New releases 3/26/19

Top Hits
Aquaman (superhero action, Jason Momoa. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 55. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “Aquaman’s been dragged out of DC’s Justice League. His pals include Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, and his movie is as mediocre as the latest versions of theirs. Maybe ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ and ‘The Shape of Water’ have set the bar too high for marine absurdity, but your local aquarium has a stronger sense of wonder than ‘Aquaman.'” Read more…)

If Beale Street Could Talk (drama, KiKi Layne. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Every so often, the characters in Barry Jenkins’s anguished and mournful ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ look straight at the camera, and at you. In some movies, this kind of direct address can seem conspiratorial, suggesting that you and a character are in on a joke. Elsewhere, these gazes seem accusatory, assaultive, beseeching; here, most feel intimate and inviting, but also expansive. When two lovers look at each other in this movie, the tenderness in their eyes softens everything, creating a radiance that folds around them like a blanket, blunting the world. You feel the warmth, the softness, too.” Read more…)

Adult Life Skills (comedy/drama, Jodie Whittaker. Rotten Tomatoes: 73%. Metacritic: 49. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “By the time I had finished watching the aggressively whimsical British comedy ‘Adult Life Skills,’ my eyes had rolled so far back in my head I could barely focus. It wasn’t simply the excruciatingly twee musical choices, or the well-worn trajectory of a plot as contrived as its woolly-hatted heroine. It was the realization that stories about adults trapped in the aspic of adolescence are not disappearing from the movies any time soon.” Read more…)

Second Act (comedy, Jennifer Lopez. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 46. From Wesley Morris’ New York Times review: “This is Jenny from the blah. The movie was written by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and directed by the Adam Sandler and spoof veteran Peter Segal. We’re supposed to find what they’ve done with this story suspenseful. Just who at this company of divas, nerds and snakes will be the first to smell a rat?… I never see plot twists coming, but this one made me feel like Nostradamus.” Read more…)

Stan & Ollie (bio-pic, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 75. From Jason Zinoman’s New York Times review: “Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly deliver dynamite performances that capture the expressions and physicality of the star comedians without ever descending into caricature. They never strain for laughs but are consistently amusing. As Laurel, who wrote the comic bits and was the more tortured star, Coogan communicates a tremendous amount of anxiety and discord in a slight downturn of the lips. Equally subtle and emotionally grounded, Reilly portrays Hardy as a big man with a light touch, so laid-back so as to be almost reckless.” Read more…)

Descendants 2 (Disney fantasy, Dove Cameron. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times TV review: “The kids are largely on their own in “Descendants 2,” a sequel to the 2015 television movie about the children of Disney villains. That makes for a dumber film, but the target audience for this colorful tuneful fluff won’t care and may even consider it an improvement.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
If Beale Street Could Talk

New Foreign DVDs
The Day After (South Korea, romance/co,medy, Kwon Hae Hyo. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Day After,’ one of three films this prolific director brought to festivals in 2017 [another one screened in Berlin in February], is an especially elegant presentation of some of his characteristic concerns. Shot in chilly, silky digital black and white, it plays with chronology in a way that seems both casual and musically precise. While most of the action takes place during Areum’s first day, her encounters with Bongwan — mostly drinking and eating across a low table at the office or in an empty restaurant — are intercut with similar scenes of Bongwan and Changsook. These feel less like flashbacks than like record skips, morsels of evidence in support of a philosophical argument about the non-linearity of time.” Read more…)

Kaili Blues (China, drama, Yongzhong Chen. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 85. From Ken Jaworowski’s New York Times review: “The film is partly a meditation on grappling with ancient traditions in a modern China, as well as an outline of one man’s regrets. Still, [director Bi Gan] is in no rush to offer up a deeper meaning. Instead, he is content to deliver extended shots and images that are achingly melancholy, and teasingly cluttered. Watch closely: There’s always something curious situated beyond the characters, or on the edges of the frame — outside, a view of lush hills or decaying structures; inside, a piece of art or trash.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Hold Your Man (1933, romance/drama, Jean Harlow. From F.S.N.’s 1933 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The popularity of the Jean Harlow-Clark Gable combination cannot be questioned. Virtually every seat in the Capitol Theatre was taken a few minutes after its doors were opened yesterday for the first showing of their new picture, ‘Hold Your Man.’It was a friendly audience. Laughter and applause punctuated the unreeling of the story and there is no explanation for that other than the popularity of Mr. Gable and Miss Harlow.” Read more…)

Frank Capra: The Early Collection:
Ladies of Leisure (1930)
Rain or Shine (1930)
The Miracle Woman (1931)
Forbidden (1932)
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

Jean Harlow: 7-Film Collection (From a Caryn James’ appreciation of Harlow in The New York Times in 1993 [requires log-in]: “Jean Harlow represented everything that straitlaced 1930’s America was supposed to despise. She played platinum-haired prostitutes, gold diggers and other trashy types with no apologies. In ‘Red-Headed Woman,’ she strategically places a picture of her rich, married boss under her garter and says, ‘It’ll get me more there than it will hanging on the wall.’ In ‘Red Dust,’ she decides to take a bath in a rain barrel, the better to get Clark Gable’s attention. And in ‘Hold Your Man,’ she fights a rival for Gable’s affections by belting the other woman with a left to the jaw, twice. Yet in her seven-year career, Harlow was wildly popular with both men and women, who found more to envy than to scorn.” Read more…):
Bombshell (1933, drama)
The Girl From Missouri (1934, rom-com)
Reckless (1935, drama)
Riffraff (1935, romance/drama)
Suzy (1936, romance/espionage)
Personal Property (1937, romance)
Saratoga (1937, Harlow’s final film, romance)

New Documentaries
The World Before Your Feet (personality, New York City, walking. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “But ‘The World Before Your Feet’ makes clear that Green’s mission [walking every block in New York City], whatever its origins, has become more than a selfish, privileged stunt. His travels have turned him into an extraordinary micro-historian of the city, with expertise that spans architecture, horticulture and urban planning.” Read more…)

Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (politics, media, bio, conservatism, Roger Ailes. Rotten Tomatoes: 90%. Metacritic: 71. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Ben Kenigsberg’s Times review: “Any documentary — or obituary — that reckons with the legacy of Roger E. Ailes faces an almost impossible choice of emphasis. Here, after all, was a gifted news media pioneer who served as a presidential campaign whisperer to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump. As the longtime chief executive of and main creative force behind Fox News, Ailes can be credited not only with changing the nature of political discourse in this country, but also with making a large number of Americans, left and right, significantly angrier.” Read more…)

New Children’s DVDs
Paddington Bear

New releases 7/31/18

Top Hits
Tully (comedy, Charlize Theron. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 75. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Marlo [played by Charlize Theron] is doing the contemporary supermom thing and, refreshingly, she isn’t doing it with 1950s clichéd desperate smiles. Directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody [this is their third movie together], ‘Tully’ admits that this figure is a noxious delusion, one that isn’t suitable for real women. Nevertheless they’re made to feel guilty for not doing it all or scolded for trying to live up to impossible standards. And soon enough the golden nimbus surrounding Marlo vanishes, swept away by the reality of hustling two children off to school while waiting for her water to break.” Read more…)

The Miracle Season (sports/inspiration, Helen Hunt. Rotten Tomatoes: 47%. Metacritic: 44. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “That ‘The Miracle Season’ is based on a true story makes it tough to endure and to review, because it’s no pleasure to report that filmmakers have turned real-life tragedy and tenacity into a manipulative weepie. From lighting to music cues, ‘The Miracle Season’ never misses a chance to lunge for your tear ducts, treating its characters less as flesh-and-blood humans than as props for delivering bromides.” Read more…)

Kings (drama, Halle Berry. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 34. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “The first English-language film from the Turkish-French director Deniz Gamze Ergüven [her 2015 movie ‘Mustang’ was a foreign language Oscar nominee] is well-acted across the board, and contains more than a few outstanding, unpredictable scenes. But in tying its story to this particular moment in American history, the movie bites off more than it can coherently chew.” Read more…)

The Party (comedy, Patricia Clarkson. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 73. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Written and directed by Sally Potter, who has made other movies worth seeing — ‘Thriller,’ ‘Orlando,’ ‘Ginger & Rosa’ — ‘The Party’ is a brittle, unfunny attempt at comedy that features some very fine actors and a lot of empty chatter. It takes place inside a few rooms on the ground-level floor of Bill and Janet’s comfortable London digs. There, they are giving a party to celebrate Janet’s recent appointment as a government functionary of the unnamed opposition party. From the way she furtively coos into her cellphone, it is clear that Janet has some secrets.” Read more…)

Kickboxer: Retaliation (action, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 54. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “Mixed martial arts fans awaiting another chapter in the ‘Kickboxer’ movie series can rest easy: ‘Kickboxer: Retaliation’ has arrived in all its brutal, lunkheaded glory to scratch that particular itch. This sequel to 2016’s ‘Kickboxer: Vengeance’ — a reboot of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme hit ‘Kickboxer’ [which spawned four sequels in the 1990s] — is essentially an overlong excuse to showcase an endless string of fight sequences. Scenes are either preludes to fights, preparations for fights or the fights themselves.” Read more…)

The Recall ( sci-fi, Wesley Snipes)

New Blu-Ray
Point Break (1991)
The Bad Batch
I Kill Giants
Cold Turkey
Kickboxer: Retaliation
I Am Heath Ledger
Bad Santa 2
Only the Brave
The Young Pope: Season 1
Sing Street
The Endless
Borg vs. McEnroe
Smurfs: The Lost Village
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Pirates of Somalia
Kung Fu Yoga
The Star
Going in Style
Savannah Smiles (1982)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Letter (1929, drama, Jeanne Eagels. From Dave Kehr’s 2011 New York Times DVD review: “Long overshadowed by William Wyler’s 1940 remake starring Bette Davis, the first filming, from 1929, of W. Somerset Maugham’s stage play ‘The Letter’ has re-emerged, thanks to a new DVD edition from Warner Archive. As the only surviving sound film of the radically innovative Broadway star Jeanne Eagels, the film is an important piece of theater history, preserving the performance style of a brilliant, eccentric and spectacularly self-destructive actress [who would die of a drug overdose seven months after the film’s release]. But, stiff as it may be in cinematic terms, ‘The Letter’ is also a crucial piece of film history. One of the first talking films — or ‘audible photoplays,’ as The New York Times then called them — to impress critics with the artistic possibilities of a technology still widely regarded as a gimmick, ‘The Letter’ represented an important step on the way to the normalization of sound.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Day After (1983, nuclear war drama, Jason Robards. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From John Corry’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘The Day After,’ ABC’s much-discussed vision of nuclear Armageddon, is no longer only a television film, of course; it has become an event, a rally and a controversy, much of it orchestrated. Part of the controversy has to do with whether ‘The Day After’ makes a political statement, which it does, although the statement is muddy, and part of the controversy has to do with how we confront the nuclear abyss. Champions of the film say it forces us to think intelligently about the arms race; detractors say it preaches appeasement. In fact, both sides have something going for them in their arguments, even if the champions of the film, for the moment, are being heard more clearly than the detractors.” Read more…)

Latino (1985, drama/war, Robert Beltran. From Vincent Canby’s 1986 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The passion is there, but it’s subverted by the perfunctory nature of the fiction [director Haskell Wexler] has concocted about Eddie Guerrero, a Mexican-born officer in the Green Berets, and his politicization in Honduras while training United States-sponsored, Nicaraguan ‘contras,’ or counterrevolutionaries. The film, which was made under obviously difficult conditions, mostly in Nicaragua, looks both authentic and exceptionally handsome. It’s acted with conviction by Robert Beltran, as Eddie Guerrero; Annette Cardona, as the Nicaraguan woman with whom Eddie falls in love; Tony Plana, as one of Eddie’s fellow Green Berets, and Luis Torrentes, as a young Nicaraguan forced to join the contras at the point of a gun. Unfortunately for the film, Mr. Wexler’s screenplay makes only minimal use of the freedom allowed by fiction to dramatize the contradictory nature of human behavior -something not easily conveyed in documentaries.” Read more…)

New TV
Counterpart: Season 1 (thriller series, J.K. Simmons. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Mike Hale’s Times TV review: “One Howard Silk, a meek career bureaucrat who visits his comatose wife every night in the hospital, has ‘kind eyes,’ according to a nurse. The other Howard Silk, a sarcastic, deadly spy, does not. And yet the two Howard Silks — genetically identical but temperamentally diverse characters in the alternate-dimensions thriller ‘Counterpart,’ beginning Sunday on Starz — have the same eyes. They belong to the actor J.K. Simmons, whose double-barreled performance makes the show the most entertaining new series of the winter. Counterpart,” created by Justin Marks [writer of the 2016 ‘Jungle Book’ remake], is a clever and suspenseful if somewhat familiar mix of futuristic speculation and retro atmosphere.” Read more…)