Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Hoping you find something to whet your appetite in this week’s mix.
Come to Daddy (2019)
Starring: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Madeleine Sami, Martin Donovan, Michael Smiley, Simon Chin, Ona Grauer, Ryan Beil, Raresh DiMofte, Alla Rouba, Noam Zylberman, Gord Middleton, Oliver Wilson and that’s it!
Director: Ant Timpson
Genres: comedy, horror
Synopsis: Norval (played by Wood) and his mother were abandoned by his father as a young child. Norval, now an awkward mama’s boy in his 30’s, receives a letter from his father, saying he’s missed him and wants him to visit. Daddy’s home is a beautiful cabana set on the ocean in a remote area that Norval has to hike cross-country to reach. It doesn’t take Norval long to realize that “Daddy” is not anyone he wants to turn his back on. Further, “Daddy” is a drunken malicious verbally abusive bully! Norval’s anxiety goes into overdrive and he decides to leave. Things quickly escalate between the two, especially when the normally timid Norval decides to give some back to the old man. A major event happens, then things really start to get weird.
Impressions: Don’t you just love that title! I kept seeing trailers of this on DVDs and finally said, OK, if it gets too bad I can shut it off. I expected straight-up horror, and that’s certainly what it started out feeling like and was probably what the director wanted us to believe. It ended up going in another direction, albeit one that was still graphically violent. It can also be considered dark dark comedy. It’s put together fairly loosely yet its linear plot is easy to follow. I just saw McHattie as the father of trumpet player, Chet Baker, in “Born to Be Blue,” and he was really good in that. He’s just as good in this, but he’s actively menacing here as the verbally eviscerating father. I never would have guessed that British Columbia, Canada was the setting for this, as it looks like a tropical paradise! Looking forward to more from this director. This could easily become a cult classic.
Etc.: New Zealander director Ant Timpson’s first feature length film; filmed in B.C., Canada; the film’s soundtrack was really good and is all original music composed by Karl Stevens, who released it as an album in February 2020; warning: scenes of squeamish graphic violence and nudity of males and females.
Awards: 7 wins and 6 nominations
Half Nelson (2006)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Shareeka Epps, Jeff Lima, Nathan Corbett, Tyra Kwao-Vovo, Rosemary Ledee, Tristan Mack Wilds, Bryce Silver, Kaela C. Pabon, Erica Rivera, Stephanie Bast, Eleanor Hutchins, Starla Benford, Kitty (the cat,) and many more.
Director: Ryan Fleck
Synopsis: Gosling plays (Dan, aka Mr. Dunne,) an excellent history teacher in an urban high school. He’s the kind of teacher kids love as he cares and he wants them to critically examine history. Mr. Dunne is also a crack addict. What isn’t said but implied, by both the seedy apartment he lives in and calls from an old girlfriend who asks how he’s doing, is that he is on a slow descent into the belly of the beast of drug addiction. In fact, he decides to make a careless decision to hit on the pipe in the girl’s bathroom at school after hours when he thinks all of the students are gone. Except they aren’t, as Drey (played by Epps) is still waiting for her ride to pick her up. She discovers the teacher she adores laying in the bathroom stall all cracked out. She helps him to his feet and so begins a friendship based in secrets. As the teacher continues on his descent, Drey is facing trials of her own, as her brother sits in Jail? Juvie? Prison? because he was convicted of drug running for the local dealer (played by Mackie.) He never ratted the dealer out but now the dealer is short one drug runner and begins a grooming campaign to recruit Drey into the biz. The film focuses on Mr. Dunne and Drey and the friendship between them that can both help and harm.
Impressions: There are no clear lines between the good guys and the bad guys here, but it is clear that young people searching for admirable role models have a hard time of it. Thankfully Drey has one in her mother, but her mother is forced to work double shifts to make ends meet and is gone more than home. This leaves a lot of unsupervised hours for Drey. I really enjoyed this movie no matter how depressing it was. It’s real life in so many urban areas across the country. Suburban and rural areas have different sets of problems so I’m not picking on urban areas. So inappropriate the secret-keeping between teacher and student. Gosling is good as the weak but lovable teacher who cares, but Epps is the standout here.
Etc.: Director Ryan Fleck’s first feature length film; Ryan Gosling’s first nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actor; the film was shot in 23 days!
Awards: 29 wins and 48 nominations
If you’re intrigued, I stumbled upon the whole movie:
Crossing Over (2009)
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Jim Sturgess, Cliff Curtis, Alice Braga, Alice Eve, Summer Bishil, Jacqueline Obradors, Justin Chon, Melody Zara, Merik Tadros, Marshall Manesh, Nina Nayebi, and many many more.
Director: Wayne Kramer
Genres: crime, drama
Synopsis: The sole focus is on the stories of individuals from other countries trying to come to the US and stay in the US with a green card. Ford plays an ICE officer whose job is to raid factories where undocumented and/or illegal aliens (I think they are synonymous) working in factories are rounded up and deported by bus over the southern border or who are escorted to the airport and forced to leave if they come from other locations (Australia and a country in the Middle East are highlighted for airport deportation.) It highlights callousness and exploitation by agents in power as well as the desperation of those who want to be given a chance to work and live in the US. So many horrible situations and so many tears are flowing throughout these dramatizations of acts going on in relation to immigration in the US (at least in 2009; it’s probably worse now!)
Impressions: There is so much going on that it’s really difficult to grab hold of anything beyond raw emotions going wild every which way. There are few calm, unbiased individuals. The extreme acts and deceptions by so many in the movie left me cold. It’s hyperbole run so amok it feels like propaganda. Please, anyone with firsthand knowledge, feel free to comment!
Etc.: imdb trivia: Director Wayne Kramer’s original cut was 140 minutes long, but despite having the right to final cut, this film’s producer agreed to be involved in editing the film down to two hours when Harvey Weinstein allegedly threatened to release the film straight to DVD, and bypass theatrical altogether (Kramer had nothing to do with the re-editing.)
Awards: 1 win
The Current War (2017)
Starring: Michael Shannon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicholas Hoult, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Oliver Powell, Sophia Ally, Woody Norman, Stanley Townsend, and many more.
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Genres: biography, drama
Synopsis: Set in the 1880s and 1890s, the race is on for which inventor’s electrical system will become the standard between Westinghouse and Edison. One runs AC and one runs DC. Added into the mix is an Italian immigrant named Tesla. The war tests the endurance and the ethics of all involved.
Impressions: This is a “big” movie, best seen on a big screen as the sets are detailed and lavish. The sets include cities and a world expo. For the most part this is very well put-together and educational if what’s shown in it is based on fact. We take electricity for granted but it wasn’t all that long ago we lived in darkness by the light of oil lamps and candles! I liked how the first part of the film developed each man’s family life but at some point the families were mostly edited out of the rest. I liked how they showed Tesla as the brilliant mind that was exploited by the other two due to his naivete. Shannon and Cumberbatch are at their best here. I have seen Hoult in two other films (in Fury Road as Nuk and as Constable Fitzpatrick in True History of the Kelly Gang) and have loved what he has done in all three.
Etc.: filmed in 11 locations: 9 in UK and 2 in US
Awards: none known
Cragside House, one of the filming locations, was the home or Lord W. G. Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong. It was the first house to be lit by hydro electric power, using bulbs made by Joseph Swan, the inventor. Lord Armstrong was a manufacturer of armaments.
Starring: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov Marina Vasileva, Andris Keiss, Aleksey Fateev, Sergey Borisov, Natalya Potapova, Anna Gulyarenko, Artyom Zhigulin, Maksim Solopov, and many more.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Synopsis: Set in Moscow, the parents of an only child now despise each other and want to separate but they have to sell their condo first. The 12-year-old boy, who is studious and introverted from what we can see, is caught in the middle of the verbal attacks his parents hurl at each other. His mother is thoughtlessly cruel to him and his dad’s mind is already with his new girlfriend and so pays no attention to him. When he can’t help but overhear his parents argue that neither one wants him and fights about who will be the unlucky one to take him, it’s a pivotal moment in his world. Not long after the boy simply disappears without a trace. The bulk of the movie alternates between detailing the search with showing how each of his parents try to build new lives for themselves while hoping he is found alive.
Impressions: Being upfront here, this movie got my blood boiling, which I believe was its intention. The maliciousness of the boy’s mother haunts me. The father is a moron. Their selfishness and total lack of empathy for their child is something I wish was fiction in the world. Sadly it happens with sickening regularity. The two people the parents each hook up with are good people who have no idea what horrible people they are consorting with. (The audience knows it’s only a matter of time before they do.) Of course the missing child is front and center the star of the show. If this one doesn’t make you think of your role as a parent, nothing will. There is a weak suggestion that it’s the government’s fault that unhappy people can’t easily get divorced from each other, but hell no you can’t blame what these two did to their child on the government! They did an excellent job of showing the methods that organized search parties use to find missing children (in Russia at least.)
Etc.: set in 2 locations in Moscow, Russia; same director who did “Leviathan” that I reviewed a few weeks ago; warning: graphic nudity and sexual intercourse
Awards: 19 wins and 47 nominations
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Paul Greco, Steve Shill, Verna Bloom, Barbara Hershey, Roberts Blossom, Barry Miller, Gary Basaraba, Irvin Kershner, Victor Argo, Micheal Been, Paul Herman, John Lurie, Leo Burmester, Andre Gregory, Peggy Gormley, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, and many more.
Director: Martin Scorcese
Synopsis: The story of Jesus of Nazareth (played by Dafoe) from the time he’s about to leave home after being a carpenter who built crosses for Romans to hang rebels and zealots from. Jesus is tormented by sounds, visions, and voices but he doesn’t understand what’s happening. The story unfolds with his gathering entourage who follow him wherever God leads Jesus. I stopped watching after Jesus was betrayed by Judas (played by Keitel) in the Garden of Gethsemane, questioned by Pontius Pilate (played by Bowie) and whipped and beaten by the soldiers. Shows all of the Biblical “highlights” (Jesus in the desert being tempted by Satan, water changed to wine, healing the blind, raising Lazarus from the dead, throwing the money changers out of the temple.)
Impressions: Scorcese goes all-in with his 4-hour epic that shows Jesus as a son of a god trying to follow the will of his father. It is immersive as it really draws the viewer into the climate, the times, and the journey. Dafoe is stunning in this. He’s young, tanned, and gorgeous as Jesus. Keitel as the red-headed, “fro-ed” Judas is a powerhouse. The scene where Jesus tells Judas he needs to betray him is a memorable one. Andre Gregory as John the Baptist is also a standout.
Etc.: 244 minutes! Some graphic scenes of nudity and sexual intercourse. There are multiple scenes of graphic animal blood and animals being hacked to pieces.
Awards: 2 wins and 8 nominations