John Lewis: Good Trouble
** Congressman John Lewis is an undeniably important civil rights leader: Over his 60-year career, he was arrested 45 times for protesting, and his steadfast activism paved the way for the end of segregation and the advancement of voting rights. His impassioned, tenacious approach to these issues also "highlighted the inactivity of the federal government," according to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is interviewed in the film along with a host of other well-known leaders, ranging from new-wave progressives like Rep. Ilhan Omar to outdated centrists like the Clintons and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It's difficult to make a documentary about a living person that doesn't feel self-serving, especially if the subject is a politician, of whom there are no perfect ones. At times, Good Trouble manages to avoid this trap by featuring archival footage of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, but its present-day content is cursory, verging on toothless cloying and pandering. Did we really need a segment dedicated to Lewis' fondness for dancing to Pharrell Williams' "Happy"? While Good Trouble may be emblematic of our flawed tendency to lionize public servants—though Lewis's impeccable voting record does demonstrate he practices what he preaches—it also serves as a welcome and timely reminder that causing a stir is exactly what creates societal and political change. PG. MIA VICINO. Amazon Prime, Google Play.
A carriage crashes and out climbs Carmilla, a mysterious young lady ready to spark the 19th century English gentry in their own version of The Witch meets Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Taken in by a local family to recover, Carmilla instantly earns the affection of their teenage daughter, Lara (Hannah Rae), and the distrust of Lara's stern governess (Jessica Raine) and the attending physician following the crash (Tobias Menzies). Based on one of the earliest known works of vampire fiction, dated 1871, Carmilla seeks to explore how oppressive social expectations of women catalyze a fairly innocent rebellion that can look devilish in the right (or wrong) light. But that kind of social commentary requires an insightful dramatic core, and Carmilla too often shoehorns in horror elements for convenience. Director Emily Harris' script constantly fills gaps where character detail should go with demonic illustrations, dream sequences and time-lapse footage of decaying wildlife. Even if it is pinned between the stately drama and the scrappy genre play, Carmilla arrives lovingly crafted and noticeably well lit, creating constricting circles of visibility around its characters with encroaching darkness. It just doesn't matter how well we can see them; we don't know them. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. filmmovement.com/carmilla.
The ocean has always beckoned Tom Hanks. From mermaid romances (Splash) to Gulf shore shrimping (Forrest Gump) to tragically losing Wilsooooon (Cast Away), Hollywood's favorite Everyman has often been put in his place by the briny abyss. In Greyhound, it's more like Hanks, who also wrote the screenplay, premeditated the humble place. Stoic and dutiful as the skipper of a U.S. destroyer shielding a convoy from Nazi U-boats, Hanks undercooks his own passion project in this ominous Apple TV+ war movie, which Sony sold off to streaming when the pandemic hit this spring. Largely free of backstory or B plots, Greyhound (or, Coordinates: The Movie, as it could've been called) steams forward as a historical military exercise. Hard right rudder now, to avoid yet another unidentifiable ripple in the black waves. On the one hand, there's value in fixating a war movie so fully on process that the glory is sapped out of violence. But Greyhound veers too sternly toward lifelessness. Of all the nautical Hanks movies to imitate, this one apes Captain Phillips, obsessed with the realism and alienating qualities of military might. It's too bad Hanks has narrowed the definition of Everyman to "glum avatar for bravery." PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Apple TV+.