Apple TV+ is starting to pick up steam as a serious streamer with several fantastic shows. Black Bird, from award-winning novelist and screenwriter Dennis Lehane, is one of its latest solid series. Unfortunately, since Apple TV+ is yet to have a massive subscriber count, shows like it, For All Mankind, Severance, Shining Girls, and so on and so forth will probably struggle to find an enormous audience. Black Bird should be an easy sell for many people in this day and age where true crime adaptations are all the rage. The mini-series is based on James Keene and Hillel Levin’s autobiographical novel In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption.
Directed by Cooper Raiff — Screenplay by Cooper Raiff.
Life is complicated. You go to school, then perhaps you go to university, and then you graduate. Life is then supposed to truly begin, but you can easily find yourself in some sort of arrested development because things don’t happen overnight. You just want to get started, and the longer it takes for things to get started, the more people in your life move ahead of you in ‘the game of life’ and they start to create things without you. Fear of missing out on that early can lead to you craving stability, to desire a life that you aren’t anywhere close to having. Maybe you don’t have the right job, maybe you don’t have the right relationship, maybe the world just isn’t letting you get started. That desperation can make you envious, it can make you oblivious to your own self-worth and your own needs. Life and the people you meet along the way can also send you mixed signals. Growing up sometimes means having to navigate those without crashing on your way. Cooper Raiff’s Cha Cha Real Smooth is about many things including those complications when life just isn’t letting you get started for whatever reason.
Series Created by Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert, and Ben Nedivi — Available Now on Apple TV+.
In Additional Bite-Sized Reviews, Feb. ’21, Pt. II, I wrote about my experience of finally binge-watching the entire first season of Apple TV+’s For All Mankind, which was originally released back in 2019. The alternate-reality angle of the show was what had originally made me interested in the show, and, ultimately, the execution was what kept me hooked throughout the solid but somewhat bumpy first season. To reiterate, the show is, essentially, ‘what if the Soviet Union had reached the Moon first and, as a result, the United States continued and accelerated the space race.’
Directed by R. J. Cutler — Distributed by Neon / Apple TV+.
Veteran filmmaker and documentarian R. J. Cutler’s The World’s A Little Blurry is a fantastic year-in-the-life documentary about the rise to stardom for Billie Eilish, the immensely popular teenage singer-songwriter, who, in early 2019, had her debut studio album — When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — released to critical acclaim. Cutler’s film is — for the most part — a vérité documentary that allows you to experience several private moments, as well as critical moments in her — and her brother Finneas’ — creative process, as a fly-on-the-wall. It’s an eye-opening documentary epic (it even has an intermission) about the life of a somewhat anxious teenage superstar that cares deeply about her fans, precisely because she is still a fan at heart, and she knows what it’s like to need that kind of bond. Continue reading “REVIEW: Billie Eilish – The World’s A Little Blurry (2021 – Documentary)”→
Directed by Fisher Stevens — Screenplay by Cheryl Guerriero.
Fisher Stevens’ Palmer follows Eddie Palmer (the titular character played by Justin Timberlake), a former high school football star, who was just released from prison. Eddie goes to live with his grandmother, Vivian (played by June Squibb), and soon he seeks out a job as a janitor at a local school. Vivian tends to watch over their young neighbor, Sam (played by Ryder Allen). Sam, a flamboyant young boy who likes to play with dolls, is soon left with no guardian in sight when Vivian passes away and his mother, Shelly (played by Juno Temple), leaves town. Though he is initially reluctant, Eddie decides to do the right thing and become the temporary guardian for a young boy who keeps on challenging Palmer’s own prejudices. Continue reading “REVIEW: Palmer (2021)”→
Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation) — Available on Apple TV+.
As most people know, Sofia Coppola is Hollywood royalty. She made appearances in many of her father’s films, before a less-than-stellar supporting performance in The Godfather Part III led to scathing reviews and, not long thereafter, her acting career was over. But Sofia Coppola is not just Hollywood royalty, she is also a terrific filmmaker. Over the years, she has managed to reinvent herself as a great director and for her second film as a director, 2003’s Lost in Translation, Coppola was allegedly inspired by her own relationship with her ex-husband and filmmaker Spike Jonze (Her). Since Lost in Translation, which I think is a beautiful film (as well as her best), it has been difficult not to look at her films as being directly inspired by her own experiences. When I watched On the Rocks, which, like Lost In Translation, features Bill Murray, I started to think about her relationship with both her father and middle-age. Continue reading “REVIEW: On the Rocks (2020)”→
Odds are that you have probably, at some point in time, had to ask someone to tilt their telephone so that when they take a photo with their smartphone, then the picture will be nice and wide. For Damien Chazelle’s latest short film about a stunt double, the Oscar-winning director has opted against that piece of advice as he strives for Vertical Cinema. Steven Soderbergh, and other notable directors, have already toyed with shooting feature-length films with iPhones, but Chazelle’s film has been shot in portrait mode, thus producing vertical video, in an attempt to showcase the camera features on an iPhone 11 Pro. Continue reading “Vertical Cinema: Damien Chazelle and Apple Team Up for Short Film”→
The following is a review of Greyhound — Directed by Aaron Schneider.
Though not the first Apple TV+ film (it was preceded by two documentaries, Minhal Baig’s Hala, and George Nolfi’s The Banker), Aaron Schneider’s Greyhound is almost definitely the biggest, most expensive, and most widely seen Apple TV+ film released thus far. Originally scheduled to be released by Sony Pictures in theaters around the world, Greyhound was, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, delayed and later sold to Apple TV+ for a reported sum of $70 million. With the acquisition, Apple TV+ was granted not just a marketable war flick with a household name in the lead role, Apple also received a genuinely good and entertaining film. Continue reading “REVIEW: Greyhound (2020)”→
The following is a review of the Apple TV+ mini-series “Defending Jacob,” — Directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Mark Bomback.
Morten Tyldum and Mark Bomback’s Defending Jacob is a crime mini-series based on the William Landay novel of the same name. The series follows the Barber family — Andy (played by Chris Evans) and Laurie (played by Michelle Dockery) and their teenage son, Jacob (played by Jaeden Martell) — from Newton, Massachusetts. At the outset of the series, Andy Barber, the assistant district attorney, is assigned to prosecute the murder of Ben Rifkin, one of Jacob’s classmates, and he is quick to identify a prime suspect. However, soon Andy is forced to abandon the case when his son is charged with the murder of Ben Rifkin. The Barbers are naturally shocked, and, in the series, they must try to clear their son’s name, find the actual culprit, and endure the harsh spotlight that they, as a family, have suddenly been put under. Continue reading “REVIEW: Defending Jacob (2020)”→