New releases 4/23/19

Top Hits
Escape Room (horror, Taylor Russell. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 48. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “I tend to esteem motion pictures more for their aesthetic value than for their use value but sometimes there are exceptions. Through scrupulous and heightened simulations of terrifying reality, last year’s ‘First Man’ reminded me why I never even entertained the notion of becoming an astronaut. Taking the opposite tack with an irrational but not altogether implausible conceit, ‘Escape Room’ reminds me why I’ll never engage in the newfangled form of entertainment in which you allow yourself to be ‘trapped’ in a room and puzzle-solve your way out of it.” Read more…)

The Mercy (true adventure, Colin Firth. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “What drives a man to abandon a doting wife [Rachel Weisz] and three of the best-behaved children in Christendom to circumnavigate the globe in an ill-prepared trimaran? The makers of ‘The Mercy’ have a few ideas; but perhaps the most reliable message of this based-on-real-life tale is that middle age is a bitch. Whatever the reason, such was the appeal of this adventure that Donald Crowhurst [Colin Firth], a mild-mannered engineer and indifferent sailor, was willing to risk everything to take to sea.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Face In the Crowd (1957, Criterion Collection, Elia Kazan-directed drama/satire, Andy Griffith. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From a New York Times recommendation written by Noel Murray: “The director Elia Kazan and the screenwriter Budd Schulberg have a strong point to make in ‘A Face In The Crowd,’ showing how the public’s affection for a ‘man of the people’ who ‘tells it like is’ makes it easy for a grinning demagogue to seize power. Kazan takes a lot of risks with this movie’s look and tone, turning on a dime from a docu-realistic style to something more exaggerated and cartoonish. But the reason why cultural critics and political pundits still cite this film as prescient and pertinent is that it’s so openly disgusted: at the media for valuing ratings over responsibility, and at the citizenry for letting itself be led by charismatic ignoramuses.” Read more…)

Man of Iron (1935, drama, Barton MacLane)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Ode To Billy Joe (1976, drama/family film based on song, Glynnis O’Connor. From Richard Eder’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Ode to Billy Joe’ is a movie to lament. Its authors have ruined it. To say so is praise as well as regret. You can only ruin something that has some quality to begin with, and for more than half of the length, this Southern country romance has a quite individual kind of life and shrewdness.” Read more…)

The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior (1993, drama, drama, Sam Neill)

New British (Commonwealth) DVDs
A Place To Call Home: Season 6 (Australian drama, Marta Dusseldorp)

New TV DVDs
The Good Place: Season 2 (comedy, Ted Danson)

New Documentaries
Charm City (Baltimore, urban problems, community-police relations. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “There’s plenty to make you catch your breath during Marilyn Ness’s documentary ‘Charm City,’ a sweeping look at violent crime and possible solutions in Baltimore. But the most staggering statistic comes in a notice at the end: The film is dedicated to the memory of the more than 1,000 people said to be killed in Baltimore during the film’s making.” Read more…)

Tickled (competitive endurance tickling. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Everyone from Aristotle to Darwin and Freud had something to say about the teasing art of the tickle, as did the Marquis de Sade. There’s even more about its ecstasies and agonies in ‘Tickled,’ a terrifically entertaining documentary about a strange, murky corner of the adult tickling world. A New Zealand journalist named David Farrier discovered this touchy, feely realm when he came across an online video.” Read more…)

New releases 3/21/17

Top Hits
Miss Sloane (political thriller, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The palm-oil brouhaha illustrates the savage, self-righteous tone of political warfare in a movie without an iota of humor. In [director Jonathan] Perera’s long-winded screenplay, the characters tend to give little speeches instead of conversing normally. Some of the wordplay may be clever, but the attempts at witty repartee aren’t sharp enough to be remotely amusing.” Read more…)

Assassin’s Creed (action, Michael Fassbender. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The schlock-cinema connoisseur Michael Weldon once described a particularly logy Roger Corman picture as ’70 minutes of ‘Huh?!”‘ The new sci-fi film ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ based on the popular video game series, is 70 plus 46 minutes of ‘Huh?'” Read more…)

Live By Night (gangster drama, Ben Affleck. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Live by Night’ is a messy, unfocused movie about ambition, lost ideals, corrupt men and a thief whose idea of life on his own terms means pulling the trigger. It has Tommy guns and Model T’s, luxuriously polished surfaces, some fine squealing-tire action and a handful of solid performances, including one from Sienna Miller, who tramps around as a 10-cents-a-dance cynic. But what’s most striking about the movie is its earnestness. [Ben] Affleck isn’t playing with genre for kicks or as a knowing, reflexive exercise, but trying to pour new wine into a bullet-riddled vessel.” Read more…)

Sing (animated feature comedy, Matthew McConaughey [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The things you can do with computer animation these days are just more and more amazing. In ‘Sing,’ a funny animal jukebox musical cartoon written and directed by Garth Jennings [‘Son of Rambow’], there is a scene in which two postpunk porcupines, one of whom has been selected to compete in a vocal competition, argue at home about the state of their relationship, and their musical direction. During their quarrel I thought, with absolute earnestness, ‘Wow, these porcupines have an unusually spacious apartment.'” Read more…)

Grabbers (Ireland, horror, Richard Coyle. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 62.)

New Blu-Ray
Sing
OJ: Made in America

New Foreign
Julieta (Spain, Almodovar-directed drama, Emma Suárez. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “According to a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, ‘the art of losing isn’t hard to master.’ But making a masterwork on the subject of loss, a perennial theme in art, may be harder than it looks. The young adulthood and middle age of Julieta, the heroine of Pedro Almodóvar’s new movie, are shadowed by death and abandonment, which she does her best to handle gracefully. Mr. Almodóvar, for his part, tells her story with his characteristic later-period blend of elegant restraint and keening melodrama. ‘Julieta’ is scrupulous, compassionate and surprising, even if it does not always quite communicate the full gravity and sweep of the feelings it engages.” Read more…)

Man of Iron (Poland, 1981, Solidarnosc drama, Jerzy Radziwilowicz. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 new York Times review [requires log-in]: “Andrzej Wajda’s ‘Man of Iron” is such an up-to-date report on political events in Poland that one attends to it less as a piece of fiction than as a prime-time television news special. It’s not criticism but a statement of fact to describe it as more notable as a political than an artistic achievement. Another fact is that it’s an unexpected disappointment, because it is both a continuation and an explanation of Mr. Wajda’s extraordinarily fine ”Man of Marble,” which was made in 1977, but not shown in New York until 1979.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
This Land Is Mine (1943, anti-Nazi World War II era drama directed by Jean Renoir, Charles Laughton. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1943 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In a sincere and responsible effort to penetrate beneath the melodramatic aspects of Nazi occupation of a foreign land and to contemplate freedom versus tyranny in terms of conflict within the human soul, Jean Renoir and Dudley Nichols have produced a sane, courageous film, marked only by occasional violences, entitled ‘This Land Is Mine.’ It opened yesterday at the Rivoli. And for folks who need a little jolt to bring a reminder of their freedom, as well as for those other ones who are interested simply in a story cleanly and maturely told, it is hereby recommended. It makes some points which cannot be over-stressed.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Multiple Maniacs (1970, John Waters-directed comedy, Criterion Collection, Divine. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review for the Criterion reissue: “Ah, those stodgy Nixon-era minders of the national morality. Surely they didn’t need to get as worked up as they did about the early John Waters film ‘Multiple Maniacs.’ Or did they? It does, after all, feature rosary beads as a sex toy. And there’s the rape scene involving a giant lobster. Yes, ‘Multiple Maniacs,’ which has been restored by the Criterion Collection and is being given a theatrical run, is still capable of raising eyebrows, and imagining it in its historical context — the movie was first shown in 1970 — adds to the fun.” Read more…)

Scavenger Hunt (1979, comedy, Richard Benjamin. From Janet Maslin’s 1979 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The cast of ‘Scavenger Hunt’ spends a lot of time searching for good gags, in vain. Sent out, in several greedy teams, to compete for the estate of a mean old moneybags [Vincent Price], they bring back five ostriches, a toilet, a beehive, a stuffed fish, and nothing funnier. Some of the film’s more likable actors — Cleavon Little, James Coco, Robert Morley, Tony Randall, Scatman Crothers — behave as if the material were cleverer than it is, and their composure amounts to the movie’s only real peculiarity. Otherwise, it’s just a broad, low comedy full of speech defects and pratfalls. Here’s pie in your eye.” Read more…)

New TV
Master of None: Season 1 (comedy, Aziz Ansari. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 91.)
Insecure: Season 1 (HBO comedy, Issa Rae. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84.)

New Documentaries
Tower (1966 Texas tower shooting, violence, American social history, Charles Whitman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 92. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The haunting documentary ‘Tower’ revisits a 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas at Austin that shocked the country. It may be difficult to comprehend the reaction to the horror of Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student who shot more than a dozen dead, wounding more than twice as many. A cover story in Life magazine suggested just how alien the carnage seemed at the time, noting that during the rampage Whitman’s actions were ‘so outrageous, so hard to grasp, that people could not believe it.’ Many more mass shootings later, it’s now tragically easy to believe.” Read more…)

Fire At Sea (Mediterranean refugee crisis, Oscar-nominated. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The Mediterranean is an escape route for these displaced people and, also, all too often, a graveyard. News reports of the migrants’ plight and images of overloaded boats and drowned bodies have tested the world’s capacity for indifference, and also challenged the compassion of European citizens and their leaders. The debate over what to do about this crisis, which is roiling politics in nearly every country on the Continent, provides ‘Fire at Sea’ with a context. But the film’s subject is more elusive, at once more below the radar and beyond the reach of political discourse.” Read more…)

OJ: Made in America (ESPN documentary, OJ Simpson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 96. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Though dominated by the trial, it extends the narrative in both directions, producing a detailed biography of Mr. Simpson that is also a social history of race, fame, sports and Los Angeles over the past half-century. ‘The People v. O. J. Simpson’ [also available at BVFCC] was a tightly packed, almost indecently entertaining piece of pop realism, a Dreiser novel infused with the spirit of Tom Wolfe. For its part, ‘O.J.: Made in America,’ directed by Ezra Edelman, has the grandeur and authority of the best long-form nonfiction. If it were a book, it could sit on the shelf alongside ‘The executioner’s Song’ by Norman Mailer and the great biographical works of Robert Caro.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Sing (animated feature comedy, Matthew McConaughey [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The things you can do with computer animation these days are just more and more amazing. In ‘Sing,’ a funny animal jukebox musical cartoon written and directed by Garth Jennings [‘Son of Rambow’], there is a scene in which two postpunk porcupines, one of whom has been selected to compete in a vocal competition, argue at home about the state of their relationship, and their musical direction. During their quarrel I thought, with absolute earnestness, ‘Wow, these porcupines have an unusually spacious apartment.'” Read more…)