Give or Take


In the weed hole.

(2020) Drama (Breaking Glass) Norbert Leo Butz, Jamie Effros, Joanne Tucker, Louis Cancelmi, Cheri Oteri, Annapurna Sriram, Jaden Waldman, Garry Mitchell, Shaun O’Hagan, Chris Fischer, Roya Shanks, Kyle Overstreet, Dennis Cunningham, Polly Lee, Jack Casey, Nathaniel Schultz, Kate Dearing, Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut, Steve Ross, Ian P. Ryan, Paul Schuyler. Directed by Paul Riccio

 

A vital part of indie cinema is the city dweller return to their small-town home for self-reflection following some trauma or event, finding some kind of a) redemption, b) growth or c) peace. Sometimes, all three. These movies can be by-the-numbers and as such, offer little insight; however, they can also take a fresh look and shine a light on some aspect of our nature that we can relate to.

Said city boy is Martin (Effros), who has returned to his home on Cape Cod to attend his father’s funeral and settle his affairs. Martin isn’t particularly thrilled to be there; his father had always been a distant, critical and cold man who never warmed to his son. They were driven further apart after Martin’s mother passed away, and his father promptly came out as gay and took up with Ted (Butz), his yard landscaper who now lives in the house that Martin grew up in.

Both men have issues; Martin hears tales of his father’s warmth and generosity, traits he never displayed towards Martin, and feels some jealousy that others saw this side of his dad and he never did. Ted feels slighted that his lover had not changed his will and left everything to Martin, including the home that he has lived in for seven years and made so many wonderful memories in. A predatory real estate agent (Oteri) is after Martin to sell, confident she could get a nice seven-figure sum for the property. Ted doesn’t want to leave, but he doesn’t have a legal right to stay. The two men clash in all sorts of details about happens at the funeral. Ted thinks there’s some homophobia going on, but neither man, trying to deal with the grief they both feel in different ways, truly understands that the other is also grieving.

Riccio (who co-wrote the movie along with Effros) fails to resist the temptation to make all the characters in town quirky, although he doesn’t take it to the degree that it becomes annoying. Martin reconnects with his prickly teenage crush Emma (Tucker) who is married now – Martin himself has a high-maintenace girlfriend (Sriram) who is remarkably materialistic. He also befriends a little boy who hides in a water-filled garbage can, using it as a kind of DIY sensory deprivation tank. There is also the stoner pool guy Terrence (Cancelmi) who has a large hole in the ground where he likes to smoke weed and invites Martin to join him from time to time. He also dispenses pearls of wisdom that are very un-stoner-like.

Good use is made of the bucolic Cape Cod setting. The best part of the movie is the relationship between Ted and Martin. It’s generally contentious, and there are times you want to give each one a good shaking, but at others you marvel at the humanity they have. Each man is played as wounded and imperfect; Butz, in particular, shines here, shows Ted as sometimes overwhelmed in his grief.

Some have classified this as a LGBTQ film and I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate; it’s more of a film in which one of the main characters is gay, but it isn’t necessarily about his experience as a gay man. It appears that most people in town seem to accept Ted for who he is, but it would seem likely in a small New England town that he would have encountered some push back. That really isn’t explored here, though.

Overall, the tone is pretty low-key, almost to the point of lethargy. Some might find the tone unexciting, but in all honesty, I found this to be a satisfying slice of life that reminds us that yes, even our parents are capable of growth and change, and so are we. Solid, all around.

REASONS TO SEE: Complex, layered relationships.
REASONS TO AVOID: Might be a little too low-key for some.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, drug use and some adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Butz is a two-time Tony Award winner.
=BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, DirecTV, Google Play, Spectrum, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
=CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/4/2022: Rotten Tomatoes: 94% positive reviews; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Beautiful Boy
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Huda’s Salon

Wonder Park


Welcome to Jurassic – I mean, Wonder – Park.

(2019) Animated Feature (Paramount) Starring the voices of Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, Matthew Broderick, Sofia Mali, Oev Michael Urbas, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Kevin Chamberlin, Kath Soucie. Directed by Dylan Brown, Clare Kilner, Robert Iscove and David Feiss

A nice concept is torpedoed by weak execution in this troubled production that comes to us via Paramount’s subsidy Nickelodeon Films. June (Denski) is a wildly creative and smart 10-year-old who for years has along with her mother (Garner) worked on creating a fantastic theme park with improbable rides and stuffed animals come to life running the place. Then, mom gets a serious illness and has to go away for treatment, while Dad (Broderick) ships her off to math camp. Worried that her Dad won’t be able to fend for himself, June runs away from camp and finds in the surrounding woods an overgrown, derelict version of the park she and her mom created. The animals – now life-sized and able to talk – are trying to fend off a horde of zombie stuffed animal monkeys and a mysterious storm that threatens to destroy the park completely. June will need to find a way to prevent that.

The design of the park, with delightful Rube Goldberg-esque rides, is actually mesmerizing and the bright colors make for some serious eye candy. Unfortunately, the attempts to bring in serious subjects – in particular dealing with the potential loss of a parent – aren’t handled very well and end up being disconnected with the issues facing the park. Add to this one-dimensional characters who aren’t given a whole lot to do and you end up with a truly disappointing kid’s film that could have been so much more.

REASONS TO SEE: The design of the park itself is splendiferous.
REASONS TO AVOID: A cliché plot with no memorable characters to rescue it.
FAMILY VALUES There are some mild thematic elements that might be too much for the smaller set.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Brown was removed as director following accusations of sexual misconduct near the end of production. Although uncredited, Kilner, Iscove and Feiss oversaw the remainder of the production. None of the directors are given screen credit, something that the Directors Guild of America almost never allows.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand, AppleTV, DirecTV, Google Play, Microsoft, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/28/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 34% positive reviews; Metacritic: 45/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Neverending Story
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Autumn Road

New Releases for the Week of August 27, 2021


CANDYMAN

(Universal) Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Colman Domingo, Kyle Kaminski, Vanessa Williams. Directed by Nia DaCosta

Although the Cabrini-Green housing project has been torn down and gentrified into upscale condos, the horror of the Candyman remains. A young artist, hearing the background story of the urban legend, begins to paint macabre details of the crime that created the Candyman, unwittingly opening up a new portal to terror.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for bloody horror violence, and language including some sexual references)

A Rescue of Little Eggs

(Pantelion) Starring the voices of Mauricio Barrientos, Bruno Bichir, Carlos Espejel, Maite Perroni. A cocky rooster and his fowl partner undertake a dangerous trip to the Congo to recover their stolen eggs from a gang of Russian thugs.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: PG (for rude material and action)

Annette

(Amazon) Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell. A stand-up comic falls in love with a world-famous opera singer and together they have a child of unique grace and an exceptional destiny. This is the latest from visionary director Leos Carax.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Musical
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona (also on Amazon Prime)
Rating: R (for sexual content including some nudity and for language)

Curiosa

(Film Movement) Noémie Merlant, Niels Schneider, Benjamin Lavernhe, Camélia Jordana. The true story of a love triangle (okay, a love square if you must) featuring French author Pierre Louÿs, his best friend, his best friend’s wife, and a passionate Algerian woman.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Death Rider in the House of Vampires

(Atlas) Devon Sawa, Julian Sands, Glenn Danzig, Danny Trejo. A lone mysterious rider crosses the desert to find the Vampire Sanctuary. Once there he takes on all manner of bloodsuckers as ex-Misfit rock star Glenn Danzig reaches for new heights.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror Western
Now Playing: Amstar Lake Mary, Fashion Square Premiere, Regal Pavilion Port Orange, Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

The Final Set

(Film Movement) Alex Lutz, Ana Girardot, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jürgen Briand. A tennis player in the twilight of his career looks back at unfulfilled potential that marked it. Although his wife and mother advise against it, he decides to take one last crack at the French Open championship and against all odds makes his way through the tournament – until he is matched with a young prodigy who reminds him of his younger self.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Sports Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Flag Day

(United Artists) Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Norbert Leo Butz. A young woman has a complicated relationship with her father; on the one hand, he made her life feel like a grand adventure; on the other hand, he was a notorious counterfeiter constantly on the run from the law or in jail. This drama, based on a true story, is directed by Sean Penn and stars his real-life daughter.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language, some drug use and violent content)

Ichata Vahanamulu Nilupa Radu

(A1) Vennela Kishore, Meenakshi Chaudhary, Sushanth, Sambaa Siva. An architect with a loving mother and a beautiful girlfriend finds his life going haywire one day when he parks his bike in a “No Parking” zone.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC Classic New Smyrna, Cinemark Orlando
Rating: NR

Lydia Lunch: The War is Never Over

(Kino Lorber) Lydia Lunch, Henry Rollins, Thurston Moore, Danita Sparks. The career of Lunch, a legendary No Wave musician and underground performance artist, is chronicled by her friend and collaborator Beth B. This is the latest installment of the Enzian’s new Meet the Filmmakers series.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian (Monday only)
Rating: NR

Mama Weed

(Music Box) Isabelle Huppert, Hippolyte Girardot, Farida Ouchani, Liliane Rovere. A translator on the Paris narcotics unit who is deeply in debt trying to pay for the long-term care facility in which her mother resides comes into a stash of narcotics and uses her insider knowledge to become Mama Weed, salesman extraordinaire of the wacky weed.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Comedy
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: NR

No Man of God

(RLJE) Elijah Wood, Luke Kirby, Robert Patrick, Aleksa Palladino. As Ted Bundy awaits execution for his numerous crimes, FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier interviews the serial killer with the hopes of using the information he gleans to identify other criminals in the future. The dialogue is taken from the actual transcripts of the interviews Hagmaier conducted.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Biography
Now Playing: Enzian
Rating: NR

Sridevi Soda Center

(Zee) Anandhi, Sudheer Babu Posani, Pavel Navageethan, Rohini. Based on an actual incident, the film depicts a love story taking place amidst the caste system and politics of rural India.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Musical Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Classic New Smyrna, Cinemark Orlando
Rating: NR

Together

(Bleecker Street) James McAvoy, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Logan. A couple whose relationship is deteriorating are suddenly stuck together by the pandemic lockdown. This is the latest film from Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, CMX Plaza Café Orlando, CMX Merritt Square
Rating: R (for language throughout)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

A Wake (Tuesday)
Afterlife of the Party
(Wednesday)
Blob Blob Fish
(Tuesday)
He’s All That
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms
(Tuesday)
Vacation Friends

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Annette
Candyman
No Man of God
Together

Higher Ground


Vera Farmiga purchases a good review.

Vera Farmiga purchases a good review.

(2011) Drama (Sony Classics) Joshua Leonard, Norbert Leo Butz, Michael Chernus, Vera Farmiga, McKenzie Turner, Donna Murphy, John Hawkes, Bill Irwin, Taissa Farmiga, Boyd Holbrook, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Reagan Leonard, Lucy Owen, Nina Arianda, Dagmara Dominczyk, Molly Hawkey, Warren Haynes, Sean Mahon, Natalie Thomas, Deborah Hedwall. Directed by Vera Farmiga

Karl Marx once described religion as the “opiate of the masses.” There is some truth to this, although as with most pronouncements about faith, religion, belief and the lacks thereof, it comes off as rather simplistic. Religion is many things to many people.

Corinne Walker (V. Farmiga) got married early in life. As a teen (T. Farmiga) she got pregnant by would-be rocker Ethan Miller (Holbrook) and, as Springsteen once said, man, that was all she wrote. While traveling by bus to a gig, an accident changes all their lives and in the aftermath Corinne and Ethan find religion.

Now a grown-up Ethan (Leonard) and Corinne live in what could be characterized as a Christian commune; a community of evangelical sorts in the Midwest for whom folk singing and Bible study occupy large portions of their time. Now with two daughters, Corinne has not questioned her faith and has been a devout follower of Christ.

But doubts are beginning to rear their heads. She feels constricted by the traditional roles assigned her and when she attempts to voice an opinion she feels the disapproval of her community, particularly from the women. Her lone confidante is Annika (Dominczyk), a free spirit who talks frankly with Corinne about her sex life and her female needs. Corinne craves these talks like Robinson Crusoe craves companionship.

But when a further test besets Corinne and the religious community, her faith is tested to the breaking point. When does faith become blind obedience, and how long do you blindly obey before making your own mind up about faith?

Now these sounds like questions that an atheistic Hollywood would be using to attack Christianity but I assure you that’s not what’s happening in this movie. Rather, what Farmiga and screenwriter Carolyn S. Briggs (who based her screenplay on a book based on her own experiences) are trying to do is to examine the nature of faith, when it is appropriate to question it and the powerful role it plays in all our lives.

To the credit of writer and director, the believers are not painted with the fanatic paintbrush that believers are often painted with in Hollywood; rather those of faith come by it honestly, either through tragedy or self-examination or more to the point, both. Also to the credit of writer and director, there is no judgment going on here either. Religious faith isn’t portrayed as a crutch but the fact that it can be isn’t ruled out. Instead, it is portrayed as part of the tapestry of our lives. In some ways it reminded me of the 1991 apocalyptic movie The Rapture in which a hedonistic Mimi Rogers is brought to faith by a gentle, loving man whom she later marries, then loses it when her husband is senselessly murdered. While the events her are less epochal, the examination of faith has the same honesty to it.

Farmiga, whose younger sister plays her as a teen, carries the movie. Her Corinne is never shrill but she isn’t meek either. She has questions that need answering and they require answers that aren’t “mind your place.” Corinne is not the sort of woman who can fit in to a mold and indeed most women aren’t. However, there are some that can and do, and some who believe it is their religious duty to do so. That is the part of faith that can be difficult to understand.

The odd thing here is that while these are based on someone’s actual experiences, there is kind of a contrived feeling to the plot – as in that certain characters show up at crucial times when they are needed, or events happen at exactly the right time to have maximum impact on Corinne’s faith and doubts. While the movie doesn’t stereotype the faithful here other than perhaps the disapproving pastor’s wife, it doesn’t really explore them as people as much as I would have liked and the questions of faith that are raised here don’t get more than a very surface examination. While that does leave room for finding your own answers, you don’t get a sense of what the filmmakers think of all this and I would have really liked that insight as well.

This had the potential of being an important movie and indeed I do admire it for raising questions that Hollywood – and independent film for that matter – doesn’t tackle and while it ends up being more or less a morality play without really explaining the morality, you do have to admire its gumption if not its execution.

WHY RENT THIS: Doesn’t sink to stereotypes. Farmiga is a compelling lead.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Feels a bit contrived. Tackles the subject in a cursory manner.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s some foul language and sexual situations, as well as adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Farmiga directed the film as well as acted in it while five months pregnant.
NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There are a couple of outtakes and a production diary.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $841,733 on a $2M production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD rental only), Amazon (purchase only), iTunes (purchase only), Vudu (purchase only),  Flixster (purchase only), Target Ticket (unavailable)
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Rapture
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: Toast