New releases 3/30/21

Top Hits
Wonder Woman 1984 (superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The first movie is set largely during World War I, which set a lofty bar for the scope and the import of future adventures. The sequel’s title, ‘Wonder Woman 1984,’ suggests that some juicy Orwellian intrigues are in the offing. Will Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince [Gal Gadot], hijack a Soviet cruise missile, toss jelly beans at Ronald Reagan? As it turns out, the year mostly proves an excuse to pile on side ponytails, fanny packs and nostalgic nods to the kind of Hollywood blowouts that feature cartoonish violence and hard-bodied macho types. What is Wonder Woman doing in these campy, recycled digs? Who knows?” Read more…)

Our Friend (drama/comedy, Jason Segel. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. With a dissenting opinion in the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis writes: “As with any bad movie emerging from someone’s real-life tragedy, ‘Our Friend’ is almost more painful to critique than to watch. Based on Matthew Teague’s raw 2015 article detailing the decline of his wife, Nicole, from ovarian cancer, this drippy drama presents precisely the kind of prettified portrait of death that Teague’s candid writing sought to rebut.” Read more…)

Rams (comedy remake of Icelandic movie, Sam Neill. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The rough, dirty life of Australian sheep farmers would seem an unlikely topic to yield much in the way of cinematic lyricism. Especially in a narrative involving sheep actually dying of a devastating disease. Nevertheless, ‘Rams,’ rooted in a 2016 Icelandic movie of the same name, has its pastoral moments [mostly in its breathtaking views of Western Australian landscapes], not to mention raucous comedy.” Read more…)

The Little Stranger (horror, Domhnall Gleeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The twisting and cracking of the British class system is always fascinating to observe, and ‘The Little Stranger’ traces the details of its chosen moment of social change with precision and subtlety, and with its own layers of somewhat dubious nostalgia. Since it’s also a horror movie, subtlety can go only go so far, and the past becomes a trunk mined for spooky costumes and effects. There are a few jump scares and shocking images, but [director Lenny] Abrahamson lets the dread build slowly, nudged along by Stephen Rennicks’s mournful, eerie score and Ole Bratt Birkeland’s brown-shadowed cinematography.” Read more…)

The Turning (horror, Finn Wolfhard. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 35. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Credit to the makers of ‘The Turning’ for putting an excuse up front for any anachronisms instead of going to ludicrous lengths to modernize Henry James’s 1898 novella ‘The Turn of the Screw,’ which in this loose riff, courtesy of the veteran music video director Floria Sigismondi, has been updated to 1994. [When Kate is introduced, Kurt Cobain’s death is in the news.]” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Wonder Woman 1984

New Foreign
The Woman Who Left (Philippines, drama, Charo Santos-Cancio. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The world of ‘The Woman Who Left,’ the new film by Lav Diaz, is saturated with violence. There are killings, rapes and beatings, episodes of revenge and casual cruelty, and the subtle but no less brutal operations of poverty, corruption and social injustice. But though we occasionally witness the immediate aftereffect of these acts, we virtually never see the acts themselves. In a departure from the usual cinematic practice that amounts to a critique of prevailing assumptions about the power of visual representation, Mr. Diaz insists that words can carry meaning more effectively than pictures.” Read more…)

Another Round (Denmark, drama/comedy, Mads Mikkelsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “If you’re familiar with [Danish director Thomas Vinterbeg’s] films, you might expect something dark and satirical — like ‘The Celebration’ or ‘The Hunt,’ which wryly expose the nasty undercurrents of bourgeois existence. Middle-class lives do come unspooling in ‘Another Round,’ but this odd little film turns out to be neither farce nor moralistic provocation. It’s a sweet, strangely modest tragicomedy about the pleasures of (mostly banal) excess.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Town Like Alice (1956, World War II-era drama, Peter Finch. From A.H. Weiler’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “British film-makers, who apparently do not intend to overlook any aspect of World War II, provide a realistically grim, if not always moving illustration of the effects of conflict on a group of women and children in Malaya in ‘A Town Like Alice,’ which came to the Sutton yesterday. Although the murderous trek of these pitiable wanderers, separated from their menfolk by the Japanese invaders, is unfolded in almost documentary detail, only a few of them emerge clearly and whole. Their courage and fortitude have the awesome look of truth, but their terrible adventure is only fitfully striking and dramatic.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Interrupted Melody (1955, musical, Glenn Ford. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With the subject of poliomyelitis very much in the news these days and with the public thus extra-mindful of the prevalence and the terrors of the disease, the Music Hall has a timely picture, as well as a tender and moving one, in M-G-M’s ‘Interrupted Melody.’ It opened there yesterday.For this beautifully made color picture, which is part opera-film, part romance and part inspirational drama, is based on the life of Marjorie Lawrence, the Australian-born opera singer who suffered and overcame polio. And in telling her extraordinary story with candor, simplicity and taste, the studio has got a stirring drama, plus a handsome and melodious one.” Read more…)

A Yank at Oxford (1938, comedy, Robert Taylor. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1938 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Made in England by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to protect its British franchise (it’s something about the quota, but we won’t go into that), the Capitol’s ‘A Yank at Oxford’ turns out to be an uncommonly diverting show. It can’t be the story, for we’ve read the one about the old college spirit before. And it can’t be Robert Taylor, for we still regard that widow’s peak with a cynicism the feminine contingent rightly defines as envy. And it can’t be the track and crew events our Mr. Taylor of Oxford carries off with such Nebraskan aplomb. It must be the accents, the caps and gown, the cycles and the remarkably credible chaps Metro hired to play dean and tutor, scout and students.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Losing Ground (1982, comedy/drama/independent Black film, Seret Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From A.O. Scott’s 2015 New York Times review: “To watch Kathleen Collins’s ‘Losing Ground’ — a 1982 film making its long-awaited theatrical debut at Lincoln Center on Friday as part of ‘Tell It Like It Is,’ a sprawling survey of black independent film of New York from 1968 to 1986 — is to experience a curious blend of nostalgia and novelty. The clothes the characters wear, how they talk and what they talk about, the grainy texture of the images and the weariness of the world they capture — all of these emerge from a time capsule devoted to an era that doesn’t quite have a name. But partly because those images have remained unseen for so long, and partly because Ms. Collins, who died in 1988, was such a bold and idiosyncratic filmmaker, ‘Losing Ground’ also feels like news, like a bulletin from a vital and as-yet-unexplored dimension of reality.” Read more…)

Die! Die! My Darling (1965, horror/thriller, Tallulah Bankhead. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1965 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The addled lady in question in ‘Die! Die! My Darling!’ is the redoubtable Tallulah Bankhead, who presides over a strange manse and even stranger inmates. Dressed in widow’s weeds and looking like a doleful harridan, she is driven by a religious fervor strong enough to frighten a saint. Seems that she is mourning her son, and when Stefanie Powers, as his former fiancée, arrives from America to pay her respects, Miss B. is goaded into demoniac action.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
A Perfect Planet (nature/science/ecology, David Attenborough. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Sean O’Grady’s Independent review: “If Gaia has a voice, it is Attenborough’s distinctive, much-mimicked, slightly breathless one, and it helps make ‘A Perfect Planet’ a near-perfect program. The cinematography is as awesome in scale and majesty as anything that has gone before, capturing both vast panoramas of tropical atolls and the tiniest wrinkly detail of a giant tortoise’s backside. The theme of the series is clever and novel, each episode analyzing one of the great forces of nature that have created “the only planet in the universe, so far as we know, where there is life” – the sun, weather, oceans and so on.” Read more…)

The Projectionist (cinema history, movies, immigrant story, Nicholas Nicolaou. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 65. From Todd McCarthy’s Hollywood Reporter review: “Plainspoken Greek Cypriot immigrant Nicolas ‘Nick’ Nicolaou, who in recent decades has endeavored to keep art and neighborhood movie theaters alive in various New York City boroughs deep into the multiplex era, may not be the most charismatic of screen figures, but his earnest devotion to film and family in a time of pervasive corporatism lends him a distinct Don Quixote profile that proves endearing. After its Tribeca Film Festival premiere, this labor of love should be embraced wherever the term cinephile means anything.” Read more…)