New releases 7/31/18

Top Hits
Tully (comedy, Charlize Theron. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Marlo [played by Charlize Theron] is doing the contemporary supermom thing and, refreshingly, she isn’t doing it with 1950s clichéd desperate smiles. Directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody [this is their third movie together], ‘Tully’ admits that this figure is a noxious delusion, one that isn’t suitable for real women. Nevertheless they’re made to feel guilty for not doing it all or scolded for trying to live up to impossible standards. And soon enough the golden nimbus surrounding Marlo vanishes, swept away by the reality of hustling two children off to school while waiting for her water to break.” Read more…)

The Miracle Season (sports/inspiration, Helen Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 44. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “That ‘The Miracle Season’ is based on a true story makes it tough to endure and to review, because it’s no pleasure to report that filmmakers have turned real-life tragedy and tenacity into a manipulative weepie. From lighting to music cues, ‘The Miracle Season’ never misses a chance to lunge for your tear ducts, treating its characters less as flesh-and-blood humans than as props for delivering bromides.” Read more…)

Kings (drama, Halle Berry. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 34. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The first English-language film from the Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven [her 2015 movie ‘Mustang’ was a foreign language Oscar nominee] is well-acted across the board, and contains more than a few outstanding, unpredictable scenes. But in tying its story to this particular moment in American history, the movie bites off more than it can coherently chew.” Read more…)

The Party (comedy, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Written and directed by Sally Potter, who has made other movies worth seeing — ‘Thriller,’ ‘Orlando,’ ‘Ginger & Rosa’ — ‘The Party’ is a brittle, unfunny attempt at comedy that features some very fine actors and a lot of empty chatter. It takes place inside a few rooms on the ground-level floor of Bill and Janet’s comfortable London digs. There, they are giving a party to celebrate Janet’s recent appointment as a government functionary of the unnamed opposition party. From the way she furtively coos into her cellphone, it is clear that Janet has some secrets.” Read more…)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (action, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 54. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “Mixed martial arts fans awaiting another chapter in the ‘Kickboxer’ movie series can rest easy: ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation’ has arrived in all its brutal, lunkheaded glory to scratch that particular itch. This sequel to 2016’s ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ — a reboot of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme hit ‘Kickboxer’ [which spawned four sequels in the 1990s] — is essentially an overlong excuse to showcase an endless string of fight sequences. Scenes are either preludes to fights, preparations for fights or the fights themselves.” Read more…)

The Recall ( sci-fi, Wesley Snipes)

New Blu-Ray
Point Break (1991)
The Bad Batch
I Kill Giants
Cold Turkey
Kickboxer: Retaliation
I Am Heath Ledger
Bad Santa 2
Only the Brave
The Young Pope: Season 1
Sing Street
The Endless
Borg vs. McEnroe
Terminal
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Mine
The Pirates of Somalia
Kung Fu Yoga
The Star
Going in Style
Savannah Smiles (1982)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Letter (1929, drama, Jeanne Eagels. From Dave Kehr’s 2011 New York Times DVD review: “Long overshadowed by William Wyler’s 1940 remake starring Bette Davis, the first filming, from 1929, of W. Somerset Maugham’s stage play ‘The Letter’ has re-emerged, thanks to a new DVD edition from Warner Archive. As the only surviving sound film of the radically innovative Broadway star Jeanne Eagels, the film is an important piece of theater history, preserving the performance style of a brilliant, eccentric and spectacularly self-destructive actress [who would die of a drug overdose seven months after the film’s release]. But, stiff as it may be in cinematic terms, ‘The Letter’ is also a crucial piece of film history. One of the first talking films — or ‘audible photoplays,’ as The New York Times then called them — to impress critics with the artistic possibilities of a technology still widely regarded as a gimmick, ‘The Letter’ represented an important step on the way to the normalization of sound.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Day After (1983, nuclear war drama, Jason Robards. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From John Corry’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Day After,’ ABC’s much-discussed vision of nuclear Armageddon, is no longer only a television film, of course; it has become an event, a rally and a controversy, much of it orchestrated. Part of the controversy has to do with whether ‘The Day After’ makes a political statement, which it does, although the statement is muddy, and part of the controversy has to do with how we confront the nuclear abyss. Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement. In fact, both sides have something going for them in their arguments, even if the champions of the film, for the moment, are being heard more clearly than the detractors.” Read more…)

Latino (1985, drama/war, Robert Beltran. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The passion is there, but it’s subverted by the perfunctory nature of the fiction [director Haskell Wexler] has concocted about Eddie Guerrero, a Mexican-born officer in the Green Berets, and his politicization in Honduras while training United States-sponsored, Nicaraguan ‘contras,’ or counterrevolutionaries. The film, which was made under obviously difficult conditions, mostly in Nicaragua, looks both authentic and exceptionally handsome. It’s acted with conviction by Robert Beltran, as Eddie Guerrero; Annette Cardona, as the Nicaraguan woman with whom Eddie falls in love; Tony Plana, as one of Eddie’s fellow Green Berets, and Luis Torrentes, as a young Nicaraguan forced to join the contras at the point of a gun. Unfortunately for the film, Mr. Wexler’s screenplay makes only minimal use of the freedom allowed by fiction to dramatize the contradictory nature of human behavior -something not easily conveyed in documentaries.” Read more…)

New TV
Counterpart: Season 1 (thriller series, J.K. Simmons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times TV review: “One Howard Silk, a meek career bureaucrat who visits his comatose wife every night in the hospital, has ‘kind eyes,’ according to a nurse. The other Howard Silk, a sarcastic, deadly spy, does not. And yet the two Howard Silks — genetically identical but temperamentally diverse characters in the alternate-dimensions thriller ‘Counterpart,’ beginning Sunday on Starz — have the same eyes. They belong to the actor J.K. Simmons, whose double-barreled performance makes the show the most entertaining new series of the winter. Counterpart,” created by Justin Marks [writer of the 2016 ‘Jungle Book’ remake], is a clever and suspenseful if somewhat familiar mix of futuristic speculation and retro atmosphere.” Read more…)

New releases 7/24/18

Top Hits
Ready Player One (action, Tye Sheridan. Rotten Tomatoes 73%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Aided by his usual cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski, and by the production designer Adam Stockhausen, [director Steven Spielberg] turns a vast virtual landscape of battling avatars into a bustling pop-cultural theme park, an interactive museum of late-20th- and early-21st-century entertainment, a maze of niche tastes, cultish preoccupations and blockbuster callbacks. Mr. Spielberg navigates this warehouse with his usual dexterity, loading every frame with information without losing the clarity and momentum of the story.” Read more…)

Little Pink House (drama based On New London eminent domain case, Catherine Keener. Rotten Tomatoes 74%. Metacritic: 55. From Jeannette Catsoulis’  New York Times review: “In its earnest attempt to present a landmark legal case as a classic underdog story, ‘Little Pink House,’ based on Jeff Benedict’s 2009 book of the same name, succeeds neither narratively nor visually. And not because the setup lacks drama: The true story of Susette Kelo’s yearslong battle to save her waterfront home in a declining Connecticut town would conclude in the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s simply that the writer and director, Courtney Moorehead Balaker, fails to translate that drama into the language of movies.” Read more…)

Different Flowers (comedy, Shelley Long. From Monica Castillo’s New York Times review: “As with many siblings, the sisters at the center of Morgan Dameron’s ‘Different Flowers’ fit together like a pair of mismatched socks. Millie [Emma Bell] is the seemingly put-together grown-up about to marry her longtime sweetheart [Sterling Knight]. Her sister, Emma [Hope Lauren], is more of a wild child. But when Millie decides to become a runaway bride on her wedding day, Emma is the perfect match to sneak her out of the church.” Read more…)

Love After Love (drama, Andie MacDowell. Rotten Tomatoes 88%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “For anyone who has recently lost a spouse or parent, “Love After Love” may be almost impossible to watch. Others, though, are unlikely to fare much better, given that this unflinching debut feature from Russ Harbaugh delivers something rarely seen in American movies: a warts-and-all examination of extended grief.” Read more…)

Sweet Country (Australia, “western,” Sam Neill. Rotten Tomatoes 95%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Savage and somber, ‘Sweet Country’ is, on its face, the story of a manhunt. Set in Alice Springs, Australia, in 1929, the movie tracks the fate of Sam [a fine Hamilton Morris], an Aboriginal stockman forced to flee after killing a white farmer in self-defense. Around this spare story, though, the director Warwick Thornton constructs a searing indictment of frontier racism as remarkable for its sonic restraint as its visual expansiveness. The opening shot might be a metaphorical mallet — a cauldron of water slowly coming to the boil while a violent, slur-slathered argument plays out offscreen — but the coarseness is in keeping with the movie’s pointed, symbolic style.” Read more…)

Sweet Sweet Summertime (family, Nico Christou)

New Blu-Ray
Ready Player One

New Foreign
Pauline at the Beach (France, 1983, romance/drama, Amanda Langlet. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This is the halcyon setting of ‘Pauline at the Beach,’ Eric Rohmer’s effortlessly witty, effervescent new French film that opens today at the Lincoln Plaza 1. ‘Pauline at the Beach’ is a comedy of romantic manners about six civilized people, each of whom works stubbornly, and at cross purposes, to enlighten someone else about the true nature of love. It’s a sunny month in the country.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) (1946, comedy/drama/romance, David Niven. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Dave Kehr’s 2009 New York Times review of a previous DVD release: “Like much of Powell’s wartime work, from ‘The Spy in Black’ [1939] to ‘A Canterbury Tale’ [1944], ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ seems to have been made in response to a particular propaganda need — in this case to smooth over the strained relations between Britons and Yanks that had arisen during the war’s four years of forced cohabitation. British interests are represented by a handsome young R.A.F. officer played by an actor famous on both sides of the Atlantic, David Niven. The American presence is incarnated by a relative newcomer, the Broadway actress Kim Hunter, who would go on to star as Stella in the Brando-Kazan ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ [as well as to play the simian scientist Zira in three ‘Planet of the Apes’ pictures].” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
I Walk Alone (1947, film noir, Burt Lancaster. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s a mighty low class of people that you will meet in the Paramount’s ‘I Walk Alone’ —and a mighty low grade of melodrama, if you want the honest truth — in spite of a very swanky setting and an air of great elegance. For the the people are mostly ex-gangsters, night club peddlers or social black sheep and the drama is of the vintage of gangster fiction of some twenty years ago.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Half the Picture (sexism, women directors, unequal representation, film history, Ava DuVernay. Rotten Tomatoes 100%. Metacritic: 76. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In ‘Half the Picture,’ [dirctor Amy] Adrion surveys the scene by interviewing dozens of movie-industry professionals, from directors to government officials. All of Ms. Adrion’s subjects are women, and each one agrees that the film industry operates as a system of gendered inequality, where women — especially women of color — are not afforded the same opportunities as men behind the camera.” Read more…)

Generation Zapped (wireless technology, health threats, infertility, cancer, throw away your phone)

New Children’s DVDs
Sweet Sweet Summertime (family, Nico Christou)

New releases 7/17/18

Top Hits
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson animated feature, Bryan Cranston [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A miniaturist who likes to max out, Wes Anderson creates elaborate counter worlds that look like ours while remaining uniquely Andersonian. Together they comprise a kind of Wes World, in which reality seems as if it has been filtered through a sieve and then carefully arranged with white gloves in a vitrine. The results can be thrilling or wearying, and sometimes both, as is the case with his latest, ‘Isle of Dogs,’ an animated movie set in a fantasy Japan. There, cat-fancying villains of the future conspire to eradicate dogs, prompting one character to plaintively ask, ‘Whatever happened to man’s best friend?’ It’s an earnest, heart-heavy question in a movie, by turns droll and melancholic, that can be easier to admire than to flat-out love.” Read more…)

Rampage (action, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic: 45. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “You know what might make an intriguing, revealing movie? The story of how, over 30 years after its debut, a relatively innocent arcade game starring a giant ape and other oversize beasts underwent a corporate transmogrification and became a turgid, logy sci-fi/action blockbuster. It is unlikely that such a film will be made; instead, this week, we just have that turgid, logy blockbuster. ‘Rampage,’ based on the 1986 arcade game” Read more…)

Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (supernatural thriller, Lucy Hale. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 35. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Like the young people in the entertainingly gooey 2008 horror movie ‘The Ruins,’ the group of college friends in ‘Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare’ discover too late that their Mexican vacation has left them with a nasty infection. This time, though, the contagion isn’t a flesh-eating plant, but a demon-driven game that doubles as a death trap.” Read more…)

Super Troopers 2 (action comedy, Brian Cox. Rotten Tomatoes: 31%. Metacritic: 41. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. Yes, let me repeat that: A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This comedy’s 4/20 opening date is, as you might expect [particularly if you’re a fan of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe responsible for the movie], a stoner joke. But this non-indulger will attest that you don’t have to be high to find this long-impending sequel to 2002’s ‘Super Troopers’ very funny indeed. The Broken Lizard troupe — Kevin Heffernan [the stocky one who’s the butt of the fat jokes], Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, and Jay Chandrasekhar — shares writing and acting duties and defers directing to Mr. Chandrasekhar. I’d be lying if I said their maleness didn’t show. Their humor gets its slapstick from the Three Stooges, its non sequitur verbal mojo from the less-cerebral routines of the Firesign Theater, with a dash of Monty Python tossed in.” Read more…)

You Were Never Really Here (action/thriller, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 84. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Before long we understand that Joe is a rescuer and avenger rather than a predator: a survivor of war and child abuse who now specializes in delivering young women from evil. That Joe is officially a good guy isn’t much comfort, either to him or to the audience, who will spend the 90 minutes of Lynne Ramsay’s ‘You Were Never Really Here’ in his fractured, anxious and desperately sad reality.” Read more…)

Disobedience (romance/drama/gay & lesbian, Rachel Weisz. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Based on the novel of the same title by Naomi Alderman, ‘Disobedience’ delicately and far too bloodlessly charts the intricacies of Ronit’s return to a tight religious community that no longer wholly welcomes her. One who does, though hesitantly, is Dovid [a very good Alessandro Nivola], a once-close comrade who is her father’s probable successor. Ronit also resumes her relationship with a former lover, Esti [Rachel McAdams], Dovid’s wife. The women’s reunion rapidly rekindles a passion that — with stolen kisses and progressively steamier intimacy — disturbs this world’s scrupulous order, a disruption that is more about hidebound tradition than about religious belief.” Read more…)

I Feel Pretty (comedy, Amy Schumer. Rotten Tomatoes: 32%. Metacritic: 47. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Amy Schumer puts out so much energy in ‘I Feel Pretty’ that it’s hard not to feel charged up, too. The movie is seriously suboptimal, but she is such a force for good — for comedy, for women — and the laughs land often enough that you can go, if somewhat begrudgingly, with the messy flow. But dear lord she needs to work with better material, with funnier, sharper, far smarter scripts and with directors who can do something, anything, with the camera. There’s more cinematic intelligence in the best bits on her Comedy Central show ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ than in her three starring vehicles.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Rampage
Isle of Dogs
You Were Never Here
I Feel Pretty

New Foreign
Have A Nice Day (China, animated neo-noir thriller, Changlong Zhu [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Leisurely and deliberate, intelligent and casually cruel, ‘Have a Nice Day’ is a stone-cold gangster thriller whose violence unfolds in passionless bursts. Opening with a quotation from Leo Tolstoy’s last and bleakest novel, ‘Resurrection,’ this wittily animated feature from the Chinese writer and director Liu Jian presents a generic, follow-the-money tale as a Darwinian commentary on ruthlessly modern materialism.” Read more…)

The Housemaid (Vietnam, horror/romance, Nhung Kate. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 61.) From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Mixing a lathered-up love triangle with a ghostly murder-mystery, Derek Nguyen’s ‘The Housemaid’ wraps a painful chapter in Vietnamese history in Gothic-melodrama trappings. The result is a good-looking but overstuffed genre pileup that confuses as often as it compels.” Read more…)

Maborosi (1995, Japan, drama, Makiko Esumi. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 94. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Hirokazu Kore-eda’s exquisitely beautiful film ‘Maborosi’ follows the spiritual odyssey of Yumiko [Makiko Esumi], a young Japanese woman recovering from her husband’s inexplicable suicide. But that description doesn’t begin to evoke the essence of a movie that is a pictorial tone poem of astonishing visual intensity and emotional depth. Watching the film, which has little dialogue and many lingering shots of the Japanese landscape, one has an uncanny sense of entering the consciousness of the main character and seeing through her eyes, all without really knowing her.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The Good Karma Hospital: Series 1 (heartwarming drama, Amrita Acharia. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%.)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Teresa (1951, Fred Zinneman-directed neorealiat drama, Pier Angeli. From Bosley Crowther’s 1951 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Fred Zinnemann, the American director who did that excellent foreign film, ‘The Search,’ has now come up with another in the same simple, sterling class. ‘Teresa’ is its title and it tells a compassionate tale of the marriage and postwar adjustments of an American soldier and his young Italian bride… It merits the rare appreciation of all who are interested in honest, ature films.” Read more…)

New Faces (1954, comedy, Mel Brooks [writer], Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde)

New Documentaries
Dealt (magic, triumph over adversity, Richard Turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 66. From Monica Castillo’s New York Times review: “The card magician Richard Turner reveals that he has more than just a few tricks up his sleeve in Luke Korem’s captivating documentary ‘Dealt.’ Mr. Turner’s magic prowess lies in his nimble hands that manipulate any deck of cards. But behind the facade of a self-assured showman is the secret Mr. Turner tries to keep to himself: He’s blind.” Read more…)

The Mystery of Matter: Search for the Elements (PBS, science, chemistry, history, Michael Emerson [host])

New Children’s DVDs
The Lego Ninjago Movie (animated feature, Dave Franco [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘When are the Wegos coming on?’ the young boy sitting next to me asked his father. His impatience was reasonable enough. Here we were, five minutes into ‘The Lego Ninjago Movie,’ gazing at a live-action prologue with Jackie Chan, a kid and a cat in a store full of exotic knickknacks. Soon enough, the Wegos awwived, and the latest installment in a nearly foolproof franchise was underway, a fast-moving mélange of brazen corporate promotion, winking pop-culture cleverness and earnest lesson-learning. I realize that makes this movie sound indistinguishable from nearly every other piece of family-targeted animated big-screen entertainment out there, and I’m sorry to report that the Lego movie enterprise has lapsed into intentional mediocrity.” Read more…)

New releases 7/10/18

Top Hits
Chappaquiddick (drama based on historical events, Jason Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “But it turns out that ‘Chappaquiddick,’ directed by John Curran from a script by the first-timers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, is more diagnosis than symptom. Forsaking sensationalism for sober, procedural storytelling, the film examines the toxic effects of the Kennedy mystique on a handful of people involved in a fatal car crash in the summer of 1969.” Read more…)

Oh Lucy! (comedy/drama, Shinobu Terajima. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Optimism sneaks into ‘Oh Lucy!,’ an against-the-odds charmer about a woman, a tragic wig and an improbable journey. It’s a near-minor miracle that just about everything works in this emphatically modest comedy-drama, which draws on squishy types and themes — the lonely eccentric, the cross-cultural clash, the revelatory trip — that can quickly sink less nimble features. The writer-director Atsuko Hirayanagi isn’t selling a packaged idea about what it means to be human; she does something trickier and more honest here, merely by tracing the ordinary absurdities and agonies of one woman’s life.” Read more…)

Women Who Kill (comedy/crime, Ingrid Jungermann. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 78. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “The humor is dry and the acting deadpan in ‘Women Who Kill,’ a comedy that plays it droll and is all the funnier for it. Set in gentrified sections of Park Slope, Brooklyn, the tale centers on Morgan [Ingrid Jungermann] and Jean [Ann Carr], former lovers who still live together and produce the podcast of the title, which profiles female serial killers. Near the end of one episode, the two women debate which murderer is the hottest.” Read more…)

A Quiet Place (thriller, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A welcome alternative to the mind-shredding din of virtually any modern action movie, ‘A Quiet Place’ is an old-fashioned creature feature with a single, simple hook: The creatures are blind, hungry and navigate by sound. Possessed of craniums that roll open to expose a pulsing, wet membrane, they’re like skittering ear holes with pointy teeth and clattering appendages. Drawing from a variety of heritage horrors, including ‘Alien’ and ‘Predator,’ their design is familiar yet effective, their origin kept shrouded. Extraterrestrial beings or man-made weapons gone rogue, they’re a mystery whose source the movie wisely recognizes as irrelevant.” Read more…)

Journey’s End (World War I drama, Sam Claflin. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The World War I drama ‘Journey’s End’ is an old-fashioned movie from a well-worn source, the play by R.C. Sherriff, who fought in the war himself. The first movie version, directed by James Whale with Colin Clive, opened in 1930, a year before their immortal work in ‘Frankenstein.’ The new film’s air of stodgy nobility resembles that of ‘The Four Feathers’ [1939], one of many movies for which Mr. Sherriff wrote the screenplay.” Read more…)

The Leisure Seeker (adventure/comedy, Helen Mirren. Rotten Tomatoes: 36%. Metacritic: 45. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Leisure Seeker’ becomes a defense of their right to live their last days as they see fit — on the road instead of in nursing homes or hospitals. The sentiment is admirable; the execution decidedly is not. Part of the problem is that the screenwriters [four, including Mr. Virzì, share credit, working from a novel by Michael Zadoorian] treat the characters’ symptoms as plot devices — traits they can ignore or play up as each scene demands.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
A Quiet Place
Vertigo
Vampire’s Kiss/High Spirits

New Foreign
Hotel Salvation (India, drama, Adil Hussain. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From Leslie Felperin’s Guardian review: “This beautifully rendered Indian arthouse film, the debut of young director Shubhashish Bhutiani, enacts a subtle family comedy-drama that anyone who has spent time with an ageing parent could relate to easily.” Read more…)

On the Beach At Night Alone (Republic of Korea, drama, Min-hee Kim. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo is both prolific and consistent. His movies tend to feature chronological displacement, romantic disaffection, startling zooms and the consumption of many bottles of soju. ‘On the Beach at Night Alone,’ one of three features directed by Mr. Hong presented at festivals this year, is split into two parts — the first set in Hamburg, Germany, the second in the South Korean seaside city of Gangneung — and includes an extended, awkward, zoom-punctuated scene of drunken recrimination.” Read more…)

A Ciambra (drama, coming of age, Pio Amato. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 70. From A. O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘A Ciambra,’ the second feature directed by Jonas Carpignano [the first was ‘Mediterranea,’ also set in Gioia Tauro], follows Pio’s lurching movement toward manhood and observes his environment with a sympathetic, probing eye. The film, named for the battered apartment complex where Pio lives, provides fresh evidence of the continued vitality of the neorealist impulse as it tries to embed a fictional narrative in the actual world. It has the shape of a fable and the texture of a documentary. The actors are nonprofessionals playing versions of themselves.” Read more…)

The French Way (France, 1940, romantic comedy/farce, Josephine Baker)
Dragon Inn (Taiwan, 1967, martial arts, Lingfeng Shangguan. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 97.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Bull Durham (1988, Criterion Collection, Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 73. From Janet Maslin’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s a lucky thing that the film, like the players it celebrates, knows better than to stake too much on ability alone. Even luckier, it has more than enough spirit and sex appeal to get by. In fact, ‘Bull Durham’ has a cast that’s much too attractive to need the kind of overheated sexual grandstanding that the writer and director Ron Shelton [who previously wrote ‘Under Fire’] insists upon. Brash but a little unsteady in his directing debut feature, Mr. Shelton has a way of overstating some things about these characters and leaving others bafflingly unsaid.” Read more…)

Come Blow Your Horn (1963, comedy/musical, Frank Sinatra. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Have you ever had to sit and listed patiently while a clumsy raconteur butchered a funny story you’d already heard a couple of times? That’s how it is to be exposed to the movie Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear have made from Neil Simon’s, unspectacular but lively stage play ‘Come Blow Your Horn.'” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Hitler’s Hollywood (movies under the Nazis, propaganda, open lies, hidden truths. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 77. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: :What ‘Hitler’s Hollywood’ offers are the movies themselves. To see them today is to encounter an alternate universe of studio filmmaking that was itself designed to present an alternate universe, in which every death was happy and even escapist musicals emphasized the fascist ideal of total synchronization. The documentary shows how the industry had its own imitation of Sherlock Holmes and a 1930s precursor to ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ and found analogues for stars and directors like Marlene Dietrich and Ernst Lubitsch, who had departed Germany.” Read more…)

I Am Another You (homelessness, addiction, society. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 85. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The documentary ‘I Am Another You’ poses tricky questions about the relationship between filmmaker and subject, and maybe between filmmaker and audience. It begins when the director, Nanfu Wang [‘Hooligan Sparrow’], meets a young, itinerant homeless man named Dylan in Florida and decides to tag along with him.” Read more…)

New releases 7/3/18

Top Hits
Beirut (spy thriller, Jon Hamm. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Timers review: “The screenwriter Tony Gilroy, best known for the ‘Bourne’ franchise [he also wrote and directed ‘Michael Clayton’], has a knack for twisty thrillers that personalize the political. ‘Beirut’ is a slower moving and less propulsive distant cousin to that series; [lead character] Mason [Skiles] isn’t a spy, for starters, and he talks rather than fights or motorcycles his way out of trouble. His most obvious superhuman talent, at least until the story gets its game on, seems to be an ability to consume prodigious amounts of booze without obvious consequences. But like Bourne, Mason is burdened by history — his own and that of the United States — which means that his mission is at once inwardly and outwardly directed.” Read more…)

Submission (drama, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. Metacritic 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Submission’ tells a tale of the dangers of temptation, and some viewers may have trouble avoiding the temptation to treat it as an op-ed rather than a work of imagination. Even though it’s based on a book published 18 years ago, and draws inspiration from a film from 1930 [itself based on a 1905 novel], the timeliness of this movie, written and directed by Richard Levine, might strike you as downright unnerving.” Read more…)

Blockers (comedy, Leslie Mann. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “In the cheerily sterile, fitfully funny comedy ‘Blockers,’ parents conspire to save the virginity of their daughters, high school seniors planning a collective deflowering [not, it should be said, with one another]. That is the movie’s big joke, and while it sounds positively antediluvian it also brings to mind news reports that the Trump administration plans to introduce abstinence-only education this summer. According to the website The Hill, the idea is to emphasize ‘sexual delay,’ which sounds like the title of a song that Marvin Gaye never recorded. The world has a way of killing the mood, if you let it.” Read more…)

Borg Vs. McEnroe (sports drama, Shia LaBeouf. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic 63. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “On the other hand, in the face of such odds, it’s hard to root against ‘Borg vs. McEnroe,’ an engaging feature-length response to the trivia question ‘Who won the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 1980?’ The answer is one of the two players named in the film’s title, rivals whose contrasting styles and temperaments made their confrontation especially exciting.” Read more…)

Porto (romance/drama, Anton Yelchin. Rotten Tomatoes: 52%. Metacritic 48. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘Porto,’ named for the coastal city in Portugal where it takes place, is a wistful mood piece about a one-night stand between mismatched expats, an American man and a Frenchwoman. The movie’s true subject, however, is time: its passage and promise, its weight and disappointments. Looping backward and forward — and using no fewer than three types of film stock — this first narrative feature from Gabe Klinger seduces with breathtakingly gorgeous visuals that feel both achingly nostalgic and elegantly modern.” Read more…)

Where Is Kyra (drama, Michelle Pfeiffer. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic 72. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In a bleak, distinctly unhip neighborhood of Brooklyn, Kyra, a middle-aged woman, is struggling to survive. Played with concentrated minimalism by Michelle Pfeiffer, she is the downtrodden subject of Andrew Dosunmu’s new film, ‘Where Is Kyra?’ … Much of this movie is literally hard to see, and deliberately so. Remember ‘dirty realism,’ the label some critics applied in the 1980s to the work of writers like Richard Ford and Jayne Anne Phillips? ‘Where Is Kyra?’ operates in the realm of begrimed realism — its dark depths are purgatorial, if not outright hellish.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Blockers

New Foreign
Ismael’s Ghosts (France, drama, Mathieu Amalric. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “As is customary in [director Arnaud] Desplechin’s work, there’s a lot of dialogue in ‘Ismael’s Ghosts,’ but this movie’s nerve endings vibrate most avidly and tenderly in scenes where not a word is spoken: Sylvia on her first ride home with Ismael, looking up in serene rapture from a cab window toward the night sky; Ismael, angry and confused, framed between walls at the top of a dark staircase; Carlotta in tears, letting the blast of water from an ornamental shower head blast against her brow. It’s moments like these that make ‘Ismael’s Ghosts’ an unforgettable experience.” Read more…)

El Sur (Spain, 1988, drama, Omero Antonutti. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As was [director Victor] Erice’s method in ‘The Spirit of the Beehive,’ the new film reveals its concerns in small, seemingly unimportant details, much in the manner of a traumatized psychiatric patient. Every gesture is loaded with associated meanings. Objects are symbolic. Yet the emotional inhibitions, which had political significance in the first film, aren’t particularly provocative here. The movie seems to whisper when there seems no reason why it can’t speak in a normal voice.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
American Socialist: The Life & Times of Eugene Victor Debs (history, politics, biography, socialism, Eugene Debs)

New releases 6/26/18

Top Hits
Gemini (neo-noir, Lola Kirke. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often, a filmmaker plays with these banalities, which I imagine is why Aaron Katz opens ‘Gemini,’ a pleasurably drifty, low-wattage mystery set in Los Angeles, with an upside-down shot of a palm tree. Perfectly framed and photographed, its feathery fronds spreading in silhouette against a dark-indigo night sky, the tree hangs in the shot like a chandelier. Mr. Katz gives ‘Gemini’ the expected smoggy freeways and a blonde on a billboard, as well as the kind of mystery that certain Hollywood dreams are made of, complete with a femme fatale, a detective and a lonely horn on the soundtrack. But as that upside-down palm tree suggests, he is coming at Los Angeles from his own angle.” Read more…)

Spinning Man (mystery, Pierce Brosnan. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 44. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “Can a movie devoid of thrills be called a thriller? That’s the kind of question Evan Birch [Guy Pearce], the befuddled professor at the center of ‘Spinning Man,’ might ask the college students in his philosophy of language class. Based on George Harrar’s clever novel of the same name, this cumbersome adaptation [written by Matthew Aldrich and directed by Simon Kaijser] goes through the motions of building suspense, even as it leaks tension at nearly every turn.” Read more…)

The Endless (horror/sci-fi, Aaron Moorhead. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The young filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made a critical splash with their 2015 horror picture ‘Spring,’ an inventive mutant romance. With their new film, ‘The Endless,’ they take a few unusual risks. ‘The Endless’ revisits the setting and some of the situations from ‘Resolution,’ their 2013 feature debut. In that movie Mr. Benson and Mr. Moorhead appeared in small roles as members of a U.F.O. cult. Here, they are the leads, telling a continued story of those characters.” Read more…)

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (thriller, Taraji P. Henson. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 32. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The moral of ‘Acrimony’ seems to be: Leave a bad man, especially one who cheated on you before marriage and leeches off your financial resources — unless he has poured his life into the dream of inventing a self-recharging battery, in which case the bonds of matrimony are sacrosanct and no sacrifice is too great.” Read more…)

Terminal (crime/drama, Margot Robbie. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 26. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “There are only a handful of speaking parts in Vaughn Stein’s ‘Terminal,’ and, even so, Margot Robbie and Mike Myers are required to play two apiece. Yet in this tarted-up noir cartoon — a pastiche of comic-book characters, hard-boiled dialogue and nonsense served up as enigma — not even Ms. Robbie can impart respectability.” Read more…)

Madame (comedy, Toni Collette. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 45.)

New Foreign
Back to Burgundy (France, drama/vino, Pio Marmaï. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “But so it goes with Cédric Klapisch’s comfort-food feature, which is primarily a scenic and knowing ode to traditional winemaking. Mr. Klapisch lingers his camera lovingly over shots of grapes being harvested and stomped, all the while employing story mechanics and flashbacks indelicate enough to suggest the churn of a factory juicer.” Read more…)

The Banishment (Russia, drama, Konstantin Lavronenko. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 59. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The first two-thirds are an extraordinary slow burn that provides ample time to admire [director Andrey] Zvyagintsev’s talent with the wide frame. The movie is marred by an unsatisfying resolution, which has a coyness better suited to literature.” Read more…)

Beauty and the Dogs (Tunisia, feminist drama, Mariam Al Ferjani. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A crescendo of humiliation, anxiety and abuse, ‘Beauty and the Dogs’ plays like a horror movie where every choice is a Catch-22 and every door a trap. Unfolding over one endless night and nine chapters — each confidently filmed in a single, liquid take — the story [by the film’s Tunisian director, Kaouther Ben Hania] follows Mariam [Mariam Al Ferjani], a young student. Raped by the police after a university party, Mariam, accompanied by a young man she has just met [Ghanem Zrelli], desperately seeks help, first from an indifferent private clinic and then a chaotic public hospital.” Read more…)

Spiral: Season 2 (Parisian cop thriller series, Caroline Proust)
Detective Montalbano: Episodes 31 & 32 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Million Dollar Mermaid (1952, splashy biopic, Esther Williams. From Bosley Crowther’s 1952 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This Technicolored shindig, which laughingly pretends to be a biography of the famous swimmer Annette Kellerman, is a luxuriance of razzle-dazzle that includes Hippodrome acts, water ballets, bathing suit shows, diving performances, low comedy, anachronisms and cliches. It also includes an abundance of Miss Williams and Victor Mature, but it does not include the felicities of a reasonably fascinating script.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Innocents (1961, Gothic, Criterion Collection, Deborah Kerr. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Folks who have never seen a movie set in a scary old house, where the doors creak, the wind howls around corners, ghosts pace the long, dark halls and hideous, spectral faces appear in the windows at night, should find themselves beautifully frightened and even intellectually aroused by Jack Clayton’s new picture, ‘The Innocents.'” Read more..)

New British DVDs
Girlfriends: Series 1 (drama series, Miranda Richardson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Television
Legion: Season 1 (drama/action series, Dan Stevens. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 82.)

New releases 6/19/18

Top Hits
Unsane (thriller, Claire Foy. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Steven Soderbergh’s new movie, ‘Unsane,’ is an effectively nasty, sometimes funny, sometimes grindingly unpleasant thriller about a woman who is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. From one angle, it plays like an old-school exploitation flick, one of those damsel-in-distress freakouts in which an intrepid heroine faces down danger in a skin-baring top. This being Mr. Soderbergh, peril isn’t sloppily served up with flat line readings, jiggling breasts and lousy cinematography but delivered with slyness and jolts.” Read more…)

Keep the Change (romantic comedy, Brandon Polansky. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This is a landmark motion picture — a movie about people living with autism in which all of the characters who have autism are portrayed by nonprofessional performers who also have it… ‘Keep the Change’ is not a seamlessly crafted movie, but it’s awfully tenderhearted and thoroughly disarming. It deserves to be widely seen.” Read more…)

The Strangers: Prey at Night (horror, Christina Hendricks. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 48. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It’s never a good sign when a movie racks up its first ironic music cue before there is anything to be ironic about. ‘The Strangers: Prey at Night’ opens with the ’80s rock classic ‘Kids in America’ by Kim Wilde, I guess because some of the masked rampaging killers in this movie are youngish, and are in America.” Read more…)

Flower (comedy/drama, Zoey Deutch. Rotten Tomatoes: 51%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Flower,’ like its pushy 17-year-old heroine, Erica (Zoey Deutch), has a dirty mouth and a strutting confidence. Our introduction to both takes place in the front seat of a police car, where Erica is enthusiastically pleasuring the uniformed driver before extorting cash for her silence. Then it’s off to the Dairy Queen with her two sidekicks to crow over a caper she’s enacted several times before. Cruelly amoral and only marginally credible, ‘Flower’ is nevertheless wildly entertaining and at times even touching.” Read more…)

Pacific Rim: Uprising (action, John Boyega. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 44. Believe it or not, a New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Directed by the television veteran Steven S. DeKnight [‘Angel,’ ‘Smallville’], the movie balances amiable humor and standard believe-in-yourself bromides with better than average action sequences. I grew up on ‘Godzilla’ movies and retain some vestigial fondness for them — and, incidentally, I can’t stand ‘Transformers’ movies. That ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ managed to hit me in my “Godzilla” sweet spot is the best recommendation I can give it.” Read more…)

Class Rank (comedy, Olivia Holt. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%.)

New Blu-Ray
Pacific Rim: Uprising

New Foreign
Double Lover (France, romance/thriller, Marine Vacth. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 70.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “What’s going on here? The doubling imagery, the recurring spiral staircases, and so much else engulfing Chloé make this thriller unusually engrossing. ‘Double Lover’ nods a bit to David Cronenberg’s ‘Dead Ringers’ [1988] and Roman Polanski’s ‘The Tenant’ [1976], two arguably classic thrillers on doppelgängers and madness, and Mr. Ozon’s stylistic gymnastics sometimes bring to mind Brian De Palma, who made a film about good/bad twins early in his career. But ‘Double Lover,’ which Mr. Ozon ‘freely adapted’ from the Joyce Carol Oates book ‘Lives of the Twins,’ spins its influences into a frenzy that ultimately reveals the story to be very much its own thing.” Read more…)

The Workshop (France, drama, Warda Rammach. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jennifer Szalai’s Times review: “Feelings run deep and menacing in ‘The Workshop,’ an intimate and timely film from the French director Laurent Cantet, about a group of young adults enrolled in a summer writing class in the South of France. Only this isn’t the lavender-scented idyll of Provence or the gleaming luxury of the Riviera; the setting is La Ciotat, a port town that has gone from its midcentury glory days of building ships to its current slot in the global economy, servicing yachts. The students are a diverse bunch of working-class locals; the teacher, Olivia, is a famous novelist, brought in from elsewhere to help them write a book together that has to take place in the town.” Read more…)

Manila In the Claws of Light (Phillipines, 1972, drama, Hilda Koronel.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeanette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Lino Brocka’s ‘Manila in the Claws of Light’ begins with a whisper and ends with a howl. In between, there are grace notes, escalating horrors and the peripatetic journey of a country mouse, Julio [Rafael Roco Jr., later known as Bembol Roco], in the big city. It’s a story of struggle, survival, endurance and defeat that Brocka, perhaps the most celebrated of Filipino directors, filmed down and dirty in Manila when the Philippines was still in the grip of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Brocka, a political activist as well as a prolific filmmaker, died in a car accident in 1991 at 52, and is ready for rediscovery.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Lost In America (1985, comedy, Albert Brooks, Julie Hagerty. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A yuppie mid-life crisis is in the offing, and Albert Brooks has made it the basis for ‘Lost in America,’ an inspired comedy in his own drily distinctive style. If Mr. Brooks isn’t often laugh-out-loud funny, that’s largely because so much of what he has to say is true. ‘Lost in America’ follows the Howards, played by Mr. Brooks and Julie Hagerty, from a quiet dissatisfaction with their upwardly-mobile lives [‘Nothing’s changing anymore . . . we’ve just stopped ,’ Linda says] to an even bleaker realization of what their options may be. That it manages to find so much humor in so dismal a progression is amazing indeed.” Read more…)

Ada (1961, drama, Susan Hayward, Dean Martin. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “An elementary exposition of a case of dirty machine politics, so elementary it makes everyone in it look as witless as a child blowing bubble gum, is put forth in Metro’s ‘Ada,’ which came to the Capitol yesterday. If politicians were as dumb and undramatic as they are made to look here, they wouldn’t be the least bit of fun.” Read more…)

The Earthling (1980, family drama, William Holden. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Earthling’ is an Australian movie as pretentious and finally as empty as its title, which refers to Patrick Foley [William Holden], a beat-up, worn-out world traveler who is returning to his birthplace, a farm in the uncharted wilds of Australia, to die on familiar soil.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Man In an Orange Shirt (drama, gay life, David Gyasi. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 72.)
In the Dark: Season 1 (detective series, MyAnna Buring)

New Documentaries
The Jazz Ambassadors (jazz, music, civil rights, Cold War history, Louis Armstrong)

New releases 6/12/18

Top Hits
Love, Simon (coming-of-age story, Josh Duhamel. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For the most part, ‘Love, Simon’ is an amiable, slick, silver-tongued teen romantic comedy. Set in a particularly idyllic Atlanta suburb, replete with lifestyle wish-fulfillment production design, it’s the kind of movie in which the filmmakers signal their exquisite taste by proxy…. In the movie’s last third it gains a lot of guts. Simon has to contend with the fallout from what he considered a necessary hypocrisy and the personal betrayals it entailed. The emotional resonance may be surprising given the movie’s relentless gloss, but it’s real.” Read more…)

Tomb Raider (action, Alicia Vikander. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 48. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The ghost of Angelina Jolie past — that mesmerizing dark star, to the screen born — hangs over the new, suitably titled ‘Tomb Raider.’ A dreary, inept reboot of the franchise that helped propel Ms. Jolie into global domination [and pop-culture divinity], it stars the talented, badly misused Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as the British adventurer Lara Croft.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Death Wish

New Foreign
Loveless (Russia, not available on DVD, drama, Maryana Spivak. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeanette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Unfolding beneath skies the color and density of damp concrete, ‘Loveless,’ the fifth feature from the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev [after his notable 2014 drama, ‘Leviathan’], uses a toxic marriage to paint a larger portrait of decay, dereliction and moral detachment. And oh, his gaze is pitiless. Set in Moscow in the autumn of 2012, the picture sits on the screen with an almost physical weight, its heaviness as much to do with the bleakly beautiful visuals and painstaking pacing as the bitter divorce at its center.” Read more…)

Tomb Raider

New Foreign
Tehran Taboo (Iran, animated feature/drama, Farhad Abadinejad. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 75. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Tehran Taboo’ gains much of its power from its use of rotoscoping, a form of animation [familiar to viewers of ‘Waking Life’ and ‘Tower’] in which the drawing is done over filmed actors. What is provocative about the technique here is that it’s a sort of workaround — a way for the director, Ali Soozandeh, who grew up in Iran and now lives in Germany, to tell a story that he says would have been impossible to film in Tehran. An ensemble piece [and European production, despite the Persian dialogue], the movie lays bare the double standards that surround sex in Iran.” Read more…)

Manila In the Claws of Light (Phillipines, 1972, drama, Hilda Koronel.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeanette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Lino Brocka’s ‘Manila in the Claws of Light’ begins with a whisper and ends with a howl. In between, there are grace notes, escalating horrors and the peripatetic journey of a country mouse, Julio [Rafael Roco Jr., later known as Bembol Roco], in the big city. It’s a story of struggle, survival, endurance and defeat that Brocka, perhaps the most celebrated of Filipino directors, filmed down and dirty in Manila when the Philippines was still in the grip of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Brocka, a political activist as well as a prolific filmmaker, died in a car accident in 1991 at 52, and is ready for rediscovery.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Of Human Bondage (1964, drama based on W. Somerset Maugham novel, Kim Novak. From A.H. Weiler’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Time has not paled [W. Somerset maugham’s] incisive, brooding and anguished quasi‐biography. But the current adaptation merely evolves as a surface, stoic old‐fashioned tale of a crippled medical student’s romantic attachment to a cheap, vulgar London waitress in which lip service substitutes for the truly poignant, self‐revelatory story from which it stems.” Read more…)

SLC Punk (drama, 1999, Matthew Lillard. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 50. From Janet Maslin’s 1999 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Only [director James Merendino’s] own real experience as an alienated teen-ager in Salt Lake City, circa 1985, could have led to such a [perhaps deservedly] overlooked time and place. So in what one of his characters calls ‘a religiously oppressive city, which half its population isn’t even that religion,’ he presents the amusing exploits of a group of friends led by Stevo [Matthew Lillard]. Stevo is the rare punk who may be headed for Harvard Law School without even trying. He makes an entertaining rebel, but he’s about as authentic as his blue hair.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Sherlock Gnomes (animated feature, James McAvoy [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. Metacritic: 36. From Ben Kenogsberg’s New York Times review: “In defiance of common sense, ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ [2011] decided that Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers would be better off not dying, at least as animated garden gnomes. That kept them around for this sequel, a literary crossover called ‘Sherlock Gnomes.’ The ghost of Arthur Conan Doyle should tell them to get off his lawn.” Read more…)

New releases 6/5/18

Top Hits
Every Day (teen drama/romance, Angourie Rice. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 52. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “If the filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, best known for scripting metaphysical puzzle films like ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind’ were to try his hand at a Young Adult story, ‘Every Day’ might be it. The movie’s second lead character, a consciousness or, if you will, soul that refers to itself as ‘A,’ inexplicably wakes up every morning inhabiting a different teenager’s body. ‘A’ has this amazing personality that it supposedly tries not to let impinge overmuch on its host’s own personality. But one morning, A wakes up in the body of the handsome but loutish Justin. He’s the boyfriend of Rhiannon, a bright, beautiful high schooler who deserves better. And thanks to A, she gets it, for one magical day of hooky.” Read more…)

Death Wish (action remake, Bruce Willis. Rotten Tomatoes: 17%. Metacritic: 31. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review [spoiler alert: she doesn’t like it]: “Finding an opportune moment to release a high-profile movie celebrating a vigilante shooter is becoming a real challenge in the United States. Yet timing isn’t the only reason the new ‘Death Wish,’ a so-called reimagining of Michael Winner’s 1974 thriller of the same name, is an imbecilic misfire.” Read more…)

A Wrinkle in Time (fantasy, Opah Winfrey. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 53. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie adaptation, directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, has been a long time coming, and it arrives in theaters buoyed by and burdened with expectations. It is the first $100 million movie directed by an African-American woman, and the diversity of its cast is both a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm. This is how movies should look from now on, which is to say how they should have looked all along. Fans of the book and admirers of Ms. DuVernay’s work — I include myself in both groups — can breathe a sigh of relief, and some may also find that their breath has been taken away.” Read more…)

Gringo (comedy, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 46. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Harold Soyinka, a midlevel executive at a Chicago pharmaceutical company, is originally from Nigeria. This puts someone in mind of those princely email swindles. It’s a pretty weak joke [made worse by the fact that Harold says an uncle of his made a fortune that way] and also an example of what passes for irony in ‘Gringo,’ a new movie directed by Nash Edgerton from a screenplay by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. Harold, you see, is a perfect sucker, an innocent whose trusting good nature makes him an easy target for grifters, scammers and liars.” Read more…)

Thoroughbreds (comedy, Ana Taylor-Joy. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Thoroughbreds’ opens on an ominous, murkily lit scene — a girl, a horse and a worryingly sharp knife — that telegraphs just how ugly things are going to get in this movie. You learn in short order that the horse is a goner, and it isn’t long into this slick, shallow movie that you wish the girl, Amanda [Olivia Cooke], was, too. This is no fault of Ms. Cooke, an appealing performer [she was the girl in ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’]. She and her equally likable co-star, Anya Taylor-Joy [‘The Witch’], have been burdened with giving their matching ciphers flesh and a reason for us to watch.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Death Wish

New Foreign
Thelma (Norway, supernatural, Eili Harboe. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Thelma’ draws on the familiar female naïf and works with some largely recognizable narrative ideas, but it’s finally too pleasurably unruly to fit into one box. It’s a coming-of-age story rooted in the tradition of the European art film, but it flirts heavily with the horror genre. It’s also a romance, a psychological thriller, a liberation story and a whodunit [and why]. Mostly, and most satisfyingly, it plays with the female Gothic, those unnerving tales — churning with desires and dread, and quivering with anxiety and suspicion — in which women are at once the victims and agents of change.” Read more…)

Graduation (Romania, drama, Adrian Titieni. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Graduation,’ Cristian Mungiu’s nerve-racking and humane new film, provides plenty of visual and narrative evidence in support of [lead character] Romeo’s pessimism. Mr. Mungiu’s camera stalks Romeo through a drab landscape, where ugly old buildings are falling down, and ugly new ones are going up, where gray and brown are the dominant colors, and where nothing quite works. When [his daughter] Eliza is attacked — she injures her arm fighting off an attempted rape — her father’s worst intuitions are confirmed. But his plans are also threatened, since the trauma of the assault threatens to affect her performance on a crucial exam. She is also seeing a boy Romeo doesn’t much like. His parental anxiety slides toward panic.” Read more…)

Beyond the Hills (Romania, drama, Cosmina Stratan. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Based on the real-life case of an exorcism gone wrong, ‘Beyond the Hills’ might have easily have succumbed to sensationalism or scolding, flattering the sophistication of an audience accustomed to regarding religion with contempt or condescension. But while Mr. Mungiu, inspired by the Romanian journalist Tatiana Niculescu Bran’s books about the incident (which took place in a Moldavian convent in 2005), hardly casts spiritual authority in a flattering light, he also refuses to derive easy or comforting lessons.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Our Blood Is Wine (Georgian history, winemaking. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “If, like me, you’ve been imbibing rather more than usual this last year, then you won’t need much persuading to watch ‘Our Blood Is Wine,’ a slightly tipsy, thoroughly charming documentary about winemaking in post-Soviet Georgia. By the end, so many glasses have been raised in lip-smacking appreciation that the movie’s most impressive accomplishment is not its deep dive into grape-centered lore, but the ability of its director, Emily Railsback, to hold her iPhone camera steady.” Read more…)

West of the Jordan River (Palestinian/Israeli relations. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 56. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The Israeli director Amos Gitai models ‘West of the Jordan River’ on his earlier ‘Field Diary,’ a 1982 documentary that he filmed in the occupied territories. At the opening of the new film, Mr. Gitai somewhat pretentiously likens his role to that of an ‘archaeologist’ of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This episodic documentary jumps back and forth in time, mainly between 1994, when Mr. Gitai filmed an interview with Yitzhak Rabin, then the Israeli prime minister, who was assassinated a year later, and 2016, when Mr. Gitai surveys the aftermath of the stalled peace process that Rabin fought for.” Read more…)

New Music DVDs
INXS: The Video Hits Collection

New releases 5/22/18

Top Hits
Red Sparrow (spy thriller, Jennifer Lawrence. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 53. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In the preposterously entertaining ‘Red Sparrow,’ Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina turned murderous spy. And why not? Russian spies are apparently everywhere, and we seem to be in the middle of the Cold War 2.0. Anyone who has ever watched a ballet also knows how terrifyingly capable dancers are, with their steely strength, athleticism and discipline. Ms. Lawrence, best known as the teenage survivalist turned savior Katniss Everdeen in the ‘Hunger Games’ series, has played rough before, so when her character in ‘Red Sparrow’ brutally twists in a knife, it’s almost like old home week.” Read more…)

The 15:17 to Paris (real life action thriller, Anthony Sadler. Rotten Tomatoes: 25%. Metacritic: 45. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “On Aug. 21, 2015, Ayoub El Khazzani boarded a high-speed train en route to Paris, armed with a knife, a pistol, an assault rifle and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition. His attack, apparently inspired by ISIS, was thwarted by the bravery and quick thinking of several passengers, notably three young American tourists: Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler and Spencer Stone. Their heroism is at the center of Clint Eastwood’s new movie, ‘The 15:17 to Paris,’ a dramatic reconstruction as unassuming and effective as the action it depicts.” Read more…)

Game Night (comedy, Jason Bateman. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘Game Night’ is, for the most part, a conventional, and conventionally vulgar, Contemporary Romantic Comedy With Lessons. Its central couple, Max and Annie, played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, are avid board-game-and-trivia enthusiasts who are stuck in the fertility department. They’re having trouble conceiving because Max’s sperm are, according to his doctor, insecure. That probably has something to do with Max’s inferiority complex about his older brother Brooks [Kyle Chandler], an ostensible hotshot who decides one evening to take Max and Annie’s weekly couples game night up a notch by staging a kidnapping mystery.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Game Night
Red Sparrow
The 15:17 to Paris

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Baby (1972, cult film/psychotic stunner, Anjanette Comer. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%.)

New British
Unforgotten: Season 2 (Brtish mystery, Sanjeev Bhaskar)
Little Women (Louisa May Alcott adaptation, Emily Watson)

New Television
Atlanta: Season 1 (drama series, Donald Glover. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 90.)

New Documentaries
GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II (war, ethnic history, Judaism, Mel Brooks)
What We Want, What We Believe: The Black Panther Party Library (ethnic history, race, politics, civil liberties, Black Panthers)
Jane (Jane Goodall bio, vintage footage)

New Children’s DVDs
Early Man (Aardman Animations animated feature, Eddie Redmayne [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “My feelings about ‘Early Man’ can be summed up as better late than never. I’m a little sorry that this utterly silly feature from Nick Park and Aardman Animations was not around when I was 7 or 8 years old, or when my children were wearing out the Wallace and Gromit videocassettes that someone had given them for Christmas. Not that anyone could outgrow this kind of movie, which manages to be fresh and delightful even as some of its jokes are so old — how old? So old that the last time I heard them, I fell off my dinosaur I was laughing so hard.” Read more…)