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
Afterimage

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
Encanto

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…)

New releases 1/25/22

Top Hits
The Dry (crime/drama, Eric Bana. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The many red herrings and the dark-secret finale recall the reliable, compulsive appeal of a page-turner, although the tensions don’t always feel fully translated to the rhythms and demands of a film. But Bana might just be set to responsibly sort through more messy crimes: ‘The Dry’ was only the first in [author Jane] Harper’s series of Aaron Falk stories.” Read more…)

Annie Live! (made for TV musical, Celina Smith. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76. From Noel Murray’s New York Times review: ““Last night’s three-hour ‘Annie Live!’ on NBC — directed by Lear deBessonet and Alex Rudzinski, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo — did not radically reimagine or reinterpret the original show, adapted by the book-writer Thomas Meehan, lyricist Martin Charnin and composer Charles Strouse from Harold Gray’s long-running comic strip, ‘Little Orphan Annie.’ But neither did this version disappoint in any significant way.” Read more…)

Cicada (LGBTQ drama/romance, Matthew Fifer. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. From Kyle Turner’s New York Times review: “‘Cicada,’ which is directed by Fifer and Kieran Mulcare, is a muted affair, with even its diffused and desaturated palette conveying a sense of understatement. Ben and Sam’s blossoming romance does a lot of telling and little showing. While there’s the occasional amusingly idiosyncratic section of dialogue that sounds like a series of stagily poetic non-sequiturs, much of the couple’s bonding feels straightforward and unremarkable.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray & 4K Ultra HD
Citizen Kane (4K & Blu-Ray, 1941, drama, Criterion Collection, Orson Welles. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 100, Must See. From Bosley Crowther’s 1941 New York Times review: “Within the withering spotlight as no other film has ever been before, Orson Welles’s ‘Citizen Kane’ had is world première at the Palace last evening. And now that the wraps are off, the mystery has been exposed and Mr. Welles and the RKO directors have taken the much-debated leap, it can be safely stated that suppression of this film would have been a crime. For, in spite of some disconcerting lapses and strange ambiguities in the creation of the principal character, ‘Citizen Kane’ is far and away the most surprising and cinematically exciting motion picture to be seen here in many a moon. As a matter of fact, it comes close to being the most sensational film ever made in Hollywood.” Read more…)

A Hard Day’s Night (4K & Blu-Ray, 1964, exuberant jukebox musical, Criterion Collection, The Beatles. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 96, Must See. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires login]: “This is going to surprise you—it may knock you right out of your chair—but the new film with those incredible chaps, the Beatles, is a whale of a comedy. I wouldn’t believe it either, if I hadn’t seen it with my own astonished eyes, which have long since become accustomed to seeing disasters happen when newly fledged pop-singing sensations are hastily rushed to the screen. But this first fiction film of the Beatles, entitled ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ which exploded last night at the Astor, the Trans-Lux East and other theaters hereabouts, has so much good humor going for it that it is awfully hard to resist.” Read more…)

Menace II Society (4K & Blu-Ray,1993, drama, Criterion Collection, Tyrin Turner. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 76. From Stephen Holden’s 1993 New York Times review: “What is clear, however, is that ‘Menace II Society,’ which was directed by the Hughes Brothers, 21-year-old twins who were born in Detroit and whose previous credits include music videos for Digital Underground and KRS-One, is a very flashy debut. Where earlier films with similar settings, like John Singleton’s ‘Boyz N the Hood’ and Matty Rich’s ‘Straight Out of Brooklyn,’ have offered a somber, almost elegiac view of inner-city life, ‘Menace II Society’ has a manic energy and at times a lyricism that recall movies like ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’” Read more…)

The Red Shoes (4K & Blu-Ray, 1948 musical, Criterion Collection, Anton Walbrook. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%, Certified Fresh. From Bosley Crowther’s 1948 New York Times review: “Over the years, there have been several movies in which attempts have been made to capture the spirit and the beauty, the romance and the enchantment of the ballet. And, inevitably, in these pictures, ballets have been performed, a few times with charm and sincerity but more often—and unfortunately—without. However, there has never been a picture in which the ballet and its special, magic world have been so beautifully and dreamily presented as the new British film, ‘The Red Shoes.’ Here, in this unrestricted romance, which opened at the Bijou yesterday, is a visual and emotional comprehension of all the grace and rhythm and power of the ballet.” Read more…)

Mulholland Dr. (4K & Blu-Ray, 2001, mystery/suspense dir. by David Lynch, Criterion Collection, Naomi Watts. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 85, Must See. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “While watching ‘Mulholland Drive,’ you might well wonder if any film maker has taken the cliché of Hollywood as ‘the dream factory’ more profoundly to heart than David Lynch. The newest film from the creator of ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Twin Peaks’ is a nervy full-scale nightmare of Tinseltown that seizes that concept by the throat and hurls it through the looking glass.” Read more…)

Titane (France, horror, Vincent Lindon. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Awarded the top prize in Cannes this year, ‘Titane’ consolidates a filmmaking style based on visceral shock, grisly absurdism and high thematic ambition. Violence is often played for comedy. Cruelty collides with tenderness. Eroticism keeps company with disgust. Through the stroboscopic aggression of Ducournau’s images you can glimpse ideas about gender, lust and the intimacy that connects people and machines.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
Moffie (South Africa, war/drama, Kai Luke Brummer. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Kai Luke] Brummer, who bears a passing resemblance to a young Peter O’Toole, is attractive and enigmatic as a young man finding himself in less-than-encouraging circumstances. The movie’s story line, adapted from a 2006 novel of the same name by André Carl van der Merwe, keeps its feet on the ground, rarely allowing the characters to express desire beyond implying it. Because, as the movie shows, in the world of this army, merely exchanging a glance with another soldier could kick up enough homophobic fear and rage to start a riot.” Read more…)

Saint-Narcisse (Canada, LGBTQ romance/comedy, Felix-Antoine Duval. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 70. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Saint-Narcisse’ is a handsomely produced film with sincere performances, lush cinematography and a classical score. Anarchic energy zings out in moments of overemphasis — when the music swells too loudly, when the dialogue comments too closely on the themes. But for the most part, [director Bruce] LaBruce tries to maintain fidelity to the idea that camp is best performed straight.” Read more…)

Gomorrah: Season 3 (Italy, gangster drama series, Marco D’Amore)
Singapore Sling (Greece, 1990, cult/extreme, Panos Thanassoulis)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Tortilla Flat (1942, drama based on John Steinbeck novel, Spencer Tracy. Metacritic: 70. From Bosley Crowther’s 1942 New York Times review: “As genial a bit of propaganda for common vagrancy as has ever been shown, at least at the Radio City Music Hall, reached the screen of that theatre yesterday in the shape of Metro’s “Tortilla Flat.” It is, of course, the film version of John Steinbeck’s delightful novel about some tramps, which had been kicking around for years waiting for just such a production as this. And now, with Spencer Tracy, John Garfield, Akim Tamiroff and a batch of raffish gents playing the lusty paisanos—the work-shirking, wine-guzzling heroes of the tale—it emerges as a winning motion picture and a deterrent to respectable enterprise.” Read more…)

The Moon and Sixpence (1959, made for TV drama based on Somerset Maugham novel, Laurence Olivier. From Jack Gould’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “[Laurence Olivier’s] portrayal was a work of towering accomplishment, a searching study of a genius that combined callousness, brutality, and, finally, an inspirational beauty that was entirely overwhelming. It was a majesyic profile of the complexity of man, a human being’s relentless pursuit to find his own soul, that culminated in the recognition of his dependency upon a Divine design. ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ wad the production of David Susskind, who against the indifference of some elements of the TV industry persisted in his determination to see the work done; his reward is the finest production of his career in television.” Read more…)

Joy of Living (1938, musical, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.)

New Documentaries
Time (race, American justice system, Criterion Collection. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 91. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Lisa Kennedy’s Times review: “Substantive and stunning, the documentary ‘Time’ delivers on the title’s promise of the monumental as well as the personal. In telling the story of Fox Rich’s fight to keep her family intact — raising six sons, making a living, doing activist work — while her husband, Rob, served a prison sentence of 60 years, the director Garrett Bradley depicts with rattling and tender regard America’s thorny gestalt of the individual thrown against the backdrop of systemic inequality.” Read more…)

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (music, bio, Beach Boys, Brian Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 80. From Owen Gleiberman’s Variety review: “‘Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road,’ directed by Brent Wilson (no relation), takes the form of yet another classically structured overview of Brian Wilson’s career. Only this one cuts back and forth between the saga of Wilson and the Beach Boys and a ‘Carpool Karaoke’-style conversation between Brian, still hale and hanging in there with his tentative, blunted, anxiety-ridden, doggedly sincere approach to everyday experience, and Jason Fine, an editor at Rolling Stone magazine, who met Wilson during the course of doing a feature on him in the mid-’90s.” Read more…)

New releases 1/11/22

Top Hits
Dune (sci-fi remake, Timothee Chalamet. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “In a galaxy far, far away, a young man in a sea of sand faces a foreboding destiny. The threat of war hangs in the air. At the brink of a crisis, he navigates a feudalistic world with an evil emperor, noble houses and subjugated peoples, a tale right out of mythology and right at home in George Lucas’s brainpan. But this is ‘Dune,’ baby, Frank Herbert’s science-fiction opus, which is making another run at global box-office domination even as it heads toward controversy about what it and its messianic protagonist signify.” Read more…)

Zeros and Ones (mystery/suspense dir. by Abel Ferrara, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 62. Metacritic: 62. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Cryptic to a fault, Abel Ferrara’s ‘Zeros and Ones’ unfolds in a murkiness that’s both literal and ideological. Even its star, Ethan Hawke — speaking to us as himself in two brief scenes that bookend the movie — admits that, initially, he didn’t understand Ferrara’s script. His candor is comforting, and emboldening, encouraging persistence with a story whose destination seems as vague as its characters’ motivations.” Read more…)

The Djinn (horror, Exra Dewey. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 59. From Kristen Yoonsoo Kim’s New York Times review: “The ‘be careful what you wish for’ trope is so common in horror films that it’s hardly a spoiler to say that his wish comes with dire consequences. He conjures the evil djinn, or genie, setting in motion a night of terror. The fable facade is a deceptive precursor for a film that’s definitely not for kids.” Read more…)

Black Widow (Marvel superhero action, Scarlett Johansson. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “If I were Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. the Black Widow, a.k.a. the first original female Avenger and yet years overdue for her own film, I’d be hella miffed. After wearing myself out doing flips and kicks and spy work, I finally get my own movie, but the result, Marvel Studios’ ‘Black Widow,’ opening Friday, uncomfortably mashes up a heartwarming family reunion flick with a spy thriller — and then lets its star, Scarlett Johansson, get overshadowed.” Read more…)

Halloween Kills (horror sequel, Jamie Lee Curtis. Rotten Tomatoes: 41. Metacritic: 42. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “After a dozen movies — and a 13th on the horizon — the once-monstrous Michael Myers shuffles into theaters this weekend as exhausted as the 43-year-old franchise that indulges his blood lust. ‘Halloween Kills,’ the middle film of a reboot trilogy started in 2018 by the director David Gordon Green, is an indolent, narratively impoverished mess that substitutes corpses for characters and slogans for dialogue.” Read more…)

Minyan (coming-of-age drama/LGBTQ, Samuel H. Levine. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 69. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “The subtle coming-of-age drama ‘Minyan’ creates a version of 1980s New York where whole neighborhoods have built up around the grief that’s carried by those who live there. The film observes as older Jewish men in Brooklyn recall rebuilding their lives after the Holocaust. In very different places of congregation, young gay men navigate death and persecution as a result of the AIDS epidemic. The hero of this film, David (Samuel H. Levine), is a novice in both worlds.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Outrage (1950, film noir dir. by Ida Lupino not available on DVD, Mala Powers. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. From Richard Brody’s 2014 analysis of the film for The New Yorker: “But ‘Outrage’ is a special artistic achievement. [Director Ida] Lupino approaches the subject of rape with a wide view of the societal tributaries that it involves. She integrates an inward, deeply compassionate depiction of a woman who is the victim of rape with an incisive view of the many societal failures that contribute to the crime, including legal failure to face the prevalence of rape, and the over-all prudishness and sexual censoriousness that make the crime unspeakable in the literal sense and end up shaming the victim. Above all, she reveals a profound understanding of the widespread and unquestioned male aggression that women face in ordinary and ostensibly non-violent and consensual courtship.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
I’m Your Man (Germany, rom-com, Dan Stevens. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Your eyes are like two mountain lakes I could sink into’ is a compliment most women would be disinclined to take umbrage at. But Alma [Maren Eggert] is not most women: A prickly scientist and cuneiform expert, she’s interested neither in flattery nor the man who’s delivering it. His name is Tom [Dan Stevens], he’s gorgeous, and he’s available. He is also a robot.” Read more…)

New Television
Billions: Season 5 (Showtime drama series, Paul Giamatti. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 73.)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Ghost World (2001, comedy/drama, Criterion Collection, Thora Birch. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 88. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s 2001 Times review [requires log-in]: “Terry Zwigoff’s ‘Ghost World,’ loosely adapted from a novel-length comic book by Daniel Clowes, continues this hopeful trend. It’s surely the best depiction of teenage eccentricity since ‘Rushmore,’ and its incisive satire of the boredom and conformity that rule our thrill-seeking, individualistic land, and also its question-mark ending, reminded me of ‘The Graduate.’ With all due respect to Mike Nichols, Simon and Garfunkel, and Mrs. Robinson, I like ‘Ghost World’ better.” Read more…)

New releases 1/4/22

Top Hits
Mayday (drama/fantasy, Grace Van Patten. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 45. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “It should be a bold premise, but there is a curious contrast in this film between the richly defined images and the story’s ethical indeterminacy. Visually, the writer and director Karen Cinorre is sure-footed, impressing with steampunk production design and sun-dappled cinematography. But narratively, her movie waffles, refusing to generate plausible rationales for Marsha’s girlboss-ish militancy.” Read more…)

Black Friday (horror/comedy, Bruce Campbell. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 52. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “This film would be perfectly delightful if it only strove for absurdity. Andy Greskoviak’s script lampoons corporate apathy and retail-work ennui with the same swiftness as his voracious zombies. Unfortunately, ‘Black Friday’ also tries to make viewers root for its characters, who are mostly delightful because they are such wildly mediocre people.” Read more…)

Small Engine Repair (comedy/drama, John Pollono. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 57. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “What happens in Manch-Vegas stays in Manch-Vegas. Just ask the men from ‘Small Engine Repair,’ an adaptation of the play of the same name by the actor and playwright John Pollono. The film, which Pollono also directs, provides more depth than the original but still flounders in the translation from stage to screen.” Read more…)

New Foreign DVDs
The Woman Who Ran (Republic of Korea, comedy/drama, Kim Min-hee. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Some of the individual tales may hit the emotions harder or stay in the mind longer, and some viewers may never acquire a taste for his talky, elliptical, melancholy style. For those of us who delight in his elegant explorations of drunkenness, regret, lust and ennui, he is an indispensable comedian of modern manners, good and bad, and his steady [or perhaps compulsive] productivity is a gift.” Read more…)

Only the Animals (France, LGBTQ thriller, Laure Calamy. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “What would movies do without troublesome women — the cruel, the cold, the difficult, the dispensable? That’s one of the takeaways of ‘Only the Animals,’ a cynical French puzzler from the director Dominik Moll about a woman who goes missing. Her disappearance stirs up the usual interest; that she’s white and wealthy helps. There’s a police investigation and news reports and plenty of pain and suffering, but the many tears the movie vigorously pumps aren’t necessarily spilled over her.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Rich and Strange (1931, dir. by Alfred Hitchcock, comedy. Rotten Tomatoes: 70%. From Dave Kehr’s brief description in the New York Times of the movie as part of an earlier DVD release: “The most important film among these early efforts is ‘Rich and Strange’ [1931], a cautionary tale about a middle-class couple who try to relieve the boredom of their existence by taking a trip, physically and sexually adventurous, to the Far East. Structurally, the film looks forward to Hitchcock’s later series of couples films, including ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ [1941], ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’[1956] and ‘Marnie’ [1964], in which mere marriages are transformed into sacred unions through the shared experience of suffering and temptation.”)

Shake Hands with the Devil (1959, drama, James Cagney. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. From Howard Thompson’s 1959 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “One of the fastest, toughest and most picturesque dramas about the Irish Revolution, ‘Shake Hands With the Devil,’ opened yesterday at neighborhood theatres on a double-bill, and don’t ask us why. [Don’t ask us why the other half, ‘The Mugger,’ was made at all.] A new Hollywood company, Pennebaker, has had the ripe judgment to cull this dandy adventure drama of Black-and-Tan strife from a new Irish film studio near Dublin, with a spanking Irish-flavored cast headed by—who else?—James Cagney.” Read more…)

Lizzie (1957, drama, Eleanor Parker. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a capricious woman Eleanor Parker plays in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s ‘Lizzie,’ which came to the Mayfair yesterday. At the start, she’s a drear and mousy creature, living modestly with her sottish aunt and working by day in a museum, Elizabeth is her name.Then she sits down before her mirror and bells and sirens begin to sound. First thing, she’s painting her lips scarlet, piling her hair on the top of her head and going out to a bar with a sluttish swagger to find herself a man. Now she calls herself Lizzie.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Naked Ape (1973, comedy, Victoria Principal)

New Documentaries
Try Harder! (education, sociology, Asian-American experience. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Beandrea July’s Times review: “The coming-of-age documentary ‘Try Harder!’ from the director Debbie Lum [‘Seeking Asian Female’] immerses us in the world of elite college admissions at one of San Francisco’s top-performing public high schools: Lowell High. Equal parts vérité character study and probing meditation on the virtues of success, the film follows a group of five delightfully earnest overachievers who have internalized, to a stunning degree, the necessity of getting into Stanford and Harvard and other top-tier colleges.” Read more…)

Sid & Judy (bio, history, movie history, Judy Garland. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Amy Kaufman’s New York Times article: “‘Sid & Judy,’ which will debut tonight on Showtime, is like many portraits of the singer’s life in that it details the struggles she faced: her substance abuse, bouts of depression, five marriages and child custody battles. But by culling from Luft’s collection, the documentary offers a more unvarnished take on Garland’s life than, say, ‘Judy,’ the scripted film currently in theaters that is earning star Renée Zellweger Oscar buzz.” Read more…)

New releases 12/28/21

Top Hits
The French Dispatch
(Wes Anderson dir. comedy/drama, Benicio Del Toro. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%. Metacritic: 74. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The movie is not Wes Anderson’s version of ‘Spotlight,’ in which humbly dressed reporters heroically take on power, injustice and corruption. Moral crusades are as alien to Anderson’s sensibility as drab khakis. What ‘The French Dispatch’ celebrates is something more specific than everyday newspapering and also something more capacious. Anderson has inscribed a billet-doux to The New Yorker in its mid-20th-century glory years that is, at the same time, an ardent, almost orgiastic paean to the pleasures of print.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The French Dispatch

New Foreign DVDs
Knocking (Sweden, horror, Cecilia Milocco. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 65. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “Grief has left Molly [Cecilia Milocco] in a fragile state in ‘Knocking,’ a new psychological thriller from Sweden by the director Frida Kempff. After losing her lover in a tragic event at a beach, Molly spent time in a psychiatric ward, and her recovery in her new apartment is touch-and-go. Kempff spins Molly’s suspicions about a mysterious tapping noise into an insistent entry in the horrors of breakdown and isolation.” Read more…)

New Cult
The Prime Time (1960, cult juvenile delinquent/beatniks drama, Joanne LeCompte)

New LGBTQ
La Plays Itself: The Fred Halsted Collection (LGBTQ, gay erotica, Fred Halsted)

New releases 12/21/21

Top Hits
No Time to Die (James Bond action, Daniel Craig. Rotten Tomatoes: 84%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “As the knots in the plot are straightened out, the intricacies of spycraft recede in favor of a ponderous, familiar drama of sacrifice and revenge. The gloomy alpha villain [an ultra-gothy Rami Malek], who wants to wipe out much of humanity and is a mixture of curdled idealism and unhealed trauma, may remind you of Thanos in the final ‘Avengers’ movies. And the overall vibe — a look that is both opulent and generic; a tone that mixes brisk professionalism with maundering self-pity; an aggressive, exhausting fusion of grandiosity and fun — is more superhero saga than espionage caper.” Read more…)

The Many Saints of Newark (Sopranos prequel, Michael Gandolfini. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 60. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Movie spinoffs can be tough to pull off. Nothing felt at stake when I watched, oh, the first ‘Brady Bunch’ movie, but its source material wasn’t a critical fetish, something that inspired excited discussions on masculinity, the latest golden age of television and the effect on the industry. ‘The Sopranos,’ though, was too good, too memorable, and its hold on the popular imagination remains unshakable. It still casts a spell, and the movie knows it, which is why it sticks to the tired template of a boy’s own story rather than taking a radical turn, like revisiting Tony’s world from Giuseppina’s or Livia’s or Harold’s points of view.” Read more…)

Blue Bayou (drama, Justin Chon. Rotten Tomatoes: 74%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 58. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “In its unsubtle way, ‘Blue Bayou’ strives to draw attention to the precarious limbo inhabited by foreign-born adoptees whose citizenship was never finalized. When an innocent argument in a supermarket lands Antonio on the wrong side of two police officers — one of whom [Mark O’Brien] is Jessie’s biological father and the other [Emory Cohen] no more than a bundle of boorish clichés — the incident heralds a series of escalating threats to a life that’s already far from secure.” Read more…)

The Last Duel (history/drama, Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “It’s no surprise that Ridley Scott, who’s made his share of swaggering manly epics, has directed what may be the big screen’s first medieval feminist revenge saga. In addition to his love for men with mighty swords, Scott has an affinity for tough women, women who are prickly and difficult and thinking, not bodacious cartoons. They’re invariably lovely, of course, but then everything in Ridley Scott’s dream world has an exalted shimmer.” Read more…)

South of Heaven (action/drama, Jason Sudeikis. Rotten Tomatoes: 43%. Metacritic: 42. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review: “Aharon Keshales, who directed the film and wrote it alongside Kai Mark and Navot Papushado, aspires to say something about misunderstood antiheroes and the futility of escalating vengeance. [His and Papushado’s previous thriller, ‘Big Bad Wolves,’ had real bite.] Here, however, the execution is at once laconic and nonsensical.” Read more…)

Venom: Let there Be Carnage (superhero action, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 48%. From Amy Nicholson’s New York Times review; “Yes, there are battles — all of them exponentially less interesting than a twitch of Hardy’s eyebrow. ‘Let There Be Carnage’ flourishes in high-energy moments and feeds off low expectations; it’s the mold in the Avengers’ shower. Perhaps the next installment could do away with the pretense of these dingbats needing to save the world?” Read more…)

The Card Counter (thriller/drama, Oscar Isaac. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “The solitary man in a room is [director Paul] Schrader’s most indelible authorial signature, a defining image and idea in one. That figure most famously appears in his script for ‘Taxi Driver,’ in which Travis Bickle, the cabby turned killer, pours out his rancid and bland thoughts; and he is the fulcrum of movies that Schrader has directed, notably ‘Light Sleeper’ and ‘First Reformed.’ The solitary man returns in ‘The Card Counter,’ a haunting, moving story of spirit and flesh, sin and redemption, love and death about another lonely soul, William Tell, who, with pen to paper, grapples with his present and his unspeakable past.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
No Time to Die
The Many Saints of Newark
Venom: Let there Be Carnage
The Card Counter

New Foreign DVDs
Undine (Germany, romance/drama, Paula Beer. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “[Director Christian] Petzold’s cinematic storytelling style is elegant but unfussy, perfectly complemented by Hans Fromm’s cinematography and by the sparely used music, which includes the Icelandic pianist Vikingur Olafsson’s dreamy interpretations of Bach and the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ ‘Undine’ is ultimately more enigmatic than most of Petzold’s work. It is also, like its title character, eerily beautiful.” Read more…)

Gomorrah: Season 2 (Italy, gangster series, Marco D’Amore. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Mike Hale’s 2017 capsule New York Times review: “Based on the same book as the 2008 film ‘Gomorrah,’ the show is a brooding, propulsive, totally addictive story of rival gangster clans in modern-day Naples, shot like a Brutalist chiaroscuro nightmare. Like any good Mafia tale, Season 2 begins in the aftermath of slaughter, with the mohawked hothead Genny [Salvatore Esposito] clinging to life and his gang wiped out.” Read more…)

Luzzu (Malta, drama, Jesmark Scicluna. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 79. From Natalia Winkelman’s New York Times review: “In ‘Luzzu,’ his first feature film, [director Alex] Camilleri demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of how small moments can build a sense of place: sandals on the salty floor of a fishery; a metal scraper peeling paint from a hull; a priest blessing boats for safe passage. Malta’s views are arresting, but the images Camilleri chooses would never be found in a travel brochure. In his subtle, vérité approach, he captures something special — not one man’s crisis, but a community’s culture.” Read more…)

The Auschwitz Report (Slovakia, historical drama, Noel Czuczor. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “The immersive historical drama ‘The Auschwitz Report,’ Slovakia’s submission for the 2020 international film Oscar, tells yet another true-life Holocaust-era tale of courage and daring with harrowing and deeply affecting results. Director Peter Bebjak, who wrote the film’s tense, propulsive script with Jozef Pastéka and Tomás Bombík, vividly re-creates several weeks in April 1944 in which Slovak Jewish prisoners Alfred Wetzler [Noel Czuczor] and Walter Rosenberg [Peter Ondrejicka] plotted and executed a death-defying escape from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Learning Tree (1969, drama, Criterion Collection, Kyle Johnson. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1969 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Gordon Parks’s ‘The Learning Tree,’ which opened yesterday at the Trans-Lux East and West Theaters, does nothing else so well or so lovingly as celebrate the life of a small Kansas town where, 40 years ago, the races lived in real, if uneasy, accommodation. Such a world, its events heightened and somewhat ritualized from Mr. Parks’s own semi autobiographical novel, is the film’s real subject. In approaching it, the director occasionally achieves a vision that is at once without illusions and profoundly nostalgic.” Read more…)

Bedtime Story (1964, comedy, Marlon Brando. From Bosley Crowther’s 1964 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Marlon Brando is full of surprises. That’s part of his stock in trade. He loves to do the unexpected and then sit back and let his public gasp. That’s what he’s doing in ‘Bedtime Story,’ which came to the Palace yesterday. He is departing from his usual style completely and playing a ring-a-ding comedy character.” Read more…)

New releases 12/14/21

Top Hits
One Night in Miami (speculative drama based on a 1964 meeting between [then] Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown; Eli Goree. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “It doesn’t make grand statements about race, politics, sports or music. It’s just a bunch of guys talking — bantering, blustering, dropping their defenses and opening their hearts. But the substance of their talk is fascinating, and their arguments echo powerfully in the present. This is one of the most exciting movies I’ve seen in quite some time.” Read more…)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (martial arts/Marvel Comics, Simu Liu. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 71. From Maya Phillips’ New York Times review: “Home is where the heart is. Unless you’re Shang-Chi. Then home is where your mother’s mystical secret village — and its dragon guardian — is. That’s the case in Marvel’s unsteady ‘Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,’ directed by Destin Daniel Cretton with an obliging eye toward kung fu cinema, but not much else.” Read more…)

Werewolves Within (horror/comedy, Milana Vayntrub. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, Certified Fresh. Metacritic: 66. From Lena Wilson’s New York Times review: “Horror villains have always shouldered a lot of cultural baggage, but there have been attempts to reclaim monstrosity on film, particularly in the last few decades of low-budget cinema. ‘Ginger Snaps’ famously linked lycanthropy and menstruation, ‘Raw’ turned carnal desire into cannibalism and ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ offered a female vampire vigilante. ‘Werewolves Within,’ a horror comedy from the director Josh Ruben, comes so close to operating on this level — before it makes a beeline for the status quo.” Read more…)

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (comedy/romance, Terence Nance. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Nicolas Rapold’s 2013 Times review: “It is not uncommon for young men of a certain age to keep notebooks to record drawings, doodles and roundabout confessions about romantic missed connections. These pages are havens for introspection, sighs, elegy and wit, all of which should really be taken into account in understanding the lovelorn individual. ‘An Oversimplification of Her Beauty,’ a most lovely and meticulously handmade hodgepodge of art and feeling, resembles a cinematic version of such a notebook, tracing and retracing the filmmaker’s failure to get together with a friend.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
One Night in Miami

New Foreign DVDs
Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (China, documentary, Chinese history, politics, Chinese literature. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 70. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The films of Jia Zhangke, documentary and fictional, zoom in on the granular details of individual lives. At the same time, they are chapters in the single, unimaginably complicated story of China’s transformation in the decades since the 1949 revolution… ’Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue’ demystifies historical episodes that are often presented, at least in the West, as abstractions, and personalizes large-scale events. Politics hovers over the writers’ lives, but their sense of national and regional history is filtered through work, family and landscape.” Read more…)

Climax (France, horror/provocation by dir. Gaspar Noé, Sofia Boutella. Rotten Tomatoes: 67%. Metacritic: 67. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Climax,’ with its hallucinatory, often horrific images, its relentless, bass-heavy music and its vertiginous camera movements, assaults the senses and scrambles the brain. But even though the techniques are immersive — plunging you into a disorienting reality that mirrors the drug-fueled frenzy you are witnessing — the effect is also curiously distancing. You are being assaulted with an idea, bombarded by a series of theoretical propositions about sexual ethics, social behavior and the nature of cinematic representation.” Read more…)

New British (Commonwealth) DVDs
My Life Is Murder: Season 2 (Australia, police procedural series, Lucy Lawless. From a capsule New York Times review by Margaret Lyons: “The show sometimes feels a little retro thanks to its unfussy pacing and to bumper music that sounds as if it were from a ’90s sitcom, and its tone is more like that of ‘Psych’ or ‘Monk’ than of a grueling European misery opera. There’s a sunny ease and quirk to it all, and Lawless is a lot fun to watch.” Read more…)

New TV
Love Among the Ruins (1975, George Cukor-directed made-for-TV comedy, Katharine Hepburn. From John J. O’Connor’s 1975 New York Times television review [requires log-in]: “Starring Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier in their first production together, directed by George Cukor and written by James Costigan, ‘Love Among the Ruins’ is a project almost begging to be irresistible. Unfortunately, as can be seen on ABC‐TV at 9 this evening, it’s not. Occasionally, the two‐hour romantic comedy, set in 1911, slips from its ambitions of charming stylishness into mere silliness. Very occasionally, it becomes a bit of a bore.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Film About a Father Who (personality, bio, family dynamics, Ira Sachs. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “This brisk, prismatic and richly psychodramatic family portrait finds [director Lynne] Sachs assessing her relationship with her father, Ira Sachs Sr., described at one point as the ‘Hugh Hefner of Park City,’ the Utah skiing enclave where the Sundance Film Festival is held. The filmmaker Ira Sachs Jr., Lynne’s brother, says their father can’t ‘be self-consciously sad or self-consciously joyful’ — he always seems simply content.” Read more…)