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Our picks for the best new movies coming out this week. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms for.
Our picks for the best new movies coming out this week. Plus: Everything new to VOD and streaming platforms for the weekend of July 23.
The biggest flaw in Zola is also true to the movie’s greatest strength. For better or for worse – and mostly better – director Janicza Bravo and co-screenwriter Jeremy O. Harris stay true to Aziah “Zola” King’s voice while adapting her embellished 2015 viral Twitter thread about a wild, dangerous and disconcerting trip to Florida. The film cleverly translates the colourful tone, spiked humour and perceptiveness in those tweets about a sex worker (Riley Keough) and pimp (Colman Domingo) who hoodwinked our guide Zola (Taylour Paige) into their exploitative hustle turned nightmarish odyssey involving a train of johns and shotgun-wielding traffickers. The film also recreates the Twitter thread’s climax, a punchline that worked fine on social media but doesn’t offer any of the typical narrative rewards of a movie. Character arcs aren’t resolved. Comeuppance isn’t doled out. Zola leaves us hanging, left to grapple with what we just witnessed: an abrasive, refreshingly honest depiction of sex work and trafficking as told by a Black woman refusing to allow anyone to minimize her command over her story. Now playing in theatres and available as a premium VOD rental (see below). NNNN (Radheyan Simonpillai)
If you lived and breathed skate culture in the decade covered by Elkin’s documentary, go ahead and bump up the rating a notch or two: it’s very much a “you had to be there” project, a celebration of a transformational American moment by the people who made it happen. And the intersection of predominantly white skateboarding culture with predominantly Black hip-hop culture – mostly because all the key players mixed and mingled at a club in New York City’s meat-packing district called Mars – is indeed significant. Narrated by Eli Gesner, whose camcorder provides the bulk of the documentary’s archival footage, All The Streets Are Silent features the earliest glimpses of everyone from Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter to Busta Rhymes and Method Man, whose collective outsider status made them avatars of cool at that specific point in time. (Moby and Rosario Dawson were also part of the scene, and appear in present-day interviews.) The chronological assembly means the story doesn’t really get going until late in the doc, when Larry Clark casts the skaters to play versions of themselves in Kids and the culture really blows up. But until then you can content yourself with holy-crap moments like Jay-Z wandering onstage at Mars for the first time. 91 min. Now available to stream on Hot Docs At Home (see below). NNN (Norman Wilner)
Sarnoski’s first feature sounds like another John Wick riff, with Nicolas Cage playing an Oregon recluse who sets out to retrieve his beloved truffle pig from the people who’ve stolen her. But as our hero enlists the aid of a kid (Alex Wolff) to work his way through a very specific sliver of Portland subculture, it becomes clear that Sarnoski and co-writer Vanessa Block are using the structure of the revenge thriller to tell a very different story. Pig has other goals, and to discuss them would be incredibly unfair to the movie and to the people reading this. All I’ll say is that Sarnoski does exactly what he wants to do, and in a manner that allows Cage to give his finest performance in years – as intensely felt as what he did in Mandy, say, but devoid of the theatricality that enabled that film’s most absurd flourishes. He just commits, and commits fully, to everything the role requires, and Sarnoski knows exactly what he’s got in front of him. Don’t read anything, don’t watch the trailers. Just go see this. 90 minutes. Now playing in theatres. NNNNN (NW)
Beans plays out during the Oka Crisis of 1990, when Quebec’s Indigenous communities faced off against Canadian police and military forces over the expansion of a golf course into a burial ground on Mohawk land. The first feature from long-time documentarian and TV producer Deer – and named both best first feature and best motion picture at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards – it’s a drama about a kid trying to understand why everything around her is charged with violence and rage, and figuring out how she should respond. Deer is working in an intriguing semi-autobiographical mode here, framing her protagonist’s fraught coming of age against the very real trauma of the Oka standoff and slowly tightening the dramatic screws to show us how she moves from innocence to outrage. And as the young protagonist, Kiawentiio – making her feature debut after a few episodes of Anne With An E – is sensational, showing us Beans’s childishness and self-absorption (she’s 12, of course she’s self-absorbed) eroding against the demands of the moment. Beans makes questionable choices; she experiments with clothes and boys. But both the actor and the director make sure we understand Beans always knows exactly who she is, and the space she wants to occupy. 92 minutes. Now playing in theatres. NNNN (NW)
(Jason Sudeikis, Bill Lawrence)
The second season of Sudeikis’s sly take on the fish-out-of-water sitcom arrives just a week after season one nabbed 20 Emmy nominations, including acting nods for Sudeikis and co-stars Hannah Waddingham, Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt, Nick Mohammed and Jeremy Swift. Can the new season live up to that? It bloody well does, as Ted and the rest of AFC Richmond find themselves stuck in a series of draws and looking for victories anywhere they can eke them out. If season one was focused on understanding the characters, season two is all about their growth, and the introduction of a team psychologist (Sarah Niles) whom Ted (Sudeikis) instinctively distrusts opens up a storyline that builds throughout the season. But if you’re worrying the show is getting too serious, there’s still plenty of pure comic joy: the giddy, nurturing friendship of Waddingham’s Rebecca and Temple’s Keeley continues to grow, Roy Kent (Goldstein) and Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) face major career changes, and the show seems to realize just what a find it has in Toheeb Jimoh, whose Sam Obisanya gets a well-deserved spotlight. And through it all, without any fuss, Sudeikis is giving the performance of his career. Read a full review here. New episodes Fridays on Apple TV+. NNNNN (NW)
(Bill Hobbins, Simon Welton)
Dating with masks has become a reality during the pandemic – and now it’s a reality TV dating concept. In a cross between Love Is Blind and The Masked Singer, Netflix’s Sexy Beasts employs elaborate, Hollywood effects-style masks and makeup so contestants can forge a connection that is ostensibly more meaningful than one predicated on physical attraction. Of course, the show isn’t really interested the looks vs. personality question. As comedian Rob Delaney’s snarky narration suggests, Sexy Beasts is more about mocking dating shows by giving this cast of (mostly) earnest singles a ridiculously over-the-top obstacle. The primary challenge for the producers is a familiar one: find new ways to catch the audience off guard with a format that becomes repetitive very quickly. It’s bookended by strong, well-cast and genuinely funny episodes, but the middle of the series settles into a groove that is frequently less about the journey and more about the reveal. At best, Sexy Beasts works as a parody of blandly heteronormative reality dating shows but it’s not really subversive beyond the masks. Read a full review here. Six episodes now streaming on Netflix Canada. NNN (Kevin Ritchie)
Emilie Piponnier, Martin Swabey, Chloe Boreham; directed by Josephine Mackerras
Documentary directed by Jeremy Elkin
With the voices of Alec Baldwin, James Marsden and Amy Sedaris; directed by Tom McGrath
Documentary directed by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz
Ewen Bremner, Leo Flanagan, Richard Jobson; directed by Nick Moran
Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas; directed by Everardo Gout
Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Laura Benanti; directed by Billy Crystal
Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Samuel L. Jackson; directed by Patrick Hughes
Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Whitney Cummings; directed by Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones
Vanessa Marano, Abbie Cobb, Jonah Ray; directed by Maria Bissell
Documentary directed by Mayye Zayed
Taylour Paige, Riley Keough, Nicholas Braun; directed by Janicza Bravo
Everything coming to streaming platforms this month:
Flashier projects like Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society, Juice and New Jack City ate up all the oxygen at the time, but Bill Duke’s 1992 neo-noir – which casts Laurence Fishburne as an L.A.P.D. officer sent undercover, and Jeff Goldblum as the rising kingpin he’s determined to bring down – now stands as one of the smartest, sharpest movies of the 90s Black cinema wave: not only is it acutely aware of the power structures and systemic racism that keeps Fishburne’s noble-minded Russell Stevens down, but it allows Russell to be aware of them as well, complicating his mission and letting us see how throwing in with the bad guys might look a lot like liberation to him. Starting out from a solid script (written by Internal Affairs’ Henry Bean from a story by The Player’s Michael Tolkin), Duke and his team overdelivered on just about every level; Deep Cover is stylish and exhilarating, with Goldblum’s energy pitched perfectly in opposition to Fishburne’s gravitas.
New Line’s absorption into Warner sent the movie into limbo for years; other than a screening in The Royal’s Black Gold program a few years back, Deep Cover was almost impossible to find. So Criterion’s disc feels like a reclamation, sourcing its master from a vivid 4K digital restoration that gives Bojan Bazelli’s neon-and-shadow cinematography a texture and colour depth not seen since the original 35mm prints. (The 2.0 DTS-HD soundtrack isn’t quite as revelatory, but it’s decent enough.)
Supplements include a new video interview with the singular Duke, a 2018 AFI Conservatory seminar session that finds Duke and Fishburne discussing the film with critic Elvis Mitchell, and two new conversations on the genuinely revolutionary aspects of the picture: Racquel J. Gates and Michael B. Gillespie discuss the movie in the context of the Black cinema wave of the early 90s, and Claudrena N. Harold and Oliver Wang delve into the status of the movie’s title track, which marked Dr. Dre’s first single after N.W.A. broke up. New Line’s theatrical trailer is also included, which tried to position the film as a generic urban actioner. Now we know better, of course.