Archive | June, 2015

The Wolfpack

20 Jun

Crystal Moselle’s intrigue documentary “The Wolfpack” follows the secluded lives of the six Angulo brothers, who were raised in relative isolation – never leaving their small Lower East Side apartment in Manhattan – for nearly 17 years. Homeschooled and without access to the Internet, the boys drank in such modern crime classics as “The Godfather,” “Reservoir Dogs” and the “Dark Knight” films and recreated them, transforming their claustrophobic confines into a sound stage of sorts.

061915i The WolfpackThe roots for the documentary go back to when Moselle ran into the boys, a.k.a. the Wolfpack, on the street, caught by their eye-catching long hair (down to their waists) and demeanor. What unfolds is talking heads and recreations looking back to their early childhood, when the boys were kept under lock and key. Their father, Oscar, a Hare Krishna who met their mother, Susan, in his native Peru, blessed all his offspring with uber-long Sanskrit names. As a patriarch and a man, Oscar’s more hippie than overbearing despot, but his logic – to lock the boys within the plastered walls of a tenement apartment in the projects to keep them safe from outside harm and violence lurking in the streets – seems odd given the blood-soaked nature of their cinematic diet.

Surprisingly, the boys are all reflective, polite and articulate, and tinged with varying degrees of disdain for a father who ran the family as something of a cult colony – “our own race,” one of the boys says – where his law was long taken as God’s law. You don’t meet Oscar for most of the movie, but when you do it’s a bit of a letdown, given he’s a nonworking, rather unintimidating alcoholic whose great plan was to accrue money in New York and move the brood to Scandinavia where he felt the state would provide a better quality of life. Then there’s Susan, seemingly intelligent and caring, yet complicit. She’s on camera much more more than Oscar. Her big moment comes when she calls her 88-year-old mother, with whom she had not spoken in decades, largely because Oscar forbade it.

There’s a tipping point when one of the elder boys finally walks out on his own – wearing a Michael Myers mask, no less. As tensions in the apartment rise, the film ends on a note of promise and change. But given the enigmatic journey, there feels like some things go undivulged or unexplored, like the Angulo’s sister, who is mentioned as being “special” but is seen only in home movie footage. Then there’s the odd calm when Oscar and the boys are in the same room, starkly juxtaposed with their harshly rebuking him on camera for restraining them. The compelling quality of Moselle’s exploration get a great boost from the motion-creating editing and frenetic metal score, not to mention her caring touch. Perhaps her her objective lens got fogged.

Jurassic World

12 Jun

Jurassic World is bigger and badder than its predecessors, but we really miss the original cast

Jurassic Work

It’s been nearly 15 years since the last Jurassic Park installment, and a lot has changed in the world: 9/11 rocked and divided our nation as the War on Terror took root, smartphones replaced cumbersome cellphones, and GMOs have become talking points at cocktail parties. What’s all this have to do with the revival of the dino-park movie franchise based on the slim yet innovative novel by Michael Crichton and initially helmed by Stephen Spielberg?

The answer is everything. Like the problem of a bigger, meaner and more thrilling wow (read: dangerous) that confronts the conglomerate structure behind Jurassic World, the filmmakers spinning out Jurassic World are saddled with the burden of outdoing what came before. The good news is that the quality of special FX has come light-years.

Today, people caught in the middle of a dino herd don’t look like they’re being shot against a screen and pasted into a jerkily moving computer rendering; they’re now seamlessly in there with the “real” possibility of being trampled or squashed or snatched up by the genetically engineered Indominus Rex, the new badass on the block, cooked up in a lab by a bunch of avaricious DNA jockeys to scare the shit out of money-paying vacationers seeking an adrenaline rush just to know they’re alive.

At the park on a lush tropical island off the coast of Costa Rica, at any time, there are some 20,000 people being run through the vast array of exhibits and rides and fleeced for cash with the rapier efficiency of a Disney or Sea World. Money is a driving force at Jurassic World, and in the birthing lab, there too looms a myriad of hidden agendas and covert, need-to-know data points — like who’s DNA went into good ole Indominus — that breeds malcontent and dubious action.

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5 Jun

Sometimes having everything makes you empty. Such is the paradox explored in Andrew Bujalski’s “Results,” part fable, part human experiment in desire, fears and means, and perhaps the most offbeat love triangle to grace the screen since Joe Swanberg’s brew-mance “Drinking Buddies.” It’s an apt comparison too, with Swanberg a stalwart of the mumblecore filmmaking movement and Bujalski long considered its godfather with such lo-fi (and low-audio) efforts as “Funny Ha Ha” and “Computer Chess.” With “Results,” however, Boston-born and Harvard-educated Bujalski goes upscale with some A-minus-list actors and a bigger budget – although what that figure is seems to be a secret to all but Bujalski and the NSA.

060515i ResultsBujalski’s first film cost just $30,000 to make (it grossed about $75,000) and starred no-name actors; here he’s blessed with the reliable Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill in the “Avengers” movie and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television series) and character actor Kevin Corrigan (“Superbad” and “Goodfellas”) who steps to the fore and delivers a knockout performance. “Results” is based on the well-being fad, in which everyone wants to get physically and emotionally fit and fortified. Danny (Corrigan) newly and painfully out of a marriage he didn’t want to exit, transplants to Austin. He’s doughy, rich and angry. He also wants to be able to take a punch, so he signs up for a personal trainer at Power for Life, a boutique health spa run by Trevor (a gaunt and toned Pearce) who pushes the philosophy that wellness is more than physical beauty, even though his crew of crack coaches look like magazine cover specimens. The upbeat but aggressive Kat (Smulders) gets the assign and spends time at Danny’s palatial spread trying to get him lean and buff, but he drags her down into his routine of single-malt scotch and weed. Turns out she’s a bit depressed and angry too. If there’s a deadbeat client, Kat’s more than happy to switch over to into loan collector mode, and boy can she run – look out Lola, she’s on your tail.   Continue reading


5 Jun

When it comes to wrapping it up, TV shows tend to go out in one of three ways: the dour blaze of glory (The Sopranos, Breaking Bad), sheer hyperbole, a.k.a. jumping the shark (hello Happy Days), or the slow fade to syndication and nostalgic recall of the early years when the writing was tight and the characters sizzled with vivid crispness. For the latter, if the residual market thrives and enough of the show’s talent is milling around, there’s also that shot for a second life up on the big screen. It worked somewhat for Sex and the City and now the lads from Entourage are getting their chance.

The good news is that the whole cast is back and under direction of series creator Doug Ellin. The result is a facelift of sorts from where the HBO series slacked off in 2011. To stretch out the situational hijinks to a feature-length product, Hollywood “it” boy Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier) has hit a mid-career malaise and wants to do something different besides being just another pretty face. Like Clooney, Costner and Eastwood before, he decides to direct. In transition, too, are Vince’s former agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) now a studio exec, and pudgy bud Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), who has dropped most of the extra pounds and founded a boutique line of tequila. Former pizza slinger Eric (Kevin Connolly), too, has stepped it up, taking the reins as the producer of Vince’s film project, called Hyde (as in Dr. Jekyll and set in a zombie-apocalypse future), and is also expecting with Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui), though they’re estranged. The only one who hasn’t had a life-altering realization is Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) still fussing over food and living in baby brother Vince’s big shadow.  Continue reading

Archie’s Betty

1 Jun

Perhaps you think you know Archie, but even if you’re a passionate fan of the comic-book kid who became a national sensation in the ’50s and ’60s, you might not know the true roots of the fictional town of Riverdale and its high school, where Archie Andrews and his lot cooled their heels. There was real flesh and blood behind the goofball redhead, his offbeat buddy Jughead (the original slacker), the reluctant object of desire Veronica, her good girl offset, Betty – shyly harboring a thing for Archie – and the knucklehead nemesis Reggie. The identity of the town of Riverdale, the actual school façade and the personalities that inspired the teens are unearthed in “Archie’s Betty,” the new documentary film from Cambridge filmmaker, film scholar and critic Gerald Peary.

052915i Local Focus Archie's BettyThe film marks Peary’s second feature documentary. His first foray, “For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism,” took nearly nine years to make; “Archie’s Betty” took less than half that, and both were crafted on a shoestring budget, of which Peary sighs, “That’s almost 14 years of filmmaking without a salary.”

Peary grew up the son of Jewish immigrants in rural West Virginia and felt largely disassociated from the community, but took solace in the discovery of Archie and his posse. In 1988, inspired by a printed letter that hinted that Archie had roots in Massachusetts, Peary was commissioned by The Boston Globe and traced the roots of Riverdale to Haverhill, where Archie creator Bob Montana had attended high school (he died in 1975). The new ripple in Peary’s docu, which gets its New England premiere Saturday at the Institute of Contemporary Art, is placing a face on the personas behind each member of the Riverdale gang – especially Betty.  Continue reading

Slow West

1 Jun

Here’s something: a Western in which a young Scot is guided by an Irishman through the inhospitable American frontier of the late 1800s. That landscape in “Slow West” is breathtaking to behold, mountainous, verdant, fertile and feral, but none of it is truly American – the film was shot in New Zealand in the same wondrous mountains where Peter Jackson staged much of the “Lord of the Rings” films.

052815i Slow WestThe writer/director, John Maclean, played in a retro-alternative band and is Scots himself, so there’s that with the how and why. He also happened to make a pair of short films with the versatile actor Michael Fassbender, whose broad CV includes sci-fi (“Prometheus” and two “X-Men” films) and collaborations with Quentin Tarantino and Steve McQueen (they’ve hooked up three times, including “Twelve Years a Slave”), so enticing the Irish thespian to take up the role of an enigmatic drifter in the mold of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” for his feature debut must have been a simple dialup of favors among friends.

The re-partnering pays dividends, but for all the grandiose high stakes and murderous guns that loom at every turn, “Slow West” moves more like a dream than your prototypical western, broken and filled with misty motifs that drift by and never fully weave together. The slow quest west get driven by the misguided passion of one Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee, the young boy in “The Road”), a wayward lad imperiled in a foreign land, unaware and lovelorn for a lass from his homeland (Caden Pistorius) who fled to America (from Scotland) to escape a bloody and unfortunate mishap. Luckily for Jay he is happened upon by Fassbender’s Silas Selleck, more than pretty good with a gun and whose services can be had for a reasonable fee. The great peril in their mission isn’t so much that Jay won’t find his love, but the ruthless bounty hunters seeking the hefty fee on the lass’ head and knowing Jay is the only possessor of the few clues as to where she might be.  Continue reading