Movie Review: His son’s dead, and the killers meet the Snowplow Man “In Order of Disappearance”

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Here’s something Hollywood “revenge” thrillers always get wrong. They always give their hero “special skills.” You know, what Liam Neeson bragged about in “Taken,” what Sly Stallone let others attribute to him in “Rambo.”

Real thrills and real engagement with such movies come from men and women out of their depth, people without those “skills” having to improvise and discover what they’re capable of.

Give me “Three Days of the Condor” or “Fargo” over “Taken” any day.

“In Order of Disappearance” gets this right. The darkest, funniest and best thriller of the summer comes with snow, subtitles and Scandinavia’s most durable character actor, Stellan Skarsgard, playing a man named “Dickman” who is truly in over his head.

This is a Norwegian “Death Wish” in which our hero has that most Norwegian working class job. He’s a snowplow driver.

Nils Dickman (Skarsgard) is a boringly reliable immigrant, a Swede among the Norwegians, who “is as Norwegian as they come” in Tyos, the small town where he runs the giant plows. It’s not far from a big international airport, which is where his adult son got a job as a baggage handler.

That job, and the son’s choice of friends, is how Ingvar got himself killed.

The cops figure it’s an overdose, and could not care less when Dickman insists “Ingvar was no drug addict.” His wife (Hildegard Riise) accepts this, blames Nils somehow, and withdraws into grief. Nils? He’s putting on his snowsuit, grabbing his hunting rifle and heading out to find some answers.

Those answers are hard-won. He gets first one name, then another. He improvises, stalks and surprises each henchman, bludgeoning, shooting and manhandling them to get to the next name, working his way toward the Mr. Big who is ultimately responsible for his kid’s death.

That guy is called The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen), and dotes on his own son as they’re chauffeured around in an exotic Fisker Karma as a limo. And when his minions start disappearing, his first thought is that the Serbian mob, led by the great German actor Bruno Ganz (“Downfall”), is behind it. Nobody named “Dickman” could possibly be responsible for all this mayhem, or so his villainous logic tells him.

That surname is the first hint that, as sad and brutally efficient as this blood-stained picture is, we’re in dark comedy territory. There’s more than a hint of “Fargo” in what director Hans Petter Moland (“Zero Kelvin”) is showing us.

Every dead body earns a black screen with a tiny white cross on it, and the name — with nickname (“Ronaldo,” “Jappe”) — of the villain Nils has somehow managed to dispatch. By the third time this happens, you’re laughing. By the time the body count starts to spike, you can’t help yourself.

Kim Fupz Aakeson has concocted a script with lazy Norwegian cops who shrug off violence with “This doesn’t HAPPEN here” and hitmen who marvel at climate’s role in those countries which have a healthy “welfare state.” The cold makes people keenly aware of much they need and depend on others. They need their roads plowed, for instance.

The Count should know that if you’re dealing with Serbian mobsters, you’d better know how much they still feel the sting of the Battle of Kosovo, which happened 627 years ago.

Skarsgard has carved out a wide niche for his varied and colorful acting career to inhabit. He’s stoic and unflinching here, a man on a mission. But even though that hint of whimsy that is his baggage — catch him in “Our Kind of Traitor,” if you can — may be hidden beneath the surface. We can still feel it.

Nils’ quick journey from peaceful, family man to avenger is just swift enough. Blood wipes right off of snowsuits, especially when you have the presence of mind to order take-out coffee and use the cardboard tray as an arterial spray-guard when you’re putting a bullet in someone.

When he’s asked, “When did YOU become Dirty Harry?”, we don’t have to wonder. Skarsgard has let us see Nils’ learning curve.

And you can guess, from the cast list, which old acting dogs have to face each other before all this can be resolved, even if the much-younger Hagen (“Kon Tiki”) makes a fine, furious heavy destined to have his place “In Order of Disappearance.”

3half-star

MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, and language throughout

Cast: Stellan Skarsgard, Bruno Ganz, Tobias Santelmann

Credits: Directed by Hans Petter Moland, script by Kim Fupz Aakeson.

Running time: 1:56. A Magnet release.

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Movie Review: The horror isn’t just in her head in “Sun Choke”

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Horror survived its widely criticized “torture porn” phase — movies with nubile young women and occasionally handsome young actors eviscerated, etc., on the screen.

And it will survive writer-director Ben Cresciman’s self-consciously obscure and artsy variation, which could be labeled “porn torture.”

Because in “Sun Choke,” the porn comes first. It’s a psychological thriller built around two intense and graphic sex scenes, and a few other moments of expedient nudity. Mind games, stalking and graphic violence work their way in.

But it’s the sex that seems to be the movie’s reason for being.

Sarah Hagan plays Janie, sort of a helium-voiced Cobie Smulders. She sounds like a parody of a little girl, perhaps because that’s the way her stepmother (horror icon Barbara Crampton, of “Re-Animator”) addresses her.

“LITTLE girl.”

Janie is disturbed, living in an austere, modernist house with step-mom while dad is away on business. Irma is treating her — for something. But is she a real shrink, using tuning fork prompts to send Janie into flashbacks, yoga to “re-center” her, or just an evil stepmother keeping her charge under control, by electro-shock dog collar if necessary?

The jury’s out on that, because Irma seems dedicated to Janie’s “recovery,” determined to protect her because “There are a lot of ways this world can hurt you” by, among other things, shaving her legs and armpits with a straight razor (nude scene number one). Yet Irma is also willing to give this fragile 20ish woman some leeway. (Wildly illogical moment number one).

That’s where Janie gets into trouble. She spies a beautiful woman in town, follows her, peeks in her window as Savanna (Sara Malahul Lane) has uninhibited sex with her boyfriend. Janie is instantly obsessed.

Irma may not know the particulars. But she knows Janie needs punishing, and new forms of restraint.

“Sun Choke” takes its own sweet time, and then some, getting started. The viewer can ponder the uncanny Cobie resemblance in the leading lady, and grimace at the voice she has shown off since “Freaks & Geeks” in the last millennium. But the possibilities in those static early scenes are many.

Is Irma manipulating Janie to a purpose? Is Janie’s Dad even alive? Is Savanna a figment of her warped imagination?

The last act answers these questions and rather spoils the mystery in the most explicit and bloody ways. But more disappointingly, there’s nothing frightening of even involving in the characters, performances or situations. The movie doesn’t pull us in, squanders the sinister foreshadowing it dabbles with in Act One and resolves itself in abrupt shades of crimson.

In between, there are arty flashbacks and splashes of red that hint at the perils to come. But can we feel their peril when they plainly don’t? When we know, for instance, just how small and weak the batteries are in a dog’s perimeter shock collar?

“Sun Choke” earned rave reviews at a horror film festival back in 2015, which makes you wonder if there was judicious slashing in the editing as well as the film’s gory finale as the movie was prepped for its 2016 theatrical release.

If not, well, there is a cluster of horror film reviewers who just lost their heads at the sight of sexy young women doing sexual things in an otherwise dull horror thriller. To paraphrase the folk tale, it’s not just the actresses who have no clothes. The same could be said of “The Emperor.”

1half-star

 

 

MPAA Rating: unrated, with graphic violence, nudity, explicit sex

Cast: Sarah Hagan, Barbara Crampton,Sara Malakul Lane 
Credits: Written and directed by Ben CrescimanAn XLrator release.

Running time: 1:25

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Box Office: “Star Trek” does a fast fade, “Ice Age” bombing, “Lights Out” holds the line

boxThe pre-release predictions that “Star Trek Beyond” wasn’t going to revive the franchise that “Star Trek Into Darkness” deflated have proven true.

So, kudos to Box Office Mojo and Box Office Guru for calling this one right. A step fall-off Saturday means that “Star Trek Beyond” will be lucky to do will be lucky to do $56 million on its opening weekend. That’s assuming that Sunday doesn’t fade more than Sundays typically do.

I get the distinct impression that this movie’s most ardent fans have seen it, Wed., late Thursday or Friday. When the actuals are announced Monday, closer to $50 may be the result. Kudos to me if that’s the case, as I got the distinct impression that the polished, fan-pandering product they delivered was only going to have a certain amount of appeal, and marketing wasn’t going to overcome that.

“Lights Out” now stands to clear $20 million. “Ice Age” won’t come close. Stick a fork in that squirrel. And mastodon.

Deadline.com is still insisting “Hillary’s America,” the Dinesh D;Souza political documentary in which the con man ex-con foreigner discovers “the secret history of the Democratic Party” (Careful, Dinesh. Reminding conservatives how racist the Democrats used to be might prompt them to change their affiliation) won’t crack the top 10.  That film won’t lose as much audience Sunday as expected and could very well break into the top ten.

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Box Office: “Star Trek” strong, “Ice Age” bombs, “Lights Out” overachieves

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Deadline.com is emphasizing the negative regarding  the opening weekend of “Star Trek Beyond,” with some justification.

It’s opening, based on late Wed., Thursday and Friday’s numbers, with $60 million in ticket sales.

But “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the last film in this series, did much better, without adding in “marathon night” ticket sales. It opened at about $71 million.

Franchise fatigue? Almost certainly. Paramount was nursing this film — cherry picking which critics got to see it early to push positive reviews, doing the “marathon” showing of all three films Wed. night — into a good opening.

And after inflation, it’s still underwhelming. They read the reviews and their tracking data and jumped the phaser early in the week, announcing a fourth film with this cast — minus the late Anton Yelchin — before “Beyond” opened.

$60 million is a healthy opening, but I sensed, from that marathon night audience (older, fewer in number) that this has run its big screen course. Web buzz on it has been low, web traffic on this blog (a pretty reliable indicator of interest) has been nil.

I said “anything under $50 and Paramount will have serious second thoughts.” But Paramount may still change its mind.

Fox is almost certainly regretting doing another “Ice Age” movie. These Blue Sky productions have been lower and lower in entertainment value, and the box office has reflected that. “Collision Course,” the latest, is doing $18-19 million this weekend. Those are direct-to-DVD numbers, back when DVDs were a thing. Bomb. It won’t break even.

Conversely, “Lights Out!” is performing a bit above the usual horror opening ceiling, over $20 million. Very good for a non-franchise horror film. The “Insidious” pictures and their ilk do better. But it’s good to see a creepy, child-in-jeopardy ghost story pay off like that. Same formula as “Insidious,” good cast, good performances, decent enough script.

“Ghostbusters” is floating above all the heat and hate (Fanboys, He Man Woman Haters, Republicans, etc.) to have a 50% drop off from a pretty solid opening weekend. Breaking even for the $144 million movie is still within reach. It will clear $100 million by next Friday, should manage $120-140 US, with any profit coming from overseas.

“The Secret Life of Pets” isn’t all that, yet is heading towards $300 million, just in the US. “Finding Dory” is just $100 million ahead of it, at this point.

“The Legend of Tarzan” slipped over $100 million and may hit $135 when all is said and done. 

Ex-con con man Dinesh D’Souza’s fresh-from-his-conviction documentary “Hillary’s America” added over a thousand screens, and didn’t crack the top ten. A week of Trump TV took some of the wind out of its sails. Still, nobody ever went broke pandering to that audience.

“Absolutely Fabulous” is doing only so-so in limited release, just $5000 per screen.

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Weekend movies: “Star Trek” endorsed, “Ab Fab” pretty much, “Lights Out!” almost.

beyond2There’s some ridiculously high number on the tomatometer for “Star Trek Beyond,” which plays like the farewell to this “Enterprise” crew even though Paramount, just this week, announced a fourth film.

Forget the Tomatometer. Metacritic has a much more sober score, reflecting the prevalence of lukewarm opinions on this Justin Lin/Simon Pegg (co-wrote the script) installment in the NeverEnding Franchise.

Here’s what I’ve appreciated about the J.J. Abrams’built “Trek.” He cast it quite well. Though it hasn’t made real stars out of Chris Pine, Karl Urban or John Cho, and Zoe Saldana and Pegg and the late child actor turned adult Anton Yelchin had some fame pre-“Trek,” the Enterprise has been the best place for these players to show off their work.

The effects have been top notch, the production design first rate and Paramount has treated it as their marquee attraction. Not the case when they were milking the cash cow under Shatner and Nimoy, with worn out uniforms and plainly less expensive sets. I’m talking about the movies, not just the TV series.

“The Next Generation” was a waste of big screen time, and they knew it and acted like it.

But I am very curious to see how much this movie earns on its opening weekend. This “Star Trek” leans into “Guardians of the Galaxy” with its jokes and dated fanboy friendly pop culture references. More Beastie Boys? Really?

The Box Office Guru pitches this as a $66 million hit. Box Office Mojo figures it still has $59 million in it. Anything under $50 would push Paramount into reconsidering a fourth film, I dare say. And that could happen. The paid preview marathon I attended was one third empty. The hardcore fans are older and fewer in number.

“Ice Age: Collision Course” figures to be the second biggest opener among the new films. But that franchise was born bad and has been dropping dead dogs on us ever since. A $25-30 million opening might be generous, with Mojo predicting low and the Guru thinking it will do “Angry Birds” money. Even toddlers know that one’s a loser. Terrible reviews won’t hurt it. Bad reputation will.

“Lights Out!” will test whether the summer horror glass ceiling prevails. A half-decent horror film, very well acted, short and just scary enough, will it get anywhere near the horror Promised Land of mid $20s for an opening? Not likely. Guru figures $14 million, Mojo agrees. Passable (barely) reviews could boost it. It’s not a franchise, and horror fans like to return to their favorites, so $20 would be a stretch.

“Absolutely Fabulous” is already a hit in Britain, but do Americans remember the early 90s TV series that ran on cable here back in the day? And do those old enough to remember that still go to the movies? Not likely. Decent enough reviews, but its only being test-pushed onto 300 or so screens. Not a lot of cash there.

Dinesh D’Souza’s latest sop for the suckers, “Hillary’s America” or whatever he called it after getting out of prison, will make a bundle off the hardcore right. A reliable audience for anything this huxter serves up. It goes into wider release Friday.

 

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Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”

 

beyond1.jpgbeyond2The effects sparkle and the design dazzles in “Star Trek Beyond,” perhaps the best looking “Star Trek” movie ever.

And Simon Pegg — cast member and avid Trekker — has served up a pulpy and derivative script that panders to the fans, but generally pays off as it does.

Every cast member has a moment or two in the sun. Deaths are remembered. Neither Leonard Nimoy (Spock 1.0) nor Anton Yelchin (Checkov 2.0) will be around for Paramount’s just-announced fourth film in this latest iteration of the “Final Frontier” franchise.

Attention was paid to the villain, and even under makeup and effects, Idris Elba registers.

So yeah, we see another version of the U.S.S. Enterprise crash into a planet. Yes, another interstellar megalomaniac has it in for Starfleet.

Sulu (John Cho) finally comes out of the closet, Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) break up (like we didn’t see THAT coming) so that he and Bones McCoy (Karl Urban) can resume the Greatest Romance in Filmed Science Fiction.

Scotty, Simon Pegg’s character, lands his one-liners and may let the alien girl (Sofia Boutella) get him. For once.

And Kirk (Chris Pine)? He gets on a motorcycle and approves of The Beastie Boys, music to battle an alien menace by. Apparently.

Pandering? Yes. But pandering with polish.

Chris Pine’s Kirk is no longer wet behind the ears, so he’s contemplating abandoning their “Five Year Mission” for a desk job and promotion with two years to go. He’s a bit young to be feeling his mortality, but he’s figured out that if space and time are infinite, “What’s the point?”

His boss (Shohreh Aghdashloo) understands, seeing as how “There’s no relative direction in the vastness of space…It’s easy to get lost.”

Spock is having second thoughts about his career, too.

That’s the perfect time for a fresh alien menace to arise from a planet in the middle of a nebula. A hive of tiny ships piloted by reptilian beasties lure the Enterprise in, decimate the crew and wreck the ship. As the survivors struggle to survive on a planet dusted with aliens enslaved by this Krall (Elba) and his minions, and littered with wrecked spacecraft as well, we see this “doo-dad” that motivates Khan — um, Krall — and get to the big conflict at the heart of Pegg and Doug Jung’s script.

“There is strength in unity” the United Space Alliance members believe. But their martial foe has observed them and thinks they’ve grown soft. He’s been watching “Next Generation” re-runs with all that mincing about on the Holodeck, talking about one’s feelings. Just a guess.

“Struggle made us strong,” he says of himself and his kind.

Pegg plainly took the most pleasure in writing for McCoy and Spock. The script and the director (Justin Lin has been doing “Fast and Furious” movies of late) lean heavily on “family” and “teamwork” and comedy. The action beats often work, even if it’s harder to roll your eyes at all this “Enterprise” recycling with 3D glasses on.

As trite and repetitive as these movies have become, this weary franchise is still more fun or at least easier to sit through than any of those Diesel-powered car chase pictures. But is that enough for an audience that knows it’s being pandered to, and could finally be ready to move on, to “boldly go” see something else?  I include myself in their number, and I don’t know the answer, either.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence

Cast: Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, John Cho and Anton Yelchin
Credits: Directed by Justin Lin, script by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung. A Paramount release.

Running time: 1:58

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Garry Marshall: 1934-2016

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I was always more of a fan of Garry Marshall the character than Garry Marshall the director. I rolled my eyes at “Pretty Woman” and had a hard time sitting through such indulgences as “Valentine’s Day” and “Georgia Rule.”

But that wonderful Bronx honk of his will be missed.

He made sloppily sentimental and popular movies (“Nothing in Common,” “Beaches”) and sloppy but sometimes amusing sitcoms (“Happy Days,” “Mork and Mindy,” “The Odd Couple’).

He was a hilarious on-screen presence in films such as “Soapdish.” He didn’t so much talk as bark or bray. Hilariously. He was a thug in “Goldfinger,” and looked the part. I had forgotten that until I was re-watching it recently, and there he was.

He discovered Robin Williams, made Julia Roberts a star and gave Richard Gere, Bette Midler and many others comebacks. He was loyal to his lifelong pal Hector Elizondo, and for decades, oversaw a long-running game of shirts-skins basketball of his peers and colleagues at his home in Beverly Hills.

I interviewed him several times, usually for a movie I didn’t care for. But he was never less than entertaining, a delight to talk to. I recall asking him if he’d had any advice for his protege Tom Hanks (one of many proteges) before Tom tackled the task of directing for the first time.

“Shoo-wah,” he grinned. “‘Tom,’ I said, ‘be shoo-wah ta bring a second pair of SHOES to the set. EVERY day.’ Why? ‘You work all morning, you’re on your feet, making a thousand decisions. Lunch time, you change your shoes. The afternoon’s like a VACA-tion for your feet!'”

That’s hilarious, and true. I checked that out with Hanks some time later, “advice that I take to this very day,” he said, laughing. ‘”A VACAY-shun for your feet!'”

Garry Marshall, brother of Penny, was one of a kind. Whatever his imprint on TV and film, he was a genuine character and will be missed. RIP.

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Movie Review: Viggo lets his hippy flag fly in “Captain Fantastic”

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Viggo Mortensen gives perhaps his sweetest performance as a father determined to righteously raise his kids “off the grid” and disconnected from much of society in “Captain Fantastic,” an earthy, funny and sometimes poignant portrait of a family that could only exist in the fantasy of the movies.

Playing a dad left alone to finish what can only be called an “experiment” he started with his wife, he doggedly purses a childrearing philosophy built on utility, backwoods survival skills, Great Books and the philosophy of leftist social critic Noam Chomsky. It’s a “‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ Meets ‘Mosquito Coast'” of idealized kids and idealized “honesty” that wanders in the third act and loses its nerve. But Mortensen gives a subtle, questioning performance in a movie that is fascinating in the details actor turned writer-director Matt Ross conjures up in this First World indulgence of a lifestyle.

We meet Ben Cash (Mortensen) and his brood, camouflaged in mud, stalking and killing a deer with just their wits and a knife in their corner of forest in the Pacific northwest. The middle child (Nicholas Hamilton) does the deep.

“Today, the boy is dead. And in his place is a man.”

He must be all of 13.

The six kids, ranging in age from 5 or 6 to 18, can dress and skin a deer, defend themselves in hand-to-hand combat, both recite and analyze the Bill of Rights and read at a level well beyond their years. They meditate, rock climb, do yoga, sing and play instruments.

Every question is taken seriously and given a serious, honest answer by their (apparent) polymath dad. But Ben’s honesty is put to the test by the news that their mom, who had been off seeking treatment, has died.

“Last night, Mom killed herself. She finally did it. Your mother is dead.”

There is no comforting their grief, which includes weeping and lashing out. And since they all have survival knives — even the tykes — that’s a little scary.

But that is their way. And “Nothing’s going to change,” even as they resolve to take their converted bus/RV “Steve” to New Mexico on “a mission” to battle Mom’s disapproving father (Frank Langella) over her funeral and her legacy — her children.

The comedy in the road trip comes in their encounters with the world they’ve been sheltered from. The children note the obese Average Americans they stumble across in modern civilization and ask, “Are they sick?”

Oldest boy “Bo” (George McKay) can argue Marx and Trotsky, but is hapless and helpless in the presence of pretty teen girls who aren’t his sisters.

The children never really quarrel, though Rellian (Hamilton, with a young Edward Furlong look and haircut) is beginning to revolt. Every moment is “teachable” to Ben. Every insubordination is met with “Make your case to the group,” every hardship a reminder that “There is no cavalry coming to the rescue.” Self-reliance is paramount.

And every misuse of the language corrected.

“Can ‘unique; be modifed?” These kids know the answer, even if almost every TV news or sportscaster and the millions they influence don’t. As a result, the kids are “unique” in their realizing there is no such thing as “most unique” or “more unique.”

Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn are terrific as befuddled, over-matched in-laws raising two video-game and junk-food addicted sons getting lost in the public school system.

Missy Pyle plays the indulgent campground mom whose daughter (Erin Moriarty) is a man-trap in Daisy Dukes and fishnet stockings, at least as far as Bo in concerned.

And Langella portrays a brittle, bitter but still loving grandfather in the inevitable third act battle over values, philosophies and Real World realities that he is sure Ben is hiding from his kids. Everybody shelters their young is Ross’s message. We just do it in different ways.
Ben’s kids can stage a mass shoplifting at a supermarket, poach game when required and stage a marvelous “Jesus Loves Me” farce when a nosy cop is about to discover their dodging truancy laws. Dad has taught them that Christianity is “a dangerous fairytale,” so mockery and using it to get out of a jam with “The Man” is allowed.”Values” are more malleable than some would have us believe.

Ross glosses over much of child-rearing/growing up, and as I said in the outset, loses his nerve in grappling with the consequences of this alternative lifestyle. But Mortensen makes Ben a rational, reasonable tyrant and the kids have just enough edge to seem real, as much as they look like “hippy kids” as photographed for an Old Navy catalog.

And if “Captain Fantastic” seems too fantastic to be as homespun and “real” as some versions of this lifestyle, we’re willing to indulge it, these kids and their Rational Man dad almost as much as he does.

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MPAA Rating: R for language and brief graphic nudity

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George McKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Missy Pyle

Credits: Written and directed by Matt Ross. A Bleecker Street release.

Running time: 1:58

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Movie Review: “Little Men”

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The films of Ira Sachs always send me to the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) to remind me of his credits.

Because “an artist,” the old saying goes, “hammers the same nail over and over again.”

Knowing he did the quietly charming “Love is Strange” as well as “Keep the Lights On” and “The Delta,” character studies with a minimum of motivating incidents and gay texts or subtexts, is a help in figuring out what he’s getting at.

And I have to go to IMDb every time because, to be blunt, the films are that forgettable.

“Little Men” is an 85 minute Brooklyn melodrama about two artistically-inclined teen boys and the rental dispute between their families that threatens their friendship.

The kids are engagingly written, complicated in a quickly sketched-out way. Theo Taplitz plays Jake, the budding painter whose parents (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle) just inherited the husband’s father’s apartment, and the storefront where aspiring actor Tony (Michael Barbieri) sometimes helps out his seamstress mom (Paulina Garcia). She is a Chilean immigrant, separated from her absent husband, who has long had a dress shop there.

Leonor (Garcia) hasn’t seen an increase in rent in forever. And under-employed and pushing-50 actor Brian (Kinnear) is being pressured by his sister (Talia Balsam) to get more rent — a lot more. Brian’s moved his family into his father’s apartment, which means his therapist wife (Ehle) isn’t their sole means of support.

That move is how Tony met Jake. They bond in an instant the way kids do, and before the summer is out, they’re plotting joint admission to an arts-oriented magnet school.

But every time Brian brings up rent, Leonor (“Leo”) lashes out, about how he wasn’t a good son, about how his father considered her his “real” family, about how Brian was such a disappointment to his father.

Brian, being played by the moist-eyed Kinnear, is on the verge of tears after every discussion. Wife Kathy announces she’s trained in conflict resolution, but she gets nowhere with Leo, who runs down their family, in Spanish, to the old family friend (Alfred Molina) who checks in on her.

Meanwhile, the boys get along great, even if they face the odd blast of teen taunting, often with a homophobic bent.

“Tony has a new BOYfriend!”

Sachs includes a long, funny scene in Tony’s summer acting workshop, and nothing of a parallel nature for Jake, who plainly has a crush on Tony, who just as plainly is interested in girls.

The kids stand out, Kinnear has added “haggard” to his gang-dog persona as he’s aged, and the saddest scenes here might be Brian taking on Chekhov’s “The Seagull” for a non-profit theater company, a job that pays little and will lead nowhere, and he knows it.

Ehle has too little to do, with Garcia (“Gloria,” “The 33”) having the chewy scenes — flashes of bitterness and helplessness.

But “Little Men” doesn’t come to grips with much of anything, leaving relationships and questions of sexuality and even Leonor’s uncertain future uncertain.

It’s a collection of scenes, vignettes and character sketches, Life in Brooklyn with a hint of melodrama. Realistic enough, compelling in the mildest sense, it’s just not all that interesting.

Which is why I’ll be tracking down Sachs’ credits the next time he gets something on the big screen. I’ll have forgotten this one as well.

 

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MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language

Cast: Theo Taplitz, Michael Barbieri, Paulina Garcia, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Alfred Molina
Credits: Directed by Ira Sachs, script by Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:25

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Movie Review: Herzog finds wonder in the Internet age in”Lo and Behold”

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The great Werner Herzog is the cinema’s most curious filmmaker, and his probing camera and soft spot for eccentrics make this (fiction) feature filmmaker’s documentaries stand alone.

His wide-ranging intellectual inquisitiveness is well-served in “”Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World,” in which the 73 year-old child of World War II marvels at the revolutionary changes of the Internet Age.

Change and the speed of change is what this is all about. It’s a bit all over the place, but it’s a rewarding, thought-provoking ride, which is expected every time Herzog commits to a subject.

“Lo and Behold” is a movie that starts with a history of the Internet. He visits ‘Net pioneer and enthusiast Leonard Kleinrock (top photo) in the UCLA lab where the Internet was born, in 1969.

The first communication between computers was with a lab at Stanford. They were just logging in when both ends of the conversation experience the world’s first Web Crash. they meant to type “Log In.” They only got “Lo.”

If you don’t think Kleinrock and then Herzog will lap up that word “Lo” and the wonders it foretells, then you don’t know Herzog. “Wonder” should be the man’s first name. “Behold” could be his middle one.

“Lo and Behold” wanders into Elon Musk’s office for a chat about the web future that will aid our colonizing Mars and hangs with scientists pioneering self-driving car technology (which Musk’s company is putting on the road). The “hive mind” of the web is producing cancer research and bolstering the hunt for alien life. Herzog visits robot labs and loner Web philosophers, an astronomer or two and the town of Green Bank, West Virginia, where the presence of a super-sensitive radio telescope means there are no cell phones or cell towers and not much in the way of Internet, either.

Herzog asks if one and all if they think “the Internet dreams of itself”?

And dark prophet that he is, Herzog finds a California family assaulted online with photos of their daughter, “nearly decapitated” in a car accident — photos thoughtlessly taken by a first responder who callously passed them on by email to friends, not suspecting the unspeakable cruelty of the anonymous Groupthink of the WWW.

Herzog is drawn to wise madmen, from the actors he uses in his feature films (Klaus Kinski, Nicolas Cage, Christian Bale) to the odd ducks he stumbles across making documentaries (“Grizzly Man,” “Encounters at the End of the World“). He finds a few here, including famed hacker Kevin Mitnick.

These are miraculous days, Herzog enthuses, a time when communication has never been faster nor more widespread and available to nearly all. But as he and the disparate voices he listens to warn us, it’s time to stop and consider it all, the degrees of privacy we must insist on, the unspoken perils of turning so many jobs and so much of our thinking over to machines “which can learn” exponentially faster than the fastest human mind.

If we’re going to keep a Herzogian sense of wonder, maybe we ought to start thinking about what comes after this moment of “reverie.”

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“Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.”

MPAA Rating:PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements

Cast: Kevin Mitnick, Leonard Kleinrock, Lucianne Walkowicz, and the voice of Werner Herzog
Credits: Written and directed by Werner Herzog. A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:31

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