A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

STILLWATER” RATED R The case of Amanda Knox, an American student living in Italy who was arrested and charged with the murder of her roommate, created sensational headlines. She was convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term even though she maintained her innocence.Stillwater” ostensibly trades on the Knox case at least in the sense that another American studying abroad, Allison (Abigail Breslin) from Oklahoma, ends up in a French prison for the murder of her roommate. Arguably, “Stillwater,” a city in Oklahoma that is the home of Allison, is more about the redemption of her father Bill Baker (Matt Damon), an unemployed oil rig worker who travels to Marseille to deliver supplies and news to his estranged daughter.Bill’s working-class hard life has been marred by a past of alcohol and drug abuse, and though Allison doesn’t trust him, he tries to make up for not being in her life with an effort to chase a new tip that could exonerate Allison.

When Allison’s French lawyer declines to pursue a new investigation, Bill takes matters into his own hands, even though he’s confronted with a language barrier and cultural differences, and there are dark turns as he pursues a lead for exculpatory DNA. Dressed in jeans, plaid shirt and baseball cap, the stoic Bill stands out among the locals as the quintessential heartland American. He has better luck after helping a young girl locked out of the hotel room next to his. Life takes a new direction for Bill when the mother of the girl, avant-garde actress Virginie (Camille Cottin), appreciates his act of kindness to the winsome 8-year-old Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), a charming scene-stealer.Virginie becomes a translator, and conveniently, Bill becomes a tenant at her home. The emotional core of “Stillwater” is the new life Bill forges with Virginie and Maya, but then Bill faces difficult choices that threaten his last shot at redemption.Though plodding in its pacing at times, “Stillwater” merits attention for a suspenseful story and notable acting from an international cast. The ending may seem to be inconclusive. What is not in doubt is how good are Damon and the two French actresses in his orbit.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt grew up on the small screen with roles on multiple series, most notably in his co-starring role in the long-running NBC comedy “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Now he returns to series television as writer, director and star of “Mr. Corman” on Apple TV+. Gordon-Levitt’s Josh Corman is an artist at heart but not by trade. Things haven’t been going his way.A lifelong dream of a career in music didn’t pan out for Josh, and he finds himself teaching fifth grade at a school in the San Fernando Valley, his ex-fiance Megan has moved out and his high school buddy has moved in. Aware that he still has a lot to be thankful for, Josh struggles nevertheless through universal feelings of anxiety, loneliness and self-doubt. “Mr. Corman” is intended to be a darkly funny and relatable comedy-drama for the 30-something crowd.The British outlandish sense of black comedy comes to “Masterpiece” on PBS in September with the four-episodes series “Guilt” about a hit-and-run that conjures up the old saying, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.”

Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives star as brothers Max and Jake who forgot the ancient dictum and thus hide their guilt after running into an elderly pedestrian during an inebriated drive home from a wedding.Not ordinary perpetrators, Max and Jake carry the victim’s corpse to his house nearby and set him up in an easy chair. They find a letter that he has terminal cancer, leading Max to say, “He was dying slowly. We just made it quick.”Farcical turns abound in “Guilt,” and classic slacker Jake falls in love with the victim’s niece. Max hires an alcoholic detective to botch an investigation but who then decides to go sober and solve the case. British critics raved about the series, and maybe we will too.As a forewarning we may not remember thirteen months from now, Amazon Studios has announced that its highly anticipated, yet-to-be-titled “The Lord of the Rings” television series will premiere Friday, September 2, 2022 on its Prime Video.This new epic drama brings to screens for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s fabled Second Age of Middle-Earth’s history. It begins in a time of relative peace, thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” books.

The series will follow an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-Earth. Filming the first season has been completed in New Zealand.The announcement quoted Bilbo Baggins saying, “Now I think I am quite ready to go on another journey.” Fans of “The Lord of the Rings” book, which have sold more than 150 million copies, might ask why we have to wait more than a year for the new series.