New releases 3/13/18

Top Hits
The Shape of Water (science fiction, Sally Hawkins. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s enthusiastic Times review: “‘The Shape of Water’ is partly a code-scrambled fairy tale, partly a genetically modified monster movie, and altogether wonderful. Guillermo del Toro, the writer and director, is a passionate genre geek. Sometimes his enthusiasm can get the better of his discipline, producing misshapen (but never completely uninteresting) movies like ‘Pacific Rim’ and ‘Crimson Peak.’ At his best, though — in ‘The Devil’s Backbone,’ ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and now, at last, again — he fuses a fan’s ardor with a romantic sensibility that is startling in its sincerity. He draws on old movies, comic books, mythic archetypes and his own restless visual imagination to create movies that seem less made than discovered, as if he had plucked them from the cultural ether and given them color, voice and form.” Read more…)

I, Tonya (biopic, Margot Robbie. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times revew: “Energetically directed by Craig Gillespie, ‘I, Tonya’ charts the hard-won rise and calamitous fall of its title character [Margot Robbie]. Taking the form of a mock, mocking documentary, one that disjointedly swings between heehaw comedy and wincing agony, the movie establishes its raised-eyebrow tone with a title card stating it’s ‘Based on irony-free, wildly contradictory and totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly,’ her former husband. [The screenwriter, Steven Rogers, has said that he spoke with both.] From their separate corners, the middle-aged, long-divorced Tonya and Jeff [Sebastian Stan], provide linked, at times vividly contradictory accounts of what happened.” Read more…)

The Disaster Artist (biopic/Hollywood, James Franco. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 76. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “An ode to bad taste and dubious intentions, the ha-ha comedy ‘The Disaster Artist’ involves one of the favorite topics of the movies: itself. It’s another story of crushed Hollywood dreams, one that unfolds through the eyes of Greg Sestero [Dave Franco], an aspiring actor who hitched himself to a phenomenon when he met Tommy Wiseau [James Franco, Dave’s brother]. A would-be auteur, the real Mr. Wiseau became a minor cult figure after he released a 2003 specialty item, ‘The Room,’ that some anointed the worst movie ever made. In time, its notoriety started to pay off; in 2013, Mr. Sestero wrote a tell-all book. Based on that tell-all [which Mr. Sestero wrote with Tom Bissell], “The Disaster Artist” recounts both the making of a friendship and the absurdly inept movie it produced.” Read more…)

Justice League (superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. Metacritic: 45. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Justice League,’ the newest DC Comics superhero jam directed by Zack Snyder, is looser, goosier and certainly more watchable than the last one. The bar could scarcely have been lower given that the previous movie, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,’ was such an interminable slog. The superhero and villain dynamic is much the same [slayers going to slay, etc.], but there are a few fresh faces now and Wonder Woman has more to do than play backup. The story is a confusion of noise, visual clutter and murderous digital gnats, but every so often a glimmer of life flickers through.” Read more…)

Call Me By Your Name (romance/gay, Armie Hammer. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 93. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “You don’t just watch Luca Guadagnino’s movies, you swoon into them. His best-known titles, ‘I Am Love’ and ‘A Bigger Splash,’ feature beautiful people with impeccable taste experiencing haute-bourgeois life intensely. Passion and drama upend those lives, but what’s most striking about these movies is their extraordinary palpable quality. In Mr. Guadagnino’s work, passion and drama are expressed in words, deeds and surging music but also in the vibrant, visceral textures that envelop his characters — the cool marble, succulent fruit, shadow and light, sheens of sweat. These are movies that turn your gaze into near-touch, inviting you to see and almost caress their sun-warmed bodies. Mr. Guadagnino’s latest, ‘Call Me by Your Name,’ is another ravishment of the senses, though this time there’s a strong narrative tethering all the churning feelings and sensuous surfaces.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
I, Tonya
The Disaster Artist
Justice League
Novitiate

New Foreign
Everybody Loves Somebody (Mexico, romantic comedy, Karla Souza. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 74. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Toggling between Los Angeles and Mexico, English and Spanish, this sophomore feature by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta asks Clara to choose between naughty and nice. The setup is commonplace, but the scenery is delicious, the dialogue refreshingly tart and the keen supporting cast frisky or affecting, as the occasion demands.” Read more…)

Song of Granite (Ireland, music/biopic, Michael O’Chonfhlaola. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘When you’re focused on it, when you’re in the emotion of the song, you won’t hear or see anything else around you,’ says Joe Heaney, played at that point by Micheal O Chonfhaola, in ‘Song of Granite,’ an impressionistic portrait of the Irish folk singer. Mr. Heaney was recognized as a master of sean nos [old style] music, a traditional Gaelic variety of a cappella.” Read more…)

Spettacolo (Italy, documentary, Italian society/theater. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 76. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “That story can be so poignant and is so intelligently told that it feels wrong, almost insulting, to call ‘Spettacolo’ charming, even if the movie is often delightful. In guidebooks, charm tends to be a commercial marker, a signifier for an imaginary, easily salable and consumable notion of authenticity. [directors] [Jeff] Malmberg and [Chris] Shellen understand the allure of that imaginary world; they were, after all, on vacation when they discovered Monticchiello and their documentary is itself often lovely. Yet they remind you that people are not attractions and their homes are not museums, even if the global economy, its casual tourists and rich speculators are determined to prove otherwise.” Read more…)

A French Village: Season 6 (France, period drama series set in occupied France, Audrey Fleurot)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Suburbia (1996, Richard Linklater-directed drama, Parker Posey. Rotten Tomatoes: 64%. Metacritic: 62. From Janet Maslin’s 1996 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Richard Linklater’s fine new film ‘Suburbia’ combines his talents with those of Eric Bogosian and brings out the best in both. Mr. Bogosian’s venomously funny play, which he adapted himself for the screen, is given warmth and generosity by Mr. Linklater, whose elegantly fluid direction and great skill with actors are accentuated by the play’s spareness. Mr. Bogosian’s knife-edged humor and hairpin turns at the end of the play keep the material from meandering and guarantee the film its sting.” Read more…)

New TV
The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1 (sci-fi/feminism based on Margaret Atwood novel, Elisabeth Moss. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 92. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times TV review: “A decade ago, Elisabeth Moss began co-starring in ‘Mad Men,’ which among other things was about how women were objectified and subjugated — in the past, the 1960s, the bad old days. In Hulu’s spectacular The Handmaid’s Tale,’ Ms. Moss is Offred, a baby-making slave in the Republic of Gilead, which is what part of the United States [New England, roughly] has become after a fertility crisis and a theocratic coup. It’s set in a near future that looks like the 1600s. ‘Mad Men’ may have resonated with today, but it gave viewers the comfortable vantage of history, the reassurance that we had come a long way, baby. “The Handmaid’s Tale” argues — with an assist from current events — that progress is neither automatic nor irreversible. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, is a cautionary tale, a story of resistance and a work of impeccable world-building. It is unflinching, vital and scary as hell.” Read more…)

The Good Fight: Season 1 (legal drama, Christine Baranski. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times TV review: “When ‘The Good Wife’ had its premiere, there was a clear line from Hillary Clinton to Alicia Florrick [Julianna Margulies], the ambitious lawyer who came into her own after her politician husband’s sex scandal. But the show had another Clinton figure all along: Diane Lockhart [Christine Baranski], who hired, befriended and ultimately fell out with Alicia. A leonine liberal not allergic to money or a highball of fine Scotch, she rose in a boy’s club through alliances, compromise and knowing how much of herself to conceal. Diane begins ‘The Good Fight’ ready for a change. Like certain other people of her political persuasion recently, she meets a less happy kind of change than she was expecting. But for her — and for this improbable but promising spinoff — it ends up being an invigorating new start.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Spettacolo (Italy, documentary, Italian society/theater)

New Children’s DVDs
Ferdinand (animated feature, John Cena [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s new York Times review: “The classic picture book ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ written by Munro Leaf and illustrated in inky black-and-white by Robert Lawson, tells the tale of a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight, even when he finds himself in the ring in Madrid. Published in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War on the horizon, the book, interpreted as pacifist propaganda, found enemies on both sides. ‘Ferdinand’ the new computer-animated adaptation from Carlos Saldanha [the ‘Ice Age’ movies], speaks to its own time in a different way, dutifully adhering to the template for contemporary children’s films while avoiding much personality or distinction.” Read more…)

My Little Pony: The Movie (animated feature, Emily Blunt [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 39.)