New Releases – 8/9/22

Top Hits

Men (horror, Rory Kinnear; Rotten Tomatoes: 68%, IMDb: 6.1/10)

“The unsubtle evocation of Eve in the garden of Eden is one of many signposts in “Men,” the latest film written and directed by Alex Garland, that point in a single direction. The movie, an uneasy amalgam of horror and allegory, full of creepy, gory effects and literary and mythological allusions, amounts to a sustained and specific indictment of the titular gender.” Read more…

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (action/adventure/family, Jim Carrey; Rotten Tomatoes: 69%, IMDb: 6.5/10)

“Introduced by Sega at the start of the 1990s, the zippy blue hairball Sonic the Hedgehog is now officially over the hill and picking up speed onscreen. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is a fast-paced romp that’s silly, filled with quips and unabashedly for children — which is refreshing, coming at a time when so many other children’s franchises have succumbed to Sturm und Drang.” Read more…

Strawberry Mansion (sci-fi, Kentucker Audley; Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 6.4/10, NYT Critic’s Pick)

“Strawberry Mansion,” a soulful sci-fi oddity from Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley, is a dollhouse constructed on a fault line. Birney and Audley, who both directed and edited the film, evoke the disarray of dream logic: The sets shift, the sound effects heighten and the props grow and shrink. Initially, the style is stifling, giving the sense that the wallpaper might matter more than the plot. One room is painted solid pink, with matching pink house plants and a pink broom. Another room houses a machine covered in incomprehensible widgets and tubes, plus a turtle named Sugar Baby. But oh, how the two filmmakers enjoy knocking down the walls of their own creation. This is a movie about letting the mind roam.” Read more…

Vivo (animation, Lin-Manuel Miranda; Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 6.7/10)

“So thank the Broadway gods for the film’s stellar music. Miranda’s songs incorporate his signature rapid-fire rapping, along with quick tempo changes and genre mash-ups. Gabi’s song, “My Own Drum,” with its grade-school Nicki Minaj-esque rap and auto-tune, is the jam I didn’t know I needed in my life.

“Vivo” has cuteness to spare, even if the rest is hit or miss. But, we all know, the beat goes on.” Read more…

New Foreign

499 (Mexico, docu-drama, Eduardo San Juan; Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, IMDb: 7.1/10)

“499 is a bold, unique film that finds hope after grief, and optimistically looks forward to the future, while still remembering the sins of its past. It is a spellbinding movie anchored by a reliable performance by Eduardo San Juan Breña, who achingly wears his heartbreak across his face. The future is not beholden to the past, but one should never forget history.” Read more…

Sputnik (Russian, sci-fi, Oksana Akinshina; Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 6.4/10)

“While “Sputnik” doesn’t make its substantial borrowings from other sci-fi pictures entirely new, it does juice them up enough to yield a genuinely scary and satisfying experience.” Read more…

Tey (Senegal, Kino Lorber, 2012, drama, Saul Williams)

“While Alain Gomis’s previous two feature films, L’Afrance (2001) and Andalucia (2007), unfold in Europe and deal with alienation and isolation in exile, “Tey” [Today, in Wolof], nominated for the Golden Bear for Best Film at this year’s Berlinale, follows a Senegalese man in Dakar, during the last day of his life.

Everything is silent when Satché (beautifully and subtly portrayed by Saul Williams) wakes up at his mother’s house, but as the morning progresses more and more people join the family for what is essentially Satché’s wake. Beautiful words in his tribute, but also accusations, fill the room as the gathering, devastated by their imminent loss, pay tribute to the man everyone knows will die before the end of day.” Read more…

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman (Criterion Collection, Czechoslovakia, action/adventure)

“It feels so rare to be charmed by movies the way I was by the ones contained in Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman. With other “fantastic journeys” seemingly just a mouse click away these days, it’s easy to forget just how imaginative and special cinema can be. Using only the physical objects at his disposal, be they paper, paint, or even flesh, Karel Zeman managed to turn the simple into the remarkable, and translate his own sense of wonder to the screen without losing an ounce of its energy. His aim was to entertain children, but he ended up striking a much broader audience…” Read more…

American Back Catalog (post-1960)

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995, Criterion Collection, Mystery/Suspense, Denzel Washington, Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh, Metacritic: 78)

From Janet Maslin’s 1995 NYT review: “The film perfectly captures the tone of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins detective novels (“Devil in a Blue Dress” was the first), in which the hero’s wary intelligence captures the racial climate of the times. When the books’ Easy speaks fondly of sitting in his hard-earned little house and worriedly about “strange white men with dead blue eyes,” he defines the boundaries of his world.” Read more…

Thief (1981, Criterion Collection, action/adventure, James Caan; Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 7.4/10)

From Vincent Canby’s 1981 NYT review: “The performances are good. Mr. Caan is most convincing as a nonetoo-bright lug with a talent for thievery and a desire for the conventional life that is forever beyond his reach. Miss Weld’s intensity neutralizes suspicions that her Jesse could only have landed at her present station in life through some cosmic mix-up.” Read more…

Documentary

Cow (documentary, Dir.: Andrea Arnold; Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 7.1/10)

“Thankfully, Arnold — the director of “Fish Tank” and “American Honey,” both dramas with a social realist bent — seems to have a bigger picture in mind. We somehow feel connected to these animals — not by their precious, humanlike relatability — but by the cyclically banal and thorough means with which they are exploited, milked and bred on aggressive schedules that break their bodies down prematurely.” Read more…

Gallant Indies (France, documentary, Clément Cogitore, IMDb: 6.8/10)

“It helps if you love Rameau’s music and appreciate the structure of an opera ballet. I do—and thoroughly enjoyed this political and artistic reclamation of a masterpiece. Gallant Indies shows that love and creativity are forces of incalculable value in our contemporary fight towards racial and economic equality.” Read more…

The Green Planet (England, documentary, narrated by David Attenborough; Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, IMDb: 9.2/10)

“The Green Planet (BBC One). The new five-part series presented by the veteran naturalist (though “veteran” hardly seems enough any more – Attenborough has now been making gobsmacking documentaries for two-thirds of the BBC’s entire broadcasting history) is about plants. Those that spring up in their tropical millions in the rainforests, those that endure in snowy wastelands, those who wrest life from the desiccated jaws of death in the desert, those that anchor themselves in rivers and streams – all of them and their cyclical splendours are gathered together for our awed delectation.” Read more…

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President (documentary, Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh, IMDb: 7.5/10)

“Of all the cases you could make on behalf of the 39th American president, Jimmy Carter, the one put forward by this film’s title — “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President” — is not necessarily the first that springs to mind, unless you’re of a certain age and have a strong memory. But the filmmaker Mary Wharton (with a script from veteran music writer Bill Flanagan) makes good on her hook in this engaging documentary.” Read more…

New in TV

Grey’s Anatomy: Complete Twelfth Season (tv series, Ellen Pompeo; Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, IMDb: 7.6/10)

“Stuck on a desert island or confined to a one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, I will take the 15-year-old medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” as distraction over any of its newer, shinier, more critically acclaimed, more endlessly dissected and meme-fueling competition.” Read more…

Harry Wild: Series 1 (British series, Jane Seymour; Rotten Tomatoes: 50%, IMDb: 7.2/10)

“Our Call: STREAM IT, only because Harry Wild stars a very game Jane Seymour in the most dynamic role she’s had in some time. But the mysteries and backstories need to be tightened up for the show to succeed.” Read more…

Pam & Tommy (tv series, Lily James; Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, IMDb: 7.3/10)

“There’s a lot of low hanging ’90s nostalgia in “Pam & Tommy.” (There was a time, kids, when “sex tapes” were actually tapes.) But there’s also a distinct idea about the paradoxical sexual mores of the “Private Parts” and “There’s Something About Mary” era, when popular culture was becoming more lewd and sexually open but still more restrictive in the leeway it granted women vs. men.” Read more…

New Cult

Tales From Crypt: Bordello of Blood & Demon Knight (horror, Corey Feldman/Dennis Miller; Rotten Tomatoes: 15%/37%, IMDb: 5.1/10)

“Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight is a movie presented by the tv series Tales from the Crypt that aired in the eighties. While this film is made in the nineties, it has that typical eighties vibe with gory oozing practical effects and a cheesy feel. The story doesn’t amount too much originality, and the execution relies heavy on the practical effects. Still, Demon Knight is very entertaining mostly because of the nostalgic eighties vibe.” Read more…

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