By Anne Brodie –
OK folks I was not able to see Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once this week, and folks are raving about it. I’ll get to it next week or my name’s not Better Late Than Never. In theatres.
Gary Oldman is just berserk as the most eccentric boss on TV since Alan Brady in Apple TV+‘s wonderfully zany and yet exciting espionage series Slow Horses. He’s Jackson lamb, disgraced MI5 spy demoted to run the rundown Slough House where all the other failed spies go to serve do-nothing time,a real dump. His motto is “Failure is contagious” as he loudly passes gas and insults. Each Slough resident has made a “career-ending” mistake; it’s where they live out their penance at a reduced salary and no end-of date. In the case of promising newbie River Cartwright (Jack Lowden), he was knocking it out of the park chasing down an alleged terrorist bomber at Heathrow; he misses a handover and is too late, the bomb explodes, leaving dead and wounded. But Slough House isn’t having the do-nothing effect intended. He secretly investigates the case of a well-connected young Pakistani man kidnapped and threatened with beheading by English nationalists and a former agent gone bad. One of them is an MI5 plant. Boss Diana Taverner (Kristin Scott Thomas) whose veins flow with ice runs the organisation and she has no patience, getting in Lamb and Cartwright’s way even as lives are at stake. Smartly, often funny scripting, an ace cast of characters and a peek at failed spies is rousing and entertaining, and this is one heck of a great behind-the-scenes adventure. and more, Mick Jagger sings and co-wrote the opening and closing theme song Strange Game, effectively using his actor-y vibes to set the tone of dread and mayhem. and where else will you hear the immortal line – “like trying to explain Norway to a dog”.
Caleb Landry Jones goes full-on psycho as Tasmanian serial killer Martin Bryant in Nitram a somber meditation on a young man with an IQ of 66 and Aspberger’s who carried out the worst mass murder in Australian history. He lives with his parents and controls them on pain of violent outbursts. Martyn, nicknamed Nitram, is known in the vicinity for his unpredictable and dangerous behaviour. He’s friendless, avoided, and his parents (Judi David and Anthony LaPaglia) are unable to take charge so in essence, he’s free as a bird. Around 1996, he meets an eccentric heiress with dozens of dogs and cats and moves in with her. She seems to calm him and he’s happier, but still focused on pyrotechnics. One day he grabs the steering wheel while she’s driving, a habit and they crash. She’s killed and he inherits her estate, and his father commits suicide, following a real estate loss and beating by Martyn. The dam breaks leading him to the Port Arthur massacre. Filmmaker Justin Kurzel makes no judgment, shows no gore; the film’s spareness is its strength as is Landry Jones’ superior, controlled and haunting performance. Theatres.
As we travel during COVID-19 “safe times” (are there any?) the tourism industry appears to be making strides. It’s a multi-billion dollars business that essentially recreates the Western experience in different places, according to Tyson Sadler and Jesse Mann. Their powerful doc The Last Tourist examines the massive detrimental effects of tourism on fragile, vulnerable, and deprived destinations like Thailand, Cambodia, Africa, Amazon, parts of Europe, and Alaska. Massive cruise ships bring their Instagram-addled customers to exotic places for photo opps. What they leave behind is garbage, dislocated wildlife, and a giant footprint. One man says he lived near a farmer’s beach in S.E. Asia in the 70s, just one family and its property. Today the same property attracts 38M visitors a YEAR. Not too far away, tourists can clap at elephants and monkeys forced to perform all day long for selfies. Locals complain about the alcohol abuse, litter and then there are the tourists who vandalise ancient or sacred sights. Venice is under threat from passenger waste and presence, endlessly cramming the place. Museums are dozens deep for selfies with famous photos. But then there is the problem of depriving locals of income. Their market stalls have been replaced by upscale shopping onboard the ships, while they work for pittances as cleaners or waiters if they are lucky enough to get jobs. Jane Goodall and other provocative activists make an argument for changing the very concept of travel – to value the places you want to see. Sobering and important. In select theatres now and across all TVOD platforms on April 5.
Stephen Merchant directs the new to us British comedy series The Outlaws, starring Christopher Walken. He’s an American in Bristol sentenced to community service along with an unusual group of miscreants. By refurbishing a decrepit community centre they can pay off their debt to society for their misdeeds. The group of seven spans the socio-economic scale and DSM (?????) Among them, a smug businessman about to lose it all when a video of him fighting goes viral, an Instagram star who shows up for broom work in a limo and done up like dinner, Walken’s “thieving bastard”, a girl who has now missed her Oxford year, a woman keeping a close eye on police; she was kicked out of her activism group for being too much, there’s Long Dong John. An annoying boss works their nerves, a kid targeted by gangsters has a big bag of cash and well, you know it’s going to get spicy. There may or may not be a major robbery in the works, a class war, and well rocky roads ahead. It’s fun and bouncy, then it’s dark and dangerous, but one thing’s certain – it’s all for one and one for all. Stars Walken, Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Stephen Merchant, Eleanor Tomlinson, Darren Boyd, Clare Perkins and Jessica Gunning. On Prime Video.
Disney Debut‘s bold, and important, inclusive new movie Better Nate Than Ever follows the Broadway dreams of 13-year-old prodigy Nate Foster (Rueby Wood) who lives in Pennsylvania but dreams about musicals and Manhattan. His parents understand that he’s different and accept him, but his athletic brother misses no opportunity to tease him. He calls him out for wearing lipstick and Nate counters” its gloss.. clinical strength” displaying his quick wit and self-confidence. Nate’s best friend Libby (Aria Brooks) shares his enthusiasm for song ‘n’ dance and supports him unconditionally; she’s there for him when school bullies harass him. Nate’s gutted he didn’t get a part in the school musical and with Libby, secretly runs off to Manhattan when his parents are away to audition for a musical stage production of Lilo & Stitch. His encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals and extraordinary singing talent serves him well, but he must deal with his situation. His actor aunt (Lisa Kudrow) happens to see him at his audition and immediately leaves a message for his parents then allies with him to get the part. He looks to the series Designing Women for inspiration and things are looking good. But then his brother shows up. It’s an elaborate production, mirroring Nate’s fantasies and imagination, it’s bursting with goodwill and acceptance, an extremely important message for today’s audiences, given the egregious new prejudicial laws in the southern US. As for Nate and Rueby, to quote an earlier Broadway musical “This kid is going places!”. Fromwriter-director Tim Federle.
Life & Beth on Disney+ is an original comedy-drama series from Amy Schumer as Beth, born and raised in Long Island and now a wine distributor in Manhattan. The first episode sets the tone for the entire series with three traumatic events cleverly tucked into 25 minutes. Her boyfriend is devoted to her but can’t see that a love-struck co-worker shadows him and attempts to scupper Beth and Matt’s relationship. There are awkward and relatable moments aplenty and a vivid imagination at work as Beth attempts to get a grip on her life. She scopes out a new winery in Long Island, takes an awkward boat ride and travels to the past to teenage Beth, revisiting excruciating growing pains that still bother her twenty years later. Beth has taken 4 -6 alcoholic drinks a day for 25 years and doesn’t chew her food properly and agonises over her life choices. Guest stars include David Byrne, Michael Rappaport, Michael Cera, and regulars the wonderful Yamaneika Saunders, VIolet Young as Young Beth and Kevin Kane as Matt.
Now on Netflix, the terse three-hander Windfall finds the class wars in an isolated desert home. Jason Segel’s Nobody sits in an Ojai California orange grove trying out the produce. He breathes in the too-expensive-for-him fresh air and makes his way inside where he finds jewelry, a gun and thousands of dollars in cash. He lingers too long and the owners pull up – the biotech billionaire CEO (Jesse Plemons ) and his Wife (Lily Collins) enter the home and he manages to evade them for a while. But he must take charge so grabs their phones and ties them up, demanding enough money to live comfortably, maybe 150K and then he’ll leave. CEO mocks him, upping what he thinks he’ll need – millions and promising to deliver. Nobody seems to have known they wouldn’t be there (it was a last-minute trip) and that there were no security cameras, so it was intentional. CEO asks which of his companies screwed him, and does he have a grudge. CEO’s subtle jabs at Nobody, disguised as concern and friendliness, soon explode into rage, and the game changes. And then the gardener (Omar Leyva) shows up. The telegraphing opening musical notes tell us this may be a Douglas Sirk melodrama, small cast, turgid story in a cramped setting. It unfolds slowly as we silently urge CEO to act decisively and stop mocking Nobody, but after a long slog, the final twist is a shocker. Written and directed by Collins’s RL husband, Charlie McDowell.
So whatever happened to Jane Seymour, you ask. She’s been in Ireland shooting Harry Wild an Acorn Original detective series. Once again, a woman who is not a trained law enforcement investigator astonishes the police with her knack for solving homicides, a formula popularised by Agatha Christies’s Miss Marple and carried on fervently ever since in every way, shape and form. It’s Seymour’s turn now as “Harry” a recently retired English professor whose son is an actual detective and whose knickers are in a twist because she solves cases they can’t. She has the advantage of classical education and all those books, plays, and poems she knows come in handy. A crime she’s currently eyeing concerns a man murdered in his living room, an exact replica of a scene someone staged in a dollhouse. Harry recognizes certain aspects of the case, they appear in the Elizabethan book Calabras with shades of Titus Andronicus. A young boy mugs Harry one day by a young boy but she realises there is something special about him and asks him to join her in her new mission, solving the dollhouse murder. None of this sits well with her son the real detective who tells her to start knitting. She means business, needs to get into a theatre so she tasers the security guard, a taser provided to her by her mugger. If all this sounds like a flight of unbelievable fancy, it is, but Seymour’s having fun hamming it up, asking her son for weed and being generally outrageous. Mix in loanshark, gamers, a 600-year-old sword, and Harry’s burgeoning romance with her son’s boss, and you have Christie Extra Lite.
Don’t expect Vanya Rose’ Woman in Car to speed. A sombre study of a broken family starring Helene Joy, Liane Balaban, and Gabrielle Lazure won’t veer into other lanes or crash into a railing because it is intent on staying put. Joy, Murdoch Mysteries’ now blonde leading lady Anne, an almost Olympic archer, is a widow, her husband died in a supposed car accident and she’s moved on, about to marry David. Her grown stepson Owen (Aidan Ritchie) is visiting with his girlfriend Safiya (Balaban) and teaching little Emma piano. Sounds nice, the family gathered in a nice house awaiting a dinner of just bow-and-arrow killed rabbit. But it’s tense, angry, and explosive and no wonder – this family has secrets and wounds and you get a toxic vibe early on; some things got to give. Lianne hitchhikes home, David returns to a passionless round of sex and Owen’s acting strangely. Anne’s confronted by Charlotte who is financing her lifestyle and demanding obedience. For much of the film, the camera rests on Joy’s face, long, long takes from various angles as we track her growing anxiety in seeming real-time. David finds Anne in flagrante with someone verboten and we spiral down with her. interesting experiential moments and cinematography and I get the closeups on Joy, and the deliberate pacing but it is bloodless, inert and grindingly downbeat.