New releases 8/25/20

Top Hits
The Trip to Greece (comedy/culinary, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s too bad then that ‘The Trip to Greece’ never takes off. Like its predecessors, it hangs on the slimmest of premises: Coogan and Brydon journey to alluring destinations while trading quips, imitating the famous (Sean Connery, etc.), eating stylish chow and meta-riffing on their personas. Coogan is the self-serious performer with grand ambitions, or at least pretensions; Brydon is the somewhat more chill Everyman who goes for easy laughs.” Read more…)

The Burnt Orange Heresy (action/drama, Elizabeth Debicki. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The novel on which this movie is based, a slim thriller by the great American writer Charles Willeford, is in many ways typical of the author. It examines misogyny and murderous psychosis from so seemingly close a perspective as to make the reader queasy, if not downright upset. But the 1971 book contains something extra: an erudite satire of contemporary art, often expounded upon by an insufferable mansplainer. The mansplainer, in the book and this movie adaptation directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, is James Figueras, played as a looming, imposing figure by Claes Bang.” Read more…)

Yes, God, Yes (coming-of-age drama/comedy, Natalia Dyer. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Burdened by a silly R rating that may deter the very youngsters who are likely to enjoy it most, ‘Yes, God, Yes’ [written and directed by Karen Maine] fights back with an appealing lead and an overwhelmingly innocent tone. In its hands, the pleasures of self-pleasuring might be elusive, but they’re never, ever shameful.” Read more…)

Benjamin (comedy/romance, Colin Morgan. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 70. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “‘Benjamin’ opens on a film within a film, the long-awaited sophomore feature by thirtysomething Irish director Benjamin Oliver [Colin Morgan], whose once-clamorous career buzz has slowed to a murmur. The scene we’re shown looks promising enough: a tartly worded lovers’ argument between two men, one played by Benjamin himself, diffidently explaining his existential struggles with the very concept of romance. The film, titled ‘No Self,’ turns out to be semi-autobiographical account of the director’s gay dating troubles in modern London; the same is true of ‘Benjamin,’ which is self-effacingly written and directed by gifted British comedian Simon Amstell.” Read more…)

The King of Staten Island (comedy, Pete Davidson. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 67. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “At this length, ‘Staten Island’ should be a meatier Oedipal comedy — about Scott and Margie’s grief, stagnation and codependency; about Claire’s resentment of their bond — the kind of funny movie that’s a raw moment away from the tragedy just below its surface. Apatow was straining for that kind of feeling with ‘Funny People,’ from 2009. But he hasn’t gotten his comedy near true pathos since ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.’” Read more…)

VHYes (comedy, Jake McNulty. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review, which diverges from the Rotten Tomatoes consensus: “‘VHYes’ is barely 72 minutes long, but that’s just one reason this outlandish picture barely qualifies as a feature. For one thing, it’s almost halfway through before anything approximating a story emerges; even then, it’s such a pale, sickly thing you’d be forgiven for thinking you had imagined it.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Marriage Story Blu-Ray (comedy/drama, Adam Driver. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 94. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Traditionally, a story that ends in matrimony is classified as a comedy. But what about a story that begins with the end of a marriage? Noah Baumbach’s tender and stinging new film, ‘Marriage Story,’ doesn’t quite answer the question. It’s funny and sad, sometimes within a single scene, and it weaves a plot out of the messy collapse of a shared reality, trying to make music out of disharmony. The melody is full of heartbreak, loss and regret, but the song is too beautiful to be entirely melancholy.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Toni (France, 1935, Jean Renoir-directed drama, Charles Blavette. Rotten Tomatoes:100%. From Renata Adler’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Toni,’ which was shown last night at the New York Film Festival, is such a little classic that film descendants of Renoir—Rossellini, for example, and through him Truffaut and Godard, who worked with him—sometimes refer to themselves as the Children of Toni. François Truffaut, in reviewing a movie by Claude Berri, once wrote, ‘Tout les enfants de Toni s’y reconnaitront’ [‘All “Toni”’s children will recognize themselves in it’).” Read more…)

The Best Intentions (1992, Sweden, bio/drama written by Ingmar Bergman, Samuel Fröler. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. From Janet Maslin’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Best Intentions,’ the epic-length story of a Swedish couple’s courtship and marriage, is dominated by an unborn child. The baby whose arrival is imminent as the film concludes will be Ingmar Bergman, whose screenplay looks back at the social, economic and personal forces that turned his parents’ early years together into a tug of war. Mr. Bergman’s long shadow must be reckoned with in every frame of ‘The Best Intentions,’ sometimes because his style exerts so strong an influence over Bille August [‘Pelle the Conqueror’], the film’s Danish director.” Read more…)

New British
Endeavour: Season 7 (mystery series, Shaun Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Great Impostor (1960, comedy/drama, Tony Curtis. From A.H. Weiler’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Leaning on the oldest saw of them all—the one having to do with truth being stranger than fiction—a dedicated team working for Universal-International has turned out an amusing, and occasionally fascinating, comedy-drama about the career of one of the most amazing—and likable—contemporary charlatans, Ferdinand W. Demara Jr.” Read more…)

Enter the Ninja (1981, martial arts/action, Franco Nero)

New Documentary DVDs
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (bio, music. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The critic Robert Christgau once called him ‘a weird new kind of purist: uncompromising proponent of commercial folk music.’ Early in the movie, a montage of artists as disparate as the British rocker Paul Weller and Lightfoot’s Canadian contemporary Neil Young singing the great ‘Early Morning Rain’ demonstrates the durability of Lightfoot’s work.” Read more…)