— Michael O'Sullivan
The ever-prolific, ever-curious Alex Gibney has another new documentary: “Crazy, Not Insane” is structured around a long conversation — or, more likely, several long conversations pieced together — with Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a forensic psychiatrist with a focus on murderers. In his fascinating discussions with Lewis, author of the book “Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A Psychiatrist Probes the Minds of Killers,” Gibney doesn’t merely revisit the circumstances of grisly killings perpetrated by such people as Ted Bundy — although he does do that — but he interrogates the very notion of legal insanity (which, as the film’s title suggests, is not the same thing as being crazy.) To its credit, the film also goes much further, examining the putative deterrence of the death penalty and, most intriguingly, the psychology of one person whose job it is to perform executions. As always, Gibney raises some excellent, troubling questions, not all of which can easily be answered. Unrated. Available on HBO and HBO Max. Contains strong language, bloody crime scene photos and discussion of violence. 114 minutes.
“Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on ‘The Exorcist’ ” is a real treat for fans of the Oscar-winning 1973 horror film about demonic possession. Clearly a fan himself, director Alexandre O. Philippe sat down with Friedkin for a chat about the film. And Friedkin, as it turns out, has much to say about the making and meaning of it. He offers the kind of insights — it’s a movie about the “mystery of faith,” he says — and the kind of behind-the-scenes details one typically finds on a DVD commentary track, but with much more thoughtfulness: Friedkin says he was guided by a strange mix of unconscious intuition and supreme confidence in making “The Exorcist” — what he calls a kind of “sleepwalker’s security,” borrowing a phrase from filmmaker Fritz Lang. After watching this film-school chat, some may want to revisit “The Exorcist” with fresh eyes. Unrated. Available on Shudder. Contains strong language, scary images, blood and violence. 103 minutes.
Two friends (Jenna Ushkowitz and Laura Ashley Samuels) take a road trip that descends into comedic mayhem “1 Night in San Diego.” Unrated. Available for purchase on various streaming platforms; available to rent on Nov. 24. 85 minutes.
Inspired by an urban legend about a 1980s arcade video game said to lead to madness and even death, “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” is a British comedy about a group of people in pursuit of said game console. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 107 minutes.
Set in Europe at the end of the 18th century, “The Black Book of Father Dinis” tells the story of a peasant maid and her orphan charge, against a backdrop of passion and revolution. Unrated. Available at virtualavalon.org. In French with subtitles. 113 minutes.
“Coded Bias” is a documentary about racial bias in facial recognition software. The New York Times calls it the “most cleareyed of several recent documentaries about the perils of Big Tech,” including “The Great Hack” and “The Social Dilemma.” Unrated. Available at themiracletheatre.com and virtualavalon.org. 90 minutes.
“Dreamland” tells the story of a Texas teenager (Finn Cole) who is struggling to save his family farm from foreclosure. The New York Times calls the film, which also stars Margot Robbie, Travis Fimmel and Garrett Hedlund, a “hollow genre exercise.” R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains violence, strong language, sexuality and nudity. 98 minutes.
Stephen Dorff plays Cash, a mixed martial arts fighter and absentee father in “Embattled.” Slant magazine writes: “Cash’s borderline cartoonish villainy makes it difficult for the audience to emotionally invest in the film.” R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains pervasive strong language and crude sexual references, violence and some nudity. 117 minutes.
Mel Gibson plays Santa Claus — you read that right — in “Fatman,” an action comedy in which Gibson’s Chris Cringle faces off against a deadly assassin (Walton Goggins). That may sound promising to fans of so-bad-it’s-good cinema, but sadly, according to Entertainment Weekly, “the most offensive thing about ‘Fatman’ is that it isn’t more offensive.” R. Available on various streaming platforms; also playing at the CMX Cinemas Village 14. Contains bloody violence and strong language. 99 minutes.
Jackie Chan plays a prisoner trying to escape from the jailer of the Tower of London (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in “Iron Mask.” The Guardian writes: “We are stuck with endless, weightless green-screen shenanigans involving a dragon whose eyelashes are used to create tea (I think that’s right) and a cast of thousands who drift across various CGI landscapes.” PG-13. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive elements. 120 minutes.
Jude Law plays an English businessman whose life takes a disturbing turn when he moves to a country manor with his American wife (Carrie Coon) and family in “The Nest.” Law and Coon aren’t the only reason to see the film, writes Rolling Stone, “but they are the main reason to see it, and both of them give these characters so much shared history communicated without saying a word.” R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains crude language throughout, some sexuality, nudity and teen partying. 107 minutes.
The controversial billionaire activist George Soros is the subject of the sympathetic documentary “Soros.” According to Variety, “For somebody who’s seen by many as being in line to ace the Antichrist primaries, Soros comes off as nearly as much of a regular guy as someone could who still has a Hungarian accent and may rank among the 1-percent’s top 1 percent.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. 85 minutes.
The documentary “Truth Is the Only Client: The Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy” revisits the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. 135 minutes.
“The Twentieth Century” is a twisted take on Canadian history that mixes fictional elements with actual historical figures. “The jokes are often ridiculous, as is pretty much everything else that happens,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, “but there’s a palpable energy and visual inventiveness on display that keeps things watchable.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. 90 minutes.