New releases 5/21/19

Top Hits
The Upside (comedy/drama based on French film The Intouchables, Bryan Cranston. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 46. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “What a difference a cast makes. If the director Neil Burger’s decision to have Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart play the leads in the odd-couple comedy ‘The Upside’ — a remake of the 2012 French film ‘The Intouchables’ — doesn’t erase the original’s sins, it blurs them just enough. As a result, this impolitic [some might say offensive] tale of Phillip [Cranston], a wealthy, white quadriplegic, and Dell [Hart], the black parolee who restores his will to live, is surprisingly winning. Some squinting will be required to block out the race and class stereotyping, as well as the puddles of sentiment scattered throughout the highly predictable plot. Yet Jon Hartmere’s script has genuinely funny moments and is blessedly short on crassness” Read more…)

Isn’t It Romantic (rom-com, Rebel Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “[Actress Rebel] Wilson, leaning on her comic persona to compensate for the script’s lack of wit or inventiveness, is a reliable deadpanner. Her one-liners — calling the alternate universe she’s trapped in ‘“The Matrix” for lonely women,’ for example — are funny enough to carry this featherweight movie as far as it can go, which isn’t far. The film’s reliance on conventions even as it snickers at them gives it the faint air of a con.” Read more…)

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (animated feature, Jay Baruchel [voice], Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 71. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘How to Train Your Dragon’ may not be the most beloved of computer-animated franchises, but it is one of the most reliable. The latest installment, ‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,’ gives the now-trilogy a pleasing arc.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Let the Sunshine In (France, romance/drama dir. by Claire Denis, Juliette Binoche. Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 79. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Claire] Denis, consistently the most interesting French filmmaker of the 21st century [see ‘Beau Travail,’ ‘White Material’ and ’35 Shots of Rum,’ among others], focuses her attention on a subject that could easily have been rendered sad, sensational or sentimental. The sexuality of middle-aged women, when it comes up at all in Hollywood, tends to be treated with either pity or condescending encouragement. As played by Juliette Binoche, Isabelle is defiantly immune to both of those, and even, at times, to the audience’s sympathy.” Read more…)

Sorry Angel (France, drama/romance/gay, Pierre Deladonchamps Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “It took a while for this digressive movie to get its hooks in me, but once it did, ‘Sorry Angel’ didn’t let go. A big part of it is Jacques, who in [actor Pierre] Deladonchamps’s hands is one of the most layered film characters I’ve experienced in some time. Egotistic, mercurial, erudite, recklessly affectionate, careless, vindictive, impulsive, he can turn from exasperating to heartbreaking in seconds flat.” Read more…)

The Image Book (France, film essay by Jean-Luc Godard, Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This moment feels right for ‘The Image Book,’ composed [like much other late Godard] of video clips counterpointed with literary texts and classical music, all of it partitioned into numbered, cryptically titled chapters. I found it haunting, thrilling and confounding in equal measure. It is a work of ecstatic despair, an argument for the futility of human effort that almost refutes itself through the application of a grumpy and tenacious artistic will.” Read more…)

Trouble Every Day (France, 2001, drama/horror dir. by Claire Denis, Vincent Gallo. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 40. From Stephen Holden’s 2002 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “To describe the sex scenes in Claire Denis’s erotic horror film ‘Trouble Every Day’ as indelible isn’t to say they are the least bit inviting or easy to watch. This daring, intermittently beautiful failure of a movie, by the director who emerged with ‘Beau Travail’ as one of France’s greatest filmmakers, explores with gruesome explicitness the metaphor of sex as cannibalism. The squeamish are strongly advised to avoid the film, which created a minor scandal when it was shown last spring at the Cannes Film Festival.” Read more…)

The Weissensee Saga: Season 3 (Germany, historical drama in 1980s East Germany, Uwe Kockisch)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Above and Beyond (1952, Enola Gay pilot war drama, Robert Taylor. From Bosley Crowther’s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Having already dramatized the story of the development of the atomic bomb and its fateful delivery on Hiroshima in ‘The Beginning or the End,’ Metro is now concentrating on a personal aspect of that history in ‘Above and Beyond,’ a fervent romance that arrived at the Mayfair yesterday. This is the documented story of Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., then man the Air Forces carefully selected to organize the first atomic bomb crew and lead that first strike against Hiroshima, which he courageously did. For the purpose of strong dramatic interest, Metro has taken the tale of Colonel Tibbets’ historic adventure and built it up as a poignant account of the physical and mental burdens imposed upon the man. Above and beyond the pressures of the military responsibilities involved, including those of maintaining the strictest secrecy, the studio has put particular emphasis upon the grave domestic tensions that occurred—or are said to have occurred—when the colonel had to conceal his assignment from his wife.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
American Anthem (1986, sports drama, Mitch Gaylord. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. From Walter Goodman’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘American Anthem,’ which opens today at the Ziegfeld and other theaters, is a disco sound-and-light show about gymnastics. The nonstop sound goes from heavenly choruses to demonic rock but never manages to drown out the dialogue; the hyped-up lighting invests people with halos, and the colors must have been compounded by a punk hairdresser.” Read more…)

No Holds Barred (1989, sports/action, Hulk Hogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. From Stephen Holden’s 1989 New York Times review [requires log-in]: ”The fact that nothing about Mr. Hogan really adds up no doubt helps account for his popularity. His sober speaking voice outside of the ring does not match his wild roars when doing battle. The amused gleam in his eye hints at a canny intelligence behind the sinew and sweat. And his exaggeratedly stagy bouts make only a token attempt to look real. More than Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mr. Hogan behaves like a self-invented comic-book character sprung to life. ‘No Holds Barred,’ which opened yesterday at the Criterion 1 and other local theaters, is as cartoonish as its star.” Read more…)

New British
Robbery (1967, gangster/crime, Stanley Baker. From Roger Ebert’s 1968 review: “’Robbery,’ an unheralded British film about the Great Train Robbery of 1963, has crept into neighborhood theaters under cover of night. It works, it’s good. It doesn’t get sidetracked by a lot of cute dialog and psychoanalysis, like ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ [1968]. We don’t need to be told why a man would rob a bank; we just want to know how he gets away with it, right? John Dillinger was not a folk hero in vain.” Read more…)

Les Misérables (Victor Hugo mini-series, Dominic West. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 79. From Roslyn Sulcas’ New York Times preview: “There is not much that’s looking up for any character in Victor Hugo’s epic 1862 novel ‘Les Misérables,’ which has provided the subject matter for dozens of theater, television and film adaptations, most famously the blockbuster musical that zillions of fans affectionately call ‘Les Miz.’ But this six-part television adaptation, which first aired in Britain from December to February and arrives on Masterpiece on Sunday, might come as a surprise to those who only know the musical. This version hews much more closely to Hugo’s book, a five-volume, 365-chapter novel that over the course of its complex plot explores history, law, politics, religion and ideas about justice, guilt and redemption.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Chef Flynn (coming-of-age, food, culinary culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 63. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Before his teenage years, Flynn McGarry contrived a fully functional kitchen in his bedroom. Nurtured by parents who were professionals in creative fields, he enlisted his school pals to “staff” his increasingly elaborate meals, made in a style heavily influenced by the elegant minimalism of restaurants like New York’s Eleven Madison Park… ‘Chef Flynn’ is an engaging documentary about McGarry’s boy-to-man journey, which concludes as he prepares to open his own restaurant in Manhattan. [Our restaurant critic, Pete Wells, awarded his place, Gem, two stars over the summer, citing some reservations about the service.]” Read more…)