99 Homes


These days a man's home is the bank's castle.

These days a man’s home is the bank’s castle.

(2015) Drama (Broad Green) Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown, Tim Guinee, Nicole Barré, Yvonne Landry, Noah Lomax, J.D. Eyermore, Cullen Moss, Jordyn McDempsey, Ann Mahoney, Judd Lormand, Deneen Tyler, Donna Duplantier, Wayne Pére, Cynthia Santiago, Juan Gaspard, Nadiyah Skyy Taylor. Directed by Ramin Bahrani

It wasn’t that long ago that the economy tanked in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Homes were being foreclosed upon at rates unheard of since the Great Depression. Families were displaced, the rich got richer and in essence nothing has changed since then other than the banks are being more circumspect somewhat, but none of the regulations that had kept this from happening before have been reinstated.

Taking place in 2010, the events in 99 Homes are said to have actually happened although I’m unclear whether they took place in the Orlando locale the film is set in. Dennis Nash (Garfield) is a construction worker who discovers that the builders of the development he’s working for have run out of money and that the past two weeks he’s been working are going to go unpaid.

His childhood home, which he lives in with his mother (Dern) and grew up in is underwater and he’s several payments behind. The bank isn’t terribly interested in anything but foreclosure and his trip to court has left him reeling; the judge, overwhelmed with the number of foreclosure cases, simply rubberstamps the bank’s request and sends Dennis packing. Dennis is told he has 30 days to appeal.

A few days later realtor Rick Carver (Shannon) shows up at Dennis’ door and without so much as a fare-thee-well tosses him, his son Connor (Lomax) and his mom into the street along with all their stuff. He is forced to move them into a skeevy hotel which is mostly filled with other evictees, some of them who’ve been there two years or more. He needs to find work now more than ever but there simply isn’t any to be had, the construction business hit hard by the fact that banks aren’t making business loans so there is nothing being built.

When he discovers that some of his tools are missing, he goes back to Carver to demand their return. Carver, impressed with his moxie, puts him to work doing a particularly disagreeable job on a foreclosed home whose previous owners let their displeasure be known in a rather spectacular way. Carver, admiring Nash’s work ethic, hires him on to do odd construction jobs and then to snatch air conditioning units from foreclosed homes that the banks will pay Carver money to install “new” units, which of course Carver simply has Nash reinstall the old units. Shifty, no?

Eventually as Nash continues to help Carver do his dirty work, Carver puts him to work doing the work that Nash is most wary of – presiding over foreclosures. Nash is sympathetic to the victims but soon becomes good at it and continues to help Carver with his chicanery. He even helps Carver set up a deal that will make them both unimaginably rich.

The issue is that Nash has a conscience and it’s beginning to get pricked, particularly in the case of a particular homeowner (Guinee). And when it all comes to a head, will Nash choose money or conscience?

This is a movie that captures the Great American Nightmare circa 2015 (yes, it’s still the Great American Nightmare). It’s a story that’s all too tragically common and will hit an emotional resonance that will touch even those who haven’t had money problems in their lives.

Garfield takes a role that he’s really more suited to than the teenage costumed superhero that he has been playing most recently. He’s still not the commanding screen presence that he might be but he’s a talented actor in his own right. What shines here though is Shannon as the slimy real estate agent whose greed and cynicism are palpable. He has a speech in which he talks about America bailing out winners that sounds like something Trump would say. I daresay that the orange-haired Republican Presidential candidate would probably like this movie for all the wrong reasons.

Dern, who has become one of the best actresses that is always getting notice but never getting noticed if you catch my drift, is once again magnificent here. She is the movie’s conscience and there are few actresses who can pull it off without being maudlin but Dern accomplishes it. She probably won’t be more than an afterthought for a Best Supporting Actress nomination here but that’s more because the script goes off the rails at the end.

Yeah, the ending. Let’s talk about it. What bugs me about Hollywood endings is that you establish a character, establish their credibility and then as the movie ends suddenly they change and act a completely different way than they’ve acted throughout the film. That’s not the way real people act and audiences know that. If you’re going to be charitable through the first 85% of the movie, the audience is going to expect you to be charitable the last 15% too. You have to follow your own internal logic. This movie doesn’t do that.

Still, it’s a fine movie that for the most part covers an issue that faces all American homeowners even those who think they’re well off. Other than that 1% we’ve heard so much about, most Americans are only a single paycheck away from financial issues and once you’ve got those it can be excruciatingly difficult to climb out from under them. The game is rigged that way and nobody wants to talk about it. Thank goodness for filmmakers like Bahrani who do.

REASONS TO GO: Real life horror. Terrific performances by Shannon and Dern.
REASONS TO STAY: Inexplicably bad ending.
FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of foul language including some sexual references and a brief scene of violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first time Garfield has worn facial hair in a film.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/15/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 76/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Margin Call
FINAL RATINGS: 7/10
NEXT: All This Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

New Releases for the Week of October 9, 2015


Pan

PAN

(Warner Brothers) Hugh Jackman, Levi Miller, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Amanda Seyfried, Cara Delevingne. Directed by Joe Wright

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is one of the most beloved characters in the history of children’s literature but there isn’t much that is known about his early years. Director Joe Wright aims to remedy that situation, showing us the tale of a young orphan spirited away from the orphanage in London to a magical island ruled by the wicked pirate Blackbeard. To survive he will need to united the tribes of Neverland, led by the impetuous Princess Tiger Lily, but he won’t be able to win at all without the help of a ne’er-do-well explorer who happens to be a fellow by the name of Jim Hook.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for fantasy action violence, language and some thematic material)

99 Homes

(Broad Green) Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown. After being evicted from his home, a single father has only one chance of getting it back – by going to work for the despicable and ruthless businessman who evicted him in the first place. At first, he does it for his mother and children but as he gets further ensnared in the businessman’s web, he discovers that in selling his soul he’s been sentencing himself to a kind of purgatory on Earth, and extricating himself from that might even be more impossible still.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R  (for language including some sexual references, and a brief violent image)

Big Stone Gap

(Picturehouse) Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, Jenna Elfman, Jane Krakowski. The pharmacist in a small coal mining town in rural Virginia has resigned herself to being alone for the rest of her life. She is in fact content with that fate, living a fulfilling life of use and purpose. However, she discovers a family secret that shatters her illusions and changes the course of her life forever.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Now Playing: Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal The Loop, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for brief suggestive material)

Coming Home

(Sony Classics) Gong Li, Daoming Chen, Huiwen Zhang, Tao Guo. In the midst of China’s Cultural Revolution, a dissident is sent to a labor camp. When he returns home, he finds that his beloved wife no longer recognizes who he is. Masquerading as a friend of her husband’s who was in the same camp, he tries to find a way to convince her that he is her husband. This comes from Zhang Yimou, one of the most honored directors in China.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic material)

He Named Me Malala

(Fox Searchlight) Malala Yousefzai, Ziauddin Yousefzai, Toor Pekai Yousefzai, Khushal Yousefzai. Most of us have heard the name of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who courageously stood up for the education of girls in Pakistan and was targeted by the Taliban for elimination. Shot while returning home on her school bus, she survived her injuries despite overwhelming odds to become a symbol for the rights of women to make something better of themselves. This documentary not only tells her story but shows Malala at home as the ordinary teenage girl that she is, although truth be told she is something far more than ordinary.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements involving disturbing images and threats)

Ladrones

(Pantelion) Fernando Colunga, Eduardo Yanez, Miguel Varoni, Jessica Lindsey. The sequel to Ladron que roba a ladron follows the continued exploits of a pair of thieves turned crusaders for social justice. Now retired from the game, they come together for one last heist – this one against a ruthless family of land owners who are trying to wipe away an entire town in order to build condos. Putting together a new team of misfits, they’ll have to have cojones the size of watermelons to pull this one off.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Caper Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Regal The Loop
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking)

Meet the Patels

(Alchemy) Ravi Patel, Geeta Patel, Champa V. Patel, Vasant K. Patel. Ravi Patel is an actor/filmmaker who was born in America to parents who emigrated from India. He is rapidly approaching 30 and is single, having broken up with his white girlfriend of two years that he couldn’t bring himself to tell his parents about. They are anxious to have grandchildren and see their son married. Therefore they go old school; the parental matchmaking process. Captured on film by his documentary filmmaker sister, the film shows insights into the Indian culture and the heart of a loving family that is common to all cultures. This played at the South Asian Film Festival last weekend at the Enzian and is beginning a regular run; you can read my review of the film here.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: PG (for thematic elements, brief suggestive images and incidental smoking)

Sleeping With Other People

(IFC) Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Katherine Waterston. Two college friends, who have gone on to lives of serial infidelity, reconnect and become friends again. Vowing to remain friends because they are terrible with relationships, they find themselves falling for each other against all odds. Look for my review on this tomorrow.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Sex Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for strong sexual content, language including sexual references, and some drug use)

Pick of the Litter – September 2015


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Everest

Everest

(Universal) Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke. In 1996, it was a busy season for mountaineers both professional and amateur out to summit the highest mountain on the planet – Mt. Everest in Nepal. Competing professional guide teams were leading their clients to the summit. On May 10, it was unusually busy as 34 climbers were attempting to summit the South Face at once. Delays due to ropes not being set up ahead of time as well as bottlenecks led to summiting taking place well after the cutoff time for a safe descent to Camp IV. When a blizzard hit, many climbers were caught in the open in conditions that were not survivable. The fatalities due to the blizzard would be the most for a single day on Everest until 20 years later. Journalist Jon Krakauer who was on one of the two main teams summiting that day, wrote a book about his experiences; this movie is based on that book. September 25

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Steve Jobs The Man in the Machine

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

(Magnolia) Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bob Belleville, Chrisann Brennan. The late Steve Jobs is in many ways the embodiment of a tech baron; driven, exacting, inspiring and innovative, Jobs led Apple to the forefront of the personal computer revolution, and after having been ousted from his own company, returned to lead it to the forefront of the personal device revolution. Apple’s gadgets from the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad have revolutionized the way we interact with technology, for better or for worse. Yet the man who was the face of Apple wasn’t always a nice man; he was capable of great cruelty, deception and megalomaniacal behavior. He wasn’t a saint, he wasn’t a demon but somewhere in between and while the director of this documentary, Oscar winner Alex Gibney, has his own ideas of who Steve Jobs was, there is no doubt that his company has made an impact on the lives of each and every person reading this now. September 4

Coming Home

Coming Home

(Sony Classics) Gong Li, Chen Daoming, Zhang Huiwen, Guo Tao. During China’s Cultural Revolution, untold numbers of Chinese were arrested for a variety of offenses, significant and otherwise, real or imagined. Lu was one of those arrested; years later, when he is finally released, he eagerly returns home to his beloved wife Feng only to discover to his horror that she no longer remembers him, yet she still misses her darling husband Lu. He is forced to play a role in order to remain close to his wife, wondering if he will be forever sentenced to a different kind of exile. Director Zhang Yimou is one of the greatest ever produced by China; he creates works of extraordinary beauty and emotion and this looks no different. September 9

Durak

Durak

(Olive) Sergey Artsybashev, Nina Antyukhova, Pyotr Barancheev, Nikolay Bendera. The simple plumber in a run-down dormitory turned apartment building discovers that the structural integrity of the old highrise has been compromised and the building is on the verge of collapse within hours. He must evacuate the building – but the corrupt bureaucrats who allowed the apartments to fall into such a state of disrepair would rather see 800 people perish than their own reputations be besmirched. This award winning Russian film details the reality of life in the post-Soviet Russia. September 16

About Ray

About Ray

(Weinstein) Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan. I don’t think any movie being released this month could be this timeless. Ray is a teen transgender transitioning from his female birth body into his new male identity. His family is managing to cope more or less but his estranged birth father refusing to sign the paperwork that will allow Ray to have the surgery he needs. Could be an award contender later on this year. September 18

The Reflektor Tapes

The Reflektor Tapes

(Arts Alliance) Win Butler, Regine Chassagne. Arcade Fire is one of the world’s most honored and respected bands. Their most recent album, Reflektor was by all measures one of their most popular and most creative albums. Their live shows on the Reflektor tour were a triumph of image and showmanship, hearkening back to some of the most memorable shows of rock’s bygone eras. Recorded around the world, we are given access and insight into the process that the band employs to create their music and unique stage show. This is a must-see not only for fans of the band but for anyone who loves great music and great spectacle. Here in Orlando, it will be playing downtown at the Cobb Plaza Cinema Cafe. September 23

99 Homes

99 Homes

(Broad Green) Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown. Desperation can make strange bedfellows of us all. When a man is evicted from his home by a greedy realtor, he is literally willing to do anything to get his home back – including working for the realtor evicting other families from their homes. Searing performances by Garfield, Shannon and Dern look to make this not only timely from a political and social standpoint but one of those movies that is going to make an impression on the film buff community. September 25

Stonewall

Stonewall

(Roadside Attractions) Jeremy Irvine, Ron Perlman, Joey King, Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Roland Emmerich is better known for big massive loud popcorn movies, not the sort of films that end up on this series, but here he is. Of late his movies have been met with some derision, so this is going to be an important movie for him. The subject is the Stonewall Riots, an event which has as much emotional resonance to the LGBT community as the Selma march has to the African-American community. It deserves a movie equally as somber and uplifting as Selma was; I just hope that this has the same reverence. September 25