New releases 9/1/20

Top Hits
Irresistible (comedy, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 47. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “East Coast slickness meets heartland folksiness in Irresistible,’ a political satire so broad and blunt that it flattens every joke and deflates every setup. Movies like this should skip and jab; instead, this second feature from the writer and director Jon Stewart [after his impressively accomplished prison drama, ‘Rosewater,’ in 2014] lumbers and flails.” Read more…)

Z (horror, Keegan Connor Tracy. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 63. From Brian Tallerico’s review: “Brandon Christensen’s ‘Z’ … is a vicious little movie that recalls ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘The Babadook’ with its story of a possessive force that destroys a family. It’s a little rough around the edges in terms of an obviously thin effects budget and even simple things like its overcooked score but there’s a lot to like here in terms of storytelling within the risky screenplay by Christensen and Colin Minahan.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Right Now, Wrong Then (South Korea, romantic comedy, Jae-yeong Jeong. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 81. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A story is a series of choices, which in retrospect take on an aura of inevitability. With a handful of notable exceptions, most movies take narrative linearity for granted, proceeding from one thing to the next in what seems to be an almost mathematically necessary sequence. The exceptions — ‘Rashomon,’ say, or ‘Pulp Fiction’ — tend to make a big deal of defying the rules of chronological order and cause-and-effect logic. The prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo practices a quieter, more radical mischief.” Read more…)

Black Gravel (West Germany, 1961, Cold War noir, Helmut Wildt. From Nick Pinkerton’s essay on the 2017 Berlin Film Festival at Film Comment: “What’s immediately striking about ‘Schwarzer Kies’ [the German title of ‘Black Gravel’], particularly in contrast to the majority of films that Hollywood was producing at the same time, is its wholly unglamorous naturalism—there’s lots o’ listless and loveless screwing, destructive binge-drinking, and puking bar girls—and its palpable proximity to the underbelly of German society. [Director Helmut] Käutner was shooting on location in Lautzenhausen, home of the Hahn Air Base, and he recruited real American G.I.s for the film and shot in the real red-light district, where the jukebox is heard blaring rockabilly for the troops and Volkstümliche marches for a local peasant who drinks for free in exchange for leasing his barn to be used as a cabaret until he blurts anti-Semitic slurs at a proprietor who bears a concentration camp tattoo on his forearm.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Slightly Scarlet (1956, rare Technicolor film noir, John Payne. From Bosley Crowther’s 1956 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Two red-headed women and one fat-headed man are the principal characters in ‘Slightly Scarlet,’ which came to the Criterion yesterday. The women, played by Rhonda Fleming and a laughably kittenish Arlene Dahl, are a couple of on-the-make sisters, and the fellow, played by John Payne, is an on-the-make big-time gangster. In the end all their faces are red.So, we say, should be the faces of the people responsible for this film.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Five Easy Pieces (1970, drama, Criterion Collection, Jack Nicholson. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 85. Roger Ebert,writing in 2003, on first seeing “Five Easy Pieces” when it was released in 1970: “We’d had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take: Into idiosyncratic characters, into dialogue with an ear for the vulgar and the literate, into a plot free to surprise us about the characters, into an existential ending not required to be happy. ‘Five Easy Pieces’ was a fusion of the personal cinema of John Cassavetes and the new indie movement that was tentatively emerging. It was, you could say, the first Sundance film.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
The Booksellers (book lovers, rare book dealers & collectors, Fran Lebowitz. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 72. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “There’s a lot of tweed, a couple of pocket squares and an old-fashioned waxed mustache in ‘The Booksellers,’ D.W. Young’s charming documentary about the book world — or more specifically the book-as-object world, with antiquarian booksellers trying to reinvent themselves and their industry in a digital era. Anybody curious about the inner workings of unglamorous behemoths like Amazon or the ailing Barnes & Noble will have to look elsewhere. Young made the aesthetically wise choice to focus mainly on purveyors specializing in rare books or niche subjects.” Read more…)

New releases 8/25/20

Top Hits
The Trip to Greece (comedy/culinary, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s too bad then that ‘The Trip to Greece’ never takes off. Like its predecessors, it hangs on the slimmest of premises: Coogan and Brydon journey to alluring destinations while trading quips, imitating the famous (Sean Connery, etc.), eating stylish chow and meta-riffing on their personas. Coogan is the self-serious performer with grand ambitions, or at least pretensions; Brydon is the somewhat more chill Everyman who goes for easy laughs.” Read more…)

The Burnt Orange Heresy (action/drama, Elizabeth Debicki. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The novel on which this movie is based, a slim thriller by the great American writer Charles Willeford, is in many ways typical of the author. It examines misogyny and murderous psychosis from so seemingly close a perspective as to make the reader queasy, if not downright upset. But the 1971 book contains something extra: an erudite satire of contemporary art, often expounded upon by an insufferable mansplainer. The mansplainer, in the book and this movie adaptation directed by Giuseppe Capotondi, is James Figueras, played as a looming, imposing figure by Claes Bang.” Read more…)

Yes, God, Yes (coming-of-age drama/comedy, Natalia Dyer. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Burdened by a silly R rating that may deter the very youngsters who are likely to enjoy it most, ‘Yes, God, Yes’ [written and directed by Karen Maine] fights back with an appealing lead and an overwhelmingly innocent tone. In its hands, the pleasures of self-pleasuring might be elusive, but they’re never, ever shameful.” Read more…)

Benjamin (comedy/romance, Colin Morgan. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 70. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “‘Benjamin’ opens on a film within a film, the long-awaited sophomore feature by thirtysomething Irish director Benjamin Oliver [Colin Morgan], whose once-clamorous career buzz has slowed to a murmur. The scene we’re shown looks promising enough: a tartly worded lovers’ argument between two men, one played by Benjamin himself, diffidently explaining his existential struggles with the very concept of romance. The film, titled ‘No Self,’ turns out to be semi-autobiographical account of the director’s gay dating troubles in modern London; the same is true of ‘Benjamin,’ which is self-effacingly written and directed by gifted British comedian Simon Amstell.” Read more…)

The King of Staten Island (comedy, Pete Davidson. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 67. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “At this length, ‘Staten Island’ should be a meatier Oedipal comedy — about Scott and Margie’s grief, stagnation and codependency; about Claire’s resentment of their bond — the kind of funny movie that’s a raw moment away from the tragedy just below its surface. Apatow was straining for that kind of feeling with ‘Funny People,’ from 2009. But he hasn’t gotten his comedy near true pathos since ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin.’” Read more…)

VHYes (comedy, Jake McNulty. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review, which diverges from the Rotten Tomatoes consensus: “‘VHYes’ is barely 72 minutes long, but that’s just one reason this outlandish picture barely qualifies as a feature. For one thing, it’s almost halfway through before anything approximating a story emerges; even then, it’s such a pale, sickly thing you’d be forgiven for thinking you had imagined it.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Marriage Story Blu-Ray (comedy/drama, Adam Driver. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 94. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Traditionally, a story that ends in matrimony is classified as a comedy. But what about a story that begins with the end of a marriage? Noah Baumbach’s tender and stinging new film, ‘Marriage Story,’ doesn’t quite answer the question. It’s funny and sad, sometimes within a single scene, and it weaves a plot out of the messy collapse of a shared reality, trying to make music out of disharmony. The melody is full of heartbreak, loss and regret, but the song is too beautiful to be entirely melancholy.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Toni (France, 1935, Jean Renoir-directed drama, Charles Blavette. Rotten Tomatoes:100%. From Renata Adler’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Toni,’ which was shown last night at the New York Film Festival, is such a little classic that film descendants of Renoir—Rossellini, for example, and through him Truffaut and Godard, who worked with him—sometimes refer to themselves as the Children of Toni. François Truffaut, in reviewing a movie by Claude Berri, once wrote, ‘Tout les enfants de Toni s’y reconnaitront’ [‘All “Toni”’s children will recognize themselves in it’).” Read more…)

The Best Intentions (1992, Sweden, bio/drama written by Ingmar Bergman, Samuel Fröler. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. From Janet Maslin’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Best Intentions,’ the epic-length story of a Swedish couple’s courtship and marriage, is dominated by an unborn child. The baby whose arrival is imminent as the film concludes will be Ingmar Bergman, whose screenplay looks back at the social, economic and personal forces that turned his parents’ early years together into a tug of war. Mr. Bergman’s long shadow must be reckoned with in every frame of ‘The Best Intentions,’ sometimes because his style exerts so strong an influence over Bille August [‘Pelle the Conqueror’], the film’s Danish director.” Read more…)

New British
Endeavour: Season 7 (mystery series, Shaun Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Great Impostor (1960, comedy/drama, Tony Curtis. From A.H. Weiler’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Leaning on the oldest saw of them all—the one having to do with truth being stranger than fiction—a dedicated team working for Universal-International has turned out an amusing, and occasionally fascinating, comedy-drama about the career of one of the most amazing—and likable—contemporary charlatans, Ferdinand W. Demara Jr.” Read more…)

Enter the Ninja (1981, martial arts/action, Franco Nero)

New Documentary DVDs
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (bio, music. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 74. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The critic Robert Christgau once called him ‘a weird new kind of purist: uncompromising proponent of commercial folk music.’ Early in the movie, a montage of artists as disparate as the British rocker Paul Weller and Lightfoot’s Canadian contemporary Neil Young singing the great ‘Early Morning Rain’ demonstrates the durability of Lightfoot’s work.” Read more…)

New releases 8/18/20

Top Hits
Prevenge (horror, Kate Dickie. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Rocking a dirty mind and a sick sensibility, the British import ‘Prevenge’ sends a pregnant serial killer on a darkly comedic odyssey dictated by her malicious fetus. Yet what hoists this bloody battiness above much of the scrappily low-budget horror pack is the smartness of its execution and the strength of the movie’s central performance.” Read more…)

The Outpost (war film set in Afghanistan, Orlando Bloom. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Adapted from a nonfiction book by Jake Tapper and directed by Rod Lurie, ‘The Outpost’ evolves from what initially feels like a collection of war-movie commonplaces, highlighting crude-talking soldiers in a bad situation, into something more complex and illuminating.” Read more…)

Guest of Honour (drama, David Thewlis. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 53. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “This latest movie, which finds [director Atom] Egoyan writing again, falls somewhere between those extremes. It returns him to his key obsessions [repressed trauma, the consuming effects of guilt, ambiguities of evidence] and an elegant, time-bending structure [layered flashbacks that tiptoe around big secrets]. But the core revelations are pretty silly, failing crucial tests of motivation.” Read more…)

Mr. Jones (historical drama set in pre-WWII, James Norton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Based on a real Welsh journalist, [Gareth Jones] is the unassuming hero of this grim, quietly furious movie, which revisits Jones’s 1933 trip to Ukraine, then in the grip of a catastrophic famine. There, the world is barren and the grain — ‘Stalin’s gold,’ as someone casually calls it — is gone. A political thriller with an insistent, steady pulse [the script is by Andrea Chalupa], ‘Mr. Jones’ dramatizes a harrowing chapter in the life of a man long overlooked by history.” Read more…)

Judy & Punch (drama, Mia Wasikowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Presenting violence as a contagion and mob mentality as its superspreader, ‘Judy & Punch’ courts equilibrium between domestic-abuse comedy and vicious morality tale. Dancing from brutal to wacky — in scenes that recall the dash and whimsy of ABC’s ditsy series ‘Galavant’[2015] — and from silly gallows jokes to grotesque seriousness, the movie intertwines humor and tragedy in imaginative, sometimes disturbing ways.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Cane River (1982, drama/race, dir. by Horace B. Jenkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The warmth of the film can feel like a political stance, an assertion of humanist ethical values that has a subtle but radical power. You can intuit something similar — an unstinting, sympathetic attention to the intimate matter of black lives — in Charles Burnett’s ‘Killer of Sheep’ and in Kathleen Collins’s ‘Losing Ground,’ another almost-lost jewel of early-‘80s African-American cinema. Like those films, ‘Cane River’ invites a rethinking of American film history, and also, in its disarmingly offhand, uniquely charming manner — of other aspects of American history as well.” Read more…)

Bebe’s Kids (1992, animated feature/race, Robin Harris [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 30%. From Maya Phillips’ Critic’s Notebook in the New York Times: “‘The Boondocks,’ ‘Atlanta,’ ‘black-ish,’ ‘Dear White People,’ ‘Sorry to Bother You’ — there are a few shows and movies that have dared to use comedy to address the grim state of Black people in America. But lately, I’ve been thinking about a movie I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years: ‘Bébé’s Kids.’ This animated Black comedy explicitly spoke about police brutality and our broken judicial system years before the first utterance of “Black Lives Matter.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Town Bloody Hall (feminism, literature, Norman Mailer, Germaine Greer. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Melissa Anderson’s essay on the Criterion Collection Web site: “But nearly fifty years after the event it documents, Town Bloody Hall has lost none of its power to entrance—and enrage—with its manic, stimulating, polyvocal energy. Starting in the mid-2010s, the documentary became popular on the repertory circuit; those who had grown weary of a feminism articulated via hashtag or hot take surely found ‘Town Bloody Hall’s bracing IRL discourse a tonic. “ Read more…)

Creating A Character: Moni Yakim Legacy (cinema history, acting techniques, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Alexis Soloski’s New York Times article on the release of the film: “‘Creating a Character: The Moni Yakim Legacy,’ a new documentary available for streaming, goes inside his classroom as students run, leap, stretch and scream. It interviews some of Juilliard’s more famous graduates and uses archival footage to describe Yakim’s childhood in Jerusalem, his years studying mime with Étienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau, his time running the New York Pantomime Theater with his wife, Mina Yakin.” Read more…)


New releases 8/11/20

Top Hits
How To Build A Girl (coming-of-age comedy, Beanie Feldstein. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Bursting at the seams with plot and patter, Coky Giedroyc’s coming-of-age comedy, ‘How to Build a Girl,’ gives you a whole lot for your money. Sometimes almost too much: This brisk, breathless story of a socially inept high schooler in the 1990s who finds notoriety as a rock critic [adapted by Caitlin Moran from her semi-autobiographical novel] has so many peaks and valleys that on paper it would look like Joe Exotic’s polygraph.” Read more…)

Crshd (female-driven sex comedy, Isabelle Barbier. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 64. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “Your mileage may vary on the visual barrage of Facebook and emoji jokes and the use of words like ‘obvi’ in dialogue, but the aggressive Generation Z trappings don’t make the writer-director Emily Cohn’s college raunch-com any less winning or sweet.” Read more…)

Lucky Grandma (comedy/drama, Tsai Chin. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “The director Sasie Sealy’s feature debut has style and keenly observed visual humor. Each scene is paced as perfectly as a punchline, whether it’s Wong swaggering through the streets of New York, a cigarette dangling from her lips, or her tense maneuvers at the casino set to Andrew Orkin’s dramatic jazz score.” Read more…)

The High Note (drama/music/romance, Dakota Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Like a potted fern held aloft by a forest of well-positioned stakes, Dakota Johnson claims the center of ‘The High Note’ on the strength and general excellence of the actors around her. Every one of them is a blessing, even those [condolences, Ice Cube] enduring trite roles and formulaic setups in a movie that can’t decide if it’s a musical reworking of ‘The Devil Wears Prada,’ an underdog romantic comedy or a feminist arrow to the heart of the entertainment industry.” Read more…)

Mickey and the Bear (drama, Camila Morrone. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In her feature-directorial debut, Annabelle Attanasio, who also wrote the script, sidesteps the expected, as when one of Mickey’s crucial relationships ends with a gnarled whimper rather than the explosion that seemed entirely likely. And in the role of Hank, [actor James Badge] Dale brings unusual nuance to what could have been a bag of clichés.” Read more…)

Saint Frances (comedy/drama, Kelly O’Sullivan. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Covering one difficult, transformative summer in the life of a dissatisfied waitress named Bridget [played by the film’s writer, Kelly O’Sullivan], the movie gently queries our assumptions about what constitutes female success. At 34, Bridget worries that time is running out on finding a career, landing a life partner and, especially, having children. She’s not sure she wants these things, she just knows she’s expected to want them.” Read more…)

House of Hummingbird (Republic of Korea, drama, Ji-hu Park, Blu-Ray only. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Not a lot seems to happen in ‘Hummingbird,’ though, for Eun-hee, everything does. There are meltdowns, breakups, afternoon walks and family meals. Tempers fray; voices rise. There are deaths, too, though these take place offscreen and Eun-hee learns of them only later. This focus on the aftermath of tragedy reflects the writer-director Bora Kim’s insistently non-melodramatic approach. She doesn’t avoid strong emotions or personal crises; if anything the story has one too many disasters. But as a filmmaker she’s more interested in the quiet that can come when you’re alone with your thoughts and — like Eun-hee — believe that you’re alone in the world.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
A White, White Day (Iceland, drama, Ingvar Sigurdsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The Icelandic director Hlynur Palmason, in his second feature-length film, shows an acute sensitivity to the potential relations between environment and cinematic pace. He exercises that quality in ingenious and galvanic ways in ‘A White, White Day,’ an eerily gripping study of grief — and impotence in its face — with the trappings of a revenge thriller.” Read more…)

New TV
His Dark Materials: Season 1 (HBO fantasy series, Dafne Keen. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 69. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “‘His Dark Materials,’ beginning Monday and based on the religiously skeptical trilogy by Philip Pullman, is a story about witches and giant polar bears, magic [or quasi-magic] dust and actual spirit animals. But above all, it is a story about parallel worlds, alike and yet wildly different, separated by an imperceptible barrier: the worlds of childhood and adulthood.” Read more…)

Dispatches from Elsewhere: Season 1 (drama/mystery series, Jason Segel. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 66. From Alexis Soloski’s New York Times article: “Based on early episodes, the result is genre-hopping, form-bending and tonally eclectic. [Actor Andre] Benjamin, who plays a man convinced that Nonchalance is more just than a game, said he hadn’t known the series was based in fact until he was filming Episode 8. He had a go at defining the show. ‘It’s fantasy, it’s kind of sci-fi, it’s drama, there’s a love story underneath, there’s mystery, there’s tragedy, there’s kind of everything,’ he said. ‘It’s really a trip.’ Read more…)

New Documentaries
Capital in the Twenty-First Century (economics, politics, Thomas Piketty. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “You need read only a small portion of ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century,’ Thomas Piketty’s towering 2013 economic and historical survey of the dynamics of inequality, to know that Piketty, a French academic, is not only a brilliant economist but also one with a gift for making complicated ideas accessible. But the text runs around 750 pages, and not everyone is prepared to plow through Piketty’s methodical analysis of capital-income ratios from 1700 to the near-present. Enter the documentary version — directed by Justin Pemberton and also called ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ — for those who prefer their econ illustrated with film and TV clips and a kaleidoscopic montage set to Lorde. Although Piketty is credited with the adaptation [along with Pemberton and Matthew Metcalfe, a producer on the film], the movie is best regarded as a supplement or potential gateway to the book, rather than a distillation.” Read more…)

Asian Americans (American history, ethnic history, sociology. From Brandon Yu’s New York Times preview: “The five-part special is the most ambitious documentary project ever to chronicle the history of the Asian-American community. It is arriving with an unanticipated relevance, amid the surge of racism toward Asian-Americans during the pandemic. Beginning in the 1850s and continuing into the present, the series covers an expansive arc that has often been ignored within America’s self-concept: from Angel Island to the impact of the Filipino-American labor movement, from the radical third world movement to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. It is a story of discrimination, marginalization and violence — and an affirmation of a community that persistently rose in the face of hardship.” Read more…)

Beyond the Visible: Hilma AF Klint (art history, abstract art, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review of this documentary about a pioneering abstract painter whose work predated most of the titans of Modernism: “‘Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint,’ a documentary by Halina Dyrschka, provides a thoughtful survey of its subject. It’s enriched by the dazzling charisma of her art and limited by the scarcity of biographical material. The timeline of her life is set forth, and her voice is conjured by passages from her voluminous notebooks, but the fact that she lived and worked so far from the centers of the art world means that some of the usual supporting material in a film like this is lacking.” Read more…)

Strange Victory (1948, documentary, post-World war II racial bias in the USA. From an unsigned 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The original film was a 65 minute compilation of newsreels and enacted footage designed to make the point that despite the Allied victory over the Nazis, many racial and religious discriminations similar to those made notorious by the Nazis were still being practiced in the United States. Equating footage showing job discrimination against Negroes with much footage of Nazi atrocities committed upon their enemies, it conveyed the implication that Negroes in this country had helped to win a hollow victory, and that a battle against discrimination still had to be won for themselves.” Read more…)

The Vote (American history, women’s suffrage, activism, feminism, politics)
Mae West: Dirty Blonde (cinema history, bio, Mae West)

New releases 8/4/20

Top Hits
Working Man (drama, Peter Gerety. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “An unconventional labor story, the movie doesn’t bask in the triumph of rebellion; instead, it’s an introspective portrait of men for whom working is a replacement for living. It’s also a coming-of-age film about the second adolescence of men at retirement age who must find a way to define themselves when the structure of work has been stripped away. The writer-director, Robert Jury, pairs Allery’s crumbling sense of self with images from the town’s decaying infrastructure, lingering on rusted fences and the boxy utilitarian homes of laborers without work.” Read more…)

Four Kids and It (family feature, Matthew Goode. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 42. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “If a raggedy sand troll that grants children wishes feels like something out of a classic bedtime story, well, it is. The original conceit, by E. Nesbit, was published in 1902 as “Five Children and It,” and the children’s author Jacqueline Wilson updated the story in 2012 with “Four Children and It” to be about a blended family. Andy de Emmony’s film adapts the latter but has made the household mixed race, added teen angst and wrapped it all into a dull, family-friendly package.” Read more…)

Dolittle (family CGI feature, Robert Downey Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 26. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “At some point during its troubled gestation, the movie once known as ‘The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle’ was renamed ‘Dolittle.’ Was ‘voyage’ too fusty, ‘doctor’ too fancy? Whatever the case, it’s too bad that the rest of this movie couldn’t have been ditched as well, or at least dramatically shortened. A dreary, overextended yawn, this is the latest movie to feature John Dolittle, the doctor turned horse whisperer that Hugh Lofting, a British-born civil engineer, invented during World War I in letters to his children from the front.” Read more…)


New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III:
My Name Is Julia Ross (1945, film noir, Nina Foch. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1945 New York Times [requires log-in]: “The director and scenarist of the Ambassador’s new mystery, ‘My Name Is Julia Ross,’ deserve a B-plus for effort at least. It is quite evident that they strived earnestly to whip up excitement and suspense, but somehow that electrifying quality which distinguishes good melodrama is lacking in this transcription of the Anthony Gilbert novel, ‘The Woman in Red.’” Read more…)

The Burglar (1957, film noir, Dan Duryea. From Dave Kehr’s 2006 New York Times review of a Jayne Mansfield DVD collection: “Although Mansfield turned in a credible, naturalistic performance in Paul Wendkos’s late film noir ‘The Burglar’ [an independent production filmed before ‘The Girl Can’t Help It,’ but not released until after the latter film had become a hit], audiences were unable to see beyond her burlesque persona.” Read more…)

Drive A Crooked Road (1954, film noir, Mickey Rooney. From Scott Foundas’ 2014 Chicago Tribune appreciation of Mickey Rooney’s film noir performances in the wake of Rooney’s passing: “The movie’s ad copy — ‘Why Would a Dame Like Her Go for a Guy Like Me?’— effectively summed it up. Expertly directed by Richard Quine [a frequent Rooney collaborator] from a crackling script by the young Blake Edwards, ‘Drive A Crooked Road’ turns on Rooney’s diminutive stature and equally deflated sense of self, casting him as a decent but self-loathing loner who allows himself to be duped by Foster’s transparent charms—and it reveals a darkness in the actor that no movie quite had before.” Read more…)

Tight Spot (1955, film noir, Ginger Rogers. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From H.H.T.’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Tight Spot’ is a pretty good little melodrama, the kind you keep rooting for, as generally happened when Lenard Kantor’s ‘Dead Pigeon’ appeared on Broadway a while back. Like its source, this Columbia version, co-starring Ginger Rogers, Brian Keith and Edward G. Robinson and produced by Lewis J. Rachmil, depicts the menaced protection of a woman material witness. Primarily confined to a hotel suite, like the play, and almost as verbose, the new arrival with the Palace’s stage bill still shapes up as a respectable, if unstriking, entry.” Read more…)

The Mob (1951, film noir, Broderick Crawford. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Queen of Blood (1966, sci-fi, John Saxon. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. From Renata Adler’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Queen of Blood,’ which also opened at the Lyric, has a much more lively plot. A sickly greenish Martian woman [Florence Marly], who is rescued from a space crash by earth astronauts [John Saxon, Judi Meredith, Dennis Hopper], turns out to thrive on blood, lay eggs in aspic and be a hemophiliac in chlorophyll. ‘Perhaps she was a sort of royalty where she came from,’ one of the earthmen says pensively after the lady has just consumed her first member of the crew. ‘Besides, how can we expect her to conform to our standards of behavior?’” Read more…)

Agnes Varda in California:
Uncle Yanco/Black Panthers (1967/1968, documentaries. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “Conceived and filmed over a long weekend, ‘Uncle Yanco’ was something of a lark; Ms. Varda’s second documentary, the 28-minute ‘Black Panthers’ [1968], was a scoop. Shot mainly in Oakland during the summer of 1968, it is a casually electrifying account of Black Panther Party rallies and demonstrations. The Panthers’ physical bearing and political analysis made them the big story that season on the Bay Area left.” Read more…)

Lions Love (… And Lies) (1969, comedy/drama, Viva. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “Ostensibly a meditation on Hollywood stardom, ‘Lions Love’ is bracketed by performances of “The Beard,” Michael McClure’s scandalous dialogue between Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid, and features a number of transplanted New Yorkers as movie-land hopefuls. These include the Warhol Factory’s reigning chatterbox Viva and the two creators of ‘Hair,’ James Rado and Gerome Ragni, a show that had just made the leap from downtown to Broadway.” Read more…)

Mur Murs/Documenteur (1980/1981, documentary on public art/drama. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of this DVD release: “‘Documenteur,’ described in its titles as “an emotion picture,” cast Sabine Mamou, the editor of ‘Mur Murs,’ and 7-year-old Mathieu Demy, Ms. Varda’s son, as a marginally employed mother and her child. A minimally plotted mood piece, it evokes Ms. Varda’s frustration at being unable to work on the movie she came to make… ‘Mur Murs’ ranks with Thom Andersen’s compilation film ‘Los Angeles Plays Itself’ as a photographic monument of what, thanks to the movies, may be the world’s most photographed city.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Annie: A Royal Adventure (1995, family adventure, Ashley Johnson. From John J. O’Connor’s 1995 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “In a weekend cluttered with television movies, the best turns out to be a silly lark about an ageless 12-year-old in her trademark red dress. Little Orphan Annie is back, this time in ‘Annie: A Royal Adventure,’ a non-musical tonight at 8 on ABC. It will delight youngsters and even amuse adults who haven’t gone completely sour.” Read more…)

New releases 7/28/20

Top Hits
Light from Light (drama, Marin Ireland. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “A movie about the supernatural with Jim Gaffigan in a starring role could go either way — horror or comedy — but ‘Light From Light’ refuses to be either. Even the setting, with spooky fog over the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, is offset by a gentle, plucky score. In the film, Richard [Gaffigan], a recent widower who thinks his wife is trying to communicate with him from beyond the grave, calls on a paranormal investigator, Shelia [Marin Ireland], to help.” Read more…)

Resistance (World War II drama, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 53. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Dousing us alternately in treacle and ice water, Jonathan Jakubowicz’s World War II drama, ‘Resistance,’ strains to find a cohesive tone. Outlining the true story of how the young Marcel Marceau, the renowned French actor and mime, helped Jewish orphans survive Nazi-occupied France, the movie aims to wrestle uplift from tragedy.” Read more…)

Capone (gangster bio-pic, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 46. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Buying into ‘Capone,’ a freehanded take on the final year of Al Capone’s life, requires accepting Tom Hardy’s grotesque performance as the notorious Chicago gangster. Hardy embodies Capone during the post-prison period when he deteriorated in Miami Beach, demented from neurosyphilis.” Read more…)

The Other Lamb (drama/horror, Raffey Cassidy. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 65. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Photographed like a dream and experienced like a nightmare, the religious cult at the center of ‘The Other Lamb’ looks idyllic on the outside, but, like the bird’s carcass stumbled upon by the film’s heroine, is teeming with maggots inside. Most of this rot emanates from the leader, a Messiah-like figure known as the Shepherd and played by Michiel Huisman with arrogant stillness and burning glances. The recipient of these is usually Selah [Raffey Cassidy], an auburn-haired beauty and his favorite daughter.” Read more…)

Scoob! (animated Scooby-Doo feature, Will Forte [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “At the beginning of ‘Scoob!,’ the latest Scooby-Doo reboot, directed by Tony Cervone, Velma [voiced by Gina Rodriguez] announces that it’s time for the gang ‘to take on bigger cases, scarier villains and creepier mysteries.’ It sounds less like an opportunity than a threat.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Whistlers (Romania, comedy/crime, Catrinel Marlon. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Until now, the films of Corneliu Porumboiu have been austere, rigorously linear and leavened with understated, fatalistic humor. Set in the everyday drabness of Bucharest or other, even less glamorous Romanian cities, they turn the grievances, frustrations and hopes of ordinary people into deadpan philosophical case studies… Except that ‘The Whistlers,’ Porumboiu’s newest film, is nothing like what I’ve just described. The chronology is splintered, the colors are bright, the plot intricate. There are picturesque non-Romanian settings and music on the soundtrack, starting with Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger.’ All of it in the service of a thriller involving a hard-boiled cop, a femme fatale and an international crew of gangsters.” Read more…)

Balloon (Germany, Cold War-era drama, Friedrich Mücke. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 53. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “There is nothing objectionable about Michael Bully Herbig’s glossy political thriller, ‘Balloon,’ but there’s nothing particularly exciting about it, either. A true-life tale of how two families narrowly escaped from communist East Germany in 1979 in a homemade hot-air balloon, the movie adopts a path so dramatically familiar we can almost predict each twist and fake-out.” Read more…)

Confidence (Hungary, 1980, post-World War II drama, Ildikó Bánsági. From Janet Maslin’s 1980 New York Times review [Requires log-in]: “At the start of ‘Confidence,’ a terse, forceful Hungarian film with a World War II setting, a woman, Kata [Ildiko Bansagi] is told that her husband has gone into hiding, and that she must assume a new identity. She is given the name of a new man, Janos Biro [Peter Andorai], with whom she must live. They will pretend to be husband and wife, and rent a room from a family whose son is off at war.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The System aka The Girl-Getters (1964, drama, Oliver Reed. From Howard Thompson’s 1966 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Girl-Getters,’ a new British drama, graphically examines—up to a point—the clusters of youngsters who each summer throng the English seaside resorts, thirsting for sex, thrills and fun. As a study of contemporary youth at bay, this American International presentation certainly has its moments, amusing to poignant. But it can’t hold a candle to ‘The Leather Jacket Boys,’ the Rita Tushingham vehicle, to cite what remains probably the best British drama of restless youth in several seasons.” Read more…)

Deadwater Fell (noir crime drama/mystery, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 73. From The Guardian’s TV review: “‘Deadwater Fell’ is basically ‘Broadchurch’ in Scotland. David Tennant is a doctor rather than a policeman, and at the centre of a crime rather than investigating it, and he’s letting his freckles show, but switch your mind to its Broadchurch setting and you will not be disappointed. You may even rejoice that, possibly alone among all things in this bleak and benighted year of no apparent Lord at all 2020, the Tennant TV imprimatur continues to deliver what we need.” Read more…)

New TV
The Outsider (HBO mini-series based on Stephen King book, Jason Bateman. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 69. From Mike Hale’s New York Times TV review: “Presumably the writer Richard Price and the actor and producer Jason Bateman, two of the main forces behind the 10-episode adaptation of ‘The Outsider’ that begins Sunday on HBO, liked the book [by Stephen King]. You have to wonder, though. Based on the first six episodes, they’ve gloomed it up and slowed it down, keeping much of the basic story but making something radically different in tone and atmosphere. It’s ‘The Outsider’ dipped in noir sauce and coated in HBO-prestige bread crumbs.” Read more…)

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 10 (comedy, Larry David, pretty pretty pretty good. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78.)

New Documentaries
You Don’t Nomi (cinema history, pop culture, Showgirls. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Is Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Showgirls’ misogynistic sleaze, a midnight-movie laughfest or a suave satire to which the world is still catching up? ‘You Don’t Nomi,’ a documentary from Jeffrey McHale, puts those perspectives into a breezy dialogue bound to irk all sides part of the time. [Somehow, a few commentators here can watch Verhoeven’s merciless sendup of power and enterprise — filled with graceful Steadicam work by Larry McConkey, of the ‘Goodfellas’ Copacabana shot — and find it wanting.] But McHale’s rundown is consistently entertaining.” Read more…)

James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (cinema history, literature, storytelling, ideas. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.)

Accidental Studio (cinema history, George Harrison, Monty Python. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “There’s a glow of nostalgia and sadness around this heartfelt, if patched together, documentary tribute to HandMade Films. It has new interviews with many of the surviving players, but also disconcertingly cobbles together quite a bit of old archive material. HandMade was the buccaneeringly brilliant but relatively short-lived indie Brit production company founded on an extraordinary impulse by George Harrison, in partnership with his business manager Denis O’Brien.” Read more…)

New releases 7/21/20

Top Hits
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach-directed social drama, Kris Hitchen. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “I’ll never forget the pleading that goes on in ‘Sorry We Missed You.’ It’s desperate but futile. Life goes on, they say. So does the global marketplace. If you order a shower curtain or diapers or a new phone, you probably need it yesterday. Ken Loach’s brutally moving agitprop drama demands a thought be spared for the anonymous souls who drop this stuff off. That shower curtain might be the death of them.” Read more…)

Come to Daddy (comedy, horror, Elijah Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “More than one set of male genitals appears to be savaged in ‘Come to Daddy’[others, happily, are displayed without penalty], but not until the midpoint of this dementedly comic thriller do we recognize the means of reproduction as its driving force. Of course, any movie that features the line ‘Semen contains more protein and nutrients than an ear,’ and opens with paired quotations from Shakespeare and Beyoncé, might not be entirely on the level.” Read more…)

Hope Gap (drama/romance, Annette Bening. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 58. From Aisha Harris’ New York Times review: “The dramatic portrait of a crumbling marriage or relationship often lends itself to intense performance, allowing actors to spar with one another while playing out heightened, if not uncommon, circumstances. Usually this involves harsh words, yelling, crying, thrown objects. This is true of Edward [Bill Nighy] and Grace [Annette Bening], the central couple in the writer and director William Nicholson’s intimate, sometimes engaging ‘Hope Gap.’” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Wild Goose Lake (China, crime/drama, Ge Hu. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This movie doesn’t recycle film noir conventions so much as contrive — with a genuine sense of discovery — to locate these conventions in a realistic contemporary context. The economic impoverishment of its principals is a key motivating factor; there’s a strong implication that it steered Zhou into criminality, while Liu’s matter-of-fact approach to prostitution [revealed in a ‘love’ scene that begins with notes of tenderness and ends with blunt retching] carries a near-tragic resignation.” Read more…)

The Great Buddha+ (Taiwan, comedy/drama, Cres Chuang. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s capsule New York Times review: “Using a moody, noirish monochrome palette [punctuated with garish swatches of color video] and mordant, monotone voice-over narration [interrupted by stretches of deadpan dialogue], Huang Hsin-yao composes a dark satire of corruption and class resentment in Taiwan.” Read more…)

Corpus Christi (Poland, drama, Bartosz Bielenia. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “If the Oscar-winning “Parasite” feels like it has the potential to change the landscape for subtitled films in the United States, ‘Corpus Christi,’ which lost to ‘Parasite’ in the best international feature category, plays like more of a throwback to a time when subtitles signified stark seriousness. Shot in a grim, desaturated palette, this Polish film, directed by Jan Komasa, addresses big issues of conscience and morality. The symbolism (a simple sawmill worker becomes a carpenter-Christ figure) is blunt; the drama is straightforward.” Read more…)

Leto (Russia, music bio-pic/drama, Teo Yoo. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Drawing loosely from the lives of the Soviet rock musicians Viktor Tsoi and Mike Naumenko, ‘Leto’ plays less like a biopic than a loving compilation of fictionalized, fan-inspired notes. Set in the underground music scene of a pre-perestroika, early 1980s Leningrad, the featherlight plot [by the director, Kirill Serebrennikov, and several others] drifts hither and yon. Caught at the crossroads of rock, punk and New Wave, Mike [Roman Bilyk] and his band inhale Bowie and Iggy Pop, spitting out their own compositions in a cavernous club where lyrics must be preapproved by a Party official.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Merry Widow (1925, silent opera directed by Erich von Stroheim, John Gilbert. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1925 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This picture is one of strong passions, and it is in many respects ably directed. There are points where it would have been better for Mr. von Stroheim to have an iron hand over him. You see the arrival of Monteblanc’s royalty, and the next scene shows you a few pigs. This is a true Stroheim touch. He wishes to give you continual contrasts, and should a splendidly uniformed Prince in white, red and gold fall, it is not on a dry pavement but in some convenient pool of the blackest mire.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Only When I Laugh (1981, Neil Simon comedy, Marsha Mason. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 New York Times review p[requires log-in]: “Using reportedly no more than 15 lines from ‘The Gingerbread Lady,’ his 1970 Broadway failure, Neil Simon has written what seems to be a new, upbeat, often funny and, on at least one occasion, harrowing comedy about an alcoholic, ‘Only When I Laugh.’ His troubled heroine is Georgia Hines, a Broadway actress given to bad relationships with men and a dependency on the bottle that has very nearly wrecked her career.” Read more…)

Bye Bye Birdie (1995, musical, Jason Alexander. From John J. O’Connor’s 1995 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “In fact, this is a swell production, going back to the show’s original innocence, which was lost in the film version starring a sex-kittenish Ann-Margret. This version, directed by Gene Saks, captures the sweet looniness of an era in which nymphets shrieked hysterically for their pop idols. The only threats these teen-agers face are fretting parents, one of whom indignantly wails, ‘You dare say puberty in front of your own father!’” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Shoah (Claude Lanzmann-directed Holocaust documentary, Criterion Collection. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This is the extraordinary accomplishment of ‘Shoah’ [in Hebrew, ‘Annihilation’], [director Claude] Lanzmann’s huge, almost nine-and-a-half hour oral history of the Holocaust, which is unlike any other Holocaust film ever made. This isn’t a conventional documentary composed of newsreel footage from the archives. The images of ‘Shoah’ prompt no preconditioned responses. Everything is of the present – the faces of the ‘witnesses’ as well as the tranquil, neatly tended landscapes that once were the death camps.” Read more…)

Dateline – Saigon (Vietnam War, journalism, government lies, David Halberstam. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The documentary ‘Dateline-Saigon’ reconstructs the early rumblings of the Vietnam War — mainly from 1961 through 1964 — through the eyes of five print reporters who were on assignment in Saigon. Professionally, they were rivals… But in the film’s telling, they nevertheless forged a kind of brotherhood, competing for stories as they began to question the United States government’s official narrative.” Read more…)

New releases 7/14/20

New Foreign DVDs
Bacurau (Brazil, adventure/horror, Bárbara Colen. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The town in the shocker ‘Bacurau’ is fictional, a bit magical, at once ordinary and otherworldly. It’s filled with faces that have life etched in them, which helps deepen the realism. And while the story is set in the near future, it looks like the present: the charming landscapes, laughing children, crowing roosters, the grinning balladeer with a guitar. Then, the guns come out, history rushes in and a ghost pops by. [It smiles.] In the wild world of ‘Bacurau,’ queasy humor meets razor-sharp politics and rivers of blood.” Read more…)

Beanpole (Russia, drama/war, Viktoria Miroshnichenko. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “This is only the second feature from the sensationally talented Russian director Kantemir Balagov [who was born in 1991], and it’s a gut punch. It’s also a brilliantly told, deeply moving story about love — in all its manifestations, perversity and obstinacy — one that starts to take shape when Beanpole’s friend Masha [a fantastic Vasilisa Perelygina] returns to Leningrad, medals pinned to her uniform. Inside Beanpole’s claustrophobic flat, with its peeling paint and stained wallpaper, they circle each other, trying to find equilibrium where there is none.” Read more…)

Attenberg (Greece, 2010, drama, Ariane Labed. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Movies and literature do not lack for coming-of-age stories about young women in odd circumstances, but ‘Attenberg,’ Athina Rachel Tsangari’s new film, belongs in its own category. With an eccentric, beguiling blend of detachment and empathy — the camera sometimes lurking like a spy, sometimes trailing along like a shy, devoted friend — Ms. Tsangari observes the curious activities of Marina, a 23-year-old in the midst of an identity crisis that feels both highly idiosyncratic and weirdly familiar.” Read more…)

Mädchen in Uniform (1931, Germany, romance/lesbian—banned by the Nazis, Emilia Unda. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The widely discussed German language picture, ‘Mädchen in Uniform’ [‘Girls in Uniform’], which won glowing praise and enjoyed remarkable success in Berlin, Paris and London, finally was presented, with subtitles in English, at the Criterion last night. The New York State Board of Censors at first frowned upon the suggestion in this film of the “Captive” theme, but recently they reconsidered their refusal to grant it a license. It is a beautiful, tender and really artistic cinematic work.” Read more…

In a recent appreciation upon the release of ‘Mädchen In Uniform’ in this restored Kino version, New York Times critic J. Hoberman called it “a classic account of forbidden love in a girl’s boarding school [and] both an expression of anti-fascism and a lesbian coming-out story.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Marty (1955, drama/romance, Ernest Borgnine. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “No matter what the movie people may say or think about television, they have it to thank for ‘Marty,’ which came to the Sutton yesterday. This neat little character study of a lonely fellow and a lonely girl who find each other in the prowling mob at a Bronx dance hall and get together despite their families and their friends was originally done as a TV drama, and its present transposition to the screen has been accomplished by its TV director, Delbert Mann, as his first film achievement. The transfer is well worth a tribute, for ‘Marty’ makes a warm and winning film, full of the sort of candid comment on plain, drab people that seldom reaches the screen. And Ernest Borgnine as the fellow and Betsy Blair as the girl—not to mention three or four others — give performances that burn into the mind.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Me, Natalie (1969, comedy/drama, Patty Duke. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Stanley Shapiro is the writer who was in large part responsible for the films [‘Pillow Talk,’ ‘That Touch of Mink’] that turned Doris Day into one of the most profitable iron maidens in Hollywood history. In ‘Me, Natalie,’ which opened yesterday at the Fine Arts, Shapiro continues to display an almost Richardsonian [Samuel] concern for virginity. No longer, however, does he regard it as some fragile but foolproof weapon for blackmail. To Natalie [Patty Duke], a rather elderly looking Brooklyn teen-ager, it is a symbol of her physical ugliness—of upper front teeth that are slightly bucked and a nose that could delight only Cyrano de Bergerac.” Read more…)

New releases 7/7/20

Top Hits
Trolls World Tour (animated feature, Anna Kendrick. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 51. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “But it is dangerous to over-read ‘Trolls World Tour,’ which celebrates musical diversity — pushing back against pop music’s appropriation of African-American artists’ innovations — and whose multiculturalism is clearly intended in a spirit of inclusiveness and good humor. While the genre-bridging premise affords the film more variety and verve than its sugary predecessor, the movie, directed by Walt Dohrn, still gives you the sensation of being barricaded in a karaoke lounge where all the attendees have snorted Sweet Tarts.” Read more…)

The Vanishing (action, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “As it turns out, it will be gold, not silver, that turns their heads in ‘The Vanishing,’ a middling good-guys-gone-bad thriller [and no relation to George Sluizer’s ingenious 1991 shocker]. Inspired by the Flannan Isles mystery of 1900, when three keepers disappeared without trace, Joe Bone and Celyn Jones’s script takes pains to differentiate the three leads.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
And Then We Danced (Republic of Georgia, romance, Levan Gelbakhiani. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Tbilisi, where this movie, written and directed by Levan Akin, is set and was shot, looks like a pleasant place to live, but also like a land out of time. The young members of the Georgian dance group all smoke like chimneys, and their world, and the world around them, has seriously retrograde ideas about human relations. This means trouble for Merab, who has more than a socially unacceptable new love on his plate: his family is struggling in poverty.” Read more…)

Come and See (Soviet Union, 1985, WW II drama, Aleksey Kravchenko. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Walter Goodman’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In episodes that shift, sometimes subtly, sometimes startlingly, from down-in-the-mud realism to a dreamlike state, a boy named Florya endures the German invasion. His family is slaughtered; a friend, a beautiful young woman who wants only love and babies, is raped; he joins the partisans, is captured and nearly killed. He is our witness to the savagery of the Nazi onslaught against the peoples of Eastern Europe.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The War of the Worlds (1953, sci-fi w/ George Pal special FX, Criterion Collection, Gene Barry. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 78. From A.W.’s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “There’s no point in smugly rusticating behind the protection of the hydrogen bomb and jet planes. Those Martians, first reported in 1898 by H. G. Wells and terrifyingly revived for radio listeners by Orson Welles some forty years later, descended, with an assist from Paramount, on the Mayfair yesterday via ‘The War of the Worlds.’ Now it’s either a mad dash for the hills or to the theatre. And, after calm deliberation, it would appear that the movies is the better bet. Make no mistake about it, science-fiction, like comic books, is a part of our culture, and George Pal, who produced this latest amalgam of fact and fantasy, is no tyro in this field. Like his previous sorties into interplanetary space—‘Destination Moon’ and ‘When Worlds Collide’—‘The War of the Worlds’ is, for all of its improbabilities, an imaginatively conceived, professionally turned adventure, which makes excellent use of Technicolor, special effects by a crew of experts and impressively drawn backgrounds.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ganja & Hess (1973, drama/horror, Duane Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1973 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As a black-oriented, contemporary horror study, ‘Ganja & Hess,’ which arrived at the Playboy yesterday, is dedicated to what is obviously meant to be a serious theme. The artistry for which it strives, however, is largely vitiated by a confusingly vague mélange of symbolism, violence and sex.” Read more…)

New Documentary DVDs
Slay the Dragon (American politics, voting rights,gerrymandering. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Slay the Dragon’ begins with a subject that might seem counterintuitive for a documentary on gerrymandering: the Flint, Mich., water crisis. The movie lays out a timeline of state legislative actions that led to the decision that contaminated the city’s water supply. It persuasively argues that the crisis never would have happened without gerrymandering, which had allowed legislators to shield themselves from voters’ wrath.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
Go Go Mania (1965 British music revue, The Beatles & more. From an unsigned 1965 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Go Go Mania’ starts off strong with a fast sample of The Beatles, and never quite recovers. The boys from Britain may be losing ground with the adolescent set, but they are still the class act in rock ‘n’ roll.They don’t have much chance to go go in the opening and closing snippets of yesterday’s film bill at the Palace, but they are there in color, which is something. The other acts on hand are equally hirsute, British and on the beat.” Read more…)

New releases 6/30/20

Top Hits
The Current War (drama, Benedict Cumberbatch. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 55. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “A bucket of Oscar bait that’s been sitting around for some two years, ‘The Current War’ may still find an audience. And it should: The film certainly doesn’t reek of failure. But as its energetic early scenes give way to a sluggish second half, you start to sense how much better this good-enough movie might have been.” Read more…)

The Etruscan Smile (drama, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 54. From Katie Walsh’ Los Angeles Times review: “Brian Cox brings his Scottish brogue to ‘The Etruscan Smile’ as Rory MacNeil, a role that Cox was seemingly born to play: a rough and wild man from the Hebrides off of Scotland, who gets in touch with his softer side when he’s forced to rekindle a relationship with his estranged son in San Francisco. Cox of HBO’s ‘Succession’ is the glue that holds together this maudlin picture, directed by Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis, and written by Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood, based on a novel by Jose Luis Sampedro.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Deerskin (France, comedy, Jean Dujardin. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 65. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A demented fetish comedy that escalates to startlingly nonchalant violence, ‘Deerskin’ [written and directed by Quentin Dupieux] flickers tantalizingly between awful and awesome. In the first category is Georges’s irrational quest to ensure that his beloved jacket be the only one left in the world; in the second is his sly dexterity in enlisting help to achieve this deranged goal.” Read more…)

Paracelsus (Germany, 1943, biography/drama dir. by G.W. Pabst, Werner Krauss. From Vincent Canby’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[G.W. Pabst’s] best films, including the silent ‘Joyless Street’ with Greta Garbo and ‘The Threepenny Opera’ [1931], are rather uproarious amalgams of stark realism, wild melodrama and pure poetry. Lots of elements in his films look dated today but also there is usually, something that looks totally new and surprising. ‘Paracelsus,’ considering when it was made [1943] and under what conditions, is a remarkably interesting film, though full of not especially well disguised propaganda.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Beecham House (period drama series, Tom Bateman. Metacritic: 44. From Lucy Mangan’s Guardian review: “Sometimes you just want to gather actors to your breast, crush them close and whisper in their ears that all of this will be over soon. So it is with ITV’s new six-part drama ‘Beecham House’ The first two parts play over consecutive nights – the second episode is on Monday night – which is the equivalent of ripping off a plaster quickly. The remaining parts are to be shown over the following Sunday nights, to let some air get to the wound and hope it heals. Basically, it’s Downton Abbey relocated to late-18th-century Delhi, covering the adventures of John Beecham; the man, the chest, the legend.” Read more…)

Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears (mystery, Essie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 65.)