New releases 3/16/21

Top Hits
Coming Home Again (drama, Justin Chon. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Director Wayne Wang’s] new picture, ‘Coming Home Again,’ which he wrote with the Korean-American author Chang-rae Lee [adapted from an essay by Lee], harks back to where Wang came from both thematically and cinematically: He achieved prominence with scrappy, low-budget pictures like 1982’s ‘Chan Is Missing.’ But this movie doesn’t feel like a throwback.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
Touki Bouki (Senegal, 1973, drama, Magaye Niang. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From Vincent Canby’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Director Djibril Diop] Mambety mixes neo-realism and fantasy to create a mood of unease and aimless longing. The performances are good. Josephine Baker’s jaunty ‘Paris, Paris’ is heard on the sound track, both to evoke the city that Mory and Anta dream of and to call attention to a kind of sophistication forever beyond their ken.” Read more…)

Collective (Romania, documentary/investigative journalism. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There’s no letup in the staggering documentary ‘Collective,’ no moment when you can take an easy breath, assured that the terrible things you’ve been watching onscreen are finally over. The story begins with a tragedy in Romania that consumed the country and toppled the government. The villains and heroes involved — the bureaucrats and doctors, journalists and politicians — seem too much like Hollywood types to be true. But the story and its outrages are real, from the venal pharmaceutical company owner to the whistle-blowers who had all the receipts.” Read more…)

Good Manners (Brazil, 2017, fantasy/musical, Isabél Zuaa. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Wondrously weird and a skosh too long, “Good Manners” is a dark Brazilian fable of animalistic passions and social isolation. Swerving from predictable to confounding, dreamy to demented, artful to awkward, this genre-twisting hybrid from Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra links art house and slaughterhouse with unexpected success. When you drop a werewolf child into a lesbian love affair, you don’t need musical numbers to grasp that you’re watching something unique.” Read more…)

My Sassy Girl (South Korea, 2001, comedy/romance, Tae-Hyun Cha. From Derek Elley’s 2001 Variety review: “Pic could do with considerable tightening by 15-20 minutes, but none of it would even half work without the unlikely pairing of Jeon, who makes her potentially exasperating character likable, and the baby-faced Cha, who implants just enough weirdness in Gyun-wu’s personality to make the attraction between the two believable.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Talking Heads (comedy/monolgoues, Alan Bennett. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Matt Wolf’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “And though filmed for TV as before, ‘Talking Heads’ suggests a further life in the theater. Not only is the work’s scale ideal for social distancing [there’s a lot less to worry about with a cast of one], but many of the previous ‘Talking Heads’ titles later came to London and New York stages in various groupings. Bennett’s writings must look like an even more attractive option nowadays in an industry encouraged by the pandemic to think small.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Charley Varrick (1973, action/drama, Walter Matthau. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Vincent Canby’s 1973 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There is a lot of violence in ‘Charley Varrick’—so much that I’m staggered by its comparatively benign PG rating. Yet its violence is less a disturbing reflection of any recognizable world than an essential part of the choreography of action melodrama in a make‐believe world. The fun in ‘Charley Varrick’ is not sadistic, though there are cruel moments in it, but in watching Charley attempt to outwit both the cops and the Mafia. The casting of Matthau in this key role helps tremendously.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Zappa (music, bio, iconoclasm, Frank Zappa. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Zappa’ foregrounds the laudable and often astonishing aspects of the man’s work and personality. A self-taught musician with a near-maniacal work ethic, over the years he came to regard his efforts in rock ’n’ roll as a day gig, necessary to support his more ambitious composing efforts. Despite his personal aloofness, he continues to inspire the musicians who worked with him; in interviews, the guitarist Steve Vai and the pianist and percussionist Ruth Underwood get very emotional when contemplating his loss.” Read more…)

The Reagans (bio series/politics/history, Ronald & Nancy Reagan. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “‘The Reagans’ is a consistently revisionist enterprise, resting on the premise that Ronald Reagan has been treated far too well by history — that he’s seen today as an exemplary president. That assessment isn’t as widely shared as the series indicates, but Tyrnauer is on firmer ground with his corollary argument that Reagan’s election was the pivot that brought American politics and public life to where they are today. To that end, the series provides a steady succession of parallels between Reagan and Donald J. Trump, none labeled as such but all difficult to miss.” Read more…)

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (music, Irish music, bio, Shane MacGowan. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This ostensible zest and an undeniable love of Irish culture is conveyed in a stew of movie clips, animation, onscreen chats and archival footage — much of it from when [singer-songwriter Shane] MacGowan, now 62, led the Pogues, a band that put a punk stamp on Irish music and hit big with ‘Fairytale of New York,’ a hipster Christmas tune. The director Julien Temple — who has excellent documentaries on the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer and other galvanic musicians under his belt — is very good at this sort of thing.” Read more…)

The Venerable W (dir. by Barbet Schroder, human rights, Myanmar, genocide. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The monk is perhaps the least showy of the subjects of Schroeder’s trilogy. He speaks quietly, although his mouth often twists into an expression of petulant smugness. But in a sense, this is the most terrifying of Schroder’s portraits. [Idi] Amin, as heinous as he was, was one person, as was [Jacques] Vergès. [Anti-Muslim Buddhist monk] Wirathu represents an awful idea, one that cannot be banished, and one he propagates with chilling skill.” Read more…)

One Strange Rock (nature, science, Will Smith [narrator]. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From Kathryn Shattuck’s New York Times preview: “Sure, the allure of the cosmos, in its infinite mystery, is undeniable. But ‘the strangest place in the whole universe might just be right here,’ Will Smith says as the host of “One Strange Rock.” This kaleidoscopic National Geographic series merges heavenly photography from the International Space Station with reminiscences from eight astronauts.” Read more…)