New releases 3/7/17

Top Hits
Jackie (bio-pic focusing on White House years, Natalie Portman. Rotten Tomatoes 89%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Jackie’ doesn’t try to complete that impossible, apparently unfinishable movie, the never-ending epic known as ‘The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and What It Means to History.’ Instead, set largely after his death, it explores the intersection of the private and the public while ruminating on the transformation of the past into myth. It also pulls off a nice representational coup because it proves that the problem known as the Movie Wife — you know her, the little lady hovering at the edge of both the frame and story — can be solved with thought and good filmmaking. And as in Warhol’s Jackie portraits, John F. Kennedy is somewhat of a bit player here.” Read more…)

I Am Michael (true-life drama, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes 66%. Metacritic: 56. From Jeannette Catsoylis’  New York Times review: “After watching ‘I Am Michael,’ Justin Kelly’s dreary gay-conversion biopic, I felt rather sorry for James Franco. As Michael Glatze, a gay-rights agitator who struggled to become a straight Christian pastor, Mr. Franco broods and puzzles and vacillates. But he often seems abandoned by a director whose approach is so noncommittal and dramatically limp that it strands the actor, and his character, in a bland purgatory of conflicting motivations. While intellectually laudable, Mr. Kelly’s determined objectivity is so distancing that it takes an inherently intriguing story [based on a 2011 article in The New York Times Magazine] and sucks the life out of it.” Read more…)

The Eyes of My Mother (horror, Diana Agostini. Rotten Tomatoes 76%. Metacritic: 64. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “From the very first shot, Nicolas Pesce’s ‘The Eyes of My Mother’ unsettles as a broken woman staggers along a deserted country road before collapsing in front of an oncoming truck. It will be a long time before we learn who she is or what has happened to her; meantime, there are more than enough horrors to keep us occupied.” Read more…)

Always Shine (feminist thriller, Mackenzie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes 91%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “On the surface, ‘Always Shine’ is a tense thriller about failed female alliances — much of the time it seems poised to become a remake of ‘Persona,’ as made by the horror director Alexandre Aja. But it’s not that, or rather, it’s not just that. Directed by Sophia Takal from a script by Lawrence Michael Levine [Ms. Takal appeared in Mr. Levine’s 2014 comedy, ‘Wild Canaries’], ‘Always Shine’ is a deft, assured movie with a sly self-reflexive undercurrent containing commentary on sexism and self-idealization that’s provocative, and sometimes disturbing.” Read more…)

Moana (Disney animated feature, Auli’i Cravalho. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Moana is the daughter of a chief and will someday inherit her father’s position, but she’s furious when Maui, a tattooed, muscle-bound demigod, calls her a princess. Moana [MWAH-nah] is not only part of a dynastic line but also a girl off on an adventure in the company of a cute animal sidekick [a dimwitted chicken named Heihei]. So not just any princess, in other words: a Disney princess. She may be on a quest to save her island and restore ecological balance to the planet, but Moana [voiced by Auli’i Cravalho] is also upholding a brand.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jackie
Moana

New Foreign
Tanna (Australia, drama, Marie Wawa. Rotten Tomatoes 87%. Metacritic: 75. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Named for the remote South Pacific island where it was filmed, ‘Tanna’ is a movie in which every single shot is picturesque, and more than a few of them are genuinely beautiful. For a North American viewer, it may serve two functions of cinema: showing a remote and unfamiliar place and culture, while also kicking up questions of how Western cinema sees cultural difference.” Read more…)

Miss Hokusai (Japan, animated feature, English & Japanese soundtrack, Erica Lindbeck [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 94%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Japanese animated film practically teems with plucky, inventive girls, but pictures depicting emotionally credible young women are relatively rare. That ‘Miss Hokusai’ does this very thing, and does it beautifully, is only one of the extraordinary things about it. Adapted from a Hinako Sugiura manga, ‘Miss Hokusai’ is a lively inquiry into the life of O-Ei Hokusai, a daughter of the 19th-century painter Katsushika Hokusai [one of whose most famous images, ‘The Great Wave,’ is cleverly alluded to in an early scene].” Read more…)

Departure (France, drama, Alex Lawther. Rotten Tomatoes 92%.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Film (1965, Samuel Beckett drama/comedy, Buster Keaton)

New British
Wuthering Heights (2011, Emily Brontë romance, James Howson. Rotten Tomatoes 69%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Too often, great works of literature arrive on screen weighed down by their reputations, immobilized in a straitjacket of cultural prestige. Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a wild emanation of Victorian genius half-tamed by time and term papers, and Andrea Arnold’s new film adaptation is an admirable, frustrating attempt to strip away the novel’s inherited “classic” status and restore its raw and earthy passion.” Read more…)

New TV
The Americans: Season 4 (espionage drama, Keri Russell. Rotten Tomatoes 99%. Metacritic: 95.)

New Documentaries
NotFilm (Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton, avant-garde cinema/theater. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 81. Frtom A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton] can also look like kindred artistic spirits, committed to formal rigor and possessing finely tuned comic sensibilities. It is not surprising — though it is also, somehow, astonishing — that they worked together once, on a film devised by Beckett and titled ‘Film.’ A little more than 20 minutes long, devoid of dialogue [though not of sound], it was made in New York in the summer of 1965. And it is now the subject of an intelligent, affectionate documentary by Ross Lipman, titled ‘Notfilm.'” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Moana (Disney animated feature, Auli’i Cravalho. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Moana is the daughter of a chief and will someday inherit her father’s position, but she’s furious when Maui, a tattooed, muscle-bound demigod, calls her a princess. Moana [MWAH-nah] is not only part of a dynastic line but also a girl off on an adventure in the company of a cute animal sidekick [a dimwitted chicken named Heihei]. So not just any princess, in other words: a Disney princess. She may be on a quest to save her island and restore ecological balance to the planet, but Moana [voiced by Auli’i Cravalho] is also upholding a brand.” Read more…)

Miss Hokusai (Japan, animated feature, English & Japanese soundtrack, Erica Lindbeck [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes 94%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Japanese animated film practically teems with plucky, inventive girls, but pictures depicting emotionally credible young women are relatively rare. That ‘Miss Hokusai’ does this very thing, and does it beautifully, is only one of the extraordinary things about it. Adapted from a Hinako Sugiura manga, ‘Miss Hokusai’ is a lively inquiry into the life of O-Ei Hokusai, a daughter of the 19th-century painter Katsushika Hokusai [one of whose most famous images, ‘The Great Wave,’ is cleverly alluded to in an early scene].” Read more…)