Movie Review: R Patts kicks it up a notch in “Good Time”

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Robert Pattinson has his best role since he wiped off the “Twilight” glitter in as a stumbling, bumbling thief hurtling toward his fate in the ironically titled “Good Time.”

It’s a story of two brothers — developmentally-disabled Nick, played as thick and short-tempered by the hulking Benny Safdie — and Constantine “Connie,” the “smart” one, who doesn’t want to see Nick lumped into with the state’s special needs system.

It’s what Connie (Pattinson) does after he yanks Nick out of a psyche evaluation that will make your jaw drop even as it kick-starts the picture. They don masks and rob a bank.

There’s dark humor in a lot of what Connie does, beginning with the robbery. He’s costumed them both as construction workers, and donned semi-convincing rubber African American face masks.

They don’t talk. He just slides misspelled notes to the teller. And when she slides a note back to him that this is all that’s in her drawer, “policy,” and Connie REALLY needs $65,000 — so go back and get more — we figure out Nick isn’t the only slow brother.

The teller leaves, goes to the vault, and may not come back. Connie never thought of that. Or when she does, there’s probably going to be a dye pack in their bag. Never thought of that, either.

As Connie leads them through a clumsy get-away, into the fast food restroom where they try to wash off the dye, through a mall where Nick is caught and into a night of running, improvising, bullying and seducing his way out of this mess of his own creation, Connie teaches us the difference between native cunning and smart.

There’s an unstable older woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that he’s convinced he’ll take on a trip with the money — only now he needs it to post his brother’s bail. Fine.

“Just got to get him out of there before something bad happens,” he shouts, giving her the bum’s rush into the bail bondman’s office so they can access her mother’s credit card.

No dice. Yelling at the bondsman (Eric Paykert) only produces this nugget — Nick was hurt, and is in protective custody at a hospital.

Fine. Connie’ll break him out of there. He outsmarts the staff and the cop on guard, only to figure out he’s freed the wrong prisoner in a neck cast, his face covered in bandages.

Fine. He’s gotten this junky Ray (Buddy Duress, perfect) out of a room, off his life support monitors, into a special assistance city bus and talked their way into the apartment of a grandmother and her sassy, streetwise but naive granddaughter Crystal (Taliah Webster). His face shows up on the news on their TV? Distract Crystal by making a move on her.

She says she’s 16, so sure — fine.

Ray comes to, starts this rambling medicated monologue about how he ended up in police custody in the hospital, and Connie decides they’ll go get some cash and LSD Ray’s buddies stashed in an amusement park’s funhouse. In the middle of the night.

FINE. And so on.

I love the way the Safdie Brothers’ (“Heaven Knows What”) script just stumbles through this night, forcing Connie to rely on that native cunning and the one thing that’s gotten him through life up to this point — his smoldering allure to women.

Pattinson, who never lets on that he’s wearing an alien accent, gives Connie just a hidden hint of charm. Like the actor himself, women just get lost in those blue eyes, and he can talk them into anything.

The violence, when it comes, is shocking. The coda is abrupt, but fitting.

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And that all makes for a night-long “Good Time” that will get under your skin and stick with you long after its consequences settle in on the impulsive, not-that-bright lowlifes it is about.

3stars2

 

MPAA Rating: R, violence, drug abuse, profanity

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Buddy Duress

Credits:Directed by Benny Safdie, Jon Safdie, script by  Ronald BronsteinJosh Safdie. An A24 release.

Running time: 1:40

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Movie Review: Justice is served cold and bloody in “Wind River”

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The violence in “Wind River” will take your breath away. As it should.

We’ve become so inured to it — in the movies and on TV — that we forget the shock that accompanies it. We don’t know how loud high-caliber firearms actually are up close, the jolt of their impact, the carnage they wreak.

Actor-turned-director Taylor Sheridan’s modern Westerns — “Sicario,” “Hell or High Water” and the latest, “Wind River” — take place in violent worlds full of brutish men who, on their best day, regard the guns that are part of their lives as tools.

And on their worst?

“Wind River” reminds us that there’s still a lot of “wild” in the West. Set on the frigid plateau of Wyoming, where isolation and despair go glove-in-hand with contempt for government, drug abuse and a seriously unsentimental view of nature, wildlife and wild places, it’s the worst place imaginable to solve a murder.

FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is totally out of her element with “you people,” as she tactlessly refers to the locals on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The tribal police chief (the great Graham Greene) is alternately resigned to the fact of her assistance, and amused by her attempt.

“Don’t lead me on,” he grouses at one point. “I’m used to no help.”You people

The “you people” thing cuts both ways. And he has news for her brand of “you people.”

“This isn’t the land of ‘back-up,’ Jane. This is the land of ‘on your own.'”

 

 

 

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But they aren’t alone. Cory, played to near-perfection by Jeremy Renner, grew up here, a working class Joe whose latest job takes advantage of his lost-art skills. He works for the Fish and Wildlife Service as a tracker of predators that kill livestock — a tracker and a hunter. Jane, quick to point out that as a lone FBI agent, “I’m not here to solve this,” leans on his wilderness skills.

Because Cory’s the one who stumbled across an Arapahoe teen, barefoot and frozen to death in the snow. He sees things forensics won’t.

“All I know is what the tracks say.”

One of the pleasures of Sheridan’s tightly-woven script is the way Cory’s grim stoicism has a source, and that and his local ties —  a white man who married and divorced a Native American (Julia Jones)  — give him entre to that world, even if he’s an outsider.

The victim’s father, Martin (Gil Birmingham, of “Hell or High Water,” finally freed of “Twilight”) may be fatalistic.

“She’s just a girl that lost her way in the snow, is all.”

But Cory knows better. He and Martin share something.

“Let yourself suffer.”

The crime itself — recreated in grisly flashback — isn’t that much of a mystery. “Wind River” is more about the culture clash — the Ft. Lauderdale native FBI agent finding her footing in the shadow of Fort Laramie. It’s about the remote, forbidding cold where jurisdictions overlap and all manner of dead-enders disregard the lawmen and women trying to keep them in line, where any confrontation is going to have firearms.

The airless tedium is tempered by the innate awareness that living and dying is done on the knife’s edge in country this hard.

“Luck don’t live out here.”

In “Hell of High Water,” Sheridan used a heist picture to point his camera at ageing, dying Western towns and the institutions that let them die. Here, it’s the hopeless neglect of Indian Reservations — children raised the way they’ve always been raised, but with grinding, inescapable poverty and deadly new drug distractions that eat into families and society.

He also has a tendency to cast the prettiest movie stars, which washes some of the grit off his movies. Here, Olsen’s runway-ready look earns comment and is a distraction. She needed to de-glam a bit, like Jodie Foster in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Actors remind us they’re actors when they’re too well-groomed and turned out to look like the land has worn on them.

Rent “Frozen River” or “Winter’s Bone” and catch the contrast. This film rarely feels as cold as its first scenes, and never as cold as everybody is making out. The promised blizzard is a bust.

And the third act has a few moments where the script lets Renner hit the Western Icon button too hard.

But the “Hurt Locker” star brings a virile competence to Cory, a man in his element — hand-loading the rounds he uses in his work tool — a rifle — watching the skies to know when the blizzard is coming, scanning the ground to see who ran off where. Just the way he mounts his snowmobile — riding on one-knee to sit up higher and see further ahead, hurtling along on the edge of reckless — embeds him in the character and the place.

He and Sheridan and some terrific, under-used supporting players (the omnipresent hulk Jon Bernthal among them) give “Wind River” a somber, grim grace and the relentless forward motion of a thriller that isn’t just seen, but faced-up, because that’s the warrior code of the place and the people struggling to live there.

3half-star

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones

Credits: Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan.  A Weinstein Co. release.

Running time: 1:47

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Movie Review — Gag writer shortage grows acute with “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature”

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The dire state of animation screenwriting, made plain by a summer of “Cars 3,” “Despicable Me 3” and worse (“The Emoji Movie”) is pounded into stone by “The Nut Job 2: Nutty By Nature.”

Even the year’s funniest cartoons — “Boss Baby” and “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” — got by on chuckles and giggles, barely a belly laugh between them.

Sony Animation may smirk over selling “The Emoji Movie” to a few million suckers over the howls of warning from critics and social-media trashings from friends and family. But the days of “If we animate it, they will come” are fast ending for the cynical and the skin-flinty in Hollywood’s corridors of power. If they don’t start spending on re-writes, the end is nigh.

“Nut Job” had some Will Arnett sass, a touch of fast-paced slapstick and a cute hook — endangered park animals knock over a nut shop — a few years back. It wasn’t a laugh riot, but there were giggles enough to get by.

Are they selling the sequel with “Well, at least it’s not ‘The Emoji Movie?” Because the limp loonyness on display here has barely a giggle, much less a laugh.

Surly the hustler-squirrel (Arnett) presides over a never-ending feast at the nut emporium he and his fellow park dwellers have made their home.

His squirrel gal-pal Andie (Katherine Heigl) may be all about the aphorisms.

“Easy doesn’t build character…There are no shortcuts in life, Surly.”

But that falls on deaf ears, even after the nut shop blows up and the park they all used to call home falls under the gaze of a rapacious, crooked mayor (“SNL’s” Bobby Moynihan), Surly is still looking for an angle, a hustle.

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There’s GOT to be a way to get the pug Precious (Maya Rudolph) into the mayor’s house, maybe by flirting with his obnoxious daughter’s Boston Terrier, Frankie (Bobby Cannavale).

But THEN what?

The picture meanders through a 1960 cityscape, with Surly not managing a single moment of funny business and Arnett and Rudolph having nothing funny to say.

Heigl? She’s never been funny. Ask anybody.

The one gag that works is probably a little racist, or at least racially touchy. Jackie Chan voices the lead mouse in a sea of martial artist mice who beat the purple out of Surly any time he ventures into Chinatown.

“Don’t call me CUTE!”

There’s novelty in hearing the voice of Scandinavian heavy Peter Stormare as an animal control officer — again, with nothing remotely funny to say or do.

Then again, maybe you bust a gut over the mayor’s license plate pun — “MBZLVR.”

The odd strained chuckle, here and there, isn’t enough to take the stench of “Emoji Movie” summer off “Nutty by Nature.” Maybe Surly is speaking for all of American animation when he delivers the one good line Arnett has in the script.

“Amazing how quickly rock bottom catches up to you.”

1half-star

MPAA Rating: PG (for action and some rude humor)

Cast: The voices of Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Maya Rudolph, Jackie Chan, Peter Stormare, Bobby Moyniham

Credits:Directed by, script by . An Open Road release.

Running time: 1:24

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Movie Review: Prepare to be dazzled by “Dave Made a Maze”

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“Dave Made a Maze” is the most jaw-droppingly original movie of 2017, a delirious and deliberate act of DIY whimsy in the Terry Gilliam style.

It cannot possibly have been as cheap to make as it looks. The sets are literally made of cardboard. But genius often scoffs at the word “budget.”

Start with the simplest of concepts — this frustrated, directionless goof Dave (Nick Thune) has built a labyrinth out of old refrigerator boxes in the living room of his apartment. Girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes home and just rolls her eyes.

There he goes again. And yeah, he’s “lost” inside it.

But this thing “is bigger than it looks,” he insists. “Don’t come IN here! It’s DANGEROUS!” And no, you can’t tear it apart. I mean, he spent his whole weekend building it, its blind alleys, chimneys, tunnels and booby traps.

Oh yes — it’s booby-trapped.

“Call Gordon! Call Leonard! JUST Leonard!”

His pals are no help. Gordon ( Adam Busch of TV’s “Colony”) shows up with a documentary film crew, led by indie film icon and Hal Hartley muse James Urbaniak.

Leonard (Scott Krinsky)? He shows up with friends, Flemish tourists, the works.

They can’t lead Dave out. The maze shakes and smokes and every time they push against it, the sound of shattering glass and rending metal screeches from it.

“Don’t come in here” is ignored. Annie’s got her box cutter and she’s going in. And everybody and I mean EVERYbody else follows.

What they and we are treated to is a visual delight, dazzling cardboard rooms rendered from say, an electronic keyboard package, or walls of pasted-together playing cards.

And no, it’s not safe. It’s taken on a life of its own. There’s a monstrous Gilliam-style cardboard head straight out of “TRON,” predatory origami birds that attack and peck.

Slide into this room, and everybody is transformed into paper-bag puppets, cross into that one, death dealing axes or Vietnam War punji sticks await.

Hell, there’s even a Minotaur. And since the maze isn’t quite finished, there really is no way out.

“We’re going to die, and it’s all YOUR fault,” one and all scream at Dave.

Save for Harry (Urbaniak), the doc director who interviews everyone as they explore, manipulates performances (“More ‘childlike WONDER’ this time!”) and stays on task, even when people die.

The deaths are tiny little comic works of art — an arterial spray of red confetti, yarn and silly string.

 

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Seriously, if this little indie pic’s production designer, Jeff White, isn’t nominated for an Oscar, the Art Director’s Guild doesn’t know genius when it sees it.

Actor-turned-director and co-writer Bill Watterson keeps the tone light and the surprises surprising, for the most part. The energy flags as the picture loses a little of its momentum in the middle acts. It’s only 80 minutes long, so even that doesn’t hurt it much.

The characters are dizzy, the film-making jokes (documentary fakery) zing and the stakes seem high even when we’re seeing characters ground up by cardboard gears, sliced by cardboard saws (“Paper cuts!”) in a cloud of paper-shredder plasma.

Urbaniak stands out in the cast — a droll voice of ’80s hipster nerd slumming among millennial slackers — though Busch, Thune and Stephanie Allynne all make funny impressions.

The whole merry affair walks a tightrope between ingenious and happy accident, skating along on a killer gimmick and the make-do/can-do DIY spirit of the production team.

Seriously, why bother making a sequel to “Labyrinth” now that “Dave Made a Maze?”

3stars2

MPAA Rating: unrated, profanity, cartoon violence

Cast:  Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, James Urbaniak, Adam Busch, Stephanie Allynne

Credits:Directed by Bill Watterson, script by Steven Sears and Bill Watterson. A Gravitas Ventures release.

Running time: 1:21

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Movie Review — “Annabelle: Creation”

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“Annabelle: Creation” back-engineers the tale of the demonically possessed doll — the latest version of a demonically possessed doll — into an origin story that is a veritable grab-bag of terror.

The director of the simpler and superior “Lights Out” takes his best shot at making us quake, jump or recoil at demons, dolls, scarecrows and puppets. But while David F. Sandberg uses his silences well and doles out the early chills like a doctor worried we’ll get hooked on thrills, that grab bag is mostly stuffed with cliches. And if we’re talking back to the screen, as audiences often do at horror pictures, it’s because we’re two steps ahead of the plot and trying to hurry this lumbering beast along, or correct its lapses in logic or its anachronisms.

In the 1940s, a little girl named “Bee” is killed in a motoring accident. Her mother (Miranda Otto) grieves, and her taciturn doll-maker dad (Anthony LaPaglia) will never make another doll.

But years later, with his wife an invalid at their remote Southern California farmhouse, Dollmaker Sam invites the Catholic Church to set up a mini-orphanage in their home.

The half-dozen little girls under the care of Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) love having all this space. But there are a lot of shadows there, and a locked room with a spooky dollhouse and a closet holding an even spookier doll.

The teens are creeped-out, but the young polio victim Janice (Talitha Bateman) lets her curiosity get the better of her and her best bud, Linda (Lulu Wilson).  They’re the first to connect the doll dots.

An “I can’t stay here” followed by “We need to leave” falls on the nun’s deaf ears. She hasn’t noticed how naturally creepy those two little girls are to start with.

So naturally, all hell breaks loose.

Sandberg opens the picture with a couple of dazzling camera moves and disorienting crane shots, and then settles down on the penny plain effects that work in most horror pictures. Shadows that spread, taloned fingers that reach out of the dark, a well you shouldn’t look down and a beneath-the-stairs hiding place you shouldn’t hide in are all classic horror tropes.

As indeed is the idea of a demonic doll. From “Twilight Zone” to “Chucky” to “Treehouse of Terror,” we’ve been treated to all manner of manikin monsters. Usually they talk.

Producer James Wan commissioned screenwriter Gary Dauberman to fold this tale back into “The Conjuring” universe, the many spooky hoaxes of ghostbusters/book-hustlers Lorraine and Ed “Amityville” Warren. The result is a clockwork horror picture where the trains run on time and the attempted frights arrive in their turn. There’s just too little that’s novel and even less that’s scary.

If you can’t get more than just a taste of terror from throwing half a dozen orphans into a haunted house, maybe your “universe” isn’t expanding at all and your “Creation” has run its course.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and terror.

Cast:  Talitha Bateman, Lulu Wilson, Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia, Miranda Otto

Credits:Directed by David F. Sandberg, script by  Gary Dauberman. A Warner Brothers/New Line release.

Running time: 1:48

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Movie Preview: “Mother!” finally unveils its official trailer

 

It’s due in theaters in five weeks. It has a prestige director — Darren Aronofsky — and Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris.

And a VERY “Rosemary’s Baby” vibe. So they held back on giving us a trailer to preserve the surprise? That could pay off.

Sept. 15 we find out.

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Movie Review: Lake Bell’s “I Do…Until I Don’t”

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Pretty, perky perpetual girlfriend/best friend/second banana Lake Bell makes her second trip behind the feature film camera with a self-written comedy about marriage, “I Do…Until I Don’t.”

It lacks the goofy novelty of “In a World…,” which was set in the insular world of voice-over artists. And she’s still not figured out that comedy requires faster pacing. But she hews close to what she knows — a movie about a movie , a title with an ellipsis — and a winning cast makes the most of its limited possibilities.

A semi-famous British documentary maker, Vivian (Dolly Wells) wants to follow up her edgy cinema verite “Tween Jungle” with a project about the doomed state of marriage in the West. So she’s come to Vero Beach, Florida, to find specimen couples to make her point for her.

“Will you accept that marriage is dead?” She’s convinced “betrothed” means “impending death,” when the true definition — “contract” — would suffice to make her point.

Bell plays Alice, awkwardly married to Noah, and frustrated co-operator of his failing inherited window blinds store. Work isn’t the only place she’s frustrated. She and her husband have sexual peccadilloes that might explain some of their difficulty in conceiving.

Alice is a Vivian Prudeck fan, and she’s determined to get her art degree itch scratched by being in Vivian’s film. She signs them up and lies to Noah about the benefits in order to get him to go along with it. And that’s not the only lie she’s willing to play out.

Her hippy sister (Amber Heard) is in an open hippy marriage with Xander (Wyatt Cenac), and yes, they’re also invited into the documentary’s crucible.

Then there’s the grumpy older couple, semi-retired Harvey (Paul Reiser), who’s just bought a motorcycle, and realtor-at-her-wits-end-over-Harvey Cybil (Mary Steenburgen). She’s got a present for him.

“Is it anthrax?”

The complications here revolve around dishonesty and couples that aren’t in the same places — “open marriage”-wise, retirement-wise, whatever.

And the cute stuff is mostly about Alice trying to find ways to finance her participate-in-the-film dream by taking a job at the “Your Welcome” (sic) massage spa. Sassy Bon Bon (Chauntae Pink) has to explain “happy endings” to naive Alice — “Jerk that elbow to make that bank.”

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There’s a funny exchange between Xander and this hippy (Chace Crawford) who hits on his wife, Fanny (Heard) right in front of him. The interloper, just taking advantage of that whole “open marriage” thing, is named Egon.

“Be gone, EGON.” None of this “Namaste” yoga speak for you, pal. “Na mas GO.”

The filmmaker comes off as a big-ol’ lonely phony.

The most crackling interplay is between the Oscar winning Steenburgen — who lets you feel the loathing — and Reiser, who still has the best timing of any comic alive.

The whole doesn’t add up to much more than an ellipsis — an ending foretold by the beginning, and not a lot of funny comic obstacles standing in its way.

But Bell has a beguiling, big-grin screen presence. And her ability to charm a cast into taking on her projects is admirable. Charming a script-doctor or two who could joke the films up would be a big help.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: R for sexual material and language

Cast: Lake Bell, Ed Helms, Mary Steenburgen, Amber Heard, Paul Reiser, Wyatt Cenac, Dolly Wells.

Credits: Written and directed by Lake Bell . A Film Arcade release.

Running time: 1:43

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Movie Review: Urban warfare comes to Brooklyn in “Bushwick”

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In “Casablanca,” the arrogant German Major Strasser taunts the neutral American ex-patriate Rick how he’ll feel when German troops parade down the streets of this city or that one, and finishes his quiz with New York.

“Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”

Thus we come to “Bushwick,” a house-by-house urban combat thriller about an invasion of Brooklyn.

We’ve been so removed from any threat of enemy occupation for so long that typically such warfare fantasies involve the zombie apocalypse. Not here.

A young couple (Brittany Snow, Arturo Castro) get off the subway and suddenly notice how empty it is.

“Where did they go?”

Then a guy, on fire, tumbles down the platform stairs. They poke their heads out the entrance into mayhem — black helicopters, black-uniformed commandos engaged in a full-on shootout with the drive-by shooting locals.

It’s InfoWars’ wettest dream, a confusing “us” vs. an unknown “them,” with “us” not exactly coalescing into an organized opposition. The boyfriend is killed, the blonde “home from college” is nabbed by hood rats who challenge her right to be there with a “Think you’re BETTER than us?”

And then a “janitor” with what “Taken” taught us are “particular skills” rescues her, and the quest is on — a house by house, street by street effort to escape a war zone — Aleppo in the Boroughs, Mosul across the river from Manhattan.

“Take it one block at a time,” Janitor Stupe (Dave Bautista) mutters, and so they do.

Co-directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, working from a Nick Damici/ Graham Reznick script, drag us through a school, apartments, laundromat and church caught up in a sudden conflagration. The randomness of warfare visited upon a civilian population stands out — five people dash across a street, three don’t make it, duck all the way through this block, forget to duck on the next one, you’re done. 

Nobody has any information, although there is electricity and you’d think SOMEbody would have gotten a cell alert or picked up a newscast. This is the first big hole in the logic, here. Another is the film’s strained effort to hide the ID of the attackers. Hint, no, this isn’t “Red Dawn.” That happened last Nov. 8. 

The violence is visited upon the non-violent, Lucy (Snow), who must either adapt or die. The man of violence Stupe, has to demonstrate a little self-surgery (Ever seen a wound cauterized?) and great skill with a pistol.

And then there’s the New York that cafe owner Rick Blaine was talking about back in “Casablanca.” A diverse, armed and irritable population that has seen the movie or youtube video and knows how to make a Molotov cocktail, that has experienced the best way to hit and run with a foe is by drive-by, that knows its turf.

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“Bushwick” doesn’t really work as a political parable, and doesn’t stand up to too much thinking over at all. It shortchanges characters and would have been far better served making more of a statement with folks who were actually local — “diversity” would be a bonus. ]

I mean, when the Hassid attack the attackers as if they’re defending their kibbutz, THAT’s your movie.

It could have been a polarized America take on “Attack the Block,” with over-matched locals — gang members or whoever — battling a well-equipped (no heavy weapons, though) drawling foe. It could have been darkly funny, in addition to violent.

But they needed Snow (“Pitch Perfect”) and Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) to get financing, and that limited everything the filmmakers wanted to do, from the situations and nature of the quest, to their muted satiric horizons.

As is it, “Bushwick” never rises above bush league, more a missed opportunity than a wickedly on-target winner.

2stars1

MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity

Cast: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista

Credits:Directed by Cary MurnionJonathan Milott , script by Nick DamiciGraham Reznick. An RLJ Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:34

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Movie Review: “Whose Streets?” captures Black Lives Matter as it happens

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The shooting of Michael Brown isn’t re-investigated and the trial of the police officer who shot the unarmed black teen eight times isn’t parsed in the new documentary “Whose Streets?”

Media coverage — some of it bordering on hysterical — is merely sampled, not probed in depth.

This compelling film is a streets-eye-view of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which began with Brown’s body still lying in the background, in broad daylight, for hours as his community rose up to call attention to the shooting and the police culture that led to it.

Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Harris interview many of those doing the protesting, but wisely rely most heavily on the citizen journalism of scores of folks from that corner of Ferguson (Canfield Green apartments).

Protesters, like the gay couple Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton, protesters turned organizers Kayla Reed and Tef Poe, shout themselves hoarse.

“No peace? No JUSTICE!”

streets2Ordinary citizens captured the tears of Brown’s mother, weeping and enraged as the police wait and wait and wait to remove the body. These uncensored cell camera videos document the growing frustration, the profane shouts and rising emotions of that summer and then fall and winter of 2014, when people took to the streets for peaceful marches and were met by massive, confrontational police presence, which hemmed in their marches.

Local Copwatch citizen videographer Dave Whitt tapes every police action — marchers peacefully walking, holding signs, while legions of cops cover them with the dots of red laser sights  from their rifles, dots dancing across heads and bodies of people as they pass.

Didn’t see that on TV, did you?

The riots and looting, seen from inside that insular world, and not from the selective “fire makes a pretty scary picture” editing of TV news, comes off quite differently in “Whose Streets?”

“A riot is the language of the unheard” is one of the film’s chapter headings.

The film captures a protest that grew into a movement, drawing supporters from all over the country as the marches, occupations (stopping traffic, pouring into a Walmart, speaking truth to unsympathetic white people’s faces) that demand attention as the local PD  and Missouri justice system attempt to whitewash the shooting and quash dissent.

This film won’t be aired on Fox News, but when you’re protesting on the streets and in public hearings and police are, to a one, wearing black wristbands with “Stand with Darren Wilson” (the police officer whose street encounter with Brown led him to pump eight bullets into him), ask yourself who the antagonists here really were?

Yes, the U.S. Justice Department got involved, and pressure was applied. This scruffy, street-wise and blunt documentary effortlessly shows — with just images and captured police behavior — that was wholly justified. No George Stephanopoulos interiew with the policeman and his “Who, ME racist?” declarations, no talking heads on chat shows are here to spin it.

Here was a police force and City Hall preying on a big chunk of its community, and the bubbling outrage of decades of that is what “Whose Streets?” cell phone camera participants grab, at the moment it explodes.

The scruffiness is intentional and the film has that conventional search for heroes and heroines — who to follow, single-out and build the movie around. But “Whose Streets?” also lets us see how citizens journey from outrage to action, from passivity to protest to influencing public policy, just by standing up and saying “Enough!”

3stars2

MPAA Rating: R (violence, profanity)

Cast: Brittany Ferrell , Tef Poe, Tory Russell, Alexis Templeton, Kayla Reed, Dave Whitt

Credits:Directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Harris . A Magnolia release.

Running time: 1:30

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Movie Review — “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

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The filmmaking is more pedestrian, the visuals a bit too heavy on travel and meetings and phone wrangling.

And the shock and optimism of the Oscar winning “An Inconvenient Truth” is more muted in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” It’s never self-congratulatory, rarely “I told you so,” although if anybody on Planet Earth is entitled to owning that phrase it’s Al Gore.

“Truth to Power” revisits Gore’s life project, educating the world of the increasingly obvious perils of climate change. It follows him from Washington to Paris, Miami to the Philippines, and lays out the Sisyphean task of convincing the developing world to shoulder part of the challenge and the developed world to stop listening to the paid propaganda of Big Fossil Fuel and its compliant right-wing mouthpieces.

The numbers, statistics and charts are more damning than ever. Just last week, another weather “anomaly” in Miami caused that “once in a century” flooding that the film shows Gore witnessing two years ago. “Hottest day ever recorded” pops up in the news around the globe. In India, the asphalt streets are melting into a scalding quicksand for days at a time. Beijing’s mayor has labeled his city “unlivable” thanks to the polluted air and rising temperatures.

Filmmakers Bonni Cohen (“The Rape of Europa”) and Jon Shenk visit imploding glaciers in Greenland and a typhoon-sacked city in the Philippines. We and Gore witness the smog-clogged skies of India and China and hear out the developing world’s jingoistic pushback against curbing its carbon emissions.

And there is Gore, talking, training others to spread the message, showing his ever-evolving power point presentation and patiently dealing with setbacks big and small.

The biggest? America electing Donald Trump, a climate denier untroubled by facts, truth or insurance rates which will start to bite his properties — should he bother to pay his bill.

The movie meanders somewhat, giving screen time to a failed worldwide climate wake-up call telecast from Paris that had to be abandoned during the citywide terrorist attacks of 2015.

Do we really need to revisit the 2000 presidential election to know how far backward America and the world were pushed, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling?

The film feels also less personal, although Gore comes off as better-informed on the subject than ever, more committed to the task at hand, and when need be — folksy and self-effacing in the face of abuse from the dumbest and most politically cynical voices in America.

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When Gore preaches that “despair can be paralyzing,” we get it. When he wades through record flooding in Miami Beach, he can make a crack like “I just wonder how the governor (climate change denier Rick Scott) sloshes through this and doesn’t notice.” sting.

The warnings are dire, and before great progress can be made “on the climate crisis,” we have to fix “the democracy crisis.” He visits the New York Attorney General suing Big Oil to find out how they’re financing misinformation campaigns. This subject was politicized long ago, and it wasn’t politicized by Al Gore.

But he is selling, above all else, optimism. He talks the most with mayors, and those folks — from Miami Beach to Georgetown, Texas — get it. Georgetown is the largest city in America to move to renewable energy.

It’s mayor crows that “It’s the reddest town” in a Red State, but the energy cost savings and moral high ground the city can claim trump even Trump among Trump voters.

A seriously backward town I used to live in, Kodiak, Alaska, used to be powered by a diesel generator plant. Now it’s lauded for running 100% on renewable energy. If it can happen in Kodiak, it might even happen in Florida.

When Volvo announces it is abandoning gasoline engines, and Toyota and Mazda announce plans for a shared North American electric car plant, when solar and wind power take root and take over the power grids of countries from Denmark and Portugal to Chile, there is cause for hope and little chance of giant steps backward.

“Sequel” doesn’t have the novelty of its Oscar-winning predecessor. But it still has its Nobel Peace Prize-winning star, fighting the good fight, riding a tide of changing awareness toward that ever-nearer tipping point, where this issue is no longer debated, even by the most cynically-corrupt and their unthinking lemmings.

3stars2

MPAA Rating:

Cast: Al Gore, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump

Credits:Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, script by . A — release.

Running time:

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