New releases 9/7/21

Top Hits
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (DC superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 54. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “I know I’m leading you astray, beginning this review of Zack Snyder’s extended “Justice League” cut with hope when what follows will sound more like despair. And yet hope is at the core of this four-hour marathon of a film — and is also what it fails to understand.” Read more…)

Beasts of No Nation (war drama, Criterion Collection, Abraham Attah. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is based on Uzodinma Iweala’s harrowing, linguistically dazzling novel of a child soldier’s life. Mr. Iweala’s distinctive prose style is sometimes echoed in Agu’s voice-over narration, but the boy’s point of view is more immediately conveyed in the watchful eyes and sensitive features of Abraham Attah, the nimble young actor who plays him.” Read more…)

Small Axe (drama anthology, UK West Indian community, John Boyega. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “When the British filmmaker Steve McQueen conceived the five films he collectively named ‘Small Axe,’ he could not have foreseen the drastically disrupted world into which they would be released — a world that could shift, and perhaps intensify, the impact with which they would land. Narratively diverse but thematically intertwined, the anthology [beginning with ‘Mangrove’ last month and continuing on Amazon with new releases through next week] shines a sociopolitical spotlight on London’s West Indian community from the mid-1960s to the ’80s.” Read more…)

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (horror, Vera Farmiga. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Conjuring’ movies offer a fascinating peek into the American psyche. Based on the lives of the Northeastern paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise demands viewers invest in a worldview ruled by Christian dogma, where Godly good must battle satanic evil. ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is by far the most well-constructed, terrifying entry in the franchise, but its plot relies all too heavily on that same bizarre evangelism.” Read more…)

The Duke of Burgundy (gay & lesbian/drama, 2014, Sidse Babett Knudsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Here are two somewhat contradictory things I can tell you about ‘The Duke of Burgundy,’ which takes its name from a species of butterfly. It is, I’m fairly certain, quite unlike any other Sapphic S-and-M lepidoptery-themed psychological romance you have ever seen. At the same time, though, its uniqueness rests on a passionate, you might say slavish, devotion to a particular cinematic style of the past. Peter Strickland, who seeded and tended this exquisite hothouse flower of high-toned eroticism, is unabashedly fetishistic in his love of old exploitation movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The Duke of Burgundy

New Foreign DVDs
My Wonderful Wanda (Germany, drama/comedy, Agnieszka Grochowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 54. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The film, written by Oberli and Cooky Ziesche, satirizes class divides and xenophobia [‘the Pole’ constantly carries a derogatory connotation here], but never takes the satire far enough to be memorable, challenging or anything beyond whimsical, as Wanda and the Wegmeister-Gloors negotiate the future of the unborn child. The story also suffers from its division into three acts and an epilogue; it loses emotional momentum with each new section.” Read more…)

The Clockmaker of St. Paul (France, 1974, debut drama feature by Bertrand Tavernier, Philippe Noiret. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film, an adaptation of the Georges Simenon novel ‘The Clockmaker of Everton,’ is a rather startling combination of old and new talents. Maybe reconciliation is the better word. The screenplay is by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost—who wrote the adaptation of ‘Le Diable au Corps’ and are closely identified with the French cinema establishment of the 1940’s against which the New Wave a reaction—but it is the first feature to be directed by Bertrand Tavernier, a young French critic and film scholar who belongs to the post‐New Wave generation.” Read more…)

Je T’Aime Je T’Aime aka I Love You, I Love You (France, 1968, sci-fi/romance dir. by Alain Resnais, Claude Rich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Manohla Dargis’ 2014 New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “Most stories begin once upon a time and, after the usual chronological tramp toward the inevitable and an occasional detour into the past or future, end happily ever after [or not]. In ‘Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime,’ a magnificent film from out of the past, the French director Alain Resnais takes dozens of interludes from one man’s life — images of everyday banality and commonplace delights, scenes of him at work and at play — and arranges them nonchronologically.” Read more…)

The Widow Couderc (France, 1971, mystery, Simone Signoret. From Nora Sayre’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since Simone Signoret appears in all too few movies these days, it’s so good to see her on the screen that one tends to be almost undemanding of the picture—which, in this case, is a modest film of high quality that never quite gets off the ground, despite its many fine details and a beautiful evocation of the French countryside.” Read more…)

The Gang/Three Men to Kill (France, crime/gangster directed by Jacques Deray, Alain Delon)

New British DVDs
What We Did On Our Holiday (comedy, 2014, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A family of bickering, broken adults has its priorities realigned by three children and a terminally ill grandpa in ‘What We Did on Our Holiday,’ a damp-eyed comedy whose banal title isn’t the only thing needing improvement. Transferring their successful sitcom formula — scene-stealing kids plus frazzled parents — to the Scottish Highlands, the writing and directing team of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin [‘Outnumbered’] piles on the contrivances.” Read more…)

Moonlighting (drama, 1982, Jeremy Irons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Working in a style that appears to have little connection with any of his earlier films, including the French-language ‘Le Depart’ and the English-language ‘The Shout,’ Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish film maker who has been living in England for years, has made a new film of the sort of introspective intensity seldom achieved on the screen. Movies journey into men’s minds at some peril. ‘Moonlighting’ possesses such clarity of vision and simplicity that it seems to have been made in one uninterrupted burst of creative energy. It’s a small, nearly perfect work of its kind.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Thunderbolt (mystery/suspense, 1929, dir. by Josef von Sternberg, Fay Wray. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1929 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The dialogue in this production was written by Herman J. Mankicwicz. It is of the wise-cracking species. Jules and Charles Furthman are responsible for the story and Josef von Sternberg officiated as the director. It is a musical comedy plot striving to masquerade as a drama.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968, comedy, Mary Tyler Moore. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?’ which opened here yesterday at the Trans-Lux East, is a comedy for the old at heart of all ages. By picturing the things it lampoons in a soft focus, the movie ultimately sentimentalizes them. A fruit-eating bird of tropical America, a splendidly plumaged toucan who flies straight enough but walks with a list to starboard, arrives in New York and begins to spread a fearfully cute virus. Its victims are relieved of all anxieties and inhibitions.” Read more…)

The Road to Salina (1971, mystery, Rita Hayworth. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “R’oad to Salina,’ which opened yesterday at the Paris Theater, thus begins with a good deal of trashy promise, but then, like someone who gets drunk without ever experiencing a pleasant high, it falls on its face several reels before the plot requires. It’s both disoriented and disorienting—an English language mystery melodrama, made by Frenchmen, played by Americans [Rita Hayworth, Mimsy Farmer. Robert Walker and the late Ed Begley], set in Mexico and shot on Lanzarote, off the West Coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.” Read more…)

The Black Marble (1980, thriller/comedy, Paula Prentiss. From Roger Ebert’s 1980 review: “The movie’s not altogether a comedy, although we laugh; it’s a love story that kids itself and ends up seriously; it contains violence but is not really violent. What it always does is keep us off balance. Because we can’t anticipate what’s going to happen next, the movie has a persistent interior life; there’s never the sense that a scene is included because it’s expected.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Apocalypse ’45 (war, World war II, archival film, oral history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “Startling images appear throughout ‘Apocalypse ’45,’ a transfixing documentary that depicts the final months of World War II in rare detail. The film combines vivid archival footage from war reporters with the accounts of an array of veterans. Its project is to immerse us in the horrors of warfare, and to convey the ways its witnesses cope with war’s psychic toll.” Read more…)

All the Streets Are Silent (hip hop, skateboarding, street culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 60. From Isabelia Herrera’s New York Times review: “‘All the Streets Are Silent,’ a documentary from the director, Jeremy Elkin, is a portrait of that time, capturing the transformative moment when hip-hop and skateboarding culture converged in New York. It draws on archival footage of influential figures like Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter, among dozens of others, and incorporates new interviews with major players like Fab 5 Freddy and Darryl McDaniels, of Run-DMC. Throughout, Elkin explores how racial associations with both subcultures crumbled as their worlds collided.” Read more…)