By Sarah Payne
Outlaw King – November 9th – Last month I reviewed my very first Netflix movie – To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved. Between the seemingly endless supply of new content and the fact that my baby daughter has turned me into a bit of a homebody, “Netflix and chilling” is my go-to these days. That’s why I am very much looking forward to director David Mackenzie’s new film Outlaw King, starring Chris Pine, which will stream on Netflix this month. Outlaw King is set in the early 1300’s and tells the story of Scottish King Robert the Bruce (he was William Wallace’s successor; the trailer gives off serious Braveheart vibes). Mackenzie also directed Pine in 2016’s Hell or High Water, one of the better thrillers I’ve seen the past few years. Film length could be an issue for an epic like Outlaw King. In fact, Anthony D’Alessandro from Deadline wrote earlier this fall that Mackenzie ended up cutting 20 minutes of the film after critics at the Toronto International Film Festival thought it was too long.
Widows – November 16th – 2018 has been called the year of the woman – and not just for activism in politics. Hollywood is taking a stand too with the #MeToo movement and more actors advocating for inclusion riders to ensure gender equality in cast and crew. So it’s fitting that this month’s Chicago crime drama, Widows, co-stars three women – Viola Davis, Cynthia Erivo, and Michelle Rodriguez (also some great males actors – including Liam Neeson and Colin Farrell). Last month Davis spoke in a Chicago Sun Times panel about the film. She said: “What resonated to me about the character was that she was a woman … I was struck by the fact she had a husband that she loved, the fact she was motivated by love and grief. I have to say that I simply don’t get those roles, even after the Oscar. Still 99.9% of the roles I get offered are moms.”
Better Call Saul – Season 4 Finale – Another season of Better Call Saul has come and gone and my Monday nights are about to be a lot less interesting. I’ve written about Better Call Saul in the past – the fact that I’ve been frustrated with how many seasons it has taken to build up the plot and characters. But this season Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould took another giant step closer to the award-winning tension they created in Breaking Bad. As a Breaking Bad fan, it was satisfying to see the detailed back story behind the construction of Gus Fring’s underground meth lab and the building blocks of trust between Gus and Mike Ehrmantraut. I’m also really enjoying the complexity of Kim Wexler’s character and the way she is attracted to, but also alarmed by, Jimmy’s conman tendencies. The look she gives Jimmy in the last scene of the season finale is gut wrenching. She is in complete shock and horror, as if in that moment she is confronting the idea that Jimmy is just as sleazy as his brother always claimed him to be.
The Kindergarten Teacher – A Netflix original movie, The Kindergarten Teacher stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a kindergarten teacher who becomes obsessed with a student she believes is a genius poet. Gyllenhaal’s character is incredibly creepy, but I’m glad there is no serious depiction of abuse. The film is more of a study in the pseudo-intellectual (a character I know well, having been an English major in college). Gyllenhaal’s character wants so badly to be a talented writer and poet that she plagiarizes a five-year-old’s work. She has very little grounding in reality (she even neglects her husband and children in the pursuit of “art”) and for that reason I find it hard to empathize with her character. As a new mom it’s also alarming to think about how many of my child’s future teachers have this pseudo-intellectual mindset.
A Simple Favor – I would like to officially thank producer and director Paul Feig for bringing together two of my favorite actors – Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively – in A Simple Favor. I remember leaving the theater and hearing some people complain that the trailer misrepresented A Simple Favor to be the new Gone Girl. It’s a lot funnier than Gone Girl and takes itself a lot less seriously, and you have to know that going in. Kendrick and Lively are such unlikely friends that it’s great fun to see them interact on screen. I would have liked to see more of their banter. The story itself is ridiculous, but it doesn’t have to be believable to be a nice theatrical escape.