Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Blow The Man Down

It’s the day every woman dreams of since she’s a little girl: what dress you’ll wear, what flowers you’ll choose, the food you’ll serve, the heirloom hanky you’ll use to dab prettily at your eyes. Your mother’s funeral only comes once in a lifetime and you’ve got to get it right.

Sad but true: I’ll say any mean thing to get the laugh.

Anyway. For Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) and Priscilla  (Sophie Lowe) Connolly it is indeed the day of their mother’s funeral. It feels like half the small village of Easter Cove in Maine shows up for it, paying tribute to a woman everyone seems to have loved. But it doesn’t exactly go seamlessly – clearly they don’t subscribe to Martha Stewart Funerals. The non-cheap flowers arrive late, there’s too much disgusting coleslaw, and oh yeah, they kill someone. Someone else. I mean, they never murdered their mother, she died of natural causes, more or less. I’m talking someone ELSE. A bad dude who we wouldn’t really feel too bad about killing except his death, and well, the concealment thereof, leads to the sisters uncovering some pretty shady stuff in their home town.

MV5BNTdkNTFlMzAtOTUxYi00ODVkLWIzYTItNTQ4YzVjNzMxOWIyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_

Directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy delight in pulling up the respectable if threadbare rug to reveal not gleaming hard wood but black mould asbestos. Oh yes, there’s major rot to this picturesque little town, and behind every white picket fence is another secret being kept. Mary Beth and Priscilla have pulled a thread which threatens to unravel even the heaviest fisherman’s sweater.

This movie is oddly funny, in the blackest sense, establishing a real sense of atmosphere. Details are meted out like a sparse trail of breadcrumbs, each one a small but perfect moment, supported by a smart script and plenty of terrific performances.

 

 

Heartburn

Two people who refuse to ever marry again meet at a wedding, as you do. Rachel’s (Meryl Streep) a writer, Mark’s (Jack Nicholson) a writer, and they both know better when it comes to love. So of course they end up marrying, though not before Rachel keeps everyone at the wedding waiting for hours and hours as she tries to warm up her cold feet in the room next door. I mean honestly, what’s the max time you would spend at a wedding if the bride was refusing to walk down the aisle?

As if that was an inauspicious enough start to their marriage, the two embark immediately on a home renovation. Which, as we all know, is responsible for like 78% of all divorces and about 94% of matricides (when a wife kills her husband). But they get through it, even with the added pressure of a baby on the way who can’t possibly be born if the lace curtains aren’t hung. And Rachel, newly domesticated, is surprised to find how happy she is. And is totally devastated to find, during the waddliest waddle of her second pregnancy, that Mark is cheating on her.

What now? The Streep takes us up and down a whole xylophone of emotions, hitting every octave with masterful precision. Nicholson is the oboe to Streep’s xylophone, a little jauntier, but hitting complementary notes, pairing nicely. Plus his back hair catches pleasingly in the moonlight. But make no mistake: the xylophone is dominant.

Directed by Mike Nichols based on an autobiographical novel by Nora Ephron, the intimacy is authentic enough to make you feel like a voyeur but you need to decide in advance that you’re here for the performance, not the story. Because there isn’t much of one: love goes off the rails. It’s sad but it happens all the time. The minute Rachel shoves a key lime pie in Mark’s face, she’s every cliche we’ve seen before and none we haven’t.

10 Minutes Gone

Sometimes even our “Sucks Ass” rating seems too generous. This is one of those times.

MV5BYTcwNjNkOGMtNmQ1MS00NzdmLWJmNDAtOWU4ZTFhZDgyODRiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzI1NzMxNzM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,962_AL_Frank (Michael Chiklis) is the safe-cracking heart of a crew looking for a big score in Cincinnati, that will pay the crew $500,000. The opening credits make clear that Frank and his brother have spent a lot of time planning the heist using army men. Their crew is working for Rex (Bruce Willis), a big shot in a suit who’s overseeing the job from an empty floor in an office building. It’s supposed to be easy money but of course things go wrong. Frank gets knocked out during the chaos, and wakes up next to his brother’s dead body. The box they stole is also gone, and Frank is left to figure out who double-crossed them to keep the whole $500k for themselves.

You may remember a bad idea from a few years ago called MoviePass. The initial pitch was that for a set monthly fee you could see as many movies as you wanted. One small flaw in the scheme was that no movie theatres were participating, and in fact they actively spoke out against it. MoviePass pressed on anyway. The result was that MoviePass was buying tickets at full price from the theatre and giving them away for almost nothing (MoviePass’ monthly subscription fee was equal to one regular price ticket).

So after a while of giving away tickets while misleading their investors about their chances of making a profit (which were literally zero), MoviePass found itself millions and millions of dollars in debt. Not even changing the terms repeatedly without notice solved the problems caused by MoviePass’ horrible business model.

Most would have given up at that point, but not MoviePass. Its ace in the hole? Making its own movies and giving away tickets to them! 10 Minutes Gone was one of MoviePass’ first films, and it also happens to be the last.  That’s because MoviePass is now dead and gone, and it’s probably best if we agree to bury 10 Minutes Gone alongside it. Everything about this movie is awful. It is an abomination. It was probably MoviePass’ worst idea. And that’s saying a lot.

 

Luce

Luce is an athlete and a star student, respected by faculty and friends. He’s soon to be valedictorian of his class. His success is particularly celebrated because Luce was adopted from Eritrea at the age of 10. He seems to have made a miraculous transition, overcome his tragic past.

So it’s a little jarring to his adoptive parents Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter (Tim Roth) when his teacher calls them in with some news. Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer) shows them an essay he wrote supporting violence as a necessary means for freeing colonized people. Considering his background (child soldier?), Ms. Wilson thinks it’s prudent to search his locker, and presents them with her findings: illegal fireworks. With school security being such a high priority, Ms. Wilson knows that if anyone else were to find these, Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) would be in hot water. She hopes his parents can intervene at home. However, Amy and Peter are loathe to bring it up, wanting to preserve the trusting relationship that was built with such difficulty. This seems like a relatively small blip in an otherwise unblemished record. But Luce finds the evidence and isn’t happy about the doubt or the suspicions of either his parents or his teacher.

Things escalate from there of course. Ms. Wilson’s accusations accumulate, and their repercussions amplify. Ms. Wilson is unrelenting but other authority figures are unwilling to compromise Luce’s stellar reputation. It’s her world against his, Luce’s parents trapped somewhere in between, wanting to protect their son but also wondering if he’s truly escaped his past. What is the right move? And to whom are they obligated?

The film is disorienting and Harrison’s performance is sufficiently nuanced to leave us guessing: is he being profiled or is he capable of some very exacting vengeance? The film plays with stereotypes and symbols in a way that’s deliciously tangled, addressing racism in a way that reflects its complexity and inextricability. Luce excels at sustained tension and menace, leaving the audience without its footing.

This chilling drama will have you weighing the costs of conformity, considering the limits of parental responsibility, subverting the notion of assimilation. Luce is uncomfortable but essential.

After Everything

If Elliot hit on me the way he hit on Mia, he wouldn’t have gotten the time of day. Clearly Tinder has desensitized her – an unwanted intrusion and the implicit assumption that women somehow owe some kind of interaction to all men who ring the doorbell aren’t enough to dissuade her. She consents to a date, her roommates encouraging her to “get her dick wet” and he confesses: he was just diagnosed with cancer yesterday. It’s life threatening, and more importantly, sex threatening (ie, a tumor on his pubic bone, specifically Ewing’s sarcoma, if you’re the type who likes to Web MD that shit). With sex off the table, Elliot’s going to have to relearn how to talk to women!

So anyway, this puts kind of an awkward pressure on their relationship for a couple of kids in their early 20s who weren’t necessarily looking for anything serious. This pressure cooker means they get to know each other very intensely and soon they’re inseparable: chemo, radiation, surgery, and even a bucket list for broke 20somethings. The other people in his life get a little jealous that Mia’s monopolizing all his time, but they’re living like these might be his last days, because these might be his last days.

Jeremy Allen White and Mia Monroe are excellent as two people on this impossible trajectory. Either their love is doomed…or it’s doomed. Youth and passion may be enough to plow through the indignities of a medical crisis, but what happens outside those bounds? What will they even have to talk about if not tumors and ports and hair loss? Even if forever isn’t exactly a long time, it’s still further ahead than either of them has ever though. Cancer has launched them into a premature adulthood, which may be a flimsy premise for a love story. You think that illness is going to be the greatest test, but lots of mundane things topple relationships with deeper roots than theirs.

P.S.: it’s National Wear Red Day!

One Child Nation

China instituted its one-child policy in 1979. By 1982, it was locked into its constitution. The Chinese population had ballooned to a billion and officials knew that in order for the country to truly prosper, it would need to control its growing numbers. Western countries worried about China’s population for different reasons. Over here, population growth had slowly withered as our countries grew stronger economically. As families move away from agriculture, large families become less necessary. As health care improves, more children make it into adulthood, so having ‘spares’ feels less urgent. And in order to give children every economic advantage in this new world – each their own bedroom, perhaps, a swimming pool in the backyard, a ski vacation every winter, a college fund for everyone – families grew smaller. Here in Canada we rely on immigration to keep our population from shrinking. Sean and I both come from 4 kid families, big even in the 80s. But in each of our families, only half of the siblings chose to have children at all. Of the 4 siblings who do have kids, 3 families have 2 kids each and 1 family has 3. We aren’t even replacing ourselves. But there’s a big difference between choosing what feels right for your family considering all the pros and cons; it’s much different when your government had made a law about your uterus and what can be inside.

In 1982, ultrasounds were not sophisticated enough to discern gender but following centuries of tradition, most Chinese families still wanted and valued a son. It fell to village officials to enforce this impossible policy, taking possessions and destroying homes of people who refused to follow it, and forcing sterilization on women after their first child, sometimes even forcing abortion.

One village midwife has lost track of how many babies she’s birthed but knows she performed 40-50 000 sterilizations and abortions over 20 years. Women would be abducted from their homes by the government, tied up like pigs, and dragged onto her operating table. Now she’ll only treat infertility “to atone for my sins” she says, though it’s clear she was not exactly a willing participant, just one of many doing their jobs. And so many of them had suffered from starvation, had spent lives just struggling to survive, that this promise of a better life for their child had lots of appeal. But if anything, the one-child policy strengthened the Chinese preference for sons. Baby girls were abandoned in droves.

After leaving China for the U.S. and becoming a mother herself, Nanfu Wang wonders if her thoughts are truly her own, or the result of propaganda so finely ingrained in culture and daily life they were hardly noticed. It’s impossible to know how China would have fared without the policy and most citizens don’t want to broach the question honestly. They have sacrificed so much, but the values and ideas so deeply embedded they are impossible to separate. Nanfu Wang can’t help but ask herself why she has traded one country who seeks to legislate women’s wombs for another.

The one-child policy was finally repealed in 2015 (they can now have 2), China assuring us that the nation was stronger, the people more prosperous, and the world more peaceful. And that may be true. But there is a trail of heart break, human trafficking, and a heavy toll paid by broken families and exiled children.

Troop Zero

A little girl named Christmas (Mckenna Grace) is fixated on the stars, in part because her mother died and now belongs up there, among the comets and the black holes. When she learns that the winners of the upcoming Jamboree will have the opportunity to record a special message to be sent into space, she’s determined to win. But first she has to assemble her very own Birdie Scout troop to compete.

Recruit #1 is her best friend Joseph, who will choreograph the winning dance. But with her short list of friends thus exhausted, she has to choose among the bullies to round out the numbers. Her father (Jim Gaffigan) is a mostly unpaid lawyer and busy dog owner and single father, so he appoints his long-suffering assistant Miss Rayleen (Viola Davis) as their den mother. She prefers criminals and murderers to little girls, but she’s getting paid, allegedly, so Troop Zero is born.

I could watch this for Davis alone. I’d watch a spin-off show of her character reacting to courtroom dramas all day long. Or her going head to head with Allison Janney playing rival troop mother, Miss Massey. But you know what was a nice surprise? Because Davis and Janney excelling is on-brand and totally expected. But the kids in this are actually interesting little characters. It’s an underdog-outsider story, as many tales about childhood are, but screenwriter Lucy Alibar has some tricks up her sleeve and directors Bert & Bertie know how to make a mark.

Christmas longs to break away from what’s expected of her, but the lessons learned here are more like pride and dignity. Owning who you are and realizing we all contain multitudes. And of course there’s always value in shelling out for a well-placed Bowie tune. Charmed the pants right off me. In fact, by the end of this little film, it gathers enough steam to laugh a sneak attack on my emotions. There’s a cosmic feel-goodness to it that’s hard to resist.