I don’t know if there’s a word for that feeling of paralysis when you’re sitting in bed, scrolling through tens of thousands of hours of offerings on over two dozen streaming services. If not, there needs to be. I have some suggestions. My first thought: “Netflix Numbness”; however, that fails to cover all the other streaming services out there. Then I considered some more generic phrases like “Streamer Chagrin,” “Video Vexation” and “Binge Bummer.” Finally, I settled on “Digital Discontent.” Feel free to hashtag this expression when posting online, so we can help this phrase enter the cultural lexicon.
After working at home for six weeks, I found myself drawn to this little workplace drama from writer/director Kitty Green. Jane (Julia Garner) is a fresh-faced junior assistant to a big-time movie producer. Her job is a gauntlet of menial tasks, as she soaks up a ridiculous amount of passive abuse from her boss, coworkers and ancillary figures who wander in an out of the office she spends every waking hour occupying. There is a crazy amount of time spent detailing the mediocrity of her routine and the drudgery of her role. I could almost feel Jane’s soul being crushed into pulp as she endures one iniquity after another.
After being tasked with escorting a new “assistant” to a hotel, she begins to struggle with the questionable behavior of a horrible Harvey Weinstein-inspired boss—someone who is verbally abusive to her and uses his position to seduce women, with inappropriate liaisons happening frequently in his office. When Jane approaches HR about his behavior, she is shut down and told she’s lucky to have her position. Her aspirations to one day be a producer are used against her. In order to succeed in show business, she has to learn how to keep her head down and toe the line.
“The Assistant” is an interesting cinematic experience. There is a strong effort made to put viewers in Jane’s shoes—to show her perspective of abuse and secondhand observation of shady behavior. Green’s strong, stoic direction doesn’t allow for melodrama, and, yet, it’s easy to feel the peril of her precarious situation. She is painfully aware there is something wrong happening with her boss, and speaking up could be career suicide.
Garner (“Ozark”) gives a pitch-perfect performance and succeeds in making viewers feel Jane’s frustration with a broken system that penalizes honesty.
I still love a good, old-fashioned, gritty action movie. The genre has really taken a beating in the 21st century, as gun-toting heroes brutally murdering villains have taken a back seat to superheroes and bloodless action scenes. Thankfully, the John Wick films have kickstarted the genre and made it interesting again.
“Extraction” is a movie heavily influenced by directors like Tony Scott (“Man on Fire”) and John Woo (“The Killers”). It’s a very simple, very well shot action movie that isn’t afraid to dive into the deep, dark end of the pool.
Chris Hemsworth plays Tyler Rake (a name that can only belong to an awesome action star and mercenary). He’s an extraction specialist hired to retrieve the son of an incarcerated crime lord. Rake and his team have to work their way through the grungy, mean streets of Jakarta, and deal with a number of critical obstacles to try and save an innocent young man from being murdered.
While the plot isn’t exactly crescent fresh, director Sam Hargrave kicks the volume up to 11 with some mind-blowing set pieces and action sequences that make “Extraction” a nail-biting thrill ride from start to finish. This movie delivers old-school action like a testosterone-fueled Bugatti making its way down the Awesome Explosion Freeway. Hemsworth (“Thor”) is perfectly suited to don the action hero bandoleer; he feels very much cut from the same strap of leather as Sly Stallone or Bruce Willis.
“Extraction” is well worth a watch for action fans looking for a quick fix.
Rated R, 1 hr 27 mins
Directed by Kitty Green
Starring Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh
Now streaming on Netflix
Rated R, 1 hr 56 mins
Directed by Sam Hargrave
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Bryon Lerum, Ryder Lerum