Review: Will HBO docuseries ‘ALLEN v. FARROW’ finally lead to accountability?

ALLEN v. FARROW

The four-part documentary series Allen v. Farrow, from award-winning investigative filmmakers Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy, goes behind the years of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of one Hollywood’s most notorious and public scandals: the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then 7-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow; their subsequent custody trial, the revelation of Allen’s relationship with Farrow’s daughter, Soon-Yi; and the controversial aftermath in the years that followed.

There is a chilling feeling while watching this series. As a critic, I long fell into the same category as the journalists featured at the beginning of the episode. You grow up with the notion that Woodey Allen represented the quintessential essence of what New York City culture was. You’re enamored with it all. While inarguably furthering the early careers of actresses Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, and Mia Farrow (they made 12 films during their relationship), the pattern of behavior and theme of his obsession with young women run through his scripts. Woody Allen has somehow been allowed to continue to work mostly unscathed, even after the world knew about his relationship with Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi, even after the #MeToo movement continues to rain hell down on abusers. Allegations swirled about the sexual abuse of adopted daughter Dylan. This is the first time that Dylan gets to tell her story in earnest. This doc utilized Allen’s own words against him as excerpts of him narrating his 2020 memoir play in between intimate sitdown interviews with Mia, Dylan, Ronan, family, and friends of the once power couple. Mia took endless hours of home videos for years, adding to the amount of readily available footage from the media. Finally hearing all the details from the source is brutal. It’s a visceral watch.  As a parent, it is next-level painful. Watching the cycle of emotional abuse Mia endured from one man to the next, all while unconditionally loving her children adds another complex layer to this situation. This series will undoubtedly be controversial. It will be interesting to see the apologists come out loud and proud. There’s an enormous amount of evidence to digest. You will be shocked, sickened, furious, heartbroken. All this just at the end of the first of four episodes. ALLEN v. FARROW has to potential to reopen old wounds for a lot of trauma survivors. It also has the potential to knock another man off the pedestal we’ve kept him on for far too long.

The remaining episodes of ALLEN v. FARROW will air over the next subsequent Sunday nights on HBO at 9 pm.

HBO documentary series review: ‘The Lady and The Dale’ tells the unbelievably true story of a transgender entrepreneur.

The Lady and The Dale

This four-part documentary series from Emmy®-winning producers Mark and Jay Duplass (“Room 104”) traces the audacious story of Elizabeth Carmichael, a larger-than-life entrepreneur who took the world by storm with her promotion of a fuel-efficient, three-wheeled car known as The Dale in the middle of the 1970s oil crisis. Liz’s promotional zeal thrust her into fierce public and media scrutiny which uncovered a web of mystery and suspicion about the car’s technology and her own checkered past.

This HBO docu-series about a mad genius who happened to be a trans woman, The Lady and The Dale comes from Emmy-winning Mark and Jay Duplass and is co-directed by Nick Cammilleri and Zackery Drucker. Who is Elizabeth Dean Carmichael? Perhaps the first question should be, “Who is Jerry Dean Michael?” Smart, fearless, and loyal, Jerry might as well be the subject of Catch Me If You Can. Then everything changes as entrepreneur Liz arrives on the scene. She would be the one to rule. Using eye-catching 2D animation and archival footage to illustrate intimate sit-down interviews, it’s insanely engaging. The way this family was brought up sounds like it cannot be true but boy, is it entertaining. The FBI, the mob, the police, the media all wanted a piece of Jerry or Liz… or both. And this is only the first episode of this docu-series! To think this is merely a set-up for what is coming in Liz’s story is surreal. Last night, The Lady and The Dale debuted with back to back episodes. They are explosive and completely unreal. If you’re not completely hooked a few minutes into episode 1, I would be flabbergasted. The amount of information thrown at the audience is massive and completely intriguing. How do one woman and a three-wheeled car make history? Just you wait and see. This is a captivating story of a woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Elizabeth Carmichael would take on the auto industry and the world, for better or for worse. The final two episodes of The Lady and The Dale will air over the next two Sundays and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

HBO Max original review: ‘Superintelligence’ reminds us to be grateful for Melissa McCarthy.

original
When an all-powerful Superintelligence (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), the fate of the world hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save, or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving.

75% of this film is Melissa McCarthy speaking directly into the camera and it’s brilliant. The social commentary is what grabs you. It’s presented in an accessible, funny, and genuine way. The script is straight-up hilarious. I mean ceaselessly laugh out loud hysterical. The timing of the release is frankly just what we needed in this dumpster fire of a year. McCarthy plays a woman who left big tech to do better. She is simply living her life when it is interrupted by an AI that doesn’t grasp the totality of humanity. And can you blame it? These days? Technology has caused a lot of drama, heartache, hatred, and sadness over the past few years in particular. Superintelligence tackles it all but makes it funny.

Bobby Cannavale is charming as ever. His chemistry with Melissa is enchanting. Jean Smart, clearly modeled after Hillary Clinton, is obviously incredible. Brian Tyree Henry as Dennis is magic. His comic timing is something a director dreams about. He is a delight. James Corden’s smart-alecky demeanor is the perfect foil for Melissa McCarthy. He pushes her buttons and her limits allowing the plot to barrel forward. As for McCarthy…You cannot help but adore the character of Carol. You will instantly connect with her. She is down-to-earth, anxiety-ridden, and sincere.  All of Melissa McCarthy‘s positive energy shines off the screen. She embodies all that is good. McCarthy proves, once again, she is a comic genius. But outside the laughs is a very human character that hits home, reminding us what a well-rounded actor she truly is.

At first glance, the script appears to focus on technology. At the heart of it, the story is about just the opposite. Superintelligence breaks down the human experience from the superficial to the profound. The small moments that become monumental in the grand scheme of life. It chooses kindness and self-sacrifice over hatred and selfishness. It will make you smile from ear to ear. It’s one of the year’s best family films. Superintelligence reminds us all of what we should be grateful for.

Premieres on HBO Max on November 26, 2020

 

DIRECTOR: Ben Falcone
WRITTEN BY: Steve Mallory
PRODUCED BY: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, and Rob Cowan
CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, and James Corden

HBO’s four-part Original docuseries review: ‘Murder on Middle Beach’ episode one airs tonight.

HBO Documentary Films’ MURDER ON MIDDLE BEACH, a four-part documentary series directed by first-time filmmaker Madison Hamburg, presents Hamburg’s complicated journey as a young man determined to solve an unspeakable crime and absolve the people he loves, while looking for answers within his fractured family and community.

 

On March 3, 2010, single mother Barbara Hamburg was found violently murdered near her home in the upper-middle-class enclave of Madison, Connecticut. Investigators speculated her murder appeared to be a crime of passion, but without enough evidence, the case grew cold.

Over the course of 8 years, Barbara’s son, Madison Hamburg, interviewed his family members and many others, longing to learn more about his mother and gathering evidence in hopes of solving her murder, sending him into a deep web of buried familial secrets, connections to shadowy criminal figures, and the uncovering of years-old resentments in his deceptively serene hometown. While Madison wrestles with troubling revelations about his mother, the most unsettling conflict comes from Madison’s obligation to bring into question those inside his community and members of his own family.

Madison Hamburg wants to know what happened to his mother in 2010. Growing up in an affluent Connecticut town myself, I found it shocking that I had not heard about this case. Who would want to kill a stay at home mother? What are the motives for such a brutal act? The theories seem straight forward until you’re steered down another road due to lack of evidence. The things that went wrong in this initial investigation will frustrate you to no end. You have to give Madison credit for having the courage and, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, balls for putting his entire childhood and now adulthood on the line to solve this mystery and deal with his trauma.

Creative editing places you inside the family dynamic of the Hamburgs. Not just Madison’s odd relationship with his estranged father, but his aunt’s and uncles, grandparents, and his sister Barbara, the 4th of that namesake on his mother’s side. Madison uses home videos and still photography to invite you into the years he had with his Mom. Some of the most unique moments come in the form of vintage voiceovers from what seems like those creepy 1950s classroom movies. It is eerily effective. Intimate sit-down interviews play the largest part as the mystery grows. There are constant hints of family secrets but we only get a tease in the final moments of episode one. You’re so invested in this story, it’s frightening. There is no doubt Madison Hamburg wants the truth. I know I’ll be watching the final 3 episodes on HBO to find out if he gets it. Murder on Middle Beach will air episode 1 tonight at 10:00-11:00pm ET/PT.

Stream on HBO Max: http://itsh.bo/hbo-max

MURDER ON MIDDLE BEACH debuts on November 15 on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

Review: ‘An American Pickle’ has you seeing double on HBO Max.

AN AMERICAN PICKLE

AN AMERICAN PICKLE, directed by Brandon Trost, is based on Simon Rich’s New Yorker novella and stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling laborer who immigrates to America in 1919 with dreams of building a better life for his beloved family. One day, while working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years. The brine preserves him perfectly and when he emerges in present day Brooklyn, he finds that he hasn’t aged a day. But when he seeks out his family, he is troubled to learn that his only surviving relative is his great grandson, Ben Greenbaum (also played by Rogen), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand.

The simple wonders of experiencing something for the first time is essentially the purest form of comedy in An American Pickle. Seth Rogen plays two distinctly different versions of “himself”. Having met Seth in real life, his Ben character feels very much like him. Down-to-earth, genuinely sweet, and very funny. As Herschel, he is truly astounding. The magic in his eyes, the reverent and tender respect for history and his family. I fear Rogen gets lumped into a certain category when you mention his name. While I love all his films, An American Pickle is different in a good way for him. It’s an engaging script with a funny concept. But really, the film is about family loyalty and pride. The jokes are whipsmart and insanely relevant to the absurdity of social influence and 2020 in general. This film lives and dies by the performances from Rogen. He needs more opportunities to show his acting chops in earnest. While the film has a lot of hilarious moments, as a whole it’s a little meandering for its roughly hour and a half runtime. Come to think of it, it might have fared better as a serial sitcom. Nonetheless, I think it’s worth your time. If you’re a Seth Rogen fan you will not be disappointed. An American Pickle premieres tomorrow exclusively on HBO Max.

“An American Pickle” begins streaming on HBO Max on August 6