The age of forced TV and movie binging continues this week starting with Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. In nineteenth century Massachusetts, the women of the March family are dealing with everyday life while their father (Bob Odenkirk) is away serving in the Civil War. Their mother Marmee (Laura Dern), and her four daughters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) struggle as Jo tries to make a name for herself in the male dominated world of publishing in New York City, Meg is married and trying to make a mark in the art world, and Amy is learning about the world from their affluent Aunt March (Meryl Streep). But when Beth contracts Scarlet Fever, the family is reunited under one roof to make sure their family stays strong in the face of all their struggles.
Many times with period films, especially stories that have been done many times before, it is hard to keep things interesting and do something different than previous incarnations. Enter writer/director Greta Gerwig, who manages to take Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel and breathe new, fresh life into it. Thanks also must go to the astounding cast of brilliant young actors and a few veteran actors who know how to let the younger ones shine. The real standouts for me are the always incredible Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, who seems to be picking the perfect roles in the past couple of years to skyrocket her to the top of the young actors list with great performances in films like Fighting with my Family and Midsommar. Little Women feels contemporary yet classic, fresh yet familiar, and all around fantastic.
Next up this week is the true life story Escape from Pretoria. Daniel Radcliffe plays Tim Jenkin, a South African anti-apartheid activist who is arrested and imprisoned along with friend Stephen Lee (Daniel Webber) in 1979. Along with a few other prisoners, they plan an elaborate escape from the Pretoria Central Prison to regain their freedom and rejoin the fight.
Escape from Pretoria is a fascination prison break story made even more incredible by the fact that it actually happened. Radcliffe continues his streak of taking on challenging and different roles post-Harry Potter with his portrayal of Jenkin, and while his accent can be a little distracting, his performance, as always, is excellent. Escape from Pretoria definitely carries the torch from other great escape films like The Great Escape, The Shawshank Redemption and Escape from Alcatraz and carries it well. For some extra escapism during his time when we can’t escape our own homes, Escape from Pretoria works.
Lastly this week is a new thriller called The Night Clerk. Tye Sheridan plays Bart Bromley, a highly intelligent hotel night clerk on the autism spectrum. Bart records guests in their rooms to study them and learn how to interact with other people, something he has difficulty understanding. But when he witnesses a murder in one of the rooms, Detective Espada (John Leguizamo) considers him the prime suspect. Relocated to a different hotel location, he encounters a guest, Andrea (Ana de Armas) who he gets along with and who seems to get him. But when he discovers Andrea may be in danger as well, Bart must stop the real killer before it is too late.
Tye Sheridan is one of the most underrated young actors out there today and in The Night Clerk he delivers another great performance. His Bart is a complex character who is likable but questionable in his actions. Writer/director Michael Cristofer (who hasn’t directed a movie since 2001’s Original Sin) crafts an old fashioned voyeur whodunnit anchored by solid performances by Sheridan and de Armas. The Night Clerk may not be a classic for the ages, but it is a solid and capable thriller that will not disappoint.
Also of note this week is the box office misfire Cats starring James Corden, Idris Elba and Judi Dench, Dolittle starring Robert Downey Jr. and the new family animated film Swift.
Until next week movie lovers, stay safe!
DVD and Blu-ray Releases for Tuesday April 7, 2020
All the Pretty Horses (2000)*
American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile (2006)*
Army of Shadows (1969)* - Criterion Collection
Beau Geste (1939)*
Camp Cold Brook
Cheers: The Complete Series
Dexter: The Complete Series
Eddie Macon's Run (1983)*
Escape from Pretoria
Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Third Season
Knives and Skin
Madam Secretary: The Complete Series
Madam Secretary: The Final Season
Murder, He Says (1945)*
Terror Train (1980)
The Cold Blue (2018)*
The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)*
The Night Clerk
*Catalog Blu-ray debut