New releases 6/26/18

Top Hits
Gemini (neo-noir, Lola Kirke. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Every so often, a filmmaker plays with these banalities, which I imagine is why Aaron Katz opens ‘Gemini,’ a pleasurably drifty, low-wattage mystery set in Los Angeles, with an upside-down shot of a palm tree. Perfectly framed and photographed, its feathery fronds spreading in silhouette against a dark-indigo night sky, the tree hangs in the shot like a chandelier. Mr. Katz gives ‘Gemini’ the expected smoggy freeways and a blonde on a billboard, as well as the kind of mystery that certain Hollywood dreams are made of, complete with a femme fatale, a detective and a lonely horn on the soundtrack. But as that upside-down palm tree suggests, he is coming at Los Angeles from his own angle.” Read more…)

Spinning Man (mystery, Pierce Brosnan. Rotten Tomatoes: 42%. Metacritic: 44. From Jennifer Szalai’s New York Times review: “Can a movie devoid of thrills be called a thriller? That’s the kind of question Evan Birch [Guy Pearce], the befuddled professor at the center of ‘Spinning Man,’ might ask the college students in his philosophy of language class. Based on George Harrar’s clever novel of the same name, this cumbersome adaptation [written by Matthew Aldrich and directed by Simon Kaijser] goes through the motions of building suspense, even as it leaks tension at nearly every turn.” Read more…)

The Endless (horror/sci-fi, Aaron Moorhead. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 80. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Glenn Kenny’s Times review: “The young filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made a critical splash with their 2015 horror picture ‘Spring,’ an inventive mutant romance. With their new film, ‘The Endless,’ they take a few unusual risks. ‘The Endless’ revisits the setting and some of the situations from ‘Resolution,’ their 2013 feature debut. In that movie Mr. Benson and Mr. Moorhead appeared in small roles as members of a U.F.O. cult. Here, they are the leads, telling a continued story of those characters.” Read more…)

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony (thriller, Taraji P. Henson. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 32. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The moral of ‘Acrimony’ seems to be: Leave a bad man, especially one who cheated on you before marriage and leeches off your financial resources — unless he has poured his life into the dream of inventing a self-recharging battery, in which case the bonds of matrimony are sacrosanct and no sacrifice is too great.” Read more…)

Terminal (crime/drama, Margot Robbie. Rotten Tomatoes: 23%. Metacritic: 26. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “There are only a handful of speaking parts in Vaughn Stein’s ‘Terminal,’ and, even so, Margot Robbie and Mike Myers are required to play two apiece. Yet in this tarted-up noir cartoon — a pastiche of comic-book characters, hard-boiled dialogue and nonsense served up as enigma — not even Ms. Robbie can impart respectability.” Read more…)

Madame (comedy, Toni Collette. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 45.)

New Foreign
Back to Burgundy (France, drama/vino, Pio Marmaï. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 58. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “But so it goes with Cédric Klapisch’s comfort-food feature, which is primarily a scenic and knowing ode to traditional winemaking. Mr. Klapisch lingers his camera lovingly over shots of grapes being harvested and stomped, all the while employing story mechanics and flashbacks indelicate enough to suggest the churn of a factory juicer.” Read more…)

The Banishment (Russia, drama, Konstantin Lavronenko. Rotten Tomatoes: 61%. Metacritic: 59. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The first two-thirds are an extraordinary slow burn that provides ample time to admire [director Andrey] Zvyagintsev’s talent with the wide frame. The movie is marred by an unsatisfying resolution, which has a coyness better suited to literature.” Read more…)

Beauty and the Dogs (Tunisia, feminist drama, Mariam Al Ferjani. Rotten Tomatoes: 71%. Metacritic: 65. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “A crescendo of humiliation, anxiety and abuse, ‘Beauty and the Dogs’ plays like a horror movie where every choice is a Catch-22 and every door a trap. Unfolding over one endless night and nine chapters — each confidently filmed in a single, liquid take — the story [by the film’s Tunisian director, Kaouther Ben Hania] follows Mariam [Mariam Al Ferjani], a young student. Raped by the police after a university party, Mariam, accompanied by a young man she has just met [Ghanem Zrelli], desperately seeks help, first from an indifferent private clinic and then a chaotic public hospital.” Read more…)

Spiral: Season 2 (Parisian cop thriller series, Caroline Proust)
Detective Montalbano: Episodes 31 & 32 (Italy, detective series, Luca Zingaretti)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Million Dollar Mermaid (1952, splashy biopic, Esther Williams. From Bosley Crowther’s 1952 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This Technicolored shindig, which laughingly pretends to be a biography of the famous swimmer Annette Kellerman, is a luxuriance of razzle-dazzle that includes Hippodrome acts, water ballets, bathing suit shows, diving performances, low comedy, anachronisms and cliches. It also includes an abundance of Miss Williams and Victor Mature, but it does not include the felicities of a reasonably fascinating script.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
The Innocents (1961, Gothic, Criterion Collection, Deborah Kerr. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Folks who have never seen a movie set in a scary old house, where the doors creak, the wind howls around corners, ghosts pace the long, dark halls and hideous, spectral faces appear in the windows at night, should find themselves beautifully frightened and even intellectually aroused by Jack Clayton’s new picture, ‘The Innocents.'” Read more..)

New British DVDs
Girlfriends: Series 1 (drama series, Miranda Richardson. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%.)

New Television
Legion: Season 1 (drama/action series, Dan Stevens. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 82.)

New releases 9/27/16

Top Hits
central_intelligenceCentral Intelligence (action/comedy, Kevin Hart. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 52. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “To call ‘Central Intelligence’ juvenile is to miss the larger point — namely, that juvenile was most likely the goal. A majority of studio comedies have been written at an eighth-grade level or lower for so long that it’s astonishing how resilient our hope for greater sophistication is.” Read more…)

Warcraft (fantasy action, Travis Fimmel. Rotten Tomatoes: 28%. Metacritic: 32. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Probably the best way to experience ‘Warcraft,’ a generally amusing and sometimes visually arresting absurdity, is stoned. If watching the big screen through a cannabis cloud isn’t your idea of a good movie time, though, I suggest that you do what I did and just go with the incoherent flow. You may not grasp who the Bluto-like creatures with simian arms and woolly mammoth tusks are or why they seem permanently engorged with rage. But there’s more to movies than narrative coherency, as anyone who has sampled the cinema of Michael Bay or certain art films well knows.” Read more…)

The Shallows (shark thriller, Blake Lively. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 59. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “For all its skills, the shark turns out to be a pretty thin hook on which to hang a less-than-90-minute movie. Since ‘The Shallows’ is a star vehicle for the attractive and statuesque Ms. Lively, the suspense here is somewhat circumscribed. So the movie also applies gruesome special effects. There’s some self-surgery, and the shark finds several reluctant snacks to munch on.” Read more…)

The Neon Demon (horror, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. Metacritic: 51. From Glenn Kenny’s new York Times review: “Mr. Refn’s early movies [1996’s ‘Pusher,’ 1999’s ‘Bleeder’] showed him to be a gifted if willfully outré genre director. But in recent years, and especially in this film, his work looks like that of a technically adept, emotionally stunted adolescent who’s not nearly as bright as he thinks he is, and who is desperate to elicit the concern of his parents.” Read more…)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (comedy, Andy Samberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 68. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,’ a feature-length fake documentary that sends up everyone from Justin Bieber to Justin Timberlake, does not so much break ground as provide welcome fan service. [Mr. Timberlake has a small role as the main character’s personal chef.] The Lonely Island [Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer] may be best in small doses, but there is just about enough goofiness here to fill an hour and a half. The performances and videos are the best part, of course — inspired and inventive beats and ballads that have sufficient musical integrity to make them credible jokes. And the film’s structure, which evokes the shiny, breathless vacuity of ‘all-access’ promotional documentaries like ‘Katy Perry: Part of Me,’ does not crowd the riffing and noodling with too much plot or sentiment.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
The Innocents (France, postwar drama, Lou de Laâge. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “Much of Anne Fontaine’s blistering film ‘The Innocents’ is set within the walls of a Polish convent in December 1945, just after the end of World War II. What at first appears to be an austere, holy retreat from surrounding horrors is revealed to be a savagely violated sanctuary awash in fear, trauma and shame. The snow-covered, forested landscape of the convent is photographed to suggest an ominous frontier that offers no refuge from marauding outsiders.” Read more…)

Kamikaze ’89 (Germany, dystopian action, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. From Vincent Canby’s 1983 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The late Rainer Werner Fassbinder appeared in a number of his own films, mostly in small roles, though he was the star of his ‘Fox and His Friends,’ and his performance in ‘Katzelmacher,’ one of his earliest and most characteristic works, was a key to that film’s success. Now he is the main reason to see Wolf Gremm’s ‘Kamikaze ’89,’ in which he stars as Jansen, a taciturn, tough but humane police lieutenant in a futuristic Germany. The time is 1989, when Germany has become the richest of nations and all economic, social and political problems have been solved. To emphasize his own nonconformist tendencies, Jansen, from start to finish, wears a memorably awful, simulated leopard-skin suit and a bright red shirt.” Read more…)

New TV
Mr. Robot: Season 1 (cyber-thriller, Rami Malek. Rotten Tomatoes: 96%. Metacritic: 79.)

New Documentaries
city_goldCity of Gold (food, ethnicity, culture, Jonathan Gold. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 72. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “‘Criticism is criticism,’ says Jonathan Gold, who writes about food for The Los Angeles Times. ‘An aria is like a well-cooked potato.’ To which I can only say: Amen. Creative inspiration can be found in a great variety of human pursuits, and criticism is the name we give to the act of identifying and sharing it. A painting is, in that respect, like a poem. A well-written book is like a well-built shelf. A newspaper column is like a documentary film. ‘City of Gold,’ directed by Laura Gabbert, is an affectionate portrait of Mr. Gold, a genial walrus of a man with a graying ginger mane and a gentle, gaptoothed smile. The film accompanies him in his green pickup truck as he patrols the streets of Los Angeles, pointing out the best places to find fiery Southern Thai stews and sublime Oaxacan moles.” Read more…)

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (music, bio, culture, Frank Zappa. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “The film, a documentary about this iconoclastic musician and composer, is rich in archival footage that shows Zappa being interviewed by broadcast journalists of all sorts. Most clearly don’t understand his music or his persona, and as they earnestly try to fit him into their Interviewing 101 boxes, he underscores news-media absurdities merely by playing it straight rather than bursting out laughing.” Read more…)