New releases 3/9/21

Top Hits
Scare Me (horror/comedy, Aya Cash. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times article about current horror anthologies: “Some new anthologies take a fresh look at the format. Josh Ruben’s horror-comedy ‘Scare Me’ stars Ruben and Aya Cash as two writers who try to outdo each other telling scary tales one night in a Catskills cabin. There are no films within the film. Instead, each story stays punchy as the actors, sound and score do the work.” Read more…)

Rent-A-Pal (thriller, Wil Wheaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This thriller, the debut feature from Jon Stevenson — who not only wrote, produced and directed it, but was also the editor — does a lot of things well. Or almost well. But finally, not well enough.” Read more…)

Mafia Inc. (Canada, mob saga, Sergio Castellitto. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Mafia Inc’ was officially inspired by a nonfiction book on the Canadian mob. The movie and its characters are fiction, though, and their unofficial inspiration appears to be other mob films. It takes brass to poach on turf decisively owned by ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Goodfellas,’ and the director, Daniel Grou, who goes by Podz, deserves credit for delivering a saga that’s never dull despite hitting overfamiliar beats.” Read more…)

Wild Mountain Thyme (romance, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 45. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This is a ‘who is going to inherit the farm’ story in which that question is abruptly resolved pretty much halfway through. It is also a romantic comedy/drama whose tone ping-pongs from grave to lyrical to absurdist willy-nilly, and hits all those registers at fortissimo volume.” Read more…)

Coherence (2013, sci-fi, Emily Foxler. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Manohla Dargis’ 2014 New York Times review: “It’s a commonplace that speculative fiction speaks to the anxieties percolating in its age. Such seems the case with the likes of “Edge of Tomorrow,” which kinks up its narrative by repeatedly cycling back to the past, suggesting that complex theories about space-time are now so mainstream that they’re the stuff of mass entertainment. The same might be said of the far more modest “Coherence,” although it’s also true that digital tools, which allow directors to shoot fast, cheap and sometimes sloppily, are also helping pry loose linear narrative’s hold on movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Castle Freak (1995, cult horror film recently remade, Jeffrey Combs)

New Foreign
Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness (Iran, drama, Sadaf Asgari. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 69. From Roxana Hadadi’s review: “[Oscar-winning director Asghar] Farhadi’s films are dense with details about Iranian domestic life, the myriad mazes of bureaucratic policy, and how the country’s interpretation of Islamic law impacts its judicial practices, and fellow countryman Massoud Bahkshi works with a similar combination of narrative considerations in ‘Yalda.’ The result is a twisty-turny plot that sometimes feels like a family drama, sometimes like a legal thriller, with Bahkshi delivering a bombshell, allowing the film’s characters time to react to it, and then dropping another secret that is even more shocking than the first.” Read more…)

Tampopo (Japan, 1985, Criterion Collection, comedy, Nobuko Miyamoto. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 Times review [requires log-in]: “’Tampopo’ is buoyantly free in form. It’s as much an essay as it is a narrative – always ready to digress into random gags and comic anecdotes. These may not have much bearing on Tampopo and her noodle education, but they all have to do with food and with the Japanese love of ritual that has made an art of slurping noodles, arranging flowers, drinking tea and committing suicide.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Dunkirk (1958, World War II drama, John Mills. From Bosley Crowther’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Perhaps it is just as well for national feelings that there has been an eighteen-year lag.For this dramatized recapitulation of the general sequence of events by which the battered and broken British Army was miraculously taken out of France is no starry-eyed glorification of a ‘triumphant retreat.’ … Nor does it soften the fact of what was clearly a dismal catastrophe with a sort of eloquent cinematic shorthand that was used to suggest the Dunkirk salvage in the long-ago ‘Mrs. Miniver.’ This is a straight-from-the shoulder, uncompromising account of a retreat that was saved from full disaster only by a miracle of amateur improvisation and national morale.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
American Guerrilla In the Philippines (1950, WW II film dir. by Fritz Lang, Tyrone Power. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But aside from these vagrant illusions, which are the consequence of coincidence, there is meager authority or credibility in ‘American Guerrilla in the Philippines.’ Indeed, the whole picture has been brought off in such a perfunctory and artificial way that it seems more a misfired fiction than a semi-documentary report.” Read more…)

The Patsy (1928, silent comedy, Marion Davies. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1928 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Of all the varied Cinderellas who have from time to time graced the screen, Marion Davies, in an adaptation of Barry Conners’s stage comedy, ‘The Patsy,’ not only holds her own in the matter of vivacity and appearance, but she also elicits more fun than one would suppose could be generated from even a modern conception of the undying rôle. She is ably assisted by the adroit direction of King Vidor, the competent acting of the supporting cast and also by the wit with which Ralph Spence’s titles are fired.” Read more…)

Show People (1928 silent comedy dir. by King Vidor, Marion Davies)
The Olive Thomas Collection: Olive Thomas: Everybody’s Sweetheart & The Flapper (documentary about early silent film star plus 1920 starring role in “The Flapper”)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
In Cold Blood (1967, true crime mystery/suspense, Criterion Collection, Robert Blake. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “THE public hazard in the kind of random violence that is occurring in our communities these days as part of the alarming upsurge of wild, neurotic crime is envisioned in terrifying images in the film Richard Brooks has made from Truman Capote’s celebrated reporting of a Kansas murder case, ‘In Cold Blood.’ This excellent quasi-documentary … sends shivers down the spine while moving the viewer to ponder.” Read more…)

Krush Groove (1985, hip-hop musical, Blair Underwood. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 37. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Unfortunately, the skimpy screenplay by Ralph Farquhar insists upon entangling the performers in the most conventional subplots imaginable. Talent contests, feeble attempts at romance and the travails of a struggling young record company are all enlisted, however briefly, in the effort to drum up backstage activities for the players, who are best watched in performance anyhow. Rap music is infinitely more original than these creaky devices, and it deserves something better. The music itself is more than abundant, sometimes accompanied by concert scenes and sometimes by impromptu clowning.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words (documentary, bio, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Despite what its title may imply, the documentary ‘Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words’ does not recount Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s career through her words alone. But it does put her words front and center, relying on video and audio clips — of an address she gave as a law professor on the Equal Rights Amendment, of her Supreme Court confirmation process, of her arguments before and from the bench — to provide a sweeping view of her ideals.” Read more…)

Without Lying Down: Frances Marion & The Power of Hollywood (film history, feminism, trailblazing female screenwriter, France Marion. From the New York Times 2000 unsigned review: “The documentary deftly uses the Frances Marion story to illuminate how she and other women were able to capitalize on the freewheeling creativity that kept the movie business humming in the early years. It helps that this prolific writer left behind plenty of commentary, which the actress Kathy Bates reads with a strong, bright voice, evoking real feeling for Marion and her vigorous outlook.” Read more…)

Queer Japan (documentary, LBGTQ life, Japan. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 75. From Harry Windsor’s Hollywood Reporter review: “A cheerful spirit of open inquiry drives the documentary Queer Japan, in fact, which is tender, impressionistic rather than highly structured, and largely inexplicit — that amusingly candid vox pop notwithstanding. The filmmaker skips between cities, from Tokyo and Osaka to Kyoto and Okinawa, checking in with half a dozen principal subjects over the course of an unhurried 100 minutes. Each represents a different aspect of the hentai life — in the Japanese sense of the word, roughly denoting unconventional sexual desires or practices.” Read more…)