New Releases for the Week of September 25, 2020


KAJILLIONAIRE

(Focus) Evan Rachel Wood, Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mark Ivanir, Patricia Belcher. Directed by Miranda July

A pair of married con artists have raised their daughter to adulthood, teacher her the arts of swindling scamming and stealing. During one desperate and ill-conceived heist, they charm a stranger into joining their little crew only to have their lives disrupted in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

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Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for some sexual references and language)

Ava

(Vertical) Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Common, John Malkovich. A trained assassin working for a black ops organization questions a job she’s given and finds herself targeted by her own organization.

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Genre: Action
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill at Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for brief sexual material, violence and language throughout)

Break the Silence: The Movie

(Trafalgar) BTS, Marry Majara, Sindi Mokoena, Mirriam Mosia. The K-pop superstars are captured on their 2019 tour.

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Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: NR

Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President

(Greenwich) Jimmy Carter, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks. The 39th President of the United States becomes the first to embrace rock and roll; the music becomes a unifying force in his campaign and would change how politics and music entwine.

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Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater, Cinematique Theater Daytona Beach
Rating: NR

The Last Shift

(Stage 6/Sony) Richard Jenkins, Ed O’Neill, Alison Tolman, Shane Paul McGhie. After 38 years working in fast food, an aging worker is getting ready to retire. As he trains his replacement, he begins to confront the meaning of his life and what he has accomplished with it.

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Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for language and some drug use)

Leap

(Jetsen Huashi) Li Gong, Bo Huang, Gang Wu, Yuchang Peng. After an absence of twelve years, the Chinese women’s volleyball team has made the Olympic finals. Getting there has required them to completely change the culture on the team.

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Genre: Sports Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, Regal Waterford Lakes
Rating: NR

Meeting the Beatles in India

(Gathr) The Beatles, David Lynch, Pattie Boyd, Lewis Lapham. A young American in India in the Sixties seeking to find himself runs into the Beatles who have come to the same ashram to find inner peace. He is allowed into their inner circle and his photographs capture the group in a moment of creative explosion which would lead to the White Album.

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For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Shortcut

(Gravitas) Jack Kane, Zak Sutcliffe, Andrei Claude, Sophie Jane Oliver. A group of five friends are stalked by a mysterious creature when their

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Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Premiere Fashion Square Mall, Studio Movie Grill at Sunset Walk
Rating: R (for some bloody images and language throughout)

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President
Kajillionaire
The Last Shift

3 Backyards


3 Backyards

Edie Falco clearly misses her days on “The Sopranos.”

(2010) Drama (Screen Media) Elias Koteas, Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Kathryn Erbe, Rachel Resheff, Wesley Broulik, Danai Gurira, Ron Phillips, Dana Eskelson, Randi Kaplan, Louise Millman, Pam La Testa, Antonio Ortiz, Nicole Brending, Kathy Searle. Directed by Eric Mendelsohn

 

The suburbs are quiet, peaceful places where we go to raise our children in an environment that is far from urban. Away from the noise and the hectic place, it is a place of lawn mowers, shopping malls and chain restaurants. Still, the peaceful facade can sometimes disguise the most painful of hearts.

Long Island is maybe the ultimate suburb. Being so close to New York City, it offers a respite from the concrete and asphalt, a bit of greenery and wildlife within shouting distance of skyscrapers and taxis. But for all the manicured lawns, the sweet songs of robins and blue jays, all is not perfect here.

Take John (Koteas). His marriage is far from perfect; he and his wife (Erbe) are always fighting and finances aren’t so good. He is going on a business trip but his flight is canceled. Instead of going back home, he checks into a hotel provided by the airline. Instead of staying put, he goes back home and stalks his own family and home. When he calls his wife, he pretends he’s on the plane instead of watching her from the shrubbery. What is he looking for? What does he expect to see? He retires to a diner where he overhears a young woman (Gurira) applying for a waitress position. He follows her out of the restaurant and becomes witness to tragedy.

A little girl (Resheff) impulsively steals some of her mom’s jewelry. Her inexplicable action causes her to miss her school bus. Scared of her crime being discovered (which it surely will if she is late for school), she determines to walk the distance via a shortcut she knows. She comes upon an intimidating young man (Broulik) masturbating in a shed. She also frees a stray dog tied to a tree. Both of these events will have consequences later.

Peggy (Falco) lives a life of quiet unfulfillment. She yearns for recognition, glamour, acknowledgement but instead must settle for a suburban existence of gossip and shopping. She paints as a means of expressing herself, but when a well-known actress (Davidtz) moves into the neighborhood, her imagination is excited. Then when the actress needs a lift to the ferry, Peggy volunteers to drive her, leading to a conversation that is much more revealing of Peggy than it is of the actress.

These three tales are not so much interconnected so much as parallels within the same environment. Mendelsohn’s first film, Judy Berlin, was made very much within the same kind of suburban purgatory as this, his second which follows ten years after the first. Notably, Falco stars in both films and is really the chief reason for seeing both.

All of the characters are for the most part drifting through their own landscapes, powered by their yearnings and melancholy. That pervasive aimlessness colors the movie and prevents it from really taking hold in the imagination, or at least mine – the movie has been well-reviewed and obviously it is connecting with critics other than myself, so take my own lack of connection with a grain of salt.

Falco, who most will remember from her television roles in “The Sopranos” and “Nurse Jackie” is one of the best actresses working today. That she isn’t doing more movie work is most likely due to her heavy television schedule, but she always puts on a marvelous performance and this is no exception. Her story arc is the most compelling of the three and she and Davidtz work well off of each other and even though much of her storyline puts her in a car having a conversation, it nevertheless has the most dramatic tension.

Koteas, a longtime character actor who has had moments of brilliance throughout his career, turns in another fine performance as John. While it is at times difficult to understand what is going on inside his head (which to be truthful is true of most of us in real life), we get a sense of his frustrations thanks to Koteas. John’s not getting what he needs in his marriage and career so he plays hooky one day, probably not understanding why he’s doing it himself.

There is a lot of passive-aggressiveness in the movie, if I may do a little armchair psychoanalyzing and that’s okay although it gets a little bit tiresome here. The dialogue sometimes doesn’t ring as true as it might – I get a sense of a writer trying to be clever rather than real people talking.

I also get a sense that there is a good movie here and I’m just not seeing it. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood that day to absorb it properly, or for whatever reason I just couldn’t find a place to latch myself onto. That happens sometimes. I can’t really recommend the movie – I can only go by how I react to it and as you can probably guess, my reaction is fairly negative but those who like Edie Falco should see it and if any of this sounds appealing to you (particularly if you are looking for a suburban-set slice of life) do feel free to disregard my un-enthusiasm and give it a whirl.

WHY RENT THIS: Superior performances from Falco, Davidtz and Koteas.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Meanders a bit too much. Dialogue  a bit stilted in places.

FAMILY VALUES: There is one scene that has some sexuality involved but most of the rest of the film carries some fairly adult themes.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Mendelsohn is the only director to have won the Best Director prize at the Sundance Film Festival twice; for this film and also for Judy Berlin in 1999.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $43,073 on an unreported production budget; might have broken even but it probably didn’t.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Tree of Life

FINAL RATING: 4/10

NEXT: Mission: Impossible 2