Movie Review: Suffering from Amnesia, trying to rebuild the last “32 Weeks”

We pretty much don’t have soap operas to kick around any more. But that favorite trope of drama’s most melodramatic art form remains. Amnesia still pops up in movies, long after most soaps, and movies like “Memento” and “50 First Dates” seemed to exhaust its last possibilities of novelty.

“32 Weeks” is an indie drama about a young woman who went to a party, had a car wreck on the way home, and can’t remember much of anything from the past eight months. And if it doesn’t cover much in the way of new ground, it’s still a smartly-conceived vehicle for drama, melodrama and a couple of decent surprises.

Cole (Nicole Souza of “Against the Night”) remembers giving a violin lesson. After that? Nada. And even before that is foggy, going back months and months.

Luckily her BFF Hannah (Nicole Rainteau) goes back further than that. Summoned to her bedside, the tears transition to jokes before too long. There’s nothing for it but to dive into her Facebook friend’s list, figure out who might jar her memory and who she’d rather forget.

Was she in love? Did she have a bad breakup? Hannah has answers, well some of them. Cole will have to piece that together, bit by bit.

Simon (Scott Bender) is the guy most eager to help out. They hadn’t dated long, and things might have been over, according to Hannah. But he puts himself at her beck and call — taking her to “our favorite restaurant,” the beach, a record store, anything to bring it all back.

“He’s seen you naked,” Hannah jokes. The fellow who hosted the party (KiDane Kelati) the night of her accident can’t make her remember “vodka pong,” and playing “Never have I ever” rattles her.

But Cole’s muscle memory kicks in when she picks up her violin again. Putting Bach on a turntable at the record store gives her flashbacks. Music is her “trigger.”

Producer (“The Last Movie Star,” Burt Reynolds’ swan song) turned writer/director Brian Cavallaro keeps things light during the early acts of this short, if not exactly brisk mystery thriller.

The tug of war over Cole’s memories — What “secret” is she missing? What does she need or want to forget, or desperately need to remember? — plays out with texts, “revisits” to the scene of dates and the like.

Souza is properly confused and assertively curious. She makes us wonder if Cole is going where she dare not go, even as we’re as interested in her past as she is.

“Is it OK if I just don’t remember everything, just make peace with it?” she asks her neurologist.

Cavallaro treats flashbacks, which give away events from Cole’s past, as whiplash-fast montages, each flashback attached to “12 weeks” or however long ago this event happened. They flesh things out, even if most of them don’t add much to the story.

The story doesn’t unfold particularly gracefully, advancing in fits and starts. The “serious” turn for the third act is abrupt, even if we’ve sensed it was coming.

But the picture plays, the amnesia crutch the plot leans on never gives way and the players, especially Souza, keep us invested and interested until the last mystery of those missing “32 Weeks” is revealed.

MPA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, violence

Cast: Nicole Souza, Nicole Rainteau , Scott Bender, Cameron Tagge, KiDane Kelati and Hannah Kleeman

Credits: Scripted and directed by Brian Cavallaro. An Indie Rights release.

Running time: 1:22

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Argentine and in need of an abortion — “Noemi Gold”

Noemí is out of sorts when we meet her. She confides in her mouthy, free-spirit friend Rosa, worried about what’s going on “with my body” after “the pills (in Spanish, with English subtitles).”

There it is. She’s pregnant, unsure of what issues are going on, why the abortion pills didn’t work.

And in Argentina, a woman’s got to be careful which clinic she goes to for answers. It’s illegal. The “Vatican” one she shows up in, by accident, is pretty quick to call somebody in uniform when the nurse figures out what she’s done.

But that’s not what “Noemí Gold” is about. Dan Rubenstein’s light-touch Argentine drama is a moody amble through Noemi’s psyche, her predicament and the life that goes on around it.

Catalina Berarducci is Noemí Goldberg, 27 and with a freshly-printed MA in architecture, living la vida tranquila in Buenos Aires. Rosa (Martina Juncadella) is her faintly-annoying but hip friend, living with her, slipping out for girl boxing, not necessarily giving her the best advice.

Rosa, we gather, got the name of the clinic wrong. But as she atones for that by helping Noemí make a Plan B (abortions are legal), there’s all this other stuff going on to distract Rosa from her predicament. Still, having tactless, indiscreet friends and a faithless lover doesn’t help.

An aloof “influencer” cousin — David — has flown in to stay with her and promote whatever products he’s supposed to plug as he posts whatever they’re doing wherever they’re doing it. He’s glued to his screen constantly, even when they go canoeing or visit their grandmother.

The guy who got Noemí pregnant is a rich brat, and an artist. Tacho’s “ghosted” her, so there’s nothing for it but to confront him at a performance art opening the women know he’s hosting. He denies being responsible, and rudely. But Rosa insists they stick around and wear him down. Rosa takes a stab at karaoke in a bar they all go to, changing the lyrics to Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” seems to get Tacho’s attention.

And then there’s Sol (Amelia Repetto), the neighbor/pal who likes her wine, her weed, and flirting with/debating American Mormon missionaries.

Through it all, Berarducci plays Noemí as puzzled and worried, but rarely letting her annoyance show and never letting anybody see her rattled.

Writer-director Rubenstein taps into a languorous Argentine vibe and never lets go of it. “Noemí Gold” limits its characters to the interpersonal relationships and lives. The “influencer” is the only one to have what you’d call a job. Everybody else just indulges in hobbies (boxing), dreams (art) and each other’s personal business. Relatives are paying the bills?

Not a lot happens, but on an intimate level, it does. Conflicts are rare, “problems” are mulled, glossed-over and solved without a lot of effort and even the people other people don’t get along with seem to get along, more or less.

Rubenstein’s character study suggests that it’s not all that great being “Noemí Gold” at 27. But all things considered, it’s not all that bad either.

MPA Rating: unrated, adult subject matter, drinking and drugs

Cast: Catalina Berarducci, Martina Juncadella, Amelia Repetto

Credits: Scripted and directed by Dan Rubenstein. A Topic streaming release

Running time: 1:21

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: A grandpa says “Atsa my grandson” when he joins “Team Marco”

Cut through the cute that crosses into “cutesie,” tolerate the stereotypes and ignore the sentiment that claws at cloying, and “Team Marco” plays like a pleasant time killer of a comedy suitable for the whole family.

It’s a “things my Italian grandpa taught me on summer vacation” tale, a bratty child of divorce learning a little about life and a lot about bocce on the eve of his 12th birthday.

Marco, played by Owen Vacarro of “The House with a Clock in Its Walls,” is an iPad and xBox addicted tween determined to pound away at his favorite video game, “Atomic Rick,” in between school years.

“Atomic Rick” was developed by his dad, Richie, who ditched his mom (Anastasia Ganias) and moved to the west coast. “Rick” in the game looks like his Dad Richie (Louis Cancelmi).

And while Richie’s too busy to chat with his kid in person, he’s promised that if Marco masters the game and makes his way up to the top level, he’ll take him to a game convention at the end of the summer.

That’s all Marco thinks about, day and night, even at his grandma’s funeral, even after Grandpa, “Nonno” (Anthony Patellis of “The Sopranos”) burns up his kitchen and has to move in with them.

But Nonno sees a lot of problems when he settles in with his grandson. The kid has no friends. He’s practically agoraphobic, afraid of spending too much time outdoors.

“Mosquitoes carry WEST NILE!”

And his nurse-mom just indulges that, his imagined food allergies, the works. Her dad’s complaints about the kid fall on deaf ears.

“He spendsa-more time with hees tablet than MOSES!”

Events conspire to have Grandpa take on “babysitting.” Thus, does Marco’s “real” education begin, from the back of the old man’s Vespa and on the bocce courts of Staten Island.

“Bocce’s like’a life. It’s not about thinking. You have to FEEL it.”

“Life is ees deliciosa! You just have to bite it!”

Marco’s screen-free summer will not be tolerated — “What am I, Amish?” But what can he do but hang with Nonno’s posse and pick up “the world’s oldest game.”

The conversations with the old men are cute.

“So kid, gotta girlfriend?” “I’m 11!” “So? I was MARRIED when I was 11, divorced at 12!”

“I was fighting for Mussolini at 10!”

“We lie a lot,” Nonno allows.

I’m quoting a lot of dialogue here , because sitcommie as it is, it’s the best thing in “Team Marco.” The jokes about “a whole generation of zombies eating pizza bagels” and gags about tween screen addiction and Google Assistant in the house and grandpa’s inability to master a Keurig coffeemaker are were worn out before this picture went into production.

The same goes for the predictably sentimental touches and the “life lessons.” Meh.

But the kid is properly obnoxious and Patellis amusingly over-the-top. And their banter almost achieves comic lift-off.

If you’ve got three generations in your house for the holidays and need something everybody can watch, you could do worse.

MPA Rating: unrated, worthy of a G.

Cast: Owen Vacarro, Anthony Patellis, Anastasia Ganias

Credits: Directed by Julio Vincent Gambuto, script by Julio Vincent Gambuto and B.R. Uzun. A Samuel Goldwyn release.

Running time: 1:32

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Documentary Preview: The Life of Lady Day — “Billie”

Never seen a Billie Holiday doc, this looks terrific. A Dec. 4 release.

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Preview: Gary Dourdan, Ernie Hudson, Martin Donovan and Andy Garcia, hostage-rescue action in North Africa — “Redemption Day”

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Who’s that singing a Partridge Family cover on “The Croods: A New Age” (Croods 2)?

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Two actors vie for their “big break” in “Hollyweird”

A winded, wan and somewhat already-played-out comedy about taking your shot in show business, “Hollyweird” has two things halfway going for it.

It has a point of view, and there’s a neat third act twist. If directing/co-writing husband and wife Edwin and Jaime Marie Porres had known what to run with, they might have made something out of it.

Stevie (Douglas Spain) is a broke LA waiter/actor desperate for his big break. He thinks it could be playing the heavy in this new cop thriller, “Hollyweird.”

But his African American agent Alice (Numa Perrier,writer, director and star of “Jezebel”) thinks he’s “not Latino enough.” He doesn’t seem tough enough to play a gangster, despite doing his stocking-capped, slouching/whispered “Yo, ese” act on her and everybody he waits on at the restaurant.

He has to go behind Alice’s back to even sneak an audition.

Alejandro (Michael J. Knowles) has hitchhiked his way into LA, and is literally just standing on the street when a producer “discovers” him and we discover how much the guy sounds like Pacino doing Tony Montana in “Scarface.” Cuban stranger with no acting credits, the job is YOURS!

“Joo chitting me?”

He’s “Cuban, REAL raw” the producer (Bill Posey) crows to the money guy. “It’s like he just SWAM over here!”

He’s the white and black film producers’ idea of “Latino” enough, a point this comedy should have pounded like a pneumatic hammer.

Hitting on a publicist (Deborah Dir) at “an industry party” that the producer of the film is throwing, Alejandro finds himself getting a makeover and a little staged paparazzi moment, paired up with a willing and notorious starlet. He’s a star before he’s ever done a thing…other than imitate Al Pacino.

Everything Stevie craves Alejandro has fall into his lap. Fancy clothes, a Dodge Challenger, Internet notoriety and a “breakout” role are his for the taking.

Stevie? He’s fending off the be-my-friend overtures of his Hollywood intern neighbor, Tabby (Madison Dewberry) and struggling in acting class.

“How are you feeling?” the teacher wants to know.

“I’m OK.

“Was BRANDO ‘Ok?’ Was STREI-sand? I don’t SEE you!”

That’s acting class speak for “you’re not registering,” moving the needle, getting anybody’s attention. And that line doesn’t just fit the character, it’s a mark against the movie, too.

There’s great comic possibility in this set-up, and Knowles, deep into the whole “Say ‘allo to my lil’FRIEND” Pacino riff, tries to take us there. But virtually no scenes and no other characters have the same comic energy to them. And remember, Knowles is just doing a broad impersonation of another actor’s iconic role.

Drab “auditions,” dull “fights” on the set, tired situations — car trouble, losing jobs, losing agents, getting evicted — the whole movie is built on exhausted “making it in showbiz” tropes.

The mostly-bit players (save the screen veteran Perrier, and she has only a single scene) aren’t experienced or charismatic enough to make something out of a nothing-that-funny script. Whole rooms full of people auditioning actors, a whole set of filmmaking character “types,” not one of them registers or is given a single funny thing to say or play.

But James Tang, playing a landlord so impatient he interrupts/finishes every one of Steve’s litany of excuses for why the rent is late and when he’ll be able to pay for him, gives “Hollyweird” the rapid pace and testy edge it needed to get by.

And he, too, has only a single scene.

MPA Rating: unrated, some profanity, adult situations

Cast: Douglas Spain, Deborah Dir, Michael J. Knowles and Madison Dewberry

Credits: Directed by Edwin Porres, script by Edwin Porres, Jaime Marie Porres. An Artists Rights release.

Running time: 1:26

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: The dystopian terrors of a “Girl With No Mouth”

“Girl With No Mouth” is a savagely violent, downbeat Turkish dystopia, a picaresque “Peter Pan” (or “Wendy”) meets “How I Live Now.”

Can Evrenol’s thriller is heavy on parable, semi-nonsensical in plot, but benefits from good acting and a grimly-realized children’s odyssey undertaken in post-Apocalyptic future.

Years have passed since “The Great Explosion,” somehow triggered by “The Corporation,” broke down civilization and rendered a generation of children “defective.” They’ve supposedly all died out, or been killed. And with The Corporation now talking of peace and rebuilding, the ones still out there are somehow inconvenient.

That’s the good news/bad news that Kemal (Mehmet Yilmaz Ak) brings his brother (Sermet Yesil). The girl he raised into her tweens, teaching her how to hydrate and feed herself without a mouth? Peri (Elif Sevinç) has to be turned over.

Kemal works for The Corporation. Peri’s dad is all threats (in Turkish with English subtitles) about what he promised to do if this murderous “company man” ever showed up at his door. But they’re mostly empty. In a flash, Dad is dead and Peri is on the run — escaping by turning a door into a raft to float down the river and into the forest.

Not being able to speak, Peri loses herself in opera recordings on her Walkman. That’s how she steps into a snare, only to be rescued by The Captain (Denizhan Akbaba). His dark goggles give away his defect. He’s blind. But not to worry, he and his “band of pirates” compensate for each other’s “deficiencies.”

Bulky Yusek (Özgür Civelek) has no nose. Badger (Kaan Alpdayi) is deaf. None of them can read. Whatever communication barriers there are, Peri — who can read and has been home-schooled — is destined to come in very handy with these Lost Boys.

But Kemal and his murderous minions are on their trail, ready to burn down the forest to ferret them out. That sends the kids on a trek through the woods, to the abandoned village they call “The Lost City,” getting caught in firefights, stumbling across livestock and adults who could help or hurt them.

As with many movies set in this sort of dystopia, there’s a bit more showing us the world that was lost and the kids’ confusion about it than we need. A third act character whom I’ll call Auntie Exposition shows up to explain more than we need to know.

But it’s interesting watching Peri’s regimen for drinking (a feeding tube through the nose) and eating (a string-pull food-processor, diced comestibles fed through another tube to her stomach. Her enterprise saves the “pirates” from The Corporation, time and again.

Yes, it’s one of those thrillers where everybody lets the villain — who has made his villainy obvious — get away to try and kill them again and again.

And no, there’s nothing particularly allegorical about Evrenol and co-writer Kuya Ucun’s version of the future, where every child is flawed and only a gang of them can form up to create a “whole.”

The kids may be archetypes, but typically, there’s a more obvious parable packed into a feral childhood tale like this.

Lacking that as a driving force to the narrative, “Girl With No Mouth” and her crew just wanders about, into and out of bloody trouble, living through a pointless parable and survivalist tale with no real goal or destination.

MPA Rating: unrated, violence

Cast: Elif Sevinç, Özgür Civelek, Denizhan Akbaba, and Mehmet Yilmaz Ak, Sermet Yesil

Credits: Directed by Can Evrenol, script by Kuya Ucun and Can Evrenol. An Indiecan release.

Running time: 1:38

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Preview: “Chaos Walking” — a sci fi thriller with Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley and Mads Mikkelsen

Are great movies released at the end of January? No. But fun ones sometimes are. Jan. 21. https://youtu.be/8CO3jynIGGk

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment

Movie Review: Bros turn “Buddy Games” into comic bloodsport

You can be a fan of Minot, North Dakota’s own Josh Duhamel, and want to see his directing debut.

Fond memories of guy’s guy/car-guy funnyman of Dax Shepard? Yup.

And Olivia Munn as the gorgeous tough broad in a sea of testosterone? That always pays dividends.

But it’s the presence of Nick Swardson that’s the most important casting choice and the dead give-away for “Buddy Games,” a bro comedy about pals who bond over their annual contest of strength, skill, guts and stomach capacity. Nothing says “low, lower lowest brow” like Swardson. The star of “Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star” and “He’ll do anything for a laugh” mascot of Adam Sandler’s posse is a veritable brand name for juvenile gross-out. To me, his name in the credits is a guaranteed “pass,” especially since Sandler moved his aged act to Netflix.

“Buddy Games” is practically built around Swardson, leaning on him for the stomach-churning “comedy,” to sell assorted bodily-function/bodily fluids gags that others in the cast — Kevin Dillon included — would blanche from trying.

The script is slapdash and daft, and not in a good way. And you almost feel sorry for Swardson being forced to carry it and set the “teabagging” tone. But the viewer is the victim here.

Duhamel, Dillon, Shepard, Swardson, James Roday Rodriguez (“Psyche”) and Dan Bakkedahl (“Veep,” “The Goldbergs”) are friends who’ve been competing in this elaborate multi-discipline “Buddy Games” thing in the forests around a family cabin Bob’s family owns in the hills.

Whatever else has been going on in their lives — marriages, business ventures, dreams — they revert to their place in the pack whenever the “Games” roll around. Bob (Duhamel) becomes “The Bobfather,” planner of their various “tests.”

We meet them at the “last” Buddy Games. That’s where dominating jerk Shelly (Bakedahl) got carried away with the bullying, and got injured. Five years later, Shelly’s in assisted living, shattered and in need of a boost.

Doc ( Dillon) may be a successful chiropractor, Bob a man of means who lives with the temptress Tiffany (Munn) and gymrat Zane (Rodriguez) a tanning salon (mini) tycoon. But Durfy (Shepard), who gave up running a backhoe to pursue a Hollywood career, has only worked his way up to Neal McDonough’s stand-in. Perpetual loser Bender (Swardson) has run through his inheritance.

Shelly has lost the will to live. And he blames Bender for it.

Let’s get the gang back together, play a high-stakes version of those Buddy Games, and bond anew, mending old rifts, acting like 40something juvenile delinquents for one more weekend.

The events of this decathlon for douches include kayak races and dirt bike/ATV sprints, busting a watermelon with only your bare hands or head, a corn dog eating contest, chugging duels and strapping steaks to themselves to see which of them will let a wild animal eat it off his forehead. There’s also a bar pick-up competition, obstacle courses and a bow hunt pursuing “the most dangerous game.”

The winner gets a big cash prize, and most of them could really use that right about now.

I laughed twice, and one of those two moments came in the finale. No, the outtakes over the end credits don’t have so much as a grin in them.

The other laugh came from Swardson’s Bender, desperate to raise cash, selling vodka shots in competition with the neighborhood eight-year-olds, who’re running a lemonade stand. For once, Swardson’s go-to vulgarity amounts to mirth.

“You’re gonna be STRIPPERS when you grow up! Really BAD ones that NO one pays to see!”

Sex jokes, semen zingers, flatulence, gay gags and the aforementioned “teabagging” are the rule here. It’s like every idea and not-funny-enough profanity edited out of a Judd Apatow movie was cut and pasted into a script designed to mimic “Tag,” after a fashion.

It’s just terrible. With Nick Swardson in it, we should have known.

MPA Rating: R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nudity, drug use and brief violence

Cast: Josh Duhamel, Olivia Munn, Dax Shepard, Nick Swardson, Kevin Dillon, James Roday Rodriguez and Dan Bakkedahl

Credits: Directed by Josh Duhamel, script by Jude Weng, Bob Schwartz and Josh Duhamel. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:36

Posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news | Leave a comment