New releases 4/13/21

Top Hits
Willy’s Wonderland (horror/action, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 44. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “If Rob Zombie made a slasher movie that was also an ‘attack of the killer Muppets’ movie, it might look like ‘Willy’s Wonderland.’ Directed by Kevin Lewis, from a script by G.O. Parsons, this defiantly out-of-the-box and in some ways rather cunning grunge horror film, set from dusk till dawn inside a run-down family fun center, is a tongue-in-cheek thriller that knows how preposterous it is.” Read more…)

I Blame Society (comedy, Gillian Wallace Horvat. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 66. From Liz Whittemore’s Reel News Daily review: “There is no female equivalent for the phrase ‘Balls.’ What would that even look like? Lippy? ‘I Blame Society’ is extra lippy. Starring as a version of herself, filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat says all the quiet parts out loud. Then she acts on them just to make a point. And goddamnit, virtual high five from me. This script is unapologetic, bold, and genuinely hilarious.” 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…)

New Foreign
My Little Sister (Germany/Switzerland, drama, Nina Hoss. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘My Little Sister,’ a tender domestic drama from the Swiss writers and directors Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, faces terminal illness with a refreshing emotional candor. Lisa [Nina Hoss], a gifted Berlin playwright, stopped writing on the day that her beloved twin brother, Sven [Lars Eidinger], a celebrated theater actor, received his leukemia diagnosis. Since then, she’s been living in artistic limbo in Switzerland, where her husband [Jens Albinus] teaches at a prestigious boarding school. But the demands of Sven’s illness, and Lisa’s inability to accept his decline, only tug her closer to her brother and further from her fracturing marriage.” Read more…)

Fire Will Come (Spain, drama, Amador Arias. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The opening shots of this new film from the French-born Spanish director Oliver Laxe constitute a kind of declaration of aesthetic principles. Deep in a dark forest, the cinematographer Mauro Herce’s camera descends from a height, then glides ahead, slowly. In unobtrusive cuts, the frame reveals more detail, accentuating the bareness of the trees. The images evoke curiosity and awe without being pompous about it. And soon we see a bulldozer, piling into the wood.” Read more…)

Women Without Men (Iran, drama, Orsi Toth. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 68. From Stephen Holden’s 2010 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Every frame of ‘Women Without Men’ and every image within those frames attest to the background of its first-time director, Shirin Neshat, as a photographer celebrated for her explorations of Islamic gender issues. This visually transfixing film, which originated as a video installation, has the feel of an exhibition of Ms. Neshat’s work whose figures have stirred to life to play out a tragic feminist allegory. With its intense chiaroscuro and meticulous manipulation of color that ranges from stark black and white to richer, shifting hues in scenes set in a metaphorical orchard, the film surpasses even Michael Haneke’s ‘White Ribbon’ in the fierce beauty and precision of its cinematography [by Martin Gschlacht].” Read more…)

The Mole Agent (Chile, documentary/drama on elder abuse. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The movie’s straddling of the dramatic and the documentary forms is unsettling. Unless you unquestioningly accept its method, this chronicle can look like a glaring invasion of privacy. But the film’s people are moving, and the payoff is compassionate, humane and worth heeding.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Captive Heart (1946, war drama, Michael Redgrave. From A.W.’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The English film makers take a good look at what happened to their prisoners of war in Germany during the late conflict. That examination is unbiased and compassionate to both captive and captor, and despite a somewhat complex story line, which snags the action, this topical and discerning drama emerges as one of the season’s finest importations.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Farmer’s Daughter (1947, comedy/romance, Loretta Young. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a thoroughly pure and pristine examination of the vagaries of romance, mixed in with some healthy observations upon the chicane of politics. And it is also a cheerful comedy-drama of the sort that the movies handle well when they get on the subject of American character without too much sugar in their spoon.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
September 30, 1955 (1978, drama, Richard Thomas. From Vincent Canby’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “We seem to be in the grip of a whole new batch of movies that are as much meditations on the meaning of various aspects of American popular culture as they are demonstrations of that culture—‘Saturday Night Fever,’ ‘American Hot Wax,’ ‘Handle With Care’ now James Bridges’s funny, solemn, dead-on-accurate ‘September 30, 1955.’ The film, which opens today at the Cinema II, is all about the sturm und drang precipitated on that day, nearly 23 years ago, in one small Arkansas college town when word is received that James Dean has been killed in a car crash in California.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (bio, brain science, writing, Oliver Sacks. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The neurologist and author recounts anguish, alienation and drug addiction in the book ‘On The Move,’ which this documentary, directed by Ric Burns, shows Sacks seeing to publication in the months before his death. A deftly edited mix of archival footage, still imagery, talking-head interviews and in-the-moment narrative, ‘His Own Life’ — which in a perfect world would be a companion piece to Sacks’s book, not the substitute some might make it — illuminates details of what can only be called an extraordinary existence.“ Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Urgh! A Music War (1981, concert video, The Police, Devo, Joan Jett, more. From Robert Palmer’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Urgh! A Music War’ consists of 25 songs or song fragments performed by 24 bands. The opening and closing songs are played by The Police, the most commercially successful group involved. Apparently, the idea behind the format was that the film be ‘democratic’ and reflect the anti-elitist sentiments of the movement it documents. But few rock groups can communicate much of what they stand for or are capable of in one song.” Read more…)