New releases 10/19/21

Top Hits
Old (thriller dir. by M. Night Shyamalan, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 55. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In the opening pages of ‘Dino,’ a 1992 biography of Dean Martin by Nick Tosches, the author cites a haunting Italian phrase: ‘La vecchiaia è carogna.’ ‘Old age is carrion.’ When some vacationing families are deposited on a secluded beach recommended to them by a smarmy resort manager in “Old,” the new movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, we see a trio of vultures atop a tree take to the sky.” Read more…)

In the Earth (horror/thriller, Hayley Squires. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Movies evolve, and one day it will be possible to look at ‘In the Earth’ and not see the contingencies of pandemic filmmaking. The director, Ben Wheatley, started writing it at the beginning of the lockdown in Britain, and elements of the finished product — the outdoor setting; references to quarantine, a third wave and a disease ravaging a city; the actors’ surgical masks at the beginning — bear unavoidable hallmarks of the past year.” Read more…)

Sophie Jones (drama/coming-of-age, Jessica Barr. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 72. From Courtney Howard’s Variety review: “Navigating the precarious aspects of growing up while simultaneously buried deep in the throes of grief is one young woman’s struggle in director Jessie Barr’s ‘Sophie Jones.’ This meaningful drama, co-written and starring Barr’s cousin Jessica, taps into the immediacy of being a teenager and the intimacy of sorrow, yielding astute insights. The pair set their story during the fertile period in a maturing teen’s life when hormones and complex emotions run roughshod. With Nicole Holofcener on board as executive producer, it’s a poignant exploration of this arduous age, rooted in staggering authenticity.” Read more…)

F9: The Fast Saga (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The spirit of Wile E. Coyote hovers over the action, which splits the difference between preposterous and sublime. Giant magnets are deployed in midair and in city traffic. Vehicles skid, slam, swerve and fly. Flashbacks to Dom and Jakob’s early years wielding wrenches in their dad’s pit crew at a blue-collar California racetrack recall the origins of the ‘Fast and Furious’ universe in a simpler style of action filmmaking. The director Justin Lin, happily brandishing all the expensive digital tools at his disposal, makes ‘F9’ feel scrappy and baroque at the same time.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films Blu-Ray (Criterion Collection):
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (blaxploitation, 1971, Melvin Van Peebles. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 71. From Stephen Holden’s 1995 New York Times reassessment when “Sweet Sweetback'”screened as part of a Film Forum blaxploitation series: “Gore, profanity, and sex are splattered over the screen so routinely today that no movie from the 1970’s could possibly match the contemporary Hollywood action film in visceral nastiness, right? Before agreeing, check out Melvin Van Peebles’s 1971 film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,’ which will play at Film Forum from July 14 through July 16. This sulphurous nightmare of racial paranoia and revenge eclipses even ‘Reservoir Dogs’ in evoking a world of infinite seaminess, injustice and cruelty.” Read more…)

The Story of a Three Day Pass (interracial romance in Paris, 1967, Harry Baird. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “‘I never decided to become a director,’ Van Peebles, now 88, said in a Directors Guild of America interview conducted by his son, the filmmaker Mario Van Peebles. ‘I just decided to show folks, especially minorities, like I saw them, not like they kept being shown around in cinema.’ With ‘The Story of a Three Day Pass,’ Melvin Van Peebles shattered the usual mirrors presented in movies, with a crash that reverberated far beyond one soldier’s weekend off.” Read more…)

Watermelon Man (comedy, 1970, Godfrey Cambridge. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Jesse Cataldo’s appreciation at the Website Spectrum Culture: “Yet singular as it remains, ‘Sweet Sweetback’ did not spring from a vacuum, and could not have been made without ‘Watermelon Man.’ Van Peebles’ 1970 comedy was one of incendiary and subversive films made within the studio system. The film was far from a failure in its time, turning a modest profit, but studio interference convinced Van Peebles to ditch his three-picture contract with Columbia, funding his next feature through independent financing. ‘Watermelon Man’ is remembered as a precursor to a more distinctive, innovative follow-up. Its diminished reputation ignores how remarkable this weird comedy is on its own terms and how well it has aged, its unwavering focus on the brass tacks of discrimination as timely as ever.” Read more…)

Don’t Play Us Cheap (musical, 1972, Esther Rolle)

F9: The Fast Saga

New Foreign DVDs
The Weasel’s Tale (Argentina, comedy, Graciela Borges. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Schemers meet their match in ‘The Weasels’ Tale,’ Juan José Campanella’s crowd-pleasing Argentine comedy. A former diva, Mara [grande dame Graciela Borges], shares a rambling remote mansion with her milquetoast husband, Pedro [Luis Brandoni], and two suave parasites she used to make movies with: a director, Norberto [Oscar Martínez], and a screenwriter, Martín [Marcos Mundstock]. They pass the time trading reminiscences and barbs, until a slick city couple, Bárbara [Clara Lago] and Francisco [Nicolás Francella], show up and angle to buy the property.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Belgravia (Julian Fellowes Victorian period costume drama mini-series, Alice Eve. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 70. From The New York Times list of best television of 2020: “Many elements of the story were familiar for ‘Downton’ fans: societal ferment, musical-chair heirs, dissolute gentlemen, duplicitous servants. More important, the storytelling was as sharp and the performances as satisfying, particularly from Tamsin Greig and Harriet Walter, as ‘Downton’ at its best.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
High Sierra (1941, crime/noir, Criterion Collection, Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino.Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “We wouldn’t know for certain whether the twilight of the American gangster is here. But the Warner Brothers, who should know if anybody does, have apparently taken it for granted and, in a solemn Wagnerian mood, are giving that titanic figure a send-off befitting a first-string god in the film called ‘High Sierra,’ which arrived yesterday at the Strand. Yes-sir, Siegfried himself never rose to more heroic heights than does Mr. Humphrey Bogart, the last of the great gunmen, when, lodged on a high mountain crag with an army of coppers below, he shouts defiance at his tormentors ere his noble soul take flight.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
On Broadway (theater, culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Maya Phillips’ Times review: “A sunset view of the New York City skyline, speckled with lights, while George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ plays. Old Broadway marquees. Moving snapshots from a Broadway of more recent past — a flight of Hogwarts wizards, the swinging and snapping Temptations, the triumphant gaze of a brown-skinned Alexander Hamilton. ‘On Broadway’ sure knows how to work a theater-lover’s heart.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
PAW Patrol: Marshall & Case on the Chase!