New releases 3/17/20

Top Hits
Jumanji: Next Level (family adventure/comedy, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 58. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It’s perhaps unfair to call this a turkey. It’s got some sweet moments, and the cast, as it did in the previous picture, enjoys itself at least semi-infectiously. But the action sequences are lifeless; the lessons valid but arguably stale; and the trimmings, mere bloat.” Read more…)

Black Christmas (horror, Imogen Poots. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 49. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “If all you wanted for Christmas was a smarter Black Christmas,’ you are in luck. The director Sophia Takal, who wrote the screenplay with the film critic April Wolfe, has taken the 1974 Canadian sorority slasher standard — remade once before, in 2006 — and run with it, emerging with a movie significantly different in style and tone from its source. This ‘Black Christmas’ speaks to an era of campus curriculum debates and a national reckoning over the reporting of sexual assault.” Read more…)

Superman: Red Son (unrated animated feature, Jason Isaacs [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
Jumanji: Next Level

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Intrigue (1916, silent film w/screenplay by pioneering women filmmaker Julia Crawford Ivers)
Alice Guy Blaché Vol. 1: The Gaumont Years (pioneering woman filmmaker)
Alice Guy Blaché Vol. 2: The Solax Years (pioneering woman filmmaker)

New TV
Modern Family: Season 7 (comedy, Ed O’Neill)

New Documentaries
Celebration: Yves St. Laurent—The Final Show (fashion, bio, personality. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Early in this century, the documentary director Olivier Meyrou, at the invitation of Pierre Bergé, spent two and a half years filming the couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his employees and associates. Bergé, of course, was one of them: Saint Laurent’s longtime business manager, hard-nosed where Saint Laurent was dreamy, is a central figure in ‘Celebration,’ which chronicles the creation of what would be Saint Laurent’s final collection.” Read more…)

New releases 3/10/20

Top Hits
Uncut Gems (crime/drama, Adam Sandler. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Uncut Gems,’ the latest from the brothers Josh and Benny Safdie, blows in like a Category 4 hurricane. It’s a tumult of sensory extremes, of images and sounds, lurching shapes, braying voices, intensities of feeling and calculated craziness. So, naturally it stars — why not? — Adam Sandler as a cheat, liar, loving dad, bad husband, jealous lover and compulsive gambler who can’t stop, won’t stop acting the fool. The Safdies, two of the more playfully inventive filmmakers working in American cinema, won’t stop, either, which makes ‘Uncut Gems’ fun if also wearying and at times annoying.” Read more…)

Charlie’s Angels (action remake, Kristen Stewart. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 52. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “In the interest of due diligence, I recently reread my review from 2000 of the first big-screen ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ I opened that appraisal with a fast takedown and a sincerely posed question: ‘Of course, it’s terrible — but did it have to be this bad?’ Two decades later, I hopefully watched the new big-screen version of ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ which turns out to be another egregious stinker. Perhaps that isn’t a surprise, though it serves as another reminder that you can’t overturn the master’s house simply by rearranging the furniture. You need to burn the whole thing down.” Read more…)

Bombshell (drama, Nicole Kidman. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 64. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Bright and bouncy until it turns grim, ‘Bombshell’ is a fictionalized account of the women who brought down Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of Fox News. Helped bring him down is probably more accurate given that he was ousted by Rupert Murdoch, who founded Fox News in 1996 before handing the reins to Ailes. Since then, the network has become a ratings powerhouse and hothouse of right-wing talking points, a sea of white faces and dolled-up women in skirts and high heels. Ailes is now gone but the talking points, high ratings, skirts and heels remain.” Read more…)

The Wolf Hour (thriller, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 42. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “More than anything, ‘The Wolf Hour’ suggests an unfinished ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, one that teases an explosive, possibly supernatural payoff before fizzling out. Set in the South Bronx in the sweltering summer of 1977, this psychological drama centers on June [Naomi Watts], an agoraphobic writer four years into spending a hefty advance for her second novel. Tormented by trauma that’s somehow linked to her celebrated debut, June smokes and paces, her whole body crackling with distress.” Read more…)

Spies In Disguise (animated feature, Will Smith [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 54. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Will Smith voices an ‘is there anything he can’t do?’ secret agent whose massive skills are dwarfed by his humongous ego in ‘Spies in Disguise,’ a colorful but not very eye-opening animated offering from Blue Sky, the studio that brought us the ‘Ice Age’ diversions. The character is an amiable-to-the-point-of-toothless sendup of Smith’s celebrity persona and many of the roles he’s played.” Read more…)

Little Joe (horror/sci-fi, Emily Beecham. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 60. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by the Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner with a detachment more professorial than wry, ‘Little Joe’ manages to exert a peculiar pull in spite of being constructed with material you’ve likely seen elsewhere.” Read more…)

Ne Zha (animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 54. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Ne Zha,’ a computer-animated feature of bright hues, hectic action and only occasional charm, has already been a huge hit in China, where the title character is a familiar figure from mythology, literature, television and other films. The movie [directed by Jiao Zi], which assumes a passing acquaintance with that history — and has been trumpeted in its home country for its elaborate effects — offers an origin story for the boy hero.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Bombshell
Uncut Gems

New TV
The Affair: Season 5 (drama, Dominic West. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 77.)

New Documentaries
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (media, history, personality, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Can one become a historian merely by pressing a button? The documentary ‘Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project’ says yes. It also demonstrates that pressing a button is not such a mere thing.” Read more…)

5B (health care, AIDS crisis, compassion, 1st AID ward. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 69.)
Lifeline: Clyfford Still (art, bio, abstract expressionism)

New releases 3/3/20

Top Hits
Dark Waters (true life corporate crime thriller, Mark Ruffalo. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Outrage mixes with despair in ‘Dark Waters,’ an unsettling, slow-drip thriller about big business and the people who become its collateral damage. It’s a fictional take on a true, ghastly story about a synthetic polymer that was discovered by a chemist at DuPont, which branded it Teflon.” Read more…)

Playmobil the Movie (animated feature, Adam Lambert [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 25. From Peter Bradshaw’s Guardian review: “The Lego Movie franchise has been one of the funniest, smartest things in the cinema and even the Angry Birds movies were pretty good – so hopes were counterintuitively pretty high for ‘Playmobil: The Movie.’ Disappointingly, it is a borderline dopey, sentimental children’s adventure mostly without the wit and spark that converted grownups and kids to the Lego films.” Read more…)

Queen & Slim (crime/romance, Daniel Kaluuya. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Queen & Slim’ is full of violence and danger, but it isn’t a hectic, plot-driven caper. Its mood is dreamy, sometimes almost languorous, at least as invested in the aesthetics of life on the run as it is in the politics of black lives. Not that the two are separable. The image of Queen and Slim that is reproduced on protest T-shirts and murals shows them striking stylized poses in borrowed clothes, leaning against the vintage Pontiac that carries them on the second half of their journey.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Queen & Slim
Dark Waters

New Foreign
By the Grace of God (France, crime/drama based on pedophile priests controversy, Melvil Poupaud. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Ozon’s approach in ‘By the Grace of God’ is not plain, but it is straightforward. The movie is not replete with what you’d call stylistic flourishes — although when one character ascends a spiral staircase, Ozon doesn’t restrain himself from doing as he always does in this situation, which is to include an overhead shot of the structure. And Ozon exerts his command of cinematic language throughout, in ways that are less immediately obvious. He crafts a film that is engrossing from the start, while building to something greater and more emotionally encompassing.” Read more…)

Max & The Junkmen (France, 1971, crime/romance, Michel Piccoli. From A.O. Scott’s 2012 New York Times review on the film’s belated American opening [requires log-in]: “Shot [by René Mathelin] in harsh, grainy color in grubby, workaday locations in and around Paris, ‘Max et les Ferrailleurs,’ adapted from a novel by Claude Néron, has the matter-of-fact look and careful pace of a precinct-house procedural. The film’s central crime is the robbery of a bank branch by a gang of small-timers, and most of the cops are beleaguered, cynical bureaucrats.” Read more…)

Line of Demarcation (France, 1966, French occupation, Jean Seberg)

New British DVDs
Perfect Friday (1971, crime/comedy, Ursula Andress. From Vincent Canby’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In ‘Perfect Friday,’ [director Peter] Hall and his script writers observe all the conventions of the genre, up to and including the final obligatory twist that must always be a variation on failure. It’s this obligation to fail that makes the caper movie, ultimately, so tiresome. Without it, the movie is left open-ended, without shape, but with it, the movie can only hope to be a basic exercise.Within these very important limitations, Mr. Hall has made an intelligent and quietly funny film about three eccentrics, who are as attractively written as they are played.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (bio, film history, gay & lesbian, Mark Patton. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 61. From Michael Ordoña’s Los Angeles Times review: “Horror movies usually end with the hero facing down the big, bad demon that has haunted him or her for the previous 90 minutes. For ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge’ star Mark Patton, it took 30 years, but that catharsis finally happened in real life. The new documentary ‘Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street,’ directed by Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen, was there.” Read more…)

New releases 2/25/20

Top Hits
Frozen II (Disney animated feature, Kristen Bell [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 64. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The ensuing adventure is lively, amusing and predictably predictable with revelations, reconciliations and some nebulous politics for the grown-ups. It’s never surprising, yet its bursts of pictorial imagination — snowflakes that streak like shooting stars — keep you engaged, as do Elsa and Anna, who still aren’t waiting for life to happen. They’re searching, not settled, both active and reactive, which even today makes them female-character outliers on the big screen.” Read more…)

Daniel Isn’t Real (horror, Patrick Schwarzenegger. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 61. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “If the thriller ‘Daniel Isn’t Real’ were a recipe, it would call for unappealing ingredients — psychiatric stereotypes, jumpy editing, a mopey protagonist — simmered together until they crackle, pop and blister. What starts as a mediocre psychological thriller finishes as a surprisingly toothsome and creative horror film, complete with creature features and journeys into the abyss.” Read more…)

Knives Out (murder mystery, Daniel Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 82. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review; “A sleek game of cat and mouse, ‘Knives Out’ begins the hunt with a mysterious pool of blood and ends, well, telling wouldn’t be fair. The press screening that I attended was preceded by a brief video in which the writer and director Rian Johnson asked viewers not to spill the movie’s secrets. The entreaty suggests how seriously Johnson takes his own cleverly deployed twists and the challenges of keeping ostensible spoilers under wraps. The twists are kinked and amusing, although far less striking than the obvious pleasure he had making this exactingly machined puzzle box.” Read more…)

Color Out of Space (H.P. Lovecraft horror/sci-fi, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 64. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Color Out of Space,’ apparently, is blindingly bright and magnificently malevolent. In this bonkers yet weirdly beautiful science fiction-horror hybrid [directed, with retro panache, by the great Richard Stanley], the light is a throbbing lilac and blood is Schiaparelli pink. And if I tell you that Nicolas Cage’s eyeballs will turn into ultraviolet high-beams, then you’ll know immediately if you’re in or out. Lovers of aberrant, gooey B-movies will be all in.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Frozen II
Knives Out

New British
Years and Years (mini-series, drama, Emma Thompson. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 78. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “Ever feel like there’s too much happening? That the news is out of control? That there’s barely time to process one outrage before another replaces it, leaving just the faint memory and a little bit of scar tissue from the previous Worst Thing to Ever Happen? ‘Years and Years’ is not the escape for you. The HBO limited series, from the British writer Russell T Davies, is about a lot of ideas: runaway technology, European nationalism, the failure of liberal democracy. But its overarching idea, driven home by its pell-mell narrative, is, ‘Man, there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on these days.’” Read more…)

Ray & Liz (drama, Richard Ashton. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 81. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by the artist Richard Billingham, ‘Ray & Liz’ is an extension of his work as a photographer, which subsists largely of portraits of his own family. This is a fiction film, with actors playing all the real-life characters, but Billingham has crafted it with a documentary concern for detail. Ray’s life in his lonely room is the frame for two extended flashback sequences.” Read more…)

New TV
Yellowstone: Season 1 (western series, Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 54. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “The surface layer of ‘Yellowstone’ is part modern-day Western, part family business saga — a kind of cowboy ‘Dynasty’ with some dark-cable ambitions. Standing atop it is the flinty personage of John Dutton [Kevin Costner, in ornery-cuss mode], the owner of Yellowstone Ranch, an expanse of grass, hills and testosterone the size of Rhode Island.” Read more…)

New releases 2/18/20

Top Hits
Jojo Rabbit (satire, Roman Griffin Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The make-believe Hitler is somehow both the most outlandish and the most realistic thing about ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ Taika Waititi’s new film. Based on the novel ‘Caging Skies’ by Christine Leunens — and featuring Waititi himself as Johannes’s goofball fantasy-Führer — the movie filters the banality and evil of the Third Reich through the consciousness of a smart, sensitive, basically ordinary German child. Veering from farce to sentimentality, infused throughout with the anarchic pop humanism Waititi has brought to projects as various as ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ it risks going wrong in a dozen different ways and manages to avoid at least half of them.” Read more…)

Midway (WWII war film, Ed Skrein. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 47. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The film belongs to a particular lineage of World War II picture [‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ and the 1976 ‘Midway’] that — unlike, say, Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ — prioritizes scope over individual drama. To cram all the complexities of geography and who was where when into less than two and a half hours, ‘Midway’ resorts to having its characters converse in exposition, sacrificing one form of verisimilitude for another.” Read more…)

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Mr. Rogers bio-pic, Tom Hanks. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ celebrates the virtues of patient listening, gentleness and the honest expression of feelings. It’s about how a man who has devoted his life to being kind helps a man with a professional investment in skepticism to become a little nicer. The appeal of such a movie at the present moment is obvious enough, and so perhaps are the risks. This modest, quiet story — based on a magazine article published more than 20 years ago — could easily have turned into something preachy, sentimental and overstated.” Read more…)

21 Bridges (crime/action, Chadwick Boseman. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Hedging its bets, the manhunt movie ’21 Bridges’ both flatters and reviles the police. On the one hand, its somber hero, a remorseless homicide detective named Davis [Chadwick Boseman], is the closest thing the N.Y.P.D. has to a perp whisperer. On the other, Davis manages to shoot almost one suspect a month. Unapologetic about his kill rate, he explains to Internal Affairs that they all deserved their fates, so let’s move on, shall we?” Read more…)

Frankie (romance, Isabelle Huppert. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The first shot in ‘Frankie,’ Ira Sachs’s new film, is an almost painterly study in color, like something by Hockney or Cézanne. The blue of a swimming pool, a spray of dense green foliage shrouding the creamy stones of the building [villa? hotel?] from which a woman emerges, her orange robe matching the tint of her hair. Leisure and languor, with a hint of intrigue, all of it beautifully rendered in Rui Poças’s mellow cinematography. Why set a movie in paradise unless you’re going to bring in some trouble?” Read more…)

Snatchers (horror/comedy, Mary Nepi. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
Jojo Rabbit
Midway

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Bullfighter & The Lady (1951, drama/romance, Robert Stack. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Hard on the heels of ‘The Brave Bulls,’ Robert Rossen’s film which opened here last week and is the most powerful picture ever fashioned by an American producer on bull-fighting, comes ‘The Bull-fighter and the Lady,’ a blissfully fanciful romance that scans more or less the same area. It opened at the Capitol yesterday.By comparison with ‘The Brave Bulls,’ this latest arrival might be said to bear just about the same relation as do the works of Burt Standish to those of Ernest Hemingway.” Read more…)

New British
Sanditon (mini-series based on unfinished last Jane Austen novel, Rose Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 71.)

New TV
The Twilight Zone: Season 1 (suspense/supernatural series reboot, hosted by Jordan Peele. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 61. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “When Rod Serling opened ‘The Twilight Zone’ for business in 1959, it was a single, specific location. He defined it, in his signature Professor Spooky voice-over, as a place between light and shadow, science and superstition — you know the drill. But the twilight zone was also a safe space, an underground meeting place to talk about things you couldn’t talk about on TV. Serling, a playwright harried by network censors in the 1950s, saw that he could tell unsettling stories — about prejudice, conformity, human frailty — if he dressed them in monster masks and alien goo… So anyone remaking the series in 2019 has to answer, not just what is ‘The Twilight Zone’ 60 years later, but where is it? In an age when there’s little you can’t show on TV, where are the forbidden zones?” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Devil’s Path (LGBT thriller, J.D. Scalzo. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%.)

New releases 2/11/20

Top Hits
Ford V Ferrari (true life drama.action, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Quick: Who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966? If you know the answer without Googling, then I probably don’t have to sell you on ‘Ford v Ferrari,’ James Mangold’s nimble and crafty reconstruction of a storied moment in the annals of auto racing. You will probably go in prepared to spot torque differentials and historical discrepancies that escaped my notice. [Please let me know what you find.] If, on the other hand, you are [like me] a bit of a motor-sport ignoramus, then you might want to stay away from web-search spoilers and let the film surprise you. It is, all in all, a pleasant surprise.” Read more…)

Doctor Sleep (Stephen King “The Shining” sequel, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Doctor Sleep,’ Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the novel by Stephen King, catches up with Danny Torrance, who as a child was terrorized by demons and his own father at a spooky Rocky Mountain hotel. That was in ‘The Shining,’ published by King in 1977 and filmed by Stanley Kubrick in a movie released in 1980. The new film, depending on how you look at it, is a sequel, an update, a corrective or a disaster. King was never a fan of Kubrick’s cold, meticulous gothic, which has nonetheless gathered a sturdy cult following. Flanagan, while hewing more closely to the novelist’s ideas about evil, innocence and addiction, pays tribute to some of Kubrick’s visual signatures.” Read more…)

Wild Nights with Emily (comedy, Molly Shannon. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 74. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In Madeleine Olnek’s ‘Wild Nights With Emily,’ the life and work of Emily Dickinson are subject to a delightfully droll — even gay — reinterpretation. For believers in the legend of the hermetic poet who never left her bedroom, it may come as a surprise that the Emily [Molly Shannon] of Olnek’s film is not a melancholic recluse, but the heroine of a romantic comedy. Olnek’s version of events is supported by studies of Dickinson’s poems which revealed that references to possible lovers were covered up.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Ford V Ferrari
Roma

New Foreign DVDs
Roma (Mexico, 2018, drama, Oscar winner, Yalitza Aparicio. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 96. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In ‘Roma,’ the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón uses a large canvas to tell the story of lives that some might think small. A personal epic set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, it centers on a young indigenous woman who works as a maid for a middle-class white family that’s falling apart. Cuarón uses one household on one street to open up a world, working on a panoramic scale often reserved for war stories, but with the sensibility of a personal diarist. It’s an expansive, emotional portrait of life buffeted by violent forces, and a masterpiece.” Read more…)

First Love (Japan, martial arts, Shota Sometani. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The ultra-prolific director Takashi Miike already had about 30 films under his belt at the end of the 1990s, when the one-two punch of the art-horror date picture ‘Audition’ and the ultraviolent art-horror gangster movie ‘Dead or Alive’ wowed Western audiences. Now he’s beyond his 100th movie. Not all of his efforts make it to the States but his latest, ‘First Love,’ demonstrates that his energy and inventiveness are still intact.” Read more…)

La Barraca (Mexico, 1945, drama, Domingo Soler)

New Documentaries
What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire (racial justice. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “In ‘The Other Side,’ the Italian-born filmmaker Roberto Minervini, who makes movies that exist on the edge of the documentary genre, presented an alarming portrait of life on the margins of Louisiana. He embedded with drug addicts and anti-government extremists who seemed to exist apart from society at large, perhaps oblivious even to the camera’s presence. Viewed one way, ‘What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?’ is a companion piece. Filmed largely in New Orleans in 2017 — with brief detours to Baton Rouge and Jackson, Miss. — it offers an urban-Louisiana counterpart to the rural setting of ‘The Other Side.’ Its subjects are African-American, unlike the men and women of ‘The Other Side,’ who were white.” Read more…)

Toxic Beauty (chemicals, makeup, health. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
McCarthy (bio, politics, Joseph McCarthy)

New releases 2/4/20

Top Hits
The Nightingale (adventure/thriller, Aisling Franciosi. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Jennifer Kent, who wrote and directed this rigorous, relentless film, surveys this landscape with clear-eyed fury. ‘The Nightingale’ is a revenge story, one that draws on familiar Victorian Gothic and Hollywood western tropes. It’s the tale of a wronged woman, and of white men in hostile territory. Its themes are justice, innocence and the boundary between barbarism and decency. But to say that Kent offers a revisionist take on traditional genres would be like calling ‘The Babadook,’ her terrifying debut feature, a revisionist children’s movie. Part of her brilliance as a filmmaker lies in her mastery of the cinematic canons she subjects to thorough critical scourging.
Read more…)

The Good Liar (suspense drama, Helen Mirren & Ian McKellen. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 55. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Good Liar’ requires something stricter than a standard spoiler warning. To avoid ruining the film, you should not only stop reading this review, but also pass on seeing the movie, which tips its hand practically from the moment the main characters meet.” Read more…)

Give Me Liberty (comedy, Chris Galust. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Give Me Liberty’ is a jolt of a movie, at once kinetic and controlled. It’s an anarchic deadpan comedy that evolves into a romance just around the time the story explodes. It has moments of unembellished realism as well as a fictional story line that runs through the bedlam.” Read more…)

Last Christmas (romantic comedy, Emilia Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 50. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “[Paul] Feig is an adroit director of comedy and he gives ‘Last Christmas’ some fizz now and again. But he’s stymied by the romance and the gimmick, and the pairing of [Emilia] Clarke and [Henry] Golding proves an impossible hurdle, making even the seemingly simplest moments — an intimate walk, a heartfelt talk — feel badly labored.” Read more…)

Playing With Fire (family comedy, John Cena. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 24. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The hero of ‘Playing With Fire,’ Jake Carson (John Cena), is forever pointing out that he’s not a firefighter. He’s a smokejumper, and with the help of his quirky crew, played by John Leguizamo and Keegan-Michael Key, Jake drops from helicopters to put out forest fires. With single-minded focus, he seeks out the most dangerous blazes. Unfortunately, the flat-footed family comedy around him fails to produce sparks.” Read more…)

Waves (drama, Kelvin Harrison Jr.. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A domestic melodrama in an anguished key, ‘Waves’ is the story of a Florida family nearly undone by a shocking tragedy. It’s also a spectacular testament to the talents of the writer-director Trey Edward Shults, making just his third feature-length movie. As in his estimable debut, ‘Krisha’ [2016], about a woman having an epic meltdown at a family Thanksgiving, Shults has created a deep, at times overwhelming sensory experience.” Read more…)

Mrs. Lowry & Son (bio-pic/art, Vanessa Redgrave. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 42. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Yet the disappointment of ‘Mrs. Lowry & Son’ is that it finds neither of its star attractions at the peak of their powers: Both Spall and Redgrave feel stifled and stiff-jointed, hemmed in by a thin, shallow-focus script that betrays its origins as a radio play all too easily. Every facet of this toxic mother-son relationship is spoken, repetitiously so, with nary a detail left to visual or sensory interpretation.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Doctor Sleep (Stephen King “The Shining” sequel, Ewan McGregor. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Doctor Sleep,’ Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of the novel by Stephen King, catches up with Danny Torrance, who as a child was terrorized by demons and his own father at a spooky Rocky Mountain hotel. That was in ‘The Shining,’ published by King in 1977 and filmed by Stanley Kubrick in a movie released in 1980. The new film, depending on how you look at it, is a sequel, an update, a corrective or a disaster. King was never a fan of Kubrick’s cold, meticulous gothic, which has nonetheless gathered a sturdy cult following. Flanagan, while hewing more closely to the novelist’s ideas about evil, innocence and addiction, pays tribute to some of Kubrick’s visual signatures.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Too Late to Die Young (Chile, drama/coming-of-age, Demian Hernández. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Too Late to Die Young’ is above all an achievement in mood and implication. [Director] Dominga Sotomayor has a way of structuring scenes and composing images that makes everything perfectly clear but not obvious. Motives and actions are mysterious and relationships are ambiguous not because she wants to mystify anyone or anything, but because she’s a realist.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Lost Lady (1934, drama, Barbara Stanwyck. From Andrbe Sennwald’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since Willa Cather’s novel happens to be a genuine American masterpiece, perhaps the screen edition of ‘A Lost Lady,’ which opened at the Strand last evening, is mediocre only by comparison. Irene Rich participated in a silent film version back in 1925. The present variation, to one who cannot forget the haunting beauty of the book, is like a stranger in the house. For the particular charm of Miss Cather’s work was her method, and that has been rather definitely lost in the process of transition to the screen.” Read more…)

Silver Lode (1954, western, Lizabeth Scott)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ordeal By Innocence (1984, Agatha Christie thriller, Donald Sutherland)

New British
Howard’s End (mini-series based on E.M. Forster novel, Hayley Atwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. From Sophie Gilbert’s review at The Atlantic magazine: “The 1992 film adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel ‘Howards End’ is still so sumptuous, so thrilling in its excavation of buried Edwardian desire, that you might question whether a new version is necessary. Yet Kenneth Lonergan’s four-part miniseries, which arrives Sunday on Starz, is its own masterpiece, visually lavish and narratively restrained. Lonergan and the director Hettie Macdonald find something profound in the story’s clash of cultures between the liberal, bourgeois Schlegels and the emotionally repressed, establishment Wilcoxes that feels vital in this particular moment. If people disagree on such fundamental levels, it asks, can they still love each other? Should they?” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Disappearance of My Mother (art, feminism, family, bio, Benedetta Barzini. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “From time to time, in the course of this mesmerizing, tender, painful documentary [(director Beniamino) Barrese’s first feature], you may find yourself sympathizing with the filmmaker, who occasionally allows himself to slip into view. He clearly adores his mother and respects her as a subject, even when his devotion ensnares them both in a paradox. Barzini’s greatest wish, as the title suggests, is to vanish, to complete the final chapter of a highly visible life in a state of obscurity. Barrese at once supports this aspiration and sets out to thwart it, showing us someone who insists that she doesn’t want anyone to see her. The passionate clarity with which she asserts her views is persuasive, and her complicated charisma makes her an irresistible, unforgettable screen presence.” Read more…)

Serendipity (health, art, modern medicine, memoir, Prune Nourry. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 69. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “After the artist Prune Nourry received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2016 at age 31, her experiences of treatment began to inform her art. ‘Serendipity’ is both a document and an extension of that process — a self-portrait in which Nourry showcases past projects and explores how her artistic impulses evolved.” Read more…)

Becoming Nobody (bio, New Age philosophy, Ram Dass, Richard Alpert. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 47. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “If you think becoming a ‘somebody’ in life is an uphill climb, it turns out, at least according to famed Boston-born spiritual teacher and truth seeker Dr. Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Ram Dass), that making oneself into a ‘nobody’ — that is, truly open and egoless — is a much harder road. He also considers it the way to go for real personal freedom and enlightenment. That’s just one of many life lessons and wise assertions imparted by Alpert in producer-director Jamie Catto’s enjoyable documentary ‘Becoming Nobody,’ which, though hardly a definitive look at the former Harvard psychologist and much-published author [including the 1971 bestseller ‘Be Here Now’], proves a strong and moving reminder of Alpert’s spiritual insight.” Read more…)

New releases 1/28/20

Top Hits
Terminator: Dark Fate (action, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “There are a number of reasons to like “Terminator: Dark Fate” — Linda Hamilton’s scowl, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stubble, MacKenzie Davis’s athleticism — but my favorite thing about this late addition to a weary franchise is how little it cares about timeline continuity.” Read more…)

Harriet (Harriet Tubman biopic, Cynthia Erivo. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Harriet,’ directed by Kasi Lemmons [‘Eve’s Bayou,’ ‘Black Nativity’] and anchored by Cynthia Erivo’s precise and passionate performance in the title role, might not be exactly what my correspondent had in mind, but it is a rousing and powerful drama, respectful of both the historical record and the cravings of modern audiences. The story of Tubman’s escape from enslavement on a Maryland farm and her subsequent leadership in the underground railroad is conveyed in bold, emphatic strokes. Villainy and virtue are clearly marked, and the evil that Tubman resisted is illuminated alongside her bravery.” Read more…)

Ms. Purple (drama, Jake Choi. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Following two deeply damaged siblings, each lacking a place in the world, Justin Chon’s ‘Ms. Purple’ seems named not for a character, but for a state of mind that’s been a long time brewing. Purple is also the color of the traditional South Korean dress obediently worn one evening by Kasie [Tiffany Chu], 23, at the insistence of her rich, entitled boyfriend [Tony Kim]. But in the United States, where the film takes place, purple vividly signifies daring and defiance, independence and strength. That demands a personality to match, and Kasie is a woman controlled by the demands of men.” Read more…)

Motherless Brooklyn (drama/mystery, Edward Norton. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 60. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Admirers of [Jonathan] Lethem’s novel may find themselves puzzled by what Norton has done with it. He has moved the action backward in time and dramatically expanded its scope, replacing modesty, irony and charm with earnest, sometimes overstrained ambition. But filmmakers don’t owe literary works their reverence, just their intelligence, and ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ is a very smart movie, bristling with ideas about history, politics, art and urban planning.” Read more…)

Battle of Jangsari (war drama, Kim Myung-min. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.)

New Blu-Ray
Terminator: Dark Fate

New Foreign DVDs
Parasite (South Korea, comedy/drama, Kang-ho Song. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 96. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Midway through the brilliant and deeply unsettling ‘Parasite,’ a destitute man voices empathy for a family that has shown him none. “They’re rich but still nice,” he says, aglow with good will. His wife has her doubts. “They’re nice because they’re rich,” she counters. With their two adult children, they have insinuated themselves into the lives of their pampered counterparts. It’s all going so very well until their worlds spectacularly collide, erupting with annihilating force. Comedy turns to tragedy and smiles twist into grimaces as the real world splatters across the manicured lawn. The story takes place in South Korea but could easily unfold in Los Angeles or London.” Read more…)

Museo (Mexico, crime/drama, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 86. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In spite of a meandering story and some fuzzy passages, there is a touch of magic in ‘Museo,’ a sense of wonder and curiosity that imparts palpable excitement. Some of that is the intimation of a strong and original cinematic voice evolving toward the realization of its full potential — the feeling that you might be in the presence of someone who could become the next great Mexican filmmaker.” Read more…)

All About My Mother (Spain, 1999, Almodovar-directed drama, Criterion Collection, Cecilia Roth. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 87. From Janet Maslin’s 1999 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This year’s New York Film Festival opens tonight with the marvelous ‘All About My Mother,’ a whole new order of Almodóvar extravaganza. It depends, as so many things do, upon the kindness of strangers. Starting at that place in Mr. Almodóvar’s great big heart where womanhood, artifice, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and ‘All About Eve’ collide, it weaves life and art into a rich tapestry of love, loss and compassion. This film’s assorted females — real, theatrical or would-be — move past the nervous breakdown stage and on to something much more forgiving.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Fail Safe (1964, Cold War drama, Criterion Collection, Henry Fonda. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 75. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For ‘Fail Safe’ is definitely in the area of those films that are important and are going to be talked about. And it packs a melodramatic wallop that will rattle a lot of chattering teeth. As its title tells, it is based on the popular novel of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, and it covers almost precisely the same ground, in a general way, as does ‘Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.’ That is to say, it is a story of what might happen in the secret chambers of our highest government and military personnel if a flight of American bombers should accidentally be directed to fly over the Soviet Union and drop nuclear bombs.” Read more…)

New British
Room at the Top (1959, “kitchen sink” drama, Laurence Harvey. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From A.H. Weiler’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “THE cynical, disenchanted and footloose post-war youths of England, who justifiably have been termed “angry,” never have been put into sharper focus than in ‘Room at the Top.’ The British-made import, which was unveiled at the Fine Arts Theatre yesterday, glaringly spotlights them in a disk of illumination that reveals genuine drama and passion, truth as well as corruption. Although it takes place 3,000 miles away, it is as close to home as a shattered dream, a broken love affair or a man seeking to make life more rewarding in an uneasy world.” Read more…)

My Life Is Murder: Series 1 (Australia detective series, Lucy Lawless)

New Documentaries
Midnight Traveler (human rights, Afghanistan war, refugees. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “To a degree, ‘Midnight Traveler’ is a diary movie, complete with regular time and place notations: ‘Day 51 Ovcha Kupel Refugee Camp, Bulgaria.’ The filmmakers are chronicling their own lives, of course. But they are also documenting a far larger catastrophe, one that comes in different languages and affects innumerable families. It’s easy to feel upset and recurrently outraged by what you see and hear. But at its best, this documentary asks something more of you. When a nationalist protest breaks out near one refugee camp, you are bluntly reminded that behind the accounts of the migration crisis are concrete, real-world choices that those of us with homes make each day about the lives of others.” Read more…)

New releases 1/21/20

Top Hits
Pain and Glory (Almodovar-directed drama, Antonio Banderas. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “One of Almodóvar’s talents is his transformational, near-alchemical use of blunt ideas, how he marshals crude gestures, gaudy flourishes and melodramatic entanglements. The emotions still sting here, and the colors glow like traffic lights — there are eye-popping bursts of stop-sign red and go-go green — and the movie is as visually striking as any Almodóvar has made. But the narrative is elegantly structured rather than clotted, and its tone is contemplative as opposed to frantic, as if he had turned down the volume.” Read more…)

The Addams Family (animated feature, Oscar Isaac [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 46. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Although returning the Addamses to illustrated form brings them full circle [Charles Addams’s New Yorker cartoons long predated the 1960s TV series], this movie exists in the shadow of Barry Sonnenfeld’s live-action films from 1991 and 1993. As spot on as the casting of Isaac and Theron may sound, animation spares them from having to match the ingenious physical comedy of Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston.” Read more…)

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot (comedy, Kevin Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 46. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “In a film culture overrun by Marvel epics, wild-stunt action flicks, and other grandiose juvenilia, it is often said that the mid-budget, script-driven movie for adults is becoming a thing of the past. But don’t tell that to Kevin Smith, whose ‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,’ a shaggy antic throwaway that premiered Tuesday in the first of two one-night shows at 600 theaters [it will travel out after that in a 65-city road-show release], stands [sort of] as a proud exception to the rule of corporate blockbuster overkill.” Read more…)

I See You (psychological thriller, Helen Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 65. From Rex Reed’s Observer review: “Helen Hunt is a good actress with an Oscar on her mantle and practically no ability to choose a decent movie script based on quality or entertainment value. She’s been absent from the screen far too long, so it’s a pleasure to welcome her back, but not in a labored, amateurish charade as bad as ‘I See You.’” Read more…)

Zombieland: Double Tap (horror/action, Woody Harrelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Tallahassee, the senior zombie-killer played by Woody Harrelson in ‘Zombieland: Double Tap,’ has a catchphrase that’s a little too naughty for me to quote. You’ve probably heard it before, and you might agree with another character’s assessment: ‘That saying is very 2009.’ The whole movie is very 2009, which is amusing and puzzling and possibly kind of a relief, given what ‘very 2019’ might look like.” Read more…)

Mister America (comedy, Tim Heidecker. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 42. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The jury is still out on whether 21st-century politics has reached a point beyond parody, but the one-note satire ‘Mister America’ proves that it’s still possible to get laughs out of a single gag — and just as possible to belabor the joke.” Read more…)

Jexi (comedy, Adam Devine. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 39. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Jexi,’ a comedy written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, does not explicitly position itself as a parody of ‘Her,’ the poignant 2013 love story of a man and a very empathetic piece of software. But this movie’s clear play on the premise helps it get off to a fast start.” Read more…)

Songs My Brothers Taught Me (drama, John Reddy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s 2016 New York Times review: “‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me,’ a melancholic portrait of Lakota Indian life on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the South Dakota Badlands, suggests a Native American answer to ‘The Last Picture Show.’ As in the dying Texas town where that movie is set, a demoralizing stasis prevails, along with a lingering pride in tribal rituals that preserve a sense of continuity. When the residents don traditional headdresses and dance around a bonfire, there is joy in the air.” Read more…)

Black + Blue (drama, Naomie Harris. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 54. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Sometimes genre entertainment can illuminate troubling realities better than more earnest and self-seriously realistic films, and ‘Black and Blue’ belongs to that tradition. Its pulpy pop-cultural credibility is inseparable from its honest, brutal assessment of the state of the world. Its ideas about the nature and limits of heroism — about just how hard and terrifying the resistance to evil can be — are spelled out in vivid black and white.” Read more…)

Every Time I Die (mystery, Marc Menchaca. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Blu-Ray
Pain and Glory
The Addams Family

New Foreign DVDs
Ever After aka Endzeit (Germany, zombies, Trine Dyrholm. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review; “We have met the walking dead, and they are us. That, at any rate, seems to be the bludgeoning point of all the screen zombies that keep walking and sometimes running in our direction. Since George A. Romero unleashed the zombie movie with ‘Night of the Living Dead’[1968], the departed and their annihilating hunger have proved unsurprisingly durable metaphors for the human condition. The German movie ‘Endzeit’ — ‘Ever After’ in English — approaches the subgenre by folding the undead into a fairy tale. It’s once upon a time in the apocalypse and zombies have taken over the country [and perhaps the rest of the world].” Read more…)

Le Petit Soldat (France, 1963, Godard-directed drama, Ana Karina. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Howard Thompson’s 1967 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Technically, at least, the pcture is brilliant. In his typucal, mercurial manner, Mr. Godard has fabricated a candid-camera mosaic in flyting bits and pieces—as obtuse and splintery as can be imagined. This is the story of a fatalistic young Frenchman trapped between a rightist faction he refuses to kill for and a group of equally ruthless ‘rebels.’” Read more…)

Britt-Marie Was Here (Sweden, comedy, Pernilla August. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 53. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Britt-Marie Was Here’ is a relatively unchallenging yet ultimately pleasant watch. Despite Britt-Marie’s outsized focus on cleanliness, the director Tuva Novotny forgoes exaggerated style and instead aims to deliver an earnest portrait of an older woman as she pursues happiness. The genial mood is aided by a plucky score, and a restrained performance from [actress Pernilla] August in the lead role.” Read more…)

The Freshmen (France, comedy, Vincent Lacoste. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

Pain and Glory (Spain, Almodovar-directed drama, Antonio Banderas. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 88.)

New Documentaries
David Susskind: Interview with Nikita Khrushchev (historic 2-hour 1960 live TV interview)
David Susskind: Truman Capote Tells All (TV interview, literature, journalism, Truman Capote)

New releases 1/14/20

Top Hits
Gemini Man (action, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 38. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “I’m a little worried that the premise of ‘Gemini Man,’ which is the most interesting thing about it, might also count as a spoiler. So if you don’t want to know anything about this movie other than that Will Smith plays a super-lethal military assassin hunted by nefarious forces in his own government — which is too much of a cliché to count as a spoiler — then maybe you should move along. Or just watch the trailer, declare the whole thing spoiled, and go about your day.” Read more…)

Line of Duty (action Aaron Eckhart. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. From Dennis Harvey’s Variety review: “High on energy if low on credibility, ‘Line of Duty’ stars Aaron Eckhart as a cop from Birmingham, Ala., whose day gets a lot more hectic when he’s caught up in a kidnapping whose victim is under immediate mortal threat. This latest from prolific genre helmer Stephen C. Miller is a little off-putting at times with its undercurrent of pro-police, anti-everyone-else rhetoric — though that may play well with some of the target demographic. In any case, action fans looking for a lot of forward motion could do worse than this lively, increasingly over-the-top feature-length chase.” Read more…)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (adventure/family, Angelina Jolie. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 43. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The happily ever after delivered by Disney’s ‘Maleficent’ has vanished like a puff of bilious smoke, as its unhappy, reactionary sequel makes depressingly clear. Released in 2014, the first movie is a satisfying rethink of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ — both Disney’s and Charles Perrault’s — that showed how intelligent intervention could upend centuries of oppressive ideas about women. In its revisionist take, the titular dark, dangerous fairy played by Angelina Jolie isn’t naturally evil or merely spiteful in bestowing a curse, but exerting her power with a vengeance.” Read more…)

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (drama, Kit Harington. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 28. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Of all the criticisms one might level at the films of Xavier Dolan, dullness is unlikely to be among them. Until now, perhaps: ‘The Death & Life of John F. Donovan’ isn’t just flat, it’s choppy and grandiose. From its contrived structure to its forced speechifying, this story about a yearslong correspondence between Donovan [Kit Harington], a closeted actor, and Rupert [Jacob Tremblay], a troubled prepubescent boy, never acquires the emotional potency or coherence its themes demand.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Gemini Man

New Foreign DVDs
Cyrano, My Love (France, Thomas Solivérès. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 61. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Concealing its lack of substance beneath a carapace of froth and a cascade of famous characters [with Clémentine Célarié making a magnificent Sarah Bernhardt], ‘Cyrano, My Love’ trips along happily enough. As the camera circles swirling skirts and sweeps through elegant cafes, the director, Alexis Michalik, whisks up a whirlwind of soapy declarations and backstage chaos.” Read more…)

Piranhas (Italy, crime drama, Francesco Di Napoli. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Roberto] Saviano’s book ‘Gomorrah’ was made into a bracing episodic film in 2009 by Matteo Garrone. The less satisfying ‘Piranhas,’ based on a subsequent Saviano book and directed by Claudio Giovannesi, is an ‘I Was a Teenage Gangster’ tale. In its reliance on a conventional narrative through-line, it’s more reminiscent of ‘The Public Enemy’ than ‘Goodfellas’ in spite of its stylings of contemporary cinematic realism.” Read more…)

New British
The Durrells in Corfu: Season 4 (drama, Keeley Hawes)

New TV
You: Season 1 (romantic thriller, Penn Badgley)

New Documentaries
The Price of Everything (contemporary art, Gerhard Richter, art market. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘There are a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing,’ the art collector Stefan Edlis remarks in Nathaniel Kahn’s new documentary. The words, unattributed in the film and the source of its title, come from ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ by Oscar Wilde, where they supply the definition of a cynic. But while this colorful and inquisitive cinematic essay on the state of the art world is occasionally skeptical and consistently thoughtful, cynicism isn’t really on its agenda.” Read more…)

May 15th in Paris (French history, politics, demagoguery, short film)