New releases 5/4/21

Top Hits
Judas and the Black Messiah (historical drama, Daniel Kaluuya. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. Metacritic: 85. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ represents a disciplined, impassioned effort to bring clarity to a volatile moment, to dispense with the sentimentality and revisionism that too often cloud movies about the ’60s and about the politics of race. It’s fascinating in its own right, and even more so when looked at alongside other recent movies.” Read more…)

The Little Things (thriller, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by John Lee Hancock and starring Denzel Washington as a weary professional with keen instincts and a battered conscience, ‘The Little Things’ is an unapologetic throwback. It broods over the psychologically and spiritually damaging effects of police work as its two main detectives (Rami Malek alongside Washington) pursue an elusive, malignant murderer of women.” Read more…)

The Professor & The Madman (drama/biography, Sean Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 27. From Jay Weissberg’s Variety review: “For those that have been anticipating this curious, much-delayed oddity, the good news is that Gibson is fine; it’s everything else that doesn’t work. Given that Gibson is refusing to do publicity (and doubtless neither will co-star Sean Penn), the film’s chances of attracting audiences seem minuscule. But at least the possibility finally exists. Only Safinia and his closest collaborators know just how much tinkering went on following his departure, but editing, alongside truly uninspired dialogue, are the picture’s biggest flaws.” Read more…)

Cowboys (drama, Steve Zahn. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The conflicts at the heart of ‘Cowboys’ are timely, coming in a moment when trans children and their rights are at the forefront of American political debate. But the writer and director Anna Kerrigan doesn’t sensationalize her story. Her characters don’t speak as if they were addressing the audience from a pulpit.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Judas and the Black Messiah

New Foreign
Moka (France, drama, Emmanuelle Devos. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Something has to give, obviously, and the movie’s climax has sufficient twists and turns for a conventional payoff. But the movie, adapted from a novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, is ultimately more concerned with the genuinely tragic dimensions of the story than its suspense angles. That point is driven home with a final scene that is likely to move audience members to tears, just as it does Diane. ‘Moka’ is also a first-rate showcase for two of French cinema’s finest actors, Ms. Devos and Ms. Baye, both of whom do career-high work here.” Read more…)

The Day of the Beast (Spain, 1995, horror, Álex Angulo. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1999 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “If Quentin Tarantino had gotten his directorial hands on ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ or ‘The Exorcist,’ the results might very well have resembled ‘The Day of the Beast.’ Part black comedy, part lurid cartoon, part paranoid theological melodrama with a heavy metal undercurrent, this subtitled Spanish film arrives today at Cinema Village trailing half a dozen Goyas, the Spanish equivalents of Oscars.” Read more…)

Viy (Russia, 1967, horror, Natalya Varley. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.)

New British DVDs
Atlantic Crossing (historically-based mini-series, Kyle MacLahlan. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 71. From Caroline Hallemann’s Town & Country review: “Inspired by the real-life experiences of the Norwegian royal family during the German occupation of their country in World War II, ‘Atlantic Crossing’ fictionalizes Crown Princess Märtha’s journey to safety in the U.S., and her influential relationship with President FDR. It’s that combination of royal history and political drama that really scratches the same itch as ‘The Crown.’ Plus, no major spoilers, but Queen Elizabeth’s parents even show up for a few episodes.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Reflecting Skin (1991, drama, Viggo Mortensen. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Vincent Canby’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film is the first to be written and directed by Mr. Ridley, the Englishman who wrote the screenplay for ‘The Krays.’ He seems to have a lot on his mind, though none of it is yet sorted out. He is reported to have said that he conceived ‘The Reflecting Skin’ at a period in his life when he was reading “Alice in Wonderland” and looking at a lot of paintings by Andrew Wyeth. You can make of that what you will.” Read more…)

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963, suspense, George C. Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review: “In ‘The List of Adrian Messenger,’ John Huston pulls a stunt that helps neither his reputation nor his plainly mediocre mystery film. He has some well-known Hollywood actors got up in disguises appear as assorted small characters in the picture without identifying them in the cast. Then, when the drama is over, he has them pull off their rubber masks and show themselves, with winks and simpers, as though they were clever, indeed. They aren’t.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Hemingway (bio, writing, Ernest Hemingway. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “‘Hemingway’ doesn’t separate art and artist. Hemingway didn’t either. He created a public “avatar” that sometimes overshadowed his work [and threatened to make him a self-caricature] and wrote his life into his art [sometimes with cruelty toward friends and peers]. But the documentary also recognizes that life and art don’t always correlate neatly or simply. The resulting biography is clear-eyed about its subject but emotional about his legacy. “ Read more…)

M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity (art, bio, dorm room posters, M.C. Escher. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 74. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The film is strongest when it uses animation to illustrate Escher’s ideas, as when it unbends the curves of a lithograph to more clearly show what it depicts: a man in a gallery looking at a picture of the very scene he is in, a perspective repeated endlessly. We learn how Escher applied ideas from the mosaics at the Alhambra in Spain to imagery from the natural world. He describes the associative thinking — his mind jumping from a hexagon to a honeycomb to a bee — that inspired his subject matter and says he feels a kinship to Bach’s use of repetition and variation.” Read more…)

F.T.A. (antiwar activism, vaudeville, cultural politics, Vietnam war, Jane Fonda Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 75. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times write-up of this movie’s re-release: “‘F.T.A.’, an agitprop rockumentary that ran for a week in July 1972, reappears as an exhumed relic, recording the joyfully scurrilous anti-Vietnam War vaudeville led by Jane Fonda that toured the towns outside American military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan. The movie, directed by Francine Parker, who produced it along with Fonda and Donald Sutherland, opened the same day that Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam made news. The film, greeted with outrage and consigned to oblivion, has been restored by IndieCollect, and is enjoying a belated second (virtual) run.” Read more…)

Anime/Animation
Death Note: The Complete Series (2006, anime, fantasy. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)