American Factory: At first glance, the Fuyao glass company’s investment in a closed GM plant in Dayton, Ohio seemed like a win-win: here was a well-funded Chinese manufacturer, bringing jobs back to a decimated community. But these were non-union jobs at a much lower wage, with the company bringing in its own supervisors, many of its own workers, and its own way of doing things; tensions were probably inevitable. Those tensions, and their often-grim results, are masterfully captured by documentarians Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert; they craft a portrait that’s compelling, complicated, and often (paradoxically enough) very, very funny.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters: This summer’s sequel to the 2014 reboot doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor – they’re not having quite as much fun this time around, and the woes of that screenplay (a jumble of military jargon, scientific double-talk, and strained familial relationships) are, if anything, amped up. But that’s not what we’re here for anyway; we’re here for spectacle, and this one delivers on that front (especially in 4K). It’s energetically photographed (there’s a little push-in on the big guy’s face as he surveys his surroundings and sneers, and I could’ve rewound that thirty times), moves at a good clip, and the effects are convincing, even if we spend too much of the third act peering at them through a nighttime thunderstorm. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, but this one delivers what it promises. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and featurettes.)
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut: Francis Ford Coppola’s latest iteration of his famously troubled Vietnam masterpiece nestles itself between the original 1979 theatrical version and the greatly expanded 2001 Redux reissue – it keeps the additions in Redux that worked and takes out most of what didn’t (alas, we still have to wait out the “French Plantation” sequence). What’s so valuable about this 4K release is how well it covers your bases: the six-disc set includes not only the Final Cut on 4K and Blu-ray disc, but both earlier cuts in both formats as well, plus Blu-ray discs for bonus features and the A+ making-of documentary feature Hearts of Darkness. And whichever version you’re watching, Apocalypse Now remains one of the great film achievements of its time: operatic in its ambition, thrilling in its execution, stunning in its contradictions. (Also includes introduction, Tribeca Q&A with Coppola and Steven Soderbergh, behind-the-scenes footage, and featurettes.)
The Last Black Man in San Francisco: It is perhaps too easy to draw the line from Joe Talbot’s Bay-based comedy/drama to last year’s Blindspotting (focusing, as it does, on a pair of wayward buddies) or Sorry to Bother You (particularly in its splashes of absurdist humor). But there’s clearly something of note happening in San Francisco and Oakland that’s giving us these aesthetically vibrant and emotionally charged work, and I say, let’s see more of it. Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors take over Jimmie’s recently vacated childhood home (“What if we shouldn’t be here?” “Who should be here? Some millionaire?”), but to front-page the plot is to sell the picture wrong; this is a quiet ode to outcasts, and director Talbot has a strange, funny way of seeing the world. What a rare, borderline-indescribable treat this movie is. (Includes audio commentary and featurette.)
The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice: This 1952 comedy/drama from the great Yasujiro Ozu (new to the Criterion Collection) is a remarkably cozy movie – you feel comfortable with his characters right away, and ride alongside them as they navigate this tricky comedy of manners and changing times. It’s full of emotional moments and funny asides, but at his best, Ozu lives in the little pauses and nonverbal communications of the longtime married couple at its center. And because he (and thus, we) know them so well, the long, climactic sequence, which is really nothing more than an unplanned late night snack and talk, is enormously, overwhelmingly affecting. What a lovely movie this is. (Also streaming on the Criterion Channel.) (Includes video essay, documentary, and the earlier Ozu feature What Did the Lady Forget?)