New releases 4/9/19

Top Hits
On the Basis of Sex (Ruth Bader Ginsberg bio-pic, Felicity Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 59. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Ruth Bader] Ginsburg is now one of three women on the nine-member Supreme Court, and not even her most dogged ideological enemies would question her right to be there. [The Senate vote for her confirmation in 1993 was 96-3]. ‘On the Basis of Sex,’ directed by Mimi Leder from a screenplay by Daniel Stiepleman [Justice Ginsburg’s nephew], is interested in Ginsburg’s role in bringing about this change. Rather than trace the full arc of her career, it focuses on the first sex-discrimination case she argued in federal court in the early 1970s, and on the development of a legal strategy to challenge injustices so deeply ingrained as to seem perfectly natural.” Read more…)

A Dog’s Way Home (family/adventure, Ashley Judd. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 50. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The new movie’s scenario mixes a large number of heartstring-pulling tropes: abandoned animals, war veterans with PTSD, a socially awkward male protagonist who adopts a suddenly motherless half-pit-bull whelp in a town where the breed is outlawed, a painful separation. And so, the dog, Bella, must make an arduous trek. Arduous — and weird.” Read more…)

Holmes & Watson (adventure/comedy, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 24. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In Arthur Conan Doyle’s original telling, Sherlock Holmes indulged in morphine and cocaine because the drugs offered him a break from ‘the dull routine of existence.’ His mind, Dr. Watson recalls him saying in ‘The Sign of Four’ (1890), rebelled at ‘stagnation.’ Problems, work and cryptograms: Their inspiration would permit him to dispense with ‘artificial stimulants.’ More laughs are all that would have been necessary to prevent the stagnation of ‘Holmes & Watson’; as the movie stands, smuggling in booze to dispel the sense of dull routine could only help.” Read more…)

Welcome to Marwen (biography/comedy/drama, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Robert] Zemeckis’s version is partly a story of indomitability in the face of hardship and partly a lesson in the practice of kindness. Mark’s resilience is impressive, as is the gentle respect he is shown by friends, neighbors and co-workers. But what makes the movie interesting — and disturbing on a few different levels — is how its sentimental, inspirational elements do battle with darker impulses.” Read more…)

Untogether (drama, Jemima Kirke. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 46. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Dreamily shot in Los Angeles by Autumn Durald Arkapaw, ‘Untogether’ toys with themes of faith and self-knowledge. But in a movie where quips [‘You look like velvet, but you’re Velcro’] too often substitute for conversation, insight is fleeting.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Berlin, I Love You (Germany, drama/romance, Keira Knightley. Rotten Tomatoes: 13%. Metacritic: 34. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The once-divided nature of Berlin isn’t given much consideration in ‘Berlin, I Love You,’ the fifth film in the Cities of Love anthology series. The city itself doesn’t get a whole lot of consideration, either… most of this movie, which is almost entirely in English, is taken up with tone-deaf humanist tales.” Read more…)

The Charmer (Denmark, drama/romance, Ardalan Esmaili. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “‘The Charmer’ is a Danish thriller about an Iranian named Esmail. Played by Ardalan Esmaili, he’s handsome in a youthful, gentle, intelligent way. We see him in bed and on dates with women. But you need only a few scenes to understand that nothing about the sex and seduction corresponds to regular dating. Esmail is desperate — an immigrant, not a tourist. And the movie, in nail-biting, onion-peeling style, explains what he’s desperate for. To stay in Denmark, he needs one of these connections to turn into a relationship with a woman willing to say that he’s hers.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Tarnished Angels (1958, Douglas Sirk-directed drama, Rock Hudson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Douglas Sirk’s films have grown in critical renown from the time when they were first released. As Roger Ebert wrote in 1998, “Opinion on the melodramas of Douglas Sirk has flip-flopped since his key films were released in the 1950s. At the time, critics ridiculed them and the public lapped them up. Today most viewers dismiss them as pop trash, but in serious film circles Sirk is considered a great filmmaker—a German who fled Hitler to become the sly subverter of American postwar materialism.”
From Bosley Crowther’s less than complimentary 1957 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[William] Faulkner’s faded story does have some flavor of the old barnstorming tours of the early air-circus fliers, but there is precious little of it in this film, which was badly, cheaply written by George Zuckerman and is abominably played by a hand-picked cast. The sentiments are inflated—blown out of all proportions to the values involved. And the acting, under Douglas Sirk’s direction, is elaborate and absurd.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Honeysuckle Rose (1980, music/romance, Willie Nelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. From Janet Maslin’s 1980 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The direction, by Jerry Schatzberg, aims for general impressions rather than simple ones, and its only focus is the redoubtable Willie Nelson, who commands attention absolutely whenever he appears on screen. In Mr. Nelson’s performance, and in his singing turns, the film schemes a recision in sharp contrast to the vagueness that afflicts t otherwise.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Mrs. Wilson (espionage mini-series, Ruth Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 70. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “So rather than the historical adventure or romance it might have been in an earlier era, ‘Mrs. Wilson’ is an interrogation of history, a feminist critique of mid-20th-century British society, a mystery and, least satisfyingly, a character study. The strangeness of the story, and Ruth Wilson’s characteristic intensity, pull us along.” Read more…)

New TV
Dirty John: Season 1 (drama series, Connie Britton. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 58. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “Near the end of the hit podcast ‘Dirty John,’ a super-creepy true story about a predatory Southern California con man and one of the women he targeted, the reporter Christopher Goffard poses a question that’s been hanging for six episodes: What made John Meehan, a handsome, athletic nurse anesthesiologist, Dirty John? What goes on in the mind of a man who exploits and brutalizes one woman after another while claiming to be their victim? … Television dramas need their comprehensibility, though, and ‘Dirty John’ is now a scripted TV series, beginning Sunday on Bravo. Only three of eight episodes were made available, so we don’t know if it will provide the sort of answers Goffard was willing to forgo. But it’s already clear that “Dirty John” has been turned into a different, lesser, more digestible beast for TV.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Gospel of Eureka (LGBTQ life, community, Southern culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 66. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Buffing difference into sameness is the movie’s modus operandi. Helped by a homespun narration and good-natured interviews, the filmmakers lock down a ‘no rancor here’ tone that vigorously asserts itself at every turn. Discord over an anti-discrimination ordinance simmers quietly in the background, and a resident recalls his mother explaining his father’s late-life coming-out as submission to ‘a sexual disease,’ but nothing is permitted to rankle the optimism.” Read more…)

Journey of the Universe (science, philosophy, Mary Evelyn Tucker)

New Children’s DVDs
Mirai (animated feature, John Cho [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Bilge Ebiri’s Times review: “Fluctuating between the minor daily occurrences of Kun’s life and his touching sojourns into the past and the future, Hosoda’s film privileges moments of emotion over belabored story mechanics. Thus, it gathers complexity without sacrificing any of its guileless modesty. In the best possible way, ‘Mirai’ feels like the dream of a very wise child.” Read more…)