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A 90’s gangster movie done right & Umbrella Academy returns: This week’s best and biggest on Netflix

Check out Jordan Parker's 'The week's best and biggest on Netflix' every Friday on HalifaxToday.ca
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Check out Jordan Parker's 'The week's best and biggest on Netflix' every Friday on HalifaxToday.ca.

Little Odessa

If you read this column with even a curious familiarity, you’d know I hold director James Gray in high esteem.

Movies like The Yards, Two Lovers, and the recent sci-fi tilt Ad Astra have all been incredible. But his debut, Little Odessa, is something truly remarkable.

It has the lowest budget of any movie he’s done, and a bigger, beating heart than all of them put together.

This drama is about a Russian-Jewish family in Brooklyn who are torn apart when the eldest son comes home. Tim Roth is captivating as Joshua Shapira, a career contract killer whose chosen profession has drawn the ire of his gruff father.

He comes home to do a high-paying job, only to find out his mother is sick, and will soon die from a brain tumour. He reconnects with younger brother Reuben, and butts heads with his father as he tries to make some amends before the matriarch’s passing.

The whole cast is incredible, from Roth to young Edward Furlong and Vanessa Redgrave as the ailing mother.

It’s a movie that was so good – despite the obviously low budget – that it caught me off guard. If you like a little family tension with your gangster flicks, try this out.

4/5 Stars

Circus Of Books

Let me first say that this documentary won’t be for everyone. But for those who aren’t opposed to a slight bit of graphic content, this is truly one of the best 2020 films.

A recent Emmy nominee for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program, the filmmaker chronicles how her conservative parents became the owners of a hardcore gay book and film store in L.A.

Rachel Mason takes a deep look into Karen and Barry Mason, who took over Circus Of Books in 1976, turning it into a gay destination and safe haven in times of unrest.

From their relationship to Larry Flynt and his burgeoning Hustler magazine to pushing back against President Reagan’s obscenity bills and helping employees through the AIDS crisis, their store has been standing through it all.

Unlikely gay rights activists, the two have become iconic and beloved in LGBTQ2S+ culture, and this film is a fantastic portrayal of how they raised three children and ran the store.

It’s a whacky, though difficult, venture, and a truly remarkable film.

4.5/5 Stars

Gone Baby Gone

Revered and adored, Gone Baby Gone was the film that returned Ben Affleck to the mainstream, and got his younger brother Casey noticed.

The mystery crime film sees the elder Affleck make his directorial debut and adapt a screenplay from a Dennis Lehane book.

The story of two Boston detectives trying to solve the kidnapping of a young girl is a stirring, emotional outing.

Casey Affleck – now an Oscar winner – stuns in his first major film role, while Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris all add some major heft.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t say Amy Ryan – the sole person nominated for an Oscar for the film – doesn’t give the performance of a lifetime as ailing mother Helene McCready.

This is quite simply a stunning film, and one you absolutely need to see.

5/5 Stars

Lawless

This Depression-era, moody film about prohibition and bootlegging may just have been one of the biggest surprises of 2012 when it debuted.

There’s no doubting John Hillcoat – director of The Proposition and The Road – is a talented filmmaker, but Lawless quite frankly knocked me out of my seat.

It depicts three brothers who fight back against a new police deputy who is trying to eliminate them.

Skillfully acted, it’s headlined by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Guy Pearce. They’re all fantastic, but Jessica Chastain is the real draw here.

Along with Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan and the incomparable Gary Oldman, this makes for one heck of an ensemble.

Lawless is the type of movie you see and never forget. So if unforgettable is what you’re after, this crime period piece might be up your alley.

4/5 Stars

Umbrella Academy

In the midst of the peak of superhero media, The Umbrella Academy represents a quirky, endlessly interesting entry into a bloated genre.

When the first season premiered, people flocked and turned it into a huge hit. It returns with its second season this weekend, and I fully expect people to jump right back into the trials and tribulations of the Hargreeves family.

The show is about a group of special children who were adopted by a strange billionaire, who hoped to harness the superpowers the kids possessed. When he dies, the estranged kids all return to their old home – and their old conflicts.

With standout performances from Nova Scotian Ellen Page as well as a hilarious turn from Robert Sheehan as black sheep Klaus, the entire ensemble makes this a worthwhile show.

If you missed the first season upon release, this is a great time to start. If you’ve been anxiously awaiting season two, it’s finally here.

4/5 Stars

Jordan Parker's weekly film reviews can be found on his blog, Parker & The Picture Shows.


About the Author: Jordan Parker

Jordan Parker is a freelance journalist and runs entertainment firm Parker PR. He's been a movie nerd since he was old enough to walk.
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