New releases 9/1/20

Top Hits
Irresistible (comedy, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 47. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “East Coast slickness meets heartland folksiness in Irresistible,’ a political satire so broad and blunt that it flattens every joke and deflates every setup. Movies like this should skip and jab; instead, this second feature from the writer and director Jon Stewart [after his impressively accomplished prison drama, ‘Rosewater,’ in 2014] lumbers and flails.” Read more…)

Z (horror, Keegan Connor Tracy. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 63. From Brian Tallerico’s review: “Brandon Christensen’s ‘Z’ … is a vicious little movie that recalls ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘The Babadook’ with its story of a possessive force that destroys a family. It’s a little rough around the edges in terms of an obviously thin effects budget and even simple things like its overcooked score but there’s a lot to like here in terms of storytelling within the risky screenplay by Christensen and Colin Minahan.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Right Now, Wrong Then (South Korea, romantic comedy, Jae-yeong Jeong. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A story is a series of choices, which in retrospect take on an aura of inevitability. With a handful of notable exceptions, most movies take narrative linearity for granted, proceeding from one thing to the next in what seems to be an almost mathematically necessary sequence. The exceptions — ‘Rashomon,’ say, or ‘Pulp Fiction’ — tend to make a big deal of defying the rules of chronological order and cause-and-effect logic. The prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo practices a quieter, more radical mischief.” Read more…)

Black Gravel (West Germany, 1961, Cold War noir, Helmut Wildt. From Nick Pinkerton’s essay on the 2017 Berlin Film Festival at Film Comment: “What’s immediately striking about ‘Schwarzer Kies’ [the German title of ‘Black Gravel’], particularly in contrast to the majority of films that Hollywood was producing at the same time, is its wholly unglamorous naturalism—there’s lots o’ listless and loveless screwing, destructive binge-drinking, and puking bar girls—and its palpable proximity to the underbelly of German society. [Director Helmut] Käutner was shooting on location in Lautzenhausen, home of the Hahn Air Base, and he recruited real American G.I.s for the film and shot in the real red-light district, where the jukebox is heard blaring rockabilly for the troops and Volkstümliche marches for a local peasant who drinks for free in exchange for leasing his barn to be used as a cabaret until he blurts anti-Semitic slurs at a proprietor who bears a concentration camp tattoo on his forearm.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Slightly Scarlet (1956, rare Technicolor film noir, John Payne. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Two red-headed women and one fat-headed man are the principal characters in ‘Slightly Scarlet,’ which came to the Criterion yesterday. The women, played by Rhonda Fleming and a laughably kittenish Arlene Dahl, are a couple of on-the-make sisters, and the fellow, played by John Payne, is an on-the-make big-time gangster. In the end all their faces are red.So, we say, should be the faces of the people responsible for this film.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Five Easy Pieces (1970, drama, Criterion Collection, Jack Nicholson. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 85. Roger Ebert,writing in 2003, on first seeing “Five Easy Pieces” when it was released in 1970: “We’d had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take: Into idiosyncratic characters, into dialogue with an ear for the vulgar and the literate, into a plot free to surprise us about the characters, into an existential ending not required to be happy. ‘Five Easy Pieces’ was a fusion of the personal cinema of John Cassavetes and the new indie movement that was tentatively emerging. It was, you could say, the first Sundance film.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
The Booksellers (book lovers, rare book dealers & collectors, Fran Lebowitz. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 72. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “There’s a lot of tweed, a couple of pocket squares and an old-fashioned waxed mustache in ‘The Booksellers,’ D.W. Young’s charming documentary about the book world — or more specifically the book-as-object world, with antiquarian booksellers trying to reinvent themselves and their industry in a digital era. Anybody curious about the inner workings of unglamorous behemoths like Amazon or the ailing Barnes & Noble will have to look elsewhere. Young made the aesthetically wise choice to focus mainly on purveyors specializing in rare books or niche subjects.” Read more…)