New releases 4/12/22

Top Hits
Spider-Man: No Way Home (superhero action, Tom Holland. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “But [Tom] Holland is also the most persuasive of the other moist-eyed boy-men [Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield] who’ve played Spidey. His love interest is now MJ, played by Zendaya, who was paired with another of this year’s adolescent saviors in ‘Dune.’ Her casting as MJ and her expanded role in the series continue to pay off, and Zendaya’s charisma and gift for selling emotions [and silly dialogue] helps give the new movie a soft, steady glow that centers it like a heartbeat as the story takes off in different directions.” Read more…)

Creation Stories (music bio-pic, Ewen Bremner. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 53. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “This bouncy, time-hopping biopic recounts [Alan] McGee’s journey to rock legend — not as a performer but as a manager and the owner of a label that championed trailblazing artists like My Bloody Valentine. ‘I didn’t have any talent,’ an older but not yet wiser McGee, played by Ewen Bremner, admits. The story of how McGee managed to conjure up the phenomenally successful label Creation — and, with its supernova band Oasis, shape the British pop zeitgeist — while conducting himself in a manner highly contrary to that embraced by highly effective businesspeople is hardly without interest.” Read more…)

C’mon C’mon (drama, Joaquin Phoenix. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82, Must See. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “[Director Mike] Mills manages the preliminaries seamlessly, creating an instant sense of cohesion and flow: You believe and recognize these people and places. Although he always lavishes conspicuous attention on the visual scheme of his movies — everything is very precise, very arranged — his gift is for the seductive sense of intimacy among characters, which quickly turns actors into people you care about.” Read more…)

Family Squares (drama/comedy, Billy Magnusson. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 54. From Concepción de León’s New York Times review: “That a dying loved one evaded the virus may be little consolation to the grief-stricken, but it’s precisely this plot point that allows Stephanie Laing, the writer and director, to poke gentle fun at our shared pandemic predicament. Her film is a lighthearted and touching look at the feuds, resentments and secrets that can surface when someone dies.” Read more…)

Slow Machine (mystery/drama, Stephanie Hayes. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s Times review: “Difficult to describe and confounding to follow, the film is best when you submit to the surreal nature of it; then, you will be open to witnessing one of this year’s most mesmerizing movies unfold. Films of such lo-fi aesthetics rarely feel this major.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray & Ultra HD 4K
Amazing Grace Blu-Ray
Sing 2 Blu-Ray
Spider-Man: No Way Home Blu & 4K

New Foreign DVDs
Fabian: Going To the Dogs (Germany, drama/history, Tom Schilling. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 68. From Jay Weissberg’s Variety review: “Set in a teetering world of dissoluteness and disillusion in which a good man without professional ambition awakens to life’s promise only to have it all torn away, the story has modern resonances that [director Dominik] Graf [‘The Beloved Sisters’ among many others] keenly underlines, and while the film’s core is affectingly developed, the rest tries too hard to expose the empty rapaciousness of exhausted decadence.” Read more…)

Servants (Slovak Republic, political drama, Samuel Skyva. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Natalia Winkelman’s Times reviews: “The captivating ecclesiastical drama ‘Servants,’ set in 1980s Czechoslovakia, follows teenage matriculates at a Christian seminary who awaken to a grim reality. Their Dean (Vladimir Strnisko) is a member of Pacem in Terris, a group of clergy quietly granting control of the church to the Communist state. Considering this a moral corruption, several of the students initiate a discreet rebellion.” Read more…)

Margrete: Queen of the North (Denmark, drama/history, Trine Dyrholm. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 68. From Peter Sobczynski’s review: “‘Margrete: Queen of the North’ is a historical epic from Denmark that contains almost everything that one might want from such a thing—palace intrigue, familial conflict, sex, violence, jealousy, betrayal and so on. What it doesn’t really have is much of anything in the way of a point or purpose. Although it’s undeniably well-made, it lacks the kind of energy that might have helped make it truly come alive, and seem like more than a historical reenactment.” Read more…)

New TV
Chucky: Season 1 (horror, Brad Dourif)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Still of the Night (1982, mystery/thriller, Meryl Streep. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 43. From Vincent Canby’s 1982 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Robert Benton’s ‘Still of the Night,’ the writer-director’s first film since his Oscar-winning ‘Kramer vs. Kramer,’ is something else entirely, a velvety-smooth looking romantic mystery melodrama that has far less to do with life than with other movies. It’s clever but chilly in the way of something with a mechanical heart.” Read more…)

New releases 4/5/22

Top Hits
Parallel Mothers (drama, Penélope Cruz. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘World-building’ usually refers to how the makers of science fiction and fantasy construct their domains, populating them with imaginary creatures and allegorical meanings. But among living filmmakers, the most prodigious world builder might be Pedro Almodóvar. Plenty of directors have a style. Almodóvar conjures a cosmos — a domain of bright colors, piercing music [often by Alberto Iglesias] and swirling melodrama. If you’ve visited in the past, you will be eager to return… ‘Parallel Mothers,’ Almodóvar’s new feature, adds an element that he had previously avoided: the legacy of the Spanish Civil War and the nearly 40 years of dictatorship that followed.” Read more…)

Jockey (drama, Clifton Collins Jr. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Sentimental yet also trickier and more complex than its gleaming surfaces suggest, ‘Jockey’ is a portrait of a man facing his mortality or at least professional redundancy. Worn out and visibly ragged, Jackson doesn’t look like a man with a wide-open future.” Read more…)

Miss Juneteenth (drama, Nicole Beharie. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 73. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Lovia Gyarkye’s Times review: “The movie tackles multitudinous themes in its roughly 100 minutes, from the significance of Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, to the legacy of racism in predatory bank lending practices. But what’s most impressive is the amount of space [director Channing Godfrey] Peoples’s black female characters inhabit in the narrative.” Read more…)

Death on the Nile (mystery, Kenneth Branagh. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 52. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The trickiest part of a murder mystery isn’t solving the crime. It’s keeping the intrigue and fun alive until then. ‘Death on the Nile,’ Kenneth Branagh’s second adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot stories, forgets the simple pleasures of ensemble excess and pure messing about.” Read more…)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (comedy, Paul Rudd. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife,’ which is as cuddly and toothless as you would expect from a relaunched studio property in which the main characters are children and Paul Rudd plays a love interest. They’re all predictably adorable and have big, easy-to-read eyes, the better to widen in feigned surprise or mock fear when various ghosts come a-calling. For their part, the cartoonish apparitions range from the cutesy to the PG-13 snarly and include a roly-poly metal muncher, a pair of slathering hellhounds and some puffy, gurgling creatures whose wide-open arms and demonically cheerful smiles have been engineered for toy shelves and maximum nostalgia.” Read more…)

Scream (horror, Neve Campbell. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 60. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Throttled by a corrosive self-awareness, the latest ‘Scream’ is a slasher movie with resting smug face, so enamored of its own mythology that its characters speak of little else. This self-referential chatter, disguised as commentary on the franchise-within-the-franchise, ‘Stab,’ means that there’s scarcely a line of dialogue that doesn’t land with a wink and a nudge.” Read more…)

The Man In the Hat (drama, Ciarán Hinds. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Nell Minow’s review: “Whimsy is as delicate as a butterfly wing. But ‘The Man in the Hat’ sustains a whimsical tone beautifully throughout its brief running time, perhaps because co-writers/directors John-Paul Davidson and Stephen Warbeck add a touch of melancholy to keep it from becoming too cloying or cutesy.” Read more…)

No Future (drama, Catherine Keener. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 65. From Calum Marsh’s New York Times review: “Grief, as many filmmakers learn the hard way, is incredibly difficult to portray onscreen. That exhaustive, full-body sorrow, what Saul Bellow called ‘the rock depth of heavy trouble,’ simply doesn’t come across in shots of mournful faces or sad-looking actors staring vacantly into the middle distance. ‘No Future’ encounters this problem early and often. This grim, ponderous drama, about how the family and friends of an addict cope with his death by overdose, adopts a relentlessly solemn tone befitting its subject.” Read more…)

Sing 2 (animated feature, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 49. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review: “There was a karaoke charm to the first ‘Sing,’ a cartoon about a parade of amateurs — Ash the porcupine [Scarlett Johansson], Rosita the sow [Reese Witherspoon], Meena the elephant [Tori Kelly] and Johnny the gorilla [Taron Egerton] — who put on a show to save their small town’s bankrupt theater. No more. ‘Sing 2,’ a grasping sequel by the returning director, Garth Jennings, opens with the troupe attempting to impress a talent scout with the kind of ramshackle ditty that won over fans in the original.” Read more…)

Marry Me (rom-com, Jennifer Lopez. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 50. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “Rarely are romantic comedies titled more desperately than ‘Marry Me.’ There is something pleasing about the bluntness. And because it’s a command that involves Jennifer Lopez, we’re permitted to skate atop the movie’s despair. But the ice is thin.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray & Ultra HD 4K
Parallel Mothers
Ghostbusters: Afterlife

New Foreign DVDs
Sin (Russia/Italy, drama, Alberto Testone. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 65. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Sin’ is the second feature from the Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky to reach virtual cinemas in recent months, and it is not nearly as strong or vital as ‘Dear Comrades!’ [still available to rent]. An austere, demanding sit, ‘Sin’ — a Russian-Italian co-production with Italian dialogue — nevertheless has a stubborn integrity in exploring the competing forces of patronage and creative inspiration that Michelangelo confronted in the 16th century.” Read more…)

New British
Madame Blanc Mysteries: Season 1 (British mystery series, Sally Lindsay)

New TV
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 4 (feminist sci-fi dystopia, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 62. From Carina Chocano’s New York Times review: “In Atwood’s novel, the protagonist’s story is discovered years later, and serves mainly as a record, evidence of what can happen to a democracy. But this alone is not enough to power a multiseason television show, which needs transformation, needs its conflict to progress. Now, after four years watching June spin in a cycle of torment and false hope, escape and recapture, all that urgency has given way to exhaustion. How much more juice can a show squeeze from this push and pull?” Read more…)

Grey’s Anatomy: Seasons 9 & 10 (medical drama, Sandra Oh. Rotten Tomatoes: 91% [Season 9], 100% [Season 10].)

The Office: Season 8 (US version, comedy, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Damned (Visconti-directed melodrama/moral drama, 1969, Criterion Collection, Dirk Bogarde. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From Vincent Canby’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Luchino Visconti’s ‘The Damned’ may be the chef d’oeuvre of the great Italian director [‘La Terra Trema,’ ‘Rocco and His Brothers,’ ‘Sandra’]—a spectacle of such greedy passion, such uncompromising sensation and such obscene shock that it makes you realize how small and safe and ordinary most movies are. Experiencing it is like taking a whiff of ammonia—it’s not conventionally pleasant, but it makes you see the outlines of everything around you with just a little more clarity.” Read more…)

New releases 3/29/22

New Blu-Ray & Ultra HD 4K
Ham on Rye (comedy/indie, Haley Bodell. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “With his first feature, the director and co-writer Tyler Taormina delivers something at first familiar and then increasingly — but never ostentatiously — strange. ‘Ham on Rye’ can be taken as an allegory for middle-class suburban life in America, but it’s got added value as a potent mood piece, accomplished with a bare minimum of means.” Read more…)

The Apartment 4K (1960, Billy Wilder drama/comedy, Jack Lemmon. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 94, Must See. From Bosley Crowther’s 1960 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “You might not think a movie about a fellow who lends his rooms to the married executives of his office as a place for their secret love affairs would make a particularly funny or morally presentable show, especially when the young fellow uses the means to get advanced in his job. But under the clever supervision of Billy Wilder, who helped to write the script, then produced and directed ‘The Apartment,’ which opened at the Astor and the Plaza yesterday, the idea is run into a gleeful, tender and even sentimental film. And it is kept on the side of taste and humor by the grand performance of Jack Lemmon in the principal role.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Brighton 4th (Georgia, drama/comedy, Levan Tediashvili. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 77. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Georgia’s cinematic exports have bloomed recently with innovative and challenging films such as ‘What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?,’ ‘Beginning’ and ‘Taming the Garden.’ Levan Koguashvili’s ‘Brighton 4th’ offers a more straightforward style of storytelling as it sends an aging ex-wrestler from the capital city of Tbilisi to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to help his wayward son.” Read more…)

The Sommerdahl Murders: Series 1 & 2 (Denmark, crime procedural series, Peter Mygind)
Family Business: Series 1 & 2 (France, dramedy series, Catherine Marchal)

New Documentaries
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (race, American history, civil rights, Jeffrey Robinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “It’s unlikely that any lecture documentary since ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ has had the galvanizing potential of ‘Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America’ — and if that sounds like faint praise, it isn’t meant that way. The film presents a talk that the lawyer Jeffery Robinson (a former deputy legal director at the A.C.L.U.) gave at Town Hall in New York on Juneteenth 2018. His subject is nothing less than the history of anti-Black racism in the United States.” Read more…)

New releases 3/22/22

Top Hits
Nightmare Alley (noir remake, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “You might have seen Tyrone Power navigating a similarly shadowy setup in the 1947 noir of the same title, directed by Edmund Goulding. Like the earlier movie, del Toro’s is based on a novel by William Lindsay Gresham, a desperate, pitiless book filled with exotic slang and steeped in the soured milk of human unkindness. Written by [director Guillermo] del Toro and Kim Morgan, the new adaptation hews more faithfully to the novel, partly because it’s not constrained by Hollywood self-censorship. But fealty isn’t always a productive strategy, and while the first film greatly tempers the book’s shocks, it doesn’t sentimentalize the source material, as this one does.” Read more…)

The Boy Behind the Door (horror, Lonnie Chavis. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Elisabeth Vincentelli’s New York Times review: “Bad, bad things happen to Bobby [Lonnie Chavis, Randall on ‘This Is Us’] and Kevin [Ezra Dewey] in the horror-tinged abduction thriller ‘The Boy Behind the Door.’ And, it must be said, for the most part they happen onscreen. This is not common in American releases, where violence toward kids tends to be suggested, metaphorical or cartoonishly abstract.” Read more…)

John and the Hole (drama/thriller, Charlie Shotwell. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. Metacritic: 61. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “‘When do you stop being a kid?,’ John [Charlie Shotwell], 13, asks his bemused mother [Jennifer Ehle] midway through Pascual Sisto’s ‘John and the Hole.’ The question offers a key to this modern-day fable, one that John is dangerously fixated on answering. Chilly, enigmatic and more than a little spooky, ‘John and the Hole’ patrols the porous border between child and adult with more style than depth.” Read more…)

I Was a Simple Man (drama, Steve Iwamoto. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 83. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “In Christopher Makoto Yogi’s Hawaii-set drama ‘I Was a Simple Man,’ Masao [Steve Iwamoto] is a dignified-looking old-timer who’s nearing the end of his life. As he slows down, the past keeps catching up. His memories, visions and daily struggles all run together in Yogi’s twilight story about coming to terms with death and finding love’s embrace.” Read more…)

Wolf (psychological thriller, George MacKay. Rotten Tomatoes: 45%. Metacritic: 52. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “Written and directed by Nathalie Biancheri, the movie maintains a mostly even tone. Despite dashes of uncanny humor, Biancheri directs with remove. The downside to this approach is that certain sequences tend to feel like acting exercises, and though MacKay and Depp perform with devoted bodily fervor, it’s hard to connect to their characters. Still, Biancheri’s imagery is consistently evocative, and her interest in how captivity affects dignity at times recalls the work of Yorgos Lanthimos.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray &Ultra HD 4K
Le Cercle Rouge 4K & Blu-Ray (France, 1970, thriller, Alain Delon.) Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 91, Must See. From A.O. Scott’s 2003 New York Times Critic’s Notebook on the film’s re-release in the US [may require log-in]: “‘Le Cercle Rouge,’ released in France in 1970, was the 12th of Jean-Pierre Melville’s 13 films and, at least in his native land, his biggest popular success. Until now, American audiences have known this doleful, elegant exercise in underworld existentialism mainly through its legend, its influence and the brief circulation of a drastically edited, dubbed version a few years ago. The film’s belated arrival, in uncut form, at Film Forum in Manhattan today is thus an exciting and unusual event — exciting because it provides a chance for total immersion in Melville’s stylish, moody noir world, and unusual because, even though the movie has not been seen here before, it offers a curious experience of déjà vu.” Read more…)

The Godfather Trilogy 4K UltraHD (classic Mafia/gangster/family saga by Francis Ford Coppola transferred to super-high resolution format, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh (The Godfather); 96%, Certified Fresh (The Godfather, Part II; 68% (The Godfather, Part III).)

The Stuff Blu-Ray (1985, cult horror dir. by Larry Cohen, Michael Moriarty. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. From Richard F. Shepard’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It takes a little while to see how ‘The Stuff’ is going to tackle the business of selling the public junk food that may be lethal. This horror film spoof, written and directed by Larry Cohen and opening today at Loews Astor Plaza and other theaters, plays it as comedy, such straight comedy that at moments it is in danger of becoming tendentiously unfunny. ‘The Stuff’ mostly is amusing, and at times – too few of them – hilarious. It is a Pop Art piece, what Andy Warhol’s art was to the soup can.” Read more…)

Nightmare Alley Ultra HD 4K & Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
Alain Resnais: Five Short Films (France, documentaries, Alain Resnais)

New Television DVDs
Dexter: New Blood (serial killer drama series, Michael C. Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 61. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times Critic’s Notebook: “The first thing to die in ‘Dexter: New Blood’ is irony. The murder weapon is the subtitle. Oh, there’s blood, all right. That’s what Showtime’s righteous-serial-killer franchise promised from 2006 to 2013, and we get it in the very first episode of this revival, in snow-staining buckets. What we don’t get, in the four competent but redundant episodes screened for critics, is the ‘new’: any hint of a fresh creative impulse in a series that had worn itself out years before it left the air.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Enemies of the State (hackers, government secrets, conspiracy. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “The remarkable thing about ‘Enemies of the State,’ a documentary directed by Sonia Kennebeck and executive produced by Errol Morris, no stranger to epistemological mysteries — is that it comes close to offering decisive yes and no answers, with evidence to back them up. It becomes a documentary about re-evaluating biases, a process that may well implicate the filmmakers. As Tor Ekeland, a lawyer who represented [Matthew] DeHart, says in the movie, ‘The only way to make the facts in this case make sense is to entertain some kind of wild conspiracy theory.’” Read more…)

1991: The Year Punk Broke (music documentary, cultural history, Sonic Youth, Nirvana. From Mark Spitz’s 2011 New York Times article on the initial release of the film on DVD after years of legal hassles [may require log-in]: “Sonic Youth is the star, but the film is filled with about two dozen other up-and-coming musicians at the time, most of them smartly mumbling or squinting with suspicion. As definitive as “1991: The Year Punk Broke” is, it might have remained a footnote if one of those musicians wasn’t a pre-fame Kurt Cobain. His presence elevates the footage from documentary to both fetish item and cautionary tale.” Read more…)

New releases 3/15/22

Top Hits
West Side Story (Steven Spielberg musical remake, Ansel Elgort. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The idea of harnessing the durable tragedy of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to the newsy issues of juvenile delinquency and ethnic intolerance must have seemed, to Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim, both audacious and obvious. In the years since, ‘West Side Story’ has proved irresistible — to countless high-school musical theater programs and now to Steven Spielberg, whose film version reaffirms its indelible appeal while making it feel bold, surprising and new.” Read more…)

The Nowhere Inn (music/comedy, St. Vincent. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 60. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “Formally lively, ‘The Nowhere Inn’ is a true meta exercise in the sense that the more derivative and self-conscious its conceptual gambits seem [stick around: The reflexivity continues after the end credits], the more it proves its ostensible point: that Clark, or her constructed persona, is less intriguing than her music and how she performs it. Fittingly, the movie most comes to life when she’s shown singing.” Read more…)

Rifkin’s Festival (Woody Allen comedy, Wallace Shawn. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 44%. From Jessica Kiang’s New York Times review: “It’s a relief to report that ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ is, to the ravenous captive, like finding an unexpected stash of dessert: not substantial and not nutritious, but sweet enough to remind you in passing of the good times you once had, despite all that’s happened in the interim. It’s not hard to see why the San Sebastián Film Festival chose ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ as its opener on Friday. Not since Brian De Palma set ‘Femme Fatale’ [2002] in Cannes has there been a movie so symbiotically linked to a festival, and this time nobody gets robbed in the toilets.” Read more…)

Red Rocket (comedy/drama, Simon Rex. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In his previous movies, [director Sean] Baker has observed strivers and dreamers on the margins of respectability with an eye that could be prurient and skeptical, but also compassionate. The aspiring actresses in ‘Starlet,’ the transgender hustlers in ‘Tangerine,’ the half-feral children of ‘The Florida Project’ — all of them are exposed to danger and humiliation. The movies, though, find dignity in the most abject circumstances, and bathe their characters in sometimes surprising warmth. ‘Red Rocket,’ the nonjudgmental portrait of a narcissistic predator, is a rougher piece of work. It’s funny and abrasive, but also coy and, in the end, a bit tedious.” Read more…)

India Sweets and Spices (comedy/drama, Sophia Ali. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 57. From Lisa Kennedy’s New York Times review: “‘India Sweets and Spices’ is a gentle but firm take on the costs of keeping up with the Joneses, or the Devis in this case. Without sacrificing comedic buoyancy, Malik and her ensemble make palpable a community that is vibrant and claustrophobic. Koirala, a Bollywood star, brings a taut poise to a mother whose veneer seems adamantine until the Duttas walk in the door.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam comedy, Jonathan Pryce. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 84, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Janet Maslin’s Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Brazil’ may not be the best film of the year, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment for [director Terry] Gilliam, whose satirical and cautionary impulses work beautifully together. His film’s ambitious visual style bears this out, combining grim, overpowering architecture with clever throwaway touches. The look of the film harkens back to the 1930’s, as does the title; ‘Brazil’ is named not for the country but for the 1930’s popular song, which floats through the film as a tantalizing refrain. The gaiety of the music stands in ironic contrast to the oppressive, totalitarian society in which the story is set.” Read more…)

Jazz On a Summer’s Day (1959, jazz concert/documentary, Louis Armstrong. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1960 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “As the Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Thelonious Monk and Henry Grimes, Sonny Stitt and Sal Salvadore and a succession of combos and stars follow one another under the canopy of the Newport Festival, thumping or blasting out music that soothes or abrades the nerves, the cameras of Bert Stern and his assistants are picking up colorful views of everything from the America’s Cup races (which were sailed off Newport in 1958) to “gone” jazz fanatics guzzling beer. The photography is terrific. Mr. Stern and his lens-clicking crew have a bulging assembly of color pictures that should make any camera addict simply drool.” Read more…)

Losing Ground (1982, drama dir. by Kathleen Collins, Seret Scott. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From New York Times critic A.O. Scott’s Critic’s Notebook on “Black indie films”: “To watch Kathleen Collins’s ‘Losing Ground’ — a 1982 film making its long-awaited theatrical debut at Lincoln Center on Friday as part of ‘Tell It Like It Is,’ a sprawling survey of black independent film of New York from 1968 to 1986 — is to experience a curious blend of nostalgia and novelty. The clothes the characters wear, how they talk and what they talk about, the grainy texture of the images and the weariness of the world they capture — all of these emerge from a time capsule devoted to an era that doesn’t quite have a name. But partly because those images have remained unseen for so long, and partly because Ms. Collins, who died in 1988, was such a bold and idiosyncratic filmmaker, ‘Losing Ground’ also feels like news, like a bulletin from a vital and as-yet-unexplored dimension of reality.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Whaler Boy (Russia, drama, Vladimir Onokhov. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 70. From Jessica Kiang’s Variety review: “The clash between the bleak traditional lifestyle of the villagers, who still use hand-tossed harpoons to secure their catch, reddening the sea, and the futurist fantasy of a Detroit-based online sex work enterprise is explored in uneven yet stirring ways in Philipp Yuryev’s feature debut, ‘The Whaler Boy.’ Essentially a coming-of-age fable, the film is also an ambitious, sometimes self-consciously ironic blend of genres and influences, which perhaps convince most when they do not cohere.” Read more…)

Before the Revolution (Italy, 1964, drama, dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci, Francesco Barilli. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Eugene Archer’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The New York Film Festival is still capable of surprises. Last night, Philharmonic Hall presented ‘Before the Revolution,’ an unheralded Italian feature by an unknown writer-director named Bernardo Bertolucci. He is 23 years old, and his film is a beauty. So is its star, Adriana Asti, a large-eyed brunette making her celluloid debut, appeared onstage with the director to take a modest bow before the screening. Her unfamiliar face meant little to the audience at the time. Before the evening was over, it had become a face that discerning filmgoers are unlikely to forget.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
Dalgliesh: Season 1 (UK detective series, Bertie Carvel. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 77. From Joel Keller’s Decider assessment: “ If you like straightforward British procedurals based on classic characters, than Dalgliesh won’t disappoint. But there seems to be a lost opportunity to dive more into Dalgliesh’s interesting character, especially given who is playing the detective this time around.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Private Lives (1931, Noel Coward comedy, Norma Shearer. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1931 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Noel Coward’s stage comedy, ‘Private Lives,’ has blossomed into a motion picture which yesterday afternoon met with high favor from a Capitol audience. It has been changed in a few respects, chiefly a matter of geography, but most of the clever lines and the hectic incidents have survived the studio operation. Like the play, the film begins on the Riviera, but instead of ending in Paris the closing sequence is in an Alpine chalet. Sidney Franklin’s direction is excellent and Norma Shearer as Amanda Prynne gives an alert, sharp portrayal.” Read more…)

New releases 3/8/22

Top Hits
Belfast (Ireland, drama, Jude Hill.) Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulus’ Times review: “Romanticism reigns in ‘Belfast,’ Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic memoir of his childhood in a turbulent Northern Ireland. From the lustrous, mainly black-and-white photography to the cozy camaraderie of its working-class setting, the movie softens edges and hearts alike. The family at its center might have health issues, money worries and an outdoor toilet, but this is no Ken Loach-style deprivation: In these streets, grit and glamour stroll hand-in-hand.” Read more…)

Drunk Bus (comedy/drama, Charlie Tahan. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 65. From Monica Castillo’s review: “Ultimately, ‘Drunk Bus’ is a sweet, late bloomer coming-of-age comedy about learning to let go of toxic relationships and embracing new people in your life. Directors [John] Carlucci and [Brandon] LaGanke worked with cinematographer Luke McCoubrey to make Michael’s walled-in world between his apartment with Josh and a disgusting old campus bus seem as sorry as possible, almost as if we were trapped in his depressed perspective with him. And with [Charlie] Tahan and [Pineapple] Tangaroa’s vulnerable performances at the wheel, this comedy ends up being more than just a college wasteland. It becomes something heartfelt yet funny.” Read more…)

Coming 2 America (comedy, Eddie Murphy. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Breaking away from a lavish palace party meant to celebrate his engagement, Lavelle Junson [Jermaine Fowler], the newly minted crown prince of Zamunda, complains about the state of Hollywood filmmaking. He never says what kinds of movies he does like, but he’s vocal in his disdain for superhero spectacles and ‘sequels that nobody asked for.’ Mirembe [Nomzamo Mbatha], his royal groomer and love interest, disagrees. Zamundan cinema isn’t so great, she says, and some of those sequels aren’t so bad. Their conversation is one of several meta-jokes scattered through ‘Coming 2 America,’ a genial, mostly inoffensive, sometimes quite funny sequel to a beloved comedy from way back in the 1980s.” Read more…)

The Matrix Resurrections (sci-fi/action, Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 63. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “After she chases the White Rabbit down a very long tunnel, Alice enters a low, dim hall. There are doors up and down the passageway, but they’re all locked. As she walks through the hall, Alice wonders how she’s ever going to get out. You may find yourself asking much the same question while watching the fourth movie in ‘The Matrix’ series, as it alternately amuses and frustrates you with its fantastical world.” Read more…)

A Journal for Jordan (true-life drama, Chanté Adams. Rotten Tomatoes: 41%. Metacritic: 42. From Lisa Kennedy’s New York Times review: “Denzel Washington directs this adaptation [the screenplay is by Virgil Williams] with care, respect and a deep-seated knowledge of the Black love stories that don’t make it to the big screen nearly enough. The actors Michael B. Jordan and Chanté Adams are similarly attuned, bringing a compelling chemistry as opposites who fall for each other.” Read more…)

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (action, Henry Golding. Rotten Tomatoes: 35%. Metacritic: 43. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Any major comic book dude will tell you that while an origin story may be a necessary ‘meh’ element in a comics series, it is generally death on the big screen. So, in telling how the sword-wielding Snake Eyes becomes part of the G.I. Joe team [here referred to as ‘the Joes’], it mixes the special warrior training stuff with plot complications involving the title character’s quest for vengeance.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Flee (documentary/animation, refugees, migrant, not available on DVD. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 90, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Home — what does it mean to you?’ That’s the question that hovers over ‘Flee,’ Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s piercing animated documentary about a high school friend of his who emigrated from Afghanistan to Denmark as a teenager. For reasons that become clear in the course of the film, the friend — now a grown man with a solid relationship and a flourishing academic career — is given a pseudonym. He’s called Amin, and the animation adds a further layer of protection. But the voice that tells the story belongs to him, and the story itself is filtered through painful memories that he has kept to himself for a long time.” Read more…)

Scanners Blu-Ray (1981, sci-fi dir. by David Cronenberg, Stephen Lack. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. Metacritic: 60. From Vincent Canby’s 1981 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Scanners,’ the new Canadian horror film by David Cronenberg [‘They Came From Within,’ ‘Rabid’ and ‘The Brood’], features some uproariously revolting special effects, the kind that are so outrageous they make you laugh, and the frequent use of a by-prescription-only tranquilizer trade-named Ephemerol. Aside from those things, though, the quality of the film’s inventiveness is not always of the first order, which is too bad because Mr. Cronenberg does seem to be a director-writer of some style.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
All Creatures Great & Small: Seasons 1 & 2 (drama, Nicholas Ralph. Rotten Tomatoes: Season 1—97%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 82 [Season 1], 88 [Season 2], Must See. From Roslyn Sulcas’ New York Times article about the launch of the first season in the US; “Despite featuring mostly little-known actors [including Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot] and large animals, the new series was an immediate hit when it debuted in Britain in September. It drew over five million viewers for each of its six episodes and became Channel 5’s highest-rated show since 2016, charming a nation that after months of Covid confinement and restrictions was clearly ready for a dose of rolling hills, taciturn farmers and livestock in need of friendly ministrations.” Read more…)

Around the World in 80 Days (mini-series based on Jules Verne novel, David Tennant. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 61. From Rebecca Nicholson’s Guardian review: “There is something about this time of year that demands a good, solid adaptation of a literary classic. Right on cue, here is ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ [BBC One] for the entire family to enjoy. After the past two years, the prospect of watching adventurers gallivant all over the planet, on a whim, seems almost too cruel to contemplate. No pricey PCR tests, no threat of a country ending up on the red list at the last minute, no prospect of cancellation due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control? Those global circumnavigators didn’t know how good they had it in 1872.” Read more…)

King Charles III (drama, Tim Pigott-Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Sam Wollaston’s Guardian review: “The new home [the TV production was an adaptation of Michael Bartlett’s play] allows extra scope, for pageantry and outdoor scenes, and changes of set. Plus a close-up and personal, best-seat-in-the-house view for everyone of some fine displays of acting. The late, brilliant Tim Pigott-Smith [hell, I’m even hearing his name as a couple of bloody iambs – tim PIGott-SMITH] is mesmerising as Charles. It’s not an impression, thankfully, nor was the actor made up to look like him [that would have been tiresome], but an interpretation of character.” Read more…)

Manhunt: The Night Stalker Series 2 (mystery/procedural, Martin Clunes)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Daughters of the Dust (1991, drama dir. by Julie Dash, Cora Lee Day. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81, Must See. From Stephen Holden’s 1992 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Daughters of the Dust,’ which was made in association with the public broadcasting series “American Playhouse,” is the feature film debut of Ms. Dash, who emerges as a strikingly original film maker. For all its harsh allusions to slavery and hardship, the film is an extended, wildly lyrical meditation on the power of African cultural iconography and the spiritual resilience of the generations of women who have been its custodians.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Breaking Bread (Arab-Israeli relations, culinary culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 62. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Breaking Bread’ opens with a quote from Anthony Bourdain, who said that ‘food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.’ The premise underlying this documentary, directed by Beth Elise Hawk, is that all cultures can unite over the spectacle of mouthwatering food on camera.” Read more…)

New releases 2/22/22

Top Hits
House of Gucci (crime/drama, Lady Gaga. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. Metacritic: 59. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The kindest thing I can say about ‘House of Gucci’ — and also the cruelest — is that it should have been an Italian movie. Set mostly in Milan, it spins out a sprawling, chaotic, borderline-operatic tale of family feuding, sexual jealousy and capitalist intrigue, with plenty of drinks, cigarettes and snacks [the carpaccio comes highly recommended]. Also cars, shoes, hats, sport coats, handbags, dresses, lingerie — whatever you want! But for all that abundance, something is missing. A lot of things, really, but mostly a strong idea and a credible reason for existing.” Read more…)

American Underdog (sports drama/bio, Zachary Levi. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 53. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The biopic ‘American Underdog’ centers on the quarterback Kurt Warner, a football player from Iowa who had an unconventional rise to becoming a National Football League champion. Warner’s story is inspirational but intricate, and this wan film struggles to balance simple storytelling with the complexities of the sport.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
House of Gucci
Spider-Man 1-3

New Foreign DVDs
Days (Taiwan, drama, Lee Kang-sheng. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 87, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “Writing about the punk band Ramones, the critic Robert Christgau said their music had ‘revealed how much you can take out and still have rock and roll.’ With his new film ‘Days,’ the Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-liang reveals how much you can take out of a fictional feature and still have cinema.” Read more…)

France (France, comedy/satire, Lea Seydoux. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 57. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “But some of [director Bruno] Dumont’s zooms have a more profane, or at least a more worldly connotation. Seydoux’s character, France de Meurs, is a popular television anchor and correspondent who hosts a nightly news show that ends, as such broadcasts typically do, with a close-up. To some extent, ‘France’ — the movie and its possibly allegorical heroine alike — is structured around the tension between the banality of television and the sacredness of cinema, and around the difficulty of telling them apart.” Read more…)

Golden Voices (Israel, drama/comedy, Maria Belkin. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 70. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Among other things, the late-1980s collapse of the Soviet state brought about both the privatization of Russian industry and the government’s softening of laws forbidding Jews to emigrate from the land. ‘Golden Voices,’ a winning comedy-drama directed by the Israeli filmmaker Evgeny Ruman, himself a son of immigrants from Belarus, locates its unusual narrative at the meeting point of those two post-U.S.S.R. circumstances.” Read more…)

New British DVDs
The North Water (drama/mini-series, Colin Farrell. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 74. From Mike Hale’s New York Times review: “If [writer/director Andrew Haigh’s three previous films] have a common theme, it’s about people being tested, coming up against their limits. In his intelligent, beautifully filmed mini-series ‘The North Water’ [five episodes, beginning Thursday on AMC+], Haigh takes that idea to new extremes and once again sets out for new narrative territory. Loosely adapted from a celebrated novel of the same name by Ian McGuire, ‘The North Water’ is a 19th-century Arctic adventure, complete with creaking ice, implacable storms, mystical polar bears and seal clubbing.” Read more…)

So Well Remembered (1947, drama, John Mills. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A story which the book reviewers warned us was disappointing and dull, as originally told by James Hilton in his “So Well Remembered” two years back, has been miraculously transmuted into an affecting and fascinating tale in the motion picture of the same title, which came to the Palace yesterday. It has also been turned into a drama of inspiration and significance to those of us troubled mortals who live in this uncertain world.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Love Affair (1939, romance, Criterion Collection, Irene Dunne. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 91. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1939 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Leo McCarey, who directs so well it is almost anti-social of him not to direct more often, has created another extraordinarily fine film in ‘Love Affair,’ which the Music Hall brought in yesterday. Like other McCarey pictures, this one has the surface appearance of a comedy and the inner strength and poignance of a hauntingly sorrowful romance. It is a technique or a mood-creation developed, we suspect, out of Mr. McCarey’s past experiments, ranging from ‘Ruggles of Red Gap’ through ‘Make Way for Tomorrow’ to ‘The Awful Truth.’ The formula would be comedy plus sentiment plus X [which is Mr. McCarey himself] equal such things as ‘Love Affair.’” Read more…)

New TV
Yellowstone: Season 2 (drama/modern day western series, Kevin Costner. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%.)

New Documentaries
Attica (criminal justice, American history, racism, dir. by Stanley Nelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 88. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘Attica,’ a documentary from Stanley Nelson, is hardly the first screen attempt to deal with the Attica prison riot of 1971, when inmates took control of part of the penitentiary and, holding hostages, demanded better living conditions before authorities violently subdued them on the fifth day… But Nelson’s film, and the many former Attica prisoners interviewed for it, has the benefit of 50 years’ hindsight. By going day by day through the riot, it suggests just how differently things might have ended and how close the inmates came to winning most of what they asked for.” Read more…)

The Game Changers (sports, nutrition, veganism, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “Did you know that the ancient Roman gladiators were mainly vegetarians? It’s one of many myth-busting factoids offered in the vital, deftly assembled documentary ‘The Game Changers,’ which takes a lively look at the merits — athletic, medicinal and even sexual — of plant-based eating. Director Louie Psihoyos [an Oscar-winner for ‘The Cove’] tracks elite self-defense trainer and ex-mixed martial arts competitor James Wilks as he explores this dietary alternative, initially motivated by his need to speed the repair of a major knee injury.” Read more…)

New releases 2/15/22

Top Hits
Eternals (Marvel Universe superhero action, Gemma Chan. Rotten Tomatoes: 48%. Metacritic: 52. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Throughout ‘Eternals,’ the latest — though certainly not the last! — from Marvel Studios, you can see the director Chloé Zhao fighting to cut this industrial-strength spectacle down to human size. Her efforts are mostly evident in the sincerity of the performances, and in the heartfelt moments that punctuate the movie, creating pinpricks of warming light. But it’s a titanic struggle. And as Zhao keeps lubricating the machinery with feeling and tears, her efforts seem to mirror the battle that her likable superheroes are waging against a force seeking to thoroughly control their destinies.” Read more…)

The King’s Man (comedy/adventure, Ralph Fiennes. Rotten Tomatoes: 42. Metacritic: 44. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Any movie that lists ‘Rasputin dance choreographer’ in the credits deserves at least a look. And, to be fair, ‘The King’s Man’ — a prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s jacked-up series about elite British spies headquartered in Savile Row — has more than a gyrating monk up its impeccably tailored sleeve. Mainly, it has Ralph Fiennes to ensure that the center holds.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
Afterimage (Poland, drama dir. by Andrzej Wajda, Boguslaw Linda. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “A committed avant-garde painter who tells his students that art is about an individual way of seeing rather than about rote reproduction of a collectively agreed-upon reality, [artist and theoretician Wladyslaw] Strzeminski collides with the latest modes demanded by Stalinist rule. ‘Afterimage,’ the final film directed by the Polish master Andrzej Wajda, who died in 2016 at 90, depicts an appalling system, filled with complicit go-along-to-get-along citizens, grinding down Strzeminski, a real-life figure.” Read more…)

They Say Nothing Stays the Same (Japan, drama, Akira Emoto. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 66. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Directed by the actor Joe Odagiri, ‘They Say Nothing Stays the Same’ is a postcard-pretty film about a boatman in Meiji-era Japan. For years, Toichi [Akira Emoto] has ferried people back and forth on a river amid unspoiled beauty. A large part of the film’s appeal comes from that natural splendor and the lives Toichi glimpses while making one trip after another.” Read more…)

Gomorrah: Season 4 (Italy, crime/gangster drama series, Marco D’Amore)
Detective Montalbano: Episode 37 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Love On a Bet (1936, comedy, Gene Raymond. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1936 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Having a diverting and fresh-story angle at its disposal and with a cast and director in amiable mood, the picture becomes an engaging treatise on the plausibility of the impossible. So disarming is its attack upon logic that you are inclined not merely to overlook its lapses, but, actually, not even to notice them. Pondering over this strange phenomenon, we are forced to conclude that novelty covers a multitude of sins.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Gordon’s War/Off Limits:
Gordon’s War (1973, action, Paul Winfield. Rotten Tomatoes: 60%. From Howard Thompson’s 1973 New York Times review of “Gordon’s War” [requires log-in]: “In ‘Gordon’s War,’ four black veterans of Vietnam wage fierce personal battle, using Army tactics, against drug channelers in Harlem. What, indeed, could be more admirable? This is a worthy film, whose format and substance—a black theme dramatized, for practical, constructive purposes—remain exceeded by its goal. The picture is tough, fast, moves in a straight line with no sideline fiddling but with pungent humor and vividly jabs the crime-ridden underbelly of Harlem. The sharp direction of Ossie Davis catches the argot, the flavor and the sinister ambiance of the area.” Read more…)

Off Limits (1988, action, Willem Dafoe. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. From Janet Maslin’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The story is nothing out of the ordinary: two tough-talking, super-macho detectives are put on the trail of a serial killer, a sadomasochist who has been murdering prostitutes and is sure to do it again. But the setting raises the ante, since it is the turbulent, troubled Saigon of 1968 in which ‘Off Limits’ unfolds. Here things automatically become more dangerous and perverse; here certain unavoidable ironies are built into the situation. By rights, ‘Off Limits’ should never have been as conventional as it turns out to be.” Read more…)

New releases 2/8/22

Top Hits
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (music, race, culture, history, Nina Simone. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 96, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “Sometimes these archival-footage documentaries don’t know what they’ve got. The footage has been found, but the movie’s been lost. Too much cutting away from the good stuff, too much talking over images that can speak just fine for themselves, never knowing — in concert films — how to use a crowd. The haphazard discovery blots out all the delight. Not here. Here, the discovery becomes the delight. Nothing feels haphazard.” Read more…)

King Richard (bio-pic/sports, Will Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In modern Hollywood terms, the movie might be described as a two-for-one superhero origin story, in which Venus [Saniyya Sidney] takes command of her powers while Serena [Demi Singleton] begins to understand her own extraordinary potential, each one aided by a wise and wily mentor. But this is a fundamentally — and I would say marvelously — old-fashioned entertainment, a sports drama that is also an appealing, socially alert story of perseverance and the up-by-the-bootstraps pursuit of excellence.” Read more…)

Encanto (animated feature, Stephanie Beatriz. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Maya Phillips’ Times review: “For better or worse, Disney has always been in the business of making magic. We all know the worst: the unimpressive secondhand sorcery of formulaic plots, flavorless songs and lifeless animation. But the best — well, that’s the kind of magic that gets passed on for generations. So it’s not unlike the magic of Casita, the living house of the Madrigal family in Disney’s brilliant new animated film ‘Encanto.’” Read more…)

The Spine of Night (horror/animation, Richard E. Grant [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “While there’s a lot of content out there these days that can be described as ‘adult animation,’ we don’t see much in the tradition pioneered by 1980s stoner semi-classics like the sci-fi anthology ‘Heavy Metal’ or the racy sword-and-sorcery saga ‘Fire and Ice.’ Admittedly, it’s not as if there’s a mainstream outcry for such fare. Nevertheless, the existence of ‘The Spine of Night,’ an unabashedly bloody series of interconnected tales about otherworldly cultures and eras, is kind of heartening. The co-directors, Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King, who both wrote the picture as well, are pitching for a venerable dirtbag-nerd sensibility here.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
King Richard

New British DVDs
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: Season 2 (British comedy series, Samuel Barnett. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

The Indian Doctor: Complete Series (medical drama/comedy, Sanjeev Bhaskar)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
12 Angry Men (1997, made-for-TV drama remake, Ossie Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From Caryn James’ 1997 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The new Showtime version does reveal an uneasy truth, but it has nothing to do with justice. The film highlights the way ‘Twelve Angry Men’ has always been a theatrical stunt, an excuse to bring together a dozen top actors, lock their characters in a sweltering room and let them go at it. This all-star version, with a cast that includes Jack Lemmon, George C. Scott and Ossie Davis, is a great success as an actor’s tour de force. Even Tony Danza, who would seem to be the lightweight, more than holds his own in this heavyweight company. But the script has been updated in a sparing and half-baked way by the original author, Reginald Rose.” Read more…)

The Ipcress File (1965, espionage/action, Michael Caine. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1965 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Producer Harry Saltzman] has built up the proper atmosphere in which a daredevil-challenging mystery might conceivably occur and daring detective might acceptably take wing. His Techniscope setting of London, in which this espionage thriller takes place, is full of rich and mellow colors and highly official goings-on behind dark-paneled doors in old, gray buildings and in cozy bachelor digs and gentlemen’s clubs.” Read more…)

Buried Alive (1990, horror, Jennifer Jason Leigh)

New Documentaries
Julia (bio, food culture, history, Julia Child. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “According to this movie, if you own a garlic press, you probably have Julia Child to thank for it. The opening scenes of ‘Julia,’ a lively documentary directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, paint a dire picture of suburban American home cooking in the post-World War II era: frozen entrees and Jell-O molds and Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam — an ethos that put convenience ahead of delectability. With the double-whammy of an unlikely best-selling cookbook and a series that helped put public television on the map, Child changed all that.” Read more…)

New releases 2/1/22

New Blu-Ray & 4K Ultra HD
The Piano (4K & Blu-Ray, 1993, drama/romance dir. by Jane Campion, Criterion Collection, Holly Hunter. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89, Must See. From Vincent Canby’s 1993 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Piano’ is much like its remarkable heroine, Ada [Holly Hunter], a mute [but not deaf], young unmarried Scots woman who, with her 9-year-old daughter, travels to the New Zealand bush to marry a man she has never met. Ada’s husband-to-be calls her “stunted.” The film looks deceptively small, but in character it’s big and strong and complex. Here’s a severely beautiful, mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination. ‘The Piano’ could be the movie sensation of the year.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Year of the Everlasting Storm (international, short film anthology. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 72. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “You can’t blame filmmakers for keeping busy during lockdown. The omnibus film ‘The Year of the Everlasting Storm’ assembles pandemic-made shorts from around the globe. But with just two decent segments out of seven, this anthology uncannily replicates the sensation of feeling trapped.” Read more…)

Little Girl (France, gender identity, LGBTQ. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beatrice Loayza’s Times review: “‘Little Girl,’ the French filmmaker Sébastien Lifshitz’s disarmingly sensitive documentary about a 7-year-old transgender girl, understands the power of close-ups. The camera often lingers on the face of our fledgling protagonist, Sasha, not to gawk at her appearance, but to challenge whatever moralizing preconceptions one might have with emotion laid devastatingly bare. One could easily mistake ‘Little Girl’ for a fictional drama that tends toward observation and realism.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
What Happened Was… (1994, comedy, Tom Noonan. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 71%. From Janet Maslin’s 1994 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In his small, edgy two-character film, ‘What Happened Was . . .,’ Tom Noonan aims for something universal. Charting an uneasy evening spent by two slightly acquainted people on a first date, Mr. Noonan reaches into the depths of their loneliness, letting them reveal themselves gradually over the course of an awkward dinner. As the writer, director and leading man of this rueful drama, Mr. Noonan makes it clear that “What Happened Was . . .” is a labor of love.” Read more…)

New TV
The Killing: Season 3 (US version, crime, Mireille Enos. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 69.)

New Documentaries
Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History Of Folk Horror (folk culture, horror, cinema history. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 80. From Leslie Felperin’s Guardian review: “Writer-director Kier-La Janisse, founder of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, clearly knows the subject inside out, and finds the best authors, scholars and authorities to talk about the subject. But what’s really admirable is the way it is organised into digestible chapters that flow silkily from one subject to another, eased along by a spontaneous and colloquial voiceover from the director herself. As a film essay, the methodology is exemplary; if you want an education in an aspect of film over the winter and have finished watching all of Mark Cousins’ “Story of Film” docs, this offers an excellent next component.” Read more…)

Prisms And Portraits: The Films Of Rosine Mbakam—The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman, Chez Jolie Coiffure, Delphine’s Prayers, Prism (Cameroon/Belgium, documentaries, migrant experience of women, colonialism. Mbakam’s films “The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman” and “Chez Jolie Coiffure” were both New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “With a view that is at once intimate and distant, Mbakam shows the duality of diasporic identity; she is never totally at home, and never totally without it. In both of her short films, Mbakam demonstrates a mastery of perspective, a rare ability to include the camera in community. Her films do not give voice to her subjects — rather, she shares with women the chance to speak for themselves.” Read more…)

Dick Johnson Is Dead (family, mental health, cycle of life, personality. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 89, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Critics like to pigeonhole movies using familiar categories — fiction, nonfiction, happy, sad — but one of the charms of “Dick Johnson Is Dead” is how slippery it is. Pitched artfully between the celebratory and the elegiac, it is an inarguably serious documentary with light, surrealistic flourishes that, at times, veer into exuberant goofiness. Even at its silliest, the movie retains an undertow of melancholia because [as the title announces] it’s a death notice. It is also a love letter from a daughter to a father who, for the viewer, becomes fully human even as he fades away.” Read more…)