New releases 5/28/19

Top Hits
Her Smell (drama, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Can you separate the artist from the art? Lately that dusty theoretical question has been revived in reference to certain problematic men. How do we respond when greatness and awfulness coexist, or when talent is used as an alibi for gross misbehavior? Usually by fighting among ourselves. ‘Her Smell,’ Alex Ross Perry’s relentless new film, poses the problem in a different register, and not only because the difficult artist in question is a woman.” Read more…)

A Vigilante (action/thriller, Olivia Wilde. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The writer-director Sarah Daggar-Nickson shrewdly doesn’t lead with politics in ‘A Vigilante,’ instead letting them surface as a matter of course as she fills in the satisfyingly lean, mean story. It centers on Sadie [Olivia Wilde, all in physically], who after fleeing her husband has become a lone-wolf avenger of other abuse victims.” Read more…)

Greta (suspense/thriller, Chloe Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Having seen it, I will say that ‘Greta,’ directed by the always-estimable Neil Jordan [‘The Crying Game,’ ‘Michael Collins,’ ‘The End of the Affair’], is a mixed bag, a skillfully executed psychological thriller with not quite enough in the way of psychology or thrills to be as disturbing or diverting as it should be. And maybe not enough Isabelle Huppert, either, though she is the major and almost sufficient reason to bother with the film in the first place.” Read more…)

What Men Want (rom-com, Taraji P. Henson. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 49. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Directed by Adam Shankman, this comedy flips the script on Nancy Meyers’s ‘What Women Want’ [2000], in which a Chicago chauvinist [Mel Gibson] gets his comeuppance after gaining the power to hear women’s thoughts. This time, the mind reader is an Atlanta sports agent, Ali [Taraji P. Henson], who works at a boy’s club of a company and is repeatedly passed over for partner status. Her boss, Nick [Brian Bosworth], tells her, ‘You’re doing great in your lane.’” Read more…)

Room 37: The Mysterious Death of Johnny Thunders (drama/bio-pic, Leo Ramsey)

New Foreign

Birds of Passage (Colombia, drama based on the origins of the drug trade, Carmiña Martínez. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In modern movie terminology, ‘epic’ usually just means long, crowded and grandiose. ‘Birds of Passage,’ Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s follow-up to their astonishing, hallucinatory, Oscar-nominated ‘Embrace of the Serpent,’ earns the label in a more honest and rigorous manner. Parts of the story are narrated by a blind singer — a literally Homeric figure — and the story itself upholds Ezra Pound’s definition of the epic as ‘a poem containing history.’ It’s about how the world changes, about how individual actions and the forces of fate work in concert to bring glory and ruin to a hero and his family.” Read more…)

Never Look Away (Germany, drama, Tom Schilling. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck] is not a man to choose nuance when a statement of the obvious, preferably accompanied by an orchestra and tasteful nudity, is available. ‘Never Look Away’ traffics in all kinds of thorny, ambiguous material: It’s about family secrets, psychological misdirection, the sometimes uncanny harmonies between artifice and reality. But its methods are almost defiantly literal, engineered for accessibility and sentimental impact. This is not entirely a bad thing.” Read more…)

One Sings, The Other Doesn’t (France, 1977, feminist musical dir. by Agnes Varda, Thérèse Liotard. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the film’s restored re-release in 2018: “Despite its amiable spirit of inclusion, Agnès Varda’s pop paean to sisterhood, ‘One Sings, the Other Doesn’t,’ proved divisive from the night it opened the 1977 New York Film Festival. One feminist critic, Molly Haskell, wrote that, were she given to blurbs, she’d have called it ‘the film we have been waiting for!’ Another, Amy Taubin, found the movie insufficiently radical. Writing in The New York Times, Vincent Canby compared it to Soviet-style propaganda; The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael imagined that the film could have been made by ‘a big American advertising agency.’ Some critics thought ‘One Sings’ paid too much attention to men. Others thought that the male characters were unfairly consigned to the periphery. Reviews complained about the songs or objected to the melodrama.” Read more…)

La Prisonnière (France, 1968, drama, Elisabeth Wiener)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Notorious (1946, Hitchcock suspense classic, Criterion Collection, Ingrid Bergman & Cary Grant. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review: “It is obvious that Alfred Hitchcock, Ben Hecht and Ingrid Bergman form a team of motion-picture makers that should be publicly and heavily endowed. For they were the ones most responsible for ‘Spellbound,’ as director, writer and star, and now they have teamed together on another taut, superior film. It goes by the name of ‘Notorious’ and it opened yesterday at the Music Hall. With Cary Grant as an additional asset, it is one of the most absorbing pictures of the year.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Chappaqua (1966, psycho-drama cult film, Jean-Louis Barrault. From an unsigned 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The framework of the picture is simplicity itself. [Writer/director Conrad] Rooks goes to Paris to kick the habit, is bedded down in a clinic run by Jean-Louis Barrault and eventually emerges cured and at one with the universe. The essence of the picture, though, is not what happens to Mr. Rooks at the clinic, but what goes through his mind while he is there — memories, fantasies, desires, revulsions, good and bad dreams, all that his unconsciousness can dredge up. The images have special relevance in that Mr. Rooks is undergoing a ‘sleep cure.’ ‘Chappaqua’ tries to capture these images in their pre-logical, associational flow and thus send its audience on the same inner voyage that ended so happily for Mr. Rooks.” Read more…)

New British
Penny Points to Paradise (1951, comedy, Peter Sellers)
Blood: Season 1 (murder mystery, Carolina Main)

New TV
Outlander: Season 4 (drama/fantasy, Catriona Balfe. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 71.)

New Documentaries
Stonewall Uprising (gay rights, American history. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The most thorough documentary exploration of the three days of unrest beginning June 28, 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a seedy Mafia-operated gay bar in Greenwich Village, turned on the police after a routine raid, ‘Stonewall Uprising’ methodically ticks off the forms of oppression visited on gays and lesbians in the days before the gay rights movement. ‘Before Stonewall there was no such thing as coming out or being out,’ says Eric Marcus, the author of ‘Making Gay History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian & Gay Equal Rights.’ ‘People talk about being in and out now; there was no out, there was just in.’” Read more…)

That Way Madness Lies (family dynamics, mental health. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This film lays bare how the American health care system seems designed, at every level, to fail the mentally ill and those who try to be of genuine service to them. It does so with such credibility and coherence that the movie’s very plain style and [director] Sandra Luckow’s occasional Candide-like displays of naïveté as a player in this story — ‘{Her brother] Duanne had stopped cc-ing me on his emails, and he was absent from social media,’ she narrates late in the movie, ‘so I suspected there may be something wrong’ — don’t matter at all. If this is a subject matter that has touched your life even minimally, you ought to see this movie.” Read more…)

Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect (bio, architecture, Kevin Roche. Not a review. Rather, the lengthy, admiring New York Times obituary for architect Kevin Roche, a titan of Modernist architecture who lived in Connecticut and passed away in March: “Kevin Roche, the Dublin-born American architect whose modernist buildings, at once bold and refined, gave striking new identities to corporations, museums and institutions around the world, died on Friday at his home in Guilford, Conn. He was 96. His architectural firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, in Hamden, Conn., announced his death on its website. Mr. Roche was one of the rare architects who was admired and trusted by corporate executives, museum boards and government officials, who allowed him wide leeway in expressing his restless formal imagination.” Read more…)