Charles Mingus’ seminal composition “Scenes in the City” is the perfect marriage of music and the spoken word, as actor Mel Stewart plays a New York City denizen with undying love for jazz. Though mired in financial difficulties and universal problems that may never go away, his spirits are lifted once Miles Davis or Charlie Parker start to play.
The harmonies of New York City, whether blended or discordant, are interwoven in director/writer Ira Sachs’ Little Men, a beautifully rendered and subtly sublime work that, even in its more quiet moments, packs a devastating punch. Sometimes life’s most heartbreaking and tragic moments aren’t played out in operatic fashion, and the people behind this deceptively ambitious story understand that, even if there are simply things that are beyond their reach, life must go on.
Jake (Theo Taplitz) is an introspective 13-year-old who’s a budding artist. Though he’s not too thrilled with his family’s (Jennifer Ehle and Greg Kinnear are his parents) move from Manhattan to Brooklyn after his grandfather’s passing, Jake’s newfound friendship with Tony (Michael Barbieri) dramatically eases the transition. When a rent dispute between his parents and Tony’s dressmaker mother (Gloria’s Paulina Garcia) turns ugly, their friendship is put to the test and a once blissful summer turns bittersweet.
The wonder behind Ira Sachs’ work (his 2014 drama Love is Strange is just as effective) lies in his naturalistic approach to storytelling, and in just 85 minutes we get a concise look at the heartaches and joy that exist within both families. Taplitz and Barbieri deliver first rate performances, and hopefully this film will usher in even more work for the two (both are magnetic in their own fashion). Along with the perfect casting choices of the two leads, Sachs also scored by landing a trio of talented actors with Garcia, Ehle, and Kinnear. With such a power packed ensemble, he could have turned Little Men into a showy, monologue driven, melodramatic affair, and though that version would also have its merits, Sachs’ decision to keep the volume down enables viewers to fully appreciate the story’s intricate details.
By the film’s close we are invited to briefly interpret the world through Jake’s eyes. Whether it’s a painting housed in a museum or even kids at play at the local park, the scenes of the city continue to evolve before us. Whether or not we accept that fact is neither here nor there, but thankfully those notes are in full view with Little Men.
***Little Men is now playing in select theaters. For a further discussion of Little Men, check out this week’s episode of CinemAddicts.
Kiefer Sutherland returns to television with Designated Survivor as Tom Kirkman, a man who is thrust into the high pressure job of President after an attack wipes out the Commander-in-Chief and his cabinet. In another lifetime Sutherland would have saved the day and kicked in heads as Jack Bauer (24), but this time he’s the one being protected from danger.
During today’s ABC Summer Press Tour, Sutherland jokingly remarked that playing a less physically imposing Tom Kirkman (at least compared to Jack Bauer) made him miss his 24 days of pushing people around, and he cracks that he felt a bit “short” during Designated Survivor’s action scenes!
Click on the media bar to hear Sutherland talk about playing Tom Kirkman as opposed to Jack Bauer in Designated Survivor.
Designated Survivor, co-starring Natascha McElhone and Kal Penn, premieres on ABC Wednesday, September 21.
Producer/writer Michael Schur (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation) creative hot streak will hopefully continue with The Good Place, a story that centers on a woman named Eleanor who, after she dies, enters the “good place.” Ted Danson is Michael, an architect of the aforementioned world who may have made a mistake as Eleanor might actually belong in the “bad place.”
That being said, don’t expect any horns to come out of our protagonist’s head anytime soon. “Eleanor is not malicious,” said Bell, who can also be seen in the hit comedy Bad Moms with Mila Kunis. “She’s not evil. She has simply led a life on Earth where she was forced to take care of herself. She was in survival mode her whole life.”
Click on the media bar below to hear Ted Danson elaborate on his character and playing the humor behind The Good Place.
A special preview of The Good Place, which co-stars William Jackson Harper as her heavenly companion (sorry for the pun!), airs Monday, September 19 on NBC.
Two excellent films are hitting select theaters this week, and if you’re a fan of nuance and beautifully rendered, evocative dramas, then The Little Prince and Little Men should be up your alley.
Directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), The Little Prince is inspired by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic tale of an aviator (voiced by Jeff Bridges) who befriends the titular character (younger version is voiced by Mark’s son Riley Osborne) after his plane crashes in the desert. Now an elderly man, the aviator recounts his fateful meeting to his inquisitive next door neighbor (Mackenzie Foy), an academic minded young girl who needs a bit more imagination in her life. This stop motion animation classic, which also features Marion Cotillard as the red rose who captivates the Little Prince, will also be available on Netflix if it’s not playing at your local theater (the movie is a must-see on the big screen).
With Little Men, filmmaker/writer Ira Sachs crafts another heartbreaking yet enriching story of New Yorkers in search of a stable home (both figuratively and literally). When Jake’s (Theo Taplitz) grandfather passes, his family (Jennifer Ehle and Greg Kinnear are his parents), they move from Manhattan to the grandfather’s Brooklyn domicile. Though Jake immediately bonds with a gregarious and likable neighborhood kid named Tony (Michael Barbieri who, along with Taplitz, deliver standout performances), Tony’s mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) butts heads with Jake’s dad over rent (Leonor’s dress shop once received a great lease deal from the grandfather, but that has come to a close). I absolutely love Little Men’s detailed look at this intimately told New York story, and Sachs, as he also displayed in 2014’s Love Is Strange, brings a refreshingly naturalistic (and ultimately evocative) approach to the proceedings. That being said, Anderson gave the film a mixed review.
Anderson also reviewed (and enjoyed) the documentary Can We Take A Joke?, a documentary that centers on how political correctness has affected how comedians approach their respective craft. Gilbert Gottfried, Jim Norton, Adam Carolla, and Penn Jillette are among the doc’s interviewees.
For his streaming pick of the week, Anderson recommends the documentary Kids for Cash and I discuss the Blu-ray release of the first rate, Hollywood Hills set thriller The Invitation.
Click on the media bar below to hear this week’s episode of CinemAddicts.
A re-imagining of Disney’s classic family film, Pete’s Dragon centers on a 10-year-old boy named Pete (Oakes Fegley) who claims that he lives in the woods with a green dragon named Elliot. Bryce Dallas Howard is Grace, a forest ranger who grew up with stories weaved by her wood carver father (Robert Redford) about a fierce dragon who lived in the Pacific Northwest, and now her dad’s fantastical tale may actually be a true story.
Playing Mr. Meachem, a man whose imagination is boundless, was a pleasure for Redford. “What new technology has done has narrowed our focus on things, so we miss nature in its natural state,” said the actor who played Dan Rather in last year’s drama Truth. “We have to see it reproduced on our screen. And so that makes me sad (and) the idea of playing a character who asks simply that you look right beyond what’s in front of you and you make that a story point - I love that idea.”
Click on the media bar below to hear Redford talks about the joys of working with Howard and Fegley in Pete’s Dragon.
Pete’s Dragon opens nationwide August 12.
Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s magnum opus Dekalog (although some would argue it’s his Colors trilogy), an ambitious 10-episode drama centering on the lives of housing complex residents in late-Communist Poland, has now been restored. Remembering the 20th anniversary of the director’s passing, Dekalog starts its theatrical run at New York’s IFC Center starting September 2nd with a September 17th run at Los Angeles’ Cinefamily. A national roll out to over twenty cities, including stops in San Francisco, CA (9/9, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission) and Coral Gables, FL (9/16, Coral Gables Art Cinema), is also slated.
Along with tackling the complex dilemmas of the human condition (Dekalog’s themes explore the Ten Commandments), Kieslowski’s arresting visual compositions are his trademark, and nine cinematographers worked on the epic to give each installment a subtly distinct approach.
Dekalog’s digital transfer was sourced from the original 35mm camera negatives provided by Telewizja Polska (Polish television) and stored at Filmoteka Narodow.
Though the new restoration will be released on Blu-ray and DVD September 27, Kieslowski’s evocative, occasionally humorous, and ultimately unsparing work is best seen on the silver screen. However, whether you’re catching it at your local theater or eventually grabbing a hard copy of Dekalog, viewing the director’s is always a good choice.
Despite lukewarm reviews, Jason Bourne was the top earner ar this weekend’s box office as it took in $60 million. Considering the movie has an estimated budget of $120 million, Jason Bourne should reap a solid profit for Universal. Meanwhile, Bad Moms had a solid debut with $23.4 million,and the Mila Kunis headlined comedy’s economical $20 million budget makes this film another box office winner. Here’s this weekend’s top 10:
1. Jason Bourne - $60 million is a great opening for the film - and thanks to the franchise’s continued success it won’t be another 9 years before Matt Damon returns as Bourne.
2. Star Trek Beyond - $24 million and a worldwide gross of $165 million
3. Bad Moms - $23.4 million
4. The Secret Life of Pets - $18.2 million
5. Lights Out - Horror film has already been greenlit for a sequel. This weekend it makes $10.8 million
6. Ice Age: Collision Course - $10.5 million over the weekend, and much of its business is coming from international markets ($183 million to date).
7. Ghostbusters - $9.8 million and a worldwide gross of $158 million. Considering the picture cost $144 million (this doesn’t include the marketing budget), Ghostbusters has underperformed.
8. Nerve - $9 million
9. Finding Dory - $4.22 million
10. The Legend of Tarzan - $2.4 million
At just 15 years old, actress Mackenzie Foy has already carved out a solid resume thanks to her work in two Twilight films and her standout turn in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar. Foy spent four years voicing the “little girl” in the upcoming animated feature The Little Prince which premieres on Netflix August 5.
The feature is a partial retelling of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s inspiring story and also deals with the girl’s personal journey as she’s introduced to the Little Prince’s universe.
During our interview with Foy, she talked about her close collaboration with The Little Prince filmmaker Mark Osborne.
“The book,which I new about the film, meant a lot in a way that it taught you about imagination and love, and death, and how to deal with it. After it, it just makes me think of all the memories. When I read it, I think about all the silly voices (Mark) did when we were filming and all of the great times that I had.”
Click on the media bar to hear Foy talk about what makes The Little Prince a special moviegoing experience:
Opening in select theaters July 29, Gleason centers on former NFL defensive back Steve Gleason’s battle with ALS. Upon receiving the news, Gleason also learns that his wife Michel is pregnant and immediately decides to tape video messages to his son Rivers for posterity. Throughout the documentary we also witness Steve and Michel’s hard work in forming the foundation Team Gleason (which provides help to ALS patients), Gleason’s complicated and loving relationship with his own father, and Michel’s monumental responsibility in raising their son and providing care for her husband.
“I am not that strong all the time,” said Michel Varisco. “That’s not shown in the documentary. It’s hard to be looked at as strong when I really have my moments of complete weakness as well.”
Click on the media bar to hear Michel Varisco humorously describe herself as “the giving tree” as Gleason director Clay Tweel talks about a specific moment in the documentary.
On this week’s CinemAddicts podcast, we review Jason Bourne, the latest installment of The Bourne Identity franchise. Director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon are back to spearhead the project which is a follow-up to 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum (the companion piece The Bourne Legacy, which stars Jeremy Renner, came out in 2012). With close to a decade absence from the franchise, one would think there is a ton of things to cover and explore with Jason Bourne, but unfortunately this installment just doesn’t cut it.
Thankfully this movie week isn’t a complete waste as Gleason, a documentary which spotlights former NFL player Steve Gleason’s battle with ALS, is simply an unforgettable experience. Upon learning he had ALS at the age of 34, Steve and his wife Michel received news that she was pregnant, and the film details the couple’s journey on both fronts. The picture also captures footage from Gleason’s video journals to his son, and director Clay Tweel’s even handed and oftentimes raw approach in documenting their life is one of the film’s many strengths.
Also covered on the episode is Anderson’s streaming pick Print The Legend, a documentary that’s co-directed by Tweel, and Dark Passage, a Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film noir that I absolutely love.
Click on the media bar below to hear this week’s episode of CinemAddicts: