#NativeNerd movie reviews: ‘Freaks,’ ‘Dispatches from Elsewhere’ and ‘Spenser’

Vincent Schilling

'Freaks' on Netflix was stellar, 'Spenser Confidential' was funny but rough around the edges, AMC’s ‘Dispatches from Elsewhere’ is one the best things on television

This week’s Native Nerd reviews don’t include any movies now playing in theaters because truth be told, I wasn’t really seeing much out there I wanted to see. I was going to take my wife’s mom to see “Emma” but didn’t go in time to post a review here.

That doesn’t mean there is a lack of good content, I really (and I do emphasize really) enjoyed the three productions this week, two of which are movies now playing on Netflix and the other is an episodic series on AMC.

This said, coronavirus concerns are now affecting my film reviews:

Prior to publishing this article, I had typed the following text: Stay tuned folks, as I am going to watch and review some of the upcoming latest films including “The Hunt,” and “A Quiet Place Part II” of which I will post the reviews next week.

I just received an email from the “A Quiet Place Part II” film PR company, and all feature previews are discontinued until further notice due to coronavirus safety concerns. So everyone, stay safe out there, practice good handwashing techniques, and know you can look forward to my online and streaming reviews.

Here are my reviews.

My #NativeNerd scoring system

I employ the decimal system to a tenth of a point. So instead of 7 stars, I might give a 7.4 out of ten. Some movies aren’t an eight but deserve a little more than a seven.

Freaks

9.0 out of 10

My quick quote: “I suspected this would be good, but wow, this blindsided me in the best way. Lexy Kolker, who plays a 7-year-old protagonist named Chloe, is commanding in her role which carries the story to its ultimate success.”

Freaks

Synopsis: Kept locked inside the house by her father, 7-year-old Chloe lives in fear and fascination of the outside world. It's a place where Abnormals are a constant threat — or so she believes. But when a mysterious stranger offers her a glimpse of what's really happening, Chloe soon learns that the truth isn't so simple — but the danger is very real.

Ka-boom … is what I can first get off the top of my head about “Freaks.” I absolutely loved this movie, which is now out on Netflix and getting a lot of positive attention.

I really can’t say much about the plot of the movie except that Chloe and her father live in a squatter-type house in a residential area near a busy city. Emile Hirsch plays Chloe’s father, a man overly obsessed with maintaining a safe and hidden distance from the outside world.

Hints toward the current state of the world sometimes play out on a television in the background, or on a car radio, but the viewer early may question, “Is this danger real?”

Chloe gets strange visitors that she doesn’t understand as well as sees a strange man in an ice cream truck. Everything reveals itself painfully slow throughout the movie, but it’s all in good time.

I really enjoyed this movie. In which Chloe’s dad — with all of his over-the-top fears — caused me to recollect on the early comic book editions of X-Men I read as a kid and read as the mutants were feared and shunned from society.

I enjoyed the performance very much of Emile Hirsch — with his over-anxious methodologies to keep his daughter safe — even if he did look a little bit like Jack Black’s brother in this movie.

There are a few scenes where Chloe is upset at agitators in the movie and Chloe decides to take action. I enjoyed every move on her face as I watched her contemplate the next steps. For such a young actor, she is masterful at her craft. In one scene where she is crying while sitting next to her father, I was blown away she could have access to these types of emotions onscreen.

One day, Lexy Kolker will get an Oscar, mark my words.

Also excellent work by Bruce Dern, Amanda Crew, and Grace Park, (whose character I really hated — so great work Grace.)

There were a couple of scenes I questioned, including a scene where one character is possibly dead, but the other character doesn't even check.

Now on Netflix

Spenser Confidential

7.4 out of 10

My quick quote: “Mark Wahlberg was sincerely funny, but sometimes this movie went so far into satire, it lost its believability. Alan Arkin and Iliza Shlesinger were hilarious and Winston Duke as Hawk was fantastic.”

Spenser Confidential

Synopsis: To unravel a twisted murder conspiracy, a former police detective returns to Boston's criminal underworld.

“Spenser Confidential” was trending as the #1 movie this week on Netflix so I decided to check it out. In the movie, Mark Wahlberg plays an Irish right-fighting Boston police officer that goes to prison for beating up his superior officer, who moments before the altercation had been abusing his wife.

Prior to Spenser leaving prison, there is a violent altercation that is meant to send him back out into the free world. This violence sets the precedent for the rest of the film.

Right after Spenser is released, two suspicious cop-murders occur, and Spenser having been released on the same day — well, I can assume you know where this movie is going. The cops are asking where Spenser was the night of the murder.

Though Spenser had spent five years in prison, he is a veritable good guy, so he embarks on a quest to solve the cop murders.

Enter 500 butt-kickings into the confines of the film, with Wahlberg/Spenser receiving most of the kickings. It becomes almost laughable, well, it actually was laughable, but often in the places, it is meant to be.

Intermingled with the rest of the story, Spenser gets his job back at his old boxing gym and starts to train his roommate, a formidable and massively tall black guy, Hawk, (portrayed by Winston Duke) whom I really enjoyed seeing portrayed as a gentle giant with an affinity for organic oat milk and performing Reiki on Spenser’s dog.

To add to Hawk’s story, the character is an aspiring MMA fighter with raw talent that gets training from Spenser and begins to improve. I was disappointed that this trajectory wasn’t explored more as Hawk riddles the movie with a series of excellent one-liners and I wanted to see his character pursue his MMA aspirations.

Spenser continues to get his butt kicked, but the best of all the butt kickings were the verbal lashings he got from his girlfriend Cissy, played by Iliza Shlesinger. She is hilarious in the film, and when added with the dry verbal smart remarks from Alan Arkin as Henry, the movie becomes an overall laugh-fest.

Within all of its hilarity, there was a loss of seriousness in the interactions between the police, the casino-seeking mobsters and the machete-wielding Trinitarios. I found myself again laughing, but likely not in the places I was supposed to laugh. But some of the stereotypical thug behaviors lapsed more into ridiculousness, rather than the serious.

Let me say again, the movie was a fun romp, but there were moments a bit over the top that contributed to the film losing some of its gritty luster.

This movie is a bit rough around the edges and deserves its R rating for adult situations, violence, and language. I smell a sequel.

Now on Netflix.

Dispatches from Elsewhere

9.8 out of 10

My quick quote: “One of the best things on Television. Delightfully painful and anxiously optimistic. A quintessentially perfect ensemble cast with Sally Field, Richard E. Grant, André Benjamin, and Eve Lindley. Grant is thoughtfully brilliant, Lindley is a shining star.”

Dispatches from Elsewhere

Synopsis: "Dispatches From Elsewhere" is an anthology series from creator and star Jason Segal. The story centers around four ordinary people - Peter, Simone, Janice, and Fredwynn -- who are brought together by chance after they all respond to a flyer. Feeling as though something is missing in their lives, the characters are drawn into a game that unfolds in a serpentine series of events, taking them from parades to shareholders' meetings. As they piece together the puzzle to find a path forward, they come to delve deeper into a mind-boggling mystery hiding just behind the facade of everyday life and their eyes are opened to a world of possibility, whimsy and wonder. The 10-episode series features an ensemble cast including Sally Field, Richard E. Grant, André Benjamin, and Eve Lindley.

I decided to watch “Dispatches from Elsewhere” because it was on the tail end of the mid-season premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and I am appreciative I stayed to watch, even if it was just a curious venture at the onset.

“Dispatches from Elsewhere” brings together four people that for any other reason — may have never met in any other situation. The story first focuses on Peter (portrayed by Jason Segel) whose ordinary life becomes disrupted by a series of strange messages he sees on the street, and decides to look into it.

He embarks on a journey — leaving behind in some ways his ordinary life — and meets three others, Simone, Janice, and Fredwynn, played by Eve Lindley, Sally Field and André Benjamin, aka Andre 3000 from Outkast.

The union is majestic in its odd perfection. Over and over again I thought to myself as to how beautifully cast this series is, I really couldn’t see anyone else playing these roles now.

One shining star amidst all of the shining stars was Eve Lindley, one of the most pleasant and refreshing actors working today. Lindley literally lights up any scene in this series. Even when the character meets with horrible conflicts in the first episode, Lindley delivers, it was mesmerizing to watch.

I won’t go into too much detail about the story as there is too much that can be spoiled, and the journey within “Dispatches from Elsewhere” is an intrinsic part of its magic.

I highly recommend watching it. For all its beauty and hidden ugliness, truth behind the lies and passion behind the mundane.

The ten-episode series created by Jason Segel, (who plays Peter) is now on AMC.

Native Nerd Phone

Follow the #NativeNerd, Vincent Schilling, associate editor for Indian Country Today and a proud movie reviewer.

Have a film, product or another review request? Email me at vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com or reach out to me on social media, Twitter at @VinceSchilling and Instagram at @VinceSchilling.

Also, follow my Indian Country Today #NativeNerd account on Twitter at @ICTNativeNerd

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