews them extensively here. The movie is a deft sort of dual narrative. It’s the story of Howard’s artistic and personal life, and a story of the stages of Aaron’s discovery of it.” Read more…)

21 x New York (human condition in 21st century western society)