It’s another week of sheltering-at-home, but to help ease the yawning nothingness, we have scoured the corners of the internet to come up with four new films worth seeing.
Debuting Friday on Netflix, “Extraction” is like a vintage 1980s action film, about a hero who is “the only man for the job.”
Chris Hemsworth takes on the role of, “Tyler Rake,” that might once have been played by Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, or any of the other stars that regularly hit the gym.
After a flash-forward to one of the more exciting shoot-em-up scenes to start things off, and after a character set-up sequence wherein Tyler jumps off a huge cliff, splashes into the water, and sits, cross legged and zen like at the lake’s bottom, he is hired to retrieve the kidnapped son (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) of a Mumbai drug lord.
Everything goes fine, until the first drop point is compromised, and Tyler must go on the run with the boy, evading much gunfire.
Golshifteh Farahani (“Paterson”) co-stars as Tyler’s colleague who gives him directions on his earpiece, and David Harbour appears as Tyler’s old friend who briefly gives him safe haven.
The closest thing to a new “Avengers” movie we’re going to get right now, “Extraction” was written by Joe Russo, who, with his brother Anthony, co-directed two “Captain America” movies and two “Avengers” movies.
Making his feature directing debut here is Sam Hargrave, a stunt coordinator on many of the Marvel movies.
While one might expect a great deal of frenzied shaky-cam vainly trying to capture a never-ending onslaught of bullets and screeching tires, Hargrave thankfully goes the “John Wick” route, with several very impressive, long-take, smooth, unpredictable, and exciting sequences.
Hargrave uses the India locations with such tactile directness that we might actually feel we’ve been there. The story is, of course, familiar to the point of being worn thin, but on the upside, it’s also comfortable.
“Extraction” is an exhilarating surprise, and should be a Netflix hit this weekend.
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“1BR” is an assured genre effort
A few weeks ago a horror movie about an evil cult, “The Other Lamb” was released to home viewers; it was a beautifully-shot, but bland story about a man amassing power by keeping women powerless.
Luckily, the new “1BR” is also about the cult mentality, but it’s far more alive, vicious, and diabolical. It’s also far more relevant, tying more directly into the cult-like behavior in today’s politics.
Like another recent movie, “Vivarium” (also about characters trapped at home), it’s a worthy feature-length “Twilight Zone”-like piece.
Nicole Brydon Bloom makes a promising feature film acting debut as Sarah, a young woman who dreams of being a fashion designer. She moves to Los Angeles, seeking a fresh start after a fight with her father. She finds a temp job and lands a sweet apartment in a friendly-looking complex.
Unfortunately, she has lied about her cat, Giles, and must try to keep him hidden. But a cute neighbor, Brian (Giles Matthey) flirts with her a little, so maybe things are looking up?
At night, Sarah can’t sleep because of rattling pipes, and before long she has received threatening notes about her cat, and then a mysterious visitor in the night.
It turns out that her room is designed for new “recruits,” people to be indoctrinated into the cult. There’s a queasy, quasi-torture sequence that may have viewers crawling under the blankets, but stick with it. It really goes somewhere with this.
Written and directed by David Marmor — also making his feature debut — “1BR” is an assured genre effort, with its surprises doled out to rhythmic perfection, and a superior use of the apartment complex’s unique space.
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Is the third time the charm?
Another tale of violence, “True History of the Kelly Gang” is the third movie in the modern era to take on the story of the notorious Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who was captured and hanged in 1880 at the age of 25.
It’s also, by far, the best of the three. In 1970, Mick Jagger portrayed Kelly in a flop movie that was universally loathed. In 2003, Heath Ledger played him in a movie that was too dull even to be worth loathing.
Adapted from a novel by Peter Carey, this insane, far-from-dull movie begins with a 12 year-old Ned (Orlando Schwerdt) living out a most terrible childhood, watching his mother (Essie Davis, “The Babadook”) sell sexual favors to men like the vile, English Sgt. O’Neil (Charlie Hunnam). On a good day, Ned feeds his family by dragging home a bloody cow leg.
After the death of his father, his mother sells him to educated outlaw Harry Power (Russell Crowe), with whom Ned learns how to shoot and steal.
Ned grows up into George MacKay (“1917”), who performs half his scenes shirtless, all muscle and sinew, and a most unfortunate haircut. He returns home to find his mother about to marry another awful man, and falls for prostitute Mary Hearn (Thomasin McKenzie).
Unfortunately, Mary already has a child with Ned’s future father-in-law. Even worse, Ned clashes with Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), who is so evil he holds a gun to a baby’s head in one scene.
After that, Ned grabs his brother and two friends, including Joe Byrne (Sean Keenan), with whom he has a quasi-erotic relationship, they all don dresses — to make their enemies think they’re crazy — and begin robbing and killing.
The final showdown features Ned inside a bulletproof metal suit, while a row of white-clad figures fires at him from a dark horizon, the entire scene lit by strobe lights.
Australian director Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth,” “Assassin’s Creed”) keeps the strangeness coming, playing around with taboos and sexualizing everything, even as he tamps down the thrills of Ned’s gory escapades, instead focusing on doom.
To be sure, “True History of the Kelly Gang” isn’t exactly designed as an energizing adventure, and when it does move, it’s brutal. But it’s certainly something to see.
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A rural, coming-of-age story
Another movie that touches on sexual taboos, “To the Stars” is a stirring coming-of-age story set in Oklahoma in 1961.
Iris Deerborne (Kara Hayward, “Moonrise Kingdom”) is a shy, withdrawn teen with big, awkward glasses, who walks from her family’s farm through the fields to high school every day.
Her developing physique has drawn unwanted attention from cruel, shallow boys, and one day a stranger swoops in and saves her. She’s Maggie (Liana Liberato), and even though she initially lies about her exotic life, and her father being a photographer for Life Magazine, she and Iris become fast friends.
Iris gets a makeover, and attracts the attention of their family’s sweet farm hand, Jeff (Lucas Jade Zumann), even though her hard-drinking, oversexed mother (Jordana Spiro) is repeatedly putting the moves on Jeff herself.
Eventually, tension arises between Maggie and Iris, and we learn the real reason Maggie’s family moved here.
Director Martha Stephens uses wide-open rural spaces to recall dirt-road classics like “The Last Picture Show.”
Even though she drifts back and forth between poetry and soapy secret-revealing, this unevenness is generally held together by the consistent, touching performances, especially by Hayward and Liberato, but also by veterans like the great, iguana-like Shea Whigham as Iris’s soft-spoken father, as well as Malin Akerman and Tony Hale.