“please baby please”
Directly aimed at fans of John Waters and Pedro Almodóvar, the artistic oddity “Please Baby Please” is the kind of cinematic fetish that should tempt anyone who shares director Amanda Kramer’s particular fascinations. Set in a 1950s New York, where even hipsters disagree with sex and gender, the film is in some ways an over-the-top spoof of mid-20th-century pop culture – and, more profoundly, an explanation of how sweeter fashion, jazz clubs, beatnik poetry and intricate hairstyles once gave downtrodden Americans an outlet for their unspoken desires.
The film has very little scenery and almost no plot. Kramer and her co-writer Noel David Taylor focus on recreating the overall atmosphere of ’50s movies, album covers and pulp novels, with the help of some offhand slang dialogue and fiercely committed performances on -under the cast. It centers on Andrea Riseborough and Harry Melling, who play Suzie and Arthur, a boho married couple who witness a brutal attack by a street gang in the first scene and are so moved that they begin to rethink what they’ve always understood about violence and masculinity.
“Please Baby Please” mainly consists of Suzie or Arthur interacting with other Hep people, testing out their new thoughts on sexuality and machismo either through charged conversations or physical encounters. (Demi Moore gives a memorable performance as the glamorous neighbor who doesn’t want to be a “wife.”) At times the film feels like a series of art installations or even avant-garde dance routines, stripping away and shaping human passion until it become like something out of “West Side Story”. The image is particularly suited to the versatile Riseborough, who contorts her face and voice into something cartoonishly broad and thrillingly fluid, as if to demonstrate by her physical presence alone how gender can be a construct.
“Please baby please.” It has not been rated. 1 hour, 35 minutes. Available on Mubi
“Spoonful of Sugar”
The psychodrama “Spoonful of Sugar” is a semi-psychedelic spin on classic children’s stories. It’s about a nanny whose magical touch is reminiscent of Mary Poppins, even though she’s dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and gets through the day with the help of mind-altering drugs (like Alice in Wonderland). Directed by Mercedes Bryce Morgan from a script by Leah Saint Marie, the film dives deep into shock for shock’s sake in its final half hour. but for a good stretch it’s a wild and unpredictable ride.
Morgan Saylor plays Millicent, an orphan who tries to compensate for a terrible childhood by giving love to a child in need: Johnny (Danilo Crovetti), the sickly and emotionally distant son of successful writer Rebecca (Kat Foster) and the hunter her husband, Jacob (Myko Olivier); Rebecca and Jacob have their own problems—they seem to be using a lot of the free time Millicent provides them to have kinky sex—but their problems don’t match those of their nanny, who is microdosing LSD and hallucinating all kinds of crazy stuff.
There isn’t enough plot in “Spoonful of Sugar” to fill its running time, although the performances are so lively and director Morgan’s images so vivid that the picture is never dull. The film works best when it makes the least sense. The thriller elements — about who this Millicent really is and what she might be capable of — are the stuff of Lifetime movies. But the nightmares the filmmakers craft are remarkable, telling some uncomfortable truths about the balance of power between parents, their offspring, and the caregivers they leave behind in their homes.
“Spoonful of Sugar”. It has not been rated. 1 hour, 34 minutes. Available on Shudder
Timely in many ways, the sports drama “Free Skate” is written by Veera W. Vilo as an Olympic-level figure skater who escapes the abusive rigors of a Russian program to start over in her mother’s native Finland . While living with her grandmother (Leena Uotila), the skater – who is never given a name in the film – tries to restart her career, working with coaches who respect her input, give her more breaks and encourage her to skate with joy, not fear. But she can’t fully embrace her newfound freedom until she faces what happened to her in Russia.
Vilo based “Free Skate” in part on her own experiences as a champion gymnast — both what she saw firsthand and what she heard from others — and she and director Roope Olenius definitely lean toward the gritty and shocking. when it comes to international women’s sports. They cover physical shaming and mental cruelty, as well as sexual exploitation. The drama overheats at times – especially in the third act – and the filmmakers clearly didn’t have the money or the cast to make the skating sequences look like part of an actual world-class competition. Still, the film is visually sharp and quietly absorbing, and Olenius and Vilo sensitively capture the isolation and self-doubt that can make an athlete’s life so lonely.
“Free skate.” In Finnish, Russian and English with subtitles. It has not been rated. 1 hour, 59 minutes. Available on VOD
Australian crime drama “Transfusion” is 25 percent slam-bang movie and 75 percent dark character sketch — a balance that leans heavily toward the latter. Sam Worthington gives a strong performance as Ryan Logan, a special forces agent who returns home after being injured, just before his wife, Justine (Phoebe Tonkin), dies in a car accident. Ryan’s story continues years later, as his anger and post-traumatic stress disorder make it difficult for him to hold down a job, and as his teenage son, Billy (Edward Findy Carmody), gets into more and more trouble. Ryan tries to make some much-needed money by working for a crooked old partner (played by Matt Nable, who also wrote and directed), but his troubles go from bad to worse. This plot is simple enough, but Nable overcomplicates it with a narrative structure that jumps around in time to no particular effect. The few action scenes in the film are good, but they are very sparsely developed and are swamped by many slow-paced scenes of characters wallowing in self-pity.
‘Transfusion.’ R, for violence, language throughout, teenage drinking and drug use. 1 hour, 46 minutes. Available on VOD. also playing plays, Laemmle Glendale
“Garden of Wolves”
Writer-director Wayne David is aiming for a different kind of werewolf movie with his debut, “Wolf Garden,” but while the attempt is admirable — and some of the atmospheric effects are good — the picture as a whole is over-thought. David plays William, a restless man holed up in a remote cottage where he often stops to reflect on a happier time with his girlfriend, Sandel (Sian Altman). Meanwhile, taking time each day to feed a snarling beast in a nearby shed, William philosophizes about his cursed life with a mysterious visitor (Grant Masters) and receives anxious phone calls from friends and family warning him. that his problems have made national news. The film waits too long to explain what’s going on with William – long after most audience members will have figured it out. Despite the nice mood setting, much of “Wolf Garden” is spent talking around the story rather than just telling it.
“Garden of Wolves”. It has not been rated. 1 hour, 29 minutes. Available on VOD
Writer-director Jamie Hooper’s feature debut, “The Creeping,” is hampered a bit by following the modern supernatural thriller trend of tying every jump scare and creep to some deep personal trauma. Still, the film works well enough, thanks to Hooper’s mastery of the retro horror style. Riann Steele plays Anna, who returns to her family’s haunted house to help care for her elderly grandmother Lucy (Jane Lowe) and try to get some answers about strange experiences she had there as a child. When a ghost begins to torment her, Anna realizes she’ll need to dig up some old family secrets to gain some peace. It’s not hard to stay one step ahead of Anna’s investigations, but that’s okay, because this movie isn’t really defined by its twists and turns. It’s more about the trappings, which Hooper and his crew deliver with passion: the dark shadows, rich colors and beams of light that bring an eerie glow to the misty air.
“Creeping it.” It has not been rated. 1 hour, 34 minutes. Available on VOD
“Split at the Root” scrutinizes the family separation policy of the Trump-era US immigration system, telling the story of how a Guatemalan mother’s plight inspired a network of angry mothers to take action — not just for this woman, but for those they could reach. Director Linda Goldstein Knowlton balances the hopeful example of these activists with the grim reality faced by the families they helped, who remained at risk of arrest and deportation. Available on Netflix
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is one of the scariest and most influential horror films of the 1970s, bringing subtle artistry to the crazy story of shaggy hippies who cross paths with a family of cannibals. The new 4K UHD edition includes four commentary tracks and hours of behind-the-scenes footage, covering the origins of this project and explaining why, even now, this splatter film with a shocking title is so beloved. Dark sky