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Thumbnails Apr 15

by Tony Medley

The Salt of the Earth (10/10): This is not just a wonderful documentary about one of the greatest social photographers of the generation, Sebastiâo Salgado, it graphically documents the brutal life of survival in the worlds far beyond our shores. The  poverty, brutality, and deprivation he photographs are astonishing.  Maybe the most eye-opening segment is when he follows the recently discovered Zo'é tribe that the world thought had died out centuries ago, photographing them (all stark naked) hunting through one of the last largely unexplored rainforests in Brazil resulting in some amazing pictures. But the entire film is eye-opening and enthralling.

Serena (9/10): Set in the late ‘20s Carolina (but shot in and around Prague, the Czech Republic three years ago), this is an atmospheric romantic thriller with an A-list cast, with pitched tension throughout. While Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give terrific performances, they are abetted by fine supporting performances by Toby Jones and Rhys Ifans.

Run All Night (9/10): Liam Neeson, while controlled, isn’t the guy we’re used to seeing. He’s playing one of Hollywood’s favorite fictional characters, the hit man burdened by guilt, something that doesn’t exist in the real world. His guilt has driven him to alcoholism. But this is a movie, so suspend disbelief. And everyone wants to like and root for Liam Neeson, who is being chased by the mob after him and his son.

While We’re Young (8/10): This seems to be a new genre, 30- and 40somethings getting involved with, and being influenced by, 20somethings. Last year it was Keira Knightley in Laggies.  Now this. Advertised as a comedy, I didn’t see much funny in it. What I did see is a story of idealism facing up to the real world in the movie industry. Highlighted by fine performances by Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried, with an engaging supporting performance by Charles Grodin, the ending is surprising but right in sync with the way things are.

Chappie (8/10): I have to admit that this film surprised the heck out of me. I thought it was going to be one of those Terminator type action films about robots who could do just about anything and are horrible. But Chappie is a sensitive, feeling robot with the personality and experience of a child, and he goes through a rough, fast upbringing that’s funny and touching with lots of action.

3 Hearts (8/10):

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

To pick up on one and leave the other behind.

It’s not often easy; it’s not often kind.

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1965.

That’s the problem facing Benoìt Poelvoorde when he meets sisters Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni one right after the other. While this seems on its surface to be a Racinian tragedy evolved in a complex love triangle, the music is constantly signaling that it’s as much a thriller as it is a love story. In French.

The Gunman (3/10): An ego trip for rapidly aging Sean Penn to try to prove he can be an action hero at his advanced years, and to narcissistically display a buff body. Exacerbating having to watch Penn overact for an entire movie are a nonsensical story, a weak script, filled with hackneyed scenes of Penn with a gun looking to shoot someone, and a performance by Ray Winstone who talks in an accent so heavy it needs subtitles.

Get Hard (1/10): Apparently Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart thought it would be a good idea to build on ideas from Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor’s 1976 comedy “Silver Streak” and 1980’s “Stir Crazy.” Alas Ferrell and Hart are not anything close to the quality, class, and sophistication of Wilder and Pryor and this is worse and crasser than you might imagine.