New releases 10/30/18

Top Hits
Mandy (action, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 81. Here you go—a Nicolas Cage flick that is a New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The movie, directed by Panos Cosmatos from a script he wrote with Aaron Stewart-Ahn [I should disclose here that Mr. Stewart-Ahn is an acquaintance] is a fantasy feature awash in physical and emotional violence. In its various genre allusions, it draws from a deep, idiosyncratic well. But despite its frequent instances of absurdist humor, it is not a film that winks at the audience with its cleverness.” Read more…)

The Spy Who Dumped Me (comedy, Mila Kunis. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In its opening minutes, ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ hops from a shootout in Vilnius, Lithuania, to a birthday celebration in Los Angeles. Audrey [Mila Kunis] is turning 30 in the wake of an abrupt breakup — via text — with one of the gunmen, a skinny dude named Drew [Justin Theroux] whose profession was a secret to Audrey. The title of this pleasantly silly, sometimes jarringly violent comedy, directed by Susanna Fogel [who wrote the script with David Iserson], isn’t terribly ambiguous, and I have now explained it fully.” Read more…)

Teen Titans Go to the Movies (animated feature. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 69. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “It’s an amusing tale for young audiences, ending with the expected messages about friendship and courage. But there are delights for adults as well, particularly in the first half, with sendups of various comic book series [some aimed at DC’s own arch-nemesis, Marvel] and an extra-large supply of spoofs on other movies.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Princess Bride
The Spy Who Dumped Me

New Foreign DVDs
Custody (France, drama/domestic thriller, Lea Drucker. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 83. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot about domestic horror, about movies that find monsters and demons at home, movies that reckon not so much with the banality of evil as with its awful familiarity. ‘Custody,’ the spare and unsparing debut feature by Xavier Legrand, is not, strictly speaking, a horror movie. There is nothing supernatural, nothing especially out of the ordinary, about the force that terrorizes Miriam Besson [Léa Drucker] and her children. It’s Miriam’s ex-husband, Antoine [Denis Ménochet], a man who wears his everydayness like a badge of righteousness.” Read more…)

Les Parents Terribles (France, 1948, heartbreaking drama dir. By Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. A New’York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “In between the fantastical masterpieces ‘Beauty and the Beast’ [1946] and “Orpheus’ [1950], Jean Cocteau directed two films not frequently seen in the United States: ‘The Eagle With Two Heads’ [1948], a quasi-medieval romance, and ‘Les Parents Terribles’ [also 1948], a contemporary family melodrama. ‘Parents,’ which sometimes goes by the English-language title ‘The Storm Within,’ makes its U.S. premiere in New York this week in a fine-looking restoration.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Hallelujah The Hills (1963, avant-garde romance, New American Cinema, Peter H. Beard. From an unsigned 1963 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Three months ago, a modest little Vermont-made farce called ‘Hallelujah the Hills’ surprised and delighted patrons of the first New York Film Festival by boisterously affirming that life can be a ball and movie-making can be fun.This festive philosophy was broached to a commercial audience for the first time yesterday at the Fifth Avenue Cinema — as close to its spiritual Greenwich Village home as current distribution policies allow. Judging from the response, it should stay there for quite a while.” Read more…)

Sisters (1973, Criterion Collection, thriller, Margot Kidder. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. From J. Hoberman’s New York Times review of the restored version of “Sisters”: The 1973 slasher film ‘Sisters,’ digitally restored and playing at the Quad Cinema, as well as streaming on services like FilmStruck, was Brian De Palma’s first homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Shamelessly lurid, it’s also his best. ‘Sisters’ boasts an angsty score by Bernard Herrmann, who wrote the music for a number of Hitchcock films including ‘Psycho,’ from which ‘Sisters’ borrows much of its plot. De Palma also drew on Hitchcock’s brilliant use of editing to generate suspense, augmenting conventional crosscutting with his taste for split-screen action.” Read more…)

The Princess Bride (1987, adventure/romance, Criterion Collection, Fred Savage. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 77. From Janet Maslin’s 1987 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Princess Bride’ is framed as a story told to a sick little boy, and the child is thoroughly skeptical -who wouldn’t be? Here is a full-length fairy tale full of fanciful characters, madcap adventures and a lot of other things surely not to every taste. But ‘The Princess Bride’ has sweetness and sincerity on its side, and when it comes to fairy tales, those are major assets. It also has a delightful cast and a cheery, earnest style that turns out to be ever more disarming as the film moves along.” Read more…)

Whatever (1998, drama, Liza Weil. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. From Stephen Holden’s 1998 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “But despite its false notes and occasional stridency, ‘Whatever’ rings true enough to make it one of the more compellingly realistic films about teen-age angst and the tug of war between destructive peer pressure and independence. Ms. Weil’s transparent performance takes you so deeply inside Anna’s skin that you feel every itch and sore, every twinge of hope and self-confidence. Even when you want to shake some sense into her, you know exactly why she is doing the wrong thing.” Read more…)

 New British
Endeavour: Season 5 (Inspector Morse prequel series, Shaun Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)
The Durrells in Corfu: Season 3 (bio/comedy series, Keeley Hawes)

New TV
The Americans: Season 6 (final season of espionage series, Keri Russell. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 92.)

New Documentaries
Resistance at Tule Lake (civil liberties, Japanese internment, American history, racism. From a Mike Hale New York Times review: “On the other side of the world, and the war, this rough-around-the-edges documentary by the New York-based filmmaker Konrad Aderer tells one of the less well-known stories of the Japanese-American experience in World War II. Interviewing survivors, and traveling on a pilgrimage to the desolate remains of the Tule Lake relocation camp in far Northern California, Mr. Aderer shows that the narrative of stoic obedience in the face of repression and imprisonment is radically incomplete. He reveals the widespread resistance among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps.” Read more…)

Love, Cecil (bio, photography, art, Cecil Beaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 79%. Metacritic: 63. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Was Cecil Beaton, the photographer, artist, diarist and theatrical designer who chronicled, and was influenced by, several periods of artistic and social upheaval in the 20th century, the last dandy? The documentary, ‘Love, Cecil,’ directed with energy and affection by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, doesn’t grapple with that question, and doesn’t have to; almost 40 years after Beaton’s 1980 death at age 76, no aesthete has come close to duplicating his output or his impact.” Read more…)

 New Children’s DVDs
Teen Titans Go to the Movies (animated feature)

New Releases 3/15/16

Top Hits
BrooklynBrooklyn (period drama/romance, Saorse Ronan. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Many American families cherish faded memories of the Old Neighborhood and the Old Country, places that help supply both a sense of identity and a story of progress — complementary answers to the question ‘Where do we come from?’ ‘Brooklyn,’ a lovely film based on the even lovelier novel by Colm Toibin, feels like an answer to that question. Set in its titular borough and in a small Irish town in the early 1950s, it is both sharply observed and gently nostalgic.” Read more…)

Sisters (comedy, Tina Fey. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 58. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Sisters’ is a movie to go out and see when you’ve run out of television to watch. Which could happen, at least theoretically. Directed by Jason Moore [‘Pitch Perfect’] from a script by the longtime ‘Saturday Night Live’ writer Paula Pell, this raunchy-huggy comedy features, in keeping with Hollywood custom, a gaggle of well-known and well-liked sitcom and sketch-comedy performers being a little less funny than you want them to be. They are allowed to swear more robustly than on network or basic-cable shows, to deliver sentimental speeches along with punch lines and to play with or against type as the mood suits.” Read more…)

Victor Frankenstein (horror/Gothic, Daniel Radcliffe. Rotten Tomatoes: 26%. Metacritic: 36. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “You cannot keep a good monster down, especially when there’s franchise money to be made. This doubtless explains ‘Victor Frankenstein,’ a pop romp that exhumes Mary Shelley’s famous monster-maker for a jaunty bromance with his bestie, Igor. It’s a hyperventilated resurrection that owes less to Shelley [or most Frankenstein flicks] than to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes diversions, which turned Holmes [Robert Downey Jr.] and Dr. Watson [Jude Law] into 19th-century action heroes complete with cheerfully deployed violence and self-regarding smiles.” Read more…)

Big_ShortThe Big Short (contemporary true-life drama, Christian Bale. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 81. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “A true crime story and a madcap comedy, a heist movie and a scalding polemic, ‘The Big Short’ will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood. Written by Adam McKay [‘Anchorman,’ ‘Anchorman 2’] and Charles Randolph, and directed by Mr. McKay and released in the midst of ‘Star Wars’ advent season, the film sets itself a very tall order. It wants not only to explain the financial crisis of 2008 — following the outline of Michael Lewis’s best-selling nonfiction book — but also to make the dry, complex abstractions of high finance exciting and fun.” Read more…)

Carol (drama/romance/gay & lesbian, Cate Blanchett. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 95. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In bringing this book to the screen in his gorgeous new movie ‘Carol,’ Todd Haynes has, as filmmakers will, changed a few details, characters and plot points. [Therese is now an aspiring photographer, though still temporarily employed at the doll counter of a department store.] But Mr. Haynes and the screenwriter, Phyllis Nagy, have also done something more radical. In Highsmith’s prose, desire is a one-way street. For Mr. Haynes, it’s a two-way mirror. At once ardent and analytical, cerebral and swooning, ‘Carol’ is a study in human magnetism, in the physics and optics of eros. With sparse dialogue and restrained drama, the film is a symphony of angles and glances, of colors and shadows. It gives emotional and philosophical weight to what might be a perfectly banal question: What do these women see each in each other?” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
Youth (comedy/drama, Michael Caine, Blu-Ray only. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The setting of ‘Youth,’ Paolo Sorrentino’s new film, is an Alpine resort — a picturesque place rich with cultural associations and full of rich, cultured guests. Even if most people in the audience have never been to such a spot, it may nonetheless ring a few bells and jog some literary and cinematic memories. We’ve been here before. Was it ‘The Magic Mountain’ or ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’? ‘The Good Soldier’? ‘Last Year at Marienbad’? It’s all the same. Not really, of course. These are highly specific mountains and trees, and the people gamboling and gambling in their shadows are exquisite in their individuality. But still. Mr. Sorrentino’s camera glides across a landscape pocked with signifiers of European Decadence, one of the continent’s most durable and distinguished exports.” Read more…)

The Big Short

New Classics (pre-1960)
Five Graves to Cairo (1943, Billy Wilder-directed World War II drama, Franchot Tone. Rotten Tomoatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1943 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It’s a good thing the German armies and Field Marshal Rommel in particular had been chased all the way out of Africa before ‘Five Graves to Cairo’ opened at the Paramount yesterday, else the performance by Erich von Stroheim of the much-touted field marshal in it might have been just a bit too aggressive for the comfort of most of us. As a matter of fact, it is still a shade on the terrifying side. For Mr. von Stroheim has all other movie Huns backed completely off the screen. Just as he was in the last war, he is still the toughest German of them all. And whenever he appears in this picture, a swaggering bully waving a tasseled fly-swatter, he gives you the creeps and the shivers. Boy, what a nasty Hun!” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962, Criterion edition of John Frankenheimer’s classic paranoid thriller. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 94. From Bosley Crowther’s 1962 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With the air full of international tension, the film ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ pops up with a rash supposition that could serve to scare some viewers half to death—that is, if they should be dupes enough to believe it, which we solemnly trust they won’t.” Read more…)

New Television
Game of Thrones: Season 5 (HBO fantasy/action series, Peter Dinklage)
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 (comedy, Ellie Kemper)

New Documentaries
Censored Voices (Mideast history, war, Six-Day War. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 72. From Daniel M. Gold’s New York Times review: “In the weeks following the Six-Day War in 1967, the conflict that reshaped a victorious Israel, two kibbutzniks, Amos Oz and Avraham Shapira, recorded a series of talks with other soldiers just coming home. Mr. Shapira assembled those conversations into a book, ‘The Seventh Day,’ which came out later that year and was remarkably reflective given the national euphoria. But the Israeli military permitted only about 30 percent of the material to be published then. In Mor Loushy’s ‘Censored Voices,’ Mr. Oz, now perhaps Israel’s best-known author, and Mr. Shapira, an editor, along with some of their interviewees, listen almost a half-century later to tapes of their younger selves.” Read more…)

Steve_Jobs_Man_MachineSteve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (bio, technology, Steve Jobs. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 72. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times review: “The transformative impact Steve Jobs has had on culture and society has become an article of faith since his much-mourned death in 2011. The secular canonization of Mr. Jobs, the mastermind behind Apple, is the starting point for ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,’ Alex Gibney’s trenchant new documentary, which asks with sincere curiosity: What’s the fuss about? And more to the point: What’s wrong with this picture?” Read more…)

The Seven Five (police corruption, New York history. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 69. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The documentary ‘The Seven Five’ giddily revisits the true-crime deeds of Michael Dowd, a former New York police officer who was arrested in 1992 with a stash of cocaine on him. As the ringleader of a crew of dirty cops stationed at the 75th Precinct in East New York, he padded his income by stealing money, guns and drugs from dealers. He eventually graduated to working for drug rings, one of which put him on retainer so he could provide information about narcotic operations. ‘The Seven Five’ has been called ‘the cop version of ‘”GoodFellas,’”‘ which may explain why Sony has plans to produce a fictional remake. Here’s hoping that version uses a better moral compass.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (animated feature, Jason Lee. Rotten Tomatoes: 16%. Metacritic: 33. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “Why the Chipmunks still command an audience more than a half-century after their initial incarnation on novelty records defies explanation, but they do; the first three movies each earned a nine-figure box office gross. The third installment, ‘Chipwrecked,’ in 2011, was somewhat chaotic and didn’t do as well as the first two; the new movie is a bit of a corrective, with a simpler plot and an abundance of catchy [if you can stand that grating, high-pitched harmony] songs.” Read more…)