New releases 7/21/20

Top Hits
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach-directed social drama, Kris Hitchen. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “I’ll never forget the pleading that goes on in ‘Sorry We Missed You.’ It’s desperate but futile. Life goes on, they say. So does the global marketplace. If you order a shower curtain or diapers or a new phone, you probably need it yesterday. Ken Loach’s brutally moving agitprop drama demands a thought be spared for the anonymous souls who drop this stuff off. That shower curtain might be the death of them.” Read more…)

Come to Daddy (comedy, horror, Elijah Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “More than one set of male genitals appears to be savaged in ‘Come to Daddy’[others, happily, are displayed without penalty], but not until the midpoint of this dementedly comic thriller do we recognize the means of reproduction as its driving force. Of course, any movie that features the line ‘Semen contains more protein and nutrients than an ear,’ and opens with paired quotations from Shakespeare and Beyoncé, might not be entirely on the level.” Read more…)

Hope Gap (drama/romance, Annette Bening. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 58. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “The dramatic portrait of a crumbling marriage or relationship often lends itself to intense performance, allowing actors to spar with one another while playing out heightened, if not uncommon, circumstances. Usually this involves harsh words, yelling, crying, thrown objects. This is true of Edward [Bill Nighy] and Grace [Annette Bening], the central couple in the writer and director William Nicholson’s intimate, sometimes engaging ‘Hope Gap.’” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Wild Goose Lake (China, crime/drama, Ge Hu. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This movie doesn’t recycle film noir conventions so much as contrive — with a genuine sense of discovery — to locate these conventions in a realistic contemporary context. The economic impoverishment of its principals is a key motivating factor; there’s a strong implication that it steered Zhou into criminality, while Liu’s matter-of-fact approach to prostitution [revealed in a ‘love’ scene that begins with notes of tenderness and ends with blunt retching] carries a near-tragic resignation.” Read more…)

The Great Buddha+ (Taiwan, comedy/drama, Cres Chuang. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s capsule New York Times review: “Using a moody, noirish monochrome palette [punctuated with garish swatches of color video] and mordant, monotone voice-over narration [interrupted by stretches of deadpan dialogue], Huang Hsin-yao composes a dark satire of corruption and class resentment in Taiwan.” Read more…)

Corpus Christi (Poland, drama, Bartosz Bielenia. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “If the Oscar-winning “Parasite” feels like it has the potential to change the landscape for subtitled films in the United States, ‘Corpus Christi,’ which lost to ‘Parasite’ in the best international feature category, plays like more of a throwback to a time when subtitles signified stark seriousness. Shot in a grim, desaturated palette, this Polish film, directed by Jan Komasa, addresses big issues of conscience and morality. The symbolism (a simple sawmill worker becomes a carpenter-Christ figure) is blunt; the drama is straightforward.” Read more…)

Leto (Russia, music bio-pic/drama, Teo Yoo. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Drawing loosely from the lives of the Soviet rock musicians Viktor Tsoi and Mike Naumenko, ‘Leto’ plays less like a biopic than a loving compilation of fictionalized, fan-inspired notes. Set in the underground music scene of a pre-perestroika, early 1980s Leningrad, the featherlight plot [by the director, Kirill Serebrennikov, and several others] drifts hither and yon. Caught at the crossroads of rock, punk and New Wave, Mike [Roman Bilyk] and his band inhale Bowie and Iggy Pop, spitting out their own compositions in a cavernous club where lyrics must be preapproved by a Party official.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Merry Widow (1925, silent opera directed by Erich von Stroheim, John Gilbert. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1925 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This picture is one of strong passions, and it is in many respects ably directed. There are points where it would have been better for Mr. von Stroheim to have an iron hand over him. You see the arrival of Monteblanc’s royalty, and the next scene shows you a few pigs. This is a true Stroheim touch. He wishes to give you continual contrasts, and should a splendidly uniformed Prince in white, red and gold fall, it is not on a dry pavement but in some convenient pool of the blackest mire.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Only When I Laugh (1981, Neil Simon comedy, Marsha Mason. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 New York Times review p[requires log-in]: “Using reportedly no more than 15 lines from ‘The Gingerbread Lady,’ his 1970 Broadway failure, Neil Simon has written what seems to be a new, upbeat, often funny and, on at least one occasion, harrowing comedy about an alcoholic, ‘Only When I Laugh.’ His troubled heroine is Georgia Hines, a Broadway actress given to bad relationships with men and a dependency on the bottle that has very nearly wrecked her career.” Read more…)

Bye Bye Birdie (1995, musical, Jason Alexander. From John J. O’Connor’s 1995 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “In fact, this is a swell production, going back to the show’s original innocence, which was lost in the film version starring a sex-kittenish Ann-Margret. This version, directed by Gene Saks, captures the sweet looniness of an era in which nymphets shrieked hysterically for their pop idols. The only threats these teen-agers face are fretting parents, one of whom indignantly wails, ‘You dare say puberty in front of your own father!’” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Shoah (Claude Lanzmann-directed Holocaust documentary, Criterion Collection. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This is the extraordinary accomplishment of ‘Shoah’ [in Hebrew, ‘Annihilation’], [director Claude] Lanzmann’s huge, almost nine-and-a-half hour oral history of the Holocaust, which is unlike any other Holocaust film ever made. This isn’t a conventional documentary composed of newsreel footage from the archives. The images of ‘Shoah’ prompt no preconditioned responses. Everything is of the present – the faces of the ‘witnesses’ as well as the tranquil, neatly tended landscapes that once were the death camps.” Read more…)

Dateline – Saigon (Vietnam War, journalism, government lies, David Halberstam. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The documentary ‘Dateline-Saigon’ reconstructs the early rumblings of the Vietnam War — mainly from 1961 through 1964 — through the eyes of five print reporters who were on assignment in Saigon. Professionally, they were rivals… But in the film’s telling, they nevertheless forged a kind of brotherhood, competing for stories as they began to question the United States government’s official narrative.” Read more…)