The Last Hot Lick
**** In the mid-2010s, the Pacific Northwest became a playground for director Mahalia Cohen and musicians Jaime Leopold and Jennifer Smieja, who traveled everywhere from Portland to the Painted Hills to make this exquisite emotional odyssey. Leopold—a veteran of the jazz and rock band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks—plays Jack Willits, a guitarist whose crumbling career reignites when he teams with Bobby (Smieja), a woman whose passion for singing is matched only by her hunger for heroin. As they traverse the region, Cohen tells a tale of rising and falling artistic fortunes without indulging in the melodramatic tropes of musical biopics. There's no room for actorly vanity in The Last Hot Lick. Each moment—from Jack combing his thin hair to Bobby apathetically pleading for forgiveness after she skips a gig—feels captured, not created. It's a poignant film, and it became even more meaningful after Leopold's death in 2018. To see him sing "Daddy Cut Wood Up on the Mountain," a song he wrote about his childhood, is to see the line between performer and character vanish. The Last Hot Lick may have been the first and last film that Leopold acted in, but it's a swan song with the weight and beauty of an entire career and is finally available to stream. NR. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Amazon Prime.
** The latest Gerard Butler vehicle doesn't add much to the global disaster genre. Hell, it doesn't add much to this year. In fact, you might see Greenland's exploding comets turning the sky orange and think, "I saw that color of sky this fall; do we really need to pretend this shit anymore?" Granted, the Gerry Butler industrial complex (with its unpretentious geostorms and dens of thieves) can be charming as he holds up the fading action mantle of gruff transplants like Liam Neeson and Mel Gibson. As John Garrity, Butler plays a slightly sensitive oak of a family man, fleeing Atlanta for non-exploding pastures. This whole comet apocalypse might actually help him patch things up with the estranged missus (Morena Baccarin), assuming their diabetic son doesn't need insulin at the worst possible time. While director Ric Roman Waugh deserves credit for illustrating just how achingly unfair any disaster scenario would be (or is) to the populace, those details don't render Greenland particularly fun, or gripping either. In fact, it wedges the movie in a no man's land—a Greenland if you will—between, say, The Road and Armageddon. Its best wrinkles are oddly authentic, even anti-escapist, but who comes to a Gerard Butler planetary extinction movie for the reality check? PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Amazon Prime, Google Play.