New releases 3/19/19

Top Hits
Mary Poppins Returns (Disney family adventure sequel, Emily Blunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 66. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Bathed in nostalgia, “Mary Poppins Returns” is being framed as a homage, and there’s clearly some love here. Mostly, it is a modest update, one that has brushed off the story, making it louder, harsher, more aggressively smiley. It picks up several decades after the 1964 film “Mary Poppins” — starring the sublimely synced Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke — concluded.” Read more…)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (animated comic book action feature, Shamek Moore. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. Well, how about this? A New York Times Critic’s Pick! From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ contains a vital element that has been missing from too many recent superhero movies: fun. Most of the better specimens of the genre, as well as the worst, assume a heavy burden of self-importance: the future of the planet, the cosmic balance of good and evil, the profit margins of multinational corporations and the good will of moody fans all depend on the actions of a gloomy character in a costume… My point here is that this animated reworking of the Spidey mythos is fresh and exhilarating in a way that very few of its live-action counterparts — including the last couple of ‘Spider-Man’ chapters — have been. Its jaunty, brightly colored inventiveness and its kid-in-the-candy-store appetite for pop culture ephemera give ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ some of the kick of the first ‘Lego Movie.'” Read more…)

Braid (horror/mystery, Madeline Brewer. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 60. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “It’s a hard knock life for Tilda [Sarah Hay] and Petula [Imogen Waterhouse], two of the young women of ‘Braid,’ a jumpy thriller written and directed by Mitzi Peirone. Their only moments of repose are at the film’s opening, and even those aren’t too relaxed.” Read more…)

November Criminals (crime/drama, Chloë Grace Moretz. Rotten Tomatoes: 0%. Metacritic: 31.)

New Blu-Ray
Mary Poppins Returns
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

New Foreign DVDs
The Quake (Norway, action/drama, Kristoffer Joner. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 70. From Bilge Ebiri’s Vulture review: “John Andreas Andersen’s The Quake, a sequel to the excellent 2015 Norwegian disaster film The Wave, should be required viewing for all of today’s Hollywood franchise jockeys. It shows you how to make one of these things without sacrificing your characters’ souls [or your own, for that matter].” Read more…)

Holiday (Denmark, crime/drama, Victoria Carmen Sonne. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 80. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “[Writer/director Isabella] Eklof subsequently inverts revenge conventions in a way that dares the audience to call it perverse. She has cited the cinematic extremist Ulrich Seidl [‘Paradise: Love,”’ ‘Import/Export’] as an influence: As with that filmmaker, it’s hard to tell whether she intends to communicate something genuine about the human condition, or just shovel hostility at her audience.” Read more…)

Becoming Astrid (Sweden, bio/drama, Alba August. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Long before she found fame with the ‘Pippi Longstocking’ series, the Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren had an unplanned pregnancy that changed her life. In ‘Becoming Astrid,’ the Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen uses that formative event as a fulcrum, building a lightly fictionalized portrait of the young Lindgren [played by Alba August] from its emotional and practical fallout.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Wanda (1970, independent feminist drama, Barbara Loden. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Roger Greenspun’s 1971 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It would be hard to imagine better or more tactful or more decently difficult work for a first film. I suppose it is significantly a woman’s film in that it never sensationalizes or patronizes its heroine, and yet finds her interesting and not [as it might have] just interestingly dull. But I like it best because it seems at home with its idioms, close to its action, opening up only rarely [during a model airplane meet, in the fatal bank job] and to moments of genuine insight and not admiration-begging cinematic claptrap. Wanda is a small movie, fully aware of its limits, and within those limits lovely.” Read more…)

Esther and the King (1960, Biblical epic, Joan Collins.From Bosley Crowther’s 1960 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The beautiful Bible story of Esther has been thumped into a crude costume charade in Raoul Walsh’s CinemaScope-and-color, Italian-made ‘Esther and the King.’ The best to be said for this chromo, which opened at the Palace yesterday, is that it drives one more spike into the coffin of these synthetic biblical films.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
On Her Shoulders (human rights, refugees, genocide, sexual violence. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ken Jaworowski’s Times review: “Alexandria Bombach’s direction and editing are exceptional; she captures images that are both subtle and formidable. Her film is, first and foremost, a profile of [Nadia] Murad [survivor of an ISIS massacre of members of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq] and her mission. Yet it’s also a comment on the media and on government aid.” Read more…)

Hillbilly (sociology, rural America, media stereotypes, resource economics. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. From Kevin Crust’s Los Angeles Times review: “Los Angeles-based journalist and filmmaker Ashley York, born and raised in the mountains of eastern Kentucky [the evocatively named Meathouse Holler to be specific], returns to Appalachia to question the media depiction of the region’s residents, while also tracking the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in the documentary ‘Hillbilly.’ Co-written and co-directed with Sally Rubin, the film is a far more sympathetic portrait than J.D. Vance’s best-selling ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ taking a more descriptive than analytical approach.” Read more…)