Movie Review: New Releases September 23

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  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Joe Alwyn and Bella Ramsay Katherine calls the bird

Katherine called Bird***

Whatever your take on Lena Dunham’s oeuvre, you probably wouldn’t expect her to be at the helm of this racy period romp like a Karen Cushman novel. In 13th-century England, 14-year-old Catherine (Bella Ramsay)—daughter of feudal lord Rollo (Andrew Scott)—lives a mischievous life very unfit for a lady. That mischievous got a special temper when her financially-strapped father decided one of his few income options was to marry Katherine. The story goes in a number of odd directions, including Katherine’s obsession with her own uncle (Joe Alwyn), sometimes dangerously close to exaggerating its anachronistic message of gender equality, which was picked up on several cover versions of the female pop tune emphasize. It all comes down to the attractiveness of a young Ramsay, luckily she’s likable, and Dunham guides her into that sweet spot between the incorrigible and the annoying as she learns what matters like the Jane Austen heroine life lessons. It’s irrelevant, but it’s fascinating – as a bonus, you have Catherine’s Catholic friar brother scolding her for wielding a cross like a sword and resigning “not to contest our crucified savior.” In theaters September 23; October 7 via Amazon Prime Video. (PG-13)

Don’t worry dear **1/2
See feature reviews. It opens in theaters on September 23. (right)

Call me outdated, but when the premise of the movie promises me “Alison Janney is going to be a total badass”, I want a film that delivers “Alison Janney is going to be a total badass” “movies, not just bits and pieces. Janney plays Lou, a lonely woman living in the San Juan Islands, Washington, circa 1986, who apparently has a history — when her tenant Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) needs help with her young daughter (Ridley). Pieces of history come into play. Asha Bateman) is kidnapped by Hannah’s estranged former Green Beret husband (Logan Marshall Green). The action rolls around in a storm, suggesting that conflict scenarios are as much about nature as they are personal grudges. However, the storm stopped long before the movie started, a microcosm of the Maggie Cohen and Jack Stanley’s script not working: all the settings failed when it was supposed to start roaring. Janney was solid enough in conveying the hard edges of Lou’s past, but after a big confrontation with a couple of mercenaries, we ended up getting more talk, and we were really rocking. The characters’ theoretically emotional backstories aren’t enough to scroll between fixed segments — and “in between” feels like it’s never going to stop. Available September 23 via Netflix. (right)

come up***
Novelist Angie Thomas (the hatred you give) has carved out a welcome and unique place to tell young people’s stories of personal empowerment framed by the violent everyday realities faced by many teens of color. This follow-up to Thomas tells the story of 16-year-old Brie (Jamila Gray), the daughter of a late rap icon and recovering mother of a heroin addict (Sana Raisen). She tries to build her MC career, and when the principles don’t pay rent or turn on the lights, she’s forced to decide how to stay true to her principles. Bri’s moral test comes in the form of deciding whether her manager should be her gang aunt (Da’Vine Joy Randolph, an absolute powerhouse) or a veteran pro (Method Man) representing her father, and predictably, it Built on family loyalty and worldly temptations. But Lathan made some intuitive choices about how to tell her story visually when she directed the feature for the first time, including a montage of still images of Bri and her friends on their all-expenses trip, like Instagram Posted by kids like this era will inevitably share. While the narrative clumsily handles material such as the politics of Bree’s majority-white high school — and a Karen meeting set up entirely for a break of applause — it’s a sports drama of defeat and a fight in the ring.Gray’s performance prides itself on being a steady center, offering a rapper who’s also a star wars Nerds, decide what “keep it real” really means. In theaters and Paramount+ on September 23. (PG-13)

Railway Kids***
You wouldn’t know from the way this family feature is advertised in America that its source material goes back more than a century, or that Jeanne Agaté is reprising the role she first played more than 50 years ago. That knowledge isn’t particularly important for this sequel, set in 1944 England, in which three siblings — Lily (Beau Gadsden), Patty (Eden Hamilton), and Ted (Zach Cooper) – One of the many children who have been relocated. Their parents traveled from the city to the countryside to protect them from German bombing. There, they stay with Bobby (Agget), her daughter Anne (Sheridan Smith), and Anne’s son Thomas (Austin Haynes), and soon find themselves helping injured black Americans Soldier Abbe (Kenneth Aikens). Director Morgan Rogers and the writing team have kept the wartime story at a gentle, age-appropriate level, and the adventure is well anchored by a cast of attractive young actors. While it may feel a little out of place to say that 1940s Britons would see WWII as a battle against an enemy who “hates the difference”, it’s still, in theory, a valid angle to find these kids united– Confront the prejudiced reality of being outsiders, and their new black friends. In many ways, it feels like a movie for all ages, more reminiscent of its predecessors: thoughtful, human, and not particularly interested in frantic action. It opens in theaters on September 23. (PG)

Director Reginald Hudlin’s documentary profile of Sidney Poitier isn’t anything earth-shattering in exploring the life of the pioneering actor/director/activist, but It’s one of those documentary themes that can withstand more than a little hero worship. The film features an interview with Poitiers himself earlier this year and a wealth of archival material that traces him from a farming community without electricity and running water in the Bahamas, circa 1927, to teenage immigration in Jim Crow, Florida, in the 1940s The journey of aspiring performers in New York before becoming the first true black movie star.Hudlin hits all expected personal and professional points – his groundbreaking Oscar lily; “Slaps Heard Around the World” at on a hot night; tricky position to be a “safe” black actor accepted by white America as the Civil Rights era permeates; his film second act as a hit comedy director is incredible and willing to take Poitier off the pedestal to acknowledge his relationship with Diahann Carroll’s long-term relationship. But it’s mostly a celebration of a man of integrity, with some interesting tidbits about career choices inspired by Poitiers’ principles, and the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, and Spike Lee Passionate words. Of course, this is a biography of a saint, not a probe into the news – it feels fair to say that Sidney Poitier has won the treatment. Available September 23 via AppleTV+. (NR)


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