New releases 8/11/20

Top Hits
How To Build A Girl (coming-of-age comedy, Beanie Feldstein. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Bursting at the seams with plot and patter, Coky Giedroyc’s coming-of-age comedy, ‘How to Build a Girl,’ gives you a whole lot for your money. Sometimes almost too much: This brisk, breathless story of a socially inept high schooler in the 1990s who finds notoriety as a rock critic [adapted by Caitlin Moran from her semi-autobiographical novel] has so many peaks and valleys that on paper it would look like Joe Exotic’s polygraph.” Read more…)

Crshd (female-driven sex comedy, Isabelle Barbier. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “Your mileage may vary on the visual barrage of Facebook and emoji jokes and the use of words like ‘obvi’ in dialogue, but the aggressive Generation Z trappings don’t make the writer-director Emily Cohn’s college raunch-com any less winning or sweet.” Read more…)

Lucky Grandma (comedy/drama, Tsai Chin. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “The director Sasie Sealy’s feature debut has style and keenly observed visual humor. Each scene is paced as perfectly as a punchline, whether it’s Wong swaggering through the streets of New York, a cigarette dangling from her lips, or her tense maneuvers at the casino set to Andrew Orkin’s dramatic jazz score.” Read more…)

The High Note (drama/music/romance, Dakota Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Like a potted fern held aloft by a forest of well-positioned stakes, Dakota Johnson claims the center of ‘The High Note’ on the strength and general excellence of the actors around her. Every one of them is a blessing, even those [condolences, Ice Cube] enduring trite roles and formulaic setups in a movie that can’t decide if it’s a musical reworking of ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ an underdog romantic comedy or a feminist arrow to the heart of the entertainment industry.” Read more…)

Mickey and the Bear (drama, Camila Morrone. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In her feature-directorial debut, Annabelle Attanasio, who also wrote the script, sidesteps the expected, as when one of Mickey’s crucial relationships ends with a gnarled whimper rather than the explosion that seemed entirely likely. And in the role of Hank, [actor James Badge] Dale brings unusual nuance to what could have been a bag of clichés.” Read more…)

Saint Frances (comedy/drama, Kelly O’Sullivan. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Covering one difficult, transformative summer in the life of a dissatisfied waitress named Bridget [played by the film’s writer, Kelly O’Sullivan], the movie gently queries our assumptions about what constitutes female success. At 34, Bridget worries that time is running out on finding a career, landing a life partner and, especially, having children. She’s not sure she wants these things, she just knows she’s expected to want them.” Read more…)

Blu-Ray
House of Hummingbird (Republic of Korea, drama, Ji-hu Park, Blu-Ray only. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Not a lot seems to happen in ‘Hummingbird,’ though, for Eun-hee, everything does. There are meltdowns, breakups, afternoon walks and family meals. Tempers fray; voices rise. There are deaths, too, though these take place offscreen and Eun-hee learns of them only later. This focus on the aftermath of tragedy reflects the writer-director Bora Kim’s insistently non-melodramatic approach. She doesn’t avoid strong emotions or personal crises; if anything the story has one too many disasters. But as a filmmaker she’s more interested in the quiet that can come when you’re alone with your thoughts and — like Eun-hee — believe that you’re alone in the world.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
A White, White Day (Iceland, drama, Ingvar Sigurdsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The Icelandic director Hlynur Palmason, in his second feature-length film, shows an acute sensitivity to the potential relations between environment and cinematic pace. He exercises that quality in ingenious and galvanic ways in ‘A White, White Day,’ an eerily gripping study of grief — and impotence in its face — with the trappings of a revenge thriller.” Read more…)

New TV
His Dark Materials: Season 1 (HBO fantasy series, Dafne Keen. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “‘His Dark Materials,’ beginning Monday and based on the religiously skeptical trilogy by Philip Pullman, is a story about witches and giant polar bears, magic [or quasi-magic] dust and actual spirit animals. But above all, it is a story about parallel worlds, alike and yet wildly different, separated by an imperceptible barrier: the worlds of childhood and adulthood.” Read more…)

Dispatches from Elsewhere: Season 1 (drama/mystery series, Jason Segel. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Alexis Soloski’s New York Times article: “Based on early episodes, the result is genre-hopping, form-bending and tonally eclectic. [Actor Andre] Benjamin, who plays a man convinced that Nonchalance is more just than a game, said he hadn’t known the series was based in fact until he was filming Episode 8. He had a go at defining the show. ‘It’s fantasy, it’s kind of sci-fi, it’s drama, there’s a love story underneath, there’s mystery, there’s tragedy, there’s kind of everything,’ he said. ‘It’s really a trip.’ Read more…)

New Documentaries
Capital in the Twenty-First Century (economics, politics, Thomas Piketty. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “You need read only a small portion of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century,’ Thomas Piketty’s towering 2013 economic and historical survey of the dynamics of inequality, to know that Piketty, a French academic, is not only a brilliant economist but also one with a gift for making complicated ideas accessible. But the text runs around 750 pages, and not everyone is prepared to plow through Piketty’s methodical analysis of capital-income ratios from 1700 to the near-present. Enter the documentary version — directed by Justin Pemberton and also called ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ — for those who prefer their econ illustrated with film and TV clips and a kaleidoscopic montage set to Lorde. Although Piketty is credited with the adaptation [along with Pemberton and Matthew Metcalfe, a producer on the film], the movie is best regarded as a supplement or potential gateway to the book, rather than a distillation.” Read more…)

Asian Americans (American history, ethnic history, sociology. From Brandon Yu’s New York Times preview: “The five-part special is the most ambitious documentary project ever to chronicle the history of the Asian-American community. It is arriving with an unanticipated relevance, amid the surge of racism toward Asian-Americans during the pandemic. Beginning in the 1850s and continuing into the present, the series covers an expansive arc that has often been ignored within America’s self-concept: from Angel Island to the impact of the Filipino-American labor movement, from the radical third world movement to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. It is a story of discrimination, marginalization and violence — and an affirmation of a community that persistently rose in the face of hardship.” Read more…)

Beyond the Visible: Hilma AF Klint (art history, abstract art, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review of this documentary about a pioneering abstract painter whose work predated most of the titans of Modernism: “‘Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint,’ a documentary by Halina Dyrschka, provides a thoughtful survey of its subject. It’s enriched by the dazzling charisma of her art and limited by the scarcity of biographical material. The timeline of her life is set forth, and her voice is conjured by passages from her voluminous notebooks, but the fact that she lived and worked so far from the centers of the art world means that some of the usual supporting material in a film like this is lacking.” Read more…)

Strange Victory (1948, documentary, post-World war II racial bias in the USA. From an unsigned 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The original film was a 65 minute compilation of newsreels and enacted footage designed to make the point that despite the Allied victory over the Nazis, many racial and religious discriminations similar to those made notorious by the Nazis were still being practiced in the United States. Equating footage showing job discrimination against Negroes with much footage of Nazi atrocities committed upon their enemies, it conveyed the implication that Negroes in this country had helped to win a hollow victory, and that a battle against discrimination still had to be won for themselves.” Read more…)

The Vote (American history, women’s suffrage, activism, feminism, politics)
Mae West: Dirty Blonde (cinema history, bio, Mae West)