New releases 9/29/20

Top Hits
Phoenix, Oregon (comedy, Jesse Borrego. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 49. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “‘Phoenix, Oregon’ is a film of forbidden pleasures, and by that I mean that it features people mingling socially, in close quarters, over food and drink. In normal times, Gary Lundgren’s charming if slight drama…, in which a man overcomes a midlife crisis by reviving a defunct bowling alley, might not register as much more than feel-good entertainment. But during our current pandemic, the film’s ode to small-town camaraderie and the joys of a local hang is rather poignant.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Ivans XTC (drama, 2002, Peter Weller. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. From A.O. Scott’s 2002 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Ivans XTC,’ a new film by Bernard Rose, is adapted from Tolstoy’s classic novella ‘The Death of Ivan Illyich.’ The locale is late-20th-century Hollywood instead of 19th-century Russia, and Tolstoy’s severe humanism has been grafted onto a scabrous, cynical view of the movie industry reminiscent of ‘The Day of the Locust’ or ‘The Player.’ Contrived as this may sound, Mr. Rose’s updating works surprisingly well. His showbiz smoothies and narcissists may inhabit a world far removed from that of the bureaucrats and gentlefolk of Czarist Russia, but the story’s sympathetic, tragic sense of the fragility of individual dignity is, if anything, made even more haunting in this version.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Elephant Man (1980, drama dir. by David Lynch, Criterion Collection, Anne Bancroft. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Vincent Canby’s 1980 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In such a setting it’s no surprise that a kind of sad, desperate genteelness was once equated with human dignity. To be kind and polite, in such a landscape, under such circumstances, when the masses were living in such squalor, were reassuring signs of orthodoxy to a threatened London Establishment. This is one of the vividly unexpected impressions one carries away from ‘The Elephant Man,’ David Lynch’s haunting new film that’s not to be confused with the current Broadway play of the same title, though both are based on the life of the same unfortunate John Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man, and both, I assume, make use of some of the same source materials.” Read more…)

Subway Riders (1981, drama dir. by No Wave filmmaker Amos Poe, Robbie Coltrane. From Time Out: “Not so much subway riders as underground poseurs, Poe’s Manhattan melodramatists – psychotic saxophonist, sweaty cop, junkie femme fatale, assorted night people – do little more than stand still for Johanna Heer’s stylishly noir-conscious camera. Every shot might come ready to be framed, but it’s a frustratingly long walk through the post-Pop gallery when Poe shows no inclination to cut, and even less to encourage his cast to get on with the off-handedly minimal ‘plot.’”)

Unmade Beds (1976, No Wave drama dir. by Amos Poe, Debbie Harry)

New TV
Penny Dreadful: City of Angels: Season 1 (Showtime mystery/crime series, Natalie Dormer. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 60. From Alexis Soloski’s New York Times article on the new series: “This street, the main drag of an invented Chicano neighborhood called Belvedere Heights, hunkers at the symbolic center of ‘Penny Dreadful: City of Angels,’ a fantastical horror-whodunit. Logan’s original ‘Penny Dreadful,’ which ended a three-season run in 2016, offered a speculative fiction supergroup, imagining Dracula, Dorian Gray, Frankenstein and his monster romping through Victorian London. Its companion piece, debuting Sunday on Showtime, is arguably stranger.” Read more…)

The Good Fight: Season 4 (legal drama, Christine Baranski. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84.)

New Documentaries
Pizza: A Love Story (documentary; New Haven pizza culture with emphasis on Sally’s, Pepe’s & Modern; Gorman Bechard. From Deborah Brown’s review in The Swellesley Report: “In the world of pizza, you should either go New Haven, Connecticut or go home. Face it, if the pizza hasn’t been oven-fired in Wooster Square — specifically Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria or Sally’s Apizza, both on Wooster Street, or Modern Apizza on State Street — that pie isn’t worth the calories or the time it takes to chew. Writer and director Gorman Bechard agrees in the feature-length film ‘Pizza, a Love Story,’ an unabashed celebration of America’s favorite food, when it’s done right.” Read more…)

Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America (music, rap, culture, Queen Latifah. From Jack Hamilton’s Slate review: “The popularity of the above [documentaries on hip hop] [and many, many others] is the clearest indication yet that hip-hop has comfortably settled into what might be considered its classic rock phase. This isn’t to say that the genre has lost any currency or relevance—it remains the most innovative and vibrant sphere of contemporary music—but rather that its past has now become a lucrative commodity unto itself… The show is frequently terrific, and it works best when it’s diving headlong into the granular details of a song’s origins and compositional history.” Read more…)

John Lewis: Good Trouble (biography, civil rights, Black history, John Lewis. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Ben Kenisgberg’s New York Times review: “The civil rights leader and longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis surely requires no introduction, but ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble,’ a documentary from Dawn Porter, provides a solid one anyway, striking a good balance between revisiting Lewis’s most famous work as an activist and chronicling his life today.” Read more…)

Mondo Balordo (1964, cult period piece “shockumentary” narrated by Boris Karloff)