What’s new to theatres, VOD and streaming this weekend: August 27-29, 2021

Including reviews of Clickbait, Flag Day, Unapologetic and Chapelwaite


Clickbait

(Tony Ayres, Christian White)

As a high-concept thriller, Clickbait is kind of ridiculous, but I think that’s the point. The eight-episode Netflix miniseries that revolves around the disappearance of ordinary Oakland man Nick Brewer (Adrian Grenier) and the efforts of his family, journalists and the police to find out what’s really going on. It floods the screen with twists and revelations, moving breathlessly forward while switching its focus to a different character – his sister (Zoe Kazan)! His wife (Betty Gabriel)! A detective (Phoenix Raei)! A journalist (Abraham Lim)! – every episode to obscure certain connections and keep us smashing the “next episode” button. Co-creators Ayres (Glitch and Stateless) and White (who wrote last year’s family-as-horror creeper Relic) set up their high concept and immediately upend it, answering certain big questions unexpectedly early in order to introduce new ones so we never feel like we know where the story is going. (The show being set in Northern California but mostly shot in Melbourne creates an interesting unreality as well.) And savvy casting goes a long way: Kazan’s full-on panic as Nick’s messy younger sister contrasts well with Gabriel’s fraying composure as his stunned wife, and Raei is really interesting as a missing-persons cop whose personal life gets tangled up with the case before it even begins. I gobbled this show like popcorn – knowing it was probably bad for me, but enjoying the experience too much to stop. All eight episodes available to stream on Netflix Canada. NNN (Norman Wilner)

Flag Day

(Sean Penn)

Sean Penn doesn’t direct movies very often, which makes Flag Day feel like even more of a disappointment. An adaptation of journalist Jennifer Vogel’s memoir Flim-Flam Man, it’s definitely a personal project – right down to Penn’s casting of his daughter Dylan as Jennifer, with himself as her father John Vogel, a ne’er-do-well targeted by the FBI in a massive counterfeiting case – but the story is told so clumsily that whatever drew the filmmaker to the material is buried under layers of muddled nostalgia and stylistic affect. Penn’s first features, The Indian Runner and The Crossing Guard, told heartfelt stories of family loyalty colliding with moral responsibility, so it’s strange to watch Flag Day consider that same theme while refusing to engage with it in the slightest. Instead, Jez Butterworth’s script offers the most superficial take on its father-daughter story, reducing Jennifer to a clichéd goth kid who cleans up her act and John to a whiny would-be rebel. Sean Penn played a version of this character much more vividly in The Falcon And The Snowman, come to think of it. Maybe you should watch that instead. In theatres Friday (August 27). NN (NW)

Unapologetic

(Ashley O’Shay)

Shot over five years, O’Shay’s documentary about the efforts of the Movement for Black Lives and Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago feels more urgent now than ever – maybe even more so since its screening in the TIFF Next Wave festival earlier this year. O’Shay follows two Black activists in their early 20s – PhD candidate Janaé Bonsu and the rapper Bella BAHHS – as they fight an uphill battle seeking justice for Rekia Boyd, who was killed in 2012 by a stray bullet fired by off-duty police officer Dante Servin. It’s not the only racially motivated killing that shook Chicago while Unapologetic was filming, and one of the documentary’s virtues is its refusal to downplay the toll of committed activism; Bonsu and BAHHS are more than willing to discuss the stress they carry, and the frustration with a system so entrenched in perpetuating its own authority. (It’s especially disheartening to see Chicago police association president Lori Lightfoot – now the city’s mayor – use procedure and protocol to slow-walk the issue of Dante Servin’s firing.) But Unapologetic balances that cynicism with the force that animates its subjects: two queer, Black women standing up and fight back for their very lives. Also, Rahm Emanuel just seems like an awful person. Available to stream on Hot Docs At Home. NNNN (NW)

Chapelwaite

(Jason Filardi, Peter Filardi)


Very freely adapted from an early Stephen King short story, Chapelwaite tells the tale of widowed sea captain Charles Boone (Adrien Brody), who in the mid-19th century brings his children (Jennifer Ens, Sirena Gulamgaus, Ian Ho) to the eponymous ancestral manse in Preacher’s Corners, Maine. The town has been ravaged by an inexplicable wasting illness, which people blame on Charles’s bloodline. Anyone who’s read Jerusalem’s Lot will know exactly what’s up, of course, but it takes Charles a while to figure it out, allowing Chapelwaite to spin its deliberate tale of isolation, paranoia and creepy scratching noises in the night. Brody’s a surprisingly good choice for the role of the tormented, overly formal protagonist, and Emily Hampshire is a lively presence as Rebecca Morgan, an aspiring writer who takes a job as governess to the Boone children. The Halifax locations are appropriately moody, and the supporting cast includes Gord Rand as a sympathetic minister, Gabrielle Rose as the manor’s former housekeeper and Eric Peterson, effectively cast against type, as an imperious antagonist – with Julian Richings and Steven McCarthy glimpsed in the first half of the season as Charles’s departed family members. The character-based approach works for weekly television; just be aware that it’s a very slow burn. New episodes Sundays at 10 pm on CTV Sci-Fi, and available to stream on ctv.ca/sci-fi and the CTV app. NNNN (NW)

Available on VOD

American Sausage Standoff

Ewen Bremner, W. Earl Brown, Joshua Harto, directed by Ulrich Thomsen

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir

Documentary directed by James Redford

Hot Docs At Home

Behemoth

Paul Statman, Richard Wagner, Whitney Nielsen; directed by Pete Sefchik

Apple TV, Google Play

Black Conflux

Ryan McDonald, Ella Ballentine, Luke Bilyk; directed by Nicole Dorsey

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

The Colony

Iain Glen, Nora Arnedzeder, Sara-Sofie Boussnina; directed by Tim Fehlbaum

Apple TV, Google Play

Till Death

Megan Fox, Eoin Macken, Callan Mulvey; directed by S.K. Dale

Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play

Unapologetic

Documentary directed by Ashley O’Shay

Hot Docs At Home

Streaming guides

Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:

Netflix 

Crave

Amazon Prime Video Canada

Disney+

CBC Gem

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