New releases 10/1/19

Top Hits
Spider-Man: Far from Home (comic book action, Tom Holland. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 69. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As is often the case with these movies, a smaller, livelier entertainment is nested inside the roaring, clanking digital machinery. The filmmakers try to enliven the big fights and action sequences by injecting a bit of self-consciousness about the illusion-driven craft they pursue, and a few sequences take place in an austere, dreamlike virtual realm where visually interesting things are allowed to happen.” Read more…)

Spider in the Web (action, Ben Kingsley. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Noel Murray’s Los Angeles Times review: “The spy thriller ‘Spider in the Web’ is a well-made albeit overly reserved drama, directed by Eran Riklis [best known for ‘Lemon Tree’] from a screenplay by Gidon Maron and Emmanuel Naccache. It’s a high-minded action film, about the grueling demands of espionage work, featuring the kind of story that’s been told many times in literary spy novels. But [actor Ben] Kingsley makes it special.” Read more…)

Driven (comedy based on true story, Jason Sudeikis. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Somewhere deep inside ‘Driven’ — Nick Hamm’s based-on-real-life crime caper — lies a fascinating movie. We catch glimpses whenever Lee Pace, playing the automobile entrepreneur John DeLorean, gilds his ho-hum dialogue in unexpected layers of foreboding. And we hear it crackling through the F.B.I. sting operation that would lead to DeLorean’s 1984 trial for drug trafficking. To make that movie, though, would have required a less glib tone and an infinitely more focused script.” Read more…)

Bodied (comedy/drama, Calum Worthy. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “With visuals as kinetic as its language, Joseph Kahn’s ‘Bodied’ is an outrageously smart, shockingly funny satire of P.C. culture whose words gush so quickly you’ll want to see it twice. Set in the world of battle rap where combatants square off to exchange what amounts to exquisitely tuned insult poetry, the story [by Alex Larsen, a.k.a. Kid Twist, a 10-year veteran of the battle rap scene] follows Adam [Calum Worthy], a gawky grad student and a paperwhite audience surrogate. Researching rap’s use of the N-word, Adam is entranced by the vim and creativity of the performers and their utter lack of linguistic inhibition.” Read more…)

Anna and the Apocalypse (horror, Ella Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Like some features that originated as short movies, ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ never earns its longer running time. [This one’s short, ‘Zombie Musical,’ was directed by Ryan McHenry, who died in 2015.] Zombies and teenagers may seem like a natural fit (certainly Disney banked on it), but ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’ is more sketch than developed movie.” Read more…)

Sister Aimee (drama, Anna Margaret Hollyman. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “With ‘Sister Aimee,’ the writers and directors Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingmann turn a bizarre, real-life event from the 1920s — the sudden disappearance of the celebrity evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson — into a mischievous feminist fable. Confessing upfront about their gleeful fictions, the filmmakers reimagine a roughly five-week period in 1926 when McPherson [wholeheartedly played by Anna Margaret Hollyman] disappeared from a beach and was presumed dead.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Spider-Man: Far from Home

New Foreign DVDs
The Silent Revolution (Germany, drama, Leonard Scheicher. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Jay Weissberg’s Variety review: “A fascinating footnote in mid-20th-century German history gets an expectedly worthy treatment by writer-director Lars Kraume in ‘The Silent Revolution,’ one of those deeply respectful historical fictionalizations where the good people are allowed character development and the bad people largely remain very, very bad. Set in 1956 when a senior classroom of East German high schoolers subversively held a two-minute silence for those just killed in the Hungarian Revolution, the film sticks to a classic mainstream retelling [roughly based on the memoir of one of the participants] where the only unforeseen element is an odd Christian overlay.” Read more…)

New TV
Chernobyl (HBO mini-series on 1980s Soviet Union nuke meltdown. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “How do you dramatize a great big mess? The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is a subject full of gripping detail and historical and scientific import. But as a story, it’s hard to get your arms around — sprawling and repetitious, dependent on arcane particulars of physics and engineering, marked by failures to act and by large-scale action that accomplishes nothing. ‘Chernobyl,’ a five-part mini-series starting Monday on HBO [in coproduction with the British network Sky], takes what you could call a Soviet approach to telling the tale. This is incongruous, since one of the messages of the program is that Soviet approaches don’t work. But there it is: the imposition of a simple narrative on history, the twisting of events to create one-dimensional heroes and villains, the broad-brush symbolism.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Framing John DeLorean (bio/dramatization, Alec Baldwin. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘Framing John DeLorean,’ a smart, hook-filled blend of documentary and fictionalized re-enactments, opens with a question: Why haven’t more movies been made about John DeLorean? Because the story of the maverick, egocentric automaker, whose name is practically synonymous with the excesses of the midcentury American car industry, is ready-made for the silver screen.” Read more…)

The Quiet One (bio, music, Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘The Quiet One,’ an engaging documentary on Wyman directed by Oliver Murray and derived from the voluminous archives that Wyman has been keeping for decades, mostly deals indirectly with Wyman’s signature achievement. [The bassist retired from the Stones in the early 1990s.] Its main thrust derives from the contradictions inherent in his life story: A mild-mannered fellow enters the music business just to play, winds up in a controversial and wildly successful rock group, and manages, for a long time, to sidestep most of this situation’s pitfalls by dint of his subdued personality and relatively sober lifestyle.” Read more…)

Maiden (adventure, sailing, Tracy Edwards. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 82. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “If you want to get an idea of how women, their lives and their contributions get written out of history, consider the Wikipedia entry on ‘The 1989-1990 Whitbread Round the World Race,’ which includes the following two simple, factually correct sentences: ‘This race featured the first all-woman crew on Tracy Edwards’ Maiden. Although in a much smaller boat than many of their male counterparts the women fared well — claiming two leg victories in Division D.’ These lines are dutifully informative. They’re also a maddeningly incomplete record of how Edwards, who turned 27 during the race, and her young team became headline news across the world. If you want the fuller, richer story of the women’s journey — their struggles at sea and on land, including virulent sexism — the place to turn is ‘Maiden,’ a sleek, exhilarating documentary look back at their race into history.” Read more…)

The Proposal (art/architecture, Luis Barragán, Jill Magid. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘The Proposal,’ Jill Magid’s captivatingly wily documentary about her attempt to liberate the archives of the renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragán, wears many faces. Detailing at once an art project and a rescue mission, a love triangle and an elaborate, outlandish bargain, the movie has a surface serenity that belies its fuming emotions.” Read more…)

Robin Williams: Comic Genius (bio, stand-up comedy, Robin Williams)

New Music DVDs
The Quiet One (bio, music, Rolling Stones, Bill Wyman)