Tag Archives: Natalie Erika James

New Shows + Movies by Women — March 26, 2021

Last week saw this feature take a break due to some technical issues. That means we’re covering two weeks of new shows and movies by women today. That’s a lot for one article, so I’ll just say one thing before diving in. It looks like an astonishing moment for horror movies and thrillers directed by women.

NEW SERIES

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+)
directed by Kari Skogland

Marvel heroes Falcon and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) get their own buddy action miniseries. From initial appearances, this looks like a more traditional MCU actioner than “WandaVision”. There are six episodes, though they’ll run a nice, long 45-55 minutes apiece.

While Malcolm Spellman is the showrunner, all six episodes are directed by Kari Skogland. She’s directed several episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Loudest Voice”, and “The Borgias”, as well as the two-part premiere of “The Rook”. Her directing career runs back to 1994, and she’s touched on countless other high-profile series.

You can watch “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Disney+)
co-showrunner Cathy Yuspa

The year is 2021. The Mighty Ducks have become an evil hockey empire. Who will take them on? Is it Gen X’s older brother Emilio Estevez? Is it Millennials’ TV mom Lauren Graham? Is it a bunch of Zoomers they coach to take on the evil Mighty Ducks? Yes. It is all these things. I should be jaded, but you give me a scruffy-looking Emilio Estevez, a one-lining Lauren Graham, and the promise of countless pratfalls on ice, and I’m already in.

Cathy Yuspa showruns with her husband Josh Goldsmith. The two have written together for a long time, going back to “What Women Want” and “13 Going on 30”.

You can watch “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” on Disney+.

Zero Chill (Netflix)
co-showrunner Kirstie Falkous
half directed by Tessa Hoffe

You thought that was going to be the only hockey series? Hockey powerhouse Britain (Britain?) has something to say about that.

Kayla is a promising figure skater. She has to leave everything she knows behind when her brother attends an elite hockey academy.

Kirstie Falkous showruns with John Regier. Falkous has written on a number of coming-of-age shows including “Britannia High” and “The Worst Witch”.

Five of the 10 episodes are directed by Tessa Hoffe, a New Zealand filmmaker who’s directed on long-running British shows like “Coronation Street” and “Hollyoaks”.

You can watch “Zero Chill” on Netflix.

Country Comfort (Netflix)
showrunner Caryn Lucas
mostly directed by women

A hopeful country singer is missing one thing – a band to back her up. She accepts a job as a nanny to make ends meet. It turns out the family she helps care for is full of musical prodigies.

Creator and showrunner Caryn Lucas has described the show as comfort food. Eight of the 10 episodes in the first season are directed by women. This includes six by Kelly Park (“Call Me Kat”) and two by Leslie Kolins Small (“The First Wives Club”).

You can watch “Country Comfort” on Netflix.

NEW MOVIES

Relic (Showtime)
directed by Natalie Erika James

A grandmother may have dementia, may be seeing horrors, or could be facing both. She goes missing. Her daughter and granddaughter turn up to look for her. The film’s been compared to recent horror surprises like “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” in its slow-burn approach to psychological horror.

Director Natalie Erika James chose to make the film look as natural as possible, opting for animatronics, less cinematic lighting, and keeping to a single location.

This is James’s first feature. The Japanese-Australian director grew up in Japan, China, and Australia, and she’s discussed the influence that Asian horror has had on her filmmaking – that horror often comes from restraint and suggestion.

This was previously featured when it hit VOD. You can now watch “Relic” on Showtime, or see where to rent it.

Quo vadis, Aida? (VOD)
Directed by Jasmila Zbanic

This historical drama takes place during the Serbian occupation of Srebrenica. Aida is a translator for the UN who seeks shelter for her family with thousands of others in their camp. The film from Bosnia and Herzegovina is nominated at the Oscars for Best International Feature Film this year.

Writer-director Jasmila Zbanic has directed both documentary and narrative features that often mirror the complex cultural legacy of the Bosnian war.

See where to rent “Quo vadis, Aida?”

Kovan (Netflix)
directed by Eylem Kaftan

Ayse comes home to care for her terminally ill mother. They don’t get much time before her mother passes, leaving Ayse to care for her beehives. She faces issues with their beekeeper and a local bear.

Eylem Kaftan is a Turkish director who’s mostly worked in documentaries up to this point. “Kovan” was one of Turkey’s two submissions for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes this year.

You can watch “Kovan” on Netflix. That link works, but if you search for it on your own, “Kovan” and “Keeping the Bees” both work.

The Fever (virtual theatrical)
directed by Maya Da-Rin

Justino is a member of the Desana people. He now works as a port security guard in a Brazilian city. He feels like his life is oppressive, and he misses living in the forest. He is soon beset with fever, and stalked by a strange creature.

Director and co-writer Maya Da-Rin is a Brazilian filmmaker and documentarian. This is her second narrative feature.

You can rent “The Fever through Film at Lincoln Center or through Aperture Cinema.

Rose Plays Julie (VOD)
co-directed by Christine Molloy

Rose decides to seek out her birth mother. Doing so unveils a number of discoveries that set her on a path for revenge.

Christine Molloy writes and directs with Joe Lawlor. The pair have written and directed a few films in Ireland now.

You can rent “Rose Plays Julie” on Amazon or Vudu.

Jumbo (VOD)
directed by Zoe Wittock

You know how it is, you hit a wall in life, find yourself working at an amusement park, and fall in love with a sentient carousel. I think we’ve all been there.

The French-Belgian film is written and directed by Zoe Wittock. This is her feature debut after a number of years working as an assistant director and making short films.

See where to rent “Jumbo”.

Violation (Shudder)
co-directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer

Miriam is contemplating divorce. She moves in with her younger sister and brother-in-law. They betray her, and she sets out on a course for revenge.

Madeleine Sims-Fewer co-writes, co-directs, and stars in the Canadian horror film. It’s her first feature as writer or director.

You can watch “Violation” on Shudder.

A Colony (MUBI)
directed by Genevieve Dulude-De Celles

Set in Quebec, this coming-of-age tale centers on a girl who starts re-defining herself as she enters high school and starts meeting new people. When school serves as an escape from family conflict, and family serves as an escape from social pressures at school, it can start to feel like there’s very little space left for herself.

Genevieve Dulude-De Celles has chiefly worked as a documentary producer. “A Colony” is her first narrative feature as director.

You can watch “A Colony” on MUBI.

Phobias (VOD)
mostly directed by women

The horror anthology is one of the most difficult but fun genres to pull off. Here, five patients who suffer from extreme phobias are tested by sadistic doctor.

Three of the five segments are directed by women: Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, and Jess Varley. Belle and Varley are both best known as actresses; this makes Belle’s directorial debut.

You can rent “Phobias” on Redbox.

The Good Traitor (VOD)
directed by Christina Rosendahl

Henrik Kauffmann was the Danish ambassador to the U.S. during World War II. When Germany occupied Denmark, Kauffman began acting for a free Denmark. As part of this, he worked with Greenland colonial officials to arrange a treaty that authorized the United States to defend Greenland. Kauffmann was immediately declared a traitor by a now-puppet government in Denmark, but he would effectively lead a free Danish government-in-exile throughout the war.

In the 1960s, he became one of the higher-profile cases of assisted dying, when the pain of his prostate cancer became too much. His wife Charlotte took his life before taking her own – such was the stigma against providing aid in dying at the time.

Christina Rosendahl directs and co-writes, as she’s done in both narrative and documentary films the past two decades. She also sometimes takes up the camera as cinematographer for documentaries.

You can rent “The Good Traitor” on Amazon, Google Play, or Vudu.

The Craft: Legacy (Starz)
directed by Zoe Lister-Jones

“The Craft” was a rare crossover that was both cult movie and pop sensation in 1996. It followed a group of high school students who became a coven of witches. Some of them use their powers productively, others less so. “The Craft: Legacy” is a sequel, albeit one that follows a new group of high schoolers discovering similar powers.

Director Zoe Lister-Jones worked her way from guest appearances to series regular on shows like “Whitney” and leads in indie films like “Lola Versus” (which she also wrote). As a director, this is her second feature after the well received “Band Aid”.

This was previously featured when it hit VOD. You can now watch “The Craft: Legacy” on Starz, or see where to rent it.

CW for next entry: gore

Slaxx (Shudder)
directed by Elza Kephart

A pair of possessed, homicidal jeans go on a rampage. It’s always up to the underpaid staff to figure it out, and it’s not like they’ll get overtime for it. “Slaxx” is a satire of the fashion industry from ‘fair trade’ sweatshops to marketing campaigns.

Director and co-writer Elza Kephart has been directing indie horror comedy since 2003’s “Graveyard Alive”.

You can watch “Slaxx” on Shudder.

Deadly Illusions (Netflix)
directed by Anna Elizabeth James

A famous novelist hires a nanny to help look after her two children. This lets her focus on her next novel. The only problem is that as she writes it, the details start to come true in her real life.

Writer, director, and producer Anna Elizabeth James has directed a few family films leading up to this. She seems to be shifting into horror with newer projects like “Deadly Illusions”.

You can watch “Deadly Illusions” on Netflix.

1 Night in San Diego (Hulu)
directed by Penelope Lawson

Two women road trip to San Diego for Comic Con. One thing leads to another until their trip is a mess of chaos and plot complications.

This is the second feature from writer-director Penelope Lawson after 2017’s “Just Sing”.

This was previously featured when it hit VOD. You can now watch “1 Night in San Diego” on Hulu, or see where to rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

New Shows + Movies by Women — July 10, 2020

This is a pretty great week for interesting choices. There are first-rate horror, period, action, musical, anime, political thriller, and documentary offerings. Let’s get into the new shows and movies by women quickly, but first I’ll mention one other short documentary that crossed my radar.

“The Claudia Kishi Club” is a short, 17-minute documentary supporting Netflix’s new show “The Baby-Sitters Club”. It’s directed by Sue Ding and talks about young Asian-American readers being able to see themselves as a protagonist when reading the YA novel series on which the show’s based. You can watch it on Netflix here.

On to this week’s features:

Relic (digital rental)
directed by Natalie Erika James

A grandmother may have dementia, may be seeing horrors, or could be facing both. She goes missing. Her daughter and granddaughter turn up to look for her, and everything starts descending bit by bit. The film’s been compared to recent horror surprises like “Hereditary” and “The Babadook” in its slow-burn approach to psychological horror.

Director Natalie Erika James chose to make the film look as natural as possible, opting for animatronics and keeping to a single location. Perhaps the most striking visual element from the trailer is the primary use of light sources that are within the scene. The result can border on murky in moments, but it feels much closer to our reality than more cinematic lighting approaches usually do.

This is James’s first feature. The Japanese-Australian director grew up in Japan, China, and Australia, and she’s discussed the influence that Asian horror has had on her filmmaking – that horror often comes from restraint and suggestion.

You can watch “Relic” for $6 on Amazon, or $7 on iTunes, Vudu, or YouTube.

First Cow (Amazon)
directed by Kelly Reichardt

This hit theaters in March, right when the pandemic was closing everything down. If you know Kelly Reichardt’s name, it’s from character dramas that feel quietly real. They can be both affirming and heartbreaking. Her best known film is “Wendy and Lucy”, about a woman who’s living in poverty and loses her dog.

“First Cow” is about a cook and a Chinese immigrant in the 1800s. They start a business with a cow whose milk they don’t own.

Some directors can present entire worlds with all their loudness and complexity. Reichardt is a director who finds in quietness the world inside a character – worlds we may never know because we overlook the types of people her stories are about. Witnessing their daily lives communicates what should be an obvious humanity that we otherwise pass by and ignore in real life.

She’s often shown a fascination with harsh living and the dreams and determination of people who live on the edges of their society. She doesn’t glorify poverty, though. She just remembers the people who are often numbers and causes are still people who have stories to tell.

You can watch “First Cow” with an Amazon subscription.

The Old Guard (Netflix)
directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood

“The Old Guard” is based on a graphic novel series about soldiers who have lived for centuries.

Charlize Theron has relentlessly carved out territory for women in action films. It’s easy to think this is more recent, with “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the “Atomic Blonde” franchise. Yet she’s been doing this since “The Italian Job” and “Aeon Flux” in the early 2000s. KiKi Layne has impressed in recent films like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Native Son”.

Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood is perhaps best known for romance movies like “Love & Basketball” and the (very underrated) “Beyond the Lights”. A great director is a great director, though, and can usually cross genres easily.

You can watch “The Old Guard” with a Netflix subscription.

Little Voice (Apple TV series)
showrunner Jessie Nelson

“Little Voice” follows a musician trying to find her way in the world. One thing I like about the trailer is the presentation of a man who’s emotionally supportive of a woman pursuing her creative and career goals. This is something that is still all too rarely presented in movies and shows. Of course, it’s a romantic comedy and musical, so he already has a girlfriend.

We might be in an age of really exceptional romantic comedy series. Just this year we’ve already had the exceptional “Never Have I Ever” (created by Mindy Kaling and showrun by Lang Fisher) and the exceedingly charming “Love, Victor” (co-showrun by Elizabeth Berger). Huh, a genre that’s finally opening itself to the other 50% of the talent pool by seeing women run the largest new shows is doing really well, who would’ve thought?

“Little Voice” showrunner Jessie Nelson directed “Love the Coopers” and “I Am Sam”. The latter was controversial for whether Sean Penn should have played a man with an intellectual disability. The film did cast two lesser roles with actors who had intellectual disabilities.

“Little Voice” looks admirable for its diversity. It does have a lead character with autism (I don’t want to compare the two, as autism is a developmental disability, a category which includes intellectual disabilities but does not necessarily indicate one). Thankfully, some lessons may have been learned since 2001 and this role has been cast with an autistic actor, Kevin Valdez.

You can watch “Little Voice” with an Apple TV subscription.

Japan Sinks: 2020 (Netflix series)
series director Pyeon-Gang Ho

Stop giving 2020 ideas, please! “Japan Sinks: 2020” follows a family after devastating earthquakes hit Japan. Its release was initially scheduled to coincide with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan (really, what was this plan?), but the pandemic has obviously indefinitely postponed the Olympics.

The big name on this used in all the advertising is Masaaki Yuasa, who directed “Devilman Crybaby”. He’s the director here, but there’s often something in anime shows called a series director. In this case, that’s Pyeon-Gang Ho. The meanings of these roles can cover a lot of different territory. Masaaki Yuasa could just be lending his name and overseeing things from what amounts to a producer role, he could be deeply involved in every decision, or it could be somewhere in the middle.

A series director generally makes the daily creative decisions about the show and would rate somewhere between (in U.S. series terms) a showrunner and an episode director (who directs all the episodes). But just like in the U.S., the level of creative control and responsibility that entails can scale up or down depending on the other people involved.

Does Pyeon-Gang Ho deserve the same credit as Masaaki Yuasa? More? Less? It’s hard to tell without diving deeper, especially because materials advertising the show will clearly highlight the far more famous Masaaki Yuasa’s involvement.

You can watch “Japan Sinks: 2020” with a Netflix subscription.

Stateless (Netflix limited series)
showrunner Elise McCredie
directed by Emma Freeman, Jocelyn Moorhouse

“Stateless” is an Australian limited series that focuses on the country’s abhorrent treatment of refugees and immigrants. Much like the U.S., Australia has a large-scale, privatized concentration camp industry. Human rights abuses and government cover-ups have been widespread, journalists barred from facilities, and charity workers have reported the regular assault and sexual abuse of camp prisoners.

“Stateless” centers on the refugees and their families here, as well as a bureaucrat neck-deep in controversy. It stars Yvonne Strahovski, Fayssal Bazzi, Clarence Ryan, and Cate Blanchett (who also produces) among others in a standout Australian ensemble cast.

Showrunner Elise McCredie started out as an actress in Australian TV, but started gaining ground as a writer and director more recently.

Three episodes each are directed by Emma Freeman and Jocelyn Moorhouse. Freeman is a regular Australian TV director who’s worked on “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and “Tideland”, just to name a pair of shows that are familiar in the U.S. Moorhouse is a writer-director who worked extensively in the 1990s before fading for about a decade starting in the 2000s. It was the 2015 surprise “The Dressmaker”, starring Kate Winslet, that seemed to announce her return.

You can watch “Stateless” with a Netflix subscription.

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Netflix)
co-directed by Cristina Costantini

Walter Mercado was a famous astrologer who was watched by tens of millions. He was gender-noncomforming, yet loved and admired in millions of Latin-American Catholic households. He vanished from the public eye at the peak of his fame. “Mucho Mucho Amor” explores what happened.

Cristina Costantini is a documentary director who’s hit the ground running in her first few years. Her most well-known documentary before this is “Science Fair”, which followed competitors in the International Science and Engineering Fair.

You can watch “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado” with a Netflix subscription.

Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense (Hulu, Funimation series)
co-directed by Mirai Minato

There’s a popular anime subgenre that follows characters in MMO (massively multiplayer online) games. Here, it’s a woman named Kaede Honjo who begins playing but doesn’t want her character to get hurt. She decides to put every skill point into defense. This leaves her slow and lacking skills, but virtually unassailable.

The series balances plot in reality, in the game, and then within events in the game, but is centered on in-game battles and adventures. Since there’s no trailer in English, I went with a clip, but the series has both subtitled and dubbed options available.

Mirai Minato is co-directing with Shin Onuma.

You can watch “Bofuri: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, So I’ll Max Out My Defense” with either a Hulu or Funimation subscription.

Your Excellency (Netflix)
directed by Funke Akindele

“Your Excellency” is a political satire from Nigeria that asks what happens if a disastrous and unqualified billionaire runs for president, but does unexpectedly well because of social media. Hmm, I can’t imagine.

The Nigerian film industry is often referred to as Nollywood, and it’s seen a number of movies cross over into American consciousness – generally with over-the-top scenes shared on YouTube. Netflix has actually done a pretty good job on including a number of Nollywood films. There’s a better collection there than in most other places accessible from the U.S.

Director Funke Akindele has acted in a number of Nigerian films and series, but has progressively found more opportunities for writing, producing, and directing. “Your Excellency” became the fourth highest-grossing Nigerian film of 2019.

You can watch “Your Excellency” with a Netflix subscription.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.