(Criterion/DVD/BR) Unfortunately it’s currently not available to stream, but Criterion recently released a newly restored edition of SMOOTH TALK, a very dark coming-of-age tale from documentarian/director Joyce Chopra based on Joyce Carol Oates’ short story WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? It’s vintage 80s, very sun-kissed, featuring Laura Dern in one of first roles, plenty of mall shopping, bangles, and teen girl sexuality.

It’s also worth noting that the new Criterion release also contains a copy of Oates’ short, well-worth reading after watching the film, if you haven’t read it already. (Or you can read it here.) I simply love it when Criterion does this sort of thing. For instance, my Criterion copy of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK has a bundled copy of the source material.

12 HOUR SHIFT (2020)

(Hulu/VOD) Brea Grant is one busy creative. Tracking 2020 film releases alone, she wrote and appeared in this year’s LUCKY, popped up in THE STYLIST (sadly, I’ve been unable able to watch either yet), had a prominent role in AFTER MIDNIGHT, and still found time to write and direct 12 HOUR SHIFT.

12 HOUR SHIFT is a taut dark comedy about Mandy (Angela Bettis, MAY), a junkie nurse trying to appease her organ trafficking cousin Regina (Chloe Farnworth, IN CIRCLES) who misplaced the kidney Mandy pilfered for her. It’s a nasty good time featuring absolutely deplorable behavior from everyone involved but, despite behaving very badly, the characters are uniquely fleshed out and feel surprisingly grounded. While you can tell Chloe Farnworth is having a lot of fun leaning into her character’s impulses, the film belongs to Angela Bettis with her gruff voice and stern stares.

It helps that 12 HOUR SHIFT is tightly constructed, the score seamlessly — and surprisingly — weaves through genres, Grant and cinematographer/composer Matt Glass (SQUIRREL and the upcoming GHOSTS OF THE OZARKS) make the most of the hospital space and ensure that every color pops, and they somehow managed to (briefly) wrangle Mick Foley.

It’s worth noting that Brea Grant -also- co-hosts the READING GLASSES podcast with Mallory O’Meara, who wrote the edifying biography about Milicent ‘Designer of The Gill Man’ Patrick: THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON!