TOP PICK OF THE WEEK:
First Avenue: Closer to the Stars
*** With any luck, public rituals like concertgoing will resume sometime in 2020, but for now, we involuntary couch potatoes can sweat or sway vicariously through PBS's new documentary about First Avenue. This 55-minute love note to the iconic Minneapolis music venue, made famous by Purple Rain, was produced first for a Twin Cities audience. That means it includes some very insular information (like who had what liquor license when), but also no breathless oversells on who this Prince character was. Narrated by Doomtree's P.O.S, the standard rock doc's best quality is in showing how First Avenue shape-shifted through the eras of Woodstock rock, disco, punk, Prince (his own era), hip-hop and indie rock. Every town in America was home to some bygone club its music community wishes had First Avenue's survival skills, but here we learn how the 50-year-old Minneapolis institution was never financially safe, was never all-the-way cool and never operated according to one coherent mission statement. Ironically, it took incredible inconsistency to create consistency: DJs who knew they needed to spin ABBA but still snuck in Brian Eno, a business benefactor who was terrible with money and, eventually, a grateful city that couldn't live without the legacy. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. PBS.
Blow the Man Down
*** While trapped at home under quarantine, it's only natural to look for ways to escape. Right now, it seems one of our only options is using streaming services as virtual trips to new places. Amazon Prime's new release Blow the Man Down takes audiences to Maine, where the atmosphere washes over you with its chilly blues and frosty whites. In a gritty fishing village called Easter Cove, director of photography Todd Banhazl captures the hardscrabble lives of its residents by using a lot of natural lighting and digitally re-created Super 8 footage of the town. Things get darker once bodies start washing ashore. The police are Fargo-level dumb. And that's actually good for sisters Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor), who end up stabbing a rapist with a harpoon and stealing his bag of cash. "Someone's going to miss this," says Mary Beth. Duh. Don't go fishing for meaning why this neo-noir flips gender roles, with two girls pulling the strings, but it's a refreshing twist. Blow the Man Down may not be the idyllic vacation you're looking for, but it sure is fun. R. ASHER LUBERTO. Amazon Prime.
*** The Platform works on two levels: First and foremost, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's horror flick is a master class in building atmosphere, but it also functions as an allegory about the detrimental effects of trickle-down economics. Inside a prison with 250 floors, you can practically feel the cold cement enveloping the inmates. When a platter of food descends from one level to the next, with a minute for cellmates to scarf down what's left, it's clear that the lower classes are merely feeding on the upper echelon's scraps. While there is nothing subtle about the message, there is a mysterious tone to the story. Since it moves at a snail's pace (in a good way), we spend much of the run time trying to figure out what is going on, just like the protagonist, Goreng (Iván Massagué). His goal is to restore order to this rotten world, but that's no easy task when other inmates are considering cannibalism to stay alive. A dash of Camus, a sprinkle of Kafka and helpings of Lovecraft, The Platform will leave you both sick and satisfied. R. ASHER LUBERTO. Netflix.