New releases 9/25/18

Top Hits
Solo: A Star Wars Story (adventure. Sci-fi, Alden Ehrenreich. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 62. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘This was never about you,’ someone says to Han Solo, which is odd since the movie is called ‘Solo.’ I don’t want to make this about me, but there are a lot of questions that, in the 41 years since I saw the first “Star Wars” movie — fine! the fourth one; ‘A New Hope’; jeez! — it has never occurred to me to ask. Where did Han Solo get his last name? How did he and Chewbacca meet? What was the winning hand in the game of Sabacc that gave him possession of the Millennium Falcon? How exactly did he make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs?” Read more…)

Gotti (gangster biopic, John Travolta. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 24. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “That the long-gestating crime drama ‘Gotti’ is a dismal mess comes as no surprise. What does shock is just how multifaceted a dismal mess it is.” Read more…)

Hot Summer Nights (thriller, Timothée Chalamet. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 44. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “There’s a scene in the 2013 film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ in which the title character, a struggling folk singer in early-1960s New York, meets a younger musician who’s been making waves. This other guy is well organized, polite and an engaging performer who can easily get a coffeehouse audience to sing along with him. During one such show, a flabbergasted Llewyn asks his friend, who admires this fellow, ‘Does he have a higher function?’ That unkind question passed through my mind while I was watching ‘Hot Summer Nights,’ written and directed by Elijah Bynum, who is making his feature debut.” Read more…)

The Seagull (Chekhov adaptation, Annette Bening. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Watching Annette Bening as Irina Arkadina in ‘The Seagull,’ Michael Mayer’s adaptation of the durable Anton Chekhov play, you might almost believe that the role was written with her in mind. There is very little Ms. Bening can’t do, but one of the things she does best is play actresses — the title character in ‘Being Julia,’ Gloria Grahame in ‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ and now Chekhov’s diva of the late-19th-century Moscow stage. Irina is charming and silly, imperious and intelligent, tough to the point of cruelty and also exquisitely sensitive.” Read more…)

Pin Cushion (coming-of-age story, Lily Newmark. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “For her first feature, “Pin Cushion,” the British director Deborah Haywood digs into her own teenage memories and unearths something eccentric, tragic and utterly unclassifiable.” Read more…)

The Bye Bye Man (horror, Douglas Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 37. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This horror movie has a hook that’s sharper than it sounds. ‘The Bye Bye Man’ melds the summon-the-evil-by-its-name convention familiar from ‘Candyman’ and, in a lighter register, ‘Beetlejuice,’ with the old try-not-to-think-of-an-elephant mind game.” Read more…)

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (horror/comedy, Thomas Lennon. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “An operatic aria of sleaze and slaughter, ‘Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich’ reboots the deadly-doll franchise that began in 1989 with the campy ‘Puppet Master.’ But while you don’t require familiarity with the dozen or so earlier titles to enjoy this one, you do require a sense of humor that’s easily triggered and a gag reflex that isn’t.” Read more…)

31 (Rob Zombie horror flick, Malcolm McDowell. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 35. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “No one goes to a Rob Zombie movie looking for classy entertainment, and with ’31’ the director works harder than ever to reinforce that tradition. Awash in blood and revoltingly misogynistic dialogue, this latest redneck ruckus (his seventh feature) is a grindhouse slog of unrelenting bad taste.” Read more..)

An American in Texas (drama, James Paxton)
Billionaire Boys Club (drama, Ansel Elgort. Rotten Tomatoes: 9%. Metacritic: 30.)

New Blu-Ray
Solo: A Star Wars Story

New Foreign DVDs
The Shepherd (Spain, drama, Miguel Martín. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From Jonathan Holland’s Hollywood Reporter review: “A stirring tale of one grizzled guy’s struggles to maintain his home and his dignity in the face of market forces, Jonathan Cenzual Burley’s debut ‘The Shepherd’ works up its simple man vs. system premise into a rich and compelling drama that, like an erring sheep, loses its way somewhat over the home stretch. Buoyed by an intense central performance by Miguel Martin, the film is part rural drama, part social critique and part homage to the harsh landscapes of central Spain, its low-budget ambitions no greater than to tell its important little story effectively. Mission accomplished: Further festival interest following the film’s triple Raindance triumph should extend ‘The Shepherd’s flock of followers.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
A Raisin In the Sun (1961, drama, Criterion Collection, Sidney Poitier. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New TV
Billions: Season 3 (Showtime drama, Paul Giamatti)

New Documentaries
Mountain (nature, adventure, Willem Dafoe [narrator]. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 82. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “For those terrified of heights, ‘Mountain’ will be a nonstop nightmare. Yet big scares are a small price for the awe-inspiring footage you’ll see. As for what you’ll hear, that takes a little explaining. The documentary, directed by Jennifer Peedom and filmed by Renan Ozturk and a collection of other cinematographers, presents a nonstop sequence of mountains on all seven continents: breathtaking ranges and snow-capped peaks are seen from above, below and on their slopes. Additional footage includes climbers, skiers and extreme mountain bikers taking risks that seem beyond outrageous.” Read more…)

Beuys (art, bio, Joseph Beuys. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 58. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “As is the case with many conceptual artists, Beuys’s work was best understood with Beuys’s actual presence attached to it. But Beuys has been dead since 1986. This documentary, directed by Andres Veiel using mostly archival footage, makes a strong case for Beuys, emphasizing the social conscience at work in his art more than the postmodern prankishness.” Read more…)

New releases 1/30/17

Top Hits
Queen of Katwe (family drama, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Irresistible’ is one of those adjectives that critics should handle with utmost care. No matter how universally charming or winning a movie or a performance might seem to be, there is always a chance that somebody, somewhere, will be able to resist it. For all I know that may be the case with ‘Queen of Katwe,’ but if there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don’t think I want to meet that person.” Read more…)

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (action, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 47. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ is the second movie that Tom Cruise has starred in as this title character. Let’s hope it’s the last. Mr. Cruise deserves better, as do his loyalists, who have stuck with him through the good and the bad, both in perfectly tailored roles that failed to impress audiences [‘Edge of Tomorrow’] and in roles that were unworthy of all his work and our love [‘Oblivion’]. In recent years, only the apparently indestructible ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise has provided him with a steady vehicle for his talents as well as for a ride to box-office success.” Read more…)

Masterminds (action/comedy, Zach Galifianakis. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 47. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘I blame popular culture,’ Zach Galifianakis says at the start of this comedy, the ridiculousness of his Southern accent rivaling that of his very fluffy hairstyle. His character, David Ghantt — a real-life felon who took part in an ostentatious crime in the late 1990s — is rationalizing his own miscreant deeds for the audience of ‘Masterminds,’ a would-be memorable piece of popular culture that applies the TV-sketch-show-surreal-farce approach to a based-on-true-events caper picture.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
My Neighbor Totoro

New Foreign
The Handmaiden (South Korea, thriller, Kim Tae-Ri. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in ‘The Handmaiden.’ Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.” Read more…)

Mountain (Israel, drama, Shani Kein)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Love Affair (1994, romance, Warren Beatty. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. From Janet Maslin’s 1994 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Warren Beatty isn’t quite Cary Grant in ‘Love Affair,’ though he plays the same ladies’ man Grant made so fabulously debonair in Leo McCarey’s 1957 ‘An Affair to Remember.’ [Charles Boyer also played this role, in 1939.] Surprisingly, he isn’t quite Warren Beatty either.  Never has Mr. Beatty seemed less foxy or confident than he does playing out this star-crossed romance opposite his real-life spouse, Annette Bening, who has the once glamorous Deborah Kerr role [played earlier by Irene Dunne]. A rule of thumb for male stars looking to set off flirtatious sparks: not with your wife, you don’t. Not on screen.” Read more…)

New British
Victoria: Season 1 (historical drama, Jenna Coleman)

New Documentaries
Harry and Snowman (horse competition, heartwarming. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Helen T. Verongos’ Times review: “The Snowman of Ron Davis’s documentary ‘Harry and Snowman’ is a horse that melts the heart. Purchased in the 1950s for $80 off a truck bound for the slaughterhouse, Snowman became a champion show jumper. And that was only one surprise in the long friendship that began when this scruffy white gelding locked eyes with Harry deLeyer, who raised horses and taught riding at a girls’ school in Long Island.” Read more…)

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (film history, Cannon Films, Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Manohla Dargis’s New York Times article: “Energetically directed by Mark Hartley, ‘Electric Boogaloo’ features the usual all-star talking heads, among them the Swedish slab Dolph Lundgren and the director Tobe Hooper, who made ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2’ for Cannon. Mr. Hartley taps plenty of entertaining archival material, some dating from Mr. Golan and Mr. Globus’s scrappy start in Israel. Mr. Golan, who directed his share of movies and died in 2014, registers as the more flamboyant and touching of the two, partly because movies were clearly his life’s passion and not just a long hustle. The talking heads are informative and often entertaining and not only because a number of the Cannon grunts and glitterati take such joy in imitating Mr. Globus and Mr. Golan’s accented English.” Read more…)