Since we know how important at-home-entertainment is for all of us – every week we do a little “what’s getting released on DVD/on demand/Netflix this week” round up for you, with nice little excerpts of our past reviews and more. You’ll love it. Trust us. This week we scope out recent documentaries that have nothing to do with the Fyre Festival:
OUT THIS WEEK & PROCEED WITH CAUTION:
- Johnny English Strikes Again. Here’s Jesse Hassenger over at The AV Club:
There are workable gags elsewhere, where their execution doesn’t depend on satire or point of view. Veteran TV director David Kerr stages some crisp background gags. Often the highlights of Johnny English films—Atkinson getting doped with muscle relaxants in the first film, or messing with a conference-room chair lever in the second—are too small to be even called set pieces, and that’s true of an amusing bit here where English makes a mess out of a simple drink order. But there’s also an extended scene where English trains on a VR machine and wanders off its moving platform, wreaking havoc on the real world as he thinks he’s fighting virtual bad guys. It’s funny in part because it revives a bit of the sly malice that enlivens some of Atkinson’s Mr. Bean bits (innocent bystanders get knocked around), without tipping over into violent mayhem (they aren’t seriously hurt).
OUT THIS WEEK & WORTH YOUR TIME:
- First Man. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Like any biopic, First Man takes a lot of liberties about what actually happened. For example, Chazelle films Aldrin acting like a goofy kid on the Moon’s surface, bouncing up and down, but Aldrin also treated the landing with solemnity and even took communion there. But cinema is not exactly history, and these omissions/exaggerations are all in greater service of a greater purpose. There are few human impulses more universal than the desire to explore, and few thrills greater than the sense of discovery. First Man recreates what that probably felt like, using nothing less than the greatest achievement of human exploration. What deepens that achievement – and what makes First Man an important film – is how Armstrong’s impulses are borne out of a desire to jettison his pain. Most men have the privilege to use travel and work as a reprieve from their family life. Neil Armstrong left his family behind and traveled over 200,000 miles for work, and First Man understands what that says about him.
- The Hate U Give. Here’s what we said in our original review:
Stenberg’s performance as Starr is so dynamic and intimate. She’s capable of conveying so much emotion within her face, whether that be affection or horror or betrayal. To be able to let an audience into her mind even before she speaks any dialogue is a gift. Even with the benefit of voice over, which helps align the viewer to how Starr sees the two very different spaces she inhabits, Stenberg makes Starr believable and easy to root for. So much of the film hinges on the brief moment in the start of the film: she reconnects with Khalil, and that such a young actress at almost 20 years old can reveal years of love and connection through just looks bodes very well for her future. Stenberg on a personal level is also famously outspoken and Ms Foundation of Women names her their Feminist of the Year in 2015. This film, being very politically outspoken and charged, feels like the perfect coming out film for Stenberg as an adult actress that’s engaging and compelling to watch.
INSTANT VIEWING OF THE WEEK (documentary catch-up edition):
- Minding the Gap (now on Hulu). Here’s Sam Adams over at Slate:
Watching the young skateboarders in Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap, which follows three young men as they warily make their way from adolescence into adulthood, you sometimes get the feeling they’ve learned the secret of defying gravity. As Bing follows his childhood friends Zack and Keire through the deserted-seeming streets of Rockford, Illinois, a declining Rust Belt town the Wall Street Journal called “the underwater mortgage capital of America,” his camera feels like it’s floating alongside them, and the undulating score (from composers Nathan Halpern and Chris Ruggiero) drowns out the familiar grind of wheels on asphalt. But Bing isn’t interested in how his subjects fly so much as how they land. With editor Joshua Altman, he cuts the sequence so the sound of their boards crashing back to earth takes on a rhythm of its own, a periodic slap-slap-slap that grows faster and faster until Keire’s board finally snaps with a sickening crack. The camera moves in to read the handwritten legend on his now-broken skateboard: “This device cures heartache.”
- Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (now on Netflix). Here’s Emily Yoshida over at Vulture:
The Center Will Not Hold could have just been 90 minutes of Didion reading excerpts from her various classic essays over archival footage of New York City, Haight-Ashbury, Hollywood, and any of the other settings she came to inhabit over her long career. Their language is so readable, one hears them in a human voice even just on the page; Didion’s voice itself is matter-of-fact and sad and seemingly always resigned to the sentiment of the film’s title. The film opens with Didion discussing how frequently she’d seen the places and people she wrote about fall into disorder and destruction, foreshadowing her own series of losses late in life. But her ability to take in the chaos and darkness of the ’70s and find some kind of acceptance through her writing is what makes her as relevant as ever. By the time the film gets to her 2012 National Humanities Medal, presented to her by President Barack Obama, we are again reminded of the eventual dissolution of all things. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one to want to run to the bookshelf as soon as the film is over for a long overdue reread.
- McQueen (now on Amazon Prime). Here’s Michael O’Sullivan at The Washington Post:
There are two Alexander McQueens in McQueen, the fascinating documentary portrait of the acclaimed fashion designer, who committed suicide in 2010, at the age of 40. One is the eternally boyish McQueen we see on-screen, in both archival footage of media interviews and behind-the-scenes glimpses of his creative process. That McQueen — “Lee,” as this product of London’s East End was called by those who knew him, using his first name, and not the somewhat grander middle one he adopted for his clothing brand — resembles a pudgy child prodigy: brilliant, prone to button-pushing but pleasantly down-to-earth, especially when talking about his meteoric rise to the heights of haute couture. That softness and sweetness remains, even when, late in the film, he appears much thinner and more brooding, the result of drugs and a gathering darkness.
That’s it! Get streaming, kids.