New releases 3/23/21

Top Hits
Soul (Disney/Pixar animated feature, Jamie Foxx. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Soul’ tries, within the imperatives of branded commercial entertainment, to carve out an identity for itself as something other than a blockbuster or a technologically revolutionary masterpiece. It’s a small, delicate movie that doesn’t hit every note perfectly, but its combination of skill, feeling and inspiration is summed up in the title.” Read more…)

Days of the Bagnold Summer (comedy/coming-of-age, Earl Cave. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Regrettably, this motion picture does not chronicle a book club devoting a season to the works of Enid Bagnold. In fact, no reference is made to the author of ‘The Chalk Garden’ and ‘National Velvet.’ Instead, ‘Days of the Bagnold Summer,’ adapted from the Joff Winterhart graphic novel by the screenwriter Lisa Owens and the director Simon Bird, is a coming-of-age story that aspires to winsomeness and wisdom, but only gets so far.” Read more…)

PG: Psycho Goreman (horror/comedy, Adam Brooks. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Barry Hertz’s Toronto Globe and Mail review: “If you have never flipped through an old issue of Fangoria or eagerly scanned the back covers of the seedier-looking VHS boxes at your local rental house, Pyscho Goreman might be shocking or even unforgivably vulgar (there is one scene involving a cop and his gun that should neatly align both puritanical conservative parents and “defund the police” progressives). But if you happen to be operating on Kostanski’s very particular and peculiar wavelength, the movie is an absolute riot.” Read more…)

News Of the World (Western, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In its bones, ‘News of the World’ is a B western, lean and linear, its spare plot ornamented with efficient set pieces. [Director Paul] Greengrass, one of the most inventive and rigorous action directors currently working — his chapters in the Jason Bourne franchise remain unsurpassed for velocity and spatial coherence — honors the genre tradition rather than trying to reinvent it.” Read more…)

Promising Young Woman (mystery/suspense, Carey Mulligan. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From Jeanne Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A hard candy with a sour center, ‘Promising Young Woman’ turns sociopathy into a style and trauma into a joke. Embodying both, Cassandra [Carey Mulligan], 30, a medical school dropout still living with her concerned parents [Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown], is a weekday barista and a weekend huntress. Her prey is two-legged, but single-minded: men who equate a woman’s inebriation with consent.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Harder They Come (Jamaica, 1972, reggae music/drama, 3-disc Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition, Jimmy Cliff. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 75. From J. Hoberman’s 2019 New York Times Rewind column: “A brash bumpkin from the countryside comes to the city, dreaming of stardom. He cuts a record, gets ripped off, turns to trafficking drugs, is betrayed, and dies a folk hero at the hands of the police as his song becomes an anthem. ‘The Harder They Come’ … is a universal story set in a highly specific milieu. Powered by one of the most infectious scores in the history of cinema, it is also a pop classic — the movie that brought reggae to America and ‘launched a thousand spliffs,’ as the New York Times critic Ben Brantley joked in a 2008 review of a theatrical version in London.” Read more…)

Soul
News of the World

New Foreign
Identifying Features (Mexico, drama, Mercedes Hernández. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “Though it is a somber story, the film is enlivened and energized by striking, purposeful images. The writer-director Fernanda Valadez builds depth within her frames by staging action in the background and making liberal use of offscreen sound. Traffic glows from border highways, villains loom from the shadows. There always seems to be movement happening just outside of the characters’ field of vision, events that develop without their understanding.” Read more…)

Pinocchio (Italy, fantasy retelling, Roberto Benigni. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Since this adaptation is directed by Matteo Garrone, who made a striking film of Roberto Saviano’s true-crime book “Gomorrah” in 2009, one might anticipate a ‘Pinocchio’ with one foot in social realism. But when talking animals and fairies get into the mix, some varieties of verisimilitude are necessarily sidelined.” Read more…)

Celine and Julie Go Boating (France, 1974, comedy, Juliet Berto. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review: “The riddles and delusions of Jacques Rivette’s ‘Céline and Julie Go Boating’ are much more accessible than the enigmas of his ‘Out One/ Spectre.’ ‘Céline,’ the later movie, has the dotty logic of dreams, and the characters’ rational solemnity while talking nonsense does succeed in evoking Lewis Carroll.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Des (serial killer mini-series based on real individual, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The natural inclination in dramatizing Nilsen’s story would be to show him in action, however luridly or soberly you chose to play it. The creators of “Des,” Lewis Arnold (who directed) and Luke Neal (who wrote two episodes), avoid that route entirely. They begin with the plumber, and they don’t flash back. The show takes place largely inside police stations, jails and courtrooms, with occasional side trips to collect evidence or conduct interviews.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Hitch-Hiker (1953, film noir dir. by Ida Lupino, Edmond O’Brien. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. From A. Weiler’s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Although Collier Young and Ida Lupino, who wrote the script of their independent production, avoid unnecessary dialogue and preambles to action, it is only a temporary suspense they create. For it is only a matter of time before a viewer settles back merely to await the manner of the law’s triumph. However, Miss Lupino’s brisk direction and the solid portrayals by the three principals overcome, to a large degree, the film’s cops-versus-killer format.” Read more…)

Not Wanted (1949, melodrama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From T.M.P.’s 1949 New York Times review: “The woeful problems of a young unwed mother are being explored with commendable restraint in ‘Not Wanted,’ which arrived on Saturday at the Globe as the first independent film production effort by Ida Lupino and Anson Bond. Unfortunately, in their desire to avoid the trappings of cheap sensationalism, the producers have come up with a picture that is dramatically limp when it is not downright dull.” Read more…)

Never Fear (1949, psychological drama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ appreciation: “Written by [director Ida] Lupino and [Collier] Young, ‘Never Fear’ is a tough-minded, modest, yet memorable film about a profound existential struggle. The arc of its rehabilitation narrative is largely familiar; it was released amid a clutch of movies about disabled veterans like ‘The Men’ [1950], Marlon Brando’s big-screen debut. For inspiration, Lupino drew on a physiotherapist she had known at the real rehab center where the movie was set, the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica, Calif. She also probably borrowed from her life, having contracted polio when she was 16 and under contract at Paramount.” Read more…)

The Bigamist (1953, Ida Lupino-directed drama, Ida Lupino. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From H.H.T.’s 1953 New York Times review: “Filmakers, Inc., the independent outfit masterminded by Ida Lupino and Collier Young, already has shown a penchant for such somber, unorthodox themes as illegitimacy, rape, maternal ruthlessness and pathological vagrancy, with an estimable batting average. ‘The Bigamist,’ starring Edmond O’Brien, Joan Fontaine and Miss Lupino, who directed, had a paradoxical Yuletide première at the Astor, examining possibly the most ticklish subject, in Filmakers’ best offering, to date.The picture is notable on two counts, primarily for the singular perception and skillful compactness, extending from Mr. Young’s script down to the least significant bit player. It also ascertains, if further proof is necessary, that a low-budget in adult hands can outstrip the most spectacular commercial tonnage.” Read more…)

Hard, Fast, and Beautiful (1951, drama dir. by Ida Lupino, Sally Forrest. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The wreck an ambitious mother might make of her daughter’s life when she selfishly tries to direct it for her own unacknowledged gain is hotly and luridly hinted in Ida Lupino’s most recently directed film, an item called ‘Hard, Fast and Beautiful,’ which opened at the Astor on Saturday. The mother in this instructive fable is, indeed, a most aggrandizing dame whose hopes for her tennis-playing daughter are obviously selfish from the start.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
One-Eyed Jacks (1961, western, Criterion Collection, Marlon Brando. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlon Brando, like young Alexander [Alexander the Great, that is], sighs for more worlds to conquer in the universe of films.Having reached a towering pinnacle of achievement as an actor on stage and screen, he has turned to directing motion pictures, as well as acting in them. And in ‘One Eyed Jacks,’ which opened at the Capitol yesterday, he has directed himself and a fast cast in an extraordinary sort of Western film.” Read more…)

The Game (1997, thriller, Criterion Collection, Michel Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 61. From Janet Maslin’s 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Game’ is the work of David Fincher, the director whose ‘Seven’ gave grisly new cachet to cat-and-mouse manipulation and whose sleeker new film amounts to gambits 8 through 20. And Mr. Fincher, like Michael Douglas in the film’s leading role, does show real finesse in playing to the paranoia of these times. Forget political conspiracy, invading aliens or danger from the insect world: ‘The Game’ puts its yuppie potentate through worse terrors.” Read more…)

New TV
The Undoing (drama mini-series, Nicole Kidman & Hugh Grant. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 64. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “It’s possible, if you tune out the more risible aspects of the story, to enjoy [or bemoan] ‘The Undoing’ for its visual evocation of a crowded, vital, pre-pandemic New York City. In that case the most important person in the production is the brilliant cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle [‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ ‘T2 Trainspotting”’], doing an entire TV series for the first time. He captures New York as both dream and nightmare.” Read more…)

The Comey Rule (HBO docu-drama, Jeff Daniels. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 58. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “In his book ‘A Higher Loyalty,’ [former FBI Director James Comey] appears to see his decisions, which very possibly swung the 2016 election and failed to keep the president from interfering in investigations, as noble if tragic acts of principle. As translated by the director and screenwriter Billy Ray, this is instead a slo-mo horror story, in which the worst lack all inhibition while the best are full of fatuous integrity.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (Black history, religion, activism, spirituality, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. From Tambay Obenson’s Indiewire review: “The Black church has been, and continues to be, one of the most influential institutions created by Africans in the Americas. PBS’ two-part documentary series, ‘The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song,’ preaches about the role of the church in the post-civil rights era, from the African continent to North America.” Read more…)

How It Feels To Be Free (Black history, entertainment industry, Black women, race, Nina Simone)