— Michael O'Sullivan
For slackers, shilly-shallyers and inveterate book-stackers who keep meaning to read Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” salvation is at hand. In a lively, informative documentary of the same name, filmmaker Justin Pemberton lays out the economist’s arguments with lucidity and persuasiveness, using a slew of pop-culture references and charismatic talking heads to help make points that are equal parts illuminating and infuriating. Although “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” was made long before words like “coronavirus” and “covid-19” were the lingua franca, the current state of affairs bolsters Piketty’s essential thesis, which is that the geopolitical movement toward liberal capitalism has not resulted in more democracy or social mobility. If anything, we’ve returned to levels of wealth inequality and inhumane values that characterized pre-Revolutionary Europe at their most cruel and distorted. “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” provides a useful lens through which to examine a time when the social contract feels ripe for rewriting. Unrated. Available May 1 via streaming at afisilver.afi.com and sunscinema.com. Contains nothing objectionable apart from hypocrisy, exploitation and brazen self-dealing. 103 minutes.
— Ann Hornaday
In “Vanilla,” two complete strangers — one a New York app developer, played by first-time feature filmmaker Will Dennis, the other an aspiring stand-up comedian (Kelsea Bauman-Murphy) — embark on a road trip together. Why? Because she has just bought his van and. . . oh, never mind. The reason is more than slightly preposterous, but it makes this indie rom-com cute — or, rather, cutesy — enough as the two engage in flirty banter and devise impromptu dances during pit stops. The movie is sweet and goofy, and Dennis and Bauman-Murphy are genial enough that we will probably be hearing from them again. Unrated. Available on various streaming platforms. Contains some sexual elements. 87 minutes.
“Bull” tells the story of two broken-but-not-defeated people: Abe (“Mudbound’s” Rob Morgan) is a bone-tired, 50-something former bull-rider, now making a meager living in the black rodeo circuit as a clown. The second is Kris, a troubled 14-year-old white girl (newcomer Amber Havard), who agrees to perform chores for her older neighbor in exchange for leniency after she’s caught breaking into Abe’s house to party with friends. This odd-couple dynamic is familiar, as is the trope of bull-riding as a metaphor for the way life can throw you off balance. (Abe begins to teach Kris to ride a little, and it turns out she likes it.) But this is not a film about a budding rodeo star and her gruff mentor. Rather, it is a lovely and tender rendering of the relationship between a couple of fragile, battered souls, each at different ends of life’s journey. Morgan is excellent as always, and Havard makes an impressive debut, in a film in which the smallest gestures of connection feel achingly real. Unrated. Available May 1 on various streaming platforms. Contains sexuality, nudity, opiate abuse and crude and racist language. 108 minutes.
Former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Darrell Hammond reflects on his life and career as a brilliant impressionist — as well as his long-suppressed memories of childhood trauma — in the documentary “Cracked Up.” According to the New York Times, “his story is a poignant one of a man trying to take a bunch of characters and make them cohere into something that makes sense.” Unrated. Available May 1 on Netflix. 95 minutes.
Two single and lonely Parisian neighbors (Ana Girardot and François Civil) spend almost the entirety of the film “Someone, Somewhere” looking for love — everywhere but right in front of them. The Guardian calls the film a “modestly entertaining slow-burn Parisian romance from Cédric Klapisch, who pulls off a neat trick by bumping the meet-cute to the end of the film.” Unrated. Available May 1 at theavalon.org. In French with subtitles. 110 minutes.
Exiled Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán revisits his homeland, meditating on themes of fascism and eternity in the poetic documentary “The Cordillera of Dreams.” Variety calls the film a “haunting and allusive exploration of the cultural impact of the country’s most spectacular geological feature: its snowcapped mountain spine.” Unrated. Available May 1 at cinemaartstheatre.com. In Spanish with subtitles. 84 minutes.
In the German drama “Crescendo,” musicians from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict struggle to play — and get along — in harmony during rehearsals for a “peace concert.” Unrated. Available May 1 at themiracletheater.com. In Hebrew, Arabic and German with subtitles. 101 minutes.
After committing a homicide, a young man (Ashton Sanders) reflects on the circumstances and influences — including his father (Jeffrey Wright) — that brought him to this point in “All Day and a Night.” R. Available May 1 on Netflix. Contains strong violence, pervasive coarse language, drug use, some sexuality and nudity. 121 minutes.
The documentary “Autism: The Sequel” revisits the subjects of the 2006 documentary “Autism: The Musical,” which followed five children as they wrote and performed their own musical. TV-14. Available on HBO. 40 minutes.
A wealthy man dies, leaving his estate to his young caregiver (Camila Mendes), who is drawn in a web of deception in the thriller “Dangerous Lies.” TV-14. Available on Netflix. Contains violence, some strong language and sensuality. 96 minutes. .
The documentary “Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story” explores the case of a woman who, at the age of 16, was charged with murder after shooting a man during a sexual encounter, in what she called self-defense. According to Variety, the film enters “more challenging territory as its gaze turns more intimately inward, to focus on Brown’s familial history of violence, neglect and mental illness, and her attempt to build something more constructive from that unhappy legacy.” Unrated. Available on Netflix. 96 minutes.
Vitalina Varela is a Cape Verdean woman in her 50s (and non-actor) who, in the movie “Vitalina Virella,” plays a close version of herself. The tale — in which the title character travels to Lisbon to reunite with her husband after two decades, only to arrive days after his funeral — casts a “hypnotic spell,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Unrated. Available May 1 at afisilver.afi.com. In Portuguese with subtitles. 124 minutes.
A teenage boy takes matters into his own hands when his efforts to call attention to the supernatural goings-on in the house next door go unheeded in “The Wretched.” Unrated. Available May 1 on various streaming platforms. 96 minutes.
The documentary “A Secret Love” tells the story of Terry Donahue, who played in the women’s professional baseball league that inspired the movie “A League of Their Own,” and her decades-long romantic relationship with another woman. Unrated. Available on Netflix. 83 minutes.
A band of medieval knights set out to bring Christianity to a remote community in the Polish thriller “Sword of God.” Unrated. Available May 1 via Film Movement’s virtual cinema. In Polish with subtitles. 104 minutes.
A young scientist (Jonas Chernick) is visited by his time-travelling future self (Daniel Stern), who comes bearing advice — courtesy of hindsight and experience — in the sci-fi comedy “James vs. His Future Self.” Unrated. Available May 1 on various streaming platforms. 94 minutes.
“Blood Quantum” is a zombie thriller about a Native American community that is the only place left immune to an infection that has turned the world’s population into an undead horde. Unrated. Available on shudder.com. 97 minutes.