Updated: Oct 23, 2020
The below are brief reviews of new and upcoming releases I feel are worthy of recommendation. While all have been released exclusively theatrically, these films were reviewed from digital screeners. Screen and Stage encourages its readers to follow safety precautions outlined by health authorities.
Shithouse (Dir. Cooper Raiff, 2020, on VOD now) - Winner of the 2020 SXSW Grand Jury Prize, writer/director/co-editor/co-producer/star Cooper Raiff's SHITHOUSE is about a lonely college freshman (Raiff) who falls for his R.A (Dylan Gelula). Painfully awkward and brutally honest in a very specific, lived-in way missing from most other films made about college, SHITHOUSE stands out due to how sweet and heartfelt it is. Raiff has created a film about a world he knows well and populated it with real people, not caricatures who speak like real college students. He leads the film humbly and with real emotion and is matched by Dylan Gelula. SHITHOUSE is a genuine surprise, and Cooper Raiff is a talent to watch.
Spontaneous (Dir. Brian Duffield, 2020, in select theaters and on VOD) - A film drunk on cinema and charismatically performed by its entire cast, Brian Duffield’s SPONTANEOUS, about two high schoolers (a perfectly-matched Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer) who fall in love as their fellow classmates begin to spontaneously combust, is a fast-paced and satisfying delight. Langford, who has made a name for herself in films and shows such as KNIVES OUT and 13 REASONS WHY, radiates charisma in the lead and powers through whatever shortcomings the film has.
Time (Dir. Garrett Bradley, 2020, in select theaters now and on Amazon Prime Video now) - Garrett Bradley's searing Sundance Prize-winner, TIME, about Fox Rich, a Black woman working to get her husband out of jail after he was sentenced to an excessive sentence of 60 years for armed robbery, is cathartic and infuriating in equal measure and powered by Rich's vibrant, powerful screen presence. A personal look at the prison-industrial complex that disproportionately affects Black men and women and filmed in luminous black-and-white, TIME stands as testament to the power of resilience. Totally Under Control (Dirs. Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger, 2020, available for rental and purchase, Hulu 10/20/20) - Everyone who doesn't dismiss anything critical of Donald Trump and his administration knows that the administration and its leader have bungled the United States' response to COVID-19. But, what becomes clear and is most surprising in TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL, a clear-eyed, well-researched, and horrifying dive into the mishandling of the pandemic that was filmed in secret, is just how many areas in which the government failed despite repeated, detailed warnings that the virus could cause incredible tragedy. Whatever your political leanings are, there's no rational denying of facts, and that's precisely what TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL presents, through the eyes of those actively involved, over the course of two compelling, unnerving hours. This should be required viewing for every American.