Rated PG-13 for mature themes
Eddie Murphy Portrays Selfless Chef In Poignant Period Piece
Marie Brody (Natascha McElhone) was told she only had half-a-year to live when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1965. But, not wanting to upset her daughter, she initially hid the fact that she was terminally ill from 10-year-old Charlotte (Natalie Coughlin).
Marie’s recently-deceased boyfriend did her a big favor by providing in his will for a chef (Eddie Murphy) who’d prepare all of her meals until the day she died. So, you can imagine Charlie’s shock the day a mysterious black man knocks on the door and announces he’s their new full-time cook.
Initially, Marie balks at the intrusion, given how Mr. Church never bothers to measure his ingredients or use utensils besides a fork and knife while at work in the kitchen. Plus, some of his exotic dishes, like hominy grits, certainly take a little getting used to.
Church nevertheless attempts to ingratiate himself by extending his daily duties beyond the culinary, happily serving as a surrogate father to Charlie and as a home health aide to her mom. Marie gradually warms to the stranger when he whets her thirst for knowledge by bringing over classic books by literary greats like Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy and Edith Wharton. More importantly, Marie proceeds to outlive her doctor’s death sentence, and a term of employment that was supposed to last merely for months stretches into the next decade.
That is the poignant premise of Mr. Church, a bittersweet period piece directed by two-time Oscar nominee Bruce Beresford (for Tender Mercies and Breaker Morant). The picture’s semi-autobiographical screenplay was inspired by the life of its scriptwriter, Susan McMartin.
The film works to the extent one is able to scale a couple of high hurdles placed in your path. First, you have to buy into the idea of perennial funnyman Eddie Murphy playing a serious role. Second, one must be willing to stomach yet another, stereotypical “Magical Negro” character, meaning a selfless, African-American more concerned with the welfare of a white person than with his or her own needs.
Additionally, a few of the plot developments are a little farfetched. For instance, have you ever heard of anybody saving up enough money to pay for college by clipping coupons? Neither have I.
Overall, a mildly-recommended period piece, provided you’re prepared to take seriously the same Eddie Murphy who kept you in stitches as Buckwheat in that hilarious Saturday Night Live skit. Otay?
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
Focus World / Animal Kingdom
Rated R for pervasive profanity, drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and violence, all involving teens
Teen Tries To Retrieve Stolen Sneakers In Gritty Inner-City Saga
Brandon (Jahking Guillory) saved up for a pricey pair of Air Jordan, only to suffer the utter humiliation of having them stolen right off his feet at gunpoint by a gang of ghetto predators. Thus arrives a moment of truth for the nerdy 15-year-old who finds himself stuck at an unpleasant station in life where he’s not only routinely picked on by his peers but absolutely ignored by the opposite sex to boot.
Should he simply shrug off this latest dis as merely another cold reminder of what life is like in the ‘hood for any kid that isn’t macho, or is he finally mature enough to exact a measure of revenge on Flaco (Kofi Siriboe), the pompous perpetrator who’d seized the sneakers as a gift for a son (Michael Smith, Jr.)? Believe it or not, that is the sum and substance of the dilemma which fuels the fire of Kicks, a super-realistic, inner-city saga marking the memorable directorial debut of Justin Tipping.
This earthy, slice-of-life flick convincingly captures the anomie and sense of desperation which might help explain why so many black youths opt to murder each other over seemingly trivial slights nowadays. While this story unfolds against the barren backdrop of Oakland’s exoskeleton, it could just as easily be taking place in such equally-godforsaken environs as latter-day Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, St. Louis, New Orleans or Detroit.
Before Brandon embarks on his hunt for Flaco, he enlists the assistance of his BFFs Albert (Christopher Wallace, Jr) and Rico (Christopher Meyer). They prove to be game and, for some reason that is never broached, theirs is a lawless world devoid of the option of approaching police or parents to intervene on their behalf.
A tentative tale of woe every bit as bleak as it is hopeful that there’s an exit at the other end of a disturbingly dystopic tunnel.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 87 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening September 30, 2016
Deepwater Horizon (PG-13 for intense action sequences, disturbing images and brief profanity) Disaster flick recreating the real-life events surrounding the 2010 explosion of the offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico which claimed the lives of 11 crewmen and led to the worst crude oil spill in U.S. history. Co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich.
Masterminds (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, violence and crude humor) Crime caper, inspired by actual events, revolving around an armored car driver (Zach Galifianakis) duped by a flirtatious co-worker (Kristen Wiig) into participating in one of the biggest bank heists in American history. With Jason Sudeikis, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Owen Wilson.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (PG-13 for intense violence, peril and action sequences) Tim Burton directed this adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ best-selling children’s novel about a 16-year-old orphan (Asa Butterfield) who uncovers a terrifying reality when he travels to a Welsh orphanage located on a mysterious island. Cast includes Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Chris O’Dowd, Dame Judi Dench, Allison Janney and Terence Stamp.
American Honey (R for graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, pervasive profanity and teen drug and alcohol abuse) Raunchy road saga revolving around a troubled runaway (Sasha Lane) who joins a team of door-to-door salesmen who party when not hawking magazine subscriptions while driving across the American Midwest. With Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough and Arielle Holmes.
Among The Believers (Unrated) War on Terror exposé chronicling the efforts of Pakistan’s infamous Red Mosque schools to raise a generation of Western-hating radical jihadists. (In English and Urdu with subtitles)
Clinton, Inc. (PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes) Adaptation of Daniel Halper’s best seller of the same name offering a behind-the-scenes account of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s maneuverings returning them to prominence after leaving the White House. Featuring commentary by Dick Morris, Rich Lowry and Ron Kessler.
Denial (PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity) Courtroom drama recounting Deborah Lipstadt’s (Rachel Weisz) epic legal battle with notorious Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall) over whether or not Hitler and his minions really murdered millions in the gas chambers during World War II. With Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott and Jack Lowden.
Do Not Resist (Unrated) Domestic tranquility documentary examining the proliferation of militarized policing across the United States.
Girl Asleep (Unrated) Coming-of-age dramedy about an ostracized social zero (Bethany Whitmore) whose fortunes change dramatically after being thrown a 15th birthday party by her concerned parents (Amber McMahon and Matthew Whittet). With Harrison Feldman, Imogen Archer and Eamon Farren.
Milton’s Secret (PG for mature themes, adolescent issues and brief epithets) Family drama revolving around an 11-year-old (William Ainscough) who becomes the victim of a neighborhood bully (Percy Hynes White). Cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Donald Sutherland, David Sutcliffe and Mia Kirshner.
Passage To Mars (Unrated) True tale reenacting the real-life, 2,000-mile trek undertaken across the Arctic’s frozen tundra by a half-dozen wannabe astronauts in anticipation of NASA’s first manned flight to Mars. Co-starring Zachary Quinto, Charlotte Rampling and Buzz Aldrin.