New releases 8/20/19

Top Hits
A Dog’s Journey (family, Dennis Quaid. Rotten Tomatoes: 49%. Metacritic: 43. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The preponderance of viral dog videos proves that the animals are sufficiently attractive, intelligent and resourceful that they don’t need stories about their reincarnation to entertain and warm hearts. Nevertheless, we now have ‘A Dog’s Journey,’ the sequel to ‘A Dog’s Purpose’ [2017], all about a multiple-incarnation pooch on a mission to protect a human.” Read more…)

The Hustle (comedy, Rebel Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 14%. Metacritic: 35. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Comedy is in a weird place these days. Stand-up performers and late-night television hosts lean into the politics of the moment, while most movies with an urge to be funny tread cautiously, afraid of giving offense to any segment of the audience. ‘The Hustle’ does some of that — it pushes no buttons and tests no boundaries — but in the service of a higher cause. Or maybe a lower one. Silliness is the watchword. Always silliness.” Read more…)

Brightburn (horror, Elizabeth Banks. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 44. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Brightburn’ [the title refers to the Breyers’ hometown], is a superhero origin story reimagined as a horror movie. What if Clark Kent, instead of being grateful to the parents who raised him and a defender of truth, justice and the American way, had been a power-hungry sociopath whose motto was ‘take the world’?” Read more…)

Life and Nothing More (drama, Regina Williams. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “‘Life and Nothing More’ begins on a bus ride to court and ends at a prison, but not for the reasons viewers — or, more to the point, the legal system — might intuit. The film touches on a lot of hot-button matters, including the 2016 election; racial profiling; and the difficulties of being a single parent and of earning a living wage. But it keeps the issues largely in the background. The goal, as the title suggests, is simply to present lives as they’re lived from moment to moment.” Read more…)

The Sun Is Also a Star (romance, Yara Shahidi. Rotten Tomatoes: 50%. Metacritic: 52. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “What, I wondered, had brought me to that dark room where two nice-looking teenagers [Yara Shahidi of ‘black-ish’ and Charles Melton of ‘Riverdale’] were canoodling in a karaoke booth, and then on an empty Roosevelt Island tram car hovering above the East River? Was it fate? A series of decisions I had made earlier in my life, or that someone else had made for me? Might I find the answers in the writings of Carl Sagan or the poems of Emily Dickinson? If you are fascinated by this line of inquiry, you might enjoy this super-sincere young-adult romance, directed by Ry Russo-Young from Tracy Oliver’s screenplay and based on Nicola Yoon’s best-selling novel.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Aniara (Sweden, sci-fi, Emelie Jonsson. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 58. From Teo Bugbee’s New York Times review: “‘Aniara’ is closely based on a poem written by the Swedish writer Harry Martinson in 1956. In adapting Martinson’s tale of a spaceship hurtling into the abyss, the filmmakers Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja take a muted approach, using sets that are more corporate than futuristic and directing their actors to underplay the melodrama.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1927, silent film of novel, Margarita Fischer. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1927 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This present version is [director Harry] Pollard’s second filming of the subject. His first attempt was made twelve years ago, and in it he also acted the rôle of Uncle Tom. In this current film translation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous classic Mr. Pollard has presented some scenes with unusual skill, particularly those in which Topsy and Eva are beheld. The early episodes are frequently like a child’s visualization of the incidents of the book. Harvey Thew and A. P. Younger, two writers of opposite natures, have linked up some of the episodes with the Civil War, despite the fact that Mrs. Stowe wrote this work in 1851. There is always an unremitting effort to make this picture tearful, which is possibly to be expected.” Read more…)

New British
Babylon (1980, social drama/reggae, Brinsley Forde. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Wesley Morris’ Times review: “‘Babylon’ is a 39-year-old nugget of a movie about young British Jamaicans and their itinerant reggae scene built around sound systems, freestyling and parties with rich, low lighting. The film is making its American debut on Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and it’s got an episodic vividness and blanket-load of warmth, but also a harsh view of day-to-day life for black people in South London — on its streets, in its public housing, at its video arcades. If the police aren’t trying to shake down and beat up these guys, some fed-up white lady has come to their chill spot to complain [not unreasonably] that their music is too loud by telling them [unreasonably] to go back to their country and calling them “jungle bunnies.’” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Biggest Little Farm (environmental advocacy. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “If you’ve entertained ‘Green Acres’-inspired reveries on the joys of ‘farm living,’ this documentary may rid you of them in short order. But it may also revive your wonder at the weird but ultimately awe-inspiring ways in which humans can help nature do its work.” Read more…)

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (cinema history, feminism, bio. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At the beginning of Pamela B. Green’s lively and informative new documentary, a bevy of movie people — directors, actors, scholars and others — are asked if they know anything about Alice Guy-Blaché, who is the subject of the film. A few of them do [Ava DuVernay, for one], but most admit that they have no clue. Viewers who are similarly ignorant shouldn’t feel bad, and in the best pedagogical spirit Green turns blank looks and sheepishly shrugged shoulders into a teaching moment. ‘Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché’ seeks both to help rescue Guy-Blaché from oblivion and to explain how she got there in the first place.” Read more… [Note: According to A.O. Scott, “Several of (Guy-Blaché’s movies) have been issued by Kino Lorber in the indispensable ‘Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers’ collection.” That collection is available to rent at Best Video Film & Cultural Center.)