Morris From America

Beachside Films / A24

Rated R for sexuality, brief nudity, teen drug use and partying, and pervasive profanity

Awkward African-American Teen Adjusts To Germany In Bittersweet Coming-Of-Age Dramedy

It’s hard being Morris Gentry (Markees Christmas) just now. The lonely 13-year-old is not only mourning the loss of his late mother, but is having a difficult time adjusting to life in Germany. He had to leave his hometown of Richmond and pals behind when his father (Craig Robinson) landed a job in Heidelberg as a professional soccer coach.

Now, the troubled youngster finds himself in the awkward position of being the only black kid in a school where classmates have stereotypical expectations of him as an African-American. For instance, they are surprised that he isn’t any good at basketball or dancing.

At least he does consider himself an aspiring gangsta rapper, although the only person he can impress is his father, since he only performs in English. But even his translated words would probably sound out of place so far removed from the ghetto, given how he writes lyrics about, “[F-word]-ing all the bitches two at a time. all you can take for $10.99.”

Despite getting daily German lessons from a tutor (Carla Juri), Morris fails to make new friends, and stoically asserts that he doesn’t need any in the same macho manner that he spits out his rhymes. Yet, under that tough facade, is a sensitive kid who wants to fit in and even has a crush on a girl a couple years older.

Katrin (Lina Keller) can’t help but notice and, flattered by the attention, she invites Morris to hang with her crowd, a rebellious lot that dabbles in drugs and alcohol. He accepts the overture, though he initially doesn’t know that the object of his affection already has a boyfriend. That means she’s more likely to remain a frustrating fantasy than a conquest he could boast about in his next song.

Written and directed by Chad Hartigan (This Is Martin Bonner), Morris From America is a bittersweet bildungsroman which never hits a false note. The character-driven dramedy revolves mostly around the very-convincing father-son relationship, featuring the talented Markees Christmas’ big screen debut opposite funnyman Craig Robinson in his first serious lead role.

The support cast also acquits itself quite admirably, the upshot amounting to a poignant coming-of-age tale which resonates as realistic from its heartbreaking beginning clear through to a satisfying resolution.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

In English and German with subtitles

Running time: 91 minutes

 

 

Southside With You

Miramax / Roadside Attractions

PG-13 for smoking, a violent image, brief profanity and a drug reference

Inspirational Biopic Revisits Barack And Michelle’s Very First DateĀ 

Who would ever think of making a movie just about Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama’s (Tika Sumpter) first date? Richard Tanne would, that’s who, and he makes an impressive directorial debut with this inspirational biopic chronicling a very eventful day in the lives of the future President and First Lady.

The story unfolds in Chicago during the summer of 1989 when Michelle was already employed as an attorney and living back home with her parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Phillip Edwad Van Lear). Barack had just finished his first year at Harvard law school and had landed an internship as her assistant at her prestigious, white-shoe firm.

Apparently, he was so instantly smitten with Michelle that he could barely contain himself. So, she had to politely remind him of the office’s strict rule against fraternizing among associates. Nevertheless, when she refused to consider a romantic rendezvous, he pitched her on the idea of attending a business meeting with him.

Once Michelle grudgingly agrees, Barack arrives late, yet is too self-assured to be embarrassed about either his tardiness or the gaping hole in the floor of his rusty jalopy. What the skeptical object of his affection doesn’t know is that he has added a picnic, a museum and a movie to their planned itinerary.

Again, Michelle balks, but consents only after reminding her earnest admirer that, “This is not a date.” Nevertheless, the smooth-talking chain smoker presses on with his own agenda, with the Art Institute of Chicago being their first port-of-call. And while perusing paintings by the legendary Ernie Barnes, Barack began broaching personal subjects.

The two continued to get to know each other over sandwiches in the park, with the discussion touching on everything from family to faith to blackness to the meaning of life. So, Michelle had a decent measure of the man by the time they headed to the South Side rec center where Barack had once worked as a community organizer.

The icing on the cake proves to be an inspirational speech that’s nothing short of presidential which he delivers there to the discouraged denizens of the crumbling ‘hood. Michelle’s floodgates finally open, undoubtedly helped along by one woman’s (Deanna Reed Foster) approval of her as the first sister she’s ever seen Barack with. Next thing you know, the two lovebirds head to the theater to see Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, before capping off the evening with a little canoodling while sharing an ice cream cone.

Southside With You is a syrupy soap opera readily recommended for rabid Obama fans. The predictable love story has a tendency to telegraph its punches, since its familiar plotline sticks to what’s already public knowledge. Overall, this plausible account of the blossoming of love between Barack and Michelle serves up a pleasant, if sanitized version of their romantic launch en route to an historic rendezvous with destiny!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 84 minutes

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules

For movies opening August 26, 2016

 

Don’t Breathe (R for terror, violence, profanity, sexual references and disturbing content) Suspense thriller about a gang (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) that gets more than they bargained after burglarizing the home of a rich blind man (Stephen Lang) they thought would be an easy target. With Emma Bercovici, Franciska Torocsik and Christian Zagia.

 

Hands Of Stone (R for sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity) Reverential biopic chronicling the life and career of welterweight boxer Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez). A-list ensemble cast includes Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, John Turturro, Ruben Blades, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Usher Raymond.

 

Mechanic: Resurrection (R for profanity and pervasive violence) Jason Statham reprises title role in this high-octane sequel which finds the retired hit man blackmailed into performing a trio of dangerous hits by the kidnapper who’s abducted the love of his life (Jessica Alba) .With Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh and Sam Hazeldine.

 

Black Songbird (Unrated) Revenge thriller revolving around a rookie journalist (Jenique Bennett) recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a nightclub run by the mobsters who murdered her childhood friends. Support cast includes Felicia White, Brynn Mosley and Antwan Mclaurin.

 

Blood Father (R for graphic violence, pervasive profanity and brief drug use) Mel Gibson stars in the title role of this action thriller about an ex-con’s attempt to protect his estranged, 16-year-old daughter (Erin Moriarty) from the drug cartel that wants her dead. With William H. Macy, Diego Luna and Michael Parks.

 

Floyd Norman: An Animated Life (Unrated) Reverential biopic about 80-year-old Floyd Norman, the first African-American animator hired by Walt Disney Pictures. Featuring commentary by Whoopi Goldberg, Leonard Maltin and Don Hahn.

 

The Hollars (PG-13 for brief profanity and mature themes) John Krasinski directed and stars in this Prodigal Son dramedy as a struggling, NYC artist who moves back home to the Midwest with his pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) to help care for his ailing mom (Margo Martindale). With Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Randall Park and Josh Groban.

 

In Order Of Disappearance (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Dark comedy revolving around a mild-mannered milquetoast-turned-bloodthirsty vigilante (Stellan Skarsgard) who embarks on a revenge-fueled killing spree after his son is murdered by mobsters. With Bruno Ganz, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and David Sakurai. (In Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, English, Serbian and German with subtitles)

 

Is That You? (Unrated) Romance drama revolving an unemployed, 60-year-old, film projectionist (Alon Aboutboul) who moves from Israel to America to search for his long-lost childhood sweetheart. featuring Rani Blair, Patrick Michael Kelly and Naruna Kaplan de Macedo.

 

Kate Plays Christine (Unrated) Sobering biopic chronicling Kate Lyn Sheil’s preparations to portray Christine Chubbuck, the suicidal, TV news anchor who shot herself in the head on the air in 1974.

 

Mia Madre (R for profanity) Bittersweet dramedy, set in Rome, revolving around a film director’s (Margherita Buy) attempt to care for her terminally-ill mother (Giulia Lazzarini) while shooting a movie with a disappointing leading man (John Turturro). With writer/director Nanni Moretti, Beatrice Mancini and Stefano Abbati. (In English, Italian and French with subtitles)

 

Remember The Goal (PG for mature themes and and drug references) Faith-based drama revolving around the efforts of the cross-country coach (Allee Sutton Hethcoat) at an all-girls, Christian prep school to prepare the team for a big track meet while simultaneously ministering to their personal life issues. Co-starring Quinn Alexis, Sydney Marks and Jayla Palmer.

 

The Sea Of Trees (PG-13 for mature themes, disturbing images and brief profanity) Character-driven drama about two suicidal men (Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe) who have second thoughts about taking their own lives after making friends in a forest at the base of Mount Fuji. With Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton and Jordan Gavaris. (In English and Japanese with subtitles)

 

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