By Anne Brodie
Dave Franco does himself proud with The Rental, a horror film he wrote and directs starring Alison Brie, Dan Stevens, Sheila Vand and Jeremy Allen White. Franco’s original take on the old couples-trapped-in-a remote-house trope is startling, authentic and psychologically complex; imagine that after all retreads we’ve seen. Two couples and a dog head arrive at a vacation home on a lek to celebrate a business success. The cosy glass cottage seems perfect, but a brusque property manager makes vaguely racist remarks and lives too close for comfort. The vibe is intense as everyone settles in but drugs, too much booze and a lack of caution including sexual cheating spell disaster. Long woodsy walk-and-talks feel sinister; are they being watched? Brie’s commonsense character is down after too many drugs and without her, all hell breaks loose. Things unfold in a lifelike fashion, no tricks, just stuff that could happen to you! And what ho, is this a dead body? Bahahaha! The film is beautiful, revelling in the gorgeous natural land and waterscape, there’s a Big Bad Finish that could happen to anyone who isn’t paying attention and note: you may never rent again. Absolutely essential summer viewing, cottage optional. On VOD.
If you are old enough to remember the Charles Manson murders and the shock waves that terrorized LA following, in 1969, you’ve probably heard and seen all there is to know about the case. It still lives in infamous memory, the story of the charismatic controlling desert “messiah” who urged his followers- many underaged runaways – to commit murders at his behest. Manson issues death sentences for people who’d wronged him in the music industry and his favourites carried them out, the Tate-LaBianco murders of seven people. It was part of Helter Skelter, Manson’s Race War, fearful that he and whites would be enslaved by Blacks, inspired by the Beatles’ White Album. The ensuing trial/media circus/stage for Manson and his followers was extraordinary.
Charlie continued to control the killers in prison – where incidentally most of them remain today, fifty years later. Manson died in prison of a heart attack in 2017. Turns out, most of this established narrative is wrong. Humanitas prize-winning documentarian Lesley Chilcott, known for the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth gets to the truth about Charlie in the six-part Epix docuseries Helter Skelter: An American Myth. Chilcott’s exhaustive investigation which includes lengthy interviews with Manson family survivors, victims’ families, journalists, people who knew him growing up in Appalachia, and an astounding cache of never-before-seen archival footage tell a different story. Manson was not a leader; his character was damaged and he wasn’t that powerful and clutched Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People at all times. Watch the series for an entirely new view of this person who changed how we felt about peace, order and security for all time. Staggering information, stunning new series.
Marjane Satrapi brings Lauren Redniss’ story of Marie Curie to life with Rosamund Pike in the role of the tough-minded, intellectual who changed the course of human history, by discovering radiation. The late 1800’s and early 1900s was a time when women were not welcome in professions, but she managed to establish herself as a leading scientist, Curie established herself as a leading mind and scientist even if she couldn’t get a job due to her sex. She and husband Pierre (Sam Riley) become rock stars in academic world and set up their own lab, breaking down the magnetic properties of steel and exploring why ore and iron are different. Had they discovered a new element? Radioactive follows their years long, backbreaking work which necessitated breaking up four tonnes of pitch-black by hand and treating it to yield a single “pinprick” of glowing corrosive radium and polonium. It helped shrink tumors, and was used in chocolate, cigarettes, matches, and a Broadway musical called Radium was a hit! However, reality steps in with future archival footage of Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Nevada to remind us of radium’s true nature. Curie won two Nobel Physics Prizes but discouraged her daughter from working in the dangerous field that never brought her happiness, but Irène carried on and also won the Nobel Prize. Extremely interesting subject matter of early feminism, an alpha female and the science of radioactivity. On Amazon Prime Video.
Bob Woodruff the fearless, globetrotting ABC news correspondent anchor ad contributor covered umpteen wars until a roadside bomb in Iraq sidelines him with severe brain injuries He survived and gradually recovered and determined to teach his children not be frightened of the world outside. To that end was born a collaboration between Woodruff, his 28-year-old son Mack and Disney+. They travelled the world together, visited war and cultural hotspots for a fascinating new docuseries Rogue Trip. Six episodes find them in Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ukraine, where cannibals, crocodiles, drug cartels, nuclear fallout and unthinkable histories occurred. It’s a thrilling testament to bravery and curiosity and a celebration of the father and son bond as well as a look at places we are unlikely to see in person. The good news is many of these hotspots have turned around with the promise of tourism. Former rebel armies are now leading trail hikes through the Colombian Amazon. Utterly fascinating. Watch my interview with father and son here.
When the Dust Settles, a ten-part Danish thriller set before during and after a bloody terrorist attack on Copenhagen makes its North American premiere on Topic. Eight people with minimal random connections live their lives, each with sacrifices, dreams, problems and joys. A girl looking forward to her eighth birthday finds a cache of arms in the woods. An older female government official unwilling to leave the stage upsets plans of others seeking to replace her, a chef pulls off a coup in taking control of a restaurant, then cans his devoted staff, an Arabic young man’s bullied by his gangster elder brother; he doesn’t want that life. A family deals with a drug-addicted teenaged son, a homeless woman roams the streets looking for a place to sleep and an old man in a care home is suicidal. One night, a bank hostage-taking robbery shakes up the quiet city, followed by a machine-gun attack on the chef’s restaurant. Fifteen dead, more severely injured; the city is unable to cope with the scale of it. The tragic story begins as a soap opera but morphs into a survival thriller as everyday characters deal with loss. It could be tighter, shorter and more to the point. With English subtitles, unlike this trailer.