New releases 1/7/20

Top Hits
Joker (comic book drama, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 59. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To be worth arguing about, a movie must first of all be interesting: it must have, if not a coherent point of view, at least a worked-out, thought-provoking set of themes, some kind of imaginative contact with the world as we know it. ‘Joker,’ an empty, foggy exercise in second-hand style and second-rate philosophizing, has none of that.” Read more…)

Mine 9 (thriller, Terry Serpico. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 66. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “There’s some effective filmmaking in the central section of this picture written and directed by Eddie Mensore. These scenes depict the collapse of a section of a West Virginia coal mine, trapping nine men inside. Flooding and gas buildup combine with very cramped quarters as the men await rescue, unsure if anyone on the ground miles above them even knows they’re alive. The goings-on are grim, grueling and, eventually, grisly. Mensore shoots them with a sharp eye for maintaining coherent spatial relations, which enhances the suspense.” Read more…)

Girl on the Third Floor (horror, Phil “CM Punk” Brooks. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 65. From Simon Abrams’ RogerEbert.com review: “The impressive haunted house flick ‘Girl on the Third Floor’ is just as much a machine to produce seductive imagery as it is an effective deconstruction of those blatant symbols. Set in an abandoned home and mostly following a solitary character—ex-lawyer and expectant father Don [Phillip Jack Brooks, A.K.A. former pro-wrestler C.M. Punk]—this blackly comic horror movie is equally concerned with the repressed pleasures and anxieties that are embedded in fetish objects: faded tattoos, silk lingerie, and congealed blood.” Read more…)

The Lighthouse (drama/horror, Willem Dafoe. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 83. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Much as he did in his shivery feature debut, ‘The Witch,’ about an isolated family of fundamentalists coming unglued in early 17th-century America, [director Robert] Eggers makes the secluded world in ‘The Lighthouse’ at once recognizable and eerily unfamiliar, a combination that draws you in but makes you feel unsettled. [He shares script credit with Max Eggers, his brother.] The image of the lighthouse evokes visions of high seas and storms as well as the promise of safe passage and harbor. But here, that romantic idea soon sours.” Read more…)

Chained for Life (drama, Jess Weixler. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘Chained for Life’ aims to complicate ideas about what constitutes beauty and sincerity onscreen. It even hints at a loose parallel between plastic surgery, which can be seen as helping people look the way they feel inside, and filmmaking; both are mechanisms for creating illusions, but also have the potential for revealing hidden truths.” Read more…)

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (comedy, Kate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 51. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The human dark cloud churning violently over ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ doesn’t much fit in anywhere, including in this comedy of crisis. That’s more or less intentional, but it presents a challenge for the director Richard Linklater, whose easygoing filmmaking style and vibe can feel out of sync with the gathering storm.’ Read more…)

The Goldfinch (drama, Ansel Elgort. Rotten Tomatoes: 24%. Metacritic: 40. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In many ways, ‘The Goldfinch’ approximates what we normally think of as a movie. There are actors — some good ones, too, well known and less so. Nicole Kidman. Sarah Paulson. Jeffrey Wright. Denis O’Hare. Willa Fitzgerald. Ryan Foust. There is music. There is furniture. There are themes and feelings, like loss and grief and the love of beauty and the pleasures of taking drugs, smoking cigarettes and looking attractive. All at once and in succession. But like those dodgy antiques — ‘changelings,’ as their maker supposedly calls them — this film is inauthentic without being completely fake.” Read more…)

Wolf Children (Japanese animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 71.)

New Blu-Ray
Wolf Children

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Holiday (1938, romantic comedy, Criterion Collection, Cary Grant & Katharine Hepburn. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New TV
Big Little Lies: Season 2 (crime/drama HBO series, Nicole Kidman. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 82.)

New Documentaries
Rothko: Pictures Must Be Miraculous (art history, bio, Mark Rothko)

New releases 12/24/19

Top Hits
Judy (bio-pic about Judy Garland, Renee Zellweger. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “In ‘Judy,’ Renée Zellweger plays a few variations on Garland near the end of her life: worried mother, needy lover, disaster, legend. The woman who remains out of sight, though, is the sadder, scarier Judy who threw a butcher knife at one of her children and threatened to jump out a window in front of another. Even so, Zellweger is solid in a movie that derives its force from its central mythic figure and your own Yellow Brick Road memories: the Hollywood supernova with the inner-child vaudevillian named Frances Ethel Gumm, a.k.a. Baby.” Read more…)

Ready or Not (horror, Samara Weaving. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 64. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In horror movies, it’s hard to go wrong if you’re carving up rich people. Unless you’re screening in a white-collar prison, the audience is likely to be immediately on board — especially if the blade is wielded by a disadvantaged Joe or Jane. That’s certainly the case with Grace (a fantastic Samara Weaving) in ‘Ready or Not,’ a blood-drenched, joke-sprinkled harpooning of soul-sucking greed and inbred family values.” Read more…)

Adopt a Highway (drama, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 53. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “‘Adopt a Highway’ doesn’t struggle to say something profound, nor does it generate lots of drama. Instead, like a spare short story, this little indie nurtures a few simple emotions, then hopes its audience will stick around to share in them. I’m glad I did.” Read more…)

Adam (comedy, Nicholas Alexander. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 64. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “But as thoughtful as ‘Adam’ is in presenting a fluid read of gender, the movie’s sweetness curdles as its trans characters [and by extension, the trans actors who portray them] are called on to welcome Adam into a community that he willfully manipulates.” Read more…)

The Weekend (romantic comedy, Sasheer Zamata. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%.)

New Blu-Ray
Judy

New releases 12/10/19

Top Hits
Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood (drama/comedy, Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “There is a lot of love in ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,’ and quite a bit to enjoy. The screen is crowded with signs of Quentin Tarantino’s well-established ardor — for the movies and television shows of the decades after World War II; for the vernacular architecture, commercial signage and famous restaurants of Los Angeles; for the female foot and the male jawline; for vintage clothes and cars and cigarettes. But the mood in this, his ninth feature, is for the most part affectionate rather than obsessive.” Read more…)

It: Chapter Two (horror, James McAvoy. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “That connection between the banal and the cosmic — the two-way metaphorical street that makes Derry a kind of World Heritage Site for terror — is central to the imagination of Stephen King, whose book is the source of both chapters of ‘It’ [and the earlier made-for-television version]. The director, Andy Muschietti, and the screenwriter, Gary Dauberman, have taken some narrative liberties, but they remain true to some of King’s major ideas: about how innocence can be corrupted and preserved by knowledge; about the hidden pathways between the unconscious and the natural world; about the ethical power of friendship. King’s brief on-screen appearance [playing the curmudgeonly proprietor of an antique store] can be taken as a seal of approval.” Read more…)

Hustlers (drama, Jennifer Lopez. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 79. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Hustlers,’ a semisweet, half-flat cocktail of exposed flesh, fuzzy feminism and high-spirited criminality, overflows with of-the-moment pop-cultural signifiers — Cardi B makes an appearance, and Lizzo does, too — but it also strikes a note of nostalgia for the recent past. Specifically the movie, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria [‘The Meddler,’ ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’], looks back fondly at 2007. Back then, before the financial crisis interrupted the fun, Wall Street guys were making a lot of money, a decent amount of which found its way into the hands and under the G-strings of New York strippers.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
It: Chapter Two
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

New Foreign DVDs
Until the End of the World (Germany, 1991, Wim Wenders-directed drama/fantasy, William Hurt. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Vincent Canby’s 1991 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “When it comes to making movies, Wim Wenders is not your average wild and crazy guy. Antic fun for its own sake is not something for which he is known. The German-born director’s more recent films [‘Wings of Desire,’ ‘Paris, Texas,’ ‘Hammett’] have been schematic and dour, with hard surfaces encasing centers as soft as chocolate-covered cherries. For much of its nearly three-hour running time, ‘Until the End of the World’ is something else, a daffy, eccentric road movie that pursues its own inscrutable lighthearted logic through 15 cities in 8 countries on 4 continents.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
All About Eve (1950, drama, Criterion Collection, Bette Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 98. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The good old legitimate theatre, the temple of Thespis and Art, which has dished out a lot of high derision of Hollywood in its time, had better be able to take it as well as dish it out, because the worm has finally turned with a venom and Hollywood is dishing it back. In ‘All About Eve,’ a withering satire—witty, mature and worldly-wise — which Twentieth Century-Fox and Joseph Mankiewicz delivered to the Roxy yesterday, the movies are letting Broadway have it with claws out and no holds barred.” Read more…)

Now, Voyager (1942, drama/romance, Criterion Collection, Bette Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. From T.S.’s 1942 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Although it carries a professional bedside manner, ‘Now, Voyager,’ Bette Davis’s latest tribulation at the Hollywood, contains not a little quackery. For two hours of heartache and repeated renunciation, Miss Davis lays bare the morbidities of a repressed ugly duckling who finally finds herself as a complete woman. From the original novel, Casey Robinson has created a deliberate and workmanlike script which more than once reaches into troubled emotions. Director Irving Rapper has screened it with frequent effectiveness. But ‘Now, Voyager,’ either because of the Hays office or its own spurious logic, endlessly complicates an essentially simple theme.” Read more…)

New British
Doc Martin: Series 9 (dramedy series, Martin Clunes. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%.)
Line of Duty: Series 1 (thriller/police procedural, Lennie James. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New TV
The Loudest Voice (mini-series about conservative media mogul Roger Ailes, Russell Crowe. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 61.)

New Documentaries
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (music, bio, Linda Ronstadt. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 77 A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “[Singer Linda] Ronstadt was an unavoidable presence — not only on the airwaves but also on television talk shows and magazine covers. [Those things were also a much bigger deal back then, but I’ll stop with the Gen-X Grandpa Simpson routine.] She didn’t write her own songs, but she owned the ones she performed with rare authority. In ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,’ a new documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, someone uses the word “auteur” to describe Ronstadt’s relationship to her material, and it doesn’t seem exaggerated.” Read more…)

New releases 12/3/19

Top Hits
A Bread Factory Parts 1 & 2 (comedy/drama, Tyne Daly. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Bilge Ebiri’s Times review: “[Director Patrick] Wang is a singular artist, but he taps into a rich tradition. The focus on the workings of an American institution may remind some of the expansive comedies of Robert Altman or the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman. But also, the blurring of the line between performance and reality, the embrace of an intimate theatricality, recalls the work of Jacques Rivette. These are cinematic giants, and this director may be on his way to joining them.” Read more…)

Don’t Let Go (thriller, David Oyelowo. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 49. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “You could get whiplash trying to follow the jumping timeline in ‘Don’t Let Go.’ A likable, derivative genre mash-up that mixes a police procedural with a supernatural thriller and a splash of family melodrama, the movie tracks a Los Angeles detective [David Oyelowo] who jumps on the case after receiving a call from his murdered niece. Is she dead or has he slid off the deep end? That’s one question in this tricky mystery, in which the past isn’t past and the present is sometimes a muddle.” Read more…)

East Side Sushi (drama, Diana Elizabeth Torres. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 70. From Justin Chang’s Variety review: “Given the recent rise in popularity of the mutant-sized sushi burrito and other dubious but satisfying fusion-cuisine hybrids, the time feels improbably right for ‘East Side Sushi’ a gently winning foodie fable about a Mexican-American chef who dreams of working behind the bar at a Japanese restaurant. Writer-director Anthony Lucero’s delectable debut feature has its share of on-the-nose writing and Cinderella-story contrivances, but for the most part folds its cross-cultural insights into a pleasing underdog narrative as deftly as its heroine presses together rice and nori.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Ground Beneath My Feet (Germany, drama, Valerie Pachner. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “There are some things worse than hacking one’s way through a gig economy, particularly if you’re a woman. Take the case of Lola Wegenstein, who’s trying to find stability in multinational corporate hell. Beautifully played by Valerie Pachner in this searing film written and directed by Marie Kreutzer, Lola is attractive, intelligent, and health conscious — the opening scene shows her on a morning run. She’s also a walking ball of anxiety in her professional role at a high-powered consulting firm that trims the fat from troubled companies.” Read more…)

Joan the Maid (France, 1994, historical epic, Sandrine Bonnaire. From Lawrence Van Gelder’s 1996 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Jacques Rivette, a founding father of the French New Wave, has turned his attention to one of the most fecund literary and cinematic properties of this millennium in his film ‘Jeanne la Pucelle’ [translated as ‘Joan the Maiden’]. His retelling of the familiar story of Joan of Arc is at once a straightforward chronicle, an act of patriotism, scholarship and reverence and the tale of a prototypical feminist whose adoption of male attire and a taste for combat in the 15th century outraged a hostile clergy as much as her attestations of familiarity with heavenly voices and SS. Michael, Catherine and Margaret did.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Story of Temple Drake (1934, pre-code drama based on Faulkner novel, Criterion Collection, Miriam Hopkins. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1933 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “At the Paramount is a free translation of William Faulkner’s book, ‘Sanctuary,’ which in film form bears the title of ‘The Story of Temple Drake.’ Considering the changes that were to be expected in bringing this novel to the screen, the producers have wrought a highly intelligent production. It is grim and sordid, but at the same time a picture which is enormously helped by its definite dramatic value. There are times when exaggerations occur, but, after allowing for them, it is a narrative which like ‘Today We Live,’ the first of Mr. Faulkner’s literary efforts to be filmed, can boast of no little originality.” Read more…)

Glorifying the American Girl (1929, b&W/Technicolor musical, Mary Eaton)

New TV
Game of Thrones: Season 8 (HBO fantasy series, Peter Dinklage. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 74.)
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (comedy/drama mini-series, Lauren Graham)

New Documentaries
George: The Story of George Maciunas and Fluxus (art history, bio, George Maciunas.From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “It’s appropriate that ‘George,’ a documentary about George Maciunas [1931-1978], the Lithuanian-born artist who devised the manifesto for the movement known as Fluxus, should be, like that group itself, playful, prankish and a little hard to pin down. A running joke in the film imagines an interviewer asking Mr. Maciunas what ‘flux’ is, and never quite managing to get a definition.” Read more…)

Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins (journalism, politics, bio, Molly Ivins. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 74. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Some crusading journalists write with a scalpel, others with a scythe. Molly Ivins, who famously called President George W. Bush ‘Shrub,’ used both. She was funny and mean, clever and sincere; most of all she was political to the bone or at least that’s how she reads on the page and came across in talks. [She died in 2007.] Samples of each are scattered like acid-dipped chocolate nuggets throughout the hagiographic documentary ‘Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins.’” Read more…)

Super Size Me 2 (nutrition, health, Morgan Spurlock. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 61. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The movie is at its most engaging when examining the near-monopolies controlling chicken farmers in the United States. Its portrait of one, Jonathan Buttram, who was blackballed for helping [director Morgan] Spurlock investigate, is both poignant and infuriating. The final bad guy is, once again, predatory capitalism, adding some nasty zing to the you-are-what-you-eat implications of Spurlock’s restaurant project, which, the ending teases, may have an actual future.” Read more…)

New releases 11/26/19

Top Hits
Official Secrets (Iraq War thriller, Keira Knightley. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It takes real directing talent to make offices look exciting, what with all those computer screens and carceral cubicles. In ‘The Post,’ the 2017 nail-biter about The Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, Steven Spielberg turned offices into war zones, and Xeroxing into a heart-thumping race to save democracy. The whistle-blower in ‘Official Secrets’ has only one memo to print out, a modest if mighty task that here looks like, well, a woman anxiously using an office printer in bad lighting. One of those ripped-from-the-headlines jobs, ‘Official Secrets’ revisits how a British intelligence officer, Katharine Gun [Keira Knightley], tried to stop a war.” Read more…)

Angel Has Fallen (action, Gerard Butler. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 45. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “You might think that by now, Mike Banning [Gerard Butler] has risked enough to be beyond suspicion. In ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ the indomitable Secret Service agent took down an army of terrorists holding the president hostage in the White House. In ‘London Has Fallen,’ he escorted the commander in chief through the British capital during an attack that killed several world leaders. But you’re only as good as your last rescue, and the one that jump-starts ‘Angel Has Fallen’ — lethal drones target the president [Morgan Freeman] during a fishing excursion, slaughtering his security detail except for Mike — raises eyebrows. The F.B.I. thinks Mike masterminded the assassination attempt.” Read more…)

Papi Chulo (cross-cultural buddy comedy, Matt Bomer. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 45. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The writer-director John Butler emphasizes the exploitative dynamics underlying Sean’s assumption of friendship with Ernesto. Sean projects romantic fantasies onto their interactions, while Ernesto asks his wife for guidance with the ‘gringo’ who pays for his company. Strangers make references to ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ which calls attention to Ernesto’s role serving the white, wealthy Sean. This self-awareness has limitations.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Genèse aka Genesis (France, romance, Théodore Pellerin. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “To call your movie ‘Genèse’ [‘Genesis’], as the rising French Canadian director Philippe Lesage has, takes a healthy ego. So does abruptly abandoning your main narrative line nearly two hours in, sans explanation, to revisit a character from another movie you made that few people saw. [It’s called ‘Les Démons,’ and Film at Lincoln Center is helpfully showing it alongside ‘Genèse’ through Aug. 29.] But “Genèse” is unusual enough that those gambits seem bold rather than foolhardy.” Read more…)

New British
The Chaperone (Jazz Age drama, Elizabeth McGovern. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 48. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Yet despite a thoroughly modern central character, this impeccably costumed, wishy-washy period piece feels like it emerged from a PBS storage trunk, wrapped in tissue paper and reeking of mothballs. [Elizabeth] McGovern is a lovely actor, but she’s too gentle and self-effacing to convince as a Prohibition-supporting scold or provide an effective foil for a teenage tearaway. Most of the time she’s simply repurposing her performance as the mild-mannered Lady Cora in ‘Downton Abbey.’” Read more…)

New TV
Elementary: Season 7 (final season, mystery series, Jonny Lee Miller)

New Documentaries
Chasing Portraits (art history, Holocaust history. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 56. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “Elizabeth Rynecki, here directing her first feature, grew up surrounded by paintings made by her great-grandfather Moshe Rynecki, who died in 1943 in a concentration camp. He produced about 800 pieces in his life, many of them scenes from his Jewish community in Poland. His works were scattered during the war; dozens are now in museums, others are in private collections. Ms. Rynecki has endeavored for years to catalog the art works, and this film follows her to Canada, Poland and Israel as she tracks down several of them and speaks with, or is rebuffed by, their current owners.” Read more…)

New releases 11/19/19

Top Hits
Blinded By the Light (comedy/drama, Viveik Kalra. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Directed by Gurinder Chadha, best known for the effortlessly charming ‘Bend It Like Beckham,’ ‘Blinded by the Light’ is simultaneously overdetermined and unfocused, and shows a lot more strain. One of the movie’s screenwriters, Sarfraz Manzoor, is the author of the true story on which the movie is based, the 2007 memoir ‘Greetings From Bury Park.’ But here, liberties beyond the normal ones were taken with the factual narrative.” Read more…)

Dora and the Lost City of Gold (adventure/family, Isabella Moner. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%. Metacritic: 63. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Bilge Ebiri’s Times review: “If you think it’s odd that Nickelodeon’s animated naturalist tyke Dora the Explorer is a teenager in the new live-action adaptation of her exploits, don’t worry, the film does, too. The most charming moments of ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ come in its first half, as the 16-year-old title character [Isabela Moner], forced to live with relatives while her parents are off on a dangerous new adventure, tries to adapt to life in the suburbs and at high school.” Read more…)

3 From Hell (Rob Zombie action, Sheri Moon Zombie. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 50. From Scout Tafoya’s review at RogerEbert.com: “It’s the first Rob Zombie movie that feels as subversive in its logistics as in its violence since “House of 1,000 Corpses.” The world doesn’t seem to want Zombie to make his art, at least not with his full range of resources, but there’s no keeping him down. Every hobbling he receives from the world of film financing and distribution he makes into a kind of slick strength.” Read more…)

Indian Horse (drama, Sladen Peltier. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%.)

New Blu-Ray
Dora and the Lost City of Gold
3 From Hell

New Foreign DVDs
Cold War (Poland, romance, Tomasz Kot. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 90. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “‘Cold War’ is one of those love-among-the-ruins romances that turn suffering into high style. Like its two sexy leads — who fall for each other and keep on falling — the movie has been built for maximum seduction. It has just enough politics to give it heft, striking black-and-white images and an in-the-mood-for-love ambiguity that suggests great mysteries are in store for those who watch and wait. You won’t wait long. The movie runs just 89 minutes, during which swaths of the 20th century flutter by like a flipbook.” Read more…)

The Brute (Mexico, 1953, Luis Bunuel-directed melodrama, Pendro Armendariz. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Vincent Canby’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Some years after making ‘El Bruto,’ Bunuel was quoted as saying that it might have been ‘all right’ but that the producers had insisted on changes ‘from top to bottom.’ He added, ‘Now it’s just another film with nothing extraordinary in it.’ Bunuel scholars, however, will appreciate the amount of subtly subversive material that the master has been able to slip into a conventional melodrama about the exploitation of the poor by the venal, mendacious members of the bourgeoisie.” Read more…)

A Faithful Man (France, bedroom farce, Louis Garrel. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “It takes confidence and a healthy amount of narcissism to direct yourself in a farce about two women who engage in competitive psychological gamesmanship for the pleasure of your company. That is true even if you are not the script’s sole author [and the other is the veteran screenwriter and longtime Luis Buñuel collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière]. But in ‘A Faithful Man,’ the director-star, Louis Garrel, plays with the premise’s surface egotism in funny, understated ways.” Read more…)

Betty Blue (France, 1986, romance/drama, Beatrice Dalle. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 56. From Janet Maslin’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “THE title character in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s ‘Betty Blue’ is a lissome, free-spirited young beauty, and she is the very soul of inspiration to her boyfriend, Zorg [when we first see them, Betty and Zorg are making love under a poster of the ‘Mona Lisa’]. Betty likes to egg Zorg on with his artistic efforts, and to rail against the forces that keep him in submission. Whenever possible, and that’s very often, she likes to do these things in the raw. Whenever possible, Zorg likes to second Betty’s actions by grabbing her and demonstrating his appreciation.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Awful Truth (1937, screwball comedy, Criterion Collection, Irene Dunne & Cary Grant. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1937 New York Times review: “The Awful Truth” is awfully unimportant, but it is also one of the more laughable screen comedies of 1937, a fairly good vintage year. Its comedy is almost purely physical- like that of the old Avery Hopwood stage farces- with only here and there a lone gag to interrupt the pure poetry of motion, yet its unapologetic return to the fundamentals of comedy seems, we repeat, original and daring.” Read more…)

New TV
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 3 (dystopian feminist drama inspired by Margaret Atwood novel, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 67.)

Catch-22 (mini-series based on Joseph Heller satire, Christopher Abbott. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 70. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “The peculiar achievement of the writers, Luke Davies and David Michôd, and of George Clooney — who directed two of six episodes, is an executive producer and stars as the parade-obsessed officer Scheisskopf — is to take a daring, brilliantly observed synthesis of farce and outrage and turn it into a conventional, mostly laugh-free war story whose dominant notes are nostalgia, sentimentality and a resigned chagrin. Adapting a classic treatment of the irrationality of the military mind, they work assiduously to ensure that everything makes sense.” Read more…)

The Kominsky Method: Season 1 (comedy, Michael Douglas. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 68. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “‘The Kominsky Method’ [eight episodes arrive Friday] isn’t a disaster; it has a certain warm-bath appeal, if you don’t mind a thick foam of prostate jokes. But it is adrift in a bland netherworld between [creator Chuck] Lorre’s precision-tooled, laugh-a-minute network comedies and the quieter aesthetic of the alt-sitcom, lacking the strengths of either.” Read more…)

Deadline: The Complete Series (1959-61 journalism drama, Peter Falk)

New Documentaries
Cold Case Hammarskjold (foreign affairs, bio, Dag Hammarskjold, history. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 76. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Almost nothing seems clear-cut by the end of ‘Cold Case Hammarskjold,’ a controversial new documentary from the Danish journalist Mads Brugger, except maybe this much: On Sept. 18, 1961, a plane carrying Dag Hammarskjold, then the secretary general of the United Nations, crashed near Ndola, in what was at that time Northern Rhodesia and is now Zambia.” Read more…)

For Sama (Syria war, human rights. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “The gripping documentary, ‘For Sama,’ spares a moment for levity when Waad al-Kateab films her husband, Hamza al-Kateab, as he tells a joke common in their home city of Aleppo, Syria: If you want to be safe from the government’s attacks, head to the front lines. Hospitals, like the one Hamza runs, are no guarantee of sanctuary — in fact, places that promise respite are the most frequent targets of the government’s bombs.” Read more…)

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (capitalism, crime, tech industry, Elizabeth Holmes. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 69. From Justin Chang’s Los Angeles Times review: “‘The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,’ [director Alex] Gibney’s latest exercise in coolly measured outrage, is an engrossing companion piece to his other works in this vein. The subject of this HBO documentary is Elizabeth Holmes, the self-styled biotech visionary who dropped out of Stanford at age 19 and founded a company called Theranos, which promised to bring about a revolution in preventive medicine and personal healthcare” Read more…)

Horn From the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story (music, blues, bio, Paul Butterfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 70. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “As one of the interview subjects in ‘Horn From the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story’ puts it, just three notes from Butterfield’s harp were enough to establish a groove, or vastly improve an existing one. John Anderson, who directs this documentary, does a brisk job of explaining the milieu in which Butterfield learned his craft. As a youngster in Chicago he took classical flute lessons but was drawn to the city’s blues clubs. Butterfield answered the question, ‘Can a white man play the blues?’ not just with his own excellence but with his dedication to racial equality as a bandleader.” Read more…)

New releases 11/12/19

Top Hits
The Peanut Butter Falcon (adventure/drama, Zack Gottsagen. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 70. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Actor Zack] Gottsagen, who is in his early 30s, has Down syndrome himself and the filmmakers crafted ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ specifically for him. Zak takes frequent pratfalls and is often seen in various un-self-conscious states of undress, but the movie never makes him a figure of fun. Neither, by the same token, does it try to wrench sentimental tears out of his condition. They make his character a little guy with a big heart, and big dreams — you’ve heard of such figures, I suppose — and let him have his hero’s journey. Which is, yes, predictable. But I suspect almost nobody who sees ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ will mind much. Along with the cinematographer, Nigel Bluck, and the editors, Kevin Tent and Nathaniel Fuller, the directors achieve a relaxed and amiable vibe while moving the story forward with dispatch through picturesque Southern Atlantic land and seascapes.“ Read more…)

The Angry Birds Movie 2 (animated feature, Jason Sudeikis [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 60. From Bilge Ebiri’s New York Times review: “In most cases, a sequel would either expand upon or regurgitate the previous setup, so one might expect yet another foray — this time led by the first film’s hero Red [Jason Sudeikis] and his former nemesis, the pig chieftain Leonard [Bill Hader] — into the new island. And that is exactly what happens. But as soon as the group arrives on Eagle Island, “Angry Birds 2” mostly tosses story, character and sense aside, and opts for a go-for-broke style of humor. The hoops our heroes jump through become increasingly surreal and hilarious.” Read more…)

Good Boys (coming-of-age raunchy comedy, Jacob Tremblay. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The kids are all right in ‘Good Boys.’ The adults are something else. If you’re familiar with the crude comedy of misadventure and sentimental education — every generation has its self-defining favorite — you have pretty much seen this movie. The big difference (cue the elevator pitch) is that this time the boys are boys, specifically 12-year-olds whose innocence about sex, drugs, women, themselves, is grist for a feature-length joke. Sometimes the joke is funny and sometimes not, a familiar hit-and-miss ratio for the production team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who have established a comedy brand that’s equal parts raunchiness and sentimentality” Read more…)

Brian Banks (sports/drama, Aldis Hodge. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Yet if ‘Brian Banks’ — given the gobsmacking turn the case eventually takes — packs less of a dramatic punch than it should, it’s no fault of its lead. Hodge [now facing off against Kevin Bacon in the gritty Showtime series ‘City on a Hill’] might make an unconvincing 16-year-old, but this quiet powerhouse is thoroughly credible as a decent man who has navigated a difficult journey from fury to acceptance.” Read more…)

The Farewell (drama, Awkwafina. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 89. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘The Farewell,’ Lulu Wang’s second feature, conjures a premise so rich with potential comedy, heartbreak and family weirdness that it can only have come from real life. Which it did, via an episode of ‘This American Life’ that first aired in 2016. The film version, which announces itself as ‘based on an actual lie,’ has a loose, anecdotal structure and a tone that balances candor and tact. Much of the charm and power of this story — about events leading up to a wedding that’s also a fake funeral of sorts — come from the palpable sense that it genuinely happened to someone.” Read more…)

After the Wedding (drama, Michelle Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 50. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A supreme example of classed-up mediocrity, ‘After the Wedding,’ a pointless remake of Susanne Bier’s 2007 melodrama of the same name, offers little that’s new and a lot that’s predictable, even to first-time viewers. What has changed in the intervening years is us: The economic and political environment into which this new version drops might cause us to view its plot through more cynical eyes.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
As the Gods Will

New Foreign DVDs
Tel Aviv on Fire (Israel, comedy/drama, Kais Nashif. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Can anyone make a sweet and silly comedy out of a subject as grim and intractable as the Israeli-Palestinian situation? For Sameh Zoabi, the director of ‘Tel Aviv on Fire’ [who wrote the script with Dan Kleinman], the answer to the question is another question. What else is there?” Read more…)

As the Gods Will (Japan, horror/sci-fi, Sôta Fukushi. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Fourth Wise Man (1985, TV movie, religious, Martin Sheen. From John J. O’Connor’s 1985 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “[Executive Producer Father Ellwood] Kieser has generally proved adept at attracting first-rate talent to Paulist projects, and ‘The Fourth Wise Man’ indicates his powers of persuasion are stronger than ever. Martin Sheen is a fiercely determined and yet saintly Artaban. Alan Arkin plays Orontes the slave with the irritability of a born complainer. And the other major roles are filled quite capably by Eileen Brennan, Ralph Bellamy, Harold Gould, Lance Kerwin and Richard Libertini. Clever special effects and the direction of Michael Ray Rhodes keep ‘The Fourth Wise Man’ close to the lean, no-frills simplicity of the original story. On the whole, it plays very nicely.” Read more…)

New British
Good Omens (comedy/fantasy mini-series, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 66. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times television review: “But what makes the diverting and mostly pleasurable ‘Good Omens’ especially timely is something that hasn’t much changed: Armageddon seems as real a possibility now as it did three decades ago. The story’s hopeful universalism and ecological consciousness, which played well against the backdrop of the late Cold War and the ozone hole, feel just as necessary. A line like ‘your polar ice caps are below regulation size for a planet of this category’ can go right from book to screenplay, and it has.” Read more…)

Poldark: Season 5 (drama/history series, Aidan Turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%.)

New TV
Rick & Morty: Seasons 1 & 2 (animation/adventure/comedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 85.)

New releases 11/5/19

Top Hits
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (action, Dwayne Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 60. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “The people who made ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ know that Dwayne Johnson [Luke Hobbs] and Jason Statham [Deckard Shaw] have an easy adversarial chemistry. They build the movie around their put-downs and pranks. Statham stays focused on how Johnson’s size makes him seem kind of dumb and unsubtle. And Johnson picks on what an indecipherably British hobbit Statham is. At some point, Hobbs gets a load of Shaw’s stable of sports cars and asks if he’s, uh, overcompensating.” Read more…)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (horror, Zoe Colletti. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 61. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “If Alvin Schwartz’s popular ‘Scary Stories’ children’s books condensed folklore into an accessible anthology form, ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,’ an agreeable bit of fan service, performs a similar gateway function for movies. Whether it’s the scene-setting blast of Donovan [‘Zodiac’], the low-height Steadicam work [‘The Shining’], the red-suffused hallways [David Lynch] or ‘Night of the Living Dead’ playing at a drive-in, the movie takes from the best.” Read more…)

Riot Girls (sci-fi/action, Madison Iseman. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 59. From Katie Walsh’ Los Angeles Times review: “Director Jovanka Vuckovic tackles her feature directorial debut with the ’80s-inspired, comic book-styled, teen punk apocalypse bop ‘Riot Girls,’ written by Katherine Collins. Vuckovic made a splash with ‘The Box,’ her segment of the female-directed anthology horror film ‘XX,’ but ‘Riot Girls’ is a different kind of genre flick. Taking its cues from teen classics like ‘Night of the Comet’ and ‘Karate Kid,’ ‘Riot Girls’ is a splashy, bloody take on ‘Lord of the Flies’ with a rock ’n’ roll spirit.” Read more…)

The Art of Racing in the Rain (family/dog, Milo Ventimiglia. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 43. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “At first glance, the feeble tear-jerker ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ seems to be a movie made for dog lovers. It is told from the perspective of a dog, a beautiful if inexpressive golden retriever named Enzo. But in a twist that undermines the simple-minded sweetness that makes dogs [and dog movies] so appealing, Enzo is not like other pups. He thinks like a person — pondering subjects like death and reincarnation — and he also dreams of being human.” Read more…)

The Kitchen (crime, Melissa McCarthy. Rotten Tomatoes: 22%. Metacritic: 35. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review (spoiler alert: she’s not a fan!): “An offense against feminism, narrative logic and Fleetwood Mac, ‘The Kitchen’ is a terrible, witless mess. Set in New York in the late 1970s, it spins a pandering story about three wallflower wives — played by Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss — who transform into crime bosses after their gangster husbands are sent up the river. The laughable setup becomes progressively worse the more the movie tries to spin their metamorphosis as female empowerment, a road to liberation that’s blithely paved with wads of cash, hollow laughs and corpses.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

New Foreign DVDs
Susana (1951, Mexico, Luis Buñuel, melodrama, Rosia Quintana. From Vincent Canby’s New York Times 1983 review [requires log-in]: “Luis Buñuel’s ‘Susana,’ which opens at the Public Theater today, is a most engaging potboiler made by the master in Mexico in 1951. Though Bunuel never for a minute attempts to disguise the film’s intentions to entertain a large, undiscriminating Latin American audience, ‘Susana’ is full of the sort of Bunuelian touches that forever separate all of Bunuel’s films, the potboilers as well as the classics, from those of everyone else.” Read more…)

Spiral: Season 6 (France, cop thriller, Jean-Luc Estebe)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Naked Alibi (1954, film noir, Gloria Grahame. From Bosley Crowther’s 1954 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The tough, hard lot of the policeman is again exemplified in a muscular but unimpressive fashion in ‘Naked Alibi,’ a Universal melodrama which came yesterday to the Paramount. In this one, a chief of detectives is ‘busted’ out of his job because he insists that a seemingly innocent citizen is responsible for the murder of three cops. Whereupon our discredited detective starts ‘tailing’ the citizen on his own, and, sure enough, in a place like Tia Juana, he discovers that his suspicions are justified.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Daytrippers (1996, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Stanley Tucci. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Janet Maslin’s 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Eliza D’Amico [Hope Davis] lives on Long Island and thinks she is happily married to Louis [Stanley Tucci], who works in Manhattan. Then she finds a letter that was apparently written to her husband. It quotes Andrew Marvell and is signed ‘Love forever, Sandy.’ Even more surprising than where this situation leads ‘The Daytrippers’ is the way Eliza decides to tackle it: with her whole family. The Malones turn out to be the secret weapon of Greg Mottola’s spirited, expertly acted first feature, which is set right after Thanksgiving and is most definitely not about a man secretly planning to show his wife a merry Christmas.” Read more…)

New British
The Man Between (1953, British film noir directed by Carol Reed, James Mason. From Bosley Crowther’s 1953 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The grim and malevolent climate of rubble-strewn, postwar Berlin, a set-up for sinister intrigues by the cleavage of its east and west zones, surrounds and suffuses the action in Carol Reed’s ‘The Man Between,’ the latest thriller from Britain’s top chill-maker, which came to the Victoria yesterday.Subterfuge and suspicion, secrecy and chicane, and a few things a little more noxious and odorous than these, gather and swirl like dangerous vapors about the handsome and uneasy heads of James Mason, Claire Bloom, Hildegarde Neff and several other hand-picked actors in the cast. “ Read more…)

Seven Days to Noon (1950, Cold War thriller, Barry Jones. From Bosley Crowther’s 1950 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “An intensely absorbing contemplation—that of the crisis which would occur in the crowded city of London if a scientist with an atom bomb got loose and threatened to blow up the city unless atom bombs were outlawed—is pursued with superb pictorial clarity and ever-tightening dramatic suspense in a spanking new British melodrama, ‘Seven Days to Noon.’ This terminally overwhelming picture, which John and Roy Boulting produced, opened yesterday at the Trans-Lux Theatre on Lexington Avenue at Fifty-second Street. Let it be written on the record that a more exciting climax for a film than the one arrived at in this picture would be hard to invent today.” Read more…)

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947, crime/drama, Googie Withers. From Philip French’s 2012 Guardian review [on the release of a restored print]: “Ealing Studios’ name is synonymous with comedy largely because of three films released on consecutive weeks in 1949: ‘Passport to Pimlico,’ ‘Whisky Galore!’ and ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets.’ Before then it was associated with the form of realism created by the documentarists Alberto Cavalcanti and Harry Watt, brought in by Michael Balcon early in the second world war to give his studio a greater authenticity. The finest movie in this mode is ‘It Always Rains on Sunday,’ made in 1947 in grimy, Blitz-scarred east London and being revived in a new print as an example of the darker side of Ealing in the BFI Southbank’s Ealing retrospective. Superbly photographed by the great Douglas Slocombe in the Picture Post manner, a style radically different from the elegant Kind Hearts and Coronets, it’s 24 hours in the life of Bethnal Green, cleverly dovetailing the lives of some 20 characters.” Read more…)

Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: Season 1 (Australia, mystery, Geraldine Hakewill)

New Documentaries
Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (music history, jazz. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “This documentary directed by Sophie Huber makes a point right off that Blue Note Records, the influential jazz label, is still very much a thing of the present. The opening scene shows a convocation of young musicians, including the pianist Robert Glasper and the trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, assembling in a studio. Don Was, the musician and producer who now oversees the label, talks up a ‘Blue Note All-Stars’ session.” Read more…)

Netizens (Internet culture, bullying, online harassment. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%.)

New releases 10/29/19

Top Hits
Luce (drama, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The film proceeds dialectically, with each scene adding a wrinkle to the characters’ motives. To say that it unfolds like a play is both accurate and undersells how gorgeously it has been rendered for the screen. ‘Luce’ had its origins onstage at Lincoln Center, and the screenplay was written by the playwright, J C Lee, and the director, Julius Onah. But Onah [‘The Cloverfield Paradox’], shooting on 35 millimeter, has thought through the staging in cinematic terms, lighting a school library and suburban kitchens as cold, ominous spaces.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Jirga (Australia, drama, Sam Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The real Kabul and Kandahar are almost never seen in contemporary movies, particularly those produced in the West. So the sense of going somewhere you’ve never been is palpable from almost the very beginning of ‘Jirga,’ a fictional film shot almost entirely in and around these cities in Afghanistan. Directed by Benjamin Gilmour and starring Sam Smith — an actor who gives such a distinctive performance that it’s a shame that he has such a common name — the movie is the story of a traumatized Australian soldier returning to the scene of his war crime to attempt amends.” Read more…)

La Marseillaise (France, Jean Renoir-directed historical drama, Pierre Renoir. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Matewan (1987, John Sayles-directed labor drama, Chris Cooper. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Vincent Canby’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taking as his source material an especially bitter and bloody confrontation between West Virginia coal miners and the company that owned their souls in 1920, John Sayles has made a film with the sweetness and simplicity of an Appalachian ballad. ‘Matewan,’ opening today at Cinema 1, is so direct in its sympathies and so unsophisticated in its methods that it seems to be an intrusion on our awareness of everything that’s happened to complicate the American labor movement between then and now.” Read more…)

Nightmare In Badham County (1976, horror/thriller, Deborah Raffin)

New British
A Discovery of Witches (mystery/supernatural, Teresa Palmer. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 66. From Mike Hale’s New York Times television review: “‘A Discovery of Witches,’ which was made for Sky in Britain…, is an action fantasy in the multi-monster category of ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood,’ with a focus on Harlequin-style, time-jumping romance that may make it of interest to the ‘Outlander’ audience. It should meet the requirements of those who like their high-class cheese fests wrapped in European accents and antique locations. Based on the novels in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, the series imagines a triumvirate of nonhuman species — vampires, witches and demons — among whom peace is maintained by a centuries-old power-sharing arrangement.” Read more…)

New TV
Billions: Season 4 (Showtime drama, Paul Giamatti. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87.)

New Documentaries
Mike Wallace Is Here (bio, journalism, history, Mike Wallace. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “In TV terms, the biographical film ‘Mike Wallace Is Here’ is effectively a feature-length recap. Using only archival footage, the director Avi Belkin distills more than five decades of the longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent’s career on camera to an hour and a half. Presenting Wallace with relatively little mediation is a natural way to tell this story, even as it creates a limitation. Documentary as autobiography, the movie shows a man who is always cultivating his appearance for an audience.” Read more…)

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (bio, music, Leonard Cohen. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Documentarian Nick Broomfield’s] new picture, ‘Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love,’ is about the enduring love between the Canadian singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman he met on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s. It’s a story that is at once simple and threaded with startling complexities. Its emotional entanglements and narrative twists can seem the stuff of fiction. They shed sometimes discomfiting light on the expansions and excesses of the 1960s and ’70s counterculture that its main players helped to define.” Read more…)

New releases 10/22/19

Top Hits
The Lion King (live action/CGI remake of Disney animated feature, Donald Glover [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “But it’s likely that much of the audience, young and old, will have some familiarity with the narrative, whether from the 1994 animated feature or from the long-running, much-loved Broadway show. “The Lion King” currently under review isn’t meant to replace or outdo either of those, but rather to multiply revenue streams and use a beloved property to show off some new tricks. A lot of people will go, expecting to like what they see, and for the most part they won’t be disappointed.” Read more…)

The Art of Self-Defense (comedy, Jesse Eisenber. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Casey, a skinny, nervous nebbish — played, it may be redundant to add, by Jesse Eisenberg — lives alone with his dachshund in a nondescript apartment in an unidentified city. He works in the accounting department of a company that is as generic as everything else in ‘The Art of Self-Defense,’ a wobbly sort-of satire written and directed by Riley Stearns.” Read more…)

The Dead Center (supernatural thriller, Shane Carruth. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 63. From Katie Walsh’s Los Angeles Times review: “Soon after a curiously catatonic patient mysteriously appears in a chaotic emergency psych ward, bodies start dropping. While overly empathetic Dr. Daniel Forrester [Shane Carruth] tries to get answers out of this man [Jeremy Childs], across town a taciturn coroner [Bill Feehely] searches for the body of a suicide victim that has gone missing. Where these two narratives meet lies the supernatural psychological mystery of Billy Senese’s ‘The Dead Center.’” Read more…)

Angel of Mine (suspense, Noomi Rapace. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 47. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Though wearily predictable and consistently doleful, this intense study of maternal distress and incipient madness [a remake of the 2008 French drama ‘Mark of an Angel’], while remaining tightly focused on Lizzie’s mental anguish, is also attentive to its effect on those around her. Rapace’s jangly, one-note performance is rendered bearable by Yvonne Strahovski’s warmly natural turn as Lola’s increasingly furious mother, and Rob Collins is quietly sympathetic as Lizzie’s bemused and unfortunate one-night stand.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Lion King
Brightburn

New Foreign DVDs
Gebo and the Shadow (Portugal, drama, Michael Lonsdale. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 71. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Manoel] Oliveira, born in 1908, has an effortless feel for, and an inexhaustible interest in, the manners and customs of an older Europe. Even his films set in the present day evoke a world shadowed by long history and animated by ancient codes of behavior and feeling. ‘Gebo and the Shadow,’ which seems to take place in the 19th century, belongs both to that time and now.” Read more…)

The Chambermaid (Mexico, drama, Gabriela Cartol. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Chambermaid,’ Lila Avilés’s quietly stunning debut feature, is a work of closely observed workplace realism, but at times it achieves the strangeness and intensity of science fiction. The camera never leaves the high-rise Mexico City hotel where the title character is employed, and in spite of spectacular views from the picture windows, the building can feel as claustrophobic and isolated as a space station drifting in a distant galaxy. A civilization unto itself, with a rigorous hierarchy and unspoken taboos, the hotel hums with mystery and menace. Even when nothing much is happening, there is the lurking sense that anything might.” Read more…)

The Other Story (Israel, drama, Maayan Blum. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Other Story,’ an unwieldy but reasonably compelling Israeli drama from the director Avi Nesher, recalls the old Jewish joke about how two disputing parties can’t both be right. [Or can they?] Given the complexity of the tensions the movie deals with — between religious Jews and secular Israelis, and between secular Israelis and other religions — perhaps its thematic murkiness is a feature, not a bug.” Read more…)

Honeyland (Macedonia, documentary/drama, Hatidze Muratova. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This isn’t to attribute the filmmakers’ remarkable achievement to luck. They draw comedy and pathos out of the conflict. They render the thick complexity of experience with poignant clarity. Their movie is quiet, intimate and intense, but touched with a breath of epic grandeur. It’s a poem including history.” Read more…)

Sprinter (Jamaica, drama, Dale Elliott. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. From Kimber Myers’ Los Angeles Times review: “Executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, ‘Sprinter’ tells a standard sports story with all the genre elements we’ve seen before. However, its unique perspective on the Jamaican experience sets it apart from other inspirational athlete films. Written and directed by Storm Saulter, this drama still follows those tropes, but in a different setting.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Merry Andrew (1957, musical comedy, Danny Kaye. From Bosley Crowther’s 1958 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Merry Andrew’ is what the doctor ordered to help shake the winter blues.It isn’t the most original or inventive vehicle in which the invariable cheering [Danny] Kaye has come bouncing down the road. It is, in fact, a rather obvious and narrowly confined piece of comical contrivance for the genial performer to command. In it, he plays a schoolmaster—an English schoolmaster, by the way, which is going a litle wide, isn’t it, for the nice kid from Brooklyn he once played?—who goes on an archaeological outing in search of an ancient statue of Pan and gets mixed up with a small traveling circus and, of course, the inevitable girl. Put Mr. Kaye in a circus and you just about have a show.” Read more…)

Tamango (1958, adventure, Dorothy Dandridge)
Frank Capra’s Wonders of Life (classroom science docs from the 1950s):
Hemo the Magnificent/Unchained Goddess
Our Mr. Sun/Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Bless Their Little Hearts (1984, drama/African-American cinema, Nate Hardman. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Vincent Canby’s 1984 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Bless Their Little Hearts,’ which opens today at the Film Forum, is a small, self-assured, independent American film that, though severely even-tempered, never disguises its own anger or that of its characters, the members of an economically cornered black family who live in the Watts section of Los Angeles… ‘Bless Their Little Hearts’ is so understated that at times it seems diffident, as if it were too shy to display its fury in more robust terms. This, however, is the style of the film that Mr. Woodberry, Mr. Burnett and their splendid cast, headed by Mr. Hardman and Miss Moore, have chosen to make, and it works beautifully.” Read more…)

Phobia (1980, John Huston-directed thriller, Paul Michael Glaser)

New British
Shetland: Season 5 (mystery, Douglas Henshall)
Press: Season 1 (journalism/drama, Charlotte Riley)

New TV
Veronica Mars (remake): Season 1 (mystery, Kristen Bell. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 78.)

New Documentaries
David Crosby: Remember My Name (bio, music, David Crosby. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 80. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Not that the highs and lows are always easy to distinguish. Even by the standards of the time, Crosby’s drug use was prodigious. A chronicle of tawdriness and glamour, ‘Remember My Name’ follows the rock ’n’ roll-biopic template so closely that if it weren’t a documentary you might complain about the same-oldness of the story.” Read more…)

Viewer Discretion Advised (TV, pop culture)
The Mask You Live In (boys, contemporary masculinity, sociology. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%.)

New Music DVDs
David Crosby: Remember My Name (bio, music, David Crosby)