If last week was a big week for Netflix (what about « Mank » and « Hillbilly Elegy » in theaters) then this one is owned by Amazon, which is starting two big projects through its Prime Video subscription service. The first is Steve McQueen’s anthology « Small Ax » of « 12 Years a Slave, » an epic and generally unconventional series that doesn’t exactly fit into the categories of « movie » or « TV »: McQueen has made five feature films, London’s West Indian immigrant community, the deals with aspects of cultural identity, racism and community. Of the three entries I’ve seen, this week’s entry, « Mangrove, » is the strongest – and a great way to start the cycle with a courtroom drama for those who thought Netflix’s « The Trial of the Chicago 7 « Didn’t Give Bobby Seale Enough Time.
Amazon is also launching « The Sound of Metal, » a drama about a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing and is not going in the expected direction at all. Netflix continues its weekly holiday season with « The Princess Switch: Switched Again » and adds another Vanessa Hudgens resemblance to its trading center gadgets. And “Hulu” has an inventively exaggerated thriller in “Run” in which a teenager who has spent her life in a wheelchair realizes that her worried mother (Sarah Paulson) may be holding her back.
There are a small handful of films opening in theaters, including the amazingly poor Chinese action film « Vanguard, » which was delayed in release in early 2020 due to COVID – and which is probably not doing much better these days. The film « plays » Jackie Chan, but he mostly watches while other people fight around him.
It’s another good week for documentaries, including deep insights into the life and work of « Soros, » « Belushi, » and forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis (« Crazy, Not Insane »), who has focused her career on murderers. Even stronger is the Romanian film « Collective », which deals with a massive corruption scandal that was exposed after victims of a nightclub fire did not receive adequate medical treatment – and so that this story does not appear a million miles away, the current pandemic and its tragic Political components give the investigation film new relevance.
Here is an overview of the films Variety opened this week, as well as links to where you can watch them. More movies and TV shows to stream can be found here.
The Last Vermeer (Dan Friedkin) Distributor: TriStar PicturesWhere to Find It: Now in theaters
The true post-war story of a notorious Dutch art dealer accused of selling an invaluable cultural treasure to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, “The Last Vermeer”, is an unconventional courtroom drama. After Han van Meegeren was arrested and tried for collaborating with the enemy, he claimed the artwork in question was not a masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer, but a masterful fake, painted by none other than himself. Van Meegeren’s story is neatly reduced to a pretty, upscale nighttime offering that still attracts a discerning older audience to art houses. – Peter Debruge Read the full review
Vanguard (Stanley Tong) Distributor: Gravitas Ventures Where you can find it: Now in a wider version
Few stars have worked harder to keep audiences happy in the long run than Jackie Chan. But lately his on-screen appearances have been that of the elderly statesman who has still tried nominally expensive but tasteless official diplomatic functions. « Vanguard » is fast-paced eye candy that is as mindless as a video game, or rather several video games, all mixed together. Alternately targeting James Bond, Indiana Jones, superheroes and command-raid terrain, the film could be flown as a larky fantasy adventure if it had a confident joke. – Dennis Harvey Read the full review
Collective (Alexander Nanau) CRITIC’S PICK Distributor: Magnolia Pictures Where to find: In theaters, on request and via digital platforms
Every now and then a documentary will not only open your eyes, but tear you apart. « Collective », Alexander Nanau’s explosive observational documentation of unfathomable corruption at the heart of the Romanian medical industry, is one such work. Taken by itself, this terrifying synopsis was supposed to send shock waves through a system so entangled in venality that politicians and a large part of the medical profession don’t believe in letting people die so they can stay in power and ensure their setbacks. The corrosive corruption that has been uncovered, however, has a far greater impact than just in Romania. – Jay Weissberg Read the full review
Embattled (Nick Sarkisov) Distributor: IFC Films Where to find: In cinemas, on request and via digital platforms
At several points in Georgian director Nick Sarkisov’s roaring, bloody film, it’s hard to wish it made things a little worse: a hokey, old-fashioned father-son Meller clad in the bling-encrusted robes of a younger man, it increasingly sacrifices emotional credibility for the violent, pimped-up valor of MMA itself. By the time it moves into the realm of fantasy revenge, the script’s earlier attempts at intimate character work have largely been undone, although committed appearances by Stephen Dorff and Darren Mann remain. – Guy Lodge Read the full review
Hearts and Bones (Ben Lawrence) Distributor: Gravitas Ventures Where to find: Available upon request and through digital platforms
Time spent in a modern war zone can be traumatic for participants and observers alike, but across continents and cultures the shared experiences of living and loving after such experiences can be amazingly similar. This is a multifaceted and overarching theme that is woven into this impressive debut of the narrative films. Lawrence’s thoughtful drama also sheds enlightening light on the current hot-button issue from immigrants to Australia and their place in the social fabric, particularly in the suburbs of western Sydney where it’s filmed. – Eddie Cockrell Read the full review
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist (Alexandre O. . Philippe) Distributor: Shudder Where to find it: View it exclusively at Shudder
Forty-six years after its release, The Exorcist isn’t exactly a film to analyze. It’s also not a movie that people are unlikely to be analyzing anytime soon. Director of « Memory: The Origins of Alien »
Philippe’s documentary has a lot more to offer. That the scholar is Friedkin himself this time makes it lively and worthwhile. Essentially a single interview with Friedkin, interspersed with repeatedly reworked clips, « Leap of Faith » – according to its title – primarily examines the film’s spiritual allusions and illusions, and sets it apart from any old making-of document. – Guy Lodge Read the full review
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin) Distributor: Oscilloscope Laboratories Where to find it: See in digital or virtual cinema
With his perverse view of the early life of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister W. . L.. . Mackenzie King, Montreal-based multi-hyphenator Rankin, is much more than just Canuck Guy Maddin’s artistic legacy. His low-budget, high-concept portrayal of political life in the Dominion of Canada at the turn of the 20th. Century is both satirical and whimsical. The more familiar you are with Canadian history, the funnier it is. But even without prior knowledge, it can be enjoyed for its combination of the highest levels of creativity, dazzling boldness and amusing ironic dialogue. – Dennis Harvey Read the full review
Mangrove (Steve McQueen) CRITIC’S PICKWhere to find: Prime Video
Ask yourself: What do the words “Black Power” mean to you? This is the question several of the Mangrove Nine asked each of the potential jurors in a landmark civil rights trial. McQueen doesn’t openly repeat the group’s question in Mangrove, the powerful courtroom drama launching its upcoming anthology series Small Ax for Amazon: five stand-alone films designed to explore and expand the dimensions of black life in Britain between 1968 and the mid-1980s. Overall, the project serves as a strong, multi-faceted response from the director. – Peter Debruge Read the full review
Sound of Metal (Darius Marder) Where to find it: Prime Video
« Sound of Metal » is a movie with a strong, searing hook. It features Riz Ahmed as Ruben, a punk metal drummer full of tattoos and peroxide who has been beating away as part of a Caterwauling noise band for so long that he has lost his hearing. But The Place Beyond the Pines screenwriter, Marder, who is making his first feature film as a director, is too preoccupied with the fundamentals of sound design and not enough with what he should be doing: figuring out who Ruben is as a person – how he came to this place and how he reacts to his condition. – Owen Gleiberman Read the full review
Crazy, not crazy (Alex Gibney) Where to find it: HBO max
When it comes to the mysterious and disturbing subject of what’s going on in the minds of serial killers, popular culture has always been ahead of the curve. Part of the allure of Gibney’s menacingly suspenseful documentary about forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, however, is that Lewis was not only known for serial killers being fatally scarred, traumatized individuals whose personalities are separate from themselves. It was controversial every step of the way; Their views were seen as subversive and unconventional. – Owen Gleiberman Read the full review
Run (Aneesh Chaganty) Where to find it: Hulu
Sarah Paulson is either the best mom in the world or the worst in « Run », a (in a good way) crazy two-handed two-handed by « Searching » director Chaganty, who piles one tragedy on top of another and serves it up in the form of a thriller. Things begin when Chloe (Kiera Allen), who has dealt with diabetes, asthma, and lower body palsy for as long as she can remember, questions whether her life could have been any different. But Chloe is barely prepared for the extent to which her reality has been meticulously constructed by her mother (Sarah Paulson). . – Peter Debruge Read the full review
The Princess Switch: Changed Again (Mike Rohl) Where to find it: Netflix
With the resurgence of COVID, meaning only the naughty will risk big gatherings this holiday season, there will be even more confidence in home cooking. This pleasant sequel brings back the same director, writers, and leads from Netflix’s original 2018 hit, and adds a new crease to the updated Prince and the Pauper concept by giving star Vanessa Hudgens a third lookalike character. While the formula is inevitably a little thinner in some places this time around, it’s a foamy fantasy that should appease the viewer’s itch for candy fluff. – Dennis Harvey Read the full review
Belushi (R. . J. . Cutler) Where to find it: Showtime
There is an enlightening moment in Cutler’s meticulous and touching documentary about the life and death of a comedy legend in which John Belushi, a rising star in Second City, Chicago, is asked during a radio interview what he thinks of Lou Costello – the one in the Eyes of the interviewer was another brilliantly wacky comedian. Belushi is visibly annoyed and says: No, I don’t like him. Belushi then goes on to say that he is not a comedian committed to the past. He wants to create something new. That sounds like something a lot of comedians could say, but in Belushi’s case it really was true. – Owen Gleiberman Read the full review
Steve McQueen, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu
World News – CA – New movies to see this week: Steve McQueen’s’ Mangrove ‘,’ Sound of Metal ‘,’ Run ‘ »Collective »
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