New releases 2/20/18

Top Hits
Mom and Dad (horror-comedy, Nicolas Cage. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 60. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Anyway, ‘Mom and Dad’ soon reveals its high concept: All the parents in its world go mad and try to start killing their kids. The writer and director Brian Taylor shies away from no possibility here, including a delivery room scene in which a woman begins crushing her newborn. As you can imagine, the homicidal frenzy gives [director Nicolas] Cage plenty of opportunity to go full him, which, in this case, doesn’t yield as much fun as you might have hoped.” Read more…)

Same Kind of Different as Me (family/religious, Greg Kinnear. Rotten Tomatoes: 38%. Metacritic: 49.)

New Foreign
The Girl Without Hands (France, animated feature, Philippe Laudenbach [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Monica Castillos Times review: “Sébastien Laudenbach’s ‘The Girl Without Hands’ is an animated adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same title. Although this film’s style is soft and colorful, it does not rub out the emotional sharpness of a story dealing with betrayal, suicide and death.” Read more…)

Blade of the Immortal (Japan, samurai drama, Hana Sugisaki. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 72. From Jeannette Catasoulis’ New York Times review: “If there’s one constant in samurai movies, it’s that their heroes are ridiculously hard to kill, battling on through every assault short of being blown to smithereens. Imagine, then, how much tougher to dispatch is a samurai whose wounds — the physical ones, anyway — heal themselves, and you have a fair idea of the sheer volume of damage visited on Manji [Takuya Kimura], the justifiably grumpy centerpiece of Takashi Miike’s ‘Blade of the Immortal.'” Read more…)

Don’t Call Me Son (Brazil, drama/LGBTQ, Naomi Nero. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The movie is a critique of identity on several levels: biological, sexual, social, cultural and class-related. The unstable, impulsive Pierre is no heroic rebel. He is a floundering young man with many hurdles ahead. But the movie unequivocally takes his side. In its blasé way, ‘Don’t Call Me Son’ is subversive.” Read more…)

The Hero (India, 1966, Satyajit Ray-directed drama, Uttam Kumar. From an unsigned 1974 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “People who revel in tales wherein film idols suffer from insecurity, are shaken by nightmares, fail in their relationships with mentors, old friends and the opposite sex and take refuge in pills and liquor will find him every bit as entertaining as his familiar counterparts. Everybody else aboard the train, including the woman journalist, given admirable characterization by Sharmila Tagoro, seems rather peripheral.” Read more…)

An Actor’s Revenge (Japan, 1966, period melodrama, Kazuo Hasegawa. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Howard Thompson’s 1971 New York Times review [prequires log-in]: “No, ‘The Actors’s Revenge’ isn’t about the murder of a drama critic. That might have been more interesting. It is an artistically arranged but extremely rambling exercise full of melodramic bumps and lumps, as a vengeful actor destroys three men who ruined his family years ago.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972, comedy/drama, Walter Matthau. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. From Howard Thompson’s 1972 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Is anybody getting a little tired of Carol Burnett and Walter Matthau? The television queen is all over the home box and has been for some time. Matthau,expertise included, is certainly coming at us thick and fast. Expecting an obvious, strictly-for-laughs showcase in ‘Pete ‘n’ Tillie,’ which opened yesterday at the Baronet, one viewer received the jolt of his Christmas season. This is the wittiest, warmest and most ingratiating movie to appear in a long time, with a beautifully sustained and muted edge of sadness.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936, biographical drama, Paul Muni [Oscar winner]. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1936 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Pasteur’s life is warm and vital, of itself. It has lost none of that warmth through Mr. Muni’s sensitive characterization, through the gifted direction of William Dieterle and the talents of a perfect cast. It may not be the province—and probably it was not the primary motive—of a Hollywood studio to create a film which is, at the same time, a monument to the life of a man. But ‘The Story of Louis Pasteur’ is truly that.” Read more…)

New British
Prime Suspect: Tennison (prequel to Prime Suspect, police procedural, Stefanie Martini)
Threads (1984, harrowing BBC nuclear war TV movie, Reece Dinsdale)

New Documentaries
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (race, American history, culture. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New releases 9/19/17

Top Hits
Wonder Woman (superhero action, Gal Gadot. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. Metacritic: 76. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Wonder Woman,’ directed by Patty Jenkins from a script by Allan Heinberg, briskly shakes off blockbuster branding imperatives and allows itself to be something relatively rare in the modern superhero cosmos. It feels less like yet another installment in an endless sequence of apocalyptic merchandising opportunities than like … what’s the word I’m looking for? A movie. A pretty good one, too. By which I mean that ‘Wonder Woman’ tells an interesting, not entirely predictable story [until the climax, which reverts, inevitably and disappointingly, to dreary, overblown action clichés]. It cleverly combines genre elements into something reasonably fresh, touching and fun. Its earnest insouciance recalls the ‘Superman’ movies of the ’70s and ’80s more than the mock-Wagnerian spectacles of our own day, and like those predigital Man of Steel adventures, it gestures knowingly but reverently back to the jaunty, truth-and-justice spirit of an even older Hollywood tradition.” Read more…)

The Hero (drama, Sam Elliott. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 61. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jennette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Salty of hair and weary of manner, Lee [Sam Elliott], an aging actor now reduced to using his treacle-and-tobacco voice to peddle barbecue sauce, knows he’s a cliché. And it’s that awareness, conveyed in every pained glance and drawled syllable, that saves ‘The Hero.’ Without Lee’s complicity in the triteness of his story — and Mr. Elliott’s ability to sell it as a melancholy burden — this low-key feature by Brett Haley wouldn’t be half as pleasurable.” Read more…)

The Big Sick (romantic comedy, Kumail Najiani. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 86. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Love means having to say you’re sorry — early and often. That’s one of the truisms in ‘The Big Sick,’ a joyous, generous-hearted romantic comedy that, even as it veers into difficult terrain, insists that we just need to keep on laughing. Outwardly, the story seems familiar: A really nice guy falls for a woman he may not be worthy of and nearly blows it. What gives the movie both fizz and sting — and shows that there’s plenty of juice and possibility left in the American romantic comedy — are its particulars, especially the comic Kumail Nanjiani, who plays a fictionalized version of himself, a Pakistani-American struggling to make it in stand-up while fumbling through the rest of his life.” Read more…)

Certain Women (drama triptych, Laura Dern. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. scott’s New York Times review: “Though not technically a western, Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Vertain Women’ takes place in a region of broad skies, rocky landscapes and pent-up feelings. Human beings are sparse, and words are even scarcer. But Ms. Reichardt, a transplanted Easterner based in Portland, Ore., is a poet of silences and open spaces, and her plain-looking, taciturn films have their own kind of eloquence, the specific gravity of rare minerals.” Read more…)

Swallows and Amazons (family adventure based on 1930s English book series, Rafe Spall. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 65.)

New Blu-Ray Discs
Wonder Woman
Separate Tables (1958, drama, Burt Lancaster)
The Candy Tangerine Man + Lady Cocoa (blaxploitation, Vinegar Syndrome remaster with DVD)
The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (Vinegar Syndrome remaster of sexploitation director works, also with DVD)

New Foreign DVDs
The Treasure (Romania, comedy, Cuzin Toma. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘The Treasure,’ like ’12:08 East of Bucharest’ and ‘Police, Adjective,’ rewards repeated viewing. It’s quite funny — Costi, Adrian and Cornel act out a low-key farce as they traipse through the yard looking for subterranean clues — and rich with unstated implications. [Director Corneliu] Porumboiu, as usual, is playing a long game, keeping you engaged with his rigorous formal wit until he can deliver a series of narrative and visual coups at the end. The final shot, accompanied by an improbable but perfect musical cue, is an astonishing cinematic gesture, an appalling, hilarious statement about modern values, the state of the world, human nature and everything else. This is a movie that lives up to its name.” Read more…)

By The Time It Gets Dark (Thailand, political historic drama, Arak Amornsupasiri. Rotten Tomatoes: 87%. Metacritic: 73. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘ By the Time It Gets Dark,’ the second feature from the Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong, tiptoes around an event in October 1976, when students at Thammasat University in Bangkok were violently suppressed while protesting the return of a military leader. That context is never fully clarified in the movie, a continually mutating narrative that has little interest in providing bearings or telling a straightforward story, though we see the crackdown staged for a photo shoot, and the preparation for the protests in a flashback.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Vietnam War (Ken Burns & Lynn Novick documentary, history, war, social conflict, activism. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 88. From James Poniewozik’s New York Times television review: “The war in Vietnam offers no uplift or happy ending. It’s simply decades of bad decision after bad decision, a wasteful vortex that devoured lives for nothing. It was, the narrator Peter Coyote says, ‘begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculations.’ ‘The Vietnam War’ is less an indictment than a lament. This is where Mr. Burns and Ms. Novick’s primary-source interviews are so effective. Arguably, the most important Ken Burns effect is not a visual trick but the refocusing of history on first-person stories. Geoffrey C. Ward’s script has a big-picture historical arc — presidents and generals, battles and negotiations, domino theory and madman theory. The narrative wends nimbly from Washington to the battlefield [both sides] to living rooms, TV studios, campuses and convention halls. But the film’s power comes from the oral histories.” Read more…)