New releases 5/18/21

Top Hits
The Father (drama, Anthony Hopkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “At once stupendously effective and profoundly upsetting, ‘The Father’ might be the first movie about dementia to give me actual chills. On its face a simple, uncomfortably familiar story about the heartbreaking mental decline of a beloved parent, this first feature from the French novelist and playwright Florian Zeller plays with perspective so cleverly that maintaining any kind of emotional distance is impossible.” Read more…)

The Nest (drama/mystery, Jude Law. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Nest’ is the first feature Sean Durkin has written and directed since his formidable debut, the cult-detox drama ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ [2011]. The long wait burdens the new movie with high expectations. In contrast to the dreamlike subjectivity of ‘Martha Marcy,’ ‘The Nest’ is a coldly observational study of a Reagan-Thatcher-era family divided in ambitions, nationality and — with respect to the children — parentage.” Read more…)

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (drama/gay & lesbian, Steven Silver. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 53. From Beandra July’s Hollywood Reporter review: “An agonizing tale about the weight society hoists upon too many black gay men’s weary shoulders, it’s the kind of film that lingers in your mind days after you’ve seen it, as much due to the relevant subject matter as to Tunde’s penetrating gaze. The cinematography plays with foreground and background, often deploying a visual vocabulary of two-shots where one character is in focus and the other is blurry, both usually in profile.” Read more…)

Minari (drama, Steven Yeun. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A warm sense of familiarity is one of the film’s charms. The chronicle of an immigrant family, often told through the eyes of a child, is a staple of American literature and popular culture. But every family — every family member, for that matter — has a distinct set of experiences and memories, and the fidelity to those is what makes ‘Minari,’ in its circumspect, gentle way, moving and downright revelatory.” Read more…)

Shithouse (comedy, Cooper Raiff. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Raiff’s talkathon is both more and less than it appears: more in that it takes structural chances [a lengthy, awkward day-after follows Alex and Maggie’s time-stopping evening of outpourings], and it locates a few kernels of truth about the difficulties of adapting to an unfamiliar place. But its insights rest in generic characters, who are simply too perfect as foils despite their ostensible flaws.” Read more…)

The Twentieth Century (Canada, comedy/drams, Dan Beirne. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Matthew Rankin’s loony debut feature, ‘The Twentieth Century,’ presents a feverish reimagining of turn-of-the-20th-century Canada. An exuberant feat of visual design, it’s meticulously weird and full of rambunctious humor.” Read more…)

Test Pattern (drama, Brittany S. Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “Test Pattern” achieves a lot with very little: The film’s nonlinear editing and cannily scored silences invite our interpretations, locating in them the entanglements of race and gender. [Director Shatara Michelle] Ford pushes us, if not to definitive answers, then to the right questions.” Read more…)

Raya and the Last Dragon (animated feature, Awkwafina [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “Faith in the goodness of other people — even those from distant lands and of different persuasions — is the governing theme of ‘Raya and the Last Dragon,’ which the directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, and the screenwriters Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, set in a fantasyland version of Southeast Asia complete with floating markets, water taxis and lots of shrimp congee.” Read more…)

Tom & Jerry: The Movie (blended animated-live action feature, Chloe Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 32%. From Jason Bailey’s New York Times review: “Affectionate nostalgia can attach itself to the most inexplicable and undeserving of recipients, which is about the only explanation for the existence of ‘Tom & Jerry,’ a new feature-length expansion of the cartoon shorts of the 1940s and 1950s [and endless television rebroadcasts thereafter]. Those were simple, slapstick cat-and-mouse chase comedies; here, the characters are uneasily blended, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’-style, into a live-action New York City.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Supernova (gay & lesbian drama, Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “It’s rare to see a cinematic drama executed with such consistent care as ‘Supernova,’ written and directed by Harry Macqueen and starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. And here, that care pays off to devastating effect.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Baxter (France, 1989, horror/comedy, Lisa Delamare. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Vincent Canby’s 1990 Times review [requires log-in]: “Its satire is deadly sharp, often funny, sometimes mean and, at the end, a tiny bit sentimental. Though it frequently looks at the world through the eyes of Baxter, whose thoughts are heard on the soundtrack, the film doesn’t allow itself to be hobbled by consistency.” Read more…)

Madame Rosa (France, 1977, drama, Simone Signoret. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Vincent Canby’s 1978 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Though it’s not an Israeli movie, ‘Madame Rosa’ makes profoundly moving the kind of emotions that have earlier been involved rather than effectively demonstrated by Mr. Mizrahi in even ‘The House on Chelouche Street.’ ‘Madame Rosa,’ which opens today at the Plaza Theater, is sweet and tough in conventional ways, but it also acknowledges something you don’t often see except in the films of directors like Renoir and Truffaut, that the greatest courage may often be the will to go on, to continue, in the conviction that there is nothing but darkness beyond.” Read more…)

Twilight’s Kiss (China, gay &lesbian/drama/romance, Tai Bo. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 71. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Pak, a 70-year-old Hong Kong taxi driver, fits cruising into his daily routine, away from the eyes of his suspicious wife. Then at a park he meets Hoi, a twinkly-eyed retiree with a dapper mustache, and the two nurture a deeper, tender connection that’s at the heart of ‘Twilight’s Kiss,’ a look at love that comes late and is burdened by a lifetime of hidebound norms.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Suitable Boy (UK/India period drama directed by Mira Nair, Tanya Maniktala. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 73. From Bilal Qureshi’s New York Times article about the adaptation of the novel “A Suitable Boy” to television: “When ‘A Suitable Boy’ was published in 1993, the 1,349-page tome about post-Independence India, written by Vikram Seth, became one of the longest English-language novels in print. Superlative reviews around the world ensured its place in the door-stopping canon of modern literary classics… Now, after several stalled attempts, the beloved novel has been adapted into a lavish new six-part series, directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair [‘Salaam Bombay!,’ ‘Monsoon Wedding’]. When it debuted on BBC One in July, it was lauded in Britain as the network’s first prime-time drama filmed on location in India with an almost entirely Indian cast. In India, the reaction was more complicated: Members of the ruling Hindu nationalist party have called for a boycott over its depictions of interfaith romance.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Merrily We Go to Hell (1932, pre-Code drama dir. by Dorothy Arzner, Criterion Collection, Fredric March. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There have been many strange changes in story titles, but few of them as strange as that of the picture at this theatre. Imagine Cleo Lucas’s novel, ‘I. Jerry, Take Thee, Joan,’ being known in shadow form as ‘Merrily We Go to Hell’! This production is another with excellent acting, especially by Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March, but the many scenes showing constant intoxication of a newspaper man who writes a successful play are not particularly interesting or edifying.” Read more…)

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 4:
      Jewel Robbery (1932, comedy/crime/romance, William Powell. From A.D.S.’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “What they have tried to accomplish in transplanting Laszlo Fodor’s Viennese comedy, ‘Jewel Robbery,’ to the cinema pastures is probably more praiseworthy than the way they have accomplished it. The new resident at the Strand has most of the staples of excellent warm-weather comedy. The situation is as capricious, the dialogue as sprightly and the settings as sinfully luxurious as they ought to be.” Read more…)
      Lawyer Man (1932, drama/romance, William Powell. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The latest picture to turn the light on the activities of a keen-witted member of the bar is ‘Lawyer Man,’ which is now at the Hollywood. Sometimes this feature recalls turns in ‘The Mouthpiece,’ but the current offering is none the less quite entertaining.” Read more…)
      They Call It Sin (1932, drama, Loretta Young. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Loretta Young, who was seen recently as the unfortunate mother in ‘Life Begins,’ has a more congenial rôle in this current feature. It is that of a girl from a Kansas town who invades New York City with every intention of becoming the bride of a young man of means whom she had met on her native heath, but, in the end, she is quite satisfied to settle down as the bride of his best friend. This is the principal difference between the story of ‘They Call It Sin’ and that of other films concerned with provincial maidens who risk the pitfalls of a big city.” Read more…)
      Man Wanted (1932, comedy/drama/romance, Kay Francis)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, comedy, Criterion Collection, Sean Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 61. From Janet Maslin’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Can there be anything about life in high school, particularly life in a suburban California high school, that the movie-going public hasn’t already seen? Well, maybe there can. A little bit of it turns up in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ a jumbled but appealing teen-age comedy with something of a fresh perspective on the subject.” Read more…)

Being There (1979, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Peter Sellers. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. From Roger Ebert’s 1997 writeup as a “Great Movie”: “Satire is a threatened species in American film, and when it does occur, it’s usually broad and slapstick, as in the Mel Brooks films. ‘Being There,’ directed by Hal Ashby, is a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it. It has the appeal of an ingenious intellectual game, in which the hero survives a series of challenges he doesn’t understand, using words that are both universal and meaningless.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Wojnarowicz (art, gay & lesbian, AIDS activism, censorship, David Wojnarowicz. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Directed by Chris McKim, this exemplary documentary on the artist (which is also a mini-chronicle of the East Village art scene of 1970s and ’80s New York) takes advantage of Wojnarowicz’s penchant for self-documentation, drawing on the cassette journals he began keeping even before he was a fully formed creator. The documents Wojnarowicz maintained in this period, during which his art became inextricable from his activism, guide the viewer into the second American hellscape Wojnarowicz experienced: the AIDS epidemic.” Read more…)

Searching for Secret Heroes (blues musicians, musicology, Sam Charters)