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

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)

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