The Weekend Warrior April 22, 2022
MASSIVE TALENT, THE NORTHMAN, THE BAD GUYS, TAKE ME TO THE RIVER NEW ORLEANS, PETITE MAMAN, THE DUKE, STANLEYVILLE, MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE, AND MORE
Easter and the first night of Passover have… um… passed, and we only have a few more weeks until the summer movie season starts. Normally, April might be seen as a bit of a dumping ground, but not this year, for the most part. As we continue through a decently busy month at the box office, we get three movies that aren’t sequels or remakes, although one is based on a series of popular books. The other two are wholly new and original ideas, although the high-concept comedy might prove to be the more unique of the two.
(You may have noticed that I’m writing a lot more box office stuff over at Gold Derby, and I’m going to be writing two very different preview columns now, since this one will continue to be more review-based… when I have time to write reviews.)
I’m also starting a new thing. If you show me your movie before opening week, you’ll get top billing in this column. If not, you end up with your movie wherever you end up, regardless of how much or little it might make. It’s just easier to write about movies after I’ve actually had a chance to see them, something that a number of studios don’t seem to understand.
(THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF) MASSIVE TALENT (Lionsgate)
We start this week off with a new movie not only starring NIcholas Cage, but it’s also a movie ABOUT Nicholas Cage, or rather it’s a meta comedy about a fictionalized version of Cage trying to revive his career, and getting a chance to make some easy money when he’s asked to attend the party of a Spanish businessman, played by Pedro Pascal.
The movie is co-written and directed by Tom Gormican, whose previous movie, That Awkward Moment, was released in 2014, with the likes of Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller starring, but it only made $26 million, which for these days wouldn’t be so bad. (Even though that movie was eight years ago, I actually reviewed it over at a previous gig.) But Massive Talent (as it’s being referred to in most marketing) is definitely an anomaly being released in theaters, a bit like Everything Everywhere All At Once, which is doing decent word-of-mouth business.
For Nicholas Cage, this is going to be his widest release since providing his voice for Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse back in late 2018, which grossed almost $200 million domestically and double that amount globally. Cage has actually been doing a ton of voice work in the likes of The Croods: A New Age (referred to in the trailers) and Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, in which he finally got to portray Superman (or at least his voice). Although Cage has been doing a lot of smaller-budget VOD releases in recent years, he got a lot of critical raves for his performance in last year’s Pig, which made $3 million when released moderately by Neon last year. Both Pig and Into the Spider-verse won some high-profile awards with the latter winning the Oscar for animated feature that year, and Cage’s constant forays into genre with films like Mandy have helped him create a new and younger fanbase apart from the older guys who remember him as an action stars.
Lionsgate has been doing such a great job selling Massive Talent with commercials and trailers to the point where if you’ve been to the movies in the past few months, you’re likely to have seen one or two very funny trailers that have been in front of seemingly every movie back to Moonfall.
Earlier this month, I would think Massive Talent was good for $10 million but being released into 3,000 theaters, I think it could maybe make $11 to 13 million or more, because moviegoing audiences want to laugh, and as you’ll read in my review (and others – it’s still at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes!), this is a very funny movie, and maybe exactly what we need right now.
Mini-Review: It’s not often when you get a movie where you can immediately tell from the trailer whether that movie will or won’t be for you. The good thing about Tom Gormican’s Massive Talent is that the movie gives you exactly what you expect from the trailers, but with lots more R-rated fun that was left out.
You have to give Nicholas Cage so much credit and respect, because one can only imagine what he must have thought when Gormican’s script was delivered to him. Was he flattered? Did he immediately get the joke and why it might be funny to create this sort of “what if?” idea of what he might do for money. There’s more to the plot than that, which you’ll probably already know if you’ve seen any of those ever-present trailers in front of any movie over the past few months. Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz play CIA agents who are using the fact that Cage can get close to Pedro Pascal’s drug kingpin Javi Guttierez to help the CIA take down his empire and rescue a competitor’s teen daughter who is on his compound somewhere.
Sure, it’s pretty high concept, but first and foremost, this is a buddy comedy about the bond between Cage and Javi, and how the idea of being an agent for the CIA appeals to Cage’s ego as an actor, even as he feels bad about betraying his new friend. There’s also some nice character bits with Cage trying to connect his teen daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen) and stay in good standing with his frustrated ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan).
Gormican actually does a pretty good job mixing the action and comedy aspects of the movie in a way that’s not unlike The Hitman’s Bodyguard, so if you liked that movie, then there’s things about Massive Talent that should appeal in a similar way. (It’s kind of a shame that Guy Ritchie’s upcoming movie with a similar premise has been indefinitely delayed due to the whole financial mess with STX, since it would have been interesting to see how the two films differ.)
Massive Talent is about as funny as movies come these days, and it thrives as much on its originality and Cage being so game to “go there,” as it does by putting a twist on the buddy comedy genre.
THE NORTHMAN (Focus Features)
Next up, we have the third feature from director Robert Eggers, a viking epic starring no less than Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård and Danish star Claes Bang (The Square), as well as reuniting Eggers with Anya Taylor-Joy, who starred in his first film, The Witch. The movie also stars Nicole Kidman, who seems to be in everything these days, and features a very rare film appearance by Icelandic music superstar, Bjork. It’s essentially a revenge thriller set within the world of a viking epic, which puts it in similar genre-bending place as movies like The Revenant and last year’s The Green Knight.
Eggers’ previous two movies, The Lighthouse and The Witch, were released by A24 with the latter doing better in 2016, released over a year after the movie debuted at Sundance where Eggers won a special jury prize. The Witch made $25.1 million after opening with $8.8 million in 2,046 theaters. The Lighthouse didn’t fare as well three years later despite having bigger name stars like Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, though it also never played in more than 1,000 theaters. By comparison, Focus Features is giving The Northman a very wide release
Although Kidman is a pretty big star – maybe not A-list but definitely a recognized Oscar winner – as is Anya Taylor-Joy in her time since making The Witch, one does have to wonder whether the two main roles being played by Skarsgård and Bang will have much impact on whether people go to see the movie in theaters.Skarsgård at least has been in a number of big studio release including last year’s Godzilla vs. Kong and 2016’s The Legend of Tarzan, both for Warner Bros and both making more than $100 million domestically. He was also in Universal’s Battleship, and boy, was that an unfortunate decision for all involved.
Although last year’s The Green Knight by filmmaker David Lowery was released by A24, it does seem like a solid comparison, since it got a release into 2,790 theaters and opened with $6.7 million. I think The Northman can do better than that due to Eggers’ strong fanbase among what is lovingly referred to as #FilmTwitter, but also since it’s a year later and moviegoing has become more prevalent.
There’s little question that The Northman may be a little tougher of a sell to those who aren’t as familiar with Eggers’ work, but there very has recently been a hit viking TV series that could point to an interest in that period of time that should help. The Northman has gotten pretty solid reviews so far, as well, and that can only help. (You can read my own positive review of The Northman here, and I should have some interviews with Eggers and his cinematographer over at Below the Line, hopefully soon.)
Opening in around 3,000 theaters, The Northman should be good for $10 to 12 million this weekend, although it’s definitely going to be fighting for male audiences with Massive Talent, and it’s unlikely this will have as much appeal to women, although some of them may remember enjoying Skarsgård on the HBO series, True Blood.
THE BAD GUYS (DreamWorks Animation)
Normally, I’d have put this movie first, because it’s very likely to win the weekend, but since Universal wouldn’t screen it for me before I wrote this column, it gets third place in this week’s line-up. I haven’t seen it, so there’s just no way I can even recommend it, and I’ll just have to talk about it from whatever I can find around the internet (other than reviews).
What I know about it: This is a new movie from DreamWorks Animation under its deal with Universal, who is handling distribution. I believe it’s based on a series of illustrated graphic novels by Aaron Blabey, which has been a pretty standard thing done by DreamWorks after hits like Shrek, The Boss Baby, and Captain Underpants, all based on popular children’s books. It involves a group of thought to be “bad” animals trying to be heroes. The voice cast is quite sporadic with the biggest names being Awkwafina and Oscar-winner Sam Rockwell with Craig Robinson, Marc Maron, Richard Ayoade, and Zazie Beetz providing other voices. Awkwafina probably has the most voice actor experience, but I haven’t really seen many of these names doing the talk show circuit (at least not mornings – late night is too late for me).
In the past, DreamWorks Animation could open a movie like this in the $40 or even $50 million range, since DWA was considered one of the top animation houses after Disney and Pixar, but Universal’s other deal with Illumination Entertainment, who made the Despicable Me and Minions and Secret Life of Pets has given DWA less importance in terms of marketing money. In fact, last year’s sequel The Boss Baby: Family Business was given a simultaneous streaming debut on Peacock as its theatrical release, which could account for its $16 million opening, ending with just $57 million in domestic theaters. That’s almost as much as the original The Boss Baby opened with in March 2017 under DWA’s previous distribution deal with 20th Century Fox.
So far, Universal had success with the DWA threequel, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, but not much else, though that doesn’t mean The Bad Guys will completely tank, since there’s still interest for this among the younger set and parents looking for ways to keep their kids entertained after seeing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and (mostly missing) Fantastic Beasts 3. But I still think it will end up somewhere in the $20 million range, but not that great, since now there’s real competition for family audiences now as spring break comes to a close. I’m not even sure this movie can make $100 million domestically, since it’s going to lose most of its audiences to Doctor Strange in just two short weeks.
Reviews for these types of movies rarely matter, although Universal opened the movie early in the UK and there were a ton of great reviews across the pond, putting it at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this writing. I won’t be seeing the movie until Wednesday night – which is WAY too late in my opinion – so I’ll decide on Thursday whether I’m going to bother adding a review to the column after it’s live, because I’m sure as fuck not going to give this movie the benefit of a separate stand-alone review.
Mini-Review: Considering how growl-y and skeptical I was about this movie given the Wednesday night screening filled with kiddies, I guess there’s always room for surprises, and The Bad Guys does offer more than a few.
Sure, the general premise is so simple and high-concept, you might spend the first 30 minutes wondering if there can be anything but the most mundane and predictable storytelling, but we’ll get there. If you’ve seen the trailer or commercials than you know the surface story involving five dastardly criminals, animals like Snake, Piranha, Shark, Tarantula, and their ersatz leader Wolf, the latter voiced by Sam Rockwell. They are about to pull off the greatest heist of their careers by stealing the “Golden Dolphin,” but when things go wrong, the new plan is for the entire gang to be retrained by samaritan “Professor Marmalade” (voiced by Richard Ayoade) to be good.
That’s the general principal, and sure, it doesn’t really sound like something that could sustain even a relatively short film, but there are a few things that keep the movie from sliding into the miasma of kiddie movie tropes, and no, it’s not the farting piranha (voiced by Anthony Ramos). Part of it is that Rockwell is just so great and suave as Wolf, and yeah, even the filmmakers realize he’s kind of doing Clooney in this role. He also has a great counter in Marc Maron voicing Snake, and honestly, those two alone could carry this movie in my book, but also great is Zazie Beetz voicing the Governor Diane Foxington. And let’s not overlook the fact that the filmmakers voice cast Ayoade instead of the annoyingly ever-present James Corden. The movie gets points for that alone.
But the issues are still there, including the head-scratching idea of why there’s this world of talking animals amongst the humans, most of the latter looking like the Simpsons, but especially the Alex Borstein-voiced police chief, who talks and acts a lot like Bart Simpson. The animation style used for The Bad Guys definitely takes some adjusting to, since once again, an animation house is trying to institute the squash and squish of 2D animation such as the work Tex Avery into a 3D environment. Once you do adjust to that very particular style, it actually kind of works.
First-time feature director PIerre Perfel has a real secret weapon with the movie’s music and score by the great Daniel Pemberton, who gives the movie the desired Ocean’s 11 effect, and heck, if The Bad Guys can be a gateway drug to get younger kids to watch some of those great live action heist movies when they’re older, then the more power to it.
Despite its issues, The Bad Guys seems like a strong enough departure for DreamWorks Animation that it could be seen as the first movie in a new era for the beleaguered animation house that is constantly having to fall back on tried-and-true sequels. But having seen the movie with a real audience, I can definitely say that this movie works, and hopefully, it will find its audience either from fans of the books or just because it’s silly, fun entertainment that makes it worth watching it with others.
This is going to be a tough week, not so much for the top 3 but the order in which Massive Talent and The Northman will end up, being that they both might appeal to a similar audience and are likely to be mid-range releases. I’m giving a very slight advantage to the Nicholas Cage movie, being that Cage has more star power than most of the cast of The Northman, and it just looks like a more entertaining movie for the masses, despite its bulky title.
1. The Bad Guys (DreamWorks Animation/Universal) - $22 million N/A
2. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Warner Bros) - $20 million -54%
3. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Paramount) - $16 million -47%
4. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Lionsgate) - $12 million N/A
5. The Northman (Focus) - $11.3 million N/A
6. Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) - $4 million -35%
7. The Lost City (Paramount) - $4 million -36%
8. Father Stu (Sony) - $3 million -45%
9. Ambulance (Universal) - $2.1 million -48%
10. Morbius (Sony) - $2 million -58%
There are quite a lot of limited releases this week, maybe more than I can possibly get to, but some good stuff for sure, but I guess my “Chosen One” would have to be…
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER NEW ORLEANS (360 Distribution Inc)
A pretty cool doc opening in New Orleans at the Broad Theater this Friday and then will open on April 29 in New York and L.A. at the Alamo Drafthouse in each city, as well as at the Laemmle Santa Monica and Glendale in the latter, with more cities to follow. Directed by record producer Martin Shore, this is the second in his series of films where he brings together artists from a certain location to celebrate the music of said area, in this case being Louisiana and New Orleans. For this movie (which has an accompanying album on Petaluma Records on April 29), he pulled together The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Jon Batiste, Irma Thomas, Ledisi, G-Eazy, Snoop Dogg, PJ Morton (from Maroon 5), William Bell, Galactic, Mannie Fresh, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and many, many more. The film shows the musicians playing and jamming in the studio, working with Shore, plus it features one of the very last performances by the Neville Brothers as a group. The movie is narrated by John Goodman, as it “celebrates the rich musical history, the heritage, legacy, and influence of New Orleans and Louisiana.”
Listen, everyone reading this knows how much I love music docs, and it’s hard not to appreciate what Shore has put together, not only as a film but also musically, and there was a lot of room for me to learn more about the music of New Orleans and its history. I was pretty impressed with what Shore has put together here. I definitely will be checking out the album, cause I loved watching all these amazing artists and musicians recording the tunes, but it’s also pretty sad how many of them died since being captured on film by Shore.
PETITE MAMAN (NEON)
Céline Sciamma’s follow-up to her 2019 movie, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, circles around a young girl named Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), who is visiting her mother’s childhood home after the death of her grandmother. One day, while playing out in the woods behind the house, she meets another young girl named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), who turns out to be her mother as a young girl.
Despite that premise maybe seeming rather strange and a little science-fiction-ey, if you like, it’s actually a far more naturalistic coming-of-age drama from Sciamma that some might expect, unless of course they saw her earlier film, Girlhood, a personal favorite of mine.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into this story, since wasn’t as big a fan of Portrait as so many others, but Sciamma found two fantastic young actors in the Sanz sisters, and their acting feels so natural, probably for the same reason why Girlhood worked so well. Oddly, I don’t have a ton to say about the movie – it’s pretty short, actually – but it continues Sciamma’s terrific run of films. (If you missed it last week, Sciamma was also one of the co-writers on Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th Precinct, which is still in theaters and available digitally.)
THE DUKE (Sony Pictures Classics)
A movie that premiered all the way back in September 2020 at Venice and then again at last year’s Telluride Film Festival (neither of which I ever attend because it’s too effin’ expensive) is also the final film from the late, great filmmaker Roger Michell, who I was fortunate enough to interview a few times.
The movie stars Jim Broadbent as Kempton Bunton, a working class cab driver from Newcastle who is outraged by the government putting a tax on television in the early ‘60s so he protests by removing the gizmo in his television that’s needed to transmit the BBC. He then decides to steal a valuable Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington from the National Archives, but has to keep it a secret from his beleaguered wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren), since she would probably freak out.
This is a very, VERY British film and Broadbent’s Kempton Bunton is quite a character, which makes The Duke a rather amusing venture, even if it does seem a bit silly at times for what’s meant to be “based on a true story.” But at least this kept me more entertained than last week’s Father Stu and Michell is such a great filmmaker that he can do more with this than it may have fared in the hands of a less-experienced filmmaker.
He put together a pretty terrific cast around Broadbent and Mirren, including Matthew Goode, as the barrister who takes on Kempton’s case, defending him for stealing the Goya (which in fairness, he does return). The Buntons also have two sons (the younger one played by Fionn Whitehead), who have their own running subplots through the movie, even as one of them gets involved with hiding the fact that Kempton has the Goya.
I have to say that I really enjoyed The Duke – it’s probably one of Michell’s stronger movies, so it’s even sadder that it’s also his final film. It’s just a witty and entertaining film driven by two of England’s finest actors, and I’m glad that it’s finally being released. Hopefully, it will find an audience, though I’m guessing neither Broadbent and Mirren aren’t doing a ton of press for it now.
The Duke will open in New York and L.A. on Friday.
Opening at the Metrograph in New York on Friday is this quirky comedy from Maxwell McCabe-Lokos that plays upon those reality TV shows where a bunch of people are thrown together in a house and have to compete for a big prize. This one stars Susanne Wuest as Maria, a woman who is ready to abandon her career and family when she is invited to take part in one such context by an odd character only known as “Homunculus” (Julian Richings). From there, she has to deal with all sorts of odd people who will do anything to win.
This was another great example of me not reading or watching anything about a movie before watching the actual movie – you should try it sometimes, since it leads to some nice surprises like this. What’s really interesting about Stanleyville – and this is with me knowing nothing about the filmmaker or the production – is that it’s another great example of what can be done in filmmaking with a great group of actors all in a single location, mostly. McCabe-Lokos has put together a pretty great group of lesser-known actors to play these dysfunctional characters. Christian Serritiello is particularly funny as the white-collar twit, Andrew Frisbee Jr, and there’s the overly-dramatic Manny Jumpcannon, played by Adam Brown.
I’ll freely admit that Stanleyville won’t be for everyone, but it certainly offers dark quirky fun with a relatively simple premise and solid screenplay that’s elevated by its talented cast of relative unknowns.
MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE (Film Rise)
I think I saw this at Sundance when it premiered there virtually last year, but Kate Tsang’s indie film stars Miya Cech as a teenage delinquent named Sammy who befriends an older magician (Rhea Perlman) who teachers her to use sleight of hand magic to deal with her demons and the dysfunctional family after the death of Sammy’s mother.
I enjoyed rewatching this, because even though it gets a bit cutesy at times, I could really relate to the rebellious Sammy, especially since I had a bit of a background in magic both as a kid and more recently. Cech is definitely quite an amazing find, and Rhea Perlman is always great. It’s nothing that groundbreaking in terms of the storytelling or filmmaking, but it’s a fun premise that plays with magic realism as it delves into Sammy’s fantasies about cutting her prospective stepmother in half with a chainsaw. In that sense, Tsang finds a good way to play with genre in this light comedy, but it’s quite a warm family dramedy as well with a generally good cast playing Sammy’s father and older sister as well. In other words, this is a very Sundance movie, and I think people who find it will enjoy it, but I’m just not sure if it’s a movie that’s able to find its audience, especially coming out so long after its Sundance premiere.
CHARLOTTE (Good Deeds Entertainment)
Keira Knightley leads the brilliant voice cast for Eric Warin and Tahir Rana’s animated drama that tells the true story of German-Jewish painter Charlotte Salomon, who comes of age in Berlin at the start of the WWII and the Holocaust, but leaves to settle in the South of France. The voice cast also includes Brenda Blethyn, Eddie Marsan, Mark Strong, Sam Claflan, Helen McRory, and Sophie Okonedo. This will open in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal, Laemmle Town Center 5 Encino, and Playhouse 7, and in New York at the Quad Cinema, and then expand to other areas on April 29, including the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, Ohio.
I have to admit that as much as I love animated films being targeted towards adults, this one wasn’t really my cup of tea, because it was a fairly simple biopic that would have been fine as a live action film (with a different cast, obviously), but it’s also another movie that tries to win over its audience by focusing on the Holocaust, an easy subject since few will be opposed to hearing more stories of that period. Except me, and I actually had two parents who both escaped from Nazi Germany to Brazil, which allowed me to have such a big family. I guess that and how it’s combined with the story of an artist just made me know this wasn’t going to be for me, as good a film as it is.
ALAN PAKULA: GOING FOR TRUTH (Quixotic Endeavors)
The Oscar-nominated writer, director, and producer, Alan Pakula, gets the doc treatment from Matthew Miele, looking at the life and career of the filmmaker behind films like All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice, and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as Klute, Presumed Innocent and The Pelican Brief with lots of the actors he worked with talking about working with him, including Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, James L. Brooks, Steven Soderbergh, and the late Christopher Plummer. This was a really good doc that has lots of first-hand information of a filmmaker who I really did not know a ton about, having only seen maybe three or four of his classic films. This is a great doc for those wanting to know more about classic Hollywood and the great filmmakers of the ‘70s. I liked this almost as much as I did the 2018 Hal Ashby doc, Hal, without really knowing as much of Pakula’s work.
HIT THE ROAD (Kino Lorber)
This family drama from Iranian writer/director Panah Panahi, son of the fabled Jafar Panahi and co-writer/editor of his movie, 3 Faces, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and it opens Friday in New York at the Film Forum, and then will open in L.A. and San Diego on May 6 with other theaters/regions to follow. It’s an Iranian road trip movie that follows a family of four with the two parents having two sons, one an adult and one six years old as they travel across the Iranian countryside, as they “bond over memories of the past, grapple with fears of an unknown future and fuss over their sick dog.”
SATURDAY FICTION (Strand Releasing)
Opening at the IFC Center on Friday is this 2019 movie from Ye Lou (Purple Butterfly), starring the always wonderful Gong Li. It’s a black and white “slow-burn spy thriller” set during Japanese-occupied Shanghai just before WWII with Li playing actress Jean Yu, who has returned to Shanghai and is rehearsing for a play that will be directed by her ex-lover (Mark Chao).
THE WHITE FORTRESS (TABIJA) (Game Theory Films)
Opening in select cities and on digital platforms is this Canada/Bosnia co-production written and directed by Igor Drljača, which had its World Premiere at Berlinale last year. It stars Pavle Čemerkić as orphan Faruk, who meets a timid girl (Sumeja Dardagan) from an affluent family who becomes interested in his life of foraging and petty crime as an escape from her family. This was Bosnia and Herzegovina’s selection for the 94th Academy Awards.
POLAR BEAR (Disney+)
Just in time for Earth Day is the newest nature doc from Disney, this one hitting its streamer rather than getting a theatrical release. This one is directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, the team behind Disneynature’s Penguins, one of the last one of these movies to get a theatrical release, making about $7.7 million after opening with $2.3 million. It actually makes perfect sense for these movies to end up on Disney+, considering that it’s shared with lots of docs from National Geographic.
A few odds and ends…
This Wednesday, the annual “New Directors New Films” series will begin at Film at Lincoln Center and MOMA and running through May 1 with another brilliant selection of films that have mainly played at other film festivals over the past year, with a few North American, U.S. and even a few World Premieres among them. The two movies I’ve had a chance to see are Audrie Diwan’s adaptation of Annie Ernaux’s novel Happening about a young university student in the ‘60s, played by Anamaria Vartolomei, who discovers she’s pregnant and then has to go through the challenges of trying to get an illegal abortion as to not have to destroy her academic dreams which require her finishing her schooling. This movie was okay, kinda slow and dull, but also something we’ve seen so much of lately, and this just doesn’t hold a candle to Never Rarely Sometimes Always or the great Mike Leigh film, Vera Drake. I also saw Sara Dosa’s doc, Fire of Love, narrated by Miranda July, which puts together a lot of unseen archival footage that was shot by volcanologists Katia and Maurice Kraft, who daringly explored erupting volcanos all over the world in order to learn more about how to be forewarned in order to evacuate areas with minimal deaths.
Premiering tonight on Showtime is Estevan Oriol’s doc CYPRESS HILL: INSANE IN THE BRAIN about the seminal rap group Cypress Hill, who – believe it or not – I actually worked within the ‘90s when they did the collaboration with Sonic Youth for the Judgment Night soundtrack. It’s part of the network’s “Hip Hop 50” banner which includes La Madrina: The Life of Lorine Padilla now on the network, and Bushwick Bil: Ghetto Boy, which will premiere on the network
Hitting CNN on Sunday, April 24, is Daniel Roher’s NAVALNY, an excellent doc that debuted at Sundance a few months back, which takes a look at Vladimir Putin’s most errant critic, who was famously poisoned on a flight to Moscow in 2020. Navalny worked with investigative journalist Christo Grozev to find out the identities of his alleged hit-men and tie them to the Russia president. This film is even more amazing when you realize that it premiered back in January, before Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and the war crimes involved there, so it will be interesting to see how it’s received now.
“Playtime” continues its John Henson retrospective with Labyrinth (1986) screening Friday night (in the “Late Night” slot) and on Saturday and Sunday during the day, plus The Dark Crystal (1982) also screens Saturday as part of “Late Night.”
Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman (1928) will screen on Sunday with live camera accompaniment, as will Sidney Poitier’s To Sir With Love (1967), the latter as part of “Film Forum Jr.”
David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) has screenings all weekend, and will continue to screen his more recent feature, Inland Empire. Other movies screening through the weekend include Mira Nair’s Mississippi Masala, starring Denzel Washington, and the IFC Center is also starting a series called “Too Much Is Never Enough: The Films of Gaspar Noé” in advance of two new Noé films over the next couple weeks, and this series will include screenings of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (in 35mm!), his 2015 film Love, Climax (2019), Enter the Void (2010), and more.
9 BULLETS (Screen Media)
HOSTILE TERRITORY (Saban Films/Well Go USA)
BRUT FORCE (XYZ Films)
ALONG FOR THE RIDE (Netflix)
Next week, April comes to a close with a new movie starring Liam Neeson, the action-thriller MEMORY.
All box office data provided by The-Numbers.com.