New releases 2/9/21

Top Hits
Freaky (horror/comedy, Vince Vaughn. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Having settled into his horror-comedy groove with the ‘Happy Death Day’ movies, the director Christopher Landon repeats his blood-and-badinage formula with the body-swap farce, ‘Freaky.’ This time, though — despite a bright palette and intrepid performances — the blueprint feels a little tired. The smutty humor and high-school setting [complete with mean-girl posse and snarky-smart gay friend] are as familiar as Millie [Kathryn Newton], the lonely heroine in love with the handsome athlete [Uriah Shelton].” Read more…)

Greenland (disaster movie, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Magazine review: “‘Greenland’ is the furthest thing you can imagine from the schlock-spectacular Armageddon narratives of a Roland Emmerich or a Michael Bay. We go to those movies to enjoy elaborate mayhem visited upon armies of cardboard characters, but Greenland dares to make its catastrophe feel real and its people feel relatable. It’s just escapist enough to fill our disaster-flick needs, but don’t be surprised if Ric Roman Waugh’s film sometimes feels like too much, especially in the middle of an ongoing real-life calamity.” Read more…)

The Little Prince (animated feature, Jeff Bridges. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s 2015 Times review: “The masterstroke of ‘The Little Prince,’ Mark Osborne’s reimagining of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 children’s classic, is its side-by-side use of two styles of animation. Today’s cold, corporate world, in which gray-faced, hunched-over adults grimly slog through life, is depicted in severe, rectilinear computer-generated animation. The magical universe of Saint-Exupéry’s wistful, poetic novella is rendered in stop-motion animation, with pastel shades that evoke his original watercolor illustrations. ’The Little Prince’ is really a movie within a movie; the author’s delicate, fanciful story is folded into a harsh, modernist commentary on depersonalization and conformity in the contemporary workplace.” Read more…)

Wander Darkly (drama, Sienna Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Surviving a car crash, even a minor one, is a singular experience. In ‘Wander Darkly,’ a film written and directed by Tara Miele, Adrienne (Sienna Miller) has an extra-singular experience — she dies in her auto accident, but lives on.” Read more…)

Host (horror, Haley Bishop. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Kyle Turner’s New York Times review: “If the future of filmmaking is remote and socially distanced, a Zoom séance isn’t such a bad place to start. Rob Savage, the director and co-writer of ‘Host,’ finds a surprising amount of ingenuity in mining the horror of yet another quarantine conference call.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Long Day Closes

New British DVDs
The Long Day Closes (1993, bio/drama directed by Terence Davies, Leigh McCormack. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 85. From Stephen Hoden’s 1993 New York Times review [requires login]: “‘The Long Day Closes,’ which opens today at the Film Forum, is the sequel to Mr. Davies’s film ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives,’ which opened in New York in 1989. Like its forerunner, ‘The Long Day Closes’ is an autobiographical scrapbook of working-class family life in northern England in the mid-1950’s. But where ‘Distant Voices’ offered a fairly naturalistic look at the past, ‘The Long Day Closes’ is filled with surreal, expressionistic touches that lend it the aura of a phantasmagoric cinematic poem.” Read more…)

Miss Scarlet & The Duke: Season 1 (Victorian-era British mystery series, Kate Phillips. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 67.)

New Documentaries
Billie (bio, music, Billie Holiday. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Billie’ has one of the most unusual and [at least in its initial presentation] disturbing hooks for a documentary in some time. It begins by talking not of Billie Holiday but of Linda Lipnack Kuehl, an arts journalist who in 1971 embarked on a biography of the singer Holiday. That work was never completed; Kuehl died in 1978, in what officials deemed a suicide. Kuehl amassed a formidable research archive, including tape recordings of interviews with Holiday’s collaborators, friends and lovers… this movie’s director, James Erskine, acquired the rights to her entire collection, and ‘Billie’ is the first project he derived from it.” Read more…)

Welcome to Chechnya (human rights, LGBTQ rights, Russia. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacrific: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Documenting a secretive and ongoing human rights atrocity, David France’s ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ spotlights a network of courageous activists who smuggle L.G.B.T.Q. individuals out of Russia’s Chechnya region during what is widely viewed as an anti-gay purge. Tales of entrapment, abduction and torture unfold as evacuees settle briefly into a secret shelter before being spirited to Canada or ‘somewhere in Eurasia’ to await the result of asylum applications.” Read more…)

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (documentary, race, cinema history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Jason Bailey in the New York Times: “Those who are fascinated by horror but don’t have the stomach (or nerves) for a full-scale feature might enjoy this thoughtful survey of scary movies, as seen through the lens of African-American creation and representation. The director Xavier Burgin assembles a cornucopia of entertaining clips and a deep bench of horror critics, historians, actors and filmmakers to walk through this history.” Read more…)