New releases 1/5/21

Top Hits
Love and Monsters (action/adventure, Dylan O’Brien. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Lovia Gyarkye’s New York Times review: “‘Love and Monsters’ lacks the self-seriousness of typical dystopian flicks but, despite its surprisingly perfunctory title and relatively thin plot, it doesn’t completely lack depth. In addition to the tried and true lessons Joel learns along the way [the value of love, courage and confidence], the film remarks on the importance of documentation and archival work.” Read more…)

Yellow Rose (country music/immigration drama, Eva Noblezada. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The writer-director Diane Paragas spins a story that is both politically timely and personal. [Like Rose, she is a Texas-raised Filipino-American.] ‘Yellow Rose’ is often affecting as its gifted heroine dreams while drifting between parental figures, including her aunt (Lea Salonga). Yet Paragas’s use of the white savior cliché rings false, especially considering our current political climate.” Read more…)

12 Hour Shift (heist caper, Angela Bettis. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “How quickly we pivot from honoring our frontline workers. In the exploitation splatter comedy ’12 Hour Shift,’ two nurses manage an organ-trafficking network out of their Arkansas hospital. The drug-addled Mandy [Angela Bettis], who takes her orders from Karen [Nikea Gamby-Turner], brings fresh harvests to the soda machine just outside the building’s doors.” Read more…)

Inside the Rain (drama/comedy, Aaron Fisher. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 49. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “Based on [actor/director Aaron] Fisher’s own life experiences, ‘Inside the Rain’ switches erratically between comedy and drama while juggling many half-realized plot threads. But the movie’s strange, inconsistent rhythm ultimately works as a reflection of Ben’s manic and depressive states. Fisher’s performance is disarmingly blunt and deadpan, offering an up-close portrait of mental illness as a banal reality.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)

Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood (Criterion Collection 6-movie set):

Morocco (1930, romance/drama, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Strange things happen in most Foreign Legion stories after they have undergone a major operation in a film studio, and ‘Morocco,’ an audible pictorial adaptation of ‘Amy Jolly,’ a play by Benno Vigny, is no exception. Aside from some expertly directed scenes and effective staging, this production is chiefly interesting because it served to introduce the attractive German film favorite, Marlene Dietrich. This player won favor abroad in a picture called ‘The Blue Angel,’ which was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who is also responsible for this current presentation.” Read more…)

Dishonored (1931, espionage thriller, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Although there may seem to be more glamour than truth about many of the incidents in Marlene Dietrich’s new picture, an espionage adventure called ‘Dishonored,’ the presence of the beautiful German actress, coupled with Josef von Sternberg’s capable direction, cause it to be a highly satisfactory entertainment.” Read more…)

Shanghai Express (1932, adventure/romance, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 83. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is an exciting ride they take in ‘Shanghai Express,’ Marlene Dietrich’s new picture which came to the Rialto last night. It has a killing by stabbing, men popped off by machine gun fire, the revelation as to the real identity of a few of the passengers and a romance between a woman of many casual affairs and a British Army surgeon. It is by all odds the best picture Josef von Sternberg has directed” Read more…)

Blonde Venus (1932, melodrama, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlene Dietrich’s latest film, ‘Blonde Venus,’ over which B. P. Schulberg, until recently head of Paramount’s Hollywood studio, and Josef von Sternberg, the director, clashed last spring, is a muddled, unimaginative and generally hapless piece of work, relieved somewhat by the talent and charm of the German actress and Herbert Marshall’s valiant work in a thankless role. It wanders from Germany to many places in America, over to France and then back to New York, but nary a whit of drama is there in it.” Read more…)

The Scarlet Empress (1934, Catherine the Great biopic, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From A.D.S.’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since the verdict has to be in the negative, let it be pronounced quickly. For Mr. von Sternberg, having sacrificed story, characterization and life itself to his own hungry and unreasonable dreams of cinema greatness, has at the same time created a barbaric pageant of eighteenth century Russia, which is frequently exciting. His scenes are like the vast, tortured world of another William Blake.” Read more…)

The Devil Is a Woman (1935, drama/romance, Marlene Dietrich. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. From Andre Sennwald’s 1935 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is not hard to understand why Hollywood expressed such violent distaste for Josef von Sternberg’s new film. For the talented director-photographer, in ‘The Devil Is a Woman,’ makes a cruel and mocking assault upon the romantic sex motif which Hollywood has been gravely celebrating all these years. His success is also his failure. Having composed one of the most sophisticated films ever produced in America, he makes it inevitable that it will be misunderstood and disliked by nine-tenths of the normal motion picture public.” Read more…)

The Hunted (1948, film noir, Belita)

New British (& British Commonwealth) DVDs
Mystery Road: Series 2 (Australia, mystery, Aaron Pedersen. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “And along with the tangibility of the physical environment, there’s the authentic feel of the show’s depiction of the lives of the Indigenous characters, who make up the majority of the cast. That’s no surprise, given that both directors, and three of five writers of the season’s six episodes are Indigenous themselves.” Read more…)

Elizabeth Is Missing (drama, Glenda Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 85. From Lucy Mangan’s Guardian review: “It is a harrowing, compelling, unsentimental, altogether magnificent performance. It will surely win awards, but, unlike on many other occasions, you don’t think about that as it is unspooling before you.” Read more…)