New releases 11/30/21

Top Hits
Climate of the Hunter (mystery/suspense, Ben Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 68. From Simon Abrams’ review: “The most exciting thing about the soapy, psychedelic American vampire psychodrama ‘Climate of the Hunter’ is how weirdly poised it is even during its strangest and/or most crass moments. You will see things in writer/director Mickey Reece’s cult-friendly oddity that will make you question your sanity, and not because they’re so wild, but because they seem to be of a piece with a story that’s both familiar enough and utterly alien.” Read more…)

Malignant (horror, Annabelle Wallis. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “The acting in ‘Malignant’ might be on the hokey side, but who goes to a James Wan movie for the performances? What we want is gore and goose bumps, and in that regard, ‘Malignant’ doesn’t entirely disappoint. Even if we have to wait until roughly 17 minutes before the finale to experience peak splatter.” Read more…)

Saint Maud (horror, Morfydd Clark. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Folding sexual arousal and religious ecstasy into a single, gasping sensation, ‘Saint Maud,’ the feature debut of the director Rose Glass, burrows into the mind of a lonely young woman and finds psycho-horror gold.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Romeos (Germany, LGBTQ romance, Rick Okon)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Freud (1962, bio-pic, Montgomery Clift. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther named “Freud” one of his 10 best movies of 1962, writing, “John Huston’s stark, intense and penetrating biographical film, simply called “Freud,” in which Montgomery Clift gives an eerily illuminating performance in the title role.” Read more…)

Dark of the Sun (1968, action/adventure, Rod Taylor. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Renata Adler’s 1968 New York Times review requires log-in]: “‘Dark of the Sun’ is a kind of cross between ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘The Comedians,’ which stars Jim Brown and Rod Taylor in a kind of “I Spy” duet. The movie, which was filmed in Jamaica, is about mercenaries in the Congo who go by train to rescue some diamonds, refugees and Yvette Mimieux from the rebel Simba. It did not seem to me very plausible.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Keyboard Fantasies (music, bio, LGBTQ, Glenn Copeland. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. From Cath Clarke’s Guardian review: “Here’s a spirit-lifting documentary about black transgender electronic music pioneer Glenn Copeland. It begins with the story of how he was ‘discovered’ a few years ago, aged 72. At home in Canada, Copeland reads the email he got in 2015 from a record shop owner in Japan: the guy offered to buy any spare copies of Keyboard Fantasies, an album Copeland self-released in 1986 on cassette. At the time he was known as Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and the album is a trippy mix of electronica, folk and new age, overlaid with Copeland’s sumptuous contralto tenor; it’s now seen as his masterpiece.” Read more…)

The Great Buster: A Celebration (bio, cinema history, Buster Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In his 1949 essay ‘Comedy’s Greatest Era,’ James Agee suggested that ‘Keaton’s face ranked almost with Lincoln’s as an early American archetype; it was haunting, handsome, almost beautiful, yet it was also irreducibly funny.’ To watch ‘The Great Buster: A Celebration’ — Peter Bogdanovich’s affectionate and informative new documentary — is to appreciate Agee’s insight, and also to marvel anew at some of Keaton’s cinematic feats. The film presents a compact, tactful biography and also a valuable explication of the Keatonesque in its most sublime varieties.” Read more…)

New releases 11/16/21

Top Hits
Candyman (horror series reboot, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It takes nothing away from [director Nia] DaCosta to note that ‘Candyman’ is of an intellectual and political piece with Peele’s earlier work, including ‘Get Out’ and ‘Us.’ Like those movies, ‘Candyman’ uses the horror genre to explore race (Peele gets under the skin), including ideas about who gets to play the hero — and villain — and why.” Read more…)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (bio-pic, Jessica Chastain. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The narrative beats — Tammy Faye’s temptation [in the presence of a hunky record producer played by Mark Wystrach], Jim’s betrayal, Falwell’s treachery — seem almost generic. The performances, while hardly subtle, feel smaller than life. Garfield mugs and emotes with sketch-comedy abandon, and while Chastain tries for more depth and nuance, she is trapped by a literal-minded script and overwhelmed by hair, makeup and garish period costumes.” Read more…)

Swan Song (drama/LGBTQ, Udo Kier. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “These days, more often than not, [actor Udo Kier]’s cast in character roles, rarely asked to carry a movie. For ‘Swan Song’ though, he’s in almost every frame. One could say he’s a revelation, but longtime Udo partisans always knew he had this kind of performance in him.” Read more…)

Flag Day (drama, Sean & Dylan Penn. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “As a director, Sean Penn seems drawn to stories featuring lost children of one sort or another, a proclivity that has resulted in some of his strongest work. His latest film, ‘Flag Day,’ tills similar soil: the awakening of a daughter whose adored father is not the demigod she believes him to be.” Read more…)

The Kid Detective (comedy/mystery, Adam Brody. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. From Michael Ordoña’s Los Angeles Times review: “There are definitely pieces there of a slacker, gonzo comedy or a weighty gaze into the abyss. Instead, Evan Morgan, making his feature writing-directing debut, finds a wire-walking balance that makes Abe’s struggle real, funny and dangerous. It’s a kind of gentle, daytime, Canadian noir that occasionally reminds you of the seriousness of the stakes. It is not for kids.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
It’s A Wonderful Life Blu-Ray (1946, holiday, James Stewart. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “For it is really Mr. Stewart, who does most of the heavy suffering in this film, and it is he who, in the end, is most deserving of the white meat and the stuffing.That is because Mr. Capra, back from the war, has resumed with a will his previously manifest penchant for portraying folks of simple, homely worth. And in this picture about a young fellow who wants to break away from his small-town life and responsibilities but is never able to do so because slowly they close in upon him, Mr. Capra has gone all out to show that it is really a family, friends and honest toil that make the ‘wonderful life.’” Read more…)


New Foreign DVDs
Le Navire Night (France, 1979, drama/romance dir. by Marguerite Duras, Dominique Sanda)

New Documentaries
Karen Dalton: In My Own Time (folk music, biography, Karen Dalton. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Musicians working in pop modes often navigate their careers using a combination of talent and calculation. Karen Dalton, a singer and instrumentalist who made a substantial impression on New York’s 1960s folk scene, and whose small body of recorded work moves and inspires listeners to this day, was someone for whom calculation was inconceivable. That’s one impression left by ‘Karen Dalton: In My Own Time,’ an excellent documentary directed by Richard Peete and Robert Yapkowitz.” Read more…)

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart? (music, biography Bee Gees. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “‘The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’ pays tribute to the Gibb brothers with a tour of their pop music reign. Grooving through the decades, this entertaining documentary aspires to prove that the Bee Gees were more than a hitmaker for disco nightclubs. Rather, Barry, Maurice and Robin were master songwriters and chameleons, continually reinventing themselves to harmonize with the times.” Read more…)

The Lost Leonardo (documentary, real-life thriller, art. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “‘The Lost Leonardo,’ a documentary directed by the Danish filmmaker Andreas Koefoed, is a disquieting confirmation of this idea. It’s the story of how a painting purchased for a little over $1,000 was soon identified — if not wholly authenticated — as a Leonardo, and eventually wound up in the hands of a Saudi oligarch who spent more than $400 million on it. Among other things, this picture freshly demonstrates that a conventionally structured documentary can pack the fascination and wallop of an expertly executed fictional thriller.” Read more…)

New releases 11/9/21

Top Hits
Pig (drama/thriller, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83, Must-See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Pig,’ Michael Sarnoski’s stunningly controlled first feature, is a mournful fable of loss and withdrawal, art and ambition. Told in three chapters and a string of beautifully delineated scenes, the movie flirts with several genres — revenge drama, culinary satire — while committing to none.” Read more…)

The Banishing (horror, Jessica Brown Findlay. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 48. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Silliness trumps scares in Christopher Smith’s ‘The Banishing,’ a bewildering haunted-house tale larded with Nazis, mad monks, fallen women and a tango-dancing occultist. Why no one thought to include a zombie or two is anyone’s guess.” Read more…

Respect (music bio-pic about Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 61. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The new drama ‘Respect’ is a march-of-time fictionalization of Franklin’s life. Attractively cast and handsomely mounted — Jennifer Hudson plays the queen — it is a solid, sanitized, unfailingly polite portrait. It conforms to the familiar biopic arc: the artist begins humbly; reaches towering heights [artistic, commercial, maybe both]; suffers a setback [bad lovers, addiction]; only to rise higher still.” Read more…)

Reminiscence (sci-fi, Hugh Jackman. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 46. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Highfalutin, lightly enjoyable mush, ‘Reminiscence’ is one of those speculative fictions that are at once undernourished and overcooked. It makes no sense (despite all the explaining), but it draws you in with genre beats, pretty people and the professional polish of its machined parts. It’s shiny and pricey and looks good on the big screen; it is also the newest addition to what now plays like the Nolan Family Extended Universe.” Read more…)

Old Henry (western/action, Tim Blake Nelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69 From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Old Henry’ makes a solid, honorable go of proving once again that the foursquare western isn’t dead, though in paying homage to its forebears, it inevitably stands in their very long shadows. While the basic standoff scenario is tautly limited in time and place, it’s hard to imagine Budd Boetticher, who made seven fantastically economical westerns with Randolph Scott, burning nearly 40 minutes bringing the opposing sides together.” Read more…)

My Salinger Year (drama, Sigourney Weaver. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 50. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “As ‘My Salinger Year’ proves, making a successful movie about introspection is more than a little challenging. Muted almost to the point of effacement, this limp adaptation of Joanna Rakoff’s 2014 memoir, written and directed by Philippe Falardeau, only affirms that what might work on the page doesn’t always pop on the screen.” Read more…)

Coming Home in the Dark (thriller/horror, Daniel Gillies. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Not infrequently, films set and shot in the Antipodes make a convincing case that one ought to never leave one’s house. Think of the scenarios of ‘Wake In Fright’ [kangaroos and lunatics running amok], ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ [girls-school adventurers disappear’, ‘A Cry in the Dark’ [dingo, baby]. Directed by James Ashcroft from a script he wrote with Eli Kent [based on a short story by Owen Marshall], ‘Coming Home in the Dark’ doesn’t take long in demonstrating that sometimes a day trip to high New Zealand spaces is not worth the views.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
Hope (Norway, drama, Stellan Skarsgard. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 90, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “For audiences seeking escapism, this may not be the best time to tout a movie about terminal illness. Yet it might help to know that ‘Hope,’ a largely autobiographical drama from the Norwegian writer and director Maria Sodahl, is neither miserabilist nor sappily sentimental. Instead, it’s an almost brutally honest observation of a calcified relationship forced to adjust to a terrifying new reality.” Read more…)

The Fever (Brazil, drama, Regis Myrupu. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Devika Girish’s Times review: “‘The Fever’ colors in the experiences of Brazil’s Indigenous community through the casual racism Justino and Vanessa face at work, including taunts about the shapes of their eyes and ignorance about the diversity of Native languages. The characters are stoic in public, but at home, Justino responds with his own judgments. ‘They don’t even know how to look into dreams,’ he says of white doctors.” Read more…)

Who You Think I Am (France, drama, Juliette Binoche. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s understandable that the director Safy Nebbou, who shares script credit with Julie Peyr, keeps his focus and camera so relentlessly on Claire. [The movie is adapted from a novel by Camille Laurens.] Yet because much of the rest of the story is so underdeveloped — notably Claire’s intimate life with her frustratingly generic children — the character overwhelms everything, including the fragile realism.” Read more…)

New TV
Emily In Paris: Season 1 (Netflix rom-com series from creator of “Sex and the City,” Lily Collins. Rotten Tomatoes: 63. Metacritic: 58. From Rebecca Nicolson’s Guardian review: “At times, I wondered what the French had done to deserve ‘Emily in Paris’ [Netflix]. This comedy-drama – although it is light on both – is a vehicle for Lily Collins to waltz around Paris in fabulous clothes, refusing to speak French, largely expecting to be seen as adorable for it. If it is a metaphor for American imperialism, then it is an effective one, but if it is an attempt to fluff up the romcom for the streaming age, then it falls over on its six-inch heels.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Born To Be Bad (1950, Nicholas Ray-directed film noir, Joan Fontaine. From T.M.P.’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Comfortably barricaded between the covers of a book or imprisoned on celluloid, the predatory female can be a fascinating creature. At least she has lived a long life in fiction and, in the case of the screen, has become established as a stable sales commodity. In “Born to Be Bad,” which opened yesterday at the Capitol, Joan Fontaine is demonstrating how a honey-voiced demon can have her cake and eat it too up to the point where the Production Code cries out for retribution.” Read more…)

The Secret Garden (1949, drama/family, Margaret O’Brien)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Permanent Record (1988, drama, Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. From Walter Goodman’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Why should popular, talented, good-looking, success-bound David jump into the Pacific Ocean? If the writers of ”Permanent Record” know, they are not telling. Anyhow, the event creates great distress among David’s high school classmates, especially his best pal and musical collaborator, the sexpot whose favors he has been enjoying, and a shy, serious-minded girl who admires him. All are played by young folks dressed in jeans and acting-school mannerisms.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Muhammad Ali (Ken Burns bio, sports history, race, Muhammad Ali. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 88. From Finn Cohen’s fall preview in the New York Times: “Nearly three decades later, Burns; his oldest daughter, Sarah; and her husband, David McMahon, have stitched together a sweeping portrait of Ali’s impact from more than 40 years of footage and photographs. ‘Muhammad Ali,’ a four-part documentary series that premieres Sept. 19 on PBS, follows the arc of a man whose life intersected with many of modern America’s most profound changes — and who was also not as widely revered in his prime as he is now.” Read more…)

Tina (music, bio, Tina turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “You may believe you know Turner’s tale. And you may be right. It is retold well here, but the most moving portions — and they could bring tears to your eyes — come as Turner, almost 80 at the time of this interview [and as beautiful as she has ever been], wearing a tailored black suit, sits and discusses where she’s at now.” Read more…)

New releases 11/2/21

Top Hits
Nine Days (drama/fantasy, Winston Duke. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 73. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “‘The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness,’ wrote Vladimir Nabokov. We have been imagining and describing one of those ostensible eternities — the afterlife — for millenniums. ‘Nine Days,’ the ambitious and often impressive debut feature from the writer-director Edson Oda, surprises by positing a prelife world, and a vetting process determining which souls are awarded a term on earth.” Read more…)

Come True (horror, Julia Sarah Stone. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “But the characters are just the beginning of what’s creepy about ‘Come True.’ Atmosphere is its primary virtue: [director Anthony Scott] Burns has an eye for medical spaces and tech that look dingy and out of date and for architecture that evokes anonymous, forgotten corners of academia.” Read more…)

Ride the Eagle (comedy, Jake Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 54. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It’s doubtful that anyone who has enjoyed the work of the writer and actor Jake Johnson can name, offhand, an instance in which he has played a guy who works in an office. It’s just not a thing with his nontoxic, shaggy bro persona. In ‘Ride the Eagle,’ which Johnson co-wrote with the director Trent O’Donnell, he plays a character compelled to contend with imminent middle age. But no worries — his journey in no way obliges him to button down or up.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Devi (The Goddess) (India, 1960, drama dir. by Satyajit Ray, Sharmila Tagore. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Howard Thompson’s 1962 New York Times review: “The theme, the tragic consequences of blind faith, reportedly stirred controversy in his country. Mr. Ray has done this: Without probing too deeply into theology, he has recorded the emotional repercussions in a contemporary household of means where a young, childlike wife is abruptly singled out and treated as a living deity, an incarnation of the goddess Kali. In essence, this is a tale of the old vs. the new, of super-stitution colliding with realism. Unfolding the story and incidents at a deliberately steady pace, Mr. Ray has evoked an emotional crescendo moving toward tragedy.” Read more…)

Gomorrah: Season 1 (Italy, crime series, Marco D’Amore. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “‘Gomorrah’ operates on two planes. It’s a grim, detailed, quotidian drama about the inner workings of organized crime [which has drawn comparisons to ‘The Wire’] and at the same time it’s a traditional Mafia saga, a clan melodrama centering on succession and the ups and downs of the family business [which has drawn comparisons to ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘The Godfather’]. Either of these by itself might not be very interesting, but the combination is handled so adroitly that the show sucks you in.” Read more…)

New British
The Crown: Season 4 (bio-pic drama, Olivia Colman. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 86.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Jude (1996, drama, Kate Winslet. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 68. From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1996 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Somewhere in the making of ‘Jude,’ the new film based on Thomas Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure,’ the inevitability of tragedy seems to have been mislaid. So, when life delivers its cruelest, most devastating blow to the prideful Jude Fawley, his misfortune seems less the logic of ineluctable fate than the byproduct of a few ill-considered words.” Read more…)

The House on Sorority Row (1982, suspense/horror, Kathryn McNeil. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 50.)

New Documentaries
The Hidden Life of Trees (life science, ecology, plant sentience, Peter Wohlleben. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Devika Girish’s Times review: “What the film successfully imparts is not so much scientific certainty as an affecting sense of curiosity and reverence, which Wohlleben deploys to a pragmatic end: to argue for the ecological management of forests, which would ensure their communal health and longevity, and therefore that of humankind. Crouching next to a 10,000-year-old spruce, [author Peter] Wohlleben reminds us of man’s comparative insignificance as well as power.” Read more…)

New releases 10/26/21

Top Hits
The Suicide Squad (comic book action, Idris Elba. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Joke, joke, kill, kill — that more or less sums up ‘The Suicide Squad,’ the latest installment in the DC Comics franchise. Shiny, busy and self-satisfied to a fault, this chapter follows the comic-book movie template, now with 20 percent more gore. It also has enough cinematic allusions to give critics something to chew on.” Read more…)

Stillwater (drama/thriller, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “A truism about American movies is that when they want to say something about the United States — something grand or profound or meaningful — they typically pull their punches. There are different reasons for this timidity, the most obvious being a fear of the audience’s tricky sensitivities. And so ostensibly political stories rarely take partisan stands, and movies like the ponderously earnest ‘Stillwater’ sink under the weight of their good intentions.” Read more…)

On the Rocks (comedy, Bill Murray. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It isn’t surprising how effortlessly Bill Murray takes possession of Sofia Coppola’s gently comic ‘On the Rocks’ — though this hijacking may be more of a sly directorial surrender. Casting Murray is a surefire way to win over an audience. It also means yielding at least part of the movie to him, which is what happens here. He plays a bigger-than-life sybarite whose daughter enlists him to help with her marital woes. If that sounds like a dubious idea for a grown child, it’s also a playful conceptual gambit for a director whose father, Francis Ford Coppola, casts his own long shadow.” Read more…)

Joe Bell (drama, Reid Miller. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 54. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “By and large, audiences don’t go to the movies to watch unprepossessing people engage in tedious pursuits — however noble or well-intentioned. And I have seen few cinematic sights more tedious this year than Mark Wahlberg trudging across America as the title character of ‘Joe Bell,’ a droopy drama with its feet on the blacktop and its heart set on redemption.” Read more…)

No Man of God (crime/drama, Elijah Wood. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 65. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘No Man of God’ can’t help but play like the special Ted Bundy episode of ‘Mindhunter’ we haven’t gotten to see yet. The movie, directed by Amber Sealey, dramatizes what it sees as the rapport that developed between Bundy [Luke Kirby] and the F.B.I. profiler Bill Hagmaier [Elijah Wood], who visited Bundy in prison and tried to pick his brain.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
On the Rocks
The Suicide Squad

New Foreign DVDs
New Order (Mexico, dystopia drama, Naian González Norvind. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 62. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco frequently devises narrative puzzles that hinge on unusual and emotionally fraught moral and ethical dilemmas. They’re usually on an intimate scale, as in his 2016 medical drama ‘Chronic.’ His latest film, ‘New Order,’ which created a sensation at home and on the festival circuit, takes a contained approach to a big event: insurrection.” Read more…)

Dead Pigs (China, 2018, comedy/drama, Haoyu Yang. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 73. From Devika Girish’s New York Times review: “A couple of years before directing ‘Birds of Prey,’ Cathy Yan made ‘Dead Pigs,’ a movie that suggests that her penchant for indulgent stylization predates a studio budget. Inspired by several true stories — including a 2013 incident in which thousands of pig carcasses were found in the Huangpu River — the film weaves together a colorful confection of tales about corruption and class inequities in modern-day China. It’s a tonal wild ride with eccentric characters, neon-lit settings and elaborately absurd detours.” Read more…)

A Day in the Country (France, 1936, drama dir. by Jean Renoir, Sylvia Bataille. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review on the occasion of the film’s 2015 Criterion Collection release: “Abandoned yet nearly perfect, Jean Renoir’s ‘A Day in the Country’ [1936] is a movie whose incomplete aspects only accentuate its freshness and spontaneity. ‘A Day in the Country,’ out from Criterion on Blu-ray and DVD, has an emotional complexity — a mixture of joyous melancholy and skeptical pantheism — that belies its 41-minute running time. This tale of a Sunday outing, adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant, is also the movie in which the filmmaker most directly engaged his patrimony as the son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.” Read more…)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italy, 1970, horror dir. by Dario Argento, Eva Renzi. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Like almost everything else in the film, the title is wonderfully fancy and eighty percent irrelevant. But like almost anything else in the film, it reflects an elegant, enterprising, occasionally desperate sensibility much given to fabricating sequins from non sequiturs.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957, sci-fi, Criterion Collection, Grant Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review, which doesn’t reflect the positive contemporary critical consensus: “The first inkling that something is definitely wrong in ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man,’ which popped up at the Globe yesterday, comes early in the film when Grant Williams realizes that his pants cuffs are inexplicably dragging the floor. Shortly after this—and long before he makes his last stand against the bugs in the basement—the ‘incredible’ of the title takes on an unintended meaning. For, unless a viewer is addicted to freakish ironies, the unlikely spectacle of Mr. Williams losing an inch of height each week, while his wife, Randy Stuart, looks on helplessly, will become tiresome before Universal has emptied its lab of science-fiction clichés.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Send Me No Flowers (1964, comedy, Rock Hudson. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a beautiful farce situation, and Julius Epstein has written it, from a play by Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore, with nimble inventiveness and style. And Norman Jewison has directed so that it stays within bounds of good taste, is never cruel or insensitive, and makes something good of every gag.” Read more…)

Street Trash (1987, cult, Mike Lackey. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. From Walter Goodman’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Street Trash,’ now befouling the Eighth Street Cinema, is the stuff that civil-libertarian nightmares are made of. It claims no redeeming social value, and you don’t have to be a Supreme Court nominee to question whether the Founders could have foreseen anything like it when they wrote the First Amendment.” Read more…)

New TV
The Stand (TV mini-series adaptation of Stephen King novel, Whoopi Goldberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 56. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “This new version of ‘The Stand’ [a four-episode mini-series written by King came out on ABC in 1994] was spearheaded by Josh Boone, who directed ‘The New Mutants,’ one of the few big-studio popcorn movies to open in theaters during the pandemic. It’s a reasonably skilled and unobjectionable job of transcription and compression, stutter-stepping among time lines to keep track of King’s manifold plot strands and characters.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Desert of Forbidden Art (Soviet Union cultural history, repression, human rights, art. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 75. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “True stories of individuals who risked everything to save people or artworks or historical records from tyrants are always stirring, but at this point there have been enough of them to constitute a genre. So how to keep yours from seeming formulaic? Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev, who wrote and directed the gorgeous documentary ‘The Desert of Forbidden Art,’ knew that for their subject, a man named Igor Savitsky, the answer was to make the art he saved, in effect, the film’s co-star.” Read more…)

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (movies, film technology, cinematic technique. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Documentaries about film technology, at least those that aspire to reach some portion of a mainstream audience, have to make wonkiness ingratiating. ‘Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound,’ a cogent and winning picture directed by Midge Costin, does this in a variety of ways.” Read more…)

New releases 10/19/21

Top Hits
Old (thriller dir. by M. Night Shyamalan, Gael Garcia Bernal. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 55. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “In the opening pages of ‘Dino,’ a 1992 biography of Dean Martin by Nick Tosches, the author cites a haunting Italian phrase: ‘La vecchiaia è carogna.’ ‘Old age is carrion.’ When some vacationing families are deposited on a secluded beach recommended to them by a smarmy resort manager in “Old,” the new movie written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, we see a trio of vultures atop a tree take to the sky.” Read more…)

In the Earth (horror/thriller, Hayley Squires. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 63. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Movies evolve, and one day it will be possible to look at ‘In the Earth’ and not see the contingencies of pandemic filmmaking. The director, Ben Wheatley, started writing it at the beginning of the lockdown in Britain, and elements of the finished product — the outdoor setting; references to quarantine, a third wave and a disease ravaging a city; the actors’ surgical masks at the beginning — bear unavoidable hallmarks of the past year.” Read more…)

Sophie Jones (drama/coming-of-age, Jessica Barr. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 72. From Courtney Howard’s Variety review: “Navigating the precarious aspects of growing up while simultaneously buried deep in the throes of grief is one young woman’s struggle in director Jessie Barr’s ‘Sophie Jones.’ This meaningful drama, co-written and starring Barr’s cousin Jessica, taps into the immediacy of being a teenager and the intimacy of sorrow, yielding astute insights. The pair set their story during the fertile period in a maturing teen’s life when hormones and complex emotions run roughshod. With Nicole Holofcener on board as executive producer, it’s a poignant exploration of this arduous age, rooted in staggering authenticity.” Read more…)

F9: The Fast Saga (action, Vin Diesel. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The spirit of Wile E. Coyote hovers over the action, which splits the difference between preposterous and sublime. Giant magnets are deployed in midair and in city traffic. Vehicles skid, slam, swerve and fly. Flashbacks to Dom and Jakob’s early years wielding wrenches in their dad’s pit crew at a blue-collar California racetrack recall the origins of the ‘Fast and Furious’ universe in a simpler style of action filmmaking. The director Justin Lin, happily brandishing all the expensive digital tools at his disposal, makes ‘F9’ feel scrappy and baroque at the same time.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Melvin Van Peebles: Four Films Blu-Ray (Criterion Collection):
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (blaxploitation, 1971, Melvin Van Peebles. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 71. From Stephen Holden’s 1995 New York Times reassessment when “Sweet Sweetback'”screened as part of a Film Forum blaxploitation series: “Gore, profanity, and sex are splattered over the screen so routinely today that no movie from the 1970’s could possibly match the contemporary Hollywood action film in visceral nastiness, right? Before agreeing, check out Melvin Van Peebles’s 1971 film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,’ which will play at Film Forum from July 14 through July 16. This sulphurous nightmare of racial paranoia and revenge eclipses even ‘Reservoir Dogs’ in evoking a world of infinite seaminess, injustice and cruelty.” Read more…)

The Story of a Three Day Pass (interracial romance in Paris, 1967, Harry Baird. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “‘I never decided to become a director,’ Van Peebles, now 88, said in a Directors Guild of America interview conducted by his son, the filmmaker Mario Van Peebles. ‘I just decided to show folks, especially minorities, like I saw them, not like they kept being shown around in cinema.’ With ‘The Story of a Three Day Pass,’ Melvin Van Peebles shattered the usual mirrors presented in movies, with a crash that reverberated far beyond one soldier’s weekend off.” Read more…)

Watermelon Man (comedy, 1970, Godfrey Cambridge. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Jesse Cataldo’s appreciation at the Website Spectrum Culture: “Yet singular as it remains, ‘Sweet Sweetback’ did not spring from a vacuum, and could not have been made without ‘Watermelon Man.’ Van Peebles’ 1970 comedy was one of incendiary and subversive films made within the studio system. The film was far from a failure in its time, turning a modest profit, but studio interference convinced Van Peebles to ditch his three-picture contract with Columbia, funding his next feature through independent financing. ‘Watermelon Man’ is remembered as a precursor to a more distinctive, innovative follow-up. Its diminished reputation ignores how remarkable this weird comedy is on its own terms and how well it has aged, its unwavering focus on the brass tacks of discrimination as timely as ever.” Read more…)

Don’t Play Us Cheap (musical, 1972, Esther Rolle)

F9: The Fast Saga

New Foreign DVDs
The Weasel’s Tale (Argentina, comedy, Graciela Borges. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Schemers meet their match in ‘The Weasels’ Tale,’ Juan José Campanella’s crowd-pleasing Argentine comedy. A former diva, Mara [grande dame Graciela Borges], shares a rambling remote mansion with her milquetoast husband, Pedro [Luis Brandoni], and two suave parasites she used to make movies with: a director, Norberto [Oscar Martínez], and a screenwriter, Martín [Marcos Mundstock]. They pass the time trading reminiscences and barbs, until a slick city couple, Bárbara [Clara Lago] and Francisco [Nicolás Francella], show up and angle to buy the property.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Belgravia (Julian Fellowes Victorian period costume drama mini-series, Alice Eve. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 70. From The New York Times list of best television of 2020: “Many elements of the story were familiar for ‘Downton’ fans: societal ferment, musical-chair heirs, dissolute gentlemen, duplicitous servants. More important, the storytelling was as sharp and the performances as satisfying, particularly from Tamsin Greig and Harriet Walter, as ‘Downton’ at its best.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
High Sierra (1941, crime/noir, Criterion Collection, Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino.Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “We wouldn’t know for certain whether the twilight of the American gangster is here. But the Warner Brothers, who should know if anybody does, have apparently taken it for granted and, in a solemn Wagnerian mood, are giving that titanic figure a send-off befitting a first-string god in the film called ‘High Sierra,’ which arrived yesterday at the Strand. Yes-sir, Siegfried himself never rose to more heroic heights than does Mr. Humphrey Bogart, the last of the great gunmen, when, lodged on a high mountain crag with an army of coppers below, he shouts defiance at his tormentors ere his noble soul take flight.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
On Broadway (theater, culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Maya Phillips’ Times review: “A sunset view of the New York City skyline, speckled with lights, while George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ plays. Old Broadway marquees. Moving snapshots from a Broadway of more recent past — a flight of Hogwarts wizards, the swinging and snapping Temptations, the triumphant gaze of a brown-skinned Alexander Hamilton. ‘On Broadway’ sure knows how to work a theater-lover’s heart.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
PAW Patrol: Marshall & Case on the Chase!

New releases 10/5/21

Top Hits
Space Jam: A New Legacy (animated feature/live action, Lebron James. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 36. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The 1996 live-action/animation mash-up comedy ‘Space Jam,’ in which Michael Jordan met the Looney Tunes crew, has a settled reputation as one of those pictures everybody saw but few critics found satisfactory. This did not dissuade Warner Media from constructing a starring vehicle for contemporary basketball titan LeBron James around the same conceit. Only hypertrophied. Naturally. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by six credited writers, ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ has a bit more on its hectic mind than its predecessor did.” Read more…)

First Date (action/comedy, Shelby Duclos. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 52. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review: “‘First Date’ is a boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-evade-goon-squad action romance from Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp, a debut filmmaking team putting their faith in Jean-Luc Godard’s maxim that ‘all you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.’ Hey, that cliché sold Quentin Tarantino’s first scripts, and this likable homage moves at a clip, as though the young writer-directors are impatient to introduce themselves to producers beyond their immediate families.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Munyurangabo (USA/Rwanda, 2007, post-genocide drama, Jeff Rutagengwa. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In a recent issue of The New Yorker, Philip Gourevitch, author of the definitive English-language book on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, wrote about that country’s progress, 15 years after the killing, toward national reconciliation and political normalcy. “Munyurangabo,” a quiet, probing film by Lee Isaac Chung that was first shown at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, examines similar themes in a different key, using the fine-grained techniques of cinematic neorealism to illuminate the psychological and emotional landscape of a still-traumatized place.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Of Human Bondage (1934, drama, Leslie Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1934 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “W. Somerset Maugham’s widely circulated novel, ‘Of Human Bondage,’ has come through the operation of being transferred to the screen in an unexpectedly healthy fashion. It may not possess any great dramatic strength, but the very lifelike quality of the story and the marked authenticity of its atmosphere cause the spectators to hang on every word uttered by the interesting group of characters.” Read more…)

Serenade (1956, musical Mario Lanza. From A.H. Weiler’s 1956 New York Times review: “Although ‘Serenade’ gave the Warner Brothers their full share of script headaches, their efforts to transpose a touchy subject to the screen appear to have paid off. The laundered version of James M. Cain’s somewhat shocking novel, published in 1937, which arrived yesterday as the Music Hall’s Easter attraction, is guaranteed not to startle the customers.Although it now is a basically simple but lengthy tale of an opera singer who is deeply hurt by one love and redeemed by another, it serves to bring Mario Lanza back to the movies.” Read more…)

That Midnight Kiss/ The Toast of New Orleans (1949/1950, musicals, Mario Lanza. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review of “That Midnight Kiss” [requires log-in]: “No one can say that Metro has done things by quarters—or even halves—in bringing forth Mario Lanza, its latest singing man. It has launched the beaming young tenor in a juicy leading role alongside of Kathryn Grayson in a lark called “That Midnight Kiss.” Furthermore, it has loaded this package with music and talent galore, a muchness of colorful production and plenty of pleasant romance. The consequence is a launching of which any opera veteran might be proud.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Power and The Glory (1961, made for TV Graham Greene adaptation, Laurence Olivier. From Jack Gould’s 1961 New York Times review: “Last night’s production of ‘The Power and the Glory,’ starring Sir Laurence Olivier, was an absorbing paradox such as might occur only in television: At one and the same time it was both a proverbial milestone and a major disappointment… Yet as a two-hour entity designed for showing both on home TV and later in motion picture theatres, ‘The Power and The Glory’ was a great expectation that remained largely unfilled. It was extremely elaborate and methodically deliberate. But in its pursuit of epic dimensions, the presentation somehow mislaid the tiny and elusive kernel of inspiration and humanness that would have touched and moved the individual viewer to share in the priest’s agonizing torment and final redeeming sacrifice.” Read more…)

Rad (1986, sports/young adult, Lori Loughlin. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 24. From Walter Goodman’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The bicycle acrobatics behind the credits at the opening of ”Rad” are so spectacular that you wonder what the movie can do to improve on them. The short answer is, nothing. It’s all uphill once the tale gets under way of the hometown rider of a BMX, a type of two-wheeler designed to fly and bounce as well as roll, who beats the arrogant and corrupt outsiders in the big race.” Read more…)

Uncle Sam (1997, horror, Robert Forster. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%.)

New releases 9/28/21

Top Hits
The Forever Purge (horror, Ana de la Reguera. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 53. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “‘The Forever Purge’ tries for political relevance by introducing immigrant protagonists, but it easily excuses racism from the other leads. (After all, Dylan doesn’t seem so bad compared with the bands of white supremacists stalking the film.) Words like ‘colonialism’ and ‘the American dream’ are thrown around, to little avail.” Read more…)

Boys From County Hell (horror/comedy, Jack Rowan. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 56. From Erik Piepenburg’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Chris Baugh, this is as much a slap-happy creature feature as it is a touching dramedy about friendship and family bonds. Much of the credit goes to the actor Jack Rowan, who’s all pluck and charm as the young man who defends his blue-collar hamlet against an ancient evil.” Read more…)

The Power (horror, Rose Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “In 1970s Britain, as the government and trade unions were warring, blackouts were regularly ordered to conserve power. During one of these pitch-black nights, a timid young woman named Val [Rose Williams] finds herself working the dark shift on her first day of duty as a trainee nurse at a run-down London hospital. The writer and director Corinna Faith doesn’t wait for the lights to dim to unleash the uneasiness in ‘The Power.’ The creaky, eerie atmosphere is felt even in daylight as Val starts to hear children’s indecipherable whispers.” Read more…)

Domino: Battle of the Bones (comedy, Lou Beatty, Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “In the comedy ‘Domino: Battle of the Bones,’ the sports heroes of Compton, Calif., aren’t Lakers, Clippers, Sparks, Kings or Angels. Here, the stars of the neighborhood are bones players — a game better known as dominoes. Their championship comes with a plastic trophy and a $10,000 grand prize. The movie has a tall task to make dominoes seem action-packed, and it overcompensates by stacking its hand with over-the-top theatrics.” Read more…)

42nd Street: The Musical ( musical comedy, Bonnie Langford)

New Blu-Ray
The Sparks Brothers Blu-Ray (music, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Sparks, the musical entity invented and fronted by Ron and Russell Mael, is sometimes rock, sometimes pop, sometimes art song, always idiosyncratic. They’re a cult band with an ever-renewing cult and a career that spans 50 years. ‘The Sparks Brothers,’ an energetic documentary directed by Edgar Wright, explains their appeal in part by emphasizing how it cannot be explained.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Gaia (South Africa, horror, Monique Rockman. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 64. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “Mother Nature might be predator, prey or another supernatural being altogether in ‘Gaia,’ infiltrating her targets with unfurling shoots and roots and sudden fungal outcrops, until she’s eventually growing from within them. Or so it seems in first-time feature director Jaco Bouwer’s cool, taciturn ecological horror, which isn’t in any kind of hurry to show us exactly what dark forces are at play in the woods that encircle a tensely matched trio of human characters. We do, however, see their effects, manifested as the film’s own. In an elegant fusion of digital and prosthetic artistry, patches of moss burst through skin like a nasty rash; human flesh is aggressively and involuntarily camouflaged by flora.” Read more…)

Throw Down (China, 2004, drama, Aaron Kwok. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Bursting with gangsters, gambling and human weakness in general, ‘Throwdown’ is so strange and idiosyncratic that it’s almost surreal. The prolific director Johnnie To [‘Breaking News’] claims to be paying tribute to the legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa; but after watching the film, his assertion seems either delusional or wickedly provocative. Mr. To’s ‘Throwdown’ and Kurosawa’s first film, ‘Sugata Sanshiro’ [1943], may share a central theme — the less lethal martial art of judo — but there the similarity ends.” Read more…)

Seven Days… Seven Nights aka Moderato Cantabile (France, 1960, drama, Jeanne Moreau. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The main thing is the mood of melancholy that is developed by the director, Peter Brook. Out of a story of Marguerite Duras, who wrote ‘Hiroshima, Mon Amour,’ and a taut, cryptic, sad-eyed performance by a still healthy-looking Jeanne Moreau, he has fashioned a slowly ambulating succession of wistful images that have the emotional content of a haunting sonata or a poem.” Read more…)

Lucky Luciano (Italy/USA, Francesco Rosi-directed crime biopic, Gian Maria Volonté. From Cinescope blog’s post on the film: “But this is the antithesis of the individualized biopic, as Rosi deliberately gives zero psychological depth to Luciano, strips him of any glamour or romantic allure, and makes sure our thoughts never wander into considering how it might feel being in his shoes. Luciano is just a cog in the system, and whether it’s him, Giuliano, Al Capone or any other ambitious power-hungry mob boss, makes no difference to the big picture.” Read more…)

Illustrious Corpses (Italy, 1976, Francesco Rosi-directed mystery/suspense, Lino Ventura. From Vincent Canby’s 1976 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Until one realizes that one has been manipulated to rather predictable ends, ‘Illustrious Corpses’ is a dazzling example of fashionably radical Italian film making—elegantly composed, breathlessly paced, photographed in the beautiful, drained colors of a landscape in mourning for the sun. It’s all so beautiful, in fact, that when you see a long shot of a Sicilian piazza in which everything, including the sky, is the same matching beige, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a high-fashion model, dressed to the scarlet nines, posing amid beige urchins.” Read more…)

A Full Day’s Work aka Une Journée Bien Remplie (France, mystery/suspense/comedy, 1973, Jacques Dufilho)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
A Stolen Life (1946, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review: “The understandable ambition that every actress must feel to play dual roles in a movie, thus multiplying her presence by two, has been ratified by Bette Davis on her own histrionic behalf in her first self-produced Warner picture, “A Stolen Life,” which came to the Hollywood yesterday. But a friend of Miss Davis who has generally found her thoroughly sufficient in single roles must observe that she has proved no advantage by playing her dramatic vis-à-vis.” Read more…)

Winter Meeting (1948, drama, Bette Davis. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review: “Of all the frustrating experiences that Bette Davis has had in films—and, heaven knows, she has had aplenty; indeed, she has had little else—the one she now has in “Winter Meeting,” which came to the Warner yesterday, is clearly the most bewildering, not only for her but for us. For in this rather chilling encounter, Miss Davis discovers to her dismay that she’s in love with a mopish young fellow who really wants to become a priest.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Love & Basketball (sports/romance, 2000, Criterion Collection, Sanaa Lathan. From Elvis Mitchell’s 2000 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s in the small touches that this movie comes alive, and it’s rare that directors can pull off this kind of thing. Generally they overemphasize the hackneyed plot and leave no room for fresh, airy touches that reflect a writer’s soul and a director’s understanding of actors. Ms. Prince-Bythewood is just the opposite, and ‘Love and Basketball’ is the first step, however unsteady, of an intriguing new talent.” Read more…)

New releases 9/21/21

Top Hits
Censor (horror/suspense, Niamh Algar. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Gloomy in tone and gray in palette, ‘Censor’ returns often to a drab screening room where Enid [Niamh Algar], a conscientious British film censor, scrutinizes a stream of gory exploitation movies. It’s the 1980s, and the violence driving the unregulated home-video market has incited a moral panic that’s filling the tabloids and politicians’ outraged speeches.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
I Carry You With Me (Mexico, gay & lesbian romance, Armando Espitia. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Turning time and memory into an elliptical portrait of what it means when borders become barriers, ‘I Carry You With Me,’ the first narrative feature from the documentary filmmaker Heidi Ewing, trades distance for empathy. Dramatizing Iván’s story, and his longtime relationship with his partner, Gerardo Zabaleta (both men are friends of the director), Ewing and her co-writer, Alan Page, paint a journey — and a love story — defined by compromise.” Read more…)

Atlantis (Ukraine, sci-fi, Andriy Rymaruk. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Conventional cinematic dystopian futures almost always compensate for their bleakness with nifty gadgets or, at the very least, incredibly fast and dangerous cars chasing one another. Not ‘Atlantis,’ Ukraine’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. Written, directed and shot by Valentyn Vasyanovych, the movie is an especially economical, even ruthless exercise in what could be called ‘slow cinema,’ with no shiny widgets in sight.” Read more…)

Never Gonna Snow Again (Poland, comedy, Alec Utgoff. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 69. From Guy Lodge’s Variety review: “In ‘Never Gonna Snow Again,’ a searching, cryptic satire of bourgeois insularity in modern Poland, the magic hands of an immigrant Ukrainian masseur are tasked with easing a litany of woes, from middle-class guilt to climate change anxiety to terminal cancer — though no one thinks to ask him about his own interior aches and pains. After last year’s moody but mildly received English-language diversion ‘The Other Lamb,’ prolific Polish auteur Malgorzata Szumowska returns to home turf in this Venice competition entry, and the result is her most compelling and hauntingly realized film to date.” Read more…)

New Television
Mare of Easttown (HBO crime series, Kate Winslet. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “‘Mare of Easttown,’ which was created and written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, is in the tradition of Middle American miserabilism, a genre HBO has cultivated before in ‘I Know This Much Is True’ and other series. They’re shows that aren’t about much of anything besides their characters’ despair and the painstakingly rendered small-town or suburban milieus that inevitably cause it. In ‘Mare of Easttown,’ which takes the form of a crime drama, the fruits of middle-class American life include addiction, adultery, beatings, abduction, rape and murder, and that’s just in the five episodes available to critics.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The One and Only Dick Gregory (bio, civil rights, race, stand-up comedy, activism, Dick Gregory. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. From Jason Zinoman’s New York Times review: “‘The One and Only Dick Gregory,’ an aptly titled new documentary, does justice to this fabled performance, setting the scene and the stakes. But what stands out most about this revolutionary moment in comedy is what a small role it plays in the overall portrait here. Gregory, who died in 2017, lived so many lives that he presents a challenge for anyone trying to document them.” Read more…)

The Human Factor (Mideast peace, diplomacy, human psychology. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Human Factor’ presents a cogent and involving view of the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, mainly from 1991 until the end of Bill Clinton’s first term, told through the recollections of United States negotiators charged with brokering a peace. It shows how much any international agreement relies on a rare alignment of concrete compromises and personal trust — what the former Middle East envoy Dennis B. Ross here calls the ‘human factor.’” Read more…)

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)