New releases 8/4/20

Top Hits
Working Man (drama, Peter Gerety. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “An unconventional labor story, the movie doesn’t bask in the triumph of rebellion; instead, it’s an introspective portrait of men for whom working is a replacement for living. It’s also a coming-of-age film about the second adolescence of men at retirement age who must find a way to define themselves when the structure of work has been stripped away. The writer-director, Robert Jury, pairs Allery’s crumbling sense of self with images from the town’s decaying infrastructure, lingering on rusted fences and the boxy utilitarian homes of laborers without work.” Read more…)

Four Kids and It (family feature, Matthew Goode. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 42. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “If a raggedy sand troll that grants children wishes feels like something out of a classic bedtime story, well, it is. The original conceit, by E. Nesbit, was published in 1902 as “Five Children and It,” and the children’s author Jacqueline Wilson updated the story in 2012 with “Four Children and It” to be about a blended family. Andy de Emmony’s film adapts the latter but has made the household mixed race, added teen angst and wrapped it all into a dull, family-friendly package.” Read more…)

Dolittle (family CGI feature, Robert Downey Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 26. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “At some point during its troubled gestation, the movie once known as ‘The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle’ was renamed ‘Dolittle.’ Was ‘voyage’ too fusty, ‘doctor’ too fancy? Whatever the case, it’s too bad that the rest of this movie couldn’t have been ditched as well, or at least dramatically shortened. A dreary, overextended yawn, this is the latest movie to feature John Dolittle, the doctor turned horse whisperer that Hugh Lofting, a British-born civil engineer, invented during World War I in letters to his children from the front.” Read more…)

Blu-Ray
Dolittle

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III:
My Name Is Julia Ross (1945, film noir, Nina Foch. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times [requires log-in]: “The director and scenarist of the Ambassador’s new mystery, ‘My Name Is Julia Ross,’ deserve a B-plus for effort at least. It is quite evident that they strived earnestly to whip up excitement and suspense, but somehow that electrifying quality which distinguishes good melodrama is lacking in this transcription of the Anthony Gilbert novel, ‘The Woman in Red.’” Read more…)

The Burglar (1957, film noir, Dan Duryea. From Dave Kehr’s 2006 New York Times review of a Jayne Mansfield DVD collection: “Although Mansfield turned in a credible, naturalistic performance in Paul Wendkos’s late film noir ‘The Burglar’ [an independent production filmed before ‘The Girl Can’t Help It,’ but not released until after the latter film had become a hit], audiences were unable to see beyond her burlesque persona.” Read more…)

Drive A Crooked Road (1954, film noir, Mickey Rooney. From Scott Foundas’ 2014 Chicago Tribune appreciation of Mickey Rooney’s film noir performances in the wake of Rooney’s passing: “The movie’s ad copy — ‘Why Would a Dame Like Her Go for a Guy Like Me?’— effectively summed it up. Expertly directed by Richard Quine [a frequent Rooney collaborator] from a crackling script by the young Blake Edwards, ‘Drive A Crooked Road’ turns on Rooney’s diminutive stature and equally deflated sense of self, casting him as a decent but self-loathing loner who allows himself to be duped by Foster’s transparent charms—and it reveals a darkness in the actor that no movie quite had before.” Read more…)

Tight Spot (1955, film noir, Ginger Rogers. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From H.H.T.’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Tight Spot’ is a pretty good little melodrama, the kind you keep rooting for, as generally happened when Lenard Kantor’s ‘Dead Pigeon’ appeared on Broadway a while back. Like its source, this Columbia version, co-starring Ginger Rogers, Brian Keith and Edward G. Robinson and produced by Lewis J. Rachmil, depicts the menaced protection of a woman material witness. Primarily confined to a hotel suite, like the play, and almost as verbose, the new arrival with the Palace’s stage bill still shapes up as a respectable, if unstriking, entry.” Read more…)

The Mob (1951, film noir, Broderick Crawford. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Queen of Blood (1966, sci-fi, John Saxon. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. From Renata Adler’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Queen of Blood,’ which also opened at the Lyric, has a much more lively plot. A sickly greenish Martian woman [Florence Marly], who is rescued from a space crash by earth astronauts [John Saxon, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper], turns out to thrive on blood, lay eggs in aspic and be a hemophiliac in chlorophyll. ‘Perhaps she was a sort of royalty where she came from,’ one of the earthmen says pensively after the lady has just consumed her first member of the crew. ‘Besides, how can we expect her to conform to our standards of behavior?’” Read more…)

Agnes Varda in California:
Uncle Yanco/Black Panthers (1967/1968, documentaries. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “Conceived and filmed over a long weekend, ‘Uncle Yanco’ was something of a lark; Ms. Varda’s second documentary, the 28-minute ‘Black Panthers’ [1968], was a scoop. Shot mainly in Oakland during the summer of 1968, it is a casually electrifying account of Black Panther Party rallies and demonstrations. The Panthers’ physical bearing and political analysis made them the big story that season on the Bay Area left.” Read more…)

Lions Love (… And Lies) (1969, comedy/drama, Viva. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “Ostensibly a meditation on Hollywood stardom, ‘Lions Love’ is bracketed by performances of “The Beard,” Michael McClure’s scandalous dialogue between Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid, and features a number of transplanted New Yorkers as movie-land hopefuls. These include the Warhol Factory’s reigning chatterbox Viva and the two creators of ‘Hair,’ James Rado and Gerome Ragni, a show that had just made the leap from downtown to Broadway.” Read more…)

Mur Murs/Documenteur (1980/1981, documentary on public art/drama. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “‘Documenteur,’ described in its titles as “an emotion picture,” cast Sabine Mamou, the editor of ‘Mur Murs,’ and 7-year-old Mathieu Demy, Ms. Varda’s son, as a marginally employed mother and her child. A minimally plotted mood piece, it evokes Ms. Varda’s frustration at being unable to work on the movie she came to make… ‘Mur Murs’ ranks with Thom Andersen’s compilation film ‘Los Angeles Plays Itself’ as a photographic monument of what, thanks to the movies, may be the world’s most photographed city.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Annie: A Royal Adventure (1995, family adventure, Ashley Johnson. From John J. O’Connor’s 1995 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “In a weekend cluttered with television movies, the best turns out to be a silly lark about an ageless 12-year-old in her trademark red dress. Little Orphan Annie is back, this time in ‘Annie: A Royal Adventure,’ a non-musical tonight at 8 on ABC. It will delight youngsters and even amuse adults who haven’t gone completely sour.” Read more…)