For the past few years, I’ve been saying Netflix has been stepping up its cinema game. In the beginning, it was simple movies featuring C-list actors and a cheap polish.
However, now they are assembling the world’s most exceptional talents and placing them in incredibly ambitious films. They’re making the movies that no one seems to make anymore. All those romantic comedies from the ‘90s and early 2000s are back, while other filmmakers (like Martin Scorsese) are pushing the limits by crafting a 210-minute-long gangster picture.
What’s even cooler is many of these upcoming Netflix films are getting a limited theatrical run. So, if you want to see filmmaker Noah Baumbach fill you with love and break your heart with Marriage Story, or watch Anthony Hopkins chew up the scenery as the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Two Popes on the big screen, it’s happening.
And it begins this weekend.
Dolemite is My Name (HHHH
Arguably the best of the bunch is the very funny and highly entertaining Dolemite is My Name. It stars a never-better Eddie Murphy as real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who set out to prove all the naysayers in his life that he could make it to the top.
We follow Moore as he goes from being the MC at local comedy clubs to the closing act and making daring comedy records that sell. But the most considerable shift comes (and what takes up a significant portion of the story) when Moore makes a 1970s Blaxploitation film (complete with the guerilla filmmaking style of Larry Cohen).
Murphy looks like he hasn’t had this much fun making a movie in years. He brings all the charm and quick wit from his prime and squeezes it into a portrayal that’s equally as affecting on a dramatic level. The balance between slapping your knees from laughter and holding your chest from Moore’s passion for succeeding is a wonderous emotional roller coaster ride.
The story, penned by the writing duo who brought us Ed Wood (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski), makes for a great companion piece with Ed Wood. It has the same sort of narrative structure by focusing on the climb towards fame without forgetting to encapsulate its setting and provide great character moments. Audiences will eat up Wesley Snipes as an actor-turned-director who thinks he’s on the same platform as Fred Williamson. And let’s not dismiss Da’Vine Joy Randolph (This is Us), who gives the film most of its pulse as a performer who is fed up being inside the box the world has put her in.
Whether you catch it on the big screen or small, don’t miss Dolemite is My Name. You’ll laugh and cherish it from front to back. (One bit about the characters calling movie critics joyless people did the job for me.)
Opens Friday at the IPIC Fairview. Available to stream on Netflix beginning Oct. 25. Rated R, 118 minutes.
Directed by Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist), Fractured breaks into many of the thematic elements that are present in Anderson’s other works. Some may label it as a lesser Shutter Island (which is fair), but I was still sucked into its tale of parental anxiety.
Sam Worthington (who also turns in the performance of his career) stars as a father who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth and protect his family. He and his wife (Lily Rabe) and daughter (Lucy Capri) are driving across the country. They stop at a highway rest area when all of a sudden, his daughter faces off with a stray dog that causes her to fall and break her arm. After the worried parents frantically rush their daughter to the hospital and checked her in, Worthington’s character awakens to the hospital having no record of them ever checking in.
Fractured is frankly predictable. You know all its turns (for the most part), but Worthington’s performance is what keeps you seated. To be honest, I always saw him as a one-note actor, but here, he shows a significant range. I completely related to his fear and was scared by the concept of the world calling you insane.
The film walks a line of ambiguity that makes it fun to speculate about. It may not be a groundbreaking feat, but it does manage to kick up some dust.
Available to stream on Netflix beginning tomorrow. Not rated, 100 minutes.
The Laundromat (HHH
Steven Soderbergh’s latest may be one of Netflix’s wildest movies. It is not a neatly pressed depiction. Soderbergh takes the chilling, true story of a widow (an always great Meryl Streep) who exposes fraud on a gargantuan scale and makes it seem like a work of fiction. It operates very similarly to The Big Short, often having characters (Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas) speak directly to the audience. Any fourth walls that are up, you can expect them to come down quickly as we watch the two well-dressed gents sip on sweet cocktails while going on rants that help audiences connect all the dots in this complicated journey.
The Laundromat is endlessly fascinating but also extremely exhausting. It tosses so much information and characters in your court that you wish it would have been more straightforward. However, that’s not Soderbergh. Perhaps he recognizes audiences are too comfortable with the traditional format, so he took a page out of director Adam McKay’s book to make the film more compelling. On the one hand, it’s admirable, but on the other, there are so many footnotes within footnotes that at some point, somebody needs to put their foot down.
While the film suffers as a whole, many vignettes sting. The highlights mostly include Streep. She will crack a joke one minute about how she met her husband (James Cromwell) and, on a dime, turn on the waterworks. Whenever she’s on screen, you are glued to what’s happening, especially an extraordinary closing moment with her character. It’s a presentation of reality that also offers commentary.
Overall, The Laundromat is a mixed load. But some flashes of color keep your eyes on its cycle.
Opens Friday at the Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre in Dallas. Available to stream beginning Oct. 18. Rated R, 95 minutes.