New releases 1/2/18

Top Hits
American Made (historical-based thriller, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 65. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Written by Gary Spinelli, ‘American Made’ goes down easily, especially if you don’t let the historical record with its real-world stakes bother you. [actor Tom] Cruise’s brisk, ingratiating performance — all smiles, hard-charging physicality and beads of sweat — does a lot to soften the edges. But [director Doug] Liman doesn’t press Mr. Cruise to dig into the character, and the actor mostly hurdles forward in a movie that never gets around to asking what makes Barry run and why.” Read more…)

Lucky (drama, Harry Dean Stanton. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Nothing much happens in ‘Lucky,’ and then everything does. That doesn’t mean this leisurely portrait of its title character, a cantankerous old coot [Harry Dean Stanton, in one of his last roles], is any more eventful at the end than at the beginning. Rather, the accumulation of spot-on performances and long-familiar faces, small-town routines and dusty-worn locations, finally coalesces into a picture that’s greater than the sum of its oft-clichéd parts.” Read more…)

Flatliners (supernatural thriller, Ellen Page. Rotten Tomatoes: 5%. Metacritic: 27. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Remakes — especially of beloved classics — run the risk of alienating sentimental moviegoers. With ‘Flatliners,’ Columbia Pictures takes a bold, innovative step to address this issue. It’s startling in its simplicity. The well-known 1990 movie being remade here is something other than beloved, or classic. Rather it is remembered as a widely-derided post-Brat Pack ensemble piece. [And while the movie was indeed largely derided, The New York Times gave it a positive review, as did the critic Roger Ebert.] The potential for accusations of sacrilege is minimal.” Read more…)

Battle of the Sexes (sports/feminism drama based on true event, Emma Stone. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metcritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often an exceptionally capable woman has to prove her worth by competing against a clown. That’s one of the durable truisms of ‘Battle of the Sexes,’ a glib, enjoyable fictionalization of the 1973 exhibition tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. She was 29 and one of the top female tennis players in the world. He was 55 and had been a world champion before she was born. She was a feminist symbol and the first female athlete to win more than $100,000 in a single year; he was a self-avowed male chauvinist pig who liked to gamble big. It was a man vs. woman match made for maximum public-relations gimmickry but also a deadly serious referendum on equality on and off the court.” Read more…)

Una (drama, Rooney Mara. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This movie begins with a shot of a girl in her early teens, sitting outside a house, then going into the yard next door, turning a corner, and seeing … something. In a matching cut, Rooney Mara, playing the same character years later, stands in a dark room with strangers as strobe lights flash and a synthetic percussion track throbs. Regardless of what the director, Benedict Andrews, intends, the aggregate effect is ‘Something bad happened to this person and now she’s into EDM.’ The Scottish playwright David Harrower adapted his two-character play ‘Blackbird’ for the screen, substantially changing it to include flashbacks.” Read more…)

Jeepers Creepers 3 (horror, Meg Foster)

New Blu-Ray
American Made
D.O.A.: A Right of Passage

New Foreign
The Teacher (Czech Republic, drama, Zuzana Mauréry. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 77. From Ben Kenigsberg’s new York Times review: “‘The Teacher’ is a foray into Slovak-language filmmaking by the industrious Czech director Jan Hrebejk, and for the occasion, he and his regular screenwriter, Petr Jarchovsky, have chosen a premise that sets up a dark satire about governance and human nature. Set in Bratislava in 1983, when Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule, the movie centers on a new teacher, Maria Drazdechova [Zuzana Maurery], who, upon meeting her students, asks for their parents’ lines of work. Using the children’s grades as leverage, Maria plans to blackmail the parents into favors.” Read more…)

The Women’s Balcony (Israel, comedy, Evelin Hagoel. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicole Herrington’s Times review: “‘Don’t you want us there?’ an Israeli woman asks her husband in ‘The Women’s Balcony,’ a charming exercise in gender politics as experienced via religion. The wife, Ettie [Evelin Hagoel], has just learned that their newly rebuilt Orthodox Jewish synagogue no longer has a separate section for women — which essentially means they have been barred from the gender-segregated services. The slight is a punch in the gut, but it also starts a revolution.” Read more…)

Lost in Paris (France, comedy, Fiona Gordon. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 74. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In ‘Lost in Paris,’ the married directors and stars Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel show a grace for physical comedy and pretzel-like pas de deux. If their fourth feature [their first three, including ‘L’Iceberg’ and ‘The Fairy,’ were directed with Bruno Romy] is mild by design, their style — equal parts Jacques Tati, Jerry Lewis, Wes Anderson and ‘Wallace & Gromit’ — isn’t easy to pull off.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Modern Girls (1986, comedy, Virginia Madsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. From Janet Maslin’s 1986 New York Times review [requires login]: “The three heroines of ‘Modern Girls’ aren’t nearly as modern as the three heroines of ‘How to Marry a Millionaire,’ who at least knew what they wanted and how to get it. In ‘Modern Girls,’ Cece and Margo and Kelly hold pointless daytime jobs and live from one night of Los Angeles club-hopping to the next. They dress up in junk-laden outfits that even Madonna might consider obvious, then go out to drink and take drugs and make themselves idly available to whichever men happen to strike their fancy. But there’s no sex in the movie – the possibilities for it are so omnipresent that the idea isn’t even interesting. In any case, it certainly took nerve to attach a ”Modern” to this.” Read more…)

New British
Last Tango in Halifax: Holiday Special

New Documentaries
D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (punk rock, Sex Pistols. From Janet Maslin’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘D.O.A.,’ which opens today at the Waverly, is as much of a ‘Woodstock’ as punk may ever inspire. In fact, it’s probably closer than punk fans might want it to be. In the hands of Lech Kowalski, the director, the techniques – show the band, show the audience, show random people, interview a few and show the band again – remain the same. But the music has changed considerably, as have the crowds, though not exactly for the better. ‘D.O.A.,’ which means to be outrageous and is mostly ugly and sad, gives the distinct impression that punk is as misunderstood by those who like it as by those who don’t.” Read more…)

Chavela (Mexican music, feminism, LGBTQ pride, Chavela Vargas. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Those looking to learn the basic outlines of the life of the singer Chavela Vargas could do worse than watch ‘Chavela,’ but this plodding documentary from Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi rarely transcends simple biography. While the film includes footage of Ms. Vargas onstage and recordings of her music, it doesn’t convey the power of her artistry, giving the viewer a sense of why, to paraphrase the musician Miguel Bosé from the film, listeners might believe that she could die from being overwhelmed in the middle of a song. [Separately, we learn that may have been her wish.]” Read more…)

New Music
Chavela (Mexican music, feminism, LGBTQ pride, Chavela Vargas)
D.O.A.: A Right of Passage (punk rock, Sex Pistols)