The Film Fix – May 2018

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Streaming Selects

Netflix

What to binge: “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman” – The late night talk icon’s Netflix series is a one-on-one interview with popular and interesting people.  This month David is interviewing comedian Tina Fey (May 4) and Howard Stern (May 31).

What movie to watch: “Faces Places” – With this documentary, French filmmaker Agnès Varda finally received an Oscar nomination. In “Faces Places,” she collaborates with photographer/muralist J.R. as they travel from town to town taking photographs and pasting up giant murals on the walls of communities.  The visuals alone make this one worth seeing, but the relationship between the filmmakers makes the movie even more special.

What to avoid: “The Break with Michelle Wolf” – While I’ll likely watch this, I’m sure that a huge swath of readers will want to avoid comedian Michelle Wolf’s comedy talk/variety show, “The Break with Michelle Wolf.” It premieres on the streaming platform on May 27.  If you haven’t heard, Wolf got raves and rants about her performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner last month. And she has probably as many defenders as she does detractors based on a simple Google search. I have to admit that the attention she received for the dinner performance certainly makes this show a little more interesting.

Amazon

What to binge: “Picnic at Hanging Rock” – If the show is as good as the trailer tease, this limited series, that is a new adaptation of the Joan Lindsay novel, shouldn’t disappoint.  The original take on the material, director Peter Weir’s 1975 feature film, is something of a classic in Australian cinema. The new 6-episode limited series stars “Game of Thrones” alum Natalie Dormer as headmistress Mrs. Appleyard.  The story involves the mysterious disappearance of three schoolgirls and their governesses on Valentine’s Day in 1900.

What movie to watch: “The Crow” – With superhero/comic book movies dominating theaters (“Deadpool 2” is a notable May release), it might be interesting to look back as some earlier attempts to translate comic strips to the screen.  “The Crow,” released back in 1994, was directed by the talented Alex Proyas (“Dark City”). But the movie was most known for the tragic death on set of Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son). Lee is excellent in the starring role, and the film was largely successful.  While there are sequels, the big news is that the character is slated to be rebooted with Jason Momoa (“Aquaman”) in the title role and a proposed October 2019 release date.

What to avoid: “Baywatch” – Making its way to Prime on May 12, “Baywatch” isn’t worth your time.  Apparently, this was a dream project for Dwayne Johnson, who gives his all in the lead, but he just can’t overcome a terrifically lame script that contains so many wrong-headed jokes.  And it’s sad, the film’s opening sequence teased something campy in a good way, but instead this theatrical adaptation of the long-running television series fails to even meet the relatively cheesy quality of its inspiration.

Hulu

What to binge: “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Entering its powerful second season, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is impressive television. By building on novelist Margaret Atwood’s ideas that are now more than thirty years old, the producers manage to contemporize the narrative in a particularly relevant manner. It should resonate with even the most hardened and cynical viewer.  If you’ve not seen season one, it is available in its entirety on Hulu and is necessary viewing before jumping into season two.

What movie to watch: “Dirty Pretty Things” – Nominated for the Oscar for best original screenplay by Steven Knight (see his great film “Locke”), “Dirty Pretty Things” helped introduce us to gifted actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”).  In “Things,” Ejiofor plays Okwe, a Nigerian immigrant living as part of the underground economy in London. He’s also a trained surgeon, who becomes mixed up in an illegal medical scheme. This riveting little thriller also features Audrey Tautou, fresh off her star-making turn in “Amélie.”

What to avoid: “The Matrix” sequels – Okay, this month, Hulu has all three “The Crow” sequels.  I’ve not seen “The Crow IV: Wicked Prayer,” but the two films before it are just okay. They don’t kill the relative power of the original.  But what the Wachowski’s did with the fantastic ideas of the first “Matrix” in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” is nothing short of a tragedy. While “Reloaded” has its moments, “Revolutions” is the weakest in the trilogy and hinted at the problems that continue to plague Wachowski productions to this day (“Jupiter Ascending” comes instantly to mind).  Watch the first one again and forget “The Matrix” sequels that should be forgotten.

Arthouse Corner

The Rider

Easily one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year, “The Rider” is a unique experience, exposing the viewer to a part of this county that we’ve not seen very often on screen.  The story is based somewhat on the real-life experiences of rodeo star Brady Jandreau, who perfectly stars as Brady in the film.

Starting after Brady has had a horrible injury while riding in competition, we see him as he fights to find his way in a new and uncertain world.  Brady’s crippling brain damage prohibits him from doing what he loves—riding. And the shots of him on a horse against a open range are nothing short of epic.

Beautifully lensed and crafted, this collaboration between Jandreau and Beijing director Chloé Zhao will likely make some critic’s end of the year lists.  “The Rider” is highly recommended.

Theatrical Teaser

Avengers: Infinity War

After ten years of cinematic development, “Avengers: Infinity War” brings the Marvel universe together to fight a tragic villain named Thanos.  And what might have been a messy team-up experiment is remarkably cohesive and eminently satisfying.

The story revolves around Thanos’ quest to hold all the infinity stones so that he alone can wield infinite power.  The reason why this is his life-long mission is part of the mystery of the film, which I dare not reveal. And when we initially meet him, he’s already well on his way to capturing all the stones.  Those stones that remain include but are not limited to one thought to be in the possession of Thor’s people and two on planet Earth.

There is really something for everyone in “Avengers: Infinity War.”  Thematically, the concept of good vs. evil is in play, but the very nature of evil is an ultimate question dealt with somewhat clumsily.  The pace of the film is so frantic and driven that hardly any time is left for a bit of calm and reason. Still, the complex handling of the effects of the accumulation of absolute power are embodied well in the devastating character of Thanos.  His place in the MCU is so immense that two movies may not be enough to cover it all.

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