Last year at the Sundance Film Festival, critics and audiences were wowed by the timely drama The Tale – which was then acquired by HBO and, sadly, mostly forgotten. This week, we’ll see if this year’s Share will meet with a similar fate. Among the week’s other highlights: a gender-swapped American President, a new Brian De Palma, and one of the young year’s most entertaining documentaries. Here we go:
ON HBO GO / HBO NOW
Share : Technology is changing the adolescent experience faster than those of us past it can possibly imagine, so in some ways this teen drama from writer/director Pippa Bianco is more of a horror movie. A young woman (the superb Rhianne Barreto) wakes up from a night of drinking bruised and confused, unable to recall what transpired the night before – only to make the dreadful discovery that at least some of it was documented in images and video. What could have been sensationalistic or exploitative is instead rendered as empathetic; we’ve all had our bad nights, but imagine if your bad night was made your identity? Thoughtful, sensitive, and tricky as hell.
ON THE CRITERION CHANNEL
A Hard Day’s Night :The Criterion Channel’s entire “Directed by Richard Lester” collection is worth watching, but the best of the bunch is also his best known. And it wasn’t even supposed to be great – the directive was for the Fab Four to knock out a jukebox musical, and to do it quickly enough that Beatlemania wouldn’t have ended by the time it galloped into theaters. That combination of a need for speed and a shrugging, write-off attitude from the suits meant that, so long as they could do it quickly, Lester and the Beatles could make just about whatever movie they wanted. And so they did. Alun Owen’s script didn’t ask the lads from Liverpool to do much in the way of acting; they would play fictionalized versions of themselves, riffing on their existing personas, in a “day in the life of the Beatles” narrative that Lester shot in cinéma vérité style (black and white, handheld, the works). In doing so, he gave the film a mobility and energy, but also the feel of a backstage pass; we’re along for the ride of being a Beatle, invited to an exclusive party with four cheeky, charming rock stars.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Long Shot : There’s a lot to like in the latest collaboration between director Jonathan Levine and star Seth Rogen (Levine also helmed 50/50 and The Night Before), and an outsized percentage of that is Charlize Theron’s performance; it really seems like there’s nothing she can’t do (it’s kind of ridiculous, frankly). Like so many of Rogen’s movies, Long Shot is too damn long, too prone to sappiness, and too convinced that every sophisticated beauty is hot for stoner man-children. But Rogen is charming, there are plenty of laughs, and it’s hard to ding any movie that loves Boyz II Men as much as this one does. (Includes featurettes.)
Domino : Brian De Palma’s latest is plagued with many of the recurring issues of his recent filmography: clumsy politics, some unconvincing staging, goofy inattentiveness to detail, and some oddly low-rent surface flourishes (the credits to this one, for example, look like they were generated in iMovie). But as ever, when he gets his hands on one of those virtuoso set pieces, he chews on it like it’s 1981. There are (by my count) three of them in this story of a Copenhagen cop avenging the death of his partner, all mixing his trademark technical virtuosity and proficiency for white-knuckle tension; when De Palma gets cooking, you can all but hear the slow clicking of his fishing pole, reeling you in. And it runs a compact 89 minutes, so even when it doesn’t work, it’s not like he’s wasting your time. By no means essential, but fans of the filmmaker can do (and have done) a lot worse.
ON DVD / VOD
Hail Satan? : The story of the Satanic Temple is a rich one, especially for a student of media manipulation like director Penny Lane (whose previous credits include Nuts! and Our Nixon): founded in 2013 as a combination of stunt and troll, the group became a gathering point for all sorts of rebels and outsiders (many from religious backgrounds), exploding from a membership of three people to 50,000 in three years. They are real hellraisers (forgive me, sorry), taking on issues of church and state and accidentally, along the way, inspiring real passion and dedication (and to be fair, their “seven tenets” are much more reasonable than most religious dogma). But it’s not a valentine, not entirely; by the end, Lane’s very funny and very pointed film is asking important questions about what happens when a rebellion has to deal with rebellion, and becomes the kind of buzzword-spouting rule-makers they ostensibly set out to destroy. (Includes additional scenes and interviews, and trailer.)
The Thin Man : W.S. Van Dyke’s 1934 franchise-starter – new to Blu-ray, via Warner Archives – is several great movies at once: great murder mystery, great screwball comedy, great New York movie, even a little bit of a Christmas movie. William Powell and Myrna Loy star as Nick and Nora Charles, retired detective and wealthy heiress, and while the mystery Nick is called back into service to solve is a good one (after all, the picture is based on a Dashiell Hammett novel), that’s not why we remember these bubbly, zingy movies; it’s for scene after scene of Nick and Nora drinking, joking, flirting, and looking great in evening wear. When people talk about the escapist cinema of the Great Depression, this is what they’re talking about – and they still serve that purpose nicely. (Includes radio adaptation, episode of television adaptatation, and trailer.)