Nicholas Jarecki has written and directed an opioid epic. Like Traffic, three stories intersect, with Gary Oldham, Evangeline Lilly and Armie Hammer sharing the star billing. Prof. Brower (Oldham) is testing out a new drug that promises to be the first non-addictive opioid. The fictional company behind the drug, Northlight, is modeled after Purdue Pharma, who flooded the market with OxyContin and has since been court ordered to stop doing business (see Dopesick). Northlight, along with Armenian mobsters who make fentanyl, Brower’s university bosses and the FDA all play heavies in this complicated story. Brower blows the whistle when he discovers Klarinal doesn’t work while DEA agent Jack Kelly (Hammer) sets up a deal with the Armenians. The wild card is valiant mom Claire Reimann (Lilly), who investigates the mysterious death of her son, tracing it back to the fentanyl mill. In a supporting role, Lili Rose Depp as Emmie plays a hardcore junkie; she’s Jake’s younger sister, adding another layer to the already dense plot. It all gets wrapped in a neat bow by the end, but the action leading up to the climax is worth the methodical ride.
In 2018, pop singer Demi Lovato overdosed on a combination of heroin and fentanyl-laced oxycontin, crack and meth. Lucky to have survived, Lovato has had a tough road back. She suffered three strokes and a heart attack, and has brain damage and vision problems that prevent her from driving. But she was able to resume performing in 2020. In this four-part series, Lovato says she’d adopted the “California sober” lifestyle, which allows for pot and alcohol. She’s since peddled back from that and now claims to be totally sober.
Donny’s Bar Mitzvah
Perhaps the most ridiculous comedy of the year, Jonathan Kaufman’s mockumentary takes place at a bar mitzvah in 1998. Meet the Druckers – bar mitzvah boy Donny (meaning he’s 13), his cynical older sister and wacky parents – and their extended family and friends. The home movie style footage skips the haftarah and goes right to the party, where a smorgasbord of alcohol and drugs is being served. Stressed that the party’s for his parents and not him, Donny (Steele Stebbins) seeks the advice of Valet Mike (Connor Del Rio), who of course gets the just-turned-teenager high on pot for the first time. Apparently, his crush Hannah (Isabelle Anaya) like him better that way. But be prepared for a lot of poop and barf gags and dick jokes.
Adam McKay's take on This Is the End is a what-if: What would we do if a comet threatened the extinction of the planet? Once two astonomers - Kate Dibiasky (Kennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) - discover the comet, the race is on to either trivialize or politicize it. Lawrence recently revealed she smoked pot before acting in a pivotal scene with Meryl Streep, who plays conniving President Orlean. After the White House meeting is bumped to the next day, Kate exclaims, "I've got to get high." Next scene she's hitting a black pipe. This is followed by a close-up of the sleek pipe (it appears to be the Journey Pipe) and ground cannabis on a table. Jonah Hill (Chief of State Jason Orleans) jokes at one point, "The Molly's kicking in right now" and also touches his nose. Modeled on Donald Trump Jr., he's particularly condescending to Kate. While Randall's seduced by TV anchor Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett), Kates takes up with skater dude Yule (Timotheé Chalamet). Orleans conspires with her big-business buddy Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance) to somehow profit from the Earth-shattering comet. It's all pretty funny until it's too late.
In Theaters, on Netflix 12/24
Don’t Try to Under to Understand: A Year in the Life of Earl “DMX” Simmons
In 2019, at 49, DMX was released after spending a year in prison on a tax evasion conviction. He wanted to restart his career and planned to go on tour. But after a few high-profile gigs like Coachella in California, the Yonkers, NY based rapper relapsed. Rather than head out on the road, Earl “DMX” Simmons checked into to Banyan Treatment Center for crack addiction. This 85-minute documentary by Christopher Frierson and Clark Slater is part of HBO’s Music Box series that also includes docs about Woodstock ’99, Alanis Morrissette and Juice WRLD. When DMX sings the entire Gladys Knight version of “The Way They Were,” you know this is not your typical doc. It’s an intimate peek into the life of the troubled Grammy nominee who passed away earlier this year.