— Michael O'Sullivan
In “Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You,” filmmaker Thom Zimny captures the moment of creation of the titular album, the first live studio recording Springsteen made with the E Street Band since “Born in the U.S.A.” Over the course of a few snowy days last year, the group got back together at Springsteen’s Thrill Hill home studio to re-create the alchemy that has made them one of the most legendary ensembles in rock-and-roll history. Filmed in poetic black-and-white, “Letter to You” features Springsteen narrating brief introductions to 10 songs from the album (“Janey Needs a Shooter” and “Rainmaker” didn’t make the cut), which is a simultaneously introspective and explosive panegyric to the musicians he’s worked with over an astonishing 50-year career. Starting with Springsteen’s tribute to his very first band, the Castiles, “Letter to You” is a lyrical, often moving testament to collaboration, and the abiding mystery of how one man’s artistic consciousness finds its fullest expression through a collective bond. It’s also a sly portrait of Springsteen’s undisputed leadership skills as the benevolent dictator of the E Streeters, “a unit 45 years in the making and decades in the refining” (listen as the room falls silent when the Boss calls, “Gentlemen, congregate.”) Late-great band members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici are invoked early and often, as are Springsteen’s early idols Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison, whose influences can be discerned in refurbished demos he made for Columbia Records chief John Hammond (and there’s a touch of Van Morrison in “Baby I,” an early-early Springsteen song provides a thoroughly delightful coda in the film). On the heels of “Springsteen on Broadway” and last year’s “Western Stars,” “Letter to You” punctuates a revealing trilogy in which an artist ruminates on life, art, mortality and connection — in this case, to the bands that helped make him and to the mystical gift he continues to interrogate and earn, with every song. 91 minutes. TV-PG. Available on Apple TV+. Contains some mild profanity. 91 minutes.
— Ann Hornaday
Loosely based on Chang-rae Lee’s 1995 New Yorker essay about returning home to care for his dying mother, “Coming Home Again” centers on a young Korean American aspiring writer named Chang-rae (Justin Chon), who quits his Wall Street job to help care for his ailing mother (Jackie Chung). Revolving around preparations for an elaborate New Year’s Eve dinner including the traditional Korean short rib dish kalbi, the film moves slowly, as Chang-rae cooks for a parent whose stomach cancer means she can barely eat, confronts his father (John Lie) about infidelity and argues with his sister (Christina July Kim). The rest is mostly highly internalized, as memories of Mom — bickering with her son about whether it was wise to send him away to Exeter in high school — seem to materialize alongside the nearly bedridden real version of the woman. Thanks to Chon’s mostly underplayed performance and un-showy direction by Wayne Wang, whose résumé swings between “The Joy Luck Club” and “Because of “Winn-Dixie,” the emotions accumulate nicely, with a subtle payoff about the ways we are shaped, both by our parent’s gifts and their mistakes. Unrated. Available at virtualavalon.org, themiracletheatre.com and afisilver.afi.com. Contains brief strong language and drug references. In English and some Korean with subtitles. 86 minutes.
Set in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, “Cadaver” is a Norwegian psychological horror film in which a starving family of three takes advantage of a free meal offered to attendees of an immersive theatrical performance in a hotel. The performance takes a macabre turn when audience members begin to disappear. TV-MA. Available on Netflix. 86 minutes.
The documentary “Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb” celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1970 political campaign of writer Hunter S. Thompson for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colo. Unrated. Available on Amazon Prime Video. 95 minutes.
Featuring performances by Malin Akerman, Margaret Cho, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Jane Seymour, Wanda Sykes and Christine Taylor, the ensemble comedy “Friendsgiving” centers on a chaotic and dysfunctional gathering of friends, family members and current and former lovers over Thanksgiving dinner. R. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains crude sexual humor and coarse language throughout, and drug use. 95 minutes.
Three retired Italian men (Georgio Colangeli, Ennio Fantastichini and director and co-writer Gianni Di Gregorio) wander around Rome trying to raise enough money to finance their relocation to Bulgaria in the comedy “Citizens of the World.” The Guardian says: “It’s a sweet, sad, slightly flimsy film with nice performances from the grey-haired gallants.” Unrated. Available at virtualavalon.org and afisilver.afi.com. In Italian with subtitles. 90 minutes.
Produced by Washington novelist George Pelecanos and filmed in Ellicott City, “Fishbowl” is the directorial debut of the Baltimore-raised sibling filmmaking duo known as Running Bear Films (Stephen Kinigopoulos and Alexa Kinigopoulos). Described in press material as a “coming-of-age thriller,” the film tells the story of three sisters being raised by a father obsessed with the Rapture. Unrated. Available Oct. 27 on various streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video and iTunes. 85 minutes.
Joey King and Abby Quinn plays young New Jersey factory workers painting glow-in-the-dark watch faces — with radium — in the 1920s-set drama “Radium Girls.” The Hollywood Reporter says that the fact-based drama “proves engrossing, thanks to its powerful real-life tale and the excellent performances by leads King and Quinn, who make us fully care about their characters’ fates.” Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. 102 minutes.