Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Starred Up











Starred Up opens in a dark anteroom where 16-year-old Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) is being processed into a prison for adults, a status he earned (the Brits call it being "starred up") due to the violence and the frequency of his crimes. O'Connell plays Eric as a near-feral survivor of abuse and neglect; his movements economical and confident, he carries himself like a cat, quick to react to a threat and prone to bursts of ferocity. Soon after arriving, Eric nearly kills a fellow prisoner who's done him no harm and then battles the guards who try to subdue him, creating a standoff by taking one man's penis in his mouth through his pants and threatening to bite it off. Though this preemptive strike is presumably intended to keep the other prisoners at bay, it has the opposite effect, earning Eric the enmity of powerful alpha dogs like one of the guards who runs the prison and the suave prisoner who unofficially runs Eric's unit and doesn't want some crazy kid causing trouble on his turf. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Are You Here












When TV weatherman Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson) asks for his job back after quitting in disgust following years of bad behavior, he’s startled to be welcomed back—and given a promotion. “Jeez, what do you have to do to get fired around here?” he asks.

You might ask the same thing of Matthew Weiner, the writer/director/producer of this rambling, tedious film, which keeps going and going but never gets anywhere. Stumbling from unfunny “comedy,” like an icky, overlong sequence in which Steve kills a chicken, to drama that’s generally either unconvincing or overplayed, Are You Here can’t settle on a tone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coldwater







There's a certain kind of fantasy, appealing to teenagers, that involves imagining yourself in a situation harsh enough to justify the alienation and rage flooding your soul. The attraction is the perverse satisfaction of enduring nightmarish scenarios, no matter how high the deck is stacked against you. Coldwater has the feel of one of those fantasies, from its melodramatic mixture of grandiosity and powerlessness to its view of the world as a torture-chamber crucible for an angry young man who has to grow up too fast. So it comes as no surprise that writer-director Vincent Grashaw wrote the film's first draft soon after graduating high school.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey












In The Hundred-Foot Journey, the Kadam family—-doe-eyed Hassan (Manish Dayal), a chef who learned all he knows from his mother; his bullheaded father, referred to only as Papa (Om Puri); and Papa's four other children—-leave India when their family restaurant is torched. The fire, a hate crime that incinerates Hassan's mother, is described only as the result of "some election" and quickly dismissed, as there's no place for grief in this upbeat dramedy.