Potential blockbuster Jungle Cruise is fired by the scrappy relationship between Frank and Lily (Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt), an ancient mystery, time travel, a loveable jaguar and a snapshot parade of Amazonian culture and history, dating back to the arrival of Spain’s Conquistadors. There’s a quest, a step beyond the Disney theme parks ride on which it’s based. Lily’s a 1920s English feminist and academic who steals an ancient museum relic she believes will unlock the fabled Tree of Life somewhere along at Amazon that’s reputed to cure humanity’s ills, physical and mental. Lily’s brother MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) who dreams of dining at Boodles when their little troop is imprisoned and starving, isn’t much use as a Hooray Harry. But Frank’s another story, he’s a big bruiser and will pilot them up the river in search of the tree and fight off foes – deadly animals and river creatures, ghosts of the plundering, murderous Conquistadors and most fun, Jesse Plemons’ hilariously threatening Teutonic sub commander Prince Joachim. A vividly costumed indigenous tribe captures and prepares to cook Lily and co. but turns out Frank hires them to entertain passengers and didn’t have time to unbook them for Lily’s excursion. It’s aimed at older kids who can tolerate a rather long sit. It’s not Pirates of the Caribbean, the original ride film, a Harrison Ford adventure or The African Queen, but it’s what we have now. In theatres and on Disney+ with Premier Access.
Hannah Kasulka, Luke Benward, Michael McKean and Alan Tudyk star in the intriguing crime thriller, Playing God that goes to unexpected and worthy places. Micah and Rachel, twin con artists since childhood have had to fight to survive. They lost their parents through abandonment and death at ages two and four; there was no one to raise them. Ex-con Frank is the adult in their lives, and he knows the life of a scam artist well. He runs a disco dance roller palace where Micah and Rachel come to pull him into a life-changing scam. A local billionaire tech giant grieving the loss of his little girl is their target; he’s tried New Age ways to cope but they offer the cure to end cures. The chance to speak face to face with God. Time is of the essence as the twins owe major cash to a gangster – Frank will play God, with the help of his tech and effects handyman Jesus, and the twins will be the “sales” team. Within seconds the grieving father jumps at the chance. They won’t charge him but they will gain access to his safe and rob him. McKean’s God meets him on high – on a tower roof, on a tower to heaven the father’s building. But Rachel’s having second thoughts about exploiting the man’s pain. There are wild twists grounded in ceremonial, ecclesiastical structure mimicking prayer and scripture, including the revelation of the father’s real identity. Just wow. Altogether unique, Playing God is a worthy and provocative watch that dares to consider good and evil. Written & directed by Scott Brignac, in theatres and TVOD August 6.
Sonia Kennebeck’s chilling documentary Enemies Of The State is crammed with twists and turns that would be hard to believe in a film let alone in real life. But there it is. American teenager Matt DeHart and his parents, former Cold War spies Leanne and Paul claim they are subject to illegal harassment by the US government. Their teenage son Matt was a “free thinker”, and created a space on the Dark Web for Anonymous and Wikileaks. The FBI believed he was a hacker, whistleblower and that he leaked government information but he’s arrested on child pornography charges and imprisoned. He says she was tortured. The long struggle between the DeHarts who had absolute faith in their son’s innocence, and the US. ran deep. Matt didn’t help himself by seeking asylum in the Russian Embassy in Washington, running away to Mexico or defecting with his parents to Canada seeking refugee status, under torture claims. Layers upon layer of expert opinion, heartfelt interviews with the DeHarts and Matt’s failures to show up at hearings or for his documentary interview complicate the case that was now grabbing international attention. … and then, a shocking twist. This is a white-knuckle ride all the way. In theatres and TVOD.
Who doesn’t love Apple TV+ Ted Lasso? Season 2 is right around the corner, the further adventures of a deep south American coach, played with wide-eyed corn-fed enthusiasm by Jason Sudeikis coaching a professional UK soccer team. We learn in Season One that he has no experience with his naive optimism and can-do spirit he charms and sweet talks the team to victory. If he can’t turn a frown into a smile, well, it can’t be done. Sudeikis plays the twangy accent for all its worth, as he brings together players and management to win. Sadly superstar player Danny (Cristo Fernández) kills the team’s canine mascot Earl Greyhound with an ill-timed kick. (Recalls the headline-grabbing death of a pigeon in a Toronto baseball game not so long ago) Lasso spins Earl’s demise into a sweet, homespun sampler motto, but Danny’s now unable to kick. Call in the shrink against Lasso’s wishes, she works a miracle and players line up for their cures. Meanwhile, Keely (Juno Temple) would like to see her now-retired husband, soccer superstar become a pundit but he won’t quit his daytime rosé -drinking, reality show watching ladies’ group. High entertainment value and frequent, satisfying references to the Bard, the underappreciated Tom Cruise film Magnolia, archaic ephemera and of course, the US UK culture clash.
The Pursuit of Love now on Amazon Prime stars Lily James and Emily Mortimer, who also directs, Dominic West, Dolly Wells, Freddie Fox and Andrew Scott. The series spans decades following the progress of Linda (James) and her bestie, cousin Fanny (Emily Beecham). Long ago they set their caps for the perfect husband. The Prince of Wales will do nicely, thank you. Linda grew up on her family estate Alconleigh. It’s a “north-facing” wild place in which dwells drunken brute Uncle Matthew, Auntie Sadie and Linda’s mother The Bolter (Mortimer) infamous for jettisoning marriages and engagements, and infant daughters. Matthew the Misogynist whips her, and refuses to educate her and roars abuse. Linda’s difficulties appear to stem from that and her mother’s abandonment, but she puts on a big personality front. Linda’s circle is upper class, studying at Oxford, and marriageable, also rowdy and prone to naked drunken parties. Linda decides on Tony (Fox) despite warnings from Lord Merlin (Scott). In Paris, 1939, Linda and Fanny are both in disastrous marriages and have babies. Sez Linda to hers “Stop screaming, you’re embarrassing me”. Then a passionate affair with dark and handsome French Fabrice. The series hyper-episodic nature with flashbacks and forwards and a disconcerting contempo rock score. It’s fun if muddled, with gobsmacking period art design.
As the title suggests The End looks at issues we are reluctant to face, what happens to us in our final years, but that’s the premise of the Australian half-hour dark comedy series on Crave. Frances O’Connor plays Kate, a widowed palliative care specialist who helps the dying and their families navigate that rocky final road. Her mother Edie, played with steel by veteran British actor Harriet Walter is recently widowed and attempts suicide but abandons the plan when her house catches fire; she’s injured and traumatised. Kate insists she move from the UK to Australia to be near her, but fails to mention she won’t be living with them, but in a nearby retirement community, to Edie’s horror. At the same time, Kate encourages a pregnant woman dying of cancer to let things take their natural course; the woman is desperate and takes her own life in her hospital bed. Kate’s hardshell falters but she’s as steely as Edith. Children Persephone and Oberon are the recipients of her anger and exasperation. The End is a serious stab at death and all it means, and it takes some steel to watch, especially during a pandemic.
On August second HBO Documentary Films launches a 6-episode portrait of a small – make that smallest – town private TV station newsroom in Pahrump, Nevada reveals an exact microcosm of a regular big-city newsroom. I know, I worked in one for two decades. I’m not sure how civilians will respond to Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump but I found it to be danged entertaining. All the news stereotypes are there – the female news anchor who rules the entire station with a velvet hammer and a smart mouth, a station boss, a MAGA man and dreamer whose life passion is eventually broadcasting in Las Vegas, an hour and 14 minutes away. There are the long-suffering editors (yay editors!!) trying to hit deadlines with too many stories, too many personalities and not enough hands. and of course, the reporters, the Insta girls, ambitious and fast-talking, the overweight weather guy/ clown. But it’s the first time I’ve seen an employee, account executive who also mans the front desk and climbs the antenna tower daily to adjust the signal. What’s to cover in a small desert town? Eric Trump is coming to Stop the Steal, much to the delight of the station manager whose tune changes when he’s stiffed on an interview. There’s infamous local resident Heidi Fleiss who’s lost her macaws, various pageants, donkey basketball, Bitches for Biden in major red territory, cowboy reenactments and the day Trump lost. How can you be bored in Pahrump? Sadly, this brave, lovable little station is one of only 95 independents left in the US. Crave.