The Montreal-shot film The United States vs. Billie Holiday is out on VOD

The Montreal-shot film The United States vs. Billie Holiday is out on VOD
VOD Roundup is a weekly feature looking at films being released across video-on-demand platforms.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday

The United States vs. Billie Holiday, directed by Lee Daniels

Lady Day falls victim to biopic-itis for the second time with this shapeless (though well-intentioned) twilight-years biopic from Lee Daniels. Daniels has the right idea by focusing solely on the last ten years or so of Holiday’s life, but the film otherwise lacks focus as it falls victim to the inevitable Wikipedia point-form storytelling that plagues so many movies about the extraordinary lives of extraordinary people. Musician Andra Day makes a rather auspicious debut as the titular character, imbuing the sometimes-leaden dialogue with personality and especially bringing Holiday’s stage presence to life. Whenever Holiday is on stage, Daniels lets the performances play out with as little artifice as Lee Daniels is likely to allow; these scenes are quite often the best in a film that gets bogged down in circuitous narrative.

As the title suggests, The United States vs. Billie Holiday is based around the FBI’s long and dogged quest to make an example of Billie Holiday and essentially dog a person with substance abuse issues at every turn in order to make her the scapegoat and public persona at the center of a futile War on Drugs. The film is therefore centered, theoretically, around the attempts of an agent (played by Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes) to infiltrate Holiday’s inner circle in order to use her as a pawn. It’s a dramatically rich premise that the film nevertheless flits in and out of randomly, preferring instead to place additional focus on the many troubled relationships at the core of Holiday’s life. It becomes, for lack of a better description, just another story of a talented, troubled junkie getting into highly-dramatic trouble over and over.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is on VOD now. For more information about the film, please visit its IMDB page. Watch the trailer below:

The United States vs. Billie Holiday starring Andra Day

Pandemic

Pandemic, directed by Johnny Martin

Originally shot as Alone, this low-budget zombie movie has the particularity of being not exactly a remake but rather a parallel adaptation of the Korean Netflix zombie film #Alive. Both films were based on the same script, which boasts a not-entirely-boneheaded take on the zombie movie: it focuses on a guy (Tyler Posey) who, faced with a zombie outbreak, takes the advice being doled out and stays home. Instead of the usual quest for a safe haven and banding-together of survivors that inevitably happens in a zombie movie, Alone is practically a one-man-show for Posey, who’s best known for starring on the WB’s Teen Wolf show.

There are good ideas scattered throughout, but it’s a lot to rest on Posey’s shoulders. There are few male actors of Posey’s general ilk that could really pull off the one-man-show thing — Tom Hardy is one that comes to mind — and the first 45 minutes of Pandemic suffer tremendously from Posey’s limitations as a performer. Existing somewhere between mumblecore and meat-and-potatoes B-grade horror, Pandemic is extremely slow to get going — though, to its defence, it does eventually pick up some steam and work its way to a decently entertaining final third that also features a solid cameo from Donald Sutherland as a fellow survivor. In the over-saturated world of low-budget zombie movies, it’s very hard to stand out, and while Pandemic ultimately winds up too slight and stilted to truly overcome its flaws, it’s at the very least filled with a handful of compelling ideas.

Pandemic is on VOD now. For more information about the film, please visit its IMDB page. Watch the trailer below:

Tyler Posey stars in Pandemic (fka Alone)

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