New releases 3/5/19

Top Hits

The Favourite (costume historical drama, Olivia Colman. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “For Shakespeare and the Classical Greek dramatists, the doings of real and imaginary rulers — affairs of state and of the flesh, both of which figure prominently here — were most often the stuff of tragedy. [Yorgos] Lanthimos, a Greek director who has been based in London for the past few years, makes no real distinction between pathos and mirth. His first English-language film, ‘The Lobster,’ was by turns ghastly and hilarious, a cruel dystopian allegory of discipline and desire. The next, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ was mostly just ghastly. ‘The Favourite,’ with a profane, erudite script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, is a farce with teeth, a costume drama with sharp political instincts and an aggressive sense of the absurd.” Read more…)

Ben Is Back (drama, Lucas Hedges. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “When the title character shows up early in ‘Ben Is Back’ — just before Christmas, at his family’s big house in a suburban town north of New York City — the mood tilts from domestic drama toward domestic horror. Even after the menacing, hooded figure skulking around near the driveway is recognized as a son and brother [played by Lucas Hedges], the queasy feeling of terror doesn’t quite abate. Ben, unexpectedly home from rehab, scares almost everyone. The rest of ‘Ben Is Back,’ written and directed by Peter Hedges [father of Lucas], sustains and intensifies that clammy, anxious feeling.” Read more…)

Creed II (sports drama, Michael B. Jordan. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Creed II’ affirms two great truths of our pop-cultural moment: that Michael B. Jordan is currently the ascendant American male movie star and that the revived, revised ‘Rocky’ franchise — focused on the trials and triumphs of Adonis Creed, Rocky Balboa’s protégé and the son of his long-departed friend and rival — is the only heroic Hollywood multi-sequel narrative worth caring about.” Read more…)

Instant Family (comedy, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Instant Family’ is a sweet-natured movie with exemplary intentions. Directed and co-written by Sean Anders [known for more studiously raucous familial comedies like the ‘Daddy’s Home’ movies], it draws from his experience of adopting children from foster care with his wife. The story line imparts information about the plight of kids in the foster system and positive messages about adopting.” Read more…)

Vox Lux (drama/music, Natalie Portman. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Vox Lux’ is an audacious story about a survivor who becomes a star, and a deeply satisfying, narratively ambitious jolt of a movie. Written and directed by Brady Corbet, it uses Celeste — an ordinary American girl who through a mass murder becomes extraordinary — as a means to explore contemporary spectacle. Corbet is especially interested in celebrity and terrorism, which he positions [without much of a stretch] as powerful, reciprocal forces in the flux of life.” Read more…)

New Blu-Rays

Macunaíma (1969, Brazil, anarchic comedy from Brazil’s avant-garde Cinema Novo movement. From A.O. Scott’s 2004 New York Times review of the film’s screening as part of the New York Film Festival [requires log-in]: “Connoisseurs might detect a touch of Felliniesque rococo, but this magical-realist mock-epic commingles more comfortably in less exalted company, with the films of John Waters and Russ Meyers, perhaps, or with lost episodes of ‘The Monkees.’ Which is not to say that the film, adapted from a 1928 novel by Mário de Andrade [no relation to the director] is lacking in seriousness. Underneath it all is a meditation on the riddles of Brazilian identity and the agonies of Brazilian politics. In 1969, Brazil was in the grip of a military dictatorship, and ‘Macunaíma,’ one of whose minor characters is a sexy urban guerilla, hums with a joyful and pointed anti-authoritarian spirit.” Read more…)

The Favourite
Ben Is Back
Creed II
Videodrome
Dumbo

New Foreign

Burning (Republic of Korea, drama, Ah-in Yoo. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Desire, ravenous and ineffable, shudders through ‘Burning,’ the latest from the great South Korean director Lee Chang-dong. Set in the present, the movie involves the complicated, increasingly fraught relationships among three characters whose lives are tragically engulfed as desire gives way to rage. The story has the quality of a mystery thriller — somebody goes missing, somebody else tries to figure out why — one accompanied by the drumbeat of politics.” Read more…)

Cosmos (France, drama, Jonathan Genet. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Cosmos,’ Andrzej Zulawski’s first film since 2000, is both a comeback and a swan song. Mr. Zulawski, 75 when he died in February, was an important figure in the history of Polish cinema and in the emergence of a borderless, cosmopolitan European style of filmmaking during the Cold War and after. His last work pays tribute to his roots and to his subsequent wanderings. Based on a novel of the same name by the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz, this French-Portuguese co-production is a witty and energetic — if also somewhat labored — mélange of languages, tones and ideas.” Read more…)

Of Fathers and Sons (Syria, immersive documentary on ISIS. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 70. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “For ‘Of Fathers and Sons,’ the Berlin-based director Talal Derki spent more than two years in his native Syria making a documentary about a radical jihadist family. By presenting himself as a war photographer sympathetic to the cause, Derki gained the trust of Abu Osama, a founder of the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)

Solarbabies (1986, sci-fi, Jason Patric. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Solarbabies’ was made by Mel Brooks’s Brooksfilms, at what might have been large expense on location in Spain. The cast includes Richard Jordan, as a snarling futuristic policeman, and a lot of new teen-age actors who, in circumstances like this, tend to look exactly alike. The one exception is the pre-teen Lukas Haas, who played the little boy in ‘Witness.'” Read more…)

New TV Series

House of Cards: The Final Season (political drama sans Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Documentaries

Psychonautics: A Comic’s Exploration of Psychedelics (psychedelic drugs, science, self-examination, Shane Mauss)
Of Fathers and Sons (Syria, immersive documentary on ISIS)

New Music DVDs

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra Live (jazz, Duke Ellington, 1973)