After Midnight: I'm beginning to regret shooting the television.
With no new releases opening wide until at least Apr. 10 and theaters shut down for the foreseeable future, communal movie watching is on a bit of a hold. As a result, studios have “generously” released The Invisible Man, The Way Back, Emma, Birds of Prey, Onward, The Hunt and Bloodshot ahead of schedule. You can read previous Movie Dopes for reviews, though, for your convenience, I did rank them here, based on preference. Of course, we have all been streaming movies for years now, though the copious options can be overwhelming, and there are often more misses than hits. Between Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, Disney+, Shudder, DC Universe and more, we should have content to get us through this self-quarantine, so long as we do not crash the internet. I am here to assist you in your scrolling (or clicking), no matter what streaming service or two (or three) you prefer. I am sticking to movies and leaving you to your own devices (get it?) for your episodic binge-watching. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. Next week, I will return with fresh (if not new) suggestions. Happy streaming!
Let’s start with Netflix; where else? If you are like me, your queue is probably populated with 10-year-old movies you never got around to watching; why not start with some of those flicks? Next up, check out a Netflix Original to better fake the moviegoing experience. You cannot go wrong with high profile releases like The Irishman, Marriage Story, Dolemite Is My Name or The Two Popes. You have watched Bird Box, right? (A Quiet Place was better.) No shortage of big name stars or directors can be found when strolling the aisles of this digital video store. You might still have Will Smith’s Bright or Triple Frontier, one of two Netflix originals starring Ben Affleck (the other being The Last Thing He Wanted with Anne Hathaway), in your queue. I waded further through the Netflix Originals and was reminded I had yet to watch Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat. The Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, American Factory, is a Netflix original you can stream right now. Maybe you want to risk your time on the Michael Bay-Ryan Reynolds collaboration, 6 Underground, before some other, newer, shiny bauble—ooh, Spenser Confidential with Mark Wahlberg—catches your eye. For me, the lure of true crime was too strong, so I ended up choosing Lost Girls. Should you?
LOST GIRLS (R) A relatively taut, if surprisingly uneventful, true crime thriller, Lost Girls stars Amy Ryan as Mari Gilbert, whose daughter Shannan goes missing while working in a gated Long Island community. Unfortunately, Shannan is a sex worker, a subsection of victims often ignored by the police, sensationalized by the media and shamed by the public. Thanks to Mari’s refusal to give up on the search for her missing daughter, the Gilgo Beach burial ground of the Long Island Serial Killer is uncovered. Unfortunately, few other leads can be found, and Shannan is still missing. The film from Oscar-nominated documentarian Liz Garbus (The Farm: Angola, USA and What Happened, Miss Simone?) recounts a mysterious, sad, true story anchored by Ryan’s strength—she makes one tough, working class mom—and Thomasin McKenzie’s quiet fortitude. Still, this true story could have been told more powerfully as non-fiction than as made-for-TV style dramatization. Just a little independent research uncovers several unfollowed leads and confounding, concurrent events that would generate propulsive surprises in a documentary and overly complicate a feature’s straightforward narrative.
SUGGESTED RENTAL: AFTER MIDNIGHT (R) Directors (and editors) Jeremy Gardner, a triple threat who also wrote the film and plays the lead, and Christian Stella, who pulls double duty as cinematographer, knock it out of the park with their third film. After Midnight balances multiple genres without dropping any. Gardner and Brea Grant star as Hank and Abby, an unmarried couple living in a huge house in Florida. One day, Abby mysteriously leaves Hank; soon after, a monster begins prowling around his front door after midnight. Gardner combines the magnetic aspects of multiple movie stars (George Clooney springs to mind) into an accessible, independent lead who easily carries the load of a movie, despite having played fewer than 10 credited roles. His own, well-crafted dialogue veers with ease from solidly humorous to deeply thoughtful. Grant’s grasp slips a little in the characterization of Abby, but the rest of the film’s parts step up to compensate. Stella shoots a hell of a gorgeous film, and the duo continue to collaborate so fruitfully they make independent filmmaking look easy.