New releases 3/15/22

Top Hits
West Side Story (Steven Spielberg musical remake, Ansel Elgort. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The idea of harnessing the durable tragedy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to the newsy issues of juvenile delinquency and ethnic intolerance must have seemed, to Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim, both audacious and obvious. In the years since, ‘West Side Story’ has proved irresistible — to countless high-school musical theater programs and now to Steven Spielberg, whose film version reaffirms its indelible appeal while making it feel bold, surprising and new.” Read more…)

The Nowhere Inn (music/comedy, St. Vincent. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Formally lively, ‘The Nowhere Inn’ is a true meta exercise in the sense that the more derivative and self-conscious its conceptual gambits seem [stick around: The reflexivity continues after the end credits], the more it proves its ostensible point: that Clark, or her constructed persona, is less intriguing than her music and how she performs it. Fittingly, the movie most comes to life when she’s shown singing.” Read more…)

Rifkin’s Festival (Woody Allen comedy, Wallace Shawn. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 44%. From Jessica Kiang’s New York Times review: “It’s a relief to report that ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ is, to the ravenous captive, like finding an unexpected stash of dessert: not substantial and not nutritious, but sweet enough to remind you in passing of the good times you once had, despite all that’s happened in the interim. It’s not hard to see why the San Sebastián Film Festival chose ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ as its opener on Friday. Not since Brian De Palma set ‘Femme Fatale’ [2002] in Cannes has there been a movie so symbiotically linked to a festival, and this time nobody gets robbed in the toilets.” Read more…)

Red Rocket (comedy/drama, Simon Rex. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In his previous movies, [director Sean] Baker has observed strivers and dreamers on the margins of respectability with an eye that could be prurient and skeptical, but also compassionate. The aspiring actresses in ‘Starlet,’ the transgender hustlers in ‘Tangerine,’ the half-feral children of ‘The Florida Project’ — all of them are exposed to danger and humiliation. The movies, though, find dignity in the most abject circumstances, and bathe their characters in sometimes surprising warmth. ‘Red Rocket,’ the nonjudgmental portrait of a narcissistic predator, is a rougher piece of work. It’s funny and abrasive, but also coy and, in the end, a bit tedious.” Read more…)

India Sweets and Spices (comedy/drama, Sophia Ali. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 57. From Lisa Kennedy’s New York Times review: “‘India Sweets and Spices’ is a gentle but firm take on the costs of keeping up with the Joneses, or the Devis in this case. Without sacrificing comedic buoyancy, Malik and her ensemble make palpable a community that is vibrant and claustrophobic. Koirala, a Bollywood star, brings a taut poise to a mother whose veneer seems adamantine until the Duttas walk in the door.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam comedy, Jonathan Pryce. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Janet Maslin’s Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Brazil’ may not be the best film of the year, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment for [director Terry] Gilliam, whose satirical and cautionary impulses work beautifully together. His film’s ambitious visual style bears this out, combining grim, overpowering architecture with clever throwaway touches. The look of the film harkens back to the 1930’s, as does the title; ‘Brazil’ is named not for the country but for the 1930’s popular song, which floats through the film as a tantalizing refrain. The gaiety of the music stands in ironic contrast to the oppressive, totalitarian society in which the story is set.” Read more…)

Jazz On a Summer’s Day (1959, jazz concert/documentary, Louis Armstrong. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1960 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Thelonious Monk and Henry Grimes, Sonny Stitt and Sal Salvadore and a succession of combos and stars follow one another under the canopy of the Newport Festival, thumping or blasting out music that soothes or abrades the nerves, the cameras of Bert Stern and his assistants are picking up colorful views of everything from the America’s Cup races (which were sailed off Newport in 1958) to “gone” jazz fanatics guzzling beer. The photography is terrific. Mr. Stern and his lens-clicking crew have a bulging assembly of color pictures that should make any camera addict simply drool.” Read more…)

Losing Ground (1982, drama dir. by Kathleen Collins, Seret Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From New York Times critic A.O. Scott’s Critic’s Notebook on “Black indie films”: “To watch Kathleen Collins’s ‘Losing Ground’ — a 1982 film making its long-awaited theatrical debut at Lincoln Center on Friday as part of ‘Tell It Like It Is,’ a sprawling survey of black independent film of New York from 1968 to 1986 — is to experience a curious blend of nostalgia and novelty. The clothes the characters wear, how they talk and what they talk about, the grainy texture of the images and the weariness of the world they capture — all of these emerge from a time capsule devoted to an era that doesn’t quite have a name. But partly because those images have remained unseen for so long, and partly because Ms. Collins, who died in 1988, was such a bold and idiosyncratic filmmaker, ‘Losing Ground’ also feels like news, like a bulletin from a vital and as-yet-unexplored dimension of reality.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Whaler Boy (Russia, drama, Vladimir Onokhov. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 70. From Jessica Kiang’s Variety review: “The clash between the bleak traditional lifestyle of the villagers, who still use hand-tossed harpoons to secure their catch, reddening the sea, and the futurist fantasy of a Detroit-based online sex work enterprise is explored in uneven yet stirring ways in Philipp Yuryev’s feature debut, ‘The Whaler Boy.’ Essentially a coming-of-age fable, the film is also an ambitious, sometimes self-consciously ironic blend of genres and influences, which perhaps convince most when they do not cohere.” Read more…)

Before the Revolution (Italy, 1964, drama, dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci, Francesco Barilli. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Eugene Archer’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The New York Film Festival is still capable of surprises. Last night, Philharmonic Hall presented ‘Before the Revolution,’ an unheralded Italian feature by an unknown writer-director named Bernardo Bertolucci. He is 23 years old, and his film is a beauty. So is its star, Adriana Asti, a large-eyed brunette making her celluloid debut, appeared onstage with the director to take a modest bow before the screening. Her unfamiliar face meant little to the audience at the time. Before the evening was over, it had become a face that discerning filmgoers are unlikely to forget.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Dalgliesh: Season 1 (UK detective series, Bertie Carvel. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 77. From Joel Keller’s Decider assessment: “ If you like straightforward British procedurals based on classic characters, than Dalgliesh won’t disappoint. But there seems to be a lost opportunity to dive more into Dalgliesh’s interesting character, especially given who is playing the detective this time around.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Private Lives (1931, Noel Coward comedy, Norma Shearer. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Noel Coward’s stage comedy, ‘Private Lives,’ has blossomed into a motion picture which yesterday afternoon met with high favor from a Capitol audience. It has been changed in a few respects, chiefly a matter of geography, but most of the clever lines and the hectic incidents have survived the studio operation. Like the play, the film begins on the Riviera, but instead of ending in Paris the closing sequence is in an Alpine chalet. Sidney Franklin’s direction is excellent and Norma Shearer as Amanda Prynne gives an alert, sharp portrayal.” Read more…)

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