INDIEWATCH: ‘Eleanor Rigby’ disappeared with a plot

“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” starts with a petty theft.

In a crowded restaurant, Conor says to Eleanor: “Would you still love me if I can’t pay for dinner?” They make a break for it, and land in a “Twilight”-esque meadow except it’s Central Park and it’s night time.

“There’s only one heart in this body,” Conor says. “Have mercy on me.”

Petty theft really turns them on. netflix.com

Petty theft really turns them on. netflix.com

In the next scene, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) jumps off of a bridge, cue the aching question: What happened? And “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” attempts to answer.

Soon, it’s revealed that the two are man and wife. When Eleanor is released from the hospital post-suicide attempt, she wants nothing to do with Conor (James McAvoy).
She crashes with her parents, chops off her hair and takes classes at a New York college, where she befriends Professor Friedman (Viola Davis). On their first meeting, they talk her Beatles-inspired namesake. After an anecdote of how Eleanor’s parents met:
“You must detest the Beatles,” says Friedman. And Eleanor: “No, not really.”
That was it, cut and dried.

“The Disappearance” jumps from Eleanor to Conor, whose restaurant — which he runs with his best friend Stu (Bill Hader) — is struggling. In his spare time, Conor calls his wife, visits her parents’ house and mini-stalks her on busy New York streets.

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that's named after a Beatles song. netflix.com

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that’s named after a Beatles song. netflix.com

 

Save for one flashback to their high-schoolish automobile coitus, it’s difficult to see what Conor’s fighting for, and this reviewer began to lose interest about halfway through. While this film teeters on the family tragedy that led to Eleanor’s death-dive, there was very little to illustrate the couple’s happiness at any time in the relationship. With barely anything to juxtapose, the plot conflict left much wanting.

This reviewer is a huge fan of both lead actors, but Chastain as Eleanor is emaciated — rightly so for the character — but her performance comes across as emotionally constipated. Chastain does numb and angry — accurate for a depressed character. But with films like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Jolene,” her talents felt wasted here.

McAvoy as Conor effectively plays lovelorn and aimless, enlisting huge empathy and some slight annoyance. Some other heavy hitters in Eleanor’s parents: French actress Isabelle Huppert as Eleanor’s wine-glass touting mother and William Hurt as her stern and authoritative pops. And none really have a place to shine here.

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in "The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them." netflix.com

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in “The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them.” netflix.com

“The Disappearance” plays at identity and self just enough to sense an overarching theme. Eleanor takes an Identity Theory course. She refuses intimacy with another man because “he’s a stranger.” Conor’s father says, “Mostly people are just fading away.” At two points, both Conor and Eleanor ask if they seem different to which another responds: “You look the same to me.”

Yes, tragedy is a gaping wound that few can see.

Both Conor and Eleanor’s fathers channel Socrates or Thomas Aquinas, and it doesn’t seem to fit. “Tragedy is a foreign country,” says Eleanor’s father. “We don’t know how to talk to the natives.”

These jabs at something larger also left much wanting.

And the crux: “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is one of a three-part film by director Benson. After completing this segment, there’s a large inclination to continue. But on the other hand, tell a complete story in two hours or maybe don’t tell it at all.
It’s a good Beatles song, though.

Grade: C-

“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them”

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis

Screenwriter/director: Ned Benson

Time: 2:02

Rating: R for language

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant

INDIEWATCH: ‘Rich Hill’ a poignant, unapologetic look at three teens coming of age

Filmmakers enter into this small Missouri town for their documentary of the same name. richhillfilm.com

Filmmakers enter into this small Missouri town for their documentary of the same name. richhillfilm.com

“Rich Hill” follows three adolescent boys in small-town Missouri.

Andrew is a 15-year-old nomad, his family often landing back in Rich Hill. “We’re not trash, we’re good people,” he says.

“My mom, she wants to get out and do things with us, but she can’t because of her problems,” he says, his eyes tightening at the word “problems.”

“I miss her.”

His mother, Elizabeth, looks outward, blankly, perking slightly and saying “that’s sweet.”

Andrew's set on improving himself as his family hops from place to place, and always landing back in Rich Hill. richhillfilm.com

Andrew’s set on improving himself as his family hops from place to place, and always landing back in Rich Hill. richhillfilm.com

Appachey rides up on his skateboard, walks into his house and lights a cig on a toaster. He sits in front of a door with a large crack in it, takes a big puff and recites a biography he wrote for class.

The camera scrolls across his home. “This is what happens when mom goes to work,” Delena, Appachey’s mother says. There are piles of clothes on the floor, a tipped-over laundry basket and furniture in disarray.

“ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, ODD —  that’s all of ‘em,” Delena says of Appachey’s diagnoses. “I don’t know if medication would help him or not cause he doesn’t take them.”

And there’s Harley. “I’m very easy to make mad,” he says, as he shops for hunting knives.

Harley says he has anger issues, and in "Rich Hill," filmmakers shed light on it. richhillfilm.com

Harley says he has anger issues, and in “Rich Hill,” filmmakers shed light on it. richhillfilm.com

Directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos show the grit and the light in their lives, and they make no apologies.

In one scene, Andrew’s father Willie heats water for the bathtub via a coffee pot, a stove and an iron-heated pot. Willie looks through his bills and talks about the struggles of finding odd jobs.

In another scene, Harley preps for Halloween night. En route, he talks of the injustices of the world and how he hates rape.

Appachey and his family are at a laundromat, and he fixates on his straw-less soft drink — an injustice through the eyes of this youngster that clearly foreshadows the defiance that follows.

Technically, Palmermo and Tragos follow the lead of these stories. The filmmaking is frank, without effects or filters — as it should be.

There’s no resolution and there’s no sugar-coating. But one thing this documentary communicates: They’re all doing the best with what they have. These kids and their families have hope and their drive to survive is admirable and bittersweet.

One gaping hole of info left this viewer unsatisfied, but that aside, “Rich Hill” is worth watching.

Grade: B+

“Rich Hill”

Starring: Andrew Jewell, Elizabeth Jewell, Willie Jewell

Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos

Time: 1:32

Rating: NR (swearing, minimal violence, no drug use or sexual content)

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant

 

INDIEWATCH: Rebel meets her match in horror/comedy ‘Housebound’

In “Housebound,” an ATM break-in goes awry, and Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is sentenced to seven months on house arrest at her parents’ home after a long history of thieving and drugging. When she pulls up to the house with her P.O., the first two thrills are harmless and funny on par with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Tucker and Dale Save the World.”

As Kylie gets settled, her rebellious aggression is on full-force — and it’s effectively annoying. She verbally attacks her counselor, and after kicking her parents out of the living room, her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) grumbles: “She’ll learn. One way or another.”

Kylie's a huge drag on her parents in "Housebound." netflix.com

Kylie’s a huge drag on her parents in “Housebound.” netflix.com

That night, Kylie chases the sound of her cellphone into the basement, the lights go out and the horror party begins.

O’Reilly as Kylie is spot on. She subtly uses her facial expressions to ham up the post-modern hilarity in this film.

In one scene, she’s smoking a cig outside. Thick smoke billows behind her, and close-up to a neighbor burning trash. They “face off” in slow-mo: the neighbor grimaces, and O’Reilly defiantly spits smoke at him.

She’s a 14-year-old in a woman’s body, and O’Reilly delivers the evolution of this character — fear, drama, remorse, defiance — well. Wiata as Miriam can force a laugh with her facial expression as the ditzy, harmless mother. But the most impressive of this cast and crew combo is writer/director Gerard Johnstone. He more than capably weaves comedic reprieve with modern horror in dialogue, camera angles and post-production.

They kinda make up to fight the forces of evil. netflix.com

They kinda make up to fight the forces of evil. netflix.com

Kylie tells her ankle monitor tech about the house hauntings.

“What’re you gonna do against hostile spirits? You gonna crack jokes?” he says.

“No, I’m gonna smash it in the face.” In another scene, Kylie’s closet door mysteriously opens on its own. And she takes it off its hinges.

Director Johnstone brings believable and holds back on the over-the-top special effects — very refreshing. Homage to Buffy in a fearless heroine with some ass-kicking ability.

Some cons: the horror climax drags on a bit. “Housebound” lost some momentum here, but this paved the way to some surprising elements of this film that’s so much more than a horror movie, and the last frame will leave you loving these characters.

It’s definitely worth a watch.

Grade: B+

“Housebound”

Starring: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru

Writer/director: Gerard Johnstone

Time: 1:47

Rating: NR (swearing, violence, no nudity)

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant

 

INDIEWATCH: ‘Stretch’ a wild limo ride on drugs

Patrick Wilson and Jessica Alba star in “Stretch,” an action-packed comedy about an L.A. failed actor/limo driver, his ex-girlfriend and his insane fares.
Stretch (Wilson) has to come up with the $6,000 he owes his bookie by midnight, and to do it he agrees to be the beck-and-call boy for Roger, an intense “firestarter,” who’s rolling in the dough.
Roger sets the limo on fire, he takes coke nose baths and, before being dropped off at a questionable estate with farm animals, he sends Stretch on a mission to pick up a mysterious suitcase.

Chris Pine and Patrick Wilson in "Stretch."

Chris Pine and Patrick Wilson in “Stretch.”

There are random moments of humor.
Stretch runs into his ex at a club, and he pays a guy to drive him away in his limo, which soon loses power. A stressed-out Stretch barks order at him, and his response: “I’m helping you. I could do without the sarcasm.”
Stretch: “We should hang out some time.”
Guy: “Really, my buddy just got married so…”
The cast is a good fit. Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) is dedicated as Roger.
When he and Stretch meet, a loin-clothed Roger falls out of the sky with a pipe in his mouth. He approaches Stretch slowing, bends down, breathing in deeply and says, “Oh, you’re not Karl.”
Jessica Alba as Charlie, the limo phone operator who keeps Stretch in on the good fares, is toned down on the beauty, in a pony, big glasses and a camo jacket. She’s incredibly charming and likeable, as usual. The bulk of this film is on Wilson.
With movies “The Conjuring,” “Insidious” and “Young Adult” under his belt, he steps out of a comfort zone and delivers on the edginess of this film.
“Stretch” is littered with expletives, raunchy comedy with a couple of cameos from David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta. Overall, it’s not for everyone.
Grade: C+

Melinda Lavine is features editor at the DNT, reach her at mlavine@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at reeltalk.areavoices.com.

 

“Stretch”
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Alba, Ed Helms
Writer/director: Joe Carnahan
Time: 1:34
Rating: R for language, sexual content/nudity, some drug use and brief violence
Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), Netflix Instant

INDIEWATCH: Watch ‘Snowpiercer’ — period

In “Snowpiercer,” the lone survivors of a post-apocalyptic world-freeze are confined to one train that circles the globe on a nonstop hell ride, depending on where you’re sitting.

For 17 years, front and rear passengers have been segregated. Folks at the rear are fed maroon-ish, gelatinous protein blocks, they’re crammed into living spaces on par with “Amistad” and they’re brutalized by guards at the tiniest sign of defiance.

Within the first five minutes, an elderly woman eats the butt of a rifle when her hubby refuses to play violinist for front passengers unless she comes with.

Pretty rough to watch, but it set the tone.

Curtis (Chris Evans) plots an uprising with his young No. 2 Edgar (Jamie Bell) and sage old-timer Gilliam (John Hurt), who’s missing a limb or two.

He has an informant who plants tips in protein blocks. He counts the men guarding the train gates and clocks the number of seconds all doors are open at once. And the crux of his plan: Get to the engine and kill Wilford, the train’s “leader,” aka a conductor with a god complex.

“All past revolutions have failed because they couldn’t take the engine,” Curtis says, and I was in.

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) and star in “Snowpiercer,” a sci-fi thriller available on Amazon Prime, iTunes and Netflix Instant. netflix.com

Superb pacing as the throwdown clocks in at less than 30 minutes, and I was screaming and cheering from my couch. Curtis and friends battle their way through each train subsection: the kitchen, the water car and beyond. And with each section cleared, Curtis was like Mario to Wilford’s King Koopa.

What hooked me the most was the subtext and mythology of this story.

In one scene, Curtis and gang are in a barbarian-style battle with axes. Blood spatter and slow-mo, then a horn sounds and a strange ceasefire. All look out the window, note the landmark and the guards start counting down from 10 in a weird celebration.

My insides screamed: “Kick some A–!” but nothing.

Through just enough dialogue it’s revealed the landmark notes a full year of survival. And as the train rips through ice caps on the tracks, the good guys and the bad guys are thrown around the same car. A lot different than an LOTR battle royale because regardless the side they’re fighting on, all are on the same playing field. All are apocalypse survivors, and all could die if the train derails.

This moment was like nothing I’d ever seen or read or experienced in pop culture. My mind was blown.

And “Snowpiercer” continued to do this. It’s dense and fully loaded, but that works to its glorious advantage. And screenwriter/director Bong Joo-Ho works the graphic novel this was based off succinctly and expertly. (I’m getting into gush mode.)

And while “Snowpiercer” is harsh at times, Joo-Ho works in just the right amount of comic relief.

Tilda Swinton lends some perfectly timed comic relief in “Snowpiercer.” netflix.com

The Curtis crew swoons over the smell of second hand smoke, when cigs had been extinct for a decade. Tilda Swinton as a commissioner for the front delivers quirky bits, like removing her dentures during a verbal face-off with Curtis, and grotesque throat-clearing and nose-crinkling as she speaks on soon-to-be unleashed mayhem.

My only hang-up with this is some of the effects were executed a bit poorly.

When we see what the protein blocks are made of, the computerized imagery looks pretty elementary along with outer shots of the train trudging on the tracks. There’s also a slow-mo snowflake moment, but you’ll hafta watch it to see.

But this all didn’t deter. “Snowpiercer” culminates with a jarring convo between Curtis and Wilford, and it ends with the perfect last shot on-screen.

And performances were on.

Chris Evans may be the quintessential superhero, even in ratty garb, and he gets a chance to wax dramatic and broken, and bravo. Jamie Bell is the perfect spunky sidekick with a Scottish (?) accent, and I felt protective over him like a little brother. And the actor who plays Wilford is dashing and wonderfully apathetic and pragmatic. (IMDB it, or better yet, watch it.)

There are cult-like happenings, spot-on suspense and no love triangles like other dystopian movies of today. I was glued to my screen and rewinding parts.

Watch this movie.

Grade: A-

 Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), iTunes (to rent), Netflix Instant.

IN THEATERS: There’s something flat about ‘Rosewater’

In “Rosewater,” Maziar (Gael Garcia Bernal) wakes up to some shadowy figures in his bedroom. They’re Iranian investigators and they sift through his personal items. Soon after, Maziar is hauled away, and director Jon Stewart gives some context.

It’s July 2009, Maziar flies to his home country to cover the Iranian election for Newsweek. As he walks the streets, Stewart uses storefronts and buildings as a palette for images and footage of Maziar’s sister Maryam (Golshifteh Farahani) and his father Akbar (Haluk Bilginer), who both served time in Iranian prisons.

Maziar chases pre-election stories and does an interview with a satirical, political show (in real life, it was “The Daily Show”). He befriends cabbie Davood (Dimitri Leonidas) who shows him the people’s choice for a new leader.

Gael García Bernal as Maziar Bahari in “Rosewater.” (Open Road Films/MCT)

When said choice loses, the people of Iran revolt. Maziar films a shooting by the government’s hand. He sends it to his journalism buds, and we’re up to speed on the shadowy figures and the whole arrest thing.

In prison, specialist Rosewater (Kim Bodnia) spends forever with Maziar, and Stewart shows this in a montage of interrogation. Clips of Rosewater at different locations in the cell, and varied levels of light shining through a window mark the passage of time. I was thankful I didn’t have to sit through the ultra-bad torture, which Stewart shows in quick hits.

“You must not just take his blood. You must take his hope” are Rosewater’s orders, but I never really felt like this film gave me the hard-nosed despair this captive must’ve felt. Think “Shawshank Redemption” or “Hunger,” but I don’t think a heart-rocking jailbird tale was Stewart’s intention with “Rosewater” — a little to its detriment.

I could’ve used a focused look at Maziar’s insanity in solitary confinement. He hallucinates talking to his deceased father. He fantasizes about slitting his wrist, but there was little else to illustrate his hopelessness.

And that’s no fault of Gael Garcia Bernal, who’s starred in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Amores Perros” and “The Science of Sleep.” He can bring the pain through tears, and oh, what a debonair smile, but I think what was lacking here was the screenplay.

Directorially, Stewart did make some sweet choices. It was like his “Rosewater” aimed to show an Iran that isn’t portrayed in the media, and at that, I think he succeeded.

Stewart’s ‘Rosewater’ catches a real-life war of wills in an Iranian prison. TNS

He shows Iranian men and women out in droves to vote. He zooms in on voters verifying ballots with their fingerprints. In another scene, Davood is praying on his knees, as Maziar sifts through his phone a couple of feet away. Stewart goes from mid-shot to wide to show they’re on the side of the highway.

A couple of technical things this reviewer wasn’t into: shaky, almost-’80s looking shots of the street they’re driving past and a scene flooded with hashtags. He also mixes real footage with his own, and the transition between the two was bumpy.

On the plus side, there’s some perfectly executed humor among the dark. In one scene, Rosewater demands Maziar tell his wife to stop talking to the media. He throws him around the cell. Rosewater’s all up in his face and says “Call and tell her to stop talking sh— …. and you have to dial 9 to get out.”

I can read Maziar’s book “Then They Came for Me” for the despair and suspense. For Stewart’s retelling, he may have been right on the mark making a film with respect, responsibility and grace for this journalist’s story. And it was like he was making an amends for his time anchoring a political satire and, potentially, for any perceived role his show played in Maziar’s arrest.

While “Rosewater” was a bit diluted for my taste, it was sweet seeing Stewart’s debut as a director, but this one may be better suited for the small screen.

Grade: C

Now showing: Zinema 2
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kim Bodnia
Screenwriter/director: Jon Stewart
Based on novel: “Then They Came for Me” by Maziar Bahari
Time: 1:43
Rating: R for language including some crude references and violent content

 

INDIEWATCH: ‘Never Sleep Again’ a long, long love letter to Freddy fans

Jason, Jaws and Michael Myers. None of them held a candle to the man who made me fear water beds: Freddy Krueger, and “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” digs into the history and fandom through interviews with franchise creator Wes Craven, Freddy’s main adversary, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Freddy himself, Robert Englund, and every. single. extra and B actor involved in the making of all seven Elm Street movies.

Or so it seems.

“Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” traces
the origins of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise. netflix.com

“Never Sleep Again” begins with a pretty sweet claymation sequence with a lot of “Elm Street” staples: Tina in a body bag, Freddy bursting through a torso, and I admit I was pretty jazzed for what was next.

What struck and hooked me first: Wes Craven’s insights into the creation of the horror rock star of the ’80s and beyond. Craven shares about a sinister man who creeped him out as a kid — who would later inspire Freddy Krueger; how he chose the green and red sweater based on research of a color mix that causes the most visual distress; and the inspiration for the deadly bladed glove.

Background on casting Freddy, how Robert Englund was replaced for a hot second for “Nightmare” 2 and listening to his protectiveness of the character was irresistible. And I gobbled up interviews with special effects guys on each quintessential scene in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Craven shares that the water bed scene that so traumatized me as a kid, also jacked with the cast and crew.

BEFORE: Johnny doesn’t know what’s gonna happen.

AFTER: The scene from “Nightmare on Elm Street” that kept me off of waterbeds for a good chunk of my life.

They used a rotating room, and they had to do it in one shot. When the blood squirts out of the water bed, sparks literally flew on set, cast and crew members were covered in blood — and they couldn’t stop shooting. Everything was pretty indie, start-up with low funds, so all they had was one take.

Anyone who grew up with “Nightmare” can appreciate the start of “Never Sleep Again,” but there’s sooo much info that it gets a bit exhaustive.

Clocking in at a whopping four hours, this documentary goes through each sequel with interviews with all leading actors from “Nightmares” 1 through 7, and I was really surprised that studio New Line Cinema was built upon the Freddy empire.

If you’re not planning on venturing into this odyssey, here are some high points:

Wes Craven was only involved in bookending the franchise — which will celebrate its 30th birthday Nov. 9 — with “Nightmare” (1984) and “New Nightmare” (1994). New Line commissioned a rag-tag group of newcomer directors and writers — including one director who was basically homeless — to continue the legacy through six more films. While I thought this insane — especially after listening to how meticulous Craven was in every facet of the first film — “Never Sleep Again” shows this tactic worked the franchise for a younger, MTV audience.

Some cons about this: A decent amount of time is spent name-dropping Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette and “LOTR” director Peter Jackson as having their start in the “Nightmare” franchise, but, their commentary is missing. And I swear directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch just let the camera roll, and I found out what people ate and spilled on their make-up during filming.
Pretty over-the-top.

The man behind the pizza face: Robert Englund donned the Freddy persona for almost 30 years. netflix.com

While a lot of the details were fascinating, “Never Sleep Again” could’ve easily been edited down to less than two hours, and on a personal note, only included Craven, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.

In the end, “Never Sleep Again” is a very long love letter to Freddy fans, and if you’re one of them, it’s probably worth it.

For this gal, four hours was too much.

Grade: D+

Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), Netflix Instant

Click here for more INDIEWATCH.

INDIEWATCH: ‘A Piece of Work’ shows softer side of Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers died Thursday after being on life support for several days.

Her documentary, “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” has been burning a hole in my Netflix queue for months, and now was the best time to check it out.

It begins with a rarely-seen scene: Joan’s applying make-up to her bare face — a tell it’s about to get personal.

Writer/director Ricki Stern shows Joan’s newspaper headlines from the ’60s and clips of her on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” Watching her put Johnny in stitches was impressive, and I never knew how edgy she was for her time until I watched this.

Joan Rivers looks through her insanely packed schedule in the documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.” Rivers died Thursday at age 81. netflix.com

Joan says Jack Lemmon walked out of the audience when she talked about how casting-couch friendly she was back in the day.

“I remember I had a joke about abortions when you weren’t supposed to even say the word on television,” she says.

Cut to the clip of her in a mini-beehive: “I have a friend who just got married, the woman is 32 years old. She had 14 appendectomies, if you know what I’m telling you.”

She says her agent told her she’s going places a woman shouldn’t go, and cue her everlasting defiance to not be silenced.

Director Stern lays this against her contemporary standup, and the only difference is she’d gotten raunchier. But that’s pretty on par with today’s comedians. And Joan’s colleagues noticed.

In this doc, Kathy Griffin oozes adoration for her.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for Joan. Much in the way that she acknowledges that Phyllis Diller paved the way for her and before her was Moms Mably. There’s a handful of women in modern history that have done this.”

Rivers doing standup in “A Piece of Work.” netflix.com

More than Joan’s place in history, “A Piece of Work” looks at her plastic surgery, her workaholic-ism and her parenting a child, Melissa Rivers, who’s set on stardom. It even looks at Joan’s falling out with Johnny Carson after she left “The Tonight Show” for her own primetime slot on Fox, and the suicide of her husband, Edgar Rosenberg after her show was canceled.

“He didn’t have Joan’s strength,” said her long-time agent Billy Sammeth. And her ability to persevere is the ongoing theme in this film.

At the time this was released, she was 75. The doc shows her working several shows a day across the U.S., headlining a play in Europe, running her own jewelry line, promo-ing it on QVC, and delivering Thanksgiving meals with her grandson to disabled New Yorkers.

She made 75 look good, and I doubted I could’ve kept up with her even before she died.

Joan Rivers sifts through old jokes, which she files away on index cards in her apartment. netflix.com

Some of my faves from this doc: Seeing her lavish apartment of which she says, “This is how Marie Antoinette woulda lived if she had money.” Seeing her Dewey Decimal filing system for her jokes and watching her write comedy sparknotes on poster board for a live show.

As a documentary though, this did have some weird spots.

Not really a spoiler, but, Joan alludes to and eventually fires her agent. This “plot point” unravels a bit like this was a huge reveal, when I was barely invested in him. And it would’ve been cool to have more interviews with contemporary comedians or even a sort of entertainment historian or professor for context into what Joan did for pop culture. “A Piece of Work” could’ve dug deeper into Joan’s plastic surgery and shown more or longer clips of her standup — but that may speak to I just wanted to see more of her.

The absolute pros of “A Piece of Work” are seeing the vulnerabilities of this staple in the entertainment biz. Watching brash Joan on-stage question her jokes with her close assistants off-stage gave her a poignant humanity that is rarely seen.

“All standups are innately insecure,” says Melissa Rivers.

“Growing up with comedians, they were all very damaged. They need reassurance, it’s all a cover,” she says. And “A Piece of Work” uncovers a lot of Joan.

Despite some of the weirder moments, this is so worth watching, if for anything, to see a softer side of Joan Rivers outshine her even louder stage presence.

Grade: B

Available: Amazon Prime, Netflix Instant

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INDIEWATCH: Top rating for ‘Best Man Down’

“Best Man Down” starts with an obnoxious, drunk groomsman.

 Lumpy (Taylor Labine) spills tequila on the bride and he voms in the ladies bathroom. He’s the life of the party until he’s sent to his hotel room early.

That night, he dies in a drunken run-in with a cactus, and newlyweds Scott (Justin Long) and Kristin (Jess Weixler) postpone their honeymoon for funeral duty. To Kristin’s chagrin, they head on a scavenger hunt through Minnesota to deliver the bad news to the mysterious friend in Lumpy’s cellphone named Ramsey.

WEDDING CRASHER: Justin Long, Taylor Labine and Jess Weixler in “Best Man Down.”

The two uncover a whole bunch of info that Scott didn’t know: Lumpy withdrew from law school on a whim and he was fired from a diner for embezzlement.

Sounds like a PG episode of “Law and Order” — following a dead man’s life — but this works for “Best Man Down” because I was dying to know what Lumpy was doing with a teen.

Said teenager is Ramsey, a 15-year-old with a sketchy home life: Her mom’s into a phone psychics and mom’s gun-toting boyfriend is into meth. It’s a ticking time bomb at Ramsey’s house, and divorce seems inevitable for the newlyweds. But, writer/director Tom Koland mixes the comedy with the heavy pretty on par.

In one scene, Kristin and Scott barge in on Lumpy’s former employer, and he’s playing with himself. They hear about Lumpy’s huge theft, and feelings are pretty low. Cue an almost-handshake and a “don’t touch it joke,” but I was grateful for the light reprieve.

AWK-WARD: Jim Lichtscheidl (left) as the restaurant manager who’s caught red-handed by Kristin (Weixler) and Scott (Long).

In another scene, Ramsey’s high school English teacher asks a student what she thinks of “Ethan Frome.”

“I didn’t read it,” the student says apathetically. (I rewound this one to laugh again.)

I’ve seen directors struggle with flowing between drama and comedy while swapping between storylines, but director Koland makes it work.

Justin Long does a stellar job with the drama. Near the end, he sheds some tears that made my eyes perspire. But the best performance is Addison Timlin as Ramsey. When she hears about Lumpy’s death, her nonchalant expression was light and slight. So good, she had me fooled. When she’s finally left alone, her exterior doesn’t melt as much as it crumbles slightly, bit by bit. I was way impressed.

BEST OF FRIENDS: Taylor Labine as Lumpy and Addison Timlin as Ramsey in “Best Man Down.”

Jess Weixler is just alright as Kristin. Switching from easily annoying to enlightened felt like a rocky transition for her, but it didn’t distract from the film.

Props to director Koland and the cinematography. Overall, great camera placement and Lumpy’s death scene made me want to vom from the shaky, real-to-life view of a violent hangover.

And what really impressed me was the beautifully shot cinematography of Minneapolis. Ramsey is walking the street, and shots of the city are panoramic and vivid, which is a sweet contrast to dense, tight-shots in Ramsey’s rural town. She looks like she could be swallowed up in this scene — by the city and her solitude. Loved it.

“Best Man Down” was released at the Twin Cities Film Festival in 2012, and Minnesota is heavily sprinkled in the dialogue along with a shot of the Blue Ox Motel.

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll crush on Taylor Labine.

It’s worth a watch.

Grade: A-

Available: Amazon Prime, Netflix Instant.

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INDIEWATCH: ‘Bojack Horseman’ more yay than neigh

In “Bojack Horseman,” Bojack’s a 12,000-pound, boozing, Cosby-sweater-wearing ’90s sitcom has-been. He’s got a squatter for a roommate, a cat for an agent and a Labrador for an arch nemesis.

Some characters are anthropomorphic and some are human in this new Netflix Original series, and the lead is a horse, man.

Will Arnett voices Bojack, and his delivery makes this character like voice actor H. Jon Benjamin’s makes Archer in “Archer.”Bojack’s battling sociopathy, ego and his memoir, and when his agent Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) and his publisher (Patton Oswalt) urge him to hook up with a ghost writer — after a couple of panic attacks and ego trips, he concedes.

Will Arnett and Aaron Paul voice characters in the new Netflix Original Series “Bojack Horseman.” netflix.com

As the series progresses, “Bojack” unwinds a bit like an afterschool special on crack, but not as intense as an “It’s Always Sunny” episode.

He meets the now-adult co-star from his ’90s TV show, Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal). She’s hopped up on drugs and spiraling downward. Cue a blind-leading-the-blind scenario — with flair.

In one scene, Bojack gives Sarah his TV Guide award. He says “It’s the most prestigious award I ever won. I always thought if I ever had kids of my own, I’d give them it, and I want you to have it.”
She thanks him.

He sighs, starts humming a tune and waves his hand slowly in front of his face.
When she asks what he’s doing, Bojack shushes her — hand still waving — and says “Just let the credits roll.”

This horse has problems, and I’m laughing out loud and rewinding.
Watching the pilot, I was way curious why creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg mixes animals and humans, but after a bit, I saw what it added.

Amy Sedaris voices Princess Carolyn (right) in “Bojack Horseman.” netflix.com

Princess Carolyn drinks cat-nip tea and reads “BIRDO” mags. Bojack’s publisher is a penguin, and at the publishing house, employees belly-dive across the lobby — like penguins. It add a bit of levity, and it works.

Yeah, Bojack’s a cartoon, but it could be kinda depressing — post-reality shows like “Celebrity Rehab” — watching an aging has-been circle the drain. But having the main character as a drunken “Mister Ed” makes this show’s premise easier to take in.

And it’s funny.

In another scene, Bojack’s in the hospital, and he’s watching videos of his old TV show.

“Do you just take those DVDs with you everywhere you go?” his roomie asks.
“Linus walked around with a blanket. No one gave him s—t for it,” Bojack says, and I’m in till the end.

Will Arnett’s voice will forever brighten my soul post-“Arrested Development.” Supporting voices bring it home with Sedaris, Oswalt and even a cameo by Stephen Colbert. Bojack’s roomie is voiced by Aaron Paul — who I can’t see as anyone but Jesse from “Breaking Bad” — and Alison Brie is Bojack’s ghost writer. I’m pretty bored with their storylines, but, with so much comedic star power, they’re doing their jobs supporting the glory.

In the end, “Bojack” has a lot of biting humor and some lags, but it’s worth checking out — after the kids are asleep.

Binge-worthiness: B-

Available: Netflix Instant

Episodes: 12

Rating: TV-MA (language throughout, adult themes)

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