Tag Archives: Netflix original

Someone Great

Jenny has just suffered a soul-crushing breakup with forever boyfriend, Nate. After 9 years together, things end right before she’s about to move cross-country for a new job. Thank goodness for best friends Erin and Blair who are prepared to drop everything to grieve with her while celebrating one last night together, out in NYC.

A series of glowy flash backs convince us that yes, Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) and Nate (Lakeith Stanfield) were indeed great but the truth is, in mourning a boyfriend, this movie really celebrates girlfriends. Jenny, Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow) have a bond that’s outlasted all the other relationships in their lives.

Rodriguez, Wise, and Snow have terrific chemistry. Writer/director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson keeps things loose; it feels like the women spent time getting to actually know and like each other, rather than rehearsing. It feels real. It feels familiar, like they’re MV5BOWUyZTQ0MjEtNDRmMy00NDJiLWE4YjktNDk3MDBiYzQ2ZGEyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjM4NTM5NDY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_tapping into the weird naturalness and closeness of our friendships from early adulthood. Things will change for them, I bet, and soon. I want to tell them to treasure the fuck out of these moments. In fact, these women are on the cusp. They’re nearing 30: careers are taking off, relationships are getting serious. Kids, suburbs, and neglecting our female friendships tend to come next. That sounds sadder than I mean it to because this movie is surprisingly upbeat and fun. So maybe time won’t get away on them, and maybe phone calls won’t go unreturned for months at a time, and maybe they won’t find themselves saying ‘We should get together soon’ and never quite making it happen. Maybe.

But that hasn’t happened to them yet! They’re still the most important people in each other’s lives, and on this night in particular, they are super duper there for each other and it’s marvelous.

Also: it has a pretty great soundtrack.

Advertisements

Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce

Another sleepless night, Sean snoring beside me. Suddenly, around 5:30am, all the usual racing thoughts preventing sleep start to congeal into just the once: today is Beyonce day.

Beyonce has been Queen for a long damn time. She’s more Queen than the Queen of England, because that lady is a figure head and Beyonce is for real. Beyonce is not just a pop star, she is a cultural icon, more than her voice, more than her marriage, more than MV5BNWYwMTExOTAtNjVmYi00MWVjLTgzZWUtZTI0OTE3YTgwMjM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_her style and her fame and her talent. She was a successful, powerful black woman, her success and power being so seemingly limitless that they transcended gender and race. And at the height of that power, Beyonce claimed both her blackness and her womanhood in a way that was political, artistic, and impossible to ignore. Now we need a word that is somehow more than Queen, and maybe the only name worthy is Beyonce itself.

Homecoming is a documentary detailing Beyonce’s brilliant performance at last year’s (2018) Coachella. But just as that show was more than a concert, the documentary ends up being much more than a recording. It’s a testament. This is Beyonce clearly comfortable in her strength, and the evidence is written in her lyrics, in her stage presence, and all over the damn screen. We witness Beyonce the businesswoman, Beyonce the workhorse, Beyonce the mother and wife, the artist and creator.

After a 22 year career, Beyonce has a whole lotta laurels upon which to rest her world-famous booty. Her name alone is enough to have Coachella gagging. Which is to say: she does not have to work this hard. She’s working like she’s NOT the most famous woman in the world. But Beyonce wasn’t going to just bring her music to the festival – she brought her culture, and she gave it to the people. She worked for 8 months to deliver a powerhouse 2 hour performance.

Fan or not, it’s completely impossibly to tear your eyes away from this woman so fully owning her power. A woman who – dare I say it? – is feeling herself, and not apologizing for it. Not one bit.

The Perfect Date

Like 90% of teen movies, the general conceit is that the protagonist is reflecting upon his short life via the old college application essay.

Brooks Rattigan (the dreamy Noah Centineo) hopes to be Harvard bound, but his guidance counselor counsels him that he’s really quite bland and uninteresting, so he’s got to “find himself” in order to inject zing and zeal into his application.

A chance opportunity to be paid to escort the lovely if anti-social Celia (Laura Marano) to her high school formal births two very important plot points: Brooks falls for the MV5BZTJkZDZjYTMtNTNiYy00MGFlLWIzZmUtZjEzM2ZlMDY4NTI1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_terminally popular and super-rich Shelby (Camila Mendes), and he gets an idea for a business opportunity. He’s going to need a lot of money to pay for Harvard (and to woo Celia), so why not rent himself as a date for hire? It worked well enough the first time, with Shelby, so why not with other girls? He recruits best friend Murph (Odiseas Georgiadis) to set up a dating app, one where girls can choose what date he’ll take them on, what outfit he’ll wear, what topics he’ll discuss, even what personality he’ll embody.

Nothing could go wrong, right?

Every single thing that happens is boldly predictable and unimaginative. But you didn’t come innovative story-telling or artistic film making. You came to lose yourself in the deep chocolate pools of Noah Centineo’s soulful eyes. Which is a good thing because Noah Centineo has not one but two eyes, and the movie has otherwize a grand total of 0 reasons to watch. The characters are extremely rough drafts of real people and they have no motivation, no arc, nothing.

You know those cardboard cutouts of movie stars that used to dot your local Blockbuster? Well you could use those life-sized cardboard cutouts to reenact this movie and it would be fairly indistinguishable. I don’t think the quality would suffer at all. But then you’d miss out on Noah Centineo’s wavy hair, and the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles. Of course, if you are not a 12 year old girl, you may find yourself impervious to his Millennial charms, and therefore you should stay the heck away from this movie because it just isn’t any good.

The Legend of Cocaine Island

If you’ve ever lived in a small town, then you probably know how it goes. There’s a story that everyone knows. It gets passed around the way stories do: neighbour to neighbour, senior to freshman, longtime customer to grizzled waitress, bored shopkeeper to just-browsing customer, and every single damn time there’s beer or coffee involved. The story, whether it is strictly true or not, is a fact. A fact of life, a way of life. It’s how small-town people connect.

The Legend of Cocaine Island is such a story, and you can tell by the title that it’s a pretty good one. It gets passed around central Florida, and the whole gang – a real cast of characters, believe me – is reunited to pass it on to us.

One of the guys tells us: “A northern fairy tale goes ‘Once upon a time…’ but a southern fairy tale starts ‘Y’all aren’t going to believe this shit.'” This is how our documentary starts, so gather round, get close to the fire, pour a little spirit into your coffee, and listen up.

The local barefoot hippie always tells the same story: he lived in Puerto Rico once, 15 years ago, maybe 20. One day, walking along the beach, he saw something large bobbing along in the water. It was a carefully water-proofed package. He opened it up, hoping for cash, but instead he found 35kg of cocaine. Nervous, and not trusting the cops, he hid the cocaine, and then hid it again, and again, until finally he buried it. And presumably, that’s where it is now. Worth, what, 1 or 2 million dollars? Just sitting in the ground.

All the locals knew the story; the hippie was fond of repeating it. But it wasn’t until the recession hit that it started to sound more like an action plan than a fairy tale. This is life-changing money to people who have been foreclosed and they’ve slid from the American dream down to a trailer park disappointment.

But, okay, even if they did some how find the coke and smuggle it home – what then? These weren’t drug dealers. How do you get rid of the stuff?

Well, the story snowballs into an open invitation to get rich quick. And pretty much a middle-aged dad gets in WAY over his head. He’s living his biggest Scarface fantasy. what can go wrong?

You have to watch this movie yourself, and it is eminently watchable. Director Theo Love weaves a very compelling narrative; this documentary tells a heck of a story. Is there actual buried treasure in Puerto Rico? Is it retrievable? Is this a terrifically terrible idea? Would greed and stupidity make criminals out of all of us?

 

 

The Highwaymen

In 1934, the infamous criminal duo Bonnie & Clyde were seemingly unstoppable. Their crime spree was turning more serious and their body count higher each day. Though they enjoyed almost movie-star status in certain circles, they were an embarrassment to the law enforcement they continued to evade – including Hoover’s FBI men.

The Texas Rangers have long since been disbanded – too lawless, too unsupervised. But Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) manages to convince Texas governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) that since her new police force has proved ineffectual, perhaps what is needed is just a couple of highwaymen, doing things the old fashioned way.

Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) chafes in his retirement, and though he hasn’t even held a MV5BMjM2NDg5NjQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzMyNzI5NjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_gun in his hand in years, he doesn’t take much convincing. Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) is a little more reluctant but pride is a tricky thing.

Following Bonnie & Clyde’s bloody trail is a complicated thing. These criminals are hailed as heroes by some, protected by family and friends. The men discuss whether they could shoot a woman, if it came to that. Neither really want it to come to that, but a job is a job is a job. It’s morally muddy ground maybe, but the script is a little shy about saying so, so it merely tiptoes around these dirty puddles, relying too heavily on the grizzled buddy-cop dynamic of Costner and Harrelson. And it’s not a bad dynamic at that: the two do a good job of seeming beaten down by their lives and their choices. But the movie plays it safe, and frankly, sometimes boring. Well, not boring, exactly, but not nearly as jittery and exciting as you might think literally any movie remotely associated with Bonnie & Clyde would be. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Police work isn’t all car chases and whizzing bullets. Nor was Bonnie and Clyde’s life of crime nearly as glamourous as it was made out to be at the time. The actual truth is lost to us – no witnesses are alive today, and those that talked at the time tended to conflict each other’s stories quite a bit.

I imagine this movie will appeal most to a certain demographic: those inclined to beaten-up recliners and canned nuts. It’s a bit of a dad movie.

Triple Frontier

Pope (Oscar Isaac) gets the Special Forces gang back together again for one last job. The only difference is, this one isn’t government sanctioned. Which means this drug lord take down is really more of a robbery, with extremely high stakes in the middle of the South American jungle – but also potentially high rewards. With no government agency looking over their shoulders, there’s a lot of drug money up for grabs.

Redfly (Ben Affleck) has been out of the game for a while, and he’s reluctant to be MV5BMjVmZjgyNmYtY2VlOS00YjAzLWI2N2EtMmE2MDYyNTk3NTE3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_pulled back in. But a lousy real estate market and a newly separated household are drains on his bank account, and the money is highly motivating. Ironhead (Charlie Hunnam) is in it for brotherhood. His little brother Ben (Garrett Hedlund) is in it for adventure. And Catfish (Pedro Pascal) is the much-needed copter pilot rounding out their crew.

For the first time in their lives, these heroes who’ve always operated in secrecy, for their country, are operating on their own, for financial benefit. So there’s obviously a moral or two at play when this operation goes south. I mean, there’s more money than anticipated. More money than they dreamed. More money than they can carry. More money than a helicopter can safely navigate, and these guys have a getaway route that has them flying over the Andes. You can basically play along and see how you’d react. Would greed trump safety? Does money win over planning and rational thinking? How many American dollars is one life worth? Or many lives? There’s lots of juicy moral conundrums, and these 5 guys don’t always agree, which makes for some intense conflict.

Charlie Hunnam and Oscar Isaac are magnetic. Ben Affleck seems a little lethargic. There’s lots of crazy car chases and gun fights to wake up the sleepy Batman though, and gorgeous if forbidding landscapes. Unfortunately, director J.C. Chandor doesn’t quite follow up on the most compelling bits. He dangles the ethics carrot and then throws it down a dark crevice. What is the meaning of it all? Oscar Isaac isn’t the only one exploiting war for profit – so is Hollywood, and this movie could have had a meta-quality to it, an incisive commentary, and you feel at times that we’re teetering on the precipice of it, but Chandor never dares take the plunge, and Triple Frontier remains a meaty but mediocre shoot-em-up movie.

 

Paddleton

Michael and Andy are a couple of awkward, misfit bachelors living one on top of the other in an apartment complex. They moved there to be alone, but they found each other. They’re not lovers, they’re just two men coexisting in companionship and friendship. True, abiding friendship, the kind that exists in the space between frozen pizza and kung fu movies and thousand piece puzzles and a game they made up called paddleton.

But then Michael (Mark Duplass) gets diagnosed with cancer. The bad kind – the dead in a few weeks kind. Maybe a few months. In lots of pain. So Michael resolves to get his hands on a prescription for death with dignity, pills that will allow him to die at home, on his terms. That prescription isn’t available just anywhere, so Andy (Ray Romano) agrees on a road trip to procure the pills. As you can imagine, Andy has some conflicting feelings about this mission, and his best friend’s plan.

This is a quiet and unassuming movie that manages to say more about friendship MV5BYzg0YzJiNDAtY2JlZi00ODViLTkyYTAtYjg3NjQ3MjE3ZDFiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_between men than maybe any movie before it. With Duplass and Romano in leading roles, you may assume this is a comedy, and you’d be wrong. Not entirely wrong; it does have its moments of levity, but this slides more toward the melancholy end of the bitter-sweet scale. And it takes its time getting to where it’s going. Which is okay, really, since the terminal station is literally terminal.

How do two men who exist outside of social norms express their love to each other? What does a farewell tour look like for a single man with no family, no friends, no meaningful employment or significant other or passion or ambition. There’s no bucket list. There’s just pain, and a ticking clock. Goodbyes are hard.

In the end, it’s not a big movie moment. It’s not beautiful. It’s not redeeming. But its humanity will touch you.