Many of us currently find ourselves in our homes most of the day, if not all of it, working and attending class from home in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. It can be difficult to find things to do for entertainment without spending money on rental or subscription fees. However, if you are currently a student, staff, or faculty member at the University of Memphis, the streaming service Kanopy is offered without charge through our library’s databases. And it has some truly excellent choices on tap. So, if you are in need of a movie night, I aim to post several movie recommendations in the coming days that I hope you enjoy. (Also, if you are new to the blog, scroll back through some of my earlier Kanopy suggestions; I particularly enjoyed writing the Halloween Spooky Scary post!)
First up in this series is a Robert Pattinson double feature. Yes, the same Robert Pattinson that became famous because of that one Harry Potter movie and, more notably, the Twilight saga. If you haven’t watched a film starring him in a while, you are likely in for a surprise. He has developed from a teenage heart throb into one of the most interesting young actors working today. Pattinson has specialized in making under the radar independent films in recent years. Both of these features are on offer from the outstanding A24 movie studio, which specializes in making daring films outside of your typical blockbuster fare.
What could possibly go wrong with launching a group of death row inmates into deep space on a mysterious mission to find alternative energy sources by exploring a distant black hole? Answer: Everything. The film starts with Pattinson’s character taking care of a toddler on his own while struggling to keep a destitute spacecraft from falling apart. Things only get more bizarre from here, as the plot jumps around in time, a theme of the movie. One of the ‘crew’ holds strange fertility experiments with both the male and female prisoners on board. As the group hurtles further and further from Earth, it becomes an impossible struggle to maintain purpose and sanity. This film tackles a lot of deep philosophical issues, such as the value of life, what it means to be human in the worst of circumstances, and the morality of doing questionable things to further advance society. Not everything works here: some of my favorite scenes involve a central garden in the spacecraft that the crew tends to, but it is unclear if there is an environmental message that perhaps fell by the wayside. Either way, there are some beautiful visuals in this film, and the performances from Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and Andre Benjamin (notable for being half of the music group Outkast) make this a thought-provoking watch.
Who will like this one: Fans of weird sci-fi in the vein of Annihilation that feature slow burn character studies and nonlinear timelines.
Second up in the Robert Pattinson double feature is this high-octane New York City crime thriller, a film that is essentially nonstop chaos. Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a narcissistic petty criminal that convinces his brother Nick, who is developmentally disabled, to help him rob a bank. The caper, predictably, goes horribly wrong, with Nick being arrested, badly beaten in jail, and sent to a hospital under police guard. Connie spends the night that most of the plot covers desperately trying to scrounge up enough money to bail his brother out of jail, an attempt which morphs into trying fruitlessly to break him out of custody. It is easy to guess from the synopsis that this is a wild ride from start to finish. It seems intentionally left unclear what Connie’s motivations are throughout besides vague mentions of family strife involving the two brothers’ grandmother. However, the movie felt extremely real, with a constantly building tension as one thing after another descends into pandemonium. Late in the movie, Connie describes another character as being a drain on society, a burden to others; however, it is either the least or most self-aware moment his character displays, as he was essentially describing himself perfectly. His list of dirty deeds in the movie include: trying to manipulate his girlfriend into paying his brother’s bail; getting a teenager arrested who he had earlier tried to seduce; and sending a security guard at an amusement park to the hospital while trying to find a hidden stash of drug money. At one point, I thought, ‘At least he hasn’t gotten anyone killed yet.’ But, there was twenty minutes left in the movie, and I will just leave it at that.
Who will like this one: Fans of nonstop action and of gritty films that focus on realistic characters instead of caricatures of the classic movie criminal.
Viewer warning: Both of these movies are rated ‘R’ and contain adult themes that may be offensive to some, including violence and sexual content.