Movie Review: “The End of the Tour”

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It takes nothing away from “The End of the Tour” in labeling this Jason Segel/Jesse Eisenberg dramedy a “bromance.” Segel, the master of that genre on film (“I Love You, Man”) and TV (“How I Met Your Mother”), dons a bandana, wears his hair long and becomes the guy Eisenberg’s buttoned-down novelist/magazine reporter longs to be in this film, based on a true story.
But while it’s no stretch to imagine Segel as an interview subject you’d fall for, and it’s no stretch at all seeing Eisenberg as a smart, arrogant nerd interviewing a more famous writer and swallowing his jealousy, it is shocking how good Segel is as the self-serious, witty and utterly literary “regular guy” novelist David Foster Wallace.
James Ponsoldt’s film, based on the David Lipsky memoir, tells the story of Wallace’s 1996 peak — when his thousand-page “satirical quiz kid opus” “Infinite Jest” caught the zeitgest and earned raptorous comparisons to Hemingway and J.D. Salinger. Lipsky (Eisenberg), a young, obscure novelist with a reporting gig at Rolling Stone, asks to be assigned to profile this hyped hero of publishing, catching him at the end of a wintry book tour in the midwest, where Wallace called home.
The younger writer finds the 34 year-old college professor living in snowy Normal, Illinois, sharing his house with two black Labrador retrievers and modestly apologizing for not being a more entertaining lecturer or interview subject. His principal vices appear to be TV (he can’t have one, or he’d watch compulsively and never writer) and junk food.
But there’s a guarded side to him, which surfaces over four days of interviews and just hanging out. He’s concerned about image, wants to be profiled in Rolling Stone but doesn’t “want to look like I WANT that.”
And Lipsky, ordered to get the dirt on rumors of mental breakdowns and heroin by his editor (Ron Livingston) and perhaps annoyed that his girlfriend (Anna Chlumsky) idolizes Wallace, bears down. Eventually.
Director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now,””Smashed”) has never made a bad movie, never filmed a story that’s not gimmick free or completely compelling on a human scale. Here, he’s filmed a chess match — Wallace expanding on the cultural emptiness and loneliness his book taps into, explaining away his unmarried status, the fact that he prefers Illinois State University to New York, Lipsky circling back around to those inner demons that surely must drive this man, which might explain why Wallace is more accomplished than him. Resentment flutters back and forth in the questions, the way Lipsky rides Wallace’s coattails on tour (and flirts with Wallace’s female fans).
Segel lets Wallace’s mercurial nature pop up in flashes of anger over “how I’m coming off,” at the hostility and jealousy he fears will color this profile. Eisenberg does what he does best — suggesting intelligence, arrogance and the sense that he will never be as famous or “handsome” as his foil.
“End of the Tour” is basically one long interview, remembered in flashback by Lipsky, consulting his old interview tapes after Wallace’s death. But Ponsoldt makes the interview a moveable feast of junk food, road trip soft drinks and all-night chain restaurants. Groupies and dogs pass through it. Joan Cusack plays a driver who escorts the writers through Minneapolis.
And we get serious insight not only into Wallace, who was smart, quick and endlessly quotable, but into the reporter’s craft. Lipsky notes details about diet, decor, Wallace’s crafted casualness and passion for Alanis Morisette.
There’s little action in this, and even the “gotcha” moments feels muted, civilized. Lipsky was, much of the time, falling in love with his new “bro.” But “The End of the Tour” still manages fireworks and beautiful insights into the personas writers build for themselves, and how even intensive interrogation sometimes cannot plumb the soul, talent and despair of the brightest literary lights, the ones destined to self-destruct before they ever have the chance to flame out.

3half-star

MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references

Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Joan Cusack, Anna Chlumsky
Credits: Directed by James Ponsoldt, script by by Donald Margulies, based on the David Lipsky book. An A24 release.

Running time: 1:46

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Movie Review: “Five Star” shows us the gang life without the cliches

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3stars2Primo gets emotional about his kids. Bald and charismatic, a big, cuddly bear of a man with a Persian Empire beard and a vast collection of tattoos, he dotes on his autistic son, his little girl and his wife.
And he’s ready to take young John into his extended family. The teen lost his dad. Primo knew him. And he’s more than ready to step up.
“I owe it to your Pops…I’m gon’ do for you what he did for me.”
But Primo is a gang leader, a New York “Blood” since childhood. And John, who might be a good kid if his now-single Mom has anything to say about it, is vulnerable to the dangerous but effort-free paydays that Primo’s promising, the protection that just being in his orbit offers.
Primo, played by real-life gang member James “Primo” Grant, had the brand on his shoulder — five star marks. He’s a five-star general in this world. Is John, a kid in braces and his first real girlfriend, ready for this?
Keith Miller’s “Five Star” has the intimacy of a conversation overheard, the authentiticy of street lives as they’re lived. This isn’t heightened Hollywood melodrama. It’s a depiction of a life that shows its attraction to new recruits.
Because Primo is a man always in control. He’s 30ish, with the confidence of a big man that makes him an in-demand bouncer and body guard.
But Primo has another line of work. And as down low as he plays it, sooner or later John’s going to see that side of him.
Miller stages Primo’s opening monologue — delivered to an unseen passenger in his car — with pathos and compassion, a big sensitive man explaining his feelings in street argot, most lines punctuated with “You feelin’ me?” or “You know what I’m sayin’?”
Even when he raises his voice to an underling who owes him money, he apologizes. “That was very rude of me.”
He still beats the man, and his lieutenants finish the punishment.
John (John Diaz) takes this all in. He sees how people treat Primo. This is “A Bronx Tale” with the Italian Americans of the ’50s replaced by African Americans and Latinos. John is absorbing Primo’s life lessons.
“People are negative…The streets are tough. The streets are evil.”
John’s mom is in the dark, figuring all she has to worry about is her son getting somebody pregnant.
“I did NOT raise you to be a player!”
“Five Star” is too brief to get deep into these lives, and truth be told — Primo and the others here are more instinctual than deep. But he is sage enough to know that if John does screw up and gets killed, it won’t even make the news.
John wonders how his father died, and no one can tell him. He’s taking up a line of work that doesn’t forgive even the smallest mistake.
“This out here, this ain’t no joke, man.”
Is he in over his head? You bet.
That’s the tension and the charm of “Five Star,” an intimate portrait, a slice-of-life that goes just far enough beyond the cliches to be fascinating.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, profanity, drug-trade discussions

Cast: James “Primo” Grant, John Diaz, Wanda Nobles Colon, Jasmine Burgos
Credits: Written and directed by Keith Miller. An XLRator Media release.

Running time: 1:23

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Movie Review: “Northmen: A Viking Saga”

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History credits the Vikings for discovering and attempting to colonize the New World.
But in the movies, those rape-ruin-and-run raiders are always getting lost. They’re stranded on some foreign shore, forced to fight their way home. Richard Widmark had to get past the Moorish Sidney Poitier in “The Long Ships,” Karl Urban was lost and raised among American Indians in “Pathfinder,” and Mads Mikkelson couldn’t figure out East from West in “Valhalla Rising.”
Often, there’s a local princess who falls in with the swarthy blonds, and “Stockholm Syndrome” is invented.
There’s a power struggle within the crew — brother against brother, resentful underling longing to take the helm.
You know these tropes, and I know them, and screenwriters Bastian Zach and Matthias Bauer familiarized themselves with them for “Northmen: A Viking Saga,” a blood-spattered quest story about Vikings shipwrecked in seriously uncivilized Scotland. It’s got every Norse cliche in the book, save for Monty Python’s suggestion that they loved SPAM and sang about it.
Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) leads the survivors inland, in search of Viking colonies in pre-Norman Britain. They stumble into a Scots princess (Charlie Murphy). Her father the king sends mercenaries (Nic Rasenti, Joe Vaz) after them/her.
And all that can save them is their brawn, her pluck and a mysterious monk (Ryan Kwanten) who seems more Shaolin than Cistercian. He is bold and sasses the Scandinavians. They must be lost.
“There are no monasteries to raid” around here, he cracks. But when The Wolves, as the mercenaries are called, charge in, Brother Collan (Kwanten) is handy with a staff, a stick, a knife or sword.
Princess Inghean touches the ground and “see what the land reveals to me.” Cool.

The fights are Old Hollywood meets New Bloodbath — corny and carnage-filled.
The whole saga seems pre-ordained, pre-packaged and pretty boring, entirely too predictable to come off. There’s a reason Viking movies follow a formula. Often it works. They’re the ultimate super soldiers battling long odds, the elements and legions of foes with one quip on their mind.
“You brother waits for us in Valhalla!”
The South African locations are more wooded and don’t quite mimic Scotland. But they’re striking and give you something to look at between well-staged and sometimes berserk battles and hoary B-movie cliches. Director Claudio Fah makes certain to leave none of those out.

1half-star
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout

Cast: Tom Hopper, Charlie Murphy, Ryan Kwanten, Nic Rasenti, Joe Vaz

Credits: Directed by Claudio Fah, script by Bastian Zach, Matthias Bauer. An Anchor Bay release.

Running time: 1:37

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Movie Review: “Shaun the Sheep Movie”

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The stop-motion animated maestros at Aardman get back to their clay animation comedy basics with “Shaun the Sheep Movie,” a dialogue-free romp that is a shear delight, shear perfection, if not quite a master-fleece.

Sorry.
A film of sight gags, fish-out-of-water/sheep-in-the-city jokes and other delights aimed at the very young, it revisits a character introduced in their “Wallace & Gromit” shorts, a smart and prank-prone sheep who once warranted his own TV series.
In “Sheep Movie,” Shaun and the flock are restless, bored with the endless routine of Mossy Bottom Farm. They’re forever pulling one over on the squinting (no eyes) Farmer until that day when Shaun schemes to get a “day off.” There’s an elaborate plan to fool the Farmer about what time it is (night or day), a caravan (camper trailer), sheep jumping over a fence to make him think he’s counting sheep and dreaming.
But things go too far and the Farmer gets a conk on the noggin. Kids are never too young to learn that in the movies that means “Amnesia.” The Farmer is lost, hospitalized in the Big City. Shaun, his arch nemesis Bitzer the sheep dog, and the rest of the flock set out to save him, or to be more exact, themselves. Drudge or not, the Farmer takes care of them.
They run into a stray dog, struggle to stay clear of Trumper, an animal control officer. They don disguises — Bitzer puts on surgeon’s scrubs, at one point, sheep stand on each other’s shoulders under an overcoat (Do sheep have shoulders?) — in an effort to blend in long enough to “save” The Farmer.
But The Farmer’s forgotten his old life, save for one grand life skill. He can shear. Before you can say “Paul Mitchell” or “Oribe” or “Vidal Sassoon,” The Farmer is the hair stylist to see, his sheep shearing Custom Cuts the rave of trendy London.
As with the TV series, the pacing and whimsy here is mostly aimed at the pre-verbal, or at least children who haven’t learned to read. They may not appreciate the hand-crafted British eccentricity that these films revel in. They just laugh at the sneaky duck, the opportunistic pigs and the sheep who follow Shaun like…sheep.
The worst you can say about this oh-so-British studio is that they’ve run out of new ideas. But the best you can say is that nobody makes non-verbal comedies better. The fact that they’re back to doing it with clay models (look for fingerprints) and hand-built sets is reason to celebrate.

3half-star

MPAA Rating: PG for rude humor

Cast: The mumbling and giggling voices of Justin Fletcher, Kate Harbour, John Sparkes and others
Credits: Written and directed by Mark Burton, Richard Starzak, script by . A Lionsgate release.

Running time: 1:25

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Movie Review: “Paper Towns”

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A teen romance with most of the rough edges rubbed off, “Paper Towns” is as pleasantly bland as the city that is its setting — Orlando.
That’s where Quentin (Nat Wolff of “Stuck in Love”) has pined away for neighboring teen Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo is outgoing, curious, a risk-taker, even as a tween — trying to figure out why a neighbor killed himself in a park in their subdivision.
Quentin has always worried about getting in trouble, “the future,” which he sees oncology, thanks to a degree from Duke. That’s where he’s headed after graduation.
Margo? She drifted away, plainly just bored with a boy who never takes chances.
Quentin narrates our story — almost incessantly. And when we first hear him, Margo’s disappeared.
“She loved mysteries so much that she became one.”
But this isn’t a milk carton teen story, not THAT kind of mystery. Margo likes leaving clues. Maybe Quentin can find her.
He reconstructs that one magical night they had together, when Margo — who manipulates and uses him without a second thought — dragged him out of his room, into his mom’s mini van and into a night of revenge and pranks.
“We bring the rain down on our enemies,” she declares. Any time Quentin tries to back off, it’s “We bring the rain, NOT the scattered showers!”
They hit the all-night discount store and stock up on Nair, Saran Wrap and Vaseline. She’s avenging herself on her cheating boyfriend, his pal and her best friend — who never told her her beau was a cheat.
Q and Margo Roth Spiegelman — often referred to by her full name, to underline the sexual and musical free spirit “Jewish wild woman” cliche novelist John Green wrote her to be — have a moment that night, barely.
And then she was gone.
It’s up to Q and his “Sixteen Candles” sidekicks Radar (Justice Smith) and Ben (Austin Abrams) to find clues, solve the mystery and track her to whatever Paper Town she’s run for.
John Green, the vlogger and TV writer-turned teen novelist, has done a nice job staking out the bittersweet romance corner of that universe, from a love affair with a dying girl (“The Fault in Our Stars”) to the love that never quite was (“Paper Towns”).
The story takes us to a teen party and an oddly unworrying road trip as Lacey, Margo’s dumped BFF (Halston
Sage, is that a real name?) joins the boys and Radar’s first girlfriend (Jaz Sinclair) on a quest to find the missing manipulator.
Cara Delevingne plays Margo as all eyebrows and bare midriff, an approachable teen dream and not some unattainable prom queen. There’s just enough charisma here to suggest the allure.
Wolff rarely gives his characters any edge, and that makes Q a bit more boring than he’s written. But of course Mom would let him skip off on a road trip in her car without asking. Guys this dull never do anything irresponsible.
Director Jake Schreirer did the briefly over-rated Old Man and his robotic helper dramedy “Robot & Frank,” and he hits most of the mileposts in this checklist teen romance. There’s just enough teen sex, swearing and drinking (as there was in “Fault in Their Stars”) to make this catnip to the 15 year-olds in the target audience.
Viewers who have been around the multiplex a little longer won’t mind it, even if we are checking our watches, wondering if this is ever going to grow a villain, or grow the guts to make the manipulative Margo into one.

2stars1
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens

Cast: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage
Credits: Directed by Jake Schreier, script by Scott Neustadter based on the John Green novel. A Fox 2000 release.

Running time: 1:49

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Movie Review — “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”

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Jokier and more obviously derivative, “Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation” is the funniest “MI” picture, and maybe the worst of the series.
It’s still an amusing Greatest Hits package, with Tom Cruise anchoring the action in a story that borrows from thrillers going back decades.
You want formulaic set ups? How about an assassination during an opera?
Tom torture? Done in a dimly lit dungeon in London, no less.
Hackneyed dialogue?
“He knows about Casablanca.”
Not the classic Bogart movie, mind you, the city in Morocco, home to the most sophisticated sea-water-cooled (!?) computer data storage facility this side of FIFA. Ethan Hunt has to hold his breath a really long time to crack that.
Christopher McQuarrie’s script drags us from Belarus to Washington, Vienna to London and…Casablanca.
But then, you know about Casablanca.
The Impossible Mission Force is under government threat — again. This time the CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) gets them de-funded. But Ethan Hunt is still in the field, still chasing rogue agents from scores of different agencies, all tucked under the neat name of “The Syndicate.”
Rebecca Ferguson is Ilsa, the Syndicate insider who may be Ethan’s savior, or his worst nightmare. And a reptilian Sean Harry (“Prometheus”) is the mysterious Mr. Big of “The Syndicate,” whose motives are as haphazard as the McQuarrie (“Usual Suspects,””Jack Reacher”) script that presents them to us. The jokes are self-referential — Pegg’s Benjy chuckling whenever somebody else says something is “Impossible,” laughing because Ethan Hunt does the impossible. Every time.  Self-mockery? A handicap of the lesser Bond films, BTW.
Cruise has aged into a guy with more gravitas, though his acting here is broad (big BIG indicators) masquerading as subtle. The rest of his IMF team — Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg, are showing their years and more comical than ever.
Cruise, however, will not go gently into that Stallone-and-stuntman “Expendable” night. That’s him, strapped to a cargo plane as it takes off in the pre-credits gambit, which everybody’s already seen on the Internet. And there’s an epic, Tom-does-his-own-riding motorcycle chase through the oddly empty streets and later winding roads outside of Casablanca.
These movies, produced by J.J. Abrams, have become a showcase for set-piece gimmicks and gadgets, and “MI:5″ has a few of those — most a tad underwhelming.
But Ferguson (TV’s “The White Queen”) suggests aloof calculation, and Cruise delivers fair value — as always. He makes the perfect straight-man to his amusing ensemble of cut-ups and killers.
With a little lucky, younger viewers won’t notice the “Here we go again” nature of America’s Answer to James Bond.

2stars1
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Fraser, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin
Credits: Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie. A Paramount release.

Running time: 2:11

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Movie Review: “Vacation”

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Nostalgia is an understandable, if perhaps misguided reaction to “Vacation,” a sequel/reboot of 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
The soundtrack tugs at…something…every time Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” theme song burbles back to life.
And Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their roles from the original film in brief appearances in the third act.
But with every desperate F-bomb, every “Dad, what’s a rim job?” crudity, every crass overreach into vulgarity, “Vacation” feels pointless, dated and dirty.
Not that the original film, R-rated in its day yet watched by families as a “family” comedy ever since, is anybody’s idea of a classic. It’s just that scene by scene, character by character, “Vacation” flails and fails to find what used to be funny about a fading American tradition — the family “road trip.”
Ed Helms is Rusty Griswold, long-suffering son of long-suffering Clark (Chase) from that long-ago trek in an insanely ugly new station wagon. A pilot with a lightly-regarded budget airline, Rusty realizes he can’t drag the wife (Christina Applegate), dorky, sensitive teen (Skyler Gisondo) and the teen’s bullying much-younger brother (Steele Stebbins) to Europe. But he can rent a Tartan Prancer minivan (“Its the Honda of Albania!”) and recreate that epic childhood trek to Walley World.
Along the way, they’ll visit Mom’s Memphis alma mater (Mom’s college nickname was “Debbie Do-Anything,” apparently), catch up with Rusty’s sister (Leslie Mann) who married a hunky Texas weatherman/rancher (Chris Hemsworth), raft the Grand Canyon (Charlie Day’s their manic depressive guide) and spend a fortune at a theme park.
The teen strums his guitar, falls for a girl (Catherine Missal) also on a road trip, and is bullied, pitilessly, by his foul-mouthed sibling. Dad runs afoul of a deadly, unseen trucker. And Mom tries to hide her disappointment.
Every so often, Helms (“The Hangover”) suggests a hint of Chase’s Dad trying to put a positive spin on every setback, a man struggling with shifting roles in the family dynamic. “Just a minor setback,” he says, just like his dad. “We can handle this.” He tries to lead sing-alongs…to Seal.
Veteran funnywoman Applegate channels the adult version of her “Married…With Children” self.
None of the cameos scores laughs, save for the screeching Day.
But the appearance of Chase and D’Angelo, all these decades later, still manages a sentimental tug on the heart. That’s the only shocking reaction generated by this movie, which serves as more of a statement on where the R-rated comedy stands in our culture than any update on the State of the Family.

1half-star
MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content and language throughout, and brief graphic nudity

Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Chris Hemsworth, Skyler Gisondo, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day
Credits: Written and directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein, based on characters from the 1983 film “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. A New Line/Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 1:39

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Movie Review: “That Sugar Film”

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2half-star6“That Sugar Film” is Aussie director/essayist Damon Gameau’s attempt to do to Big Sugar what “Supersize Me” did to McDonalds.
It’s a glib yet informative and sometimes entertaining re-hashing of everything we know about how bad sugar is for us and how The Sugar Industry tries to hide its product within processed foods, and keep consumers from knowing how this stuff is poisoning us.
Gameau uses the occasion of his girlfriend’s pregnancy to go off his (Australian) “sugar free” diet, vowing to spend two months consuming the average daily amount of sugar that food processors sneak into our diets — 40 teaspoons at about 4 grams each.
He eats “low fat” yogurt loaded with sugar, “Just Right” cereal, fruit juices — which he shows us give us just the fruit sugars without the fiber — and the like, and proceeds to gain weight.
He is monitored by a “team” which he gives nicknames — “Dr. Blood,” “The Crusader,” etc.
He uses animation to reveal how the liver reacts to sugar, what causes diabetes.
And in particularly cutesie touches, he has actors like Hugh Jackman (as a magician giving “The Condensed History of Sugar”) and Stephen Fry reciting a Dr. Seuss-like poem about sucrose and fructose and how they’re bad for us.
This tends to lighten the scenes where Gameau visits an Aboriginal community dying of diabetes, a whole “dry” town (alchohol free) where people are dying prematurely from their sugar-dosed diet.
A visit to America reveals the Big Conspiracy, where sugar-dependent companies finance junk science to sew the seeds of doubt that sugar is killing us.
The deadly soft-drink Mountain Dew earns a whole chapter, as vast corners of the South raise their rural poor children on this stuff. We follow a Kentucky teen into a traveling dentist’s RV office where the kid is to have his teeth pulled and be fitted for dentures — at 18.
He gains weight and grows lethargic, and Gameau covers familiar ground from first frame to last. We revisit the sugar vs. fat war that American healthcare science fought in the ’60s, for instance.
“That Sugar Film” serves as a reminder, if we needed one, that learning food supplement speak and reading labels in search of “fructose” when we shop — as in what to avoid — is a survival skill in a world where junk food and sugar drinks aren’t the only sources of the daily overdose of Big Sugar that we’re being given.

MPAA Rating: unrated

Cast: Damon Gameau, Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry, assorted experts, victims
Credits: Written and directed by Damon Gameau. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:30

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Movie Review: “Jimmy’s Hall”

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“Jimmy’s Hall” is an eye-opening period piece that takes us back to the dark days of the Irish Police State.
The British are non-entities in the post-Civil War Ireland of the 1930s. But the village that political exile Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) comes back to still has serious schisms and conflict. He’s a leftist, a union organizer, and “a communist” to the cranky old priest (Jim Norton) who makes it his business to keep Jimmy in line.
That should be no problem, as Jimmy’s agitating seems to have mellowed.
But the kids in the area are bored out of their skulls. Jimmy’s seen the big city (New York). He knows the latest dance steps, and none of this River Dancing nonsense. Won’t he reopen the old community center, Pearse Connolly Hall?
“We want to DANCE, Jimmy!”

jim2
That simple request in this pre-“Footloose” epoch opens Jimmy up to a world of abuse and opens every old wound of class warfare between the landed and the renters, backed by the IRA, between the theocratic Catholic Church and the government it backs, and Jimmy.

Because the Hall doesn’t just represent music and dancing. It’s about freedom, a place to meet, organize, debate, a place outside of the control of the Catholic Church, which, as the priest huffs, pretty much runs things in the Ireland of this era.
Leftist filmmaker Ken Loach (“The Wind that Shakes the Barley,” “Land Freedom”) sets up the conflict well, keeping his and the viewer’s outrage in check as the priest calls out the names of people who “dance” at the hall, teens are beaten by parents and the IRA tries to figure out which side to back in this skuffle.
There aren’t really any heroes here, as Gralton’s defiance has a simple, homey and inevitable feel and Ward underplays him — a man who has to keep his temper to stay in the country.
Even “the girl he left behind” element to this (mostly) true story (Simone Kirby) is conflicted, a married mother still drawn to her fiery first love, but not quite. Some of the edges are worn off the myopic priest, here and there, watering down the drama.
But Loach, a veteran of many an Irish-set film, captures the dozens of shades of green even in the nearly treeless hills of this corner of Ireland. And he makes his point with a minimum of fuss.
“Jimmy’s Hall” isn’t consequential or satisfying enough to rank among the best films about Irish politics during those formative years. But it does remind us of the sides people took, the powers given over to the church and the ways those powers were abused, even after the British Army marched north.

3stars2
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and a scene of violence

Cast: Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Jim Norton, Brían F. O’Byrne
Credits: Directed by Ken Loach, script by Paul Laverty based on a Donal O’Kelly play. A Sony Pictures Classics release.

Running time: 1:46

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Movie Review: “Call Me Lucky”

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“Call Me Lucky” is another of those “the funniest comic you never saw” documentaries. Guys like Bill Hicks have earned them over the years.
The bearish Bostonian Barry Crimmins is so unknown that it’s a bit of a shock to realize, a half hour into the film, that he’s still alive.
But he is. And still raging about politics, the Catholic Church, American culture, values and the inherent unfairness of the capitalist system.
One wag — and there are many wags, many comics who are fans — labels him a cross between “Noam Chomsky…and Bluto.”
Bobcat Goldthwait’s film is about a guy who was a mentor (Bobcat made up his first name in tribute to “The Bear Cat” Crimmins, no idea how he made up the last name) to a generation of comics, running comedy clubs in the small upstate New York town where Crimmins and Bobcat both grew up, and in Boston — goosing the Boston comedy scene until it produced Denis Leary, Steven Wright and others.
But that’s not the reason to see this film, loaded with testimonials, recollections and jokes — an early Crimmins line about being “hassled the other day. Got caught smuggling books into Kentucky.”
“Lucky” gets at the origins of Crimmins’ angry humor, his sizable beef with the Catholic Church and the cause which took him all the way to Capital Hill, testifying before Congress.
With a little luck, this movie could help him realize a lifelong dream — to be excommunicated from the church he grew up in. Maybe then this angry old recluse will have a little peace, even if he loses a little of what’s made him funny all these years.

3stars2

MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Barry Crimmins, Margaret Cho, Lenny Clarke, Steven Wright
Credits: Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait script by . An MPI release.

Running time: 1:46

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