Pick of the week: “Selma” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Instead of a tidy history-class lesson on the civil rights movement, Ava Duvernay presents the messiness of history in all its forms, focusing in on the three-month period where Martin Luther King, Jr. (a masterful David Oyelowo) leads a savvy protest movement to sway public opinion behind his cause. The images of violence against the protesters are immediate and horrible, and one comes away with a profound sense that history does not just have to happen, but has to be worked for, step by step.
“The Mend” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Aside from being a Home Depot spokesman, Josh Lucas hasn’t done much lately. But he roars back to relevance with a terrific performance in John Magary’s elliptical and scabrously funny family drama, playing a ne’er-do-well New Yorker who lures his more strait-laced brother (Stephen Plunkett) into a dark night of the soul. All cliches about sibling bonding are dodged, and the film makes us wonder if these two damaged souls bonding is really a good thing for either of them.
“Queen of Earth” (Netflix) — My full review is here, and an interview with Alex Ross Perry is here. Elisabeth Moss gives a raw and unsparing performance as a woman, unhinged by tragedy, who begins a descent into paranoia while staying at the vacation home of her best friend (Kathleen Waterston). Writer-director Alex Ross Perry, so verbal with “Listen Up Philip,” revels in the uneasy silences and claustrophobic atmosphere of the remote setting, making a film that’s part Bergman family drama and Polanski horror movie.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” (Netflix) — Many sequels later, it’s hard to remember that the original “Pirates” was a lot of fun, with imaginatively staged action by director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s swaggering and staggering Captain Jack Sparrow a fresh comic hero. Maybe a rewatch can recapture the magic.
“How to Survive a Plague” (Netflix) — My full review is here. This searing documentary uses plenty of archival footage to look at the 1980s crusade of the ACT UP group to draw awareness and funding to the AIDS crisis when so many ignored it.