New releases 9/14/21

Top Hits
Zola (comedy/mystery, Taylour Paige. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Directed by Janicza Bravo [‘Lemon’] from a script she wrote with the Tony-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris [‘Slave Play’], ‘Zola’ is adapted from a thread that galvanized Twitter back in 2015, when it was somewhat less dominated by expressions of political contempt and moral self-righteousness than it is now. There was more room for crazy stories, and on Oct. 27 of that year, A’Ziah King started posting the profane, hair-raising, occasionally hilarious tale of an ill-starred excursion to Florida that involved sex work, gun play and a highly problematic frenemy.” Read more…)

How It Ends (apocalyptic comedy, Zoe Lister Jones. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 57. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The film’s writers and directors, Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein, ensure that each reconciliation has an arc that builds from confrontation to explanation to resolution, and they are also careful to ensure that each scene stands on its own. The film plays as a series of perfectly enjoyable sketches strung together, an excuse for veteran actors to chew on playful dialogue.” Read more…)

Slaxx (horror, Romane Denis. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64.From Erik Piepenburg’s capsule New York Times review: “Kephart and her co-writer, Patricia Gomez, aren’t just out for sicko laughs. They also ask viewers to think — as deeply as possible in a 77-minute movie — about conspicuous consumption, the exploitation of child labor and the hypocrisy of corporate do-gooderism. Their mayhem has a message.” Read more…)

Together Together (comedy/drama, Patti Harrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Gently funny and disarmingly poignant, ‘Together Together’ is unusually attuned to the isolation of single fathers. At a baby shower, Matt looks on enviously as guests encircle Anna; in his surrogacy support group, he’s the only person without a partner. A scene where he struggles alone to tie a baby sling is one of the saddest sights I’ve seen all year.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Bluebeard (France, 1963, Claude Chabrol-directed mystery, Charles Denner. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But [director Claude] Chabrol and his script writer, the astonishing Françoise Sagan, have steered dear of melodramatics and accept the whole thing in a sly, sardonic mood. Again, as in the [Charlie] Chaplin film [‘Monsieur Verdoux,’ inspired by the same true crime], not a single act of violence is shown, outside of some intercut news shots of battle action in World War I. Suavely, with the air of a French hairdresser or a salesman of cheap antiques [which he actually is], the principal in this ghoulish business woos his victims to their doom.” Read more…)

Blue Panther (France, 1965, Claude Chabrol-directed mystery/suspense, Marie Laforêt)

Rififi in Paris aka The Upper Hand (France, 1966, mystery/suspense, George Raft)

New British DVDs
Unforgotten: Season 4 (UK crime drama, Nicola Walker)

New releases 9/7/21

Top Hits
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (DC superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 54. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “I know I’m leading you astray, beginning this review of Zack Snyder’s extended “Justice League” cut with hope when what follows will sound more like despair. And yet hope is at the core of this four-hour marathon of a film — and is also what it fails to understand.” Read more…)

Beasts of No Nation (war drama, Criterion Collection, Abraham Attah. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, ‘Beasts of No Nation’ is based on Uzodinma Iweala’s harrowing, linguistically dazzling novel of a child soldier’s life. Mr. Iweala’s distinctive prose style is sometimes echoed in Agu’s voice-over narration, but the boy’s point of view is more immediately conveyed in the watchful eyes and sensitive features of Abraham Attah, the nimble young actor who plays him.” Read more…)

Small Axe (drama anthology, UK West Indian community, John Boyega. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “When the British filmmaker Steve McQueen conceived the five films he collectively named ‘Small Axe,’ he could not have foreseen the drastically disrupted world into which they would be released — a world that could shift, and perhaps intensify, the impact with which they would land. Narratively diverse but thematically intertwined, the anthology [beginning with ‘Mangrove’ last month and continuing on Amazon with new releases through next week] shines a sociopolitical spotlight on London’s West Indian community from the mid-1960s to the ’80s.” Read more…)

The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It (horror, Vera Farmiga. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Conjuring’ movies offer a fascinating peek into the American psyche. Based on the lives of the Northeastern paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the franchise demands viewers invest in a worldview ruled by Christian dogma, where Godly good must battle satanic evil. ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is by far the most well-constructed, terrifying entry in the franchise, but its plot relies all too heavily on that same bizarre evangelism.” Read more…)

The Duke of Burgundy (gay & lesbian/drama, 2014, Sidse Babett Knudsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Here are two somewhat contradictory things I can tell you about ‘The Duke of Burgundy,’ which takes its name from a species of butterfly. It is, I’m fairly certain, quite unlike any other Sapphic S-and-M lepidoptery-themed psychological romance you have ever seen. At the same time, though, its uniqueness rests on a passionate, you might say slavish, devotion to a particular cinematic style of the past. Peter Strickland, who seeded and tended this exquisite hothouse flower of high-toned eroticism, is unabashedly fetishistic in his love of old exploitation movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
The Duke of Burgundy

New Foreign DVDs
My Wonderful Wanda (Germany, drama/comedy, Agnieszka Grochowska. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 54. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The film, written by Oberli and Cooky Ziesche, satirizes class divides and xenophobia [‘the Pole’ constantly carries a derogatory connotation here], but never takes the satire far enough to be memorable, challenging or anything beyond whimsical, as Wanda and the Wegmeister-Gloors negotiate the future of the unborn child. The story also suffers from its division into three acts and an epilogue; it loses emotional momentum with each new section.” Read more…)

The Clockmaker of St. Paul (France, 1974, debut drama feature by Bertrand Tavernier, Philippe Noiret. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The film, an adaptation of the Georges Simenon novel ‘The Clockmaker of Everton,’ is a rather startling combination of old and new talents. Maybe reconciliation is the better word. The screenplay is by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost—who wrote the adaptation of ‘Le Diable au Corps’ and are closely identified with the French cinema establishment of the 1940’s against which the New Wave a reaction—but it is the first feature to be directed by Bertrand Tavernier, a young French critic and film scholar who belongs to the post‐New Wave generation.” Read more…)

Je T’Aime Je T’Aime aka I Love You, I Love You (France, 1968, sci-fi/romance dir. by Alain Resnais, Claude Rich. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Manohla Dargis’ 2014 New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “Most stories begin once upon a time and, after the usual chronological tramp toward the inevitable and an occasional detour into the past or future, end happily ever after [or not]. In ‘Je T’Aime, Je T’Aime,’ a magnificent film from out of the past, the French director Alain Resnais takes dozens of interludes from one man’s life — images of everyday banality and commonplace delights, scenes of him at work and at play — and arranges them nonchronologically.” Read more…)

The Widow Couderc (France, 1971, mystery, Simone Signoret. From Nora Sayre’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Since Simone Signoret appears in all too few movies these days, it’s so good to see her on the screen that one tends to be almost undemanding of the picture—which, in this case, is a modest film of high quality that never quite gets off the ground, despite its many fine details and a beautiful evocation of the French countryside.” Read more…)

The Gang/Three Men to Kill (France, crime/gangster directed by Jacques Deray, Alain Delon)

New British DVDs
What We Did On Our Holiday (comedy, 2014, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A family of bickering, broken adults has its priorities realigned by three children and a terminally ill grandpa in ‘What We Did on Our Holiday,’ a damp-eyed comedy whose banal title isn’t the only thing needing improvement. Transferring their successful sitcom formula — scene-stealing kids plus frazzled parents — to the Scottish Highlands, the writing and directing team of Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin [‘Outnumbered’] piles on the contrivances.” Read more…)

Moonlighting (drama, 1982, Jeremy Irons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Working in a style that appears to have little connection with any of his earlier films, including the French-language ‘Le Depart’ and the English-language ‘The Shout,’ Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish film maker who has been living in England for years, has made a new film of the sort of introspective intensity seldom achieved on the screen. Movies journey into men’s minds at some peril. ‘Moonlighting’ possesses such clarity of vision and simplicity that it seems to have been made in one uninterrupted burst of creative energy. It’s a small, nearly perfect work of its kind.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Thunderbolt (mystery/suspense, 1929, dir. by Josef von Sternberg, Fay Wray. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1929 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The dialogue in this production was written by Herman J. Mankicwicz. It is of the wise-cracking species. Jules and Charles Furthman are responsible for the story and Josef von Sternberg officiated as the director. It is a musical comedy plot striving to masquerade as a drama.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968, comedy, Mary Tyler Moore. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?’ which opened here yesterday at the Trans-Lux East, is a comedy for the old at heart of all ages. By picturing the things it lampoons in a soft focus, the movie ultimately sentimentalizes them. A fruit-eating bird of tropical America, a splendidly plumaged toucan who flies straight enough but walks with a list to starboard, arrives in New York and begins to spread a fearfully cute virus. Its victims are relieved of all anxieties and inhibitions.” Read more…)

The Road to Salina (1971, mystery, Rita Hayworth. From Vincent Canby’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “R’oad to Salina,’ which opened yesterday at the Paris Theater, thus begins with a good deal of trashy promise, but then, like someone who gets drunk without ever experiencing a pleasant high, it falls on its face several reels before the plot requires. It’s both disoriented and disorienting—an English language mystery melodrama, made by Frenchmen, played by Americans [Rita Hayworth, Mimsy Farmer. Robert Walker and the late Ed Begley], set in Mexico and shot on Lanzarote, off the West Coast of Africa in the Canary Islands.” Read more…)

The Black Marble (1980, thriller/comedy, Paula Prentiss. From Roger Ebert’s 1980 review: “The movie’s not altogether a comedy, although we laugh; it’s a love story that kids itself and ends up seriously; it contains violence but is not really violent. What it always does is keep us off balance. Because we can’t anticipate what’s going to happen next, the movie has a persistent interior life; there’s never the sense that a scene is included because it’s expected.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Apocalypse ’45 (war, World war II, archival film, oral history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “Startling images appear throughout ‘Apocalypse ’45,’ a transfixing documentary that depicts the final months of World War II in rare detail. The film combines vivid archival footage from war reporters with the accounts of an array of veterans. Its project is to immerse us in the horrors of warfare, and to convey the ways its witnesses cope with war’s psychic toll.” Read more…)

All the Streets Are Silent (hip hop, skateboarding, street culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 60. From Isabelia Herrera’s New York Times review: “‘All the Streets Are Silent,’ a documentary from the director, Jeremy Elkin, is a portrait of that time, capturing the transformative moment when hip-hop and skateboarding culture converged in New York. It draws on archival footage of influential figures like Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter, among dozens of others, and incorporates new interviews with major players like Fab 5 Freddy and Darryl McDaniels, of Run-DMC. Throughout, Elkin explores how racial associations with both subcultures crumbled as their worlds collided.” Read more…)

New releases 8/31/21

Top Hits
In the Heights (musical, Anthony Ramos. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A dream can be a fantasy or a goal, an escape or an aspiration, a rejection of the way things are or an affirmation of what could be. ‘In the Heights,’ adapted from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s Tony-winning Broadway show, embraces all of these meanings. After more than a year of desultory streaming, anemic entertainment and panicky doomscrolling, it’s a dream come true.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Berlin Alexanderplatz (Germany, drama remake, Welket Bungué. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Alfred Döblin’s masterpiece “Berlin Alexanderplatz” received its most famous dramatization not at the movies but on TV, with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15-hour adaptation in 1980. Burhan Qurbani’s ambitious film by the same name re-centers the Weimar Era original on a 21st-century immigrant from Guinea-Bissau who seeks the straight and narrow but works for a psychopathic drug dealer.” Read more…)

Summer of 85 (France, romance/gay & lesbian, Félix Lefebvre. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “The prolific French director François Ozon wants ‘Summer of 85’ to be more than a gay coming-of-age romance in the vein of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ With an elliptical narrative that jumps back and forth from Alexis’s summer fling to an unspecified future in which he is being interviewed by a suspicious caseworker about the death of David, the film also aims to be pulpy and provocative, teasing the idea that its lovesick protagonist turns homicidal with jealousy.” Read more…)

Bäckström: Series 1 (Sweden, police procedural, Kjell Bergqvist)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Jane Eyre (costume drama made for TV, 1971, George C. Scott. From John J. O’Connor’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In fact, the approach may be at touch too rational. Though the production was shot in England, a few miles north Of Yorkshire, in locations ‘as authentic as the present day will permit,’ and though the performances are uniformly good, the whole is curiously slack, the mysterious passions of the novel tinged with just a bit too much ordinary logic.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (biography, music, personality, Lydia Lunch. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The musician, writer and spoken-word artist Lydia Lunch is an immediately provocative figure. The name alone, right? Escaping a horrifically abusive home in Rochester, N.Y., at 16, she took one look at the burgeoning 1970s punk rock scene on Manhattan’s Bowery and was determined to both join and upend it. ‘I had a suitcase and $200,’ she recalls in ‘Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over,’ a vigorous documentary directed by Beth B, whose own work as an underground filmmaker began in the same milieu as Lunch’s early efforts.” Read more…)

New releases 8/24/21

Top Hits
Riders of Justice (comedy/thriller, Mads Mikkelsen. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “The Danish filmmaker Anders Thomas Jensen understands that the most difficult tragedies to process are the inexplicable ones, the kind where there’s no one to blame. This idea is at the core of his gold-hearted, yet gleefully bloody deconstruction of the revenge thriller and the meat-headed masculine urges that typically underscore the genre.” Read more…)

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (animated feature, James Corden. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 43. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’ wants to have its carrot and eat it, too. For anyone who complained that the 2018 live action-animation hybrid ‘Peter Rabbit’ betrayed Beatrix Potter’s whimsical vision, and seemed less concerned with the plunder of Mr. McGregor’s vegetables than with its own raid of corporate music catalogs, the sequel, once again directed by Will Gluck, pre-empts such objections.” Read more…)

The Water Man (drama, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The keen affinity the actor David Oyelowo has for his fellow performers is the best thing about ‘The Water Man,’ his feature directorial debut. Scripted by Emily A. Needell, the picture is a family drama with a supernatural angle, centered on illness.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Perfumes (France, comedy, Emmanuelle Devos. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Tomris Laffly’s Variety review: “Elegantly directed and perceptively written with conventional yet feel-good notes around friendship and second chances, ‘Perfumes’ isn’t primarily about the reserved and haughty artisan Anne, however. Rather, the lovably disheveled Guillaume [Grégory Montel of ‘Call My Agent’] serves as our entry point to Magne’s story, which signposts well in advance how these two polar-opposite, fraught souls would eventually enmesh to save one another, like two lush scents combined to unleash one another’s powers.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Black Windmill (mystery/thriller, 1974, Michael Caine. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 50. From Nora Sayre’s 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “I feel some pangs about this picture: It’s an admirably professional job, and distinctly entertaining. But the plot scatters into a flurry of devices for chases and escapes, and there are no lunges of astonishment, despite all the athletics.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Truffle Hunters (food, foraging, rural Italian culture, gastronomy. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The history of human gastronomy is full of mysteries. Who figured out that an oyster was something to eat? That fruit juice left sitting around for a while would get you drunk? That a kid would eat the middle of an Oreo first? I am now convinced that these imponderables pale in comparison to the question of the truffle. How did this subterranean fungus, the best specimens of which look like woebegone potatoes, come to be among the most prized and pricey of delicacies?” Read more…)

New releases 8/17/21

Top Hits
Till Death (mystery/suspense, Megan Fox. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beatrice Loayza’s Times review: “In his feature directing debut, S.K. Dale orchestrates a tense cat-and-mouse game that, refreshingly, doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are no profound psychological struggles, high-concept theatrics; no groundbreaking subversions of formula. Instead, this straightforward romp focuses its attention on its cunning and no-nonsense scream queen.” Read more…)

Queen Bees (comedy, Ellen Burstyn. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Queen Bees’ is a thoroughly conventional comedy-drama right down to its saccharine score by Walter Murphy. [Yes, the ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’ guy.] That said, it does not waste its impeccable cast, which also includes Christopher Lloyd and a remarkably game James Caan as Helen’s love interest.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
You Will Die At Twenty (Egypt, drama, Islam Mubarak. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Devika Girish’s Times review: “A folk tale turns existential in ‘You Will Die at Twenty,’ the rapturous debut feature by the Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala. In a sun-dappled village by the Nile, a holy sheikh tells Sakina [Islam Mubarak] that her newborn son, Muzamil, will live only two decades.” Read more…)

After Life (Japan, 1998, Criterion Collection, drama, Arata. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. from Stephen Holden’s Times review [requires log-in]: “Invited to relive an especially happy memory, how many of us would be able to go beyond recalling how we felt, and describe the setting and circumstances of that moment in precise detail? And even when we conjure vivid mental pictures of past events, how accurate are they really? These and other profound questions are the substance of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s brilliant, humorous, transcendently compassionate film, ‘After Life,’ which opens today at the Film Forum.” Read more…)

Enfant Terrible (Germany, Rainer Werner Fassbinder bio-pic. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 49. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Oskar Roehler’s ‘Enfant Terrible’ runs through an impressively packed compendium of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s life and works — the brilliance, the sadism, the compassion and the leopard-print suiting. Roehler begins with Fassbinder upending Munich’s Action Theatre in his early 20s, and his fearless artistic talent suggests a force of nature unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.” Read more…)

King Kong Escapes (Japan/USA sci-fi, 1967, Linda G. Miller. From Vincent Canby’s 1968 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The Japanese, who show the greatest delicacy in arranging flowers and manufacturing transistor radios, are all thumbs when it comes to making monster movies like ‘King Kong Escapes.’ … The Toho moviemakers are quite good in building miniature sets, but much of the process photography—matching the miniatures with the full-scale shots—is just bad. The English language dialogue that comes out of the mouths of the Japanese actors could well be Urdu, and the plotting is hopelessly primitive, although it is littered with found symbols, most of which have to do with a [perhaps Hiroshima-inspired] national death wish.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
White Shadows In the South Seas (1928, silent drama/adventure, Monte Bule)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Loved One (1965, comedy, Jonathan Winters. From Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review: “Since the merchandisers of ‘The Loved One’ are boastfully proclaiming it to be an outrageous motion picture with something to offend everyone, I see no reason to deny their exultation. It IS an offensive film—but for reasons other than the boldness and indelicacy of its theme or, indeed, for the many insensitive and impious things it shows.As a screen version of the famous novel of the same name by Evelyn Waugh that was one of the first blistering satires on the so-called American way of death, this latest piece of social comment from Tony Richardson, which came to the Cinema I yesterday, is inevitably startling and tough.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (theater, literature, Tennessee Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Merging two biographies is a solid way to enliven the often-tedious genre of the literary documentary. But the connections drawn in ‘Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation’ are sufficiently instructive that watching and listening to these writers is also, in a way, like hearing one author in stereo. The director Lisa Immordino Vreeland uses the friendship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams to construct a dialogue between them, using the writing and appearances they left behind.” Read more…)

New releases 8/3/21

Top Hits
Luca (Pixar animated feature, Jacob Tremblay. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Luca’ was directed by Enrico Casarosa, whose warm, whimsical aesthetic also infused ‘La Luna’ [2012], his Oscar-nominated short. Unlike some other recent Pixar features, this one aims to be charming rather than mind-blowing. Instead of philosophical and cinematic ambition, there is a diverting, somewhat familiar story about friendship, loyalty and competition set against a picturesque animated backdrop.” Read more…)

Those Who Wish Me Dead (thriller, Angelina Jolie. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 59. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “I’m not sure I believed the plot for a minute of ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead,’ but as a means of pitting righteous characters against implacable assassins in a succession of abrupt, pitiless, life-or-death confrontations, the story has a terse effectiveness. The film, based on the 2014 novel by Michael Koryta, has been brought to the screen by the writer-director Taylor Sheridan. Although he isn’t the sole screenwriter here, the film paints in the bold, primal strokes of his scripts for ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’ without getting bogged down in the sloggy self-seriousness of his previous directorial feature, “Wind River.’” Read more…)

Here Today (comedy/drama, Billy Crystal. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 40. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “‘Here Today,’ starring Billy Crystal as a venerable TV comedy writer and Tiffany Haddish as the saintly, rough-around-the-edges street singer who becomes his unlikely pal, is a movie that feels like it could have been made 30 years ago: a friendly, adult-skewing, tart-witted but never nasty, jokes-and-hugs-built-around-a-serious-crisis character study that’s just ’90s enough to be comfortably old-fashioned, like an old pair of tasseled loafers.” Read more…)

Shirley (drama, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Shirley,’ adapted by Sarah Gubbins from Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel, will never be mistaken for a biopic. That is all to the good. Jackson, the subject of an excellent recent biography by Ruth Franklin, is much too interesting to succumb to the dull, sentimental moralizing of mainstream moviemaking. Instead, Decker and Moss approach Jackson as if she were a character in her own fiction, which is to say as an object of pity, terror, fascination and awe rather than straightforward sympathy.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Luca

New Foreign DVDs
Wet Season (Singapore, drama, Yann Yann Yeo. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 73. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “A beacon of Southeast Asian prosperity and a haven for the ultrarich, Singapore represents a promised land for migrant workers. In ‘Wet Season,’ a Malaysian schoolteacher named Ling [Yann Yann Yeo] seems to enjoy comfort and stability in her adopted country, yet life in Singapore gnaws away at her dignity. This conflict sets the stage for a reckoning and rebirth by poignant, if morally objectionable, means.” Read more…)

The Mirror (Russia, 1975, dir. by Andrei Tarkovsky, Criterion Collection, drama, Margarita Tereshkhova. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Mirror’ opens with a metaphor: a televised scene in which a therapist, employing hypnosis, cures a young man of his speech affliction. Like the young man in this scene, Mr. Tarkovsky is struggling toward expression in the vexatious film that is ‘The Mirror.’ In the end, he has spoken, and while this accomplishment is not to be dismissed, it is to be regretted that his cinematic speech – his assessment of life – seems not so much part of a poetic dialogue with humankind but instead a therapeutic soliloquy.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Arise, My Love (World War II-era anti-fascist drama, 1940, Ray Milland. From Bosley Crowther’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Between registration and Paramount we were brought full in the face of realities yesterday. For ‘Arise My Love,’ which arrived with much attendant excitement at the Paramount Theatre, turned out to be not the blithe, irresponsible affair anticipated but a sobering elaboration upon the themes of romance and war. Sternly, it calls to battle those two most charming exponents of frivolity, Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland; heroically, it stiffens the spines of two casual and presumably cynical folk.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The People Next Door (1970, drama, Eli Wallach. From Howard Thompson’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Time—the space of only two short years—and a conscientious, purposeful transfer from television to the screen have dealt J.P. Miller’s drama, “The People Next Door,” a near fatal blow. This is the highly acclaimed story of two neighboring middle‐class families almost split wide open by some generation‐gap, revelations involving two youngsters. Beamed into the living room, minus frills, from the small home box, it must have been thunderbolt. Not now.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Final Account (history, Holocaust, memory, Germany. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “In ‘Final Account,’ the filmmaker Luke Holland interviews a series of erstwhile Nazi functionaries: older men and women who seem to have spent a lifetime perfecting the use of the passive voice. Heinrich Schulze, a former Wehrmacht fighter, shows Holland his family farm where a group of escapees from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp once hid until they were “picked up.’ By whom? Holland asks. And how did they know the prisoners were hiding there? Schulze answers after a pause: ‘Well, we discovered them and reported it.’” Read more…)

New releases 7/27/21

Top Hits
A Quiet Place: Part II (horror/suspense, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “And while this new installment is, like its predecessor, wonderfully acted and intuitively directed (by John Krasinski, who is solely responsible for the story this time around), it has also largely replaced the hushed horror of the original with full-on action. Faster, coarser and far noisier, “Part II” sacrifices emotional depth for thriller setups that do less to advance the plot than grow the younger characters.” Read more…)

Jakob’s Wife (horror, Barbara Crampton. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Erik Piepenburg’s capsule New York Times review: “Travis Stevens’s film layers feminism on top of comedy on top of vampire myth and gross-out splatter. It mostly clicks, and the reason is [actress Barbara] Crampton. With a decades-long career in out-there films including ‘Re-Animator,’ she’s as close to acting royalty as horror gets. Here she is fearless as a woman discovering her powers within.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
A Quiet Place: Part II

New Foreign DVDs
Le Crabe-Tambour (France, 1977, war drama. From Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “To come to the point immediately, ‘Le Crabe Tambour,’ Pierre Schoendoerffer’s 1977 French film based on his own French novel, is one of the grandest, most beautiful adventure movies in years. It may be somewhat old-fashioned in its emphasis on courage, honor and the glory of war, no matter what the cause. However, it’s also wonderfully old-fashioned in its convoluted, romantic narrative, which moves from Vietnam, during the collapse of France’s control of Indochina in the 1950’s, to East Africa, Algeria, Brittany, Newfoundland and the stormy fishing grounds on the Grand Banks.” Read more…)

La Piscine aka The Swimming Pool (France, 1969, mystery/suspense, Criterion Collection, Alain Delon. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review of the screening of the restored film: “‘La Piscine,’ made in 1969, is best known in the United States for its remake, Luca Guadagnino’s frisky, borderline frivolous 2016 ‘A Bigger Splash.’ The release of a pristine restoration of the original, directed by Jacques Deray and starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet and Jane Birkin, should bolster this striking movie’s reputation.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Gangs of London: Season 1 (action/crime series, Aled ap Steffan. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 70. From Simon Abrams’ New York Times article: “The other key components of the series, which premiered in Britain last year, are brutal, dynamic fight scenes that bear the unmistakable signature of Gareth Evans, who created the series with the writer and cinematographer Matt Flannery. Evans, a Welsh filmmaker, is known for his electric action sequences, and the set pieces in ‘Gangs of London’ stand out for their visceral impact, sophisticated choreography and extreme violence.” Read more…)

Unrelated (drama, 2007, Tom Hiddleston. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The first film directed by [Joanna] Hogg, ‘Unrelated,’ released in Britain in 2008 and shown here for the first time [in 2014], announced the debut of a significant writing and directing talent. Her more abstract and even chillier third film, ‘Exhibition,’ recently opened in Manhattan. As in ‘Exhibition,’ Ms. Hogg casts a cold eye on the manners of the British upper middle class at play. Except for their accents, these people are identical to a certain class of spoiled, supercilious New Yorkers who exude a smug sense of entitlement.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide (art history, pop culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The condition of being an artist and the significance of what an artist produces are two distinct things. The post-pop artist Kenny Scharf, who came out of the same downtown art and music scene as Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Klaus Nomi, is someone whose critical and material stock has risen, fallen and risen again over decades. The documentary ‘Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide,’ directed by Max Basch and the artist’s daughter Malia Scharf, makes a considered and not entirely uncritical case for Scharf’s relevance.” Read more…)

Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts (race, history, art, outsider art. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This documentary, directed by Jeffrey Wolf, is a plain, sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed [artist and former slave Bill] Traylor’s vision: dirt roads, railroad tracks, backwoods. These places, the critic and musician Greg Tate notes in the film, lay the ground for the “mystical realm” of Traylor’s work: The deliberately two-dimensional figures and the limited but bold colors have the transfixing power of a waking dream.” Read more…)

New releases 7/20/21

Top Hits
Dream Horse (drama/comedy, Toni Collette. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In the comedy-drama ‘Dream Horse,’ a woman who works two jobs gets an idea. Remembering her glory days of training animals — pigeons, to be exact — she is determined to buy a mare and birth a race horse. She doesn’t have the resources to do it on her own, so she turns to her sleepy community in Wales to pool their assets. This sports underdog story, which is based on true events, has several features endemic to the genre. But ‘Dream Horse,’ an unabashed crowd-pleaser directed by Euros Lyn, earns its smiles and cheers.” Read more…)

Undergods (sci-fi/horror, Johann Myers. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 71. From Elisabeth Vincentelli in The New York Times: “The film will be anathema to those who need clear-cut — well, clear-cut anything. But Moya has made something rare: an oddity that feels both familiar and completely sui generis. Fans of ‘Delicatessen,’ ‘Brazil’ and ‘Eraserhead’ should give it a shot.” Read more…)

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (horror, Chris Rock. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 40. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “In ‘Spiral,’ the latest film in the ‘Saw’ universe, the first expletives land before the two-minute mark. Blood spills right after, when a man has to decide between getting his tongue ripped out or being hit by an underground train. That the film is overall gorier and more foulmouthed than its predecessors, while still managing an R rating, is undoubtedly an accomplishment. Unfortunately, that is the film’s only notable one.” Read more…)

Wrath of Man (action, Jason Statham. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The filmmaker Guy Ritchie has long shown an eagerness to take a whack at almost any blockbuster format a given studio is willing to offer him. Witness the noisome ‘Sherlock Holmes’ period pictures he’s made with Robert Downey Jr., or his more recent live-action consideration of Disney’s ‘Aladdin.’ But his most enjoyable movies remain the tough, nasty crime thrillers with which he kicked off his career back in 1999 with ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.’ His new ‘Wrath of Man’ is such an item, although it’s more somber and less rollicking than the likes of ‘Lock.’” Read more…)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (historical drama, Riva Krymalowski. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 47. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Painting a curiously cozy portrait of refugee life, Caroline Link’s ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ views displacement and the approaching Holocaust primarily through the experiences of a child, Anna Kemper [a captivating Riva Krymalowski]. The result is a movie that’s almost as cuddly as the toy in its title.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Wrath of Man

New Foreign DVDs
There Is No Evil (Iran, drama, Ehsan Mirhosseini. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “Because ‘There Is No Evil’ has landed in international headlines — the director, Mohammad Rasoulof, made the movie covertly and without the approval of Iranian authorities, and a ban on his leaving the country prevented him from accepting the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in person last year — revealing what it’s about seems fair. But the film is constructed to surprise you.” Read more…)

Slalom (France, #MeToo drama, Jérémie Renier. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In competitive skiing, athletes balance the rewards of downhill glory against the dangers of a fall. The sensitive, discomforting drama ‘Slalom’ follows Lyz [Noée Abita], a 15-year-old recruit to a ski facility in the French Alps. There, young skiers are molded into champions by an ambitious trainer, Fred [Jérémie Renier]. From their first meeting, the relationship between Lyz and Fred is physical.” Read more…)

Sublet (Israel, drama/comedy/LGBTQ romance, John Benjamin Hickey. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 67. From Beatrice Loayza’s New York Times review: “The film doesn’t exactly subvert its clichéd ‘when two worlds meet’ premise, and its bubbly but lame music cues are no help. The Israeli director Eytan Fox offers insights into two generations of gay men that at times can seem superficial. Nevertheless, he creates a pleasurably low-key double character study.” Read more…)

Yourself & Yours (South Korea, 2016, romance, You-young Lee. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Hong Sang-soo’s] formal confidence yields a movie that’s very simply constructed and utterly engrossing. There are a lot of scenes done in a single shot, usually static, but when there’s a zoom [his preferred camera flourish] it’s unfussy and direct. He puts you in tune with the world of his sad-sack characters immediately, and their rhythm becomes the rhythm of the story.” Read more…)

New British (Commonwealth) DVDs
A Town Like Alice (Australia, 1980, drama mini-series, Helen Morse)
Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 2 (New Zealand, mystery/procedural, Neill Rea)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Web (1947, film noir, Edmond O’Brien. From T.M.P.’s 1947 New York Times review: “There’s a big surprise in store for anyone who visits Loew’s Criterion, where ‘The Web’ opened yesterday, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the film, which is just another whodunit. The story follows a routine course, with a struggling young lawyer taking up with a rich industrialist—not as a legal adviser, but as a bodyguard—and finding himself enmeshed in a fatal shooting which has all the trappings of a first-class frame-up.” Read more…)

Larceny (1948, film noir, John Payne. From T.M.P.’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The old confidence game is being worked to a fare-thee-well in ‘Larceny,’ which opened yesterday at the Winter Garden. Surprisingly enough this melodrama packs considerable punch as it races along from one larcenous episode to another. Since the plot is not only old and familiar but markedly illogical as well this spectator is at a loss to justify the feeling of satisfaction engendered by this obviously contrived exercise in smouldering violence.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Deep Cover (1992, mystery/procedural, Criterion Collection, Laurence Fishburne. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Janet Maslin’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘I want my cake and eat it too,’ says one of the characters in ‘Deep Cover,’ the story of a policeman assigned to masquerade as a cocaine dealer. The film itself seemingly embraces that same thought. On the one hand an upright police thriller, ‘Deep Cover’ is also a rapt exploration of all the vice and viciousness that make the drug kingpin’s life so popular with contemporary film makers. The film’s cautionary message, which is stated outright, is undercut by its fascination with seamy glamour.” Read more…)

Working Girls (1986, Lizzie Borden-dir. drama, Louise Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From J. Hoberman’s “rewind” column for the New York Times: “‘Working Girls’ is notable for its measured structure, analytical camera placement and straightforward cool. Borden only tips her hand once, when she allows Molly — who has been sweet-talked into working a double shift — to ask Lucy if she’s ever heard of ‘surplus value.’ ‘Working Girls’ is an anticapitalist critique that has scarcely dated, save for one bit of hip social realism I neglected to note when I reviewed it in 1987 for a downtown weekly. Asked how she heard about the job, a new recruit reveals that she answered a want ad for ‘hostesses’ in The Village Voice.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten (U.S. history, racism, civil rights. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The PBS film is journalistic, built around the reporting of The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown, who appears onscreen, and narrated by NPR’s Michel Martin. It spends a little less time on the past and more on the continuing issues of race in Tulsa, including educational disparities and the protests following the police killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, in 2016. In the nature of the contemporary newspaper feature, it’s a touch sanctimonious.” Read more…)

New releases 7/13/21

Top Hits
Mortal Kombat (martial arts/action, Lewis Tan. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 44. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The appeal of the video game Mortal Kombat [and its Coke-Pepsi rival Street Fighter] was combining the characters in different smackdowns. But trying to construct a plot that links them is a fatal trap. The cheesy ‘Mortal Kombat’ [1995], from the future ‘Resident Evil’ director Paul W.S. Anderson, proved as much, and now there is ‘Mortal Kombat’ [2021], directed by Simon McQuoid, a snazzier, marginally more coherent movie that features a less catchy version of the techno theme song.” Read more…)

The Night (suspense/horror in Persian/English, Shahab Hosseini. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘The Night’ begins with a round of the party game, Mafia. The film’s central couple Babak [Shahab Hosseini] and Neda [Niousha Jafarian] play along, each wryly accusing the other of hiding secrets, each saying that the other might be the killer. The Persian-language, Los Angeles-set thriller that follows builds tension around the resentments that have accumulated in their marriage. But the stakes never rise past the movie’s first game.” Read more…)

Rose Plays Julie (#MeToo thriller, Anne Skelly. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 86. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “‘Rose Plays Julie,’ written and directed by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, frames its sexual trauma as an intergenerational one. It contemplates the double lives of women through the ideas of outer success and inner anguish, as well as the trope of the naïve girl versus the seductive avenger.” Read more…)

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run (animated feature, Keanu Reeves [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 65. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “I’m no stranger to Bikini Bottom. I may not have a pineapple home there, but I know the residents and local spots. Though after my unfortunate recent visit, for ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,’ I’m packing up my swim trunks and heading elsewhere.” Read more…)

Rev (action, Vivica Fox. Rotten Tomatoes: 66%. Metacritic: 65.)

New Blu-Ray
Limbo Blu-Ray (UK, refugee drama based in Scotland, Amir El-Masry. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82, Must-See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Most of the films we’ve seen about the migrant and refugee situation in Europe in recent years are gritty, often heartbreaking dramas and documentaries. ‘Limbo,’ written and directed by a ferociously talented filmmaker, Ben Sharrock, takes an insinuating, poetic and often wryly funny approach. And it’s both heartbreaking and heartlifting.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
C.B. Strike: Lethal White (crime series, Tom Burke)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Bringing Up Baby (1938, dir. by Howard Hawks, Criterion Collection, screwball comedy, Katharine Hepburn. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 91. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1938 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In fact, after the first five minutes of the Music Hall’s new show—we needed those five to orient ourselves—we were content to play the game called ‘the cliche expert goes to the movies’ and we were not at all proud to report that we scored 100 percent against Dudley Nichols, Hagar Wilde and Howard Hawks.” Read more… Current Times critic A.O. Scott noted that “One of my favorite reviews in the annals of The New York Times is Frank S. Nugent’s brisk four-paragraph dismissal of ‘Bringing Up Baby,’ now regarded as a deathless classic of the screwball era, judged by Mr. Nugent to be a tiresome riot of clichés… I take the review as a reminder to be humble and also not to be afraid of being wrong.”)

Alias Nick Beal (1949, film noir, Ray Milland. From T.M.P.’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “At the beginning of the new picture presented yesterday at the Paramount we are informed that the seed of destruction lurks within us all, waiting the chance to take root and destroy our moral fiber. This corner will buy that as sound logic and it also will buy a sizable chunk of ‘Alias Nick Beal’ as an arresting, expertly tuned morality drama calculated to hold attention the while it drives home a pointed lesson about the dangerous consequences of pride, greed and lust for power.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Just A Gigolo (1978, drama, David Bowie, Marlene Dietrich. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “’Just a Gigolo,’ which opens today at the D.W. Griffith Theater and the Eighth Street Playhouse, is the story of the fall, rise and fall of the aristocratic Paul. It’s a very bad movie of more than routine interest because of the talent of many of the people involved and because of its literary antecedents.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (bio, media, shock TV, reality TV, Morton Downey Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Now that raw-meat theatrics are a staple of television talk shows and reality programming, you’d think that one of the style’s earliest practitioners would have lost the ability to shock. But as ‘Évocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie’ makes clear, the foaming bile of the man known as ‘the blue-collar king’ has leached little of its potency.” Read more…)

New releases 7/6/21

Top Hits
The Sound of Metal (drama/music, Riz Ahmed. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Though underwritten and dramatically muted, this unusual movie diverts with an extraordinarily intricate sound design that allows us to borrow Ruben’s ears. From the sonic assault of his music to the hisses and crackles of his newly implanted devices — like an imperfectly tuned radio station — what Ruben hears seems as indistinct as his future.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Perfect Candidate (Saudi Arabia, drama, Mila Al Zahrani. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Story developments that would seem pat in a Western-made film are treated as miraculous here. But ‘The Perfect Candidate,’ co-written and directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour [‘Wadjda,’ ‘Nappily Ever After’], is as much a family drama as it is a parable of feminist activism — and is all the better for it.” Read more…)

The Bureau: Complete Series (France, suspense series that ran from 2015-20, Mathieu Kassovitz. In 2019, New York Times critic Mike Hale listed “The Bureau” as third on his list of 30 best international series of the decade, writing, “Perhaps the smartest and most authentic-feeling procedural espionage series anywhere in the world, especially in its first two seasons. [Season 5 premieres in France in March.] Mathieu Kassovitz stars as a foreign-intelligence agent who, after returning from a posting in Syria, makes a mistake whose increasingly grim ramifications have played out across the entire series.”)

New British DVDs
Bloodlands: Season 1 (thriller set in Northern Ireland, James Nesbitt. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 77. From John Anderson’s Wall Street Journal review: “The four-part ‘Bloodlands,’ a hit British thriller now streaming on Acorn TV, isn’t just about murder, betrayal and Irish gun-barrel politics. It’s about the power of storytelling. Northern Ireland, as portrayed in the series at least, is so unstable that few characters want to even mention its bloody past, and that’s something reflected in the production itself: There’s a straining for silence, as if the series might become complicit in disturbing the peace. But can a people be free if their defining conflict goes unspoken? The result is an agitated tension percolating beneath the surface skullduggery and violence.” Read more…)

New Television
Defending Jacob (drama mini-series, Chris Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 61. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “‘Defending Jacob” is an eight-episode murder mystery from Apple TV Plus with a full catalog of twists and an impressive cast that includes Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, Cherry Jones and J.K. Simmons. It’s also Exhibit A for a question that’s becoming increasingly unavoidable: Why does everything have to be a television series?” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Pariah (2011, drama/gay & lesbian romance/coming-of-age, Criterion Collection, Adepero Oduye. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Don’t be put off by the harsh title of ‘Pariah,’ the stirring coming-out story of a virginal 17-year-old African-American lesbian living in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. The teenager, Alike [pronounced ah-LEE-kay], dresses like a boy when out of her parents’ sight and endures a fair share of barbed, homophobic remarks, but she is not viciously persecuted.” Read more…)