New releases 12/17/19

Top Hits
Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture (drama, Maggie Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 64. From Jennette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “With barely enough plot to go around, most characters are served a tiny dollop. Lacking the nutritious story lines of the past, the cross-cultural liaisons and the odd inconvenient corpse in Lady Mary’s bedroom, the movie is mainly empty calories. Yet its screenwriter, Julian Fellowes [who created the TV series], knows his stories have always relied less on words than on the looks — arch and knowing, suspicious and appalled — that ricocheted around every social gathering. Choreographing those is the job of the director, Michael Engler, who stretches each raised eyebrow and pursed lip to big-screen proportions, miraculously without turning every close-up into a cartoon.” Read more…)

Ad Astra (sci-fi, Brad Pitt. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Ad Astra,’ an adventure tale weighed down by the burdens of masculinity, Brad Pitt plays an astronaut in flight. The film is a lovely, sincere and sometimes dopey confessional about fathers and sons, love and loss that takes the shape of a far out if deeply inward trip. As in many expeditions, the journey doesn’t simply progress; it stutters and freezes and periodically backslides. Yet each step — the story begins on Earth and soon rockets to the dark side of the moon — is a reminder that in order to get found, you need to get lost.” Read more…)

Abominable (animated feature, Chloe Bennett [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Abominable’ is an exceptionally watchable and amiable animated tale written and directed by Jill Culton. Its opening scene is like that of a first-person video game. From the point of view of something in captivity, we, the audience, break free, bouncing out of a cell and into a lab, where a red-haired female scientist informs us, in a plummy British accent, that we really ought not to be out and about.” Read more…)

Where’s My Roy Cohn (documentary, history/bio, Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In a television interview near the end of his life, Roy Cohn predicted that his obituaries would lead with Senator Joseph McCarthy. He wasn’t wrong. Thanks partly to the televised Army-McCarthy hearings, Cohn’s role as the Wisconsin senator’s youthful counsel was imprinted on the public memory and seemed, when Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, to be the most significant episode in a contentious public career. Lately, the emphasis has shifted, in part thanks to Cohn’s association, in the ’70s and ’80s, with the New York real estate developer who is now the president of the United States.” Read more…)

The Mountain (drama, Jeff Goldblum. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 82. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “More times than I can count, I have thanked the movie gods for Jeff Goldblum, whose lanky, often loquacious presence can lighten almost any project. Even so, he has his work cut out in ‘The Mountain,’ Rick Alverson’s ferociously controlled, adamantly depressive story of a 1950s road trip taken by Andy [Tye Sheridan], a recently bereaved young man, and Dr. Wallace Fiennes [Goldblum], the itinerant psychiatrist who befriends him.” Read more…)

Overcomer (religion/sports drama, Alex Kendrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 17.)

New Blu-Ray
Ad Astra
Downton Abbey: The Motion Picture

New Foreign DVDs
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (China, drama/mystery, Huang Jue. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Midnight movies are no longer the attraction they were back in the late ’70s and early ’80s. This sometimes seems like a shame. ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,’ the second feature by the Chinese director Bi Gan [whose 2016 debut ‘Kaili Blues’ made an impression in art houses the world over], would make exemplary late-night communal viewing. Very often, and particularly in its second half, watching it feels like dreaming with your eyes open.” Read more…)

Eldorado (Germany. documentary/refugee crisis. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “Markus Imhoof’s Eldorado is a deeply felt documentary essay on Europe’s refugee question. He has bold footage shot from an Italian warship picking up desperate people from the sea, and films, too, in a train where refugees are attempting to cross borders illegally. There are also segments shot in the camps and fields where refugees are exploited as labourers and sex workers by the ugly forces of organised crime, for whom the influx of desperate souls in southern Italy has been an economic game-changer.” Read more…)

The Harvesters (South Africa, drama/coming-of-age/gay, Brent Vermeulen. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.)

New Documentaries
Barbara Rubin & The Exploding NY Underground (cultural history, Andy Warhol. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “If the arts in America ever produced an equivalent to the revolutionary French poet Arthur Rimbaud, it might have been the little-known but extremely influential filmmaker Barbara Rubin. The title of her magnum opus, the 1964 picture ‘Christmas on Earth,’ comes from a passage in Rimbaud’s ‘A Season in Hell,’ and the groundbreaking extremity of her work — and the actual trajectory of her life — can’t help but evoke the 19th-century poet. The comparison is made several times in ‘Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground,’ an informative and overdue documentary directed by Chuck Smith.” Read more…)

David Susskind: Interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (civil rights, Black history, David Susskind)
Survival of the Film Freaks (CT filmmaker, cult films, cinema history, Joe Bob Briggs)
Where’s My Roy Cohn (documentary, history/bio, Joe McCarthy, Roy Cohn)
Eldorado (Germany. documentary/refugee crisis)