— Michael O'Sullivan
Forty years after the U.S. military operation to rescue 52 U.S. Embassy staffers taken hostage in Iran in 1979, Barbara Kopple’s documentary “Desert One” revisits the abortive 1980 mission. Using a mix of surprisingly thriller-ish animation and stodgier talking-head interviews with former soldiers, intelligence agents, hostages and others — including former president Jimmy Carter — the Oscar-winning director of “Harlan County U.S.A.” and “American Dream” walks us through a brief history of modern Iran before delivering a gripping ticktock of the operation, which involved multiple helicopters and a desert staging area whose code name lends the film its title. There are no real bombshells, but the tale of this rescue attempt is an inspiring one, making the case that the effort was worthwhile, even if it didn’t work. PG-13. Available at afisilver.afi.com. Contains some disturbing footage of burned corpses and brief strong language. 107 minutes.
In the Spanish delayed-coming-of-age drama “The August Virgin,” a woman (played by co-writer Itsaso Arana) returns to Madrid during August — the month when much of the city decamps for cooler climes. While there, she re-connects with old friends and makes some new ones, all while embarking on a journey of reinvention. Brightest Young Things calls it a “lovely, fascinating film about self-discovery and how the places we come from dictate who we are.” Unrated. Available at theavalon.org and afisilver.afi.com. In English, Spanish and German with subtitles. 125 minutes.
“Bombardier Blood” is documentary about Chris Bombardier, a hemophiliac mountain climber who commits to climbing the highest peaks on each of seven continents — the Seven Summits — to raise money to provide lifesaving medicine to hemophiliacs in developing countries. Irish Film Critic calls the film — executive-produced by hemophilia activist and actress Alex Borstein (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) — “inspirational.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 80 minutes.
After her son is convicted of the rape and attempted murder of his wife, a woman (Cecilia Roth of “All About My Mother”) goes to extraordinary lengths to keep him out of prison in the Argentine thriller “The Crimes That Bind.” TV-14. Available on Netflix. In Spanish with subtitles. 99 minutes.
Sally Hawkins plays a woman whose paranoid schizophrenia aggravate her family in “Eternal Beauty.” The Hollywood Reporter says that the visually stylized film “borrows buckets of quirk from the likes of Wes Anderson (design sensibility), Michel Gondry (in-camera trickery) and Paul Thomas Anderson (general gestalt), but that’s okay.” R. Available at theavalon.org. Contains strong language and some sexuality. 94 minutes.
Directed by Jay Baruchel (“Goon”), “Random Acts of Violence” is a gory slasher film that explicitly questions the appeal of gory slasher films. Slant magazine writes: “Why, the film wonders aloud, are we drawn to such material, and why do we produce it? But the film seems reticent to elaborate on the questions it raises, losing sight of them entirely in an obvious, overlong plot twist that muddies ideas of an artist’s responsibility and art’s effect on audiences into incoherence.” Unrated. Available at shudder.com. 90 minutes.
A cameo by Bruce Dern is the one claim to fame of first-time writer-director Teddy Grennan’s “Ravage,” a horror film about a nature photographer (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) who is kidnapped after witnessing an attack in the woods. The film, according to Haddonfield Horror, is “a gem in a horror landscape ruined by covid-19 and Grennan has officially announced himself as a director to keep up with.” Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 77 minutes.
Never previously released in the United States, the 1981 animation “Son of the White Mare,” a trippy mythological fable by Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics, has been restored for virtual cinema. HuffPost calls it “the most beautiful psychedelic trip you’ve ever seen.” Unrated. Available at sunscinema.com. In Hungarian with subtitles. 81 minutes.
When the owner of a San Francisco drag club dies suddenly, his estranged mother (“Silver Linings Playbook’s” Jacki Weaver) takes his misfit colleagues and friends under her wing in “Stage Mother,” a feel-good dramedy that the Guardian says feels “a little flaccid.” R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains sexuality, including an assault, crude language and some drug use. 93 minutes.
“Sunless Shadows” is a documentary about adolescent girls and women who have been imprisoned in Iran for murdering abusive male relatives. The New York Times calls it wrenching, adding that “the most crushing revelation comes during a visit from an ex-inmate, who verbalizes the larger tragedy at stake when she says life outside of prison is not any better.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In Persian with subtitles. 74 minutes.
Filmmaker Michael Almereyda’s “Tesla” tells the story of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), whose work with alternating-current electricity helped usher in the wireless world we know today. Ethan Hawke plays the Serbian-born inventor in a postmodern biopic that features such anachronisms as a MacBook, cellphone and Google searches. According to Rolling Stone, “The method in Almereyda’s madness — that of putting Tesla into a tech universe he rarely got credit for helping to make — pays off in a film that roams as free as its subject’s imagination.” PG-13. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains some mature thematic material and nude images. 102 minutes.