New releases 3/6/18

Top Hits
Lady Bird (comedy/drama, Saoirse Ronan. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 94. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The idea that attention is a form of love [and vice versa] is a beautiful insight, and in many ways it’s the key to ‘Lady Bird,’ Greta Gerwig’s beautiful, insightful new film, the first for which she is solely credited as writer and director. Ms. Gerwig, a Sacramento native and member of her heroine’s generation — the movie takes place mostly during the 2002-3 academic year — knows her characters and their world very well. Her affection envelops them like a secular form of grace: not uncritically, but unconditionally. And if you pay the right kind of attention to ‘Lady Bird’ — absorbing its riffs and digressions as well as its melodies, its choral passages along with its solos and duets — you will almost certainly love it. It’s hard not to.” Read more…)

Wonder Wheel (drama, Kate Winslet. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Wonder Wheel,’ Woody Allen’s latest movie, is one of his more unfortunate contributions to cinema. It tells the story of a desperately, unhappily married woman whose affair with a local Romeo is derailed when he takes notice of her stepdaughter, whose breasts have been lit to glow like Vermeer peaches. The heart wants what it wants, as Mr. Allen once said by way of explaining his affair with his now wife, Soon-Yi, the daughter of his longtime ex, Mia Farrow. I tend to think it’s a bad idea to put a movie on the couch, but what if it climbs on the couch and then starts winking?” Read more…)

Thor: Ragnarok (superhero action, Chris Hemsworth. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “[Actor Chris] Hemsworth looks happier and far more relaxed in ‘Ragnarok’ than he did in the previous Thor vehicles, which is perhaps [director Taiki] Waititi’s truest achievement here. For a guy who looks chiseled by Michelangelo, Mr. Hemsworth can be a surprisingly agile physical performer, capable of real bounce, and he clearly likes ricocheting off walls as much as he does ceding center stage to the other actors. These include Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, who, after an unpromising entrance, develops into a real character with emotion and an all-too-brief flashback filled with fury, beauty, liquid motion and mythological mystery.” Read more…)

The Man Who Invented Christmas (Charles Dickens Christmas Carol biopic, Dan Stevens. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “As ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ tells it, Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) took inspiration for “A Christmas Carol” from a waiter named Marley and a real-life miser who said ‘humbug.’ And before Dickens could finish the book, he had to exorcise aspects of Scrooge from himself — to find kindness in his heart for his proud but poor father [Jonathan Pryce], and to pay attention to his wife [Morfydd Clark], who accuses him of caring more about his characters than his family. Like ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and ‘Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus,’ ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas,’ adapted — rather fancifully — from the nonfiction book by Les Standiford, endorses the theory that artists are secret documentarians.” Read more…)

Ethel & Ernest (animated feature, Brenda Blethyn [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 72.)

New Blu-Ray
Lady Bird
Thor: Ragnarok

New Foreign
Faces Places (France, dir. by Agnes Varda, travelogue/photography/personality. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Despite its unassuming, conversational ethos — which is also to say by means of Ms. Varda’s staunchly democratic understanding of her job as a filmmaker — ‘Faces Places’ reveals itself as a powerful, complex and radical work. Ms. Varda’s modesty is evidence of her mastery, just as her playful demeanor is the expression of a serious and demanding aesthetic commitment. Almost by stealth, but also with cheerful forthrightness, she communicates a rich and challenging array of feelings and ideas. As we contemplate those faces and places we are invited to reflect on the passage of time and the nature of memory, on the mutability of friendship and the durability of art, on the dignity of labor and the fate of the European working class.” Read more…)

BPM (Beats Per Minute) (France, drama set amid 1990s AIDS activism, Arnaud Valois. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “All of this happened a long time ago, of course, but in spite of its historical specificity, ‘BPM’ never feels like a bulletin from the past. Its immediacy comes in part from the brisk naturalism of the performances and the nimbleness and fluidity of the editing. The characters are so vivid, so real, so familiar that it’s impossible to think of their struggles — and in some cases their deaths — as unfolding in anything but the present tense. And even though some of the battles their real-life counterparts fought have been at least partly won, their anger feels urgent and unassuaged.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Class Act (1992, comedy, Kid ‘N Play. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. From Janet Maslin’s 1992 New York Times review: “As directed by Randall Miller, the movie doesn’t aspire to much more than cartoonish verve, but Kid ‘n’ Play easily hold it together. Their comic timing is right, and their humor manages to be both traditional and current. (An argument about whether one of them is ‘deaf’ or “‘def’ unfolds in the best ‘Who’s on first?’ fashion.]” Read more…)

Highlander 5-Film Collection (action/adventure, Christopher Lambert)

New TV
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 9 (HBO comedy series, return of the irascible Larry David. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 74.)

New Documentaries
James Booker: Bayou Maharajah (music, New Orleans, James Booker. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 73. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “The life and times of the New Orleans jazz/blues pianist and singer James Booker are conjured up in this richly enjoyable documentary tribute. It takes account of his troubled psyche and covers plenty of the wild-man anecdotes, but pays close attention to the musicianship. Booker was a self-taught virtuoso who studied Grieg, Chopin and Rachmaninov as well as Liberace, but had a natural understanding of the piano that went beyond formal study. Playing came as easily as talking – which itself came very easily: Booker’s onstage loquacity was part of his appeal.” Read more…)

Faces Places (France, dir. by Agnes Varda, travelogue/photography/personality)

New Music
James Booker: Bayou Maharajah (music, New Orleans, James Booker)

New Children’s DVDs
The Breadwinner (animated feature set in Taliban-run Afghanistan, Saara Chaudry [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “In a time of deepening sensitivity about cultural appropriation, an animated film set in Afghanistan, made largely by Westerners and based on a Western source, might raise some red flags. But I think ‘The Breadwinner’ is worth celebrating, in part because it is a work that in some ways qualifies as reportage. Deborah Ellis, the Canadian author on whose children’s novel this movie is based, traveled in the late ’90s to Pakistan, where she interviewed Afghan refugees fleeing war and Taliban rule.” Read more…)