New releases 1/22/19

Top Hits
The Hate U Give (drama, Amandla Stanberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 81. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “The messy thing about relevancy is that sometimes it means not enough has changed for the better. One way to reckon with this fact is through art — which is why, as more black artists have gotten behind the camera and entered the writers’ room, the police brutality narrative has almost become a genre unto itself. Some recent works, like ‘Queen Sugar,’ the TV series created by Ava DuVernay, and Solange Knowles’s 2016 album, ‘A Seat at the Table,’ have been better than others at exploring the psychological toll of that brutality with care and nuance. Mr. Tillman’s ‘The Hate U Give’ [with a screenplay by Audrey Wells] lies somewhere in the middle.” Read more…)

First Man (true life space drama, Ryan Gosling. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s New York Timers review: “A clip of [a pivotal John F. Kennedy] speech appears near the end of ‘First Man,’ Damien Chazelle’s sweeping and intimate new film, which takes the conquest of difficulty as both theme and inspiration. Retelling the story of the American space program from the early ’60s to the Apollo 11 mission through the lens of Armstrong’s professional and personal life, Chazelle [drawing on James R. Hansen’s biography] unfurls a chronicle of setbacks, obstacles and tragedies on the way to eventual triumph.” Read more…)

Johnny English Strikes Again (comedy, Rowan Atkinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 39. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “On the evidence, Rowan Atkinson’s secret agent character, Johnny English, has grown slightly less bumbling over the years, and so has the series. ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ has a few more laughs and far fewer cringes [and stereotypes] than the two films that preceded it.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Hate U Give
First Man
The Road Warrior
Best F(r)iends 1 & 2 (comedy/drama, Tommy Wiseau)

New Foreign DVDs
I Am Not A Witch (UK/Zambia, feminist satire, Maggie Mulubwa. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 80. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘I Am Not a Witch’ a grimly absurdist debut feature from the Zambian-born, Welsh-raised director Rungano Nyoni, opens with a scene that uncomfortably implicates its own gawking audience. Tourists disembark from a vehicle. In a fixed shot, the camera pivots to show us what they’re there to see: a ‘witch camp’ in modern Zambia. The ‘witches,’ to all appearances, are merely women living in what looks like an outdoor farm prison, attached to ribbons that restrict them to a certain radius. The movie tells the story of an orphan, Shula [Maggie Mulubwa], who will soon share their fate after she’s accused of witchcraft, as a scapegoat for not very much.” Read more…)

The Apparition (France, drama, Vincent Lindon. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘The Apparition’ sounds like the title of a horror movie, and this is not a case where the United States distributors of this French film have goosed up the original language title, which was, yes, ‘L’apparition.’ There are several points in the movie during which the viewer can see the story line veer into genre territory, as when some of the characters, a disparate group convened for an investigation, discuss the possibility of working with an exorcist. But the movie, directed by Xavier Giannoli, in fact aims for tragedy (which it nearly achieves) and enigmatic spirituality [and here’s where there’s a problem].” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Unashamed (1932, pre-Code courtroom drama, Robert Young)

New TV
Girls: Season 5 (HBO comedy, Lena Dunham. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 73.)

New Documentary DVDs
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (bio, comedy, Robin Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 78. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “Despite its title, ‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’ is a straightforward, conventionally assembled documentary biography of an eccentric, decidedly idiosyncratic comedian and actor. At times that’s a limitation, but overall it’s a good thing. Simply watching Williams in action is probably more interesting than any concerted effort to get inside his head or dissect or approximate his method.” Read more…)

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (bio, art, photography, Garry Winogrand. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable’ gives the prolific street photographer — a label he disdained but could never shake — the ‘American Masters’ treatment. Informative but not overwhelming, it blends biography and appreciative analysis in 90 brisk, packed minutes. Visual artists are especially good subjects for this kind of documentary, and still images like Winogrand’s — mostly black-and-white, full of latent drama and arrested kineticism — lend themselves to cinematic contemplation.” Read more…)

New releases 1/15/19

Top Hits
The Old Man & The Gun (comedy/drama, Robert Redford. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The proper compliment to give ‘The Old Man & The Gun’ is that it treats Mr. Redford with the respect he deserves. A charismatic minimalist from the start, he has lately — in the haunting ‘All is Lost’ and the mild-mannered ‘Our Souls at Night’ — offered a series of master classes in understatement. At a time when bluster, bragging and histrionic displays of self-pity are apparently the defining characteristics of American manhood, it’s nice to be reminded of the virtues of discretion and quiet.” Read more…)

Goosebumps 2 (fantasy/horror/comedy, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 53. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In spite of its spooky source material, the movie is more of a family fantasy than a thriller. If children once stole the original ‘Goosebumps’ books from libraries to hide the source of their nightmares from their parents, ‘Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween’ feels slightly supervisory — a movie to leave playing in the background of a child’s birthday party. The movie is not all medicine with no sugar. Most of the set-piece sequences use extensive computer-generated imagery, but the director, Ari Sandel, also makes room for practical effects and real-life set dressing in his depiction of possessed Wardenclyffe.” Read more…)

Tea With the Dames (documentary, acting, theater, Dame Judi Dench. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The women of this film’s title are not just any dames. Friends and colleagues Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Maggie Smith are actors both legendary and still active [although Ms. Plowright, at 88 the eldest of the group, has been largely sidelined by blindness]. For the simple idea of sitting them all at a table and turning on a couple of movie cameras, the director Roger Michell should get a royal commendation himself.” Read more…)

The Bookshop (drama, Emily Mortimer. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The Spanish director Isabel Coixet might have been the best thing to happen to ‘The Bookshop,’ a gently disruptive adaptation of the 1978 novel by the English writer Penelope Fitzgerald. A more conventional filmmaker might have nudged this scathing attack on class entitlement in the romantic-comedy direction that early scenes seem to tease. Instead, Ms. Coixet highlights the undertow of subtle savagery in her genteel material, giving its picturesque setting — an English coastal village in 1959 — a more sinister, cynical cast.” Read more…)

Halloween (horror classic remake, Jamie Lee Curtis. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 67. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “It’s been four decades since Michael Myers and his fright mask first gave us the willies in John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween,’ which makes him 61 — and, if David Gordon Green’s same-name sequel is to be believed, still in possession of a ramrod spine, pile-driver fists and non-arthritic knees. The meals at Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, where he’s been cooling his heels all these years, must be unusually nutritious. On the other hand, Laurie Strode [Jamie Lee Curtis], the feisty Illinois babysitter who once eluded Michael’s stalk-and-slash spree, has aged more credibly than her nutjob nemesis.” Read more…)

The Party’s Just Beginning (drama, Karen Gillan. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The last time I saw Karen Gillan on a movie screen, in the blockbuster ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,’ she was playing a human incarnation of a video game character who was both bombshell and martial arts master. She also kicks up a storm in the opening minutes of ‘The Party’s Just Beginning,’ albeit in a much more glum context. Freestyle-monologuing in a pub on what seems to be karaoke night, she energetically advertises herself as a potential cult leader while fellow drinkers profanely heckle her.” Read more…)

After Everything (comedy/drama, Jeremy Allen White. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 67. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “As a cancer drama, ‘After Everything’ is refreshingly mundane, focusing less on the high stakes of illness than on how two young people talk to each other in sickness and in health. Its matter-of-fact tone is carried through to all of its lived-in performances, including welcome cameos by Marisa Tomei and Gina Gershon. But the film’s successes rest largely on its lead actors.” Read more…)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare update, Rachel Leigh Cook. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 67.)

New Blu-Ray
Halloween

New Foreign DVDs
24 Frames (Iran, Abbas Kiarostami drama/documentary. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 76. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Images become cinema in ’24 Frames,’ the last movie from the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami [1940-2016]. “I always wonder to what extent the artist aims to depict the reality of a scene,” he reveals in the opening text. ‘Painters capture only one frame of reality and nothing before or after it.’ This wondering led him to digitally transform 24 still images into short, visually and thematically linked sequences that make up this alternately charming and frustrating labor of love, which he worked on during the final three years of his life.” Read more…)

The Last Suit (Argentina, drama, Miguel Ángel Solá. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “An unfortunately contrived Holocaust drama that labors under the delusion that the subject matter lends itself to uplift, ‘The Last Suit’ concerns Abraham Bursztein [Miguel Ángel Solá], a Jew who was born in Poland but has lived in Argentina since the war. Instead of following through on his daughters’ plans and moving to a retirement home from his house of 50 years, he absconds on a sudden trip to Lodz, Poland, to keep a promise to a close boyhood friend.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Olancho (Honduras, music, drug violence)

New releases 1/8/19

Top Hits
Mid90s (drama, Sunny Suljic. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “No matter how old you were, where you lived or how many T-shirts and mixtapes you owned, it’s unlikely that you remember the mid-1990s as well — as obsessively, as nostalgically, as literally — as ‘Mid90s’ does. Written and directed by Jonah Hill, this film wants to be less a period piece than a time capsule, an immersion in the sights and sound of a pop-cultural moment.” Read more…)

What They Had (drama, Hilary Swank. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review, apparently dissenting from the positive critical consensus: “Programmatic and groaningly trite, “What They Had,” the debut feature from Elizabeth Chomko, would be impossible to swallow without its star-studded cast. Even so, it requires all their considerable skills to stop this soapy family drama from sliding into complete banality.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Mid90s

New Foreign DVDs
The Death of Louis XIV (France, period drama, Jean-Pierre Leaud. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Actor Jean-Pierre] Léaud, who has been a star of French cinema for most of his life [at 13, he created the character of Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut’s 1959 classic, ‘The 400 Blows’], clearly knows something about living in a kind of box, and he plays [King] Louis as a tired but majestic wreck. He’s riveting, and a little alarming.” Read more…)

Memoir of War (France, WWII drama, Melanie Thierry. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Marguerite Duras [who died in 1996 at 81 and was well known for the novel ‘The Lover’] was an unconventional writer, and by all accounts she lived life unconventionally as well. ‘Memoir of War,’ adapted from her 1985 book that was in part derived from her diaries of occupied France in World War II, depicts the writer as a young woman [Mélanie Thierry] emotionally rived by loss. But she is determined to hold on to her identity as she awaits a reunion with a husband who might not be coming home.” Read more…)

A Paris Education (France, drama, Adranic Manet. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 52. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Tines review: “In ‘A Paris Education,’ the snobs outnumber the cobblestones. One of the film’s many self-reflexive sequences sees Étienne explaining his artistic inadequacies to his roommate and conquest, Valentina [Jenna Thiam]. She smiles, and, in the film’s best shot, begins to lean into a kiss that hints at the kinetic energy that is lacking in both Étienne’s life and this movie. Desire and amusement light Valentina’s eyes before she teasingly passes her final judgment, remarking, ‘Étienne Tinan is a navel gazer.'” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Come To the Stable (1949, inspiring drama, Celeste Holm. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The gentle but dauntless persistence of two Roman Catholic nuns in procuring land and resources for a new children’s hospital is the nub of the sentiment and humor that have been rather copiously crammed by Twentieth Century-Fox into ‘Come to the Stable,’ which opened at the Rivoli last night. Likewise, the verve with which these sisters indulge in intense activities, such as driving a jeep and playing tennis, is the cause for much pointed merriment.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Sunday In New York (1963, rom-com, Jane Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review: “For an hour and a half, our virtuous heroine weighs her standards of morality against the flagrant hypocrisy of her older brother and the strong allure of an attractive young man. Down to New York to ask her brother whether she should or should not give in to the candid propositions of an Albany suitor, she finds herself not only deceived by the piety of her tomcat brother but conveniently importuned by this attractive young fellow she happens to run into—to ‘meet cute,’ as they say—on a Fifth Avenue bus.” Read more…)

Zandy’s Bride (1974, western, Gene Hackman. From Howard Thompson’s 1974 New York Times review prequires log-in]: “What promises to be an engrossing character study of a lovely, lonely mail-order wife and her adaptation to a crude, pioneer huband tapers off episodically and disappointingly in ‘Zandy’s Bride.’ It does so despite an intelligent performance by Liv Ullmann, whose luminous eyes light up the screen every minute, and the steady, watchful direction of Jan Troell, who has impressively rooted his first California film in a wild sweep of the Big Sur area. But for simple, sustained impact and depth, the new picture can’t touch Mr. Troell’s two superb pioneer dramas, ‘The Emigrants’ and ‘The New Land,’ filmed in his and Miss Ullmann’s native Scandinavia.” Read more…)

New TV
Castle Rock: Season 1 (Psychological horror-series based on Stephen King stories. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 66. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “‘Castle Rock’ is an original work [(writer Stephen) King is a producer] that borrows from [King’s] oeuvre. And while the series is ostensibly created for obsessive and newbie alike, the first episodes — heavy on atmosphere but weak on character — feel like the creators expecting affection for his past creations to do a lot of the work.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Kusama: Infinity (art, bio, Yayoi Kusama. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 71. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “It may seem strange for a movie to argue that an artist who at various times has been called the world’s most popular and has set a record for the highest amount paid for a work by a living female artist is somehow undervalued. But ‘Kusama — Infinity,’ a documentary from Heather Lenz, makes a convincing case that the art world and the general public are still catching up with the influence of Yayoi Kusama, the painter, sculptor and performance artist perhaps most widely known for her mirrored ‘Infinity’ rooms.” Read more…)

Far From the Tree (family struggles, parents and children. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 70. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New Yok Times review: “At an hour and a half, the often-inspiring documentary ‘Far From the Tree’ plays like a companion piece to or a preview for Andrew Solomon’s best-selling 2012 book, which, with notes, runs more than 1,000 pages. But its goal is similar: The director, Rachel Dretzin, and Mr. Solomon, a professor of clinical psychology who is both a producer and an on-camera presence here, set out to explore families in which parents and children differ profoundly, whether because of innate factors [Down syndrome, dwarfism] or divergences [the film introduces us to a mother and father whose son was convicted of murder].” Read more…)

The Alps (nature, adventure, mountain climbing, MacGillivray Freeman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New releases 1/1/19

Top Hits
Bad Times at the El Royale (thriller, Jeff Bridges. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Characters enter the ominous digs in ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ but they don’t always exit. This is hardly news. As the title suggests, El Royale — a motor lodge with pretensions of grandeur, which seems like an apt metaphor for this movie — isn’t a place for a good night’s sleep. It’s a spot for intrigue, desperation, swinging tunes and bloodletting.” Read more…)

Night School (comedy, Kevin Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 43. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In ‘Night School,’ Kevin Hart plays a student in an adult education class, and Tiffany Haddish plays his teacher. Just by writing that sentence, I’m afraid I may have raised expectations too high. But now maybe I’ve lowered them too far. Not that this ragged comedy, directed by Malcolm D. Lee, is bad, exactly. It proposes a concept — summed up in the title — and follows it to a logical conclusion.” Read more…)

Trouble (comedy/drama, Angelica Houston. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A great many indignities are heaped on Bill Pullman’s character, Ben, in ‘Trouble,’ including pneumonia, a collapsed lung and a bullet to the chest. This last is delivered by his sister, Maggie [Anjelica Huston], though she’s not the only relative who wishes him ill: another tries to smother him with a pillow. Family, it seems, is not Ben’s forte.” Read more…)

1985 (drama, Cory Michael Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The AIDS crisis, which will remain a global crisis until a definitive cure for the disease is found, is no longer at the foreground of our culture. The film ‘1985’ is a moving cinematic sketch of a HIV-infected man living through the height of the plague.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Bad Times at the El Royale
Night School

New Foreign DVDs
The Captain (Germany, WWII drama/fascism, Max Hubacher. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘The Captain,’ Robert Schwentke’s harrowing World War II psychodrama, isn’t what you would call enjoyable, exactly. More accurately, it compels our attention with a remorseless, gripping single-mindedness, presenting Nazism as a communicable disease that smothers conscience, paralyzes resistance and extinguishes all shreds of humanity.” Read more…)

Scaffolding (Israel, drama, Asher Lax. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The protagonist of ‘Scaffolding,’ an Israeli coming-of-age film, isn’t really ready to come of age — not that he seems to know it. At school, the bullheaded 17-year-old Asher Lax [played by an actor named Asher Lax] challenges authority, disobeys instructions and shows not even the slightest semblance of politesse to his classmates.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969, western, Robert Redford. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.)

New Documentary DVDs
Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (music, bio, Joan Jett. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Too many people do not think of the rocker Joan Jett as an important artist, and I doubt Ms. Jett thinks of herself quite that way either. ‘Bad Reputation,’ a documentary on her life and work directed by Kevin Kerslake [the title comes from one of Ms. Jett’s hits], convincingly makes the case that she is very much that. And that she is a feminist heroine as well.” Read more…)

Love, Gilda (bio, comedy, Gilda Radner. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. From Jason Zinoman’s New York Times review: “In the late 1970s, hardly anyone was as funny as Gilda Radner. As one of the first and brightest stars of “Saturday Night Live,” she played a critical role in establishing the foundation of the most important comedy showcase on television. By the 1980s, she faded from public view and at the age of 42, died from cancer. ‘Love, Gilda’ is a very affectionate reminder of her brief and brilliant career, a heartfelt love letter whose title might be more accurate without the comma.” Read more…)

The Pension Gamble (economics, politics, Wall Street)
Matanga Maya M.I.A. (bio, music, world music M.I.A.)

New Children’s DVDs
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

New releases 12/25/18

Top Hits
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (drama/romance, Chloë Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Navigating troubled culture-war waters with grace, humor and compassion, ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is a movie that deserves a wide and diverse audience. Based on a young-adult novel by Emily Danforth, the film arrives in theaters without a rating, which is probably just as well. The Motion Picture Association of America has a habit of using the R rating to shoo teenagers away from realistic depictions of their own lives, a prohibition that is easy enough to get around in the age of digital streaming but that nonetheless serves as an official endorsement of evasion and repression.” Read more…)

White Boy Rick (true crime, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 59. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Squint and you can sometimes make out the bigger, more complex stories in ‘White Boy Rick,’ including those of a great city violently brought low; of fragile communities left to fail and rot; and of a legal system that seems permanently broken. Too often, though, the movie traffics in genre clichés and the usual suspects, as emissaries of law [mostly white] and disorder [black] swagger and scheme at the opposite ends of the O.K. Corral.” Read more…)

En El Séptimo Día aka On The Seventh Day (lives of undocumented immigrants in Brooklyn, Fernando Cardona. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘En el Séptimo Día’ pulls off the tricky feat of feeling utterly natural as it ratchets with the mechanics of drama and suspense. A return to Brooklyn for the filmmaker turned television director Jim McKay — whose terrific Crown Heights coming-of-age movie ‘Our Song’ opened in 2001 — the film doesn’t shy from showing its range of influences or its multiculturalism. The credits and subtitles are in English and Spanish. The nonprofessional cast members are as compelling as any pros.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
White Boy Rick

New Foreign DVDs
Bag of Marbles (France, occupied France/Holocaust drama, Doran Le Clech. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 55. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This film, directed by Christian Duguay, is the second time the French author Joseph Joffo’s 1973 autobiographical novel, ‘Un Sac de Billes,’ has been adapted into a movie. [The first version, directed by Jacques Doillon in 1975, never found a U.S. release.] Mr. Duguay chooses to frame this story in a period mode highly influenced by Hollywood pictures. Despite the hardships endured by the characters, nearly every shot seems dappled with nostalgia.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Lucky Them (2014, drama, Toni Colette. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 65. From Rachel Saltz’s New York Times review: “In ‘Lucky Them,’ a seen-better-days critic, Ellie Klug [Toni Collette], writes for a seen-better-days magazine that covers alternative rock as if it were the only music in the pop universe. Ellie ignores deadlines and the marketplace, and is burdened by the kind of integrity that looks more like self-destructiveness. [In the real world, she would have been fired years ago.]”)

New Documentary DVDs
Sacred (religion, varied faith traditions. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “The TV journalist Bill Moyers once said of the mythologist Joseph Campbell that he ‘was one of the most spiritual men I ever met, but he didn’t have an ideology or a theology.’ The same might be said of Thomas Lennon, who directed ‘Sacred,’ a kaleidoscopic travelogue depicting demonstrations of faith worldwide. Mr. Lennon [no relation to the ‘Reno 911!’ comedian] enlisted 40 filmmakers in 25 countries to record scenes large and small, and the results are surprisingly cohesive.” Read more…)

Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (directed by Wim Wenders, bio, religion. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 63. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For much of this movie, [director Wim] Wenders frames the pope in a plain medium close-up and invites the man to speak his mind. With his kind face, intelligent gaze, and ready smile, Francis is an amiable and compelling figure. He is not what you would call starry-eyed, though. He shows considerable knowledge of the horrors of the modern world and speaks with simplicity, informed by philosophical inquiry, about what the Roman Catholic Church can do to counter it.” Read more…)

Transformer (bio, transgender identity, Janae, formerly Matt Kroczaleski. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 78.)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (drama/romance/gay conversion, Chloe Grace Moretz)

New releases 12/18/18

Top Hits
A Simple Favor (thriller, Anna Kendrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 67. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Sly and sweet with an acid finish, ‘A Simple Favor’ is a female-friendship comedy with neo-noir ambitions. Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a widow raising her young son in a chilly Connecticut suburb. From her tidy, bright kitchen festooned with children’s drawings, she regularly hosts a self-produced internet program. Stephanie’s pitching recipes and positivity with a smile, but mostly she’s peddling aspirational motherhood, which, with longer hemlines, might easily veer into ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ territory.” Read more…)

Assassination Nation (action, Odessa Young. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 56. From Aisha Harris’ New York times review: “Guns, transphobia, bullying: These are some of the ‘trigger warnings’ announced onscreen within the first few moments of ‘Assassination Nation,’ an abrasive social satire about a town horrifically transformed by a wave of anonymous data hacks. The cheeky opener is an apt mood-setter, even if it does not — cannot, perhaps — adequately prepare you for the gory twists and turns to come in the writer-director [and former Best Video intern!] Sam Levinson’s black comedy.” Read more…)

The Predator (action/horror, Boyd Holbrook. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 48. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Sporting the taxonomically useless title ‘The Predator,’ the latest movie in the ‘Predator’ franchise comes courtesy of Shane Black [‘The Nice Guys’], who appeared as comic relief in the 1987 original and seems to have taken that experience to heart. The new film splits the difference between serving up snark and self-parody — a middle school is named after the producer Lawrence Gordon; there are callbacks to lines from the other films — and delivering the goods for fanboys who insist that the predator have a back story.” Read more…)

The House With a Clock In Its Walls (magical adventure, Jack Black. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 57.From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The director Eli Roth has previously indulged his cinephilia with gory exploitation throwbacks [‘Hostel’], but in ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls,’ he makes a nostalgic fun house movie geared toward a younger crowd, and it pays off. This screen version of a celebrated 1973 book by John Bellairs doesn’t have the sophistication of an adaptation like ‘Hugo,’ but no film in which Cate Blanchett head-butts a vivified jack-o’-lantern could be entirely without merit.” Read more…)

Venom (comic book action, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 35. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It would be irresponsible of me to recommend that you get to the theater late if you go see ‘Venom,’ a new movie adapted from a Marvel comic book about a kind of divided-self superantihero. By missing the first scene you will be bereft of some ostensibly essential plot material concerning a rocket crash, alien organisms fetched from the East Malaysia scene of said crash, one such alien organism taking over a variety of human bodies, and so on.” Read more…)

Fahrenheit 11/9 (political polemic, documentary, Michael Moore, Donald Trump. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “But [director Michael] Moore recognizes an affinity he shares with the president — also a showman. So he is in a nearly unique position to shame the viewer with a frank perspective on how Mr. Trump used his extrovert side to make citizens complacent about the less savory aspects of his character.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Equalizer 2
Venom
The House With a Clock In Its Walls

New Foreign DVDs
Saint Nick (Netherlands. Horror/comedy, Huub Stapel. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.)
Two Women (Russia, based on Ivan Turgenev play, Ralph Fiennes. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 54.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Endless Love (1981, romance/drama, Brooke Shields. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. From Janet Maslin’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There are two sorts of people who’ll be going to see ”Endless Love” – those who have read the richly imaginative novel on which the movie is based and those who have not. There will be dismay in the first camp, but it may be nothing beside the bewilderment in the second.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Fahrenheit 11/9 (political polemic, documentary, Michael Moore, Donald Trump. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “But [director Michael] Moore recognizes an affinity he shares with the president — also a showman. So he is in a nearly unique position to shame the viewer with a frank perspective on how Mr. Trump used his extrovert side to make citizens complacent about the less savory aspects of his character.” Read more…)

California Typewriter (writing, technology, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘California Typewriter’ might center on a small, beleaguered typewriter repair shop in Berkeley, Calif., but this quirky, obsessive documentary is about so much more than broken keys and busted type wheels. It’s really about how we create art.” Read more…)

Saving Brinton (cinema history, William Franklin Brinton. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 78. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “It’s clear five minutes into ‘Saving Brinton’ that the line between hoarder and preservationist really is fine. It’s also clear that you need sensitive, humane filmmaking to insist that one is very different from the other. The average documentary would gawk. This one reclassifies: One person’s pack rat is another’s collector. And Michael Zahs, this movie’s sturdily built, mighty bearded subject, does indeed collect.” Read more…)

McQueen (fashion, bio, Alexander McQueen. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Triumph over abuse was a motif that the British fashion designer Alexander McQueen [who died in 2010] returned to repeatedly in his legendary runway shows, as Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s compassionate documentary, ‘McQueen,’ reveals. In simulated settings like a mental hospital or a Highland moor, his models turned violence into performance and suffering into story. Their garments — often cunningly tattered or fabulously deconstructed — weren’t always wearable, but were impossible to disregard.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Happy Holidays, Garfield

New releases 12/11/18

Top Hits
Colette (historical drama/romance/biopic, Keira Knightley. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Colette’ is an origin story, a tale of metamorphosis rather than of already formed greatness. What interests Mr. Westmoreland is how a self-described country girl became a woman of the world, a transformation that in its deeper, more intimately mysterious registers remains out of reach of this movie and of the hard-working Ms. Knightley. Mostly, he suggests, an intoxicatingly free world was waiting for Colette; all she had to do was discover it.” Read more…)

Peppermint (action, Jennifer Garner. Rotten Tomatoes: 10%. Metacritic: 29. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “You have seen ‘Peppermint’ before. Directed by Pierre Morel [‘Taken’] and starring Jennifer Garner as Riley North, a hard-working suburban mom turned avenging angel, the vigilante thriller hits all the major tropes of the genre. If Hollywood diversions like ‘Death Wish’ and the bizarro ‘Face/Off’ are your bag, choosing to spend 90-plus minutes watching Ms. Garner return to her early action-hero roots and peel off dozens of evil men with ease might seem like a no-brainer. Yet ‘Peppermint’ is a belabored exercise in lazily constructed déjà vu, without the grit or stylized ham of predecessors it so baldly steals from.” Read more…)

Smallfoot (animated feature, Channing Tatum [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The movie, directed by Karey Kirkpatrick, has just enough wit and visual invention to get by. [The ‘Bad Santa’ team of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra are among those credited with the story.] But for all the hints of darkness around its edges, the film is ultimately like its heroes: cuddly, cute and harmless.” Read more…)

Galveston (thriller, Ben Foster. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 57. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “With shadowy imagery that pushes the boundaries of visibility and a mumbly lead performance from Ben Foster that strains the limits of intelligibility, ‘Galveston’ goes past film noir and lands at film murk. Fans of ‘True Detective,’ whose creator, Nic Pizzolatto, wrote the novel on which this movie is based, won’t be surprised to see a routine on-the-lam scenario treated with the solemnity of the Oresteia. But the heavy-handed filmmaking is more of a mystery coming from the actress Mélanie Laurent, who directed the elegant ‘Breathe’ [2015].” Read more…)

Lizzie (psychological thriller, Chloë Sevigny. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 60. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “There is something wildly freeing about the savage killings in ‘Lizzie,’ a distinctly feminist take on the notorious Lizzie Borden, history’s most famous, if unproven, mom-and-pop slayer. This sense of liberation derives from murders enacted with the methodical exhilaration of a jailbreak — a cathartic response to years of oppression by her miserly father, Andrew [Jamey Sheridan], and loathed stepmother, Abby [Fiona Shaw]. And when Lizzie strips naked before hacking her two tormentors to slivers, her nudity isn’t simply practical: It’s the repudiation of a 19th-century wardrobe that controlled women’s movements as thoroughly as men did.” Read more…)

The Equalizer 2 (action, Denzel Washington. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Vengeance is mine, saith the lord, but that was before Denzel Washington stepped up. One of the reigning symbolic patriarchs of genre cinema — a fraternity that includes Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson and the rather less-convincing Bruce Willis — Mr. Washington has been meting out extreme punishment for some time. He’s especially persuasive playing the kind of brutal redeemers who unblinkingly snuff out the murderous many to save a single innocent, which is exactly what he does at the start of ‘The Equalizer 2.'” Read more…)

The Nun (horror, Demian Bichir. Rotten Tomatoes: 27%. Metacritic: 46. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The protagonist searches for something in a dark, dank corridor. The camera pans to the right. The camera pans to the left — and oh, my God, now there’s something behind her! If you enjoy shots like the one described above, “The Nun,” the latest spinoff of “The Conjuring,” has that and other timeworn, reflex-testing jolts in store. The franchise has proved to be a reliable if variably elegant “boo” machine; the same applies here.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Peppermint

New Foreign DVDs
Mademoiselle Paradis (Austria, costume drama, Maria Dragus. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “It’s the kind of teasing what-if with which we begin torturing ourselves as children: If you had to choose one, would you rather be deaf or blind? Would you rather have the gift of sight for a brief time only to have it taken away, or never know exactly what you’re missing? And if regaining your vision meant losing your most unique talent, would you take that trade? For blind Austrian pianist Maria Theresia ‘Resi’ Paradis, the latter wasn’t a hypothesis or a choice, but a perverse quandary into which her body threw her — not that the draconian patriarchy of the late 18th century would have permitted her much say either way. A fresh, inquisitive portrait of her pivotal teenage years from director Barbara Albert, ‘Mademoiselle Paradis’ is less interested in its subject’s potted biography than in how her era’s vicious politics of class and gender affected her plight.” Read more…)

Nostalghia (1983, Soviet Union, drama, Domiziana Giordano. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From, Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Loveliness, I’m afraid, is really what this movie is all about. The Italian landscapes, frequently heavily misted, the ancient churches, the old towns, the occasional peasant, and the leading lady [Domiziana Giordano] are so lovely one feels that Mr. Tarkovsky’s private world was created for camera-carrying tourists.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Beyond Tomorrow (1940, holiday, Harry Carey. From Bosley Crowther’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]:”We’ve never had any particular grudge against ghosts, but we’re rapidly developing one. That goes too for the scenarists who insist on calling forth shades from the Stygian night. For when the ghosts come in, the plot usually goes out the window, and after that a mere film reviewer is apt to be as confused as if he were sitting at a séance with levitating tables, blurred apparitions and sepulchral voices. Take ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ which opened yesterday at the Palace. For its first half it is a latter-day Christmas carol, told with a gamin tenderness and warming as a hot toddy. But when its three elderly good Samaritans return from a plane crash as celluloid chimeras, its mystical peregrinations are more preposterous than moving.” Read more…)

New TV
Westworld: Season 2 (sci-fi, Evan Rachel Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times review: “On the down side, ‘Westworld’ still treats itself more as a game to be beaten than as a story to be told. If the show has been plagued by zealous decoders, that’s because it hasn’t created characters nearly as involving as its labyrinthine plot. On the encouraging side, the video was a joke, and even a dusty attempt at humor was a welcome change of pace coming from a show whose first season was relentlessly dour, ponderous and stuck up its own maze.” Read more…)

Instinct: Season 1 (mystery, Alan Cumming. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%.)

New Documentary DVDs
Makala (Africa, economic struggles, personal story, inspiration. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Reviewers have cheered ‘Makala’ since it won the top prize last year at Cannes in Critics’ Week, a parallel festival devoted to first- and second-time feature directors. The case for it has some appeal: Rooting for its principal subject is irresistible, and — while pushing at the edges of what constitutes a documentary — it captures a type of work that movies seldom show.” Read more…)

Quiet Heroes (LGBTQ issues, AIDS crisis, discrimination, health care. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Dennis Harvey’s Variety review: “As a health crisis that began when inexpensive video equipment was becoming available, the AIDS epidemic was well-chronicled by filmmakers from a fairly early point — at least within the bounds of those living in major ‘gay mecca’ urban centers that got the bulk of alarmist public attention. A different perspective is offered by ‘Quiet Heroes,’ the Sundance-premiered documentary by Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga and Amanda Stoddard. They cast a light on Salt Lake City, a place where general cultural and religious conservatism meant most gays lived their lives in secret, and where the initial response to AIDS sufferers was particularly negative as a result. Focusing largely on the crusading efforts of two women who, backed by a Catholic hospital’s nuns, were for a time virtually the only medical professionals who’d deign to treat the HIV-positive in the area, this warmhearted feature offers a pleasingly upbeat take on a tragic era.” Read more…)

New releases 12/4/18

Top Hits
Mission: Impossible: Fallout (action, Tom Cruise. Rotten Tomatoes 97%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There’s a whole lot of everything in the ‘Mission: Impossible — Fallout,’ an entertainment machine par excellence that skitters around the world and has something to do with nuclear bombs, mysterious threats and dangerous beauties. Mostly, it has to do with that hyper-human Tom Cruise, who runs, drives, dives, shoots, flies, falls and repeatedly teeters on the edge of disaster, clinging to one after another cliffhanger. As usual, he works hard for our dollars and eyeballs in a movie that spins the oldies (a blonde with a knife in her garter) while pushing to greater spectacle-cinema extremes.” Read more…)

Operation Finale (thriller, Ben Kingsley. Rotten Tomatoes 58%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In May of 1960, Israeli secret agents captured Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi and one of the architects of the Final Solution, who had been hiding in Argentina. His subsequent trial, held in a Jerusalem courtroom and open to the public, was a crucial event in the global reckoning with the Holocaust. It was chronicled by Hannah Arendt in her controversial book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem,’ which popularized the phrase ‘banality of evil’ in reference to the supposedly gray, bureaucratic personality Eichmann exhibited on the stand. ‘Operation Finale,’ an earnest and effective dramatization of the efforts to find Eichmann in South America and convey him to Israel, instead emphasizes the evil of evil. And also, secondarily and not always comfortably, its charm.” Read more… For another cinematic take on this episode, see the recent film “The People vs. Fritz Bauer.”

The Happytime Murders (comedy, Melissa McCarthy. Rotten Tomatoes 23%. Metacritic: 27. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To anyone who grew up on ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘The Muppet Show’ and various Muppet movies, ‘The Happytime Murders’ will be either a crime against childhood or the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Maybe both. There is something irresistible and also shameful in the idea that furry figures with googly eyes, hinged jaws and floppy limbs might also possess filthy mouths, dirty minds and the ability to act out all their lustful, violent impulses. That they would be just like us, in other words.” Read more…)

Support the Girls (comedy, Regina Hall. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Support the Girls’ [the title refers to a carwash fund-raiser for the road-raging waitress] moves nice and easy for so long that it begins to feel drifty, unmoored. It’s not. Mr. Bujalski, who wrote as well as directed, doesn’t lean on shocks and big moments to spark tension or spur the narrative. A fine-grain realist, he creates modest, layered worlds and identifiably true characters, filling them in with details borrowed from life rather than the multiplex: a plastic milk crate used as a planter, the pleather-esque recliners in a stereo showroom, a heart-heavy woman putting heart-shaped stickers on walls.” Read more…)

Mary Shelley (biopic, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes 40%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Mary Shelley’ is a rarity: a literary biopic with an argument. Which is by no means to say that the film, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour [‘Wadjda’] forgoes the expected pleasures of the genre. You get candlelight and quill pens, Regency gowns and celebrity shout-outs ([amuel Taylor Coleridge, in the house!], and of course the usual feverish attempts to convey both the passion and the discipline of the writing process. Also good-looking young actors declaiming poetry and prose in crisply accented, grammatically flawless English. But rather than smother Mary Shelley — author of ‘Frankenstein,’ daughter of two eminent writers and wife of another — with soft cushions of antiquarian cultural prestige, Ms. al-Mansour and the screenwriter, Emma Jensen, sharpen the sense of Shelley’s modernity.” Read more…)

Anchor and Hope (comedy/romance, Oona Chaplin. Rotten Tomatoes 79%. Metacritic: 67.)
The Sun at Midnight (drama, Devery Jacobs)

New Blu-Ray
Operation Finale
Mission: Impossible: Fallout

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Jericho Mile (1979, made-for TV drama, Peter Strauss)

New TV
Sharp Objects: Season 1 (HBO drama mini-series based on Gillian Flynn novel, Amy Adams. Rotten Tomatoes 92%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From James Poniewozik’s Times review: “‘Sharp Objects,’ a mesmerizing eight-episode series beginning Sunday on HBO, is not the gothic crime thriller you might first suspect — at least not mainly. Instead, the show’s attention is drawn backward to [lead character] Camille [Preaker’s] injuries, emotional, physical and self-inflicted. [The title alludes to her habit of cutting words into her flesh, leaving her body a dictionary of scars.]” Read more…)

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 2 (dystopian series, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes 91%. Metacritic: 92.)
Elementary: Season 6 (Sherlock Holmes update, Jonny Lee Miller. Rotten Tomatoes 100%.)

New Documentary DVDs
Letter from Masanjia (human rights, labor rights, China. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times reciew: “In 2012, Julie Keith found a hidden letter in a box of Halloween decorations she bought at Kmart. The writer, Sun Yi, told of being imprisoned in a camp in Masanjia, China, where he and others were forced into slave labor. He asked the finder to help expose their plight. Ms. Keith, of Damascus, Ore., took it to The Oregonian newspaper, whose subsequent article was widely read around the world. The journey of that letter, and the tale of Mr. Sun’s detention and torture, is recounted in ‘Letter From Masanjia,’ a potent documentary that pushes the story still further after his release.” Read more…)

New releases 11/27/18

Top Hits
Searching (thriller, John Cho. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 71. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “What sets Aneesh Chaganty’s feature debut apart is its meticulously constructed storytelling device, which calls to mind ‘Unfriended [2014],’ the horror film about a group of teenagers whose video chat is interrupted by the presence of an online phantom, and its sequel ‘Unfriended: Dark Web,’ released earlier this summer. Every shot of ‘Searching’ plays out on a screen — a computer, a phone, through the lens of a clandestinely placed camera. It mostly works: It unveils a clever approach to character building, as during the opening montage of family photos, home videos and emails providing intimate details about the Kim family over several years.” Read more…)

Obey (drama, Marcus Rutherford. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “‘Obey’ is a well-directed, well-acted film that cleverly meshes news footage of the riots with staged fictional scenes, and there is a strong central performance from Marcus Rutherford as Leon, a young man just out of care, back at home with his caring but lonely and alcoholic single mum, Chelsea [an excellent performance from T’Nia Miller] and channelling his energies into boxing. When social tensions escalate, Leon finds himself in a crisis of loyalty among his friends, while falling for a beautiful social justice warrior/trustafarian white girl, Twiggy [Sophie Kennedy Clark], who is temporarily in a squat, though with the safety net of a comfortable family home out in the shires.” Read more…)

Blindspotting (comedy/crime, Daveed Diggs. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Picks. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This movie, which was written by Mr. Diggs and Mr. Casal, has an energetic-to-the-point-of-boisterous style. Its lively frequency is embedded in the writing, bolstered by Carlos López Estrada’s direction, and kept buoyant by the performers. This particular aspect of the film makes it exciting to watch, but can also be confounding. ‘Blindspotting’ often seems as if it wants to split the difference between its social concerns and its engagement level as an entertainment… But whatever my quibbles, the actual core of the movie is so pertinent that I’ve continued to think about it, hard, since I first saw it.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Searching

New Foreign DVDs
A Story from Chikamatsu (Japan, 1954, Criterion Collection, romance/drama, Kazuo Hasegawa. From Roger Greenspun’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Compared with the films of Kenji Mizoguchi with which we are already familiar [for example, ‘Ugetzu’—1953, ‘The Bailiff’—1954, or the sublime ‘Life of O’Haru’ — 1952), ‘Chikamatzu Monogatari,’ made in 1954, seems less lyrically poetic, less picturesquely strange, less immediately beautiful. But on the basis of just one viewing, I should guess that it is no less great.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers (Library of Congress, pathbreakers, 20+ hours of from 1911-29)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
On the Second Day of Christmas (1997, holiday movie, Mark Ruffalo)

New British DVDs
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Australia, mini-series based on a 1967 novel and previously filmed by Peter Weir in 1975, Natalie Dormer. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The vaudevillian, throw-everything-at-the-wall approach may reflect the creators’ sensibilities, or the need to fill a little over five hours of running time. But it also feels as if it might be a direct, somewhat panicked reaction to the ambiguities of the story. [writers Beatrix] Christian and [Alice] Addison have taken every latent idea, every veiled suggestion, in the material and made it explicit. Every piece of subtext has been dredged up so that it can be turned into banal commentary on the benighted attitudes of the provincial patriarchy toward gender, race, class and sexuality.” Read more…)

Jack Irish: Season 2 (Australia, mystery, Guy Pearce. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times review: “‘Jack Irish,’ an Australian series whose second six-episode season goes up at Acorn TV on Monday, is in the same general category as Amazon’s ‘Bosch’ [based on books by Michael Connelly] and ‘C.B. Strike,’ the BBC-Cinemax adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s mystery novels. That is, it’s a straightforward, noirish mystery starring a laconic, mostly noble, unapologetically genre-friendly gumshoe… The show is set apart, though, by its sense of humor, a quality that’s usually rationed in TV mysteries these days to preserve an overall [and often suffocating] atmosphere of seriousness.” Read more…)

New releases 11/20/18

Top Hits
Crazy Rich Asians (comedy/romance, Constance Wu. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New york Times review: “Every romantic comedy depends on obstacles to the central couple’s ultimate happiness. ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ a busy, fizzy movie winnowed from Kevin Kwan’s sprawling, dishy novel, sets up a series of clashes — between tradition and individualism, between the heart’s desire and familial duty, between insane wealth and prudent upward mobility — that are resolved with more laughter than tears. There are squalls of intrigue and a melodramatic cloudburst or two, but nothing that threatens to spoil the festivities.” Read more…)

Kin (sci-fi, Jack Reynor. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times Review: “Frustrated teenage boys are apt to dream up elaborate fantasies about gaining all the power they don’t have. The dream factory that is cinema has now enabled the sibling filmmakers Jonathan and Josh Baker to bring one such fancy to the screen. In ‘Kin,’ Eli [Myles Truitt], the 14-year-old adopted son of the hard-working Man of Integrity Hal [Dennis Quaid, seemingly angling to play Harrison Ford’s younger brother in a future film], finds an unusual weapon in an abandoned warehouse.” Read more…)

Mile 22 (action thriller, Mark Wahlberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 38. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “A testosterone cocktail of reactionary sound bites and incoherent action that even Michael Bay might have rejected as too amped, Peter Berg’s ‘Mile 22’ makes for an appalling referendum on the state of commercial cinema in 2018.” Read more…)

Thunder Road (drama, Jim Cummings. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 83. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times article on “Thunder Road”‘s inclusion in a festival of independent film: ” Playing Jim Arnaud, the fresh-faced Mr. Cummings brings a hapless candor that suggests the character is only barely keeping up, whether it’s during a dinner conversation with the family of his squad-car partner, or playing patty-cakes with his daughter. The episodic film is essentially one long slow-motion breakdown, culminating in a very public rebuke in the parking lot of the police department.” Read more…)

The Children Act (drama, Emma Thompson. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 62. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Children Act’ makes for a more wieldy movie than this year’s earlier ‘On Chesil Beach,’ which Mr. McEwan also adapted from his own book, in that case relying on retaining rhythms and chronological jumps better suited to the page. Here, a beautifully internalized performance from [actress Emma] Thompson and the various efforts to highlight the cinematic potential in Fiona’s anguish — the climax plays out during a piano recital — can’t override the tidy ironies of Mr. McEwan’s design.” Read more…)

We the Animals (indie drama, Raúl Castillo. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A tiny, uncut gem of a movie, ‘We the Animals’ is the first narrative feature from the nonfiction filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar and, as such, its subordination of plot to character and observation makes perfect sense. Most of that observation is through the eyes of Jonah [Evan Rosado], the film’s occasional narrator and the youngest of three preteen brothers in a mixed-race, blue-collar family in upstate New York. On one level, then, ‘We the Animals’ is a classic coming-of age tale; on another, it’s a near perfect depiction of the emotional damage that can result from economic insecurity.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Crazy Rich Asians

New Foreign DVDs
Heavy Trip (Finland, comedy/music, Torstein Bjørklund. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Some Like It Hot (1959, comedy classic, Criterion Collection, Marilyn Monroe. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 97. From A.H. Weiler’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There should be no doubt this morning that the members of the happily irreverent film troupe that made ‘Some Like It Hot’ have done something constructive about the old wheeze that begins, ‘Who was that lady I saw you with?’ For, in fashioning this overlong, occasionally labored but often outrageously funny series of variations on an ancient gag, they have come up with a rare, rib-tickling lampoon that should keep them, the customers and the management of the newly refurbished Loew’s State, which reopened yesterday, chortling with glee.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Last Movie (1971, Dennis Hopper-directed cult film, Dennis Hopper. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in}: “The new film, which opened yesterday at the R.K.O. 59th Street Twin Theater, was judged the best feature at the 1971 Venice Film Festival by the International Committee for the Diffusion of the Arts and Letters of Cinema — and I can only think that someone must be kidding. I know nothing about the committee, or its perhaps awesome mission, but its name is certainly as ornate, and as immediately meaningful as the movie on which it bestowed its prize. ‘The Last Movie’ is an extravagant mess, described by its publicity material as ‘an allegory concerning the destruction of innocence’ in which ‘the naive dreams involved are the agents of death, when sophisticated games become more absurd than the mind can tolerate . . .’ I don’t know about anyone else, but my mind had a good deal of trouble tolerating the inflated pretensions of Hopper, who, it’s now apparent, is gifted with all of the insights of a weekend mystic who drives to and from his retreat in a Jaguar.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Long Strange Trip (music, drugs, acclaimed doc about the Grateful Dead. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Daniel M. Gold’s Times review: “The Grateful Dead have been such fixed dark stars in rock ’n’ roll’s cosmology that it’s surprising there has never really been an extended cinematic exploration of the band. ‘Long Strange Trip,’ ambitiously assembled and elegantly directed by Amir Bar-Lev, fills that void. The band’s main four surviving members — Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart — are all credited as executive producers and speak at length; Dennis McNally, the band’s publicist and biographer, whose similarly titled history was clearly consulted, is a presence as well. A bountiful trove of archival images and rare footage sketches their communal life offstage and the counterculture in which they played so formative a part.” Read more…)

The Rape of Recy Taylor (U.S. history, civil rights, race, justice. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Planting a flag firmly at the intersection of patriarchy, sexism and white supremacy, ‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’ is a documentary of multiple layers and marvelous gumption. As if apprised in advance of our current political moment, the director, Nancy Buirski, wields the titular violation as a signpost to a wider, more insidious American crime. In this way, the 1944 gang-rape of one black woman in Alabama becomes emblematic of the effacement of an entire gender.” Read more…)

Making the Grade (music education, piano lessons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Music DVDs
Long Strange Trip (music, drugs, acclaimed doc about the Grateful Dead)