Reviews & More: Wild But Not Free

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Brie Larson as "Captain Marvel"

It’s looking like female superheroes can actually carry a film and Brie Larson does a fine job as Carol Danvers-who-will-become “Captain Marvel.” The tone of the film is lighter than most of the Marvel releases, and little bits of the origin story are revealed throughout, instead of the usual beginning exposition. Carol has no memory of her past and is part of an alien race from another planet. Or is she? She has evil enemies, but are they really evil? And are they her enemies or her friends? She’s strong, assertive and clever, with a wicked sense of humor and an aching need to belong to a family even if it’s metaphorical. Larson’s scenes with Samuel L. Jackson, as the young(er) Nick Fury—the setting is 1995—are some of the film’s highlights; the two seem to honestly enjoy each other. Yes, there are monsters and beasts, fight scenes and things that go bang! But “Captain Marvel” is less dependent on special effects and more dependent on human connection. The co-director is Anna Boden, the first female to direct a superhero film. Could that be why? 

Many think horses are the most beautiful animal on earth. “The Mustang”’s opening shot of wild mustangs being herded by a government helicopter into captivity is both breathtaking and a heartbreaker, even though the reasons for it are humane: The population is too large for the shrinking resources in our planet and herds must be thinned. These particular ones are destined for a prison program that pairs hardened criminals with the wild beasts in the hope that both species will become not only tamer, but also more integrated into society: The horses are sold at auction and the convicts may be able to enter the real world with much of their anger management issues minimized. “The Mustang,” while not a great picture, is quite a good one, despite some too-on-the-nose dialogue (“You wanna control your horse, first you gotta control yourself”) and a couple of plot turns that don’t quite pay off. But it works as well as it does due to Belgian actor Matthias Shoenaerts as Roman Coleman, a hulking, scary-eyed convict who rarely speaks (“I’m not good with people,” he says) and he is, indeed, a loner. But he’s intrigued by one of the new horses who is too wild to get close to. Horse and man form an attachment that is inspiring to see. The film is based on a true story.

If you like international espionage, secret government cabals, a daring and determined reporter and tension that triples your heartrate, then “Secret City,” now streaming on Netflix, is for you. An Australian import, Anna Torv stars—remember her from TV’s “The Fringe”?—and she’s terrific. Both strong and vulnerable, impervious to threats, not afraid to manipulate by using her female charms or hinting at blackmail, reporter Harriet Dunkely never backs down, much to the dismay of those plotting to undercut the current regime in Canberra. The supporting cast is terrific, especially Damon Herriman as Harriet’s ex-husband, who has made the transition to female, and the always wonderful Jackie Weaver as a powerful senator with a secret. There are two seasons of “Secret City,” six episodes each, a perfect binge watch for a couple of Sunday afternoons.

Finally, I found Netflix’s original heist film “Triple Frontier” only mildly interesting. A familiar plot: Guys who served together in Afghanistan planning to steal millions from a drug lord. Despite careful planning and a first-rate crew, things don’t go according to plan (what a surprise). The cast is okay—Charlie Hunnam, Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac all doing their best with a script that needs work. Finally, an ending that seems not only too pat but also too sappy for what went before.