With recent fests ending and tons of reviews needing to be wrapped up, I fell slightly behind on my regular week-to-week movie skinnies. So to get back up to speed here are some flicks that have come out and are coming out to help fill in the indie gaps for those who need to know. Family dramas, important docs, horror flicks and romances in space all grace this week’s gaggle of Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the skinny on Youth In Oregon, I Am Not Your Negro, Havenhurst and The Space Between Us below!
YOUTH IN OREGON
(Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Even with some odd shifts in tone (is this caustic comedy or deep drama?), I still kinda dug this outrageous yet grounded tale from actor sometimes turned director Joel David Moore. The story of an 80-year-old father and grandfather who decides to end it all by being euthanized could have been a heavy-handed affair, but in the hands of Moore there’s a strange unpredictability helped with equal amounts humor (Billy Crudup’s apprehensive son-in-law is a weird wild card!) and pathos (the real feeling moments between steadfast father Frank Langella and distraught daughter Christina Applegate are totally tear-inducing!) that gives the film a much needed boost. Steeped in a style that’s indescribably interesting, Moore’s days as a director have only just begun.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
This topical deep doc feels like two separate films. The first a visual extension of novelist and social critic James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House (at the time of his death he had only finished thirty pages), which was to be a personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends and icons Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.. The second is an interesting examination of films having to do with slavery and questions about black representation in Hollywood and it’s effect on social matters. Both are utterly fascinating (the voice-over narration by the hypnotic Sam Jackson is arresting!), but both also feel unfinished. It could be because the brief thoughts by Baldwin were cut short due to death, but I sense if these two subjects were given their cinematic due separately it would make for a much more thorough, satisfying and eye opening experience. There’s a good movie meal on the table here – I just want more.
Trying WAY too had to be creepy, this tale of a gothic apartment complex that houses reformed undesirables who check in but don’t check out never really provides a payoff. Leading lady Julie Benz tries to bring a grounded performance to the wacky wares of this one (she’s a recovering alcoholic out to find her missing friend!), but under the slow story and nonsensical oddities it hardly helps. With scares few and far between (having Danielle Harris as part of the shocking opening doesn’t help!) and twists and turns predictable to say the least (Fionnula Flanagan’s apartment manager screams weirdo!), Havenhurst is ho-hum horror at best.
THE SPACE BETWEEN US
While The Space Between Us has a cool cast (see Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino and a little BD Wong bringing up the quirky character rear!) and an out of this world setting (lovers – in space!), it’s still a fluffy flick that falters frequently. In fact only the middle portion that sees lovers Asa Butterfield (he grew up on Mars!) and Britt Robertson (the sassy Earth girl he comes to see!) finally connecting via a Starman light story proves notable here. (And even that grows tired after twenty minutes!) Steeped in young adult fiction clichés and never quite getting across the teen turbulence of growing up light years from home, the space here is between being a good movie and just an adequate one.