New releases 2/4/20

Top Hits
The Nightingale (adventure/thriller, Aisling Franciosi. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Jennifer Kent, who wrote and directed this rigorous, relentless film, surveys this landscape with clear-eyed fury. ‘The Nightingale’ is a revenge story, one that draws on familiar Victorian Gothic and Hollywood western tropes. It’s the tale of a wronged woman, and of white men in hostile territory. Its themes are justice, innocence and the boundary between barbarism and decency. But to say that Kent offers a revisionist take on traditional genres would be like calling ‘The Babadook,’ her terrifying debut feature, a revisionist children’s movie. Part of her brilliance as a filmmaker lies in her mastery of the cinematic canons she subjects to thorough critical scourging.
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The Good Liar (suspense drama, Helen Mirren & Ian McKellen. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 55. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Good Liar’ requires something stricter than a standard spoiler warning. To avoid ruining the film, you should not only stop reading this review, but also pass on seeing the movie, which tips its hand practically from the moment the main characters meet.” Read more…)

Give Me Liberty (comedy, Chris Galust. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Give Me Liberty’ is a jolt of a movie, at once kinetic and controlled. It’s an anarchic deadpan comedy that evolves into a romance just around the time the story explodes. It has moments of unembellished realism as well as a fictional story line that runs through the bedlam.” Read more…)

Last Christmas (romantic comedy, Emilia Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “[Paul] Feig is an adroit director of comedy and he gives ‘Last Christmas’ some fizz now and again. But he’s stymied by the romance and the gimmick, and the pairing of [Emilia] Clarke and [Henry] Golding proves an impossible hurdle, making even the seemingly simplest moments — an intimate walk, a heartfelt talk — feel badly labored.” Read more…)

Playing With Fire (family comedy, John Cena. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 24. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The hero of ‘Playing With Fire,’ Jake Carson (John Cena), is forever pointing out that he’s not a firefighter. He’s a smokejumper, and with the help of his quirky crew, played by John Leguizamo and Keegan-Michael Key, Jake drops from helicopters to put out forest fires. With single-minded focus, he seeks out the most dangerous blazes. Unfortunately, the flat-footed family comedy around him fails to produce sparks.” Read more…)

Waves (drama, Kelvin Harrison Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A domestic melodrama in an anguished key, ‘Waves’ is the story of a Florida family nearly undone by a shocking tragedy. It’s also a spectacular testament to the talents of the writer-director Trey Edward Shults, making just his third feature-length movie. As in his estimable debut, ‘Krisha’ [2016], about a woman having an epic meltdown at a family Thanksgiving, Shults has created a deep, at times overwhelming sensory experience.” Read more…)

Mrs. Lowry & Son (bio-pic/art, Vanessa Redgrave. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 42. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Yet the disappointment of ‘Mrs. Lowry & Son’ is that it finds neither of its star attractions at the peak of their powers: Both Spall and Redgrave feel stifled and stiff-jointed, hemmed in by a thin, shallow-focus script that betrays its origins as a radio play all too easily. Every facet of this toxic mother-son relationship is spoken, repetitiously so, with nary a detail left to visual or sensory interpretation.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Doctor Sleep (Stephen King “The Shining” sequel, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Doctor Sleep,’ Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the novel by Stephen King, catches up with Danny Torrance, who as a child was terrorized by demons and his own father at a spooky Rocky Mountain hotel. That was in ‘The Shining,’ published by King in 1977 and filmed by Stanley Kubrick in a movie released in 1980. The new film, depending on how you look at it, is a sequel, an update, a corrective or a disaster. King was never a fan of Kubrick’s cold, meticulous gothic, which has nonetheless gathered a sturdy cult following. Flanagan, while hewing more closely to the novelist’s ideas about evil, innocence and addiction, pays tribute to some of Kubrick’s visual signatures.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Too Late to Die Young (Chile, drama/coming-of-age, Demian Hernández. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Too Late to Die Young’ is above all an achievement in mood and implication. [Director] Dominga Sotomayor has a way of structuring scenes and composing images that makes everything perfectly clear but not obvious. Motives and actions are mysterious and relationships are ambiguous not because she wants to mystify anyone or anything, but because she’s a realist.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Lost Lady (1934, drama, Barbara Stanwyck. From Andrbe Sennwald’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since Willa Cather’s novel happens to be a genuine American masterpiece, perhaps the screen edition of ‘A Lost Lady,’ which opened at the Strand last evening, is mediocre only by comparison. Irene Rich participated in a silent film version back in 1925. The present variation, to one who cannot forget the haunting beauty of the book, is like a stranger in the house. For the particular charm of Miss Cather’s work was her method, and that has been rather definitely lost in the process of transition to the screen.” Read more…)

Silver Lode (1954, western, Lizabeth Scott)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ordeal By Innocence (1984, Agatha Christie thriller, Donald Sutherland)

New British
Howard’s End (mini-series based on E.M. Forster novel, Hayley Atwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. From Sophie Gilbert’s review at The Atlantic magazine: “The 1992 film adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel ‘Howards End’ is still so sumptuous, so thrilling in its excavation of buried Edwardian desire, that you might question whether a new version is necessary. Yet Kenneth Lonergan’s four-part miniseries, which arrives Sunday on Starz, is its own masterpiece, visually lavish and narratively restrained. Lonergan and the director Hettie Macdonald find something profound in the story’s clash of cultures between the liberal, bourgeois Schlegels and the emotionally repressed, establishment Wilcoxes that feels vital in this particular moment. If people disagree on such fundamental levels, it asks, can they still love each other? Should they?” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Disappearance of My Mother (art, feminism, family, bio, Benedetta Barzini. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “From time to time, in the course of this mesmerizing, tender, painful documentary [(director Beniamino) Barrese’s first feature], you may find yourself sympathizing with the filmmaker, who occasionally allows himself to slip into view. He clearly adores his mother and respects her as a subject, even when his devotion ensnares them both in a paradox. Barzini’s greatest wish, as the title suggests, is to vanish, to complete the final chapter of a highly visible life in a state of obscurity. Barrese at once supports this aspiration and sets out to thwart it, showing us someone who insists that she doesn’t want anyone to see her. The passionate clarity with which she asserts her views is persuasive, and her complicated charisma makes her an irresistible, unforgettable screen presence.” Read more…)

Serendipity (health, art, modern medicine, memoir, Prune Nourry. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 69. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “After the artist Prune Nourry received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2016 at age 31, her experiences of treatment began to inform her art. ‘Serendipity’ is both a document and an extension of that process — a self-portrait in which Nourry showcases past projects and explores how her artistic impulses evolved.” Read more…)

Becoming Nobody (bio, New Age philosophy, Ram Dass, Richard Alpert. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 47. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “If you think becoming a ‘somebody’ in life is an uphill climb, it turns out, at least according to famed Boston-born spiritual teacher and truth seeker Dr. Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Ram Dass), that making oneself into a ‘nobody’ — that is, truly open and egoless — is a much harder road. He also considers it the way to go for real personal freedom and enlightenment. That’s just one of many life lessons and wise assertions imparted by Alpert in producer-director Jamie Catto’s enjoyable documentary ‘Becoming Nobody,’ which, though hardly a definitive look at the former Harvard psychologist and much-published author [including the 1971 bestseller ‘Be Here Now’], proves a strong and moving reminder of Alpert’s spiritual insight.” Read more…)