New releases 1/30/18

Top Hits
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (bio-pic/drama/comic book history, Luke Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are some exceedingly delectable questions posed in ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,’ and a few frisky binding games on tap too. A sly and thoroughly charming Trojan horse of a movie, ‘Professor Marston’ tells the story of the man who created Wonder Woman and the women who inspired him, both in and out of bed. The movie gleams and has all the smooth surfaces and persuasive detail of a typical period picture — the fedoras, the rides, the Katharine Hepburn trousers. All that luster, which too often in movies suggests polite manners and drowsily safe entertainment, proves to be a seductive, glossy way into something more satisfyingly complicated.” Read more…)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (drama, Nicole Kidman. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “It isn’t quite fair to say, with respect to Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ that you’ve seen it all before. His methods and sensibility are very much his own. But if you were intrigued, unnerved and tickled by ‘The Lobster’ or by Mr. Lanthimos’s earlier films ‘Alps’ and ‘Dogtooth’ [I was], you might be surprised and a little disappointed to find him traipsing over such familiar territory. His previous work — allegorical, satirical, anti-realist and metapsychological — defies genre labels and can seem scrubbed clean of any trace of influence. ‘Sacred Deer,’ in contrast, rings all kinds of frequently-heard bells.” Read more…‘)

My Art (drama, Blair Brown. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 53. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The trap in assessing ‘My Art’ is to assume that it contains more autobiography than it does. That’s true despite the possessive adjective in the title, or the fact that the director, an artist, plays an artist, Ellie. Or even the fact that the filmmaker is Laurie Simmons, who, detractors might scoff, belongs to a family of oversharers. [Ms. Simmons’s daughter Lena Dunham appears briefly as one of Ellie’s former students.]” Read more…)

Last Flag Flying (drama, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Richard Linklater is one of the great listeners in American movies. At his best — most canonically in the ‘Before’ trilogy but also in films like ‘Slacker,’ ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Waking Life’ — he quiets the engine of plot, keeps the camera at a polite, attentive distance and lets people talk. The content of the conversations is important, but so are the more subtle kinds of information that human speech conveys: the unstated emotions and idiosyncrasies of character that flow alongside and underneath the words. ‘Last Flag Flying,’ Mr. Linklater’s new feature, is a suite for three voices. It’s a lot of other things, too. A war movie, in its way, and also a road picture and a memory play.” Read more…)

God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “Filmed with a naturalism that recalls Andrea Arnold’s 2012 dive into ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘God’s Own Country’ weaves a rough magic from Joshua James Richards’s biting cinematography and the story’s slow, unsteady arc from bitter to hopeful. Bodily fluids — bestial and human — stain the screen, punctuating a story that’s as much about rediscovering place as finding love.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Geostorm

New Foreign
The Square (Sweden, drama, Claes Bang. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Ruben] Ostlund, whose film before this one was the squirmy, incisive ‘Force Majeure,’ takes aim at some pretty fat satirical targets — art, taste, sex and money, for starters — and sprays buckshot at the audience as well as in his own face. The bad conscience of the cultural elite is hardly a new concern in European cinema [or American journalism, if we want to go there], and ‘The Square,’ which won the Palme d’Or in May, uses some of the shock-the-bourgeoisie tactic refined, in recent years, by his fellow Cannes laureates Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier.” Read more…)

Old Stone (China, drama, Gang Chen. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times revew: “‘Old Stone,’ a tough, bitter serving of straight-up naturalism, opens on a street and closes at the edge of the abyss. Between start and finish, it follows the nightmarish ordeals of a Chinese taxi driver, Lao Shi [Chen Gang], who struggles to do the right thing after hitting a motorcyclist. His first mistake is reporting the accident; his second is trying to help the bleeding victim instead of splitting. No good deed goes unpunished in this vision of contemporary China, a dog-eat-dog world in which the strong don’t just consume the weak, they also suck the marrow out of every last bone.” Read more…)

Kameradschaft (Germany, 1931, G.W. Pabst-directed disaster movie, Alexander Granach. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The little Europa is now harboring one of the finest examples of realism that has come to the screen. It is a German production called ‘Kameradschaft’ and the dialogue, which is sparse, is in both German and French, with superimposed sub-titles in English. The inspiration for this impressive production was the coal mine disaster at Courrieres in 1906, in which nearly 1,200 lives were lost. In the picture the narrative has been set forward, making it post-World War, and its theme is that the sympathy existing between the German and French miners knows no boundaries.” Read more…)

Westfront 1918 (Germany, 1930, G.W. Pabst-directed war drama, Fritz Kampers. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From C. Hooper Trask’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A German anti-war film had to come sooner or later. Following its losses in the war and the terrific suffering which the whole civil population underwent Germany is of all European nations the one with the strongest pacifistic leanings. That they have not produced a film of this kind before now was due to the repulsion felt by every one at the very thought of war. But now they have gotten far enough away from it to be objective and Remarque’s masterly novel has been followed by the talker, ‘The Western Front 1918’ [‘Westfront 1918’]. With the possible exception of the pictures ‘Journey’s End’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ which unfortunately I have not yet seen, this is the most vivid argument yet contrived against war. A book or a speech are cold, dead things beside it. To the visual has been added all the resources of sound—no one can escape its appeal, from the university graduate to the peasant who can only sign with a cross. It is an undiluted dose of man’s inhumanity to man—try and forget it if you can!” Read more…)

The Witches (Italy, 1968, prestige Italian directors anthology of stories about witches, Silvana Mangano)
Viva L’Italia (Italy, 1961, historical drama, Renzo Ricci)

New British DVDs
Victoria: Season 2 (historical drama series, Jenna Coleman. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%.)
God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Back Street (1961, romantic melodrama, Susan Hayward. From Boslwey Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review: “In the third screen embodiment of ‘Back Street,’ the old Fannie Hurst tear-jerking yarn about the woman who loves a married man be dearly that she lets herself be kept by him under a bit of a social cloud, producer Ross Hunter has crammed so much swank and so much plush Parisian elegance that we wonder he didn’t change the title to something like ‘Rue de Bac.’ Never has Miss Hurst’s little lady [represented heretofore by Irene Dunne and Margaret Sullavan, vis-à-vis the respective consorts of John Boles and Charles Boyer] been set up in such elaborate diggings or lavished with such expensive gifts as is Susan Hayward by John Gavin in this elaborate and expensive color film.” Read more…)

Heart of Darkness (1993, period drama based on Joseph Conrad novel, John Malkovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. From John J. O’Connor’s 1994 New York Times television review: “Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ has finally been made into a movie. The director Nicolas Roeg [‘Performance,’ ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’] has translated the story into a film starring Tim Roth as Marlow and John Malkovich as Kurtz. Well, sort of. Mr. Roeg’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’ characteristically loopy, begins a run Sunday on TNT.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Sunshine Makers (drugs, LSD, social history, Nicholas Sand. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The title of the documentary ‘The Sunshine Makers’ — about two trippy American renegades who produced millions of hits of LSD and helped turn on the United States of Acid — sounds like one of those old citrus labels that growers used to slap on wooden crates. With names like Morning Glory, these crates promised a ray of sun in each juicy bite. In 1970, Florida anointed itself the Sunshine State, but this documentary suggests that way out West, where much of this acid was produced, was where the sun shone the brightest.” Read more…)

Bird Brain (nature, ornithology, avian intelligence)

New Gay & Lesbian
God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor)