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Review: ‘Orphan: First Kill’ and more streaming movies

“Orphan: First Kill”

The hit 2009 horror film Orphan was an effective scary little child thriller with two strong twists. First, the “child” turned out not to be a child at all, but a cruelly evil woman with a disorder that made her look like a 9-year-old. The other turn was on the production side. Featuring a stellar cast — including Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and phenomenal newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman — Orphan brought unexpected nuances to a dopey tale of murder and deception.

Fuhrman returns for the prequel Orphan: First Kill, but since the actress is now in her mid-20s, special effects were used to make her pint-sized psychopath look appropriately small. The results aren’t “realistic” per se, but powerful enough considering there’s supposed to be something a little off about this kid. More importantly, the effects keep Fuhrman in the franchise… and Fuhrman has gotten even better in the twelve years since she last played this character.

First Kill is an origin story that dates back to when villain Leena Klammer escaped from an Estonian mental hospital and posed as Esther Albright, the long-missing daughter of a wealthy American family. With the scam underway, “First Kill” falls into a similar pattern to its predecessor as “Esther” settles into her new home and then starts acting strange, manipulating people to get what she wants , and jeopardizes those who distrust her.

But director William Brent Bell and screenwriter David Coggeshall throw up a surprise as the film progresses, and from there, First Kill plays with audience sympathies, pitting several terrible people against one another and regularly upsetting our core interests. The film is equal parts clever and trashy, made for people who enjoy watching very good actors play people who are very bad.

‘Orphan: First kill.’ R, for gory violence, speech and brief sexual content. 1 hour, 38 minutes. Available on Paramount+

‘The princess’

Along with the loss of privacy, celebrities often lose the power to control their own story; Press and audiences transform them into broad-based types, cramped in soap opera narratives of romance, betrayal, heroism, and villainy. Director Ed Perkins’ documentary The Princess is a heart-pounding look at this phenomenon, seen from the dual perspective of Britain’s royal family and the people who question their every move – sometimes admiringly, sometimes cynically.

Without narration, new interviews or screen titles, Perkins (best known for the heartbreaking documentary Tell Me Who I Am) chronicles the life of Princess Diana, from her marriage to Prince Charles to her death, using only news clips and home videos to emphasize the pressure of fame. One of the most notable revelations is how well Diana handled the constant questions and camera clicks. A shy bride in her earliest public appearances, the princess later used the limelight to draw attention to children’s charities and public health issues. But as the tabloid scandals mounted, anyone with access to a microphone seemed to have an opinion on their decisions and their motivations.

The Princess is captivating and surprisingly intimate considering the sources Perkins used. But it’s also a cautionary tale that doesn’t upset anyone. Even the many who loved and supported Diana – who far outnumbered the skeptics – robbed her of some of her humanity by simply treating her as an icon.

‘The princess.’ TV-14, for mild violence, adult language and adult content. 1 hour, 49 minutes. Available on HBO Max

A woman dressed in Western clothing points a gun at a man in the film "The Legend of Molly Johnson."

Leah Purcell, left, in the film The Legend of Molly Johnson.

(Samuel Goldwyn films)

“The Legend of Molly Johnson”

Actress Leah Purcell reinterprets Australian writer Henry Lawson’s classic Woman Against Nature short story The Drover’s Wife in The Legend of Molly Johnson, which she previously adapted into a play and novel. Purcell wrote and directed the film, and also played Molly, a pregnant mother left alone on a small farm with her children while her husband was away. After shedding her children with her district’s over-the-top attorney, Sgt. Klintoff (Sam Reid) – to protect them while she prepares for childbirth – Molly befriends a Native refugee, Yadaka (Rob Collins), who is a knows some secrets about her past.

While Lawson’s story was about an unnamed woman protecting her cubs from a deadly snake, Purcell’s film (which is not an adaptation, to be clear) fleshes out the reality of Molly’s life. Here the woman is a steely outsider surrounded by hateful neighbors steeped in chauvinism, racism and distrust. “The Legend of Molly Johnson” is too clumsy and visually too boring to compete with the big movie westerns – American or Australian. But Purcell gives a heartbreaking lead, playing a woman whose iron will may not be able to withstand the prejudices of the mob.

“The Legend of Molly Johnson.” Not rated. 1 hour, 49 minutes. Available on VOD

“Look both ways”

The Sliding Doors scenario gets an update in the romantic dramedy Look Both Ways, which uses a pregnancy test as a fork in the road for a college grad about to start her adult life. The pregnant version of Natalie Bennett (Lili Reinhart) moves back in with her parents in Austin, Texas, while the other Natalie goes to Los Angeles to try to break into animation. Screenwriter April Prosser and director Wanuri Kahiu follow the stories of both Natalies as they look at the broader question of whether there is something in people – or some force in the universe – that will eventually lead them to where they need to be.

The original title for Look Both Ways was Plus/Minus, which better conveys what the filmmakers intended here: to explore the ups and downs that every young adult faces, while also pointing out that out of each situation something good can arise. That’s a nice message for an overall nice movie. But it’s too easy to connect deeply. Everything in Natalie’s life is superficially portrayed: motherhood, work, romance, friendship and even her passion for drawing. The differences between their two selves never seem too great because both are barely rooted in reality. Both women are ultimately just characters in a movie being jerked around with fondles on their way to an ending.

“Look both ways.” TV-14, for substances, adult language, and suggestive dialogue. 1 hour 50 minutes. Available on Netflix

‘To learn how to swim’

The visually stunning musical drama “Learn to Swim” jumps in time, casually and at times too casually sketching the portrait of an unpredictable Toronto saxophonist named Dezi (Thomas Antony Olajide). At various points in the story, Dezi is either a passionate and important contributor to a budding jazz combo or a grumpy weirdo dealing with a great deal of pain. First-time feature film director Thyrone Tommy (who also co-wrote the film with Marni Van Dyk) keeps revolving around the protagonist’s ill-fated affair with Selma (Emma Ferreira)—a singer who both inspires and drives him insane—to bring to life to point out one of the reasons why he ends up becoming so desperate. More often, however, Tommy simply riffs freely, mimicking the moody, improvisational style of classic jazz while crafting some rich variations on the all-too-common tale of an artist blown away by a raucous romance.

‘To learn how to swim.’ TV-MA, for adult language, nudity and smoking. 1 hour, 33 minutes. Available on Netflix

“The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist”

The weird but true Netflix sports documentary series Untold has returned for a second season, culminating in the two-hour episode The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, directed by Ryan Duffy and Tony Vainuku. The film looks back on a baffling scandal 10 years ago when the irreverent sports and culture website Deadspin published an article revealing that Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o had told the press a fictional story about a dead friend. Even stranger: Te’o himself had been betrayed because he had never met the person he thought he was with. Duffy and Vainuku put the pieces of this puzzle back together and spoke to all of the clients – including Te’o – before returning to the main point behind the original Deadspin part. The document is an indictment of a modern sports outlet that appears to invest more in argument, analysis and smug ridicule than fact-checked reporting.

“The friend who didn’t exist.” TV-MA, for adult language. 2 hours, 4 minutes. Available on Netflix

Also on VOD

“Splendid” stars JK Simmons as the voice of a mysterious, supernatural Lovecraftian who speaks through a hole in a public toilet stall with a lovestruck guy named Wes (Ryan Kwanten), demanding an unspeakable favor. The film contains some framing scenes and flashbacks, but mostly stays in the toilet, letting a disgusting scenario inspire a shaky horror comedy. Available from Shudder

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray

“Father’s Long Legs” is a 2009 indie dramedy film directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, who have since gone on to become some of the most acclaimed filmmakers of their generation thanks to their stylish and compelling films Good Time and Uncut Gems. Loosely based on the brothers’ own childhoods, “Daddy Longlegs” stars Ronald Bronstein as a lazy father whose approach to raising his children is – in typical Safdies fashion – equal parts hilarious and terrifying. criteria

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-08-19/review-orphan-first-kill-princess-diana-look-both-ways-lili-reinhart Review: ‘Orphan: First Kill’ and more streaming movies

Sarah Ridley

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