New releases 11/23/21

Top Hits
Prisoners of the Ghostland (action/adventure, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 53. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “With hindsight, we should have known that a collaboration between Nicolas Cage and the dashingly eccentric Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono was only a matter of time. Yet now that ‘Prisoners of the Ghostland’ is here, it seems equally apparent that doubling the weirdness can, for the audience, produce ten times the head-scratching.” Read more…)

Four Good Days (drama, Glenn Close. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The film is based on a 2016 Washington Post article by Eli Saslow, who wrote the screenplay with the director, Rodrigo García. The movie adheres to the crucial points, even if it relocates the characters from greater Detroit to Southern California. It also preserves the story’s power.” Read more…)

Caveat (thriller/horror, Ben Caplan. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 60. From Sheila O’Malley’s RogerEbert.com review: “‘Caveat’ is a masterpiece of understatement for a title, and a witty opener to Damian Mc Carthy’s directorial debut, an impressive and often terrifying film, taking place almost solely in one location, with two people trapped in a moldy dimly-lit house. Crumbling paintings whisper in the night, and a toy rabbit with human-sized glass eyes acts as a canary in a coalmine, beating on a drum furiously, as a warning, a harbinger of approaching doom.” Read more…)

Benny Loves You (horror/comedy, Karl Holt. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. From Erik Piepenburg’s capsule New York Times review: “The joys of ‘Benny Loves You’ are from watching Benny giggle and slash his way through rampages that turn Jack’s home and office into farcical scenes of blood-soaked carnage. Holt, who also wrote the film, has a cutting, irreverent sense of humor that doesn’t always land. But when it does, it shines, especially when it’s paired with grisly violence, like death by baguette.” Read more…)

Butter on the Latch/Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2 films dir. by Josephine Decker, Butter—drama/horror, Thou Wast—thriller/romance. Rotten Tomatoes: 78% (Butter); 71% (Thou Wast). Metacritic: 60 (Butter); 66 (Thou Wast). From Nicolas Rapold’s 2014 New York Times review of both films (which enjoyed a joint release): “While both films have rough patches and look-at-me asides, ‘Butter on the Latch’ thrives on its casually true snapshots of confusion and connection.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Double Indemnity Blu-Ray (1944, film noir, Barbara Stanwyck & Fred MacMurray. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 95. From Bosley Crowther’s 1944 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The cooling-system in the Paramount Theatre was supplemented yesterday by a screen attraction designed plainly to freeze the marrow in an audience’s bones. ‘Double Indemnity’ is its title, and the extent of its refrigerating effect depends upon one’s personal repercussion to a long dose of calculated suspense. For the sole question in this picture is whether Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray can kill a man with such cool and artistic deception that no one will place the blame on them and then maintain their composure under Edward G. Robinson’s studiously searching eye.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Wife of a Spy (Japan, wartime espionage drama, Yû Aoi. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Combined with its period setting — the movie begins in 1940, at a silk inspection center in Kobe where a British fellow is picked up for questioning — viewers might therefore expect a fairly conventional dramatic thriller. But the director and co-writer here is Kiyoshi Kurosawa, whose approaches to story and genre are always unusual. Soon into its machinations, ‘Wife of a Spy’ begins to thrum with unusual intensity.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Baptiste: Season 2 (mystery series, Tchéky Karyo. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Stuart Jeffries’ Guardian review: “It is the second series of Baptiste, the thriller that started as a spin-off of The Missing, with James Nesbitt. As in the previous instalment, in which Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) was tasked with busting a human trafficking cabal called the Brigada Sibernia, we are on the trail of villains who roam the eurozone, disappearing the innocent for initially inscrutable purposes.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Frenchman’s Creek (1944, romance/swashbuckling, Joan Fontaine. From Bosley Crowther’s 1944 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “That wondrous realm of purest fancy in which ladies have spirit and grace and gentlemen are gay and adventurous (not to mention good-looking, too) is the realm to which Paramount transports us, with a wave of its cinematic wand, in its film made from Daphne du Maurier’s novel, ‘Frenchman’s Creek,’ which came to the Rivoli yesterday. It is the realm of romantic extravagance and elaborate deeds of derring-do, where the sword has no keener edge for cutting than the flash of a costumed lady’s eye. And it is a realm made for Technicolor, which is what is employed here.” Read more…)

Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948, supernatural film noir, Edward G. Robinson. From Raymond Benson’s Cinemaretro.com review: “Anything that originated from the mind of celebrated mystery novelist, Cornell Woolrich, is worth one’s perusal, and the 1948 film adaptation of the author’s 1945 work, ‘Night Has a Thousand Eyes’ mostly measures up. Directed with confidence and style by John Farrow, Night is a film noir that ticks a lot of boxes that define that Hollywood cinematic movement of the late 1940s and early 50s. There’s a cynical and disturbed protagonist who is haunted by the past, cinematography [by John F. Seitz] that highly contrasts light and shadows, voiceover narration, flashbacks, and, of course, crimes. It’s short [81 minutes] and it’s intriguing.” Read more…)

The Accused (1949, film noir, Loretta Young. From T.M.P.’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Murder is a common and salable screen commodity. But ‘The Accused,’ which opened yesterday at the Paramount, is no ordinary exercise in violence. This is a super-duper psychological job, well spiced with terminology which sounds impressive, if not always crystal clear in meaning, and the performers go about their business with an earnestness which commands attention. Under William Dieterle’s assured direction, the story flows smoothly and methodically builds up suspense to a punchy climax which leaves it to the audience to determine whether the defendant should be punished or go free.” Read more…)

Girl Gang (1954, Z-grade cult exploitation film, Joanne Arnold)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Killing Hour aka The Clairvoyant (1982, mystery/horror, Elizabeth Kemp)

New Documentaries
The Village Detective: A Song Cycle (cinema history, acting, Soviet history, Mikhail Zharov. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The main title of this movie could be referring to two different people. The first would be Fyodor Ivanovich Aniskin, the avuncular hero of a banal 1969 Soviet film, played by the frequently avuncular actor Mikhail Zharov. Consulting on a case in which a musician, new to his hamlet, complains of a purloined accordion, Aniskin notes that the man does not yet understand the values of their small town. The other ‘village detective’ might be Bill Morrison himself. For Morrison, who is the producer, director and editor of this strangely intoxicating film, is a cinematic investigator of the first stripe.” Read more…)