With cinemas in most cities all over the world still shut, and big budget films put on hold until 2021, it’s left for the streaming services to provide us with new releases. Here in the Philippines, Netflix is quite often the home for the prestige film projects that can still find a 2020 release and sizable audience. But the others services, whether officially available here or accessed through a VPN, do have their own ‘gems’. Here’s a rundown of some of the recent “drops”.
On the Rocks (Apple+) – Director Sofia Coppola is back, and reunited with Bill Murray, with a ‘small’ domesticated film about relationships that bears more than a passing relationship to Lost in Translation than the other films she has directed. Rashida Jones and Marlon Wayans portray a New York couple with two daughters – she’s a blocked author, and he works in a social media/tech company. It’s when the routine of domestic life preys on the wife’s idle mind, that thoughts stray to suspecting her husband of infidelity. Enter Bill Murray, as the larger-than-life, irascible, father of Rashida’s character.
A philanderer, who left his own wife for a much younger woman, he has since made flirting and admiring women of every age, type and color his main occupation. With his own take on male behavior, it isn’t long before Murray’s character is on a crusade to help his daughter find out what’s the truth about her husband. Murray is fully in his element here, and there are moments when the situations and repartee may well have been inspired by Sofia’s own father, Francis Ford C. You’ll especially love the scene when he’s pulled over by a New York cop. It’s a light comedy, propelled more by the constant rumination between father & daughter, than by any real plot. A charmer!
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Prime) – After the unrivaled success of Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) as a journalist and reporter from Kazakhstan with his 2006 film, this 2020 sequel opens with us being treated to what happened to him upon his return to his home country. Given a chance to make up for his unforgivable blunder, Borat is sent to the USA (the long way); to bring a gift to the current US Vice-President Pence, and hopefully make Pres. Trump look favorably on Kazakhstan.
Rather than go into detail about this movie’s plot developments, let me just say that this mockumentary and the hidden cameras employed, are proof positive that Cohen is still ready to offend everyone, and that’s a good thing. Some set-ups don’t really work, and the film goes on for far too long – but it’s still a precious satire. By being so ridiculous and outlandish, Cohen enlightens and manages to provide us with incisive social commentary about Trump America. Feminism, politics, the origin of the COVID virus – this film pulls no punches in giving us a skewed, crazy perspective.
Antebellum (VOD) – Here’s a Horror Thriller film that comes from the same producers who gifted us with Get Out & Us in the past. It opens with scenes from a Southern plantation when slavery was still alive. And yes, you can be forgiven for thinking we’ve seen this before, in films such as 12 Years A Slave. But wait, there’s something quite potent trying to be said through the film – as it seems to operate on two time frames, that of the antebellum South, and the present-day South. And the point being made is how things haven’t really changed for the African-American.
Janelle Monae and Jena Malone are the two main stars; and while they take on their roles in earnest, and this film was very popular when it was released, I felt it was striving for too much, and failed to make its point in an effective manner. Yes, it blows off the lid on how antebellum films like Gone With the Wind were gross misrepresentations of what life was like for the Negro; but it seemed to be making its point in too heavy-handed manner. While Get Out & Us operated on multiple levels and were much appreciated for being successful on more than one level, this one seems to stumble from the very opening bell.
Cadaver (Netflix Norway) – Before October comes to an end, here’s yet another Horror/Suspense film on our most popular streaming service. This one is a Norwegian production, and imagines a post-apocalyptic world – and it’s obvious we could interchange the nuclear war aftermath depicted here, with global pandemic. We’re introduced to a nuclear family: father, mother & daughter – and they’re desperately eking out an existence that’s deprived and desolate. Then there’s the call for survivors to enjoy a night of Dinner Theater at a nearby hotel.
Of course, it’s ‘theater’ of a different sort, sinister and with a hidden agenda that shouldn’t take much guessing on our part. It’s a tad too predictable, and despite the atmosphere and special effects, this one left me pining for more genuine jump scares or true suspense. If you’re ready to excuse the most insipid behavior of a couple meant to be caring and intelligent parents, then you might enjoy the ride, but I have to admit that at one point I was feeling they deserved the worse that would befall them.