New releases 1/30/18

Top Hits
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (bio-pic/drama/comic book history, Luke Evans. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. Metacritic: 68. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are some exceedingly delectable questions posed in ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,’ and a few frisky binding games on tap too. A sly and thoroughly charming Trojan horse of a movie, ‘Professor Marston’ tells the story of the man who created Wonder Woman and the women who inspired him, both in and out of bed. The movie gleams and has all the smooth surfaces and persuasive detail of a typical period picture — the fedoras, the rides, the Katharine Hepburn trousers. All that luster, which too often in movies suggests polite manners and drowsily safe entertainment, proves to be a seductive, glossy way into something more satisfyingly complicated.” Read more…)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (drama, Nicole Kidman. Rotten Tomatoes: 78%. Metacritic: 73. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “It isn’t quite fair to say, with respect to Yorgos Lanthimos’s ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer,’ that you’ve seen it all before. His methods and sensibility are very much his own. But if you were intrigued, unnerved and tickled by ‘The Lobster’ or by Mr. Lanthimos’s earlier films ‘Alps’ and ‘Dogtooth’ [I was], you might be surprised and a little disappointed to find him traipsing over such familiar territory. His previous work — allegorical, satirical, anti-realist and metapsychological — defies genre labels and can seem scrubbed clean of any trace of influence. ‘Sacred Deer,’ in contrast, rings all kinds of frequently-heard bells.” Read more…‘)

My Art (drama, Blair Brown. Rotten Tomatoes: 62%. Metacritic: 53. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “The trap in assessing ‘My Art’ is to assume that it contains more autobiography than it does. That’s true despite the possessive adjective in the title, or the fact that the director, an artist, plays an artist, Ellie. Or even the fact that the filmmaker is Laurie Simmons, who, detractors might scoff, belongs to a family of oversharers. [Ms. Simmons’s daughter Lena Dunham appears briefly as one of Ellie’s former students.]” Read more…)

Last Flag Flying (drama, Steve Carell. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%. Metacritic: 65. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Richard Linklater is one of the great listeners in American movies. At his best — most canonically in the ‘Before’ trilogy but also in films like ‘Slacker,’ ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Waking Life’ — he quiets the engine of plot, keeps the camera at a polite, attentive distance and lets people talk. The content of the conversations is important, but so are the more subtle kinds of information that human speech conveys: the unstated emotions and idiosyncrasies of character that flow alongside and underneath the words. ‘Last Flag Flying,’ Mr. Linklater’s new feature, is a suite for three voices. It’s a lot of other things, too. A war movie, in its way, and also a road picture and a memory play.” Read more…)

God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor. Rotten Tomatoes: 99%. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Times review: “Filmed with a naturalism that recalls Andrea Arnold’s 2012 dive into ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘God’s Own Country’ weaves a rough magic from Joshua James Richards’s biting cinematography and the story’s slow, unsteady arc from bitter to hopeful. Bodily fluids — bestial and human — stain the screen, punctuating a story that’s as much about rediscovering place as finding love.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
The Square (Sweden, drama, Claes Bang. Rotten Tomatoes: 81%. Metacritic: 72. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “[Director Ruben] Ostlund, whose film before this one was the squirmy, incisive ‘Force Majeure,’ takes aim at some pretty fat satirical targets — art, taste, sex and money, for starters — and sprays buckshot at the audience as well as in his own face. The bad conscience of the cultural elite is hardly a new concern in European cinema [or American journalism, if we want to go there], and ‘The Square,’ which won the Palme d’Or in May, uses some of the shock-the-bourgeoisie tactic refined, in recent years, by his fellow Cannes laureates Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier.” Read more…)

Old Stone (China, drama, Gang Chen. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 72. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times revew: “‘Old Stone,’ a tough, bitter serving of straight-up naturalism, opens on a street and closes at the edge of the abyss. Between start and finish, it follows the nightmarish ordeals of a Chinese taxi driver, Lao Shi [Chen Gang], who struggles to do the right thing after hitting a motorcyclist. His first mistake is reporting the accident; his second is trying to help the bleeding victim instead of splitting. No good deed goes unpunished in this vision of contemporary China, a dog-eat-dog world in which the strong don’t just consume the weak, they also suck the marrow out of every last bone.” Read more…)

Kameradschaft (Germany, 1931, G.W. Pabst-directed disaster movie, Alexander Granach. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1932 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The little Europa is now harboring one of the finest examples of realism that has come to the screen. It is a German production called ‘Kameradschaft’ and the dialogue, which is sparse, is in both German and French, with superimposed sub-titles in English. The inspiration for this impressive production was the coal mine disaster at Courrieres in 1906, in which nearly 1,200 lives were lost. In the picture the narrative has been set forward, making it post-World War, and its theme is that the sympathy existing between the German and French miners knows no boundaries.” Read more…)

Westfront 1918 (Germany, 1930, G.W. Pabst-directed war drama, Fritz Kampers. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From C. Hooper Trask’s 1930 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A German anti-war film had to come sooner or later. Following its losses in the war and the terrific suffering which the whole civil population underwent Germany is of all European nations the one with the strongest pacifistic leanings. That they have not produced a film of this kind before now was due to the repulsion felt by every one at the very thought of war. But now they have gotten far enough away from it to be objective and Remarque’s masterly novel has been followed by the talker, ‘The Western Front 1918’ [‘Westfront 1918’]. With the possible exception of the pictures ‘Journey’s End’ and ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ which unfortunately I have not yet seen, this is the most vivid argument yet contrived against war. A book or a speech are cold, dead things beside it. To the visual has been added all the resources of sound—no one can escape its appeal, from the university graduate to the peasant who can only sign with a cross. It is an undiluted dose of man’s inhumanity to man—try and forget it if you can!” Read more…)

The Witches (Italy, 1968, prestige Italian directors anthology of stories about witches, Silvana Mangano)
Viva L’Italia (Italy, 1961, historical drama, Renzo Ricci)

New British DVDs
Victoria: Season 2 (historical drama series, Jenna Coleman. Rotten Tomatoes: 75%.)
God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)
Back Street (1961, romantic melodrama, Susan Hayward. From Boslwey Crowther’s 1961 New York Times review: “In the third screen embodiment of ‘Back Street,’ the old Fannie Hurst tear-jerking yarn about the woman who loves a married man be dearly that she lets herself be kept by him under a bit of a social cloud, producer Ross Hunter has crammed so much swank and so much plush Parisian elegance that we wonder he didn’t change the title to something like ‘Rue de Bac.’ Never has Miss Hurst’s little lady [represented heretofore by Irene Dunne and Margaret Sullavan, vis-à-vis the respective consorts of John Boles and Charles Boyer] been set up in such elaborate diggings or lavished with such expensive gifts as is Susan Hayward by John Gavin in this elaborate and expensive color film.” Read more…)

Heart of Darkness (1993, period drama based on Joseph Conrad novel, John Malkovich. Rotten Tomatoes: 40%. From John J. O’Connor’s 1994 New York Times television review: “Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ has finally been made into a movie. The director Nicolas Roeg [‘Performance,’ ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’] has translated the story into a film starring Tim Roth as Marlow and John Malkovich as Kurtz. Well, sort of. Mr. Roeg’s ‘Heart of Darkness,’ characteristically loopy, begins a run Sunday on TNT.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
The Sunshine Makers (drugs, LSD, social history, Nicholas Sand. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The title of the documentary ‘The Sunshine Makers’ — about two trippy American renegades who produced millions of hits of LSD and helped turn on the United States of Acid — sounds like one of those old citrus labels that growers used to slap on wooden crates. With names like Morning Glory, these crates promised a ray of sun in each juicy bite. In 1970, Florida anointed itself the Sunshine State, but this documentary suggests that way out West, where much of this acid was produced, was where the sun shone the brightest.” Read more…)

Bird Brain (nature, ornithology, avian intelligence)

New Gay & Lesbian
God’s Own Country (UK, drama/gay romance, Josh O’Connor)

New Releases 12/8/15

Top Hits
Minions (animated feature, Sandra Bullock [voice]. Rotten Tomatoes: 55%. Metacritic: 56. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “It’s fitting that the little yellow critters scampering through ‘Minions’ look as identical as genetically modified corn kernels, save for a googly eyeball or two. Franchises operate on an axis of sameness and difference, so it’s amusing that one incorporates that truism into its actual character design. And while “Minions” explores nominally new narrative ground, it folds neatly into a series that now includes two features [‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’], various shorts, books, video games, sheet music and a theme park attraction. So, you know, different but also the same.” Read more…)

Partisan (thriller, Vincent Cassel. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 52. From Helen T. Verongos’ new York Times review: “Usually, partisans stand for something, but in this movie, which is stripped of a specific time frame and relevant geopolitical context, the term becomes hollow. The screenwriters, Ariel Kleiman [who is also the director] and Sarah Cyngler, have cut their story loose from any real significance, leaving us with Gregori, who has no discernible political views and no unifying beliefs, even delusional ones. Without this foundation for the character, the actor doesn’t stand a chance. As a cult leader, he is full of grand gestures but as aimless as a tiny plastic man in a terrarium.” Read more…)

Ant-Man (superhero feature, Paul Rudd. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Directed by the comedy specialist Peyton Reed [‘Bring It On,’ ‘The Break Up,’ ‘Yes Man’] from a script credited to Edgar Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish and Paul Rudd [who stars], this film is a passable piece of drone work from the ever-expanding Marvel-Disney colony. It provides obligatory, intermittently amusing links to other corporate properties, serving essentially as a sidebar to the ‘Avengers’ franchise. Like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ last year’s off-brand Marvel hit, ‘Ant-Man’ dabbles in the bright, playful colors of the superhero spectrum, reveling in moments of cartoonish whimsy and smirky humor.” Read more…)

Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach-directed social/historical drama, Barry Ward. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “One of the pleasures of ‘Jimmy’s Hall,’ a likable period piece directed by the social-realist British filmmaker Ken Loach, is its unswerving belief in old-fashioned populist heroes. Such a hero is Jimmy Gralton [Barry Ward], a real-life Irish firebrand portrayed as an articulate, courageous natural leader without a shred of grandiosity. Jimmy is a man of the people whose defiance of the powers that be eventually lands him in deep trouble.” Read more…)

Housebound (horror, Morgana O’Reilly. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. Metacritic: 76.)
The Physician (period drama, Tom Payne)
Nature: My Life As a Turkey (reenactment of book, nature, animals)

New Blu-Ray
Brief Encounter (1945, UK, drama/romance, Trevor Howard. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “An uncommonly good little picture—and one which is frankly designed to appeal to that group of film-goers who are provoked by the ‘usual movie tripe’—is the British-made ‘Brief Encounter,’ which opened on Saturday at the Little Carnegie Theatre as the first of so-called Prestige imports.” Read more…)

In Which We Serve (1942, UK, war drama, Noel Coward. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1942 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “One of the most eloquent motion pictures of these or any other times had its American premiére at the Capitol Theatre last night. It is Noel Coward’s much-heralded British Navy film, ‘In Which We Serve,” made within the last year in England under Mr. Coward’s almost complete guidance and played by as fine a cast of actors as ever stepped up to a camera. There have been other pictures which have vividly and movingly conveyed in terms of human emotion the cruel realities of this present war. None has yet done it so sharply and so truly as ‘In Which We Serve.'” Read more..’)

Blithe Spirit (1945, UK, comedy, Rex Harrison. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. From an uncredited 1945 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In returning to the cinema fold last night after a span of thirteen years the Winter Garden opened another chapter in its distinguished theatrical history on a gay and frivolous note. For in film form Noel Coward’s amusing spoof on spiritualism, ‘Blithe Spirit,’ comes through as a generally delightful divertissement. This British-produced comedy-farce is, however, no more substantial now than it was originally on the stage, and Mr. Coward’s joke about a husband’s second marriage being turned topsy-turvy by a visit from his astral first mate is a delicately balanced piece of whimsy.” Read more…)

This Happy Breed (1944, UK, domestic drama, Robert Newton. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review requires log-in]: “Noel Coward’s notable affection for the people of the British Isles and his particular talent for holding a theatrical mirror up to them are again most nicely demonstrated in the film made from his play, “This Happy Breed,” which had its belated American premiere at the little Carnegie on Saturday. Belated, we say, because this picture was produced in England four years ago. Why its release here should be tardy is a puzzler to us.” Read more…)

New Foreign
Xenia (Greece, drama/coming-of-age, Kostas Nikouli. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “At 2 hours and 8 minutes long, ‘Xenia,’ the director’s fourth feature, may be unwieldy. It has an unnecessary romantic subplot involving Ody’s relationship with a Ukrainian girl. ‘Xenia’ has been called a farce. But it is much more than that. Both the story and the performances are packed with raw emotion. Dany’s behavior may be outlandish and irritating, but you applaud his courage.” Read more…)

Jellyfish Eyes (Japan, comedy/fantasy, Takuto Sueoka. Rotten Tomatoes: 20%. Metacritic: 34. From Roberta Smith’s new York Times review: “It’s no surprise that the Japanese artist-impresario Takashi Murakami has directed a feature-legth film that combines human actors and animated characters. After all, Mr. Murakami is a polymath trained in anime as well as in Nihonga, Japan’s rigorous traditional painting style, and has been moving between high and low art for over two decades. He is known for multipurpose cartoon creatures, among them petal-rimmed smiley faces and mushrooms dotted with wide, baby-doll peepers that he calls jellyfish eyes. These and other signature motifs have appeared in labor-intensive paintings, in large polychrome sculptures evoking a highbrow Disneyland and on skateboards and limited-edition Louis Vuitton handbags.” Read more…)

New Classic (pre-1960)
Speedy (1928, silent comedy, Harold Lloyd. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1928 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “It is a film with quite a strong whimsical touch, inasmuch as the theme is devoted to the last horse car in Little Old New York. The introduction of the city itself is done in a fashion that will make every New Yorker proud of the Empire City. And for that matter, wherever Mr. Lloyd takes you in this film he rather makes you regret that you haven’t been there for some time. There’s Coney Island, for instance. This chapter on the greatest amusement resort in this country is done so well that despite the crowds, the jammed subway trains, the ‘hot-dogs,’ the temporary structures, it gives something equivalent to the spirit of youth. It is pictured so well that elderly gentlemen and their spouses may find themselves tripping over to the place at which they had turned up their noses for a couple of decades.” Read more…)

New British
Jimmy’s Hall (Ken Loach-directed social/historical drama, Barry Ward. Rotten Tomatoes: 77%. Metacritic: 63. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “One of the pleasures of ‘Jimmy’s Hall,’ a likable period piece directed by the social-realist British filmmaker Ken Loach, is its unswerving belief in old-fashioned populist heroes. Such a hero is Jimmy Gralton [Barry Ward], a real-life Irish firebrand portrayed as an articulate, courageous natural leader without a shred of grandiosity. Jimmy is a man of the people whose defiance of the powers that be eventually lands him in deep trouble.” Read more…)

Doc Martin: Series 7 (comedy/drama series, Martin Clunes)
Shakespeare: Henry IV Part 1 (2011 Globe Theatre production, Roger Allam)
Shakespeare: Henry IV Part 2 (2011 Globe Theatre production, Roger Allam)

New Documentaries
The Square (Egypt, Arab Spring, activism, international politics. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 84. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “In the language of politics, ‘the people’ is a great abstraction, an idea that can be invoked to justify noble projects and terrible crimes. ‘The Square,’ Jehane Noujaim’s stunning new documentary, is partly about the contested status of the Egyptian people between the winter of 2011, when crowds of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square to demand the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, and the summer of 2013, when the army ousted his successor, Mohamed Morsi, and began a violent campaign against his followers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Morsi, the military and the demonstrators — and, for that matter, Mr. Mubarak himself — all claimed to be true agents and loyal servants of the popular will. ‘The Square’ complicates such rhetoric.” Read more…)

Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (rock music, drug addiction, biography, Johnny Thunders)
Nature: My Life As a Turkey (reenactment of book, nature, animals)

New Music
Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (rock music, drug addiction, biography, Johnny Thunders)