New releases 3/22/22

Top Hits
Nightmare Alley (noir remake, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “You might have seen Tyrone Power navigating a similarly shadowy setup in the 1947 noir of the same title, directed by Edmund Goulding. Like the earlier movie, del Toro’s is based on a novel by William Lindsay Gresham, a desperate, pitiless book filled with exotic slang and steeped in the soured milk of human unkindness. Written by [director Guillermo] del Toro and Kim Morgan, the new adaptation hews more faithfully to the novel, partly because it’s not constrained by Hollywood self-censorship. But fealty isn’t always a productive strategy, and while the first film greatly tempers the book’s shocks, it doesn’t sentimentalize the source material, as this one does.” Read more…)

The Boy Behind the Door (horror, Lonnie Chavis. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Elisabeth Vincentelli’s New York Times review: “Bad, bad things happen to Bobby [Lonnie Chavis, Randall on ‘This Is Us’] and Kevin [Ezra Dewey] in the horror-tinged abduction thriller ‘The Boy Behind the Door.’ And, it must be said, for the most part they happen onscreen. This is not common in American releases, where violence toward kids tends to be suggested, metaphorical or cartoonishly abstract.” Read more…)

John and the Hole (drama/thriller, Charlie Shotwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 61. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘When do you stop being a kid?,’ John [Charlie Shotwell], 13, asks his bemused mother [Jennifer Ehle] midway through Pascual Sisto’s ‘John and the Hole.’ The question offers a key to this modern-day fable, one that John is dangerously fixated on answering. Chilly, enigmatic and more than a little spooky, ‘John and the Hole’ patrols the porous border between child and adult with more style than depth.” Read more…)

I Was a Simple Man (drama, Steve Iwamoto. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 83. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “In Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Hawaii-set drama ‘I Was a Simple Man,’ Masao [Steve Iwamoto] is a dignified-looking old-timer who’s nearing the end of his life. As he slows down, the past keeps catching up. His memories, visions and daily struggles all run together in Yogi’s twilight story about coming to terms with death and finding love’s embrace.” Read more…)

Wolf (psychological thriller, George MacKay. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 52. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Nathalie Biancheri, the movie maintains a mostly even tone. Despite dashes of uncanny humor, Biancheri directs with remove. The downside to this approach is that certain sequences tend to feel like acting exercises, and though MacKay and Depp perform with devoted bodily fervor, it’s hard to connect to their characters. Still, Biancheri’s imagery is consistently evocative, and her interest in how captivity affects dignity at times recalls the work of Yorgos Lanthimos.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray &Ultra HD 4K
Le Cercle Rouge 4K & Blu-Ray (France, 1970, thriller, Alain Delon.) Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 91, Must See. From A.O. Scott’s 2003 New York Times Critic’s Notebook on the film’s re-release in the US [may require log-in]: “‘Le Cercle Rouge,’ released in France in 1970, was the 12th of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 13 films and, at least in his native land, his biggest popular success. Until now, American audiences have known this doleful, elegant exercise in underworld existentialism mainly through its legend, its influence and the brief circulation of a drastically edited, dubbed version a few years ago. The film’s belated arrival, in uncut form, at Film Forum in Manhattan today is thus an exciting and unusual event — exciting because it provides a chance for total immersion in Melville’s stylish, moody noir world, and unusual because, even though the movie has not been seen here before, it offers a curious experience of déjà vu.” Read more…)

The Godfather Trilogy 4K UltraHD (classic Mafia/gangster/family saga by Francis Ford Coppola transferred to super-high resolution format, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh (The Godfather); 96%, Certified Fresh (The Godfather, Part II; 68% (The Godfather, Part III).)

The Stuff Blu-Ray (1985, cult horror dir. by Larry Cohen, Michael Moriarty. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Richard F. Shepard’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It takes a little while to see how ‘The Stuff’ is going to tackle the business of selling the public junk food that may be lethal. This horror film spoof, written and directed by Larry Cohen and opening today at Loews Astor Plaza and other theaters, plays it as comedy, such straight comedy that at moments it is in danger of becoming tendentiously unfunny. ‘The Stuff’ mostly is amusing, and at times – too few of them – hilarious. It is a Pop Art piece, what Andy Warhol’s art was to the soup can.” Read more…)

Nightmare Alley Ultra HD 4K & Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
Alain Resnais: Five Short Films (France, documentaries, Alain Resnais)

New Television DVDs
Dexter: New Blood (serial killer drama series, Michael C. Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 61. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “The first thing to die in ‘Dexter: New Blood’ is irony. The murder weapon is the subtitle. Oh, there’s blood, all right. That’s what Showtime’s righteous-serial-killer franchise promised from 2006 to 2013, and we get it in the very first episode of this revival, in snow-staining buckets. What we don’t get, in the four competent but redundant episodes screened for critics, is the ‘new’: any hint of a fresh creative impulse in a series that had worn itself out years before it left the air.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Enemies of the State (hackers, government secrets, conspiracy. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The remarkable thing about ‘Enemies of the State,’ a documentary directed by Sonia Kennebeck and executive produced by Errol Morris, no stranger to epistemological mysteries — is that it comes close to offering decisive yes and no answers, with evidence to back them up. It becomes a documentary about re-evaluating biases, a process that may well implicate the filmmakers. As Tor Ekeland, a lawyer who represented [Matthew] DeHart, says in the movie, ‘The only way to make the facts in this case make sense is to entertain some kind of wild conspiracy theory.’” Read more…)

1991: The Year Punk Broke (music documentary, cultural history, Sonic Youth, Nirvana. From Mark Spitz’s 2011 New York Times article on the initial release of the film on DVD after years of legal hassles [may require log-in]: “Sonic Youth is the star, but the film is filled with about two dozen other up-and-coming musicians at the time, most of them smartly mumbling or squinting with suspicion. As definitive as “1991: The Year Punk Broke” is, it might have remained a footnote if one of those musicians wasn’t a pre-fame Kurt Cobain. His presence elevates the footage from documentary to both fetish item and cautionary tale.” Read more…)