New releases 6/25/19

Top Hits
Dumbo (live action remake of Disney elephantine classic, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 51. From Manohla Dargis New York Times review: “In his live-action remake of Disney’s ‘Dumbo,’ Tim Burton plays with a legacy that he has helped burnish for decades, only to set it gleefully ablaze. Ho-hum until it takes a turn toward the fascinatingly weird, the movie is a welcome declaration of artistic independence for Burton, who often strains against aesthetic and industrial restrictions. Watching him cut loose (more recklessly than his flying baby elephant) is by far the most unexpected pleasure of this movie, which dusts off the 1941 animated charmer with exhilaratingly demented spirit.” Read more…)

Giant Little Ones (coming-of-age, Josh Wiggins. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 67. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The film’s saving grace turns out to be the range of experiences that Franky and Ballas are allowed to explore. As they provoke each other, they also carry out ardent relationships with girls, and they each have friends and family members who are gay or who experiment with gender. Where many coming-of-age films build their stories around the discovery of a fixed selfhood, ‘Giant Little Ones’ succeeds when it chooses to treat youthful identity as open to shift with accumulated experience.” Read more…)

They Shall Not Grow Old (World War I documentary, colorized & brought to life by Peter Jackson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 91. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Having sold out at event screenings since December, ‘They Shall Not Grow Old,’ which opens for a full run this week, is poised to become the only blockbuster this year that was filmed from 1914 to 1918, on location on the Western Front. Commissioned to make a movie for the centennial of the Armistice, using original footage, Peter Jackson has taken a mass of World War I archival clips from Britain’s Imperial War Museum and fashioned it into a brisk, absorbing and moving experience.” Read more…)

The Hummingbird Project (thriller, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “For ‘The Hummingbird Project,’ a sturdy, involving thriller set in the financial realm, the writer-director Kim Nguyen has cited heady inspirations like Michael Lewis’s book ‘Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt’ [2014] and a Wired magazine article from 2012 on high-speed trading. But strip away the topical trappings and what is left is another variation on the obstacle course tension and male bonding of ‘The Wages of Fear’ — or a dark variation on marathon road-trip goofs such as ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ and ‘Death Race 2000.’” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Ishtar (1987, comedy, Warren Beatty & Dustin Hoffman. From Janet Maslin’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s impossible to discuss ‘Ishtar,’ which opens today at the Ziegfeld and other theaters, without noting the extravagant rumor-mongering that has surrounded its making. Much has been said about the film’s enormous cost [undisclosed, but somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million], its delayed release and Miss May’s reported fussiness in casting her camels and shaping her sand dunes. Thanks to Miss May’s perfectionism and the sizable egos of her two male stars, it was noisily anticipated that this version of a Bob Hope-Bing Crosby ‘Road’ movie might amount to a ‘Road to Ruin.’ But ‘Ishtar’ isn’t ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ It isn’t ‘Heaven Can Wait,’ either, since it lacks the self-destructiveness of the former and the latter’s more effortless charm. It’s a likable, good-humored hybrid, a mixture of small, funny moments and the pointless, oversized spectacle that these days is sine qua non for any hot-weather hit. The worst of it is painless; the best is funny, sly, cheerful and, here and there, even genuinely inspired.” Read more…)

Dumbo
They Shall not Grow Old

New Foreign
Peppermint Soda (France, 1977, Diane Kurys-directed drama set in 1960s France. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Janet Maslin’s 1979 New York Times review: “The only thing more impressive than the wit and talent Diane Kurys demonstrates in her writing and direction of ‘Peppermint Soda’ — an expert, utterly charming movie that miraculously happens to be her first — is Miss Kurys’s memory. Here is a letter-perfect recollection of what it’s like to be a 13-year-old, in this case a French schoolgirl, with skinny legs and a bossy sister and a mother who doesn’t understand she may be ruining her’ daughter’s life if she keeps on refusing to let the kid wear stockings. Miss Kurys presents details like these, and enough others to span an entire school year, with a flawless understanding of how the events most earth-shattering to a girl in her early teens can mean not a fig to anyone around her.” Read more…)

Panique (France, 1946, nourish drama, Michel Simon. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
Luisa Spagnoli (Italy, bio-pic, Luisa Ranieri)

New British
Manhunt (3-episode mystery mini-series, Martin Clunes. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Detour (1945, film noir classic, Criterion Collection, Tom Neal. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1992 New York Times reflection on ‘Detour,” on the occasion of a revival screening at Film Forum [requires log-in]: “[‘Detour’] set in a world in which man’s condition is no less absurd, although a little more cartoonlike, than it is in the seminal Albert Camus novel, ‘The Stranger.’ The Camus protagonist is also able to think with some clarity, while [director Edgar g.] Ulmer’s Al Roberts [Tom Neal] remains a victim of fate and his own half-baked attempts both to do the right thing and to save his neck. Just as Ulmer’s direction demonstrates the extraordinarily evocative mise en scene that can sometimes be achieved with virtually no money at all, Martin Goldsmith’s script is a model of film narrative pared down to essentials. It is short, concise, rich in character and almost viciously detached from the grim events it relates.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman, comedy of manners, Christopher Eigeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From Roger Ebert’s 1990 review: “The movie was written and directed by Whit Stillman, who, in his mid-30s, obviously still is fascinated by the coming-of-age process he went through as a preppie. He has made a film Scott Fitzgerald might have been comfortable with, a film about people covering their own insecurities with a facade of social ease. And he has written wonderful dialogue, words in which the characters discuss ideas and feelings instead of simply marching through plot points as most Hollywood characters do.” Read more…)

The Tamarind Seed (1974, romantic espionage drama, Julie Andrews. From Vincent Canby’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Tamarind Seed’ is not gothic fiction, technically speaking. It has the form of a contemporary love story set against a background of cold war intrigue stretching from London and Paris to Barbados and Canada. But don’t be fooled by the time and places. The game is given away by the film’s total absorption in the chastity of its heroine, a woman who considers a goodnight kiss as the first, irrevocable step toward total degradation.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Bisbee ’17 (American history, labor history, immigrants rights, human rights. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Bisbee, Ariz., not far from the Mexican border, is a quiet former mining town, one of many such places scattered across the American West. Tombstone, site of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and a popular tourist destination, is just up the road. Bisbee has a notably violent episode in its past as well, an event that is the subject of ‘Bisbee ’17,’ Robert Greene’s clearsighted and gratifyingly complicated new documentary. Starting on July 12, 1917 — a few months after the United States entered World War I and in the midst of labor agitation across the mining industry — sheriff’s deputies rounded up around 1,200 people thought to be union activists, forced them into boxcars and transported them to the New Mexico desert. What came to be known as the Bisbee Deportation lingered at the margins of local memory, not forgotten but not much discussed either.” Read more…)