New releases 2/6/18

Top Hits
LBJ (bio-pic, Woody Harrelson. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Directed by Rob Reiner from Joey Hartstone’s script, ‘LBJ’ is a frustratingly underdeveloped vehicle for Mr. Harrelson’s talents as well as an unfortunate missed opportunity. Mr. Harrelson hits his beats with charismatic menace and a reverberant Texas twang, but he’s booming in a vacuum. Part of the problem is the filmmakers never figure out why this particular story needed to be told at this specific moment; it feels at once dutiful and arbitrary. That’s too bad, especially given that it could have continued a story told through Obama-era movies — ‘Selma,’ ‘Jackie,’ ‘Marshall’ — that, both directly and obliquely, speak to the present through the convulsions of the 1960s.” Read more…)

Suburbicon (crime/drama. Matt Damon. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 42. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “‘Suburbicon,’ a jaundiced, hard-sell comedy, wants you to know that the American dream was always a crock. This may not be news, even in the movie industry, which loves white-picket fences in principle but remains a gated community in fact. Still, every so often a filmmaker restates the case for the prosecution. The latest complainant is George Clooney, who in directing ‘Suburbicon’ has turned back the clock to the 1950s for a story about the good old American days of prosperity and prejudice, of race hate and white people who are always just one clenched fist away from becoming a mob.” Read more…)

Only the Brave (adventure, Josh Brolin. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Andy Webster’s Times review: “Given what Northern California has endured recently with wildfires, perhaps it’s high time to honor those risking life and limb to contain such conflagrations. If only Joseph Kosinski’s action-drama ‘Only the Brave’ — based on the exploits of the real-life Granite Mountain Hotshots, a troop of elite firefighters near Prescott, Ariz. — had a less generic title and fewer formulaic beats. But under its slick, schematic surface, this tale of aspiration and redemption at least offers moments of genuine feeling.” Read more…)

Walking Out (thriller/adventure, Matt Bomer. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 79. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “The story line is well-trod, and reminiscent in parts of ‘The Revenant,’ ‘Mountain Men’ and several other films that take place in rough country. Yet Mr. Bomer and Mr. Wiggins are proficient with the sparse dialogue [written by the brothers and directors Alex and Andrew Smith, from a short story by David Quammen], and with situations that are occasionally contrived.” Read more…)

Just Charlie (coming-of-age/LGBTQ, Harry Gilby)
Homeland: Season 6 (Showtime series, Claire Danes. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 68.)

New Foreign
Tom of Finland (Finland, biopic, Pekka Strang. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 56. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “A biopic can take any life, no matter how transgressive or interesting, and reduce it to check marks on a list. In ‘Tom of Finland,’ a primarily Finnish-language feature from Dome Karukoski, the biography is that of Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang), the Finnish advertising designer who, under the name Tom of Finland, published drawings of hyper-muscular, well-endowed men and became famous for expanding perceptions on the portrayal of gay life in art.” Read more…)

War of the Buttons (Ireland, 1994, coming-of-age, Gregg Fitzgerald. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54.)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Yolanda and the Thief (1945, musical, Fred Astaire. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Bosley Croether’s 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Taste and imagination are so rare these days in musical films that a good bit of both is sufficient to offset a peck of obvious faults. So that’s why this corner is cheering for Metro’s ‘Yolanda and the Thief,’ which came yesterday to the Capitol with all the gusto of the Macy parade. Fetched from a mischievous fable by Jacques Thery and Ludwig Bemelmans, and mounted with charm and magnificence by Vincente Minnelli and Arthur Freed, it is a pleasing compound of sparkling mummery and glistening allures for eye and ear, hampered throughout by a flat script which doesn’t match the visual elegance with wit. And elegance is truly the quality with which the producers have endowed this singing and dancing rendition of a sophisticated fairytale. For brilliance and color of the settings and costumes are nigh beyond compare—as rich and theatrically tasteful as any we’ve ever seen.” Read more…
The Los Angeles Times, reviewing the Warner Archives DVD release in 2011, wrote, “‘Yolanda and the Thief,’ which just made its DVD debut on Warner Archive, may be the best Fred Astaire movie musical you’ve never heard of. Though its reputation has soared since its release in 1945, the Vincente Minnelli-directed Technicolor fantasy was a disaster at the box office. But ‘Yolanda’s’ only crime was that it was not of its time — audiences weren’t in the mood for a fantasy.”)

New British DVDs
Taboo: Season 1 (period thriller, Tom Hardy. Rotten Tomatoes: 76%. Metacritic: 67.)
Just Charlie (coming-of-age/LGBTQ, Harry Gilby. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54.)

New Television
Homeland: Season 6 (Showtime series, Claire Danes. Rotten Tomatoes: 54%. Metacritic: 54.)

New Documentaries
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent (food culture, celebrity chef, Jeremiah Tower. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. Metacritic: 68. From Andy Webster’s New York Times review: “Much of Lydia Tenaglia’s diverting documentary, ‘Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,’ about one of America’s first celebrity chef-restaurateurs, is framed as a battle against vulgarity. Mr. Tower, an epicure raised as a lonely child amid chilly affluence, attended Harvard around the late 1960s before finding his calling. On camera, he remembers how, when student protesters invited him to ‘become a revolutionary,’ he replied, ‘I’m too busy cooking.’ He adds: ‘Drink Champagne and eat smoked salmon. That was my revolution.'” Read more…)

New Gay & Lesbian
Just Charlie (coming-of-age/LGBTQ, Harry Gilby)
Tom of Finland (Finland, biopic, LGBTQ culture, art, Tom of Finland)