Movie Reviews: New releases August 7, 2020
Work It sweats bricks, Black is King crowns Queen Bey, Audrie and Daisy asks hard questions and gets ugly answers, Stand Up Guys falls down and Stay lingers.
Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Keiynan Lonsdale, Liza Koshy, Drew Ray Tanner, and Jayne Eastwood
Directed by: Laura Terruso
Written by: Alison Peck
Running time: 1 hr 33 mins
Netflix Original Movie debuts August 7, 2020
Black is King
Starring: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
Directed by: Emmanuel Adjei, Ibra Ake, Blitz Bazawule, Beyoncé, Kwasi Fordjour
Running time: 1 hr 25 mins
Streaming on Disney +
Knock Down the House
Starring: Rachel Lears
Directed by: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Joe Crowley
Running time: 1 hr 27 mins
Streaming on Netflix
Audrie & Daisy
Starring: Robin Bourland, Daisy Coleman, Charles Coleman
Directed by: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
Running time: 1 hr 25 mins
Rating: Not yet rated
Streaming on Netflix
Stand Up Guys
Starring: Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin
Directed by: Fisher Stevens
Running time: 1 hr 35
Streaming on Netflix
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts
Directed by: Marc Forster
Running time: 1 hr 39 mins
Available on Amazon Prime
By Katherine Monk
Work It (New to Netflix) Remember the ‘80s? It was a decade of bad hair, but good dance movies. Beginning with Fame (1980) and then Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984), all the way to Dirty Dancing (1987). The decade drew the line between the progressive 1970s-Sesame Street idea of community, and the narcissistic 1990s. No wonder the decade was a stylistic mess, as well as a moment of demagnetization for the communal moral compass — everything was spinning… which is why dance movies function as the perfect reflection of the moment. They were about individuals finding their personal rhythm, and expressing it before the world. And, the movies reflecting those personal beats turned out to be box-office smashes.
So no surprise Hollywood figured out the formula and starting knocking off remakes a generation later, but as we enter the 2020s, the dance movie has made a significant comeback — or at least, dancing has. From reality TV shows to glossy new movies, such as Step Up and Stomp the Yard. I mean, you could even include LaLa Land in the mix, but Work It feels like part of a larger trend, because it’s not about becoming your personal best. It’s about being part of a team — a Pitch Perfect meets Bring It On meets, I dunno, Reach for the Top.
I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that the personal dance movie has been usurped by a quest for team glory. But in the spirit of the times, I’m going with it — just like young Quinn Ackerman (Sabrina Carpenter) — just your average high school senior looking to get into a really good college. Quinn wants to attend Duke University, so she’s got a 4.0 GPA, helps out at the nursing home and sets the lighting cues for the prize-winning dance troupe at her school. But when Quinn drops coffee on the light board, causing a technical malfunction, she’s booted from the team — and left without a top notch college application. She needs to be on a dance team… but she can’t dance. Oh no! What now?? She says a prayer to her personal goddess, Beyonce… and hopes for some divine Bey Intervention. Well, it just takes one look at young actor, dancer, singer Sabrina Carpenter to see she has a dance body. So it’s just a matter of time before the character of Quinn Ackerman finds some inner coordination and the sound of her own heartbeat to blow the world away in her first dance competition.
Work It feels like part of a larger trend, because it’s not about becoming your personal best. It’s about being part of a team — a Pitch Perfect meets Bring It On meets, I dunno, Reach for the Top.
Yup! You know how this movie will end from the moment it begins, but because it’s a dance movie, you don’t care — as long as the dancing proves contagious and the movie has the right groove. After all, dancing is about letting go, or as Kenny Loggins so eloquently described it … being Footloose. Footloose. Footloose. The kids in this movie have the goods, so even when the writing from Alison Peck (Ugly Dolls) and the direction of Laura Terruso (Hello My Name is Doris – writer) feels a little limp and skimpy, the kids have enough energy to power through it, and deliver the a tight mix of adrenaline and dance movies for a good run at routine. And hey, any movie that features Canada’s Jayne Eastwood as an old folks home sage can’t be totally lame.
Black is King strips the animation from Lion King to reveal an extended music video version of Exodus
Black is King (Disney + Original) — Queen Bey goes big on what should have been a bigger screen — but Black is King is anything but small. A feature length video album of Beyonce’s new music, as well as a live action version of the Lion King story — Black Is King is unlike any film I’ve ever seen before for a few reasons. It’s not like what the Who used to do, in Tommy and Quadrophenia — rock operas filmed as movies that tell a whole narrative though music and acting.
The Lion King is familiar as music and story, but here, the opening scene shows a little basket going down a river — like Moses. Beyonce stands on the edge of the ocean, dancing in the sand, holding a baby. She starts singing — and tells us that his child is part of something bigger. And so it goes, from gorgeous video shoot to gorgeous dance routine. It all unfolds like a feature length music video, only with human actors playing out the Lion King narrative — and with original Beyonce music.
I’ll be honest — at first it was a little off-putting, because as music videos go, these feel a little repetitive and long. But as the movie progresses, and we meet the other characters — including the grand partriarch, we realize this is kind of a home movie. Beyonce uses her family as the cast, including her own kids — and her own husband, none other than mega star Jay-Z. Shot all over the African continent (Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa) as well as Europe and the US, Black is King is a love letter to blackness. She conjures the words of her mother, telling her that her brown skin was like pearls, and to love the skin she’s in. It’s such a powerful message, and because it’s got such a beautiful and empowered messenger, Black is King feels like it’s not just speaking to our moment — but singing to it with a mother’s voice.
Knock Down the House relives the run-up to the 2018 Midterm elections with an early look at “the Squad”
Knock Down the House (New to Netflix) – This documentary about the 2018 midterm elections highlighted the historical introduction of “The Squad” — namely AOC – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who the filmmakers followed all the way to the House of Representatives. But not every woman profiled in Knock Down the House even made it past the primaries. In fact, it was only AOC who broke through in 2018. But in the last round of primaries, another one of the subjects is poised to make a mark: Cori Bush won the race for Missouri’s First District, upsetting a family legacy, and giving Knock Down the House a fresh breath of newsiness. It’s still not the best documentary, feeling a little too onside with with its subjects to gain any real perspective on the politics — but given how much the world has changed in the past six months, Knock Down the House almost feels like a snapshot of better days.
No one wants to think of sexual assault when you think of your own kids, but Audrie and Daisy exposes an ugly generation chasm between that’s only getting bigger
Audrie and Daisy (New to Netflix) – Perhaps the toughest film you may ever watch, Audrie and Daisy is a true story that chronicles a tragic reality for too many teens: sexual assault. Audrie Pott was 15 when she went to a party and was later assaulted by three boys. Pictures of the crime were shared on social media, and eight days later, Pott hanged herself in the bathroom of her family home. Daisy Coleman was 14 when she and a friend went to visit older boys from the football team. Hours later, she was found hypothermic and close to comatose from alcohol poisoning on the snow-covered front yard. A physical exam revealed Daisy showed signs of sexual assault, but when her mother pushed for rape charges against boys with political connections, the entire small town of Maryville, Missouri turned against the entire Coleman family. When the rape charges were dropped, the story went viral as cries of outrage and corruption were splattered across media outlets worldwide. Daisy Coleman has attempted suicide on multiple occasions, but at 18, she is a survivor and eager to help others escape a similar fate.
This movie chronicles the gut-wrenching struggle to keep going, and overcome the ache of shame while simultaneously trying to heal a broken spirit. Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s (Athlete A, The Island President) spent two years tracking the heartbreak, and what their new doc makes abundantly clear is that there are no easy answers to a problem that requires wholesale change to both the legal system and the secret social world of teens.“You think you’re having the conversation with your kids, but there’s so much more to say…” said Cohen after the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, “which is why I am so grateful for this film.”
Stand Up Guys doesn’t, you know, stand up…
Stand Up Guys (New to Netflix) – Yep. It’s a movie about old wise guys… and it stars Christopher Walken, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin. When Val (Pacino) gets out of jail, he wants to share a great night with his best friend (Walken). But he also knows, that good buddy is gonna kill him by daybreak. It’s a 2012 movie and even with the stellar trio … I totally forgottaboutit.
Stay didn’t last in theatres when it was released in 2005, but Marc Forster’s psychological thriller starring Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling and Ewan McGregor will linger.
Stay (Available on Amazon Prime) – You find old DVDs on the shelf at the cottage, and this 2005 thriller was all new to me — even though it stars Naomi Watts, Ryan Gosling and Ewan McGregor. It’s even directed by Marc Forster, right after he won praise for Finding Neverland and Monsters Ball. A bit of a gimmick movie, it opens with Gosling as Henry, sitting on the Brooklyn Bridge after a car accident — then seamlessly moves into McGregor’s headspace — a psychiatrist working in New York City, and living with his girlfriend (Naomi Watts). Henry comes to see him, suicidal and desperate for help, but nothing is what it seems in this twisting kaleidoscope of feelings and perception. Things blur, reality warps and we get one too many point of view shots doing the heavy lifting in this script from David Benioff (Game of Thrones). Forster certainly proves an explorer, Gosling is moodily mesmerizing — as always — and McGregor wears yellow trousers with early noughts aplomb. Watts brings the light, making for a very messy but largely memorable dose of cinematic aspiration from undeniable talents on both sides of the camera.
THE EX-PRESS, August 7, 2020
To read more of Katherine’s reviews, check out The Ex-Press archive, or sample the whole catalogue at Rotten Tomatoes.
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