New releases 12/29/20

Top Hits
Honest Thief (thriller, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 46. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The writer and director Mark Williams doesn’t aim for surprise or suspense, so much as he aims to show competence. The action sequences zip along pleasantly, clearly mapping the positions taken in the cat-and-mouse game between an honest crook and crooked cops. The actors are given enough space to build up some chemistry, whether the teams we watch are the romantic pairing of Neeson and Walsh, or Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos as the two conflicted agents.” Read more…)

The Last Shift (drama, Richard Jenkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Richard Jenkins is one of this country’s great character actors. The near-hangdog, generally unprepossessing appearance and bearing he cultivates in many of his roles is unimpeachably effective when he’s portraying a kindly, sympathetic Everyman, as in the 2014 mini-series ‘Olive Kitteridge.’… And of course, it’s not just his manner. Jenkins has the skill to make you see how his characters think. Or, in the case of his latest, ‘The Last Shift,’ the first movie he’s carried as a lead actor since his Oscar-nominated work in 2008’s ‘The Visitor,’ how they don’t think.” Read more…)

Lowdown Dirty Criminals (New Zealand, comedy, James Rolleston. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Luke Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “Director Paul Murphy’s Wellington-set crime comedy, ‘Lowdown Dirty Criminals,’ seems to have fallen out of a time warp, feeling dated almost immediately. In the first scene the filmmaker deploys Guy Ritchie-esque freeze frames and kicks off a nonlinear Tarantino-like structure – which were particularly popular techniques for stories about gangsters and nogoodniks during the 90s and in the early years of the new century.” Read more…)

Dating Amber (comedy/romance/gay & lesbian, Fionn O’Shea. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 58. From Tracy Brown’s Los Angeles Times review: “[Lola] Petticrew and [Fionn] O’Shea are the standouts that carry this film, making Amber and Eddie more than just versions of recognizable archetypes. O’Shea, in particular, has the difficult task of preserving Eddie’s humanity even as he lashes out in pent-up self-loathing to keep the audience’s sympathies on his side. Not all of the ancillary characters and their stories are fully developed in the film’s quick 92 minutes, but ‘Dating Amber’ convincingly channels the angst and awkwardness that can be a part of teenagers’ struggles with their identity.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Conspirators (1944, espionage drama, Hedy Lamarr. From Bosley Crowther’s 1944 New York Times review: “For a spy picture made by Warner Brothers and played by that studio’s star gang of urbane Continentals and weasels of various stripe, ‘The Conspirators,’ yesterday’s entry at the Strand, is a disappointing show. And, indeed, it would be quite as vexing if it came from a less able lot. For all of the sharp, metallic flavor and the savoir-faire of plot expected in spy melodramas are conspicuous by their absence from this film.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
You Cannot Kill David Arquette (bio, wrestling, personality, David Arquette. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “There is an operatic neediness to Arquette’s obsession that suits the circus of wrestling, and it suits the documentary too. The movie matches wrestling’s larger-than-life proportions by building a mythic tale out of a reject’s quest for redemption.” Read more…)

My Darling Vivian (bio, music, Johnny Cash. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “Supported by abundant archival footage, [Vivian] Liberto and [Johnny] Cash’s four daughters — Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara — make revisionist cases for their mother in separate talking-head interviews. They recall the increasingly longer stretches of their father being away. Alone, their mother warded off everything from rattlesnakes on their property to threats from the Ku Klux Klan, who thought that Liberto, an Italian-American born in Texas, was black.” Read more…)