New releases 12/15/20

Top Hits
Tenet (Christopher Nolan-directed sci-fi, John David Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jessica Kiang’s Times review: “The hotly anticipated ‘Tenet’ … is reassuringly massive in every way — except thematically. Ideally presented in 70-millimeter Imax, Nolan’s preferred, towering aspect ratio, arrayed with the telegenic faces of a cast of incipient superstars, gorgeously shot across multiple global locations and pivoting on an elastic, time-bending conceit (more on that later/earlier), the film is undeniably enjoyable, but its giddy grandiosity only serves to highlight the brittleness of its purported braininess.” Read more…)

Alone (thriller, Jules Wilcox. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70.From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The first rule of Flight Club is to run very, very quietly; the second rule of Flight Club is — well, you get the idea. Jessica [Jules Willcox], the fleeing heroine of John Hyams’s ‘Alone,’ manages to break that rule more than once; yet this minimalist survival thriller unfolds with such elegant simplicity and single-minded momentum that its irritations are easily excused.” Read more…)

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (horror/comedy, Jim Cummings. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. From Brian Tallerico’s RogerEbert.com review: “Jim Cummings broke out with a character study that rocked the SXSW Film Festival in ‘Thunder Road,’ but he takes an unexpected turn into genre filmmaking with his fantastic follow-up, ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow.’ More than just your standard horror/comedy, ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ is a tonal balancing act, a movie that doesn’t go for laughs or horror as much as weave various tones and styles through its excellent script. I thought Cummings was a talent to watch after ‘Thunder Road,’ and now I’m sure of it.” Read more…)

The Opening Act (comedy, Jimmy O. Yang. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “Imagine, for a moment, that a stand-up comic is just like a superhero. On stage, he’s a master of the universe, armored and impervious, slinging jokes like lightning bolts. He defeats all adversaries, from hecklers to the potential indifference of the audience; laughter, of course, is his way of killing. If that’s what a stand-up comic is, then ‘The Opening Act,’ Steve Byrne’s wryly likable shoestring indie comedy about a young man trying to make it in the world of stand-up, might be described as a stand-up-comedy origin story.” Read more…)

The Beach House (horror, Noah LeGros. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Elisabeth Vincentelli’s New York Times review: “Despite its relatively tight focus — four characters, one location — the writer-director Jeffrey A. Brown’s debut feature has an ambitious scope made all the more intriguing by its lack of clear answers. The characters may have stumbled into bad edibles, a fog teeming with mysterious life, a nasty parasite, the beginning of the end of the world, or all of the above.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Tenet

New Foreign DVDs
Aviva (France, drama, Bobbi Jene Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From Brian Seibert’s New York Times review: “Already, the film has established what’s fresh about it: its questioning of gender, its use of dance not as an entertaining interlude but as a primary mode of expression. Already, it has established a self-conscious tone that undermines its formal boldness and wit.” Read more…)

Madre (Spain, drama, Marta Nieto. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “A parent’s worst nightmare, unfolding in real time, opens this Spanish drama. Elena [the superb Marta Nieto] gets a call from her young son, Iván. He’s vacationing in France with his father, from whom Elena is estranged. Iván’s dad went to their camper to fetch something, supposedly, and the 6-year-old boy is alone on a deserted beach. The bars on his cellphone are going down, he says. And so is the sun.” Read more…)

We Are Little Zombies (Japan, drama, Keita Ninomiya. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “When four suddenly orphaned Japanese 13-year-olds meet at a crematory, they instantly connect over their shared inability to cry — and the likely commingled remains of their parents. ‘Today, Mommy turned to dust,’ Hikari [Keita Ninomiya], a somber video-game addict, tells us in a voice-over. It’s not the most lighthearted way to begin a movie, yet ‘We Are Little Zombies’ is nothing if not ebullient.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ladybug Ladybug (1963, Cold War-era drama, William Daniels. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Frank and Eleanor Perry, the talented husband-wife team who made the popular ‘David and Lisa,’ have studiously tried again to dramatize the behavior of young people under conditions of severe stress and strain. Their new picture, ‘Ladybug, Ladybug,’ which came to Cinema II yesterday, is an estimation of the way a group of American schoolchildren in a peaceful rural community would react to a sudden threat of a bomb attack.” Read more…)

You’re A Big Boy Now (1966, comedy/romance dir. by Francis Ford Coppola, Elizabeth Hartman. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Francis Ford Coppola is a gifted young man. Already a seasoned scenarist at the age of 27, he has now uncocked a magnetically exasperating comic strip of a movie, which he wrote and directed, titled ‘You’re a Big Boy Now.’ The Seven Arts release was made entirely in New York, with a good cast headed by Peter Kastner [another old fogey, aged 22], Elizabeth Hartman, Geraldine Page, Rip Torn and Julie Harris.” Read more…)

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969, Depression-era drama, Jane Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 72. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Gloria [played by Jane Fonda], a Typhoid Mary of existential despair, is the terrified and terrifying heroine of Sydney Pollack’s ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,’ the film adaptation of Horace McCoy’s Depression novel that opened yesterday at the Fine Arts Theater. The movie is far from being perfect, but it is so disturbing in such important ways that I won’t forget it very easily, which is more than can be said of much better, more consistent films.” Read more…)

Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970, drama, Faye Dunaway. From Roger Greenspun’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The people, the events, the styles vary. But the theme remains substantially the same—the public promotion and the private cost of glamour—which is, of course the movies’ own morality play, their way of dramatizing mutability. That theme has overcome much analytic understanding (which is never the point) and has survived decades of movies good and bad. In Jerry Schatzberg’s ‘Puzzle of a Downfall Child,’ it appears again — in a version that, despite some lapses and many excesses, is very good indeed.” Read more…)

Marie: A True Story (1985, true life drama, Sissy Spacek. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Films about lone crusaders battling corruption are helped immeasurably when the hero is presented as a person of some complexity – when a Karen Silkwood is introduced as a flawed, ordinary figure, then transformed and even ennobled by a determination to seek justice. The best of the post-Watergate movies in this mode have made a point of underscoring their characters’ imperfections, so that their heightened social consciousness stands out in sharper contrast. ‘Marie,’ which like ‘Silkwood’ and ‘Serpico’ and ‘Norma Rae’ depicts one person’s fight against corporate or institutional injustice, is a fast-paced, well-acted drama that takes a simpler approach. Its heroine’s unqualified nobility is the greatest limitation to an otherwise tight, suspenseful and highly involving story.” Read more…)