New releases 9/28/21

Top Hits
The Forever Purge (horror, Ana de la Reguera. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Forever Purge’ tries for political relevance by introducing immigrant protagonists, but it easily excuses racism from the other leads. (After all, Dylan doesn’t seem so bad compared with the bands of white supremacists stalking the film.) Words like ‘colonialism’ and ‘the American dream’ are thrown around, to little avail.” Read more…)

Boys From County Hell (horror/comedy, Jack Rowan. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 56. From Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Chris Baugh, this is as much a slap-happy creature feature as it is a touching dramedy about friendship and family bonds. Much of the credit goes to the actor Jack Rowan, who’s all pluck and charm as the young man who defends his blue-collar hamlet against an ancient evil.” Read more…)

The Power (horror, Rose Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “In 1970s Britain, as the government and trade unions were warring, blackouts were regularly ordered to conserve power. During one of these pitch-black nights, a timid young woman named Val [Rose Williams] finds herself working the dark shift on her first day of duty as a trainee nurse at a run-down London hospital. The writer and director Corinna Faith doesn’t wait for the lights to dim to unleash the uneasiness in ‘The Power.’ The creaky, eerie atmosphere is felt even in daylight as Val starts to hear children’s indecipherable whispers.” Read more…)

Domino: Battle of the Bones (comedy, Lou Beatty, Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In the comedy ‘Domino: Battle of the Bones,’ the sports heroes of Compton, Calif., aren’t Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings or Angels. Here, the stars of the neighborhood are bones players — a game better known as dominoes. Their championship comes with a plastic trophy and a $10,000 grand prize. The movie has a tall task to make dominoes seem action-packed, and it overcompensates by stacking its hand with over-the-top theatrics.” Read more…)

42nd Street: The Musical ( musical comedy, Bonnie Langford)

New Blu-Ray
The Sparks Brothers Blu-Ray (music, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Sparks, the musical entity invented and fronted by Ron and Russell Mael, is sometimes rock, sometimes pop, sometimes art song, always idiosyncratic. They’re a cult band with an ever-renewing cult and a career that spans 50 years. ‘The Sparks Brothers,’ an energetic documentary directed by Edgar Wright, explains their appeal in part by emphasizing how it cannot be explained.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Gaia (South Africa, horror, Monique Rockman. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Mother Nature might be predator, prey or another supernatural being altogether in ‘Gaia,’ infiltrating her targets with unfurling shoots and roots and sudden fungal outcrops, until she’s eventually growing from within them. Or so it seems in first-time feature director Jaco Bouwer’s cool, taciturn ecological horror, which isn’t in any kind of hurry to show us exactly what dark forces are at play in the woods that encircle a tensely matched trio of human characters. We do, however, see their effects, manifested as the film’s own. In an elegant fusion of digital and prosthetic artistry, patches of moss burst through skin like a nasty rash; human flesh is aggressively and involuntarily camouflaged by flora.” Read more…)

Throw Down (China, 2004, drama, Aaron Kwok. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Bursting with gangsters, gambling and human weakness in general, ‘Throwdown’ is so strange and idiosyncratic that it’s almost surreal. The prolific director Johnnie To [‘Breaking News’] claims to be paying tribute to the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa; but after watching the film, his assertion seems either delusional or wickedly provocative. Mr. To’s ‘Throwdown’ and Kurosawa’s first film, ‘Sugata Sanshiro’ [1943], may share a central theme — the less lethal martial art of judo — but there the similarity ends.” Read more…)

Seven Days… Seven Nights aka Moderato Cantabile (France, 1960, drama, Jeanne Moreau. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The main thing is the mood of melancholy that is developed by the director, Peter Brook. Out of a story of Marguerite Duras, who wrote ‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour,’ and a taut, cryptic, sad-eyed performance by a still healthy-looking Jeanne Moreau, he has fashioned a slowly ambulating succession of wistful images that have the emotional content of a haunting sonata or a poem.” Read more…)

Lucky Luciano (Italy/USA, Francesco Rosi-directed crime biopic, Gian Maria Volonté. From Cinescope blog’s post on the film: “But this is the antithesis of the individualized biopic, as Rosi deliberately gives zero psychological depth to Luciano, strips him of any glamour or romantic allure, and makes sure our thoughts never wander into considering how it might feel being in his shoes. Luciano is just a cog in the system, and whether it’s him, Giuliano, Al Capone or any other ambitious power-hungry mob boss, makes no difference to the big picture.” Read more…)

Illustrious Corpses (Italy, 1976, Francesco Rosi-directed mystery/suspense, Lino Ventura. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Until one realizes that one has been manipulated to rather predictable ends, ‘Illustrious Corpses’ is a dazzling example of fashionably radical Italian film making—elegantly composed, breathlessly paced, photographed in the beautiful, drained colors of a landscape in mourning for the sun. It’s all so beautiful, in fact, that when you see a long shot of a Sicilian piazza in which everything, including the sky, is the same matching beige, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a high-fashion model, dressed to the scarlet nines, posing amid beige urchins.” Read more…)

A Full Day’s Work aka Une Journée Bien Remplie (France, mystery/suspense/comedy, 1973, Jacques Dufilho)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Stolen Life (1946, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review: “The understandable ambition that every actress must feel to play dual roles in a movie, thus multiplying her presence by two, has been ratified by Bette Davis on her own histrionic behalf in her first self-produced Warner picture, “A Stolen Life,” which came to the Hollywood yesterday. But a friend of Miss Davis who has generally found her thoroughly sufficient in single roles must observe that she has proved no advantage by playing her dramatic vis-à-vis.” Read more…)

Winter Meeting (1948, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review: “Of all the frustrating experiences that Bette Davis has had in films—and, heaven knows, she has had aplenty; indeed, she has had little else—the one she now has in “Winter Meeting,” which came to the Warner yesterday, is clearly the most bewildering, not only for her but for us. For in this rather chilling encounter, Miss Davis discovers to her dismay that she’s in love with a mopish young fellow who really wants to become a priest.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Love & Basketball (sports/romance, 2000, Criterion Collection, Sanaa Lathan. From Elvis Mitchell’s 2000 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s in the small touches that this movie comes alive, and it’s rare that directors can pull off this kind of thing. Generally they overemphasize the hackneyed plot and leave no room for fresh, airy touches that reflect a writer’s soul and a director’s understanding of actors. Ms. Prince-Bythewood is just the opposite, and ‘Love and Basketball’ is the first step, however unsteady, of an intriguing new talent.” Read more…)