Review: Extraction

It appears quite likely that battered and bloody mercenary-with-a-conscience Tyler Rake will live to see another day, and facilitate another extraction, amidst a barrage of gunfire, RPGs, exploding helicopters and myriad villains. If you’ve already watched Extraction, fast becoming Netflix’s most-watched feature film ever, then it’s possible you weren’t quite sure if the epilogue was designed to leave the door open for Rake’s return. Ka-ching. Wonder no more. Screenwriter Joe Russo has already agreed to pen another installment of the action thriller based on the 2014 graphic novel “Ciudad” by Ande Parks. But let’s be real. I didn’t watch Extraction for Russo or director Sam Hargrave’s footprint (embossed on several Avengers movies). I watched it for Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush). The Aussie doesn’t disappoint, even if the film itself does come off as a John Wick wanna-be. With John Wick: Chapter Four pushed way back to a post-pandemic (hopefully) May 2022 release date, Extraction serves as a serviceable placeholder.

Review: Deerskin (Le daim)

This has to be one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long while! It’s from Quentin Dupieux the writer/director who brought us Rubber. In case you missed that one, it was about a tire named Robert that terrorizes a desert community. This time it all starts with the purchase of a deerskin fringe jacket. And it’s an equally absurd premise that somehow sustains itself for just over an hour, thanks in large part to the central character Georges being played by the marvelous Jean Dujardin (The Artist.)

Review: Bull

I hadn’t heard of this one and was a bit wary of it since it seems to be about rodeo, not high on my list of entertainments. But I really liked it. Set in a poor Houston suburb, it’s the story of 14-year-old Kris (first time actress Amber Havard) who’s living with her Grandma since Mom is in the slammer. She’s just trying to get by, but crosses the line one night, breaking into her neighbor Abe’s house. Abe (Rob Morgan – Mudbound, Just Mercy) is an aging rodeo rider who’s also just hanging on by a thread. But instead of sending her to jail, he makes a deal that she will work for him for a bit. What follows is a classic story of the curmudgeon who gradually becomes a friend, and a young girl finding herself through adversity.

Review: Love Wedding Repeat

My “Cinema Clash” podcast partner Charlie asked if I had watched Love Wedding Repeat on Netflix yet, suggesting it was a “Hannah movie.” In theory, he was right. It’s a chick flick, a romantic comedy with a potentially engaging premise, and British actor Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Adrift, Journey’s End) channeling the RomCom sensibilities of Hugh Grant. Given the dearth of new releases during the current pandemic, I figured it was worth checking out. Sadly, I was the one checking out mentally as the 100-minute movie meandered along at a surprisingly slow pace. I kept waiting for the plot to kick in. Or the romance. Or the comedy. Love Wedding Repeat is short on all three. Claflin’s chops – and charm – are sorely wasted. Even the film’s backdrop – Italy! – is wasted, as most of the “action” takes place during an indoor wedding reception.

Review: True History of the Kelly Gang

The film opens with, “Nothing you’re about to see is true,” so you know that even though it’s based on the true story of an infamous Australian outlaw and folk hero, extensive liberties have been taken. Adapted from a novel by Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang is really Ned Kelly’s (George MacKay, 1917) story. It’s told in two parts: young Ned’s education at the hands of his less than perfect parents and grown Ned’s criminal life and death. The first part gives you a sense of how he became who he was. The second part is less coherent.

Quickie Review: The Booksellers

Antiquarian booksellers aren’t people you meet every day. Theirs in an insular world and an industry that may be fading away. The booksellers that this documentary introduces its audience to are a curious bunch, mostly older, mostly white, mostly New Yorkers. Their world is one of obsessives and money and a deep appreciation for all things bookish. The film begins at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, then weaves its way though upscale shops, classic used book stores and apartments crammed full of books, collecting the stories of the men and women who are still on the lookout for that one elusive rare volume to buy or sell. It’s definitely a film for a certain audience. And you know who you are.

Review: Selah and the Spades

Selah and the Spades is a bit like Mean Girls meets Goodfellas. At Hogwarts. Without the magic. The story takes place at an elite boarding school in Pennsylvania where the student body is run by five factions, dominated by Selah and the Spades – the group responsible for supplying students with a coveted stash of alcohol and drugs. Seventeen-year-old Selah Summers is the Queen Bee. She’s a take-charge kind of gal who knows how to manipulate the system – and people – to get things done without getting her own hands dirty. But behind the strong facade is an insecure teen struggling with the prospect of relinquishing control upon graduation and living up to the high academic standards set by her ‘Tiger Mom’ parents.

Quickie Review: The Other Lamb

This coming-of-age story is set in an unknown place and time where a charismatic hunk of a man called Shepherd (Michiel Huisman – Game of Thrones, Wild) leads an all-female cult. One girl Selah (Raffey Cassidy – Vox Lux, Tomorrowland) begins to question the only world she’s ever known. She was born and raised in this isolated place with these strict rules, but as she’s about to move from her status of sister to that of wife, she begins to see that this is not the paradise they’re supposed to believe in and Shepherd isn’t the man she thought he was. And when some policemen come to talk with him, he forces the group on an arduous trek to seek a new refuge, and things begin to fall apart.

Review: Resistance

When you think of mime, you naturally think of Marcel Marceau. But you probably don’t know how he saved a group of Jewish orphans from the Nazis during World War II. Resistance tells the story of his joining the French resistance and helping to sneak them across the border into the safety of Switzerland. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social NetworkCafe Society) plays Marceau, the son of a Kosher butcher in Strasbourg, France, who’s more interested in becoming the next Charlie Chaplin than being a hero. But his cousin is a commander in a secretive Jewish relief group and convinces him to help them smuggle Jewish children from occupied France to neutral countries. It’s an uplifting story, though not a great film.

Review: Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things is the latest in a slew of solid if not particularly groundbreaking music documentaries celebrating the life and legacy of a pioneering artist. The film highlights Fitzgerald’s challenging childhood, her personal and professional struggles and triumphs, and the vocal talents that made her an international star during some turbulent times in American history. But it only soars when Ella sings. Jazz, swing, blues, scat, broadway theater music. It’s easy to understand how she came to be known as “The First Lady of Song” aka “The Queen of Jazz” aka “Lady Ella.”