Concrete: A familiar, yet vital story
Sadly, Ricky Staub's Concrete Cowboy contains a story that's all-too-familiar. Cole (Stranger Things' Caleb McLaughlin) is an angry young man, always in trouble, whose mother sends to live with his father, Harp (Idris Elba), in Philadelphia. This is not a situation either of them welcome, the young man's anger towards his father for having left him, obvious. However, they bond over an unexpected source – horses.
Harp belongs to a small, proud community that cares for and rides horses in the City of Brotherly Love, staunchly holding on to a part of the city's heritage and history that's in danger of being forgotten. You'll recognize many of the plot points on display here as Cole and Harp take a one-step-forward, two-steps-back approach to one another. However, the sincerity the two actors bring in realizing their character's respective sense of pain is genuinely moving, while the real-life setting – there is a real horse culture in Philadelphia – grounds the film, making it feel timely and real. There's an urgency to this tale, the vibrant nature of its telling making it vital, necessary viewing. Streaming on Netflix.
Made for Love too timely for comfort
Having impressed in the Andy Samberg, Groundhog Day-inspired fantasy Palm Springs, Cristin Milioti returns in Made for Love, a sci-fi satire that has a comedic sheen that belies its vicious social commentary. Set in the very near future, the mini-series focuses on Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), a megalomaniacal tech innovator who takes great satisfaction when the release of his latest gizmos cause riots in the street due to high demand. A control freak of the first order, he's constructed an enclave called the Hub where he and his wife Hazel (Milioti) live.
Having everything they need, they haven't left in 10 years...that is, until Hazel, tiring of her husband's controlling ways, decides to go on the lam. Problem is, he's inserted a tracking chip in her brain so he can track her wherever she goes. A cautionary tale about the ever-invasive quality of modern technology as well as a timely "Me Too" statement, Hazel struggles not simply to escape her abusive husband but be heard by a society that's marginalized her. How she manages to find the freedom she craves and what compromises she'll have to make to do so, remains to be seen. Streaming on HBO Max.
Breath suffocates on stupidity
Vaughn Stein's Every Breath You Take is a film of the most frustrating sort, a movie that sports a talented cast and begins with an interesting premise. Yet, a sense of stupidity slowly creeps in during the second act, the seemingly well-constructed plot revealing itself to be nothing but a collection of narrative tropes that were showing their age some 30 years ago.
Casey Affleck is Phillip, a psychiatrist who adapts an unorthodox approach in treating a young woman in his care, sharing intimate details about his life, not even his wife Grace (Michelle Monaghan) knows. Revealing this approach at a university conference, this causes quite a stir, even more so when his patient commits suicide days later. When the victim's brother, James (Sam Claflin), shows up looking for answers, things take a dark turn. Before you know it, he's seducing the good doctor's wife and daughter (India Eisley) just before revealing a big, big secret.
Initially intriguing, this thriller requires its characters to act stupidly in order to move the plot along, an approach that not only insults the viewer but alienates them from the characters as well. Lazy and predictable, the lesson I took from this hot mess is beware the therapist who overshares. Through Video-on-Demand.