Monthly Archives: April 2016


In the vein of “awful people who became awful because they suffered childhood trauma” family drama movies, this one is not half bad. That’s mainly due to Adam Scott, who is one of the more versatile and under-appreciated actors working today.  Scott plays the damaged, stuck in the hometown older brother who picks up his younger brother and the brother’s girlfriend from college and proceeds to fall in love with the latter. Scott is a depressive, an alternately cruel and then apologetic anti-hero, who maligns the girlfriend as a whore who will hurt his naive little brother. The problem is that she succumbs to his damaged entreaties, thus partially cementing his earlier uncharitable appraisal.

There is the obligatory childhood trauma and the big reveal, and it could all be so pat, except for Scott’s ability to communicate real suffering and writer-director Lee Toland Krieger’s insistence on taking these characters seriously instead of using them as charming archetypes to condescend to the audience. More to the credit, there is no wrap-up or deeper understanding. It starts messy and ends up hopeful but still messy, which is commendable.

There are problems.  The hometown is overpopulated by distinctive characters, the father (J.K. Simmons) is too seminal to be so underdeveloped and the hipster soundtrack is now so obligatory it borders on self-parody.  Still, a worthwhile watch on a rainy Saturday.  Thanks, Xmastime.


Execrable.  Anita Hill as Jesus Christ, Clarence Thomas as Impenetrable Sphinx, the story so stacked in her favor it’s a liberal wet dream. Then, there is this laughable coda where the hard charging female Kennedy aide says to the more judicious female Biden aide, “who’d you believe, him or her?” like any response other than “her” was possible given the hagiography that preceded the exchange.

Not only is the mythology laughable (apparently, Anita Hill will be replacing someone on currency sooner than we think), but the presentation is lackluster and vanilla.  It’s not Kerry Washington’s fault that Hill is so dull.  She’s written as nothing more than a platitudinous victim, and her emotional response to any given development is a self-pitying, dew-eyed disappointment in how mankind has failed her.  Wendell Pierce’s Thomas is no better, occasionally rising above catatonic, always in the corner, ruminating, obsessing, zzzzzzzzzzz.  The Democrats are hands-tied, decent truth-seekers, the Republicans hysterical street brawlers, not a scene surprising or enlightening.

It’s a shame.  The story of Hill and Thomas is, in the seams, the story of two people who worked together, she relied on him for advancement, but clearly developed a grudge at some point.  He said some Long Dong Silver shit to her, and then she, for whatever reason, took her shot at him on the eve of his confirmation, with the naively hopeful guarantee of anonymity.

And then wham!  She’s outed (a mere anonymous statement will not stop the Hope from Pinpoint, Georgia) and the process takes them both to places they never imagined they’d be, where he must play a hard race card against a cheap smear, and she must feign dramatic victimhood.  Their champions bloody and bruise the protagonists.

She tried a back alley stilleto and it wasn’t enough. He replied with a daylight, streetfront 2×4 and overcame.  They both became emblems of something larger, which, given the picayune roots of their antagonism, is the essence of the tragicomic.

Could have been a great movie.


This is a technological wonder and a beautiful rendition of its much cheerier animated predecessor. The insertion of a human in director Jon Favreau’s lush and crisp CGI jungle is a riveting juxtaposition, and the technology is presented as a window, not a club. The young actor playing Mowgli (Neel Sethi), the man cub of Rudyard Kipling’s stories, communicates emotional involvement in what must have been a difficult job talking at a green screen. He is not precocious nor is he showy.  He’s pitch perfect.

Moreover, the voice work of Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Bill Murray and Lupita Nyongo is nuanced and rich; they convey a children’s story with a seriousness and gravitas that doesn’t demean their audience. The film is also thematically mature. The jungle is a brutal place and the humanization of its denizens does not white out its dangers or its essence. Mowgli is a threat, and his presence is a danger to the animals, but there is also connection and love.

For every technological Oscar, you can fill out your ballot now. It’s should also be a shoo-in for a best picture nod.

Image result for Creed

In the hullabaloo about the dearth of people of color represented as Oscar nominees, Creed was identified by some as a glaring omission, not only for director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) but actor Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, The Fantastic Four). Sylvester Stallone was also awarded a nomination for best supporting actor and the critics scored the film a 94% on rottentomatoes.

Everyone appears to have lost their fool mind. The movie – which chronicles the son of Apollo Creed as he vies for the title – veers between the deathly dull and the ludicrous. There are four – count ‘em, four! – montage scenes of Jordan training, one of which has him being chased down a Philly street in slo-mo by kids on dirt bikes and trikes, howling outside the window of Rocky, who looks embarrassed by the spectacle.  It’s one of the most bizarre images I’ve seen in a mainstream movie. You really have to see it to believe it. There are also some dizzying fight scenes. That’s all of the recommendations.

Jordan is given the thankless role of the young up-and-comer, plagued by the relationship he never had with his father. Except, he’s a rich kid, plucked from a group home by his mother (Phylicia Rashad) and well-ensconced at Smith Barney or some such firm. It is on the weekend he laces up and goes to Tijuana to box. Why? Who the hell knows? As played by Jordan, Adonis Creed is a medium cool dullard, drawn to Philadelphia to train with Rocky by sheer ennui. He doesn’t seem to care much, so why should we?

When he gets there, he finds ole’ Rock shambling about a restaurant. Rocky won’t train him, but then relents, and then Rocky doesn’t want Adonis to take the big fight prematurely, but then relents, and then Rocky gets cancer and won’t get treatment, but then relents. All this relenting is done in that same barely articulable monotone Stallone has honed over the years. I guess I can see how the protestors at the Oscars felt. If you’re gonna’ award Stallone for this phone in performance, how about all of us for the larger piece of shit?

Along the way, we get such gems as Rocky putting Adonis in front of a mirror, counseling, “That’s the toughest opponent you’re ever going to have to face.” There’s also a unpersuasive love story between Adonis and a Lisa Bonet look-alike – they emit as much spark as siblings.