New releases 4/27/21

Top Hits
Crisis (drama, Armie Hammer. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 40. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Applying the panoramic approach of Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Traffic’ to the subject matter of, well, ‘Traffic,’ ‘Crisis’ examines the intractability of the opioid epidemic through a three-pronged narrative. The writer-director, Nicholas Jarecki, who made the engrossing, ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’-ish thriller ‘Arbitrage’ [2012], awkwardly pretzels a checklist of social problems into the form of a drama.” Read more…)

The Mortuary Collection (horror anthology, Clancy Brown. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 69. From Roxana Hadadi’s review: “Reminiscent of ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ but with more R-rated gore, ‘The Mortuary Collection’ is an impressively nasty horror anthology. Spanning a variety of subgenres, from creature feature to body horror to the undead, the movie veers from predictable narrative beats more than once, cackling with menacing glee all the while.” Read more…)

Vanquish (action, Morgan Freeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 7%. Metacritic: 21. From Dennis Harvey’s Variety review: “‘Vanquish’ isn’t bad so much as inert — nothing here is convincing, tense, kinetic, outrageous, or silly enough to give the movie even fleeting life. The script is so by-the-numbers, the performers can hardly hide their disinterest, a feeling soon to be shared by viewers lured by the promise of these stars in a violent revenge tale.” Read more…)

Creep (horror, Mark Duplass.) Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. From Andy Webster’s 2015 New York Times review: “Most of the tension rests on [Mark] Duplass’s performance, which doesn’t approach, say, [Michael] Keaton’s troubled renter in ‘Pacific Heights’ or Jessica Walter’s obsessed fan in ‘Play Misty for Me.’ Still, the film is remarkable, considering its minimal means and surprising lack of bloodshed, given the genre. Does it stay with you? A little.” Read more…)

The Lodge (horror, Riley Keough. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “You’ll want nothing so much as a woolly sweater when you see “The Lodge,” a film so wintry in tone and setting that no movie-theater thermostat will banish its chill. Even so, the directors, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala [the Austrian pair who made ‘Goodnight Mommy’ in 2015], have coaxed only a disappointingly timorous horrorscape from that marvelously glacial mood. There’s no denying their competence — they have style to burn — and their cinematographer, Thimios Bakatakis, is a wonder at painting dark and dread-filled interiors and ominously snow-blanketed surroundings.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Better Days Blu-Ray (China, drama, Zhou Dongyu. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 83. From Jessica Kiang’s Variety review: “There are even times when this genre-inflected story of star-crossed love becomes so potent it threatens to undermine the film’s social realist credentials, and the very serious point it is making about the unchecked (in fact, systemically encouraged) ruthlessly Darwinian social order of Chinese schooling. But however archetypal the characters become — sometimes it feels like Xiao Bei is the bad-boy boxer and Chen Nian is the good-girl hope-for-redemption from a classic film noir — the electrifyingly real performances, especially from a riveting, guttingly empathetic Zhou, convince us of the emotional truth of even the most schematic of twists.” Read more…)

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone Blu-Ray (1990, gangster epic, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From Dave Itzkoff’s New York Times article on the revising of “Godfather III” into “Godfather, Coda”: “For a new theatrical and home-video release this month, Coppola has rechristened the film as ‘Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.’ The new name pays tribute to Puzo, his ‘Godfather’ co-screenwriter and author of the original novel, and includes the title they originally intended for the film that became ‘Part III.’ The director has changed its beginning and ending and made alterations throughout to excavate and clarify the narrative that he always believed it contained about mortality and redemption.” Read more…)

New Foreign
The Salt of Tears (France, drama, Oulaya Amamra. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Philippe Garrel’s] new feature, “The Salt of Tears,” is at first glance not too much different from most of his other 21st-century pictures, such as “La Jalousie,” nor from movies going back to the beginning of the once avant-garde director’s narrative work, like “L’Enfant Secret” (1979). It’s in black and white, for one thing. However, its widescreen frame isn’t customary in Garrel’s work — but proves apt for this story. Renato Berta’s cinematography lends an expansiveness to its ordinary settings, both urban and semirural.” Read more…)

Memories of Murder (South Korea, 2003, crime/mystery, Criterion Collection, Kang-ho Song. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. From Manohla Dargis’ 2005 New York Times review [requires login]: “‘Memories of Murder’ is such a taut, effective thriller it’s a shame you have to read subtitles to gauge just how good a movie it is. If you don’t speak Korean, that is. The problem isn’t the film’s South Korean provenance or that it centers on two detectives tracking a serial killer, perilously overworked terrain. The problem is that persuading audiences to watch foreign-language films by directors they’ve never heard of has never been easy even if — and here’s my shameless hard sell — the movie in question works better than most Hollywood thrillers and even those ‘Law & Order’ procedurals.” Read more…)

Shirin (Iran, 2008, drama dir. by Abbas Kiarostami, Hedye Tehrani. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From the 2008 Hollywood Reporter review: “A tough yet fascinating watch once you get into it, ‘Shirin’ marks another interesting twist in the eclectic artistic career of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. This feature-length film is simply a parade of close-ups of 113 Iranian actresses who are watching a film which we never see. Some viewers will panic when they realize there’s never going to be a reverse shot, while others will succumb to a hypnotic series of beautiful faces and a charming fairy tale read on the soundtrack.” Read more…)

Oslo, August 31st (Norway, drama, Petter Width Kristiansen. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s 2012 New York Times review [may require log-in]: “Joachim Trier’s ‘Oslo, August 31st’ is a perfectly linear story that bristles with suspense and ambiguity. The title and the structure make literal the recovery movement mantra ‘one day at a time,’ and also show just how long and how full of danger a single 24-hour span can be.” Read more…)

What Have You Done to Solange (Italy, horror, Fabio Testi. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Tor’s review at Bloody Good Horror: “‘What Have You Done to Solange?’ is a stand out film by a director who got too few chances to stretch his wings. It is a film that doesn’t employ the stalwart styles of the genre as rote but uses them to point out actual socio-cultural conflicts of the time. What is even more amazing is that it manages to exploit, inform and entertain all at the same time and in equal measure. If you choose one Giallo to watch that wasn’t made by Dario Argento you be hard pressed to do better than ‘Solange.’” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Cast A Dark Shadow/Wanted for Murder (1955/1946, British film noir, Eric Portman/Dirk Bogarde. From Bosley Crowther;’s 1957 New York Times review of “Cast A Dark Shadow” [requires log-in]: “The British, who can make a fine art of murder on stage and screen, again have come through with a thoroughly polished job of civilized homicide in ‘Cast a Dark Shadow,’ which was thrown on the Guild Theatre’s screen yesterday. Unfortunately, the felon is a psychotic gent who plays hob with suspense by constantly showing his hand to the audience. And his associates often are garrulous citizens who speak up too frequently on unimportant matters. It would be criminal to criticize their uniformly fine portrayals or the meticulous plotting of this somber adventure.” Read more…

From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review of “Wanted for Murder” [requires log-in]: “A sublimely serene demonstration of Scotland Yard’s way of running down a dignified English gentleman who happens, in his odd moments, to be a homicidal maniac, given to strangling young ladies, is afforded in the British film, ‘Wanted for Murder,’ which wandered into the Victoria yesterday. Enthusiasts of fright and violence are advised not to push and shove. For this is one of those dramas of a studied and literate sort which gives the impression that it was written and made between sips of tea.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Keep Your Powder Dry (1945, drama/comedy, Lana Turner. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The three girls most prominently in evidence are Lana Turner as a former night club hound, Laraine Day as a wised-up general’s daughter and Susan Peters as an humble soldier’s wife. And the idea is that Miss Turner and Miss Day feud throughout their training stage, while Miss Peters sits sweetly on the sidelines and acts very noble now and then. Of course, in the end, the feuding trainees make up in a burst of gallantry, receive their officer commissions and march bravely off to war.” Read more…)

The Bride Wore Red (1937, comedy, Joan Crawford. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1937 New York Times review: “Gowns by Adrian and settings by Cedric Gibbons do not entirely conceal the underlying shabbiness of The Bride Wore Red, one of those seasonal discoveries of Cinderella which Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer turned into the Capitol yesterday. Now it has Miss Joan Crawford who puts on an emotional circus as the shoddy cabaret girl (with dreams) who has been given two glorious weeks with high society in the Tyrol and tries desperately to have the clock stopped before her witching hour strikes.”)

A Woman’s Secret (1949, film noir, Maureen O’Hara)

New American Back Catalog DVDs
Uptight (1968, drama, Ruby Dee. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Jules Dassin’s ‘Up Tight’ is an earnest hybrid of a movie — the transposition of Liam O’Flaherty’s novel ‘The Informer’ from the Dublin of “the troubles” to the Cleveland of April, 1968, in the hours immediately following the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. The betrayed Irish patriot has been turned into a black militant, and the British occupation force into the white Establishment. None of this really works, but ‘Up Tight’ is such an intense and furious movie that it’s impossible not to take it seriously.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Ottolenghi & The Cakes of Versailles (food, baking, pageantry, Yotam Ottolenghi. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Did you know that drinkable chocolate predated the chocolate bar? It’s one of the many historical tidbits dropped for your delectation in ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ a fun documentary directed by Laura Gabbert. In 2018, the renowned Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi [who contributes a column to The Times’s Food section] was commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to reimagine the sweet stuff enjoyed by the court of French royalty in the period from 1682 to 1789. After which said royalty encountered an inconvenience: the French Revolution.” Read more…)

The Last Blockbuster (cinema history, video store culture, Kevin Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Taylor Morden and narrated with engaging energy by the actor Lauren Lapkus [‘Orange Is the New Black,’ ‘The Big Bang Theory”’], the nostalgia appeal of the movie extends a bit beyond its subject. Its talking heads — including the director Kevin Smith; the actors Jamie Kennedy and Ione Skye; the comedians Brian Posehn and Doug Benson; and members of the music groups Savage Garden and Smashmouth — make the documentary feel like a supersized episode of the old VH1 show ‘Best Week Ever.’” Read more…)