Sony Pictures Classics / 3311 Productions / YL Pictures / The Lonely Island / Lord Miller
Rated PG-13 for drug use, teen partying, mature themes and brief sexuality
Freed Kidnap Victim Adjusts To Reality In Touching Character Study
Brigsby Bear revolves around an age-old premise that’s tough to establish and maintain convincingly, namely, the plight of a sheltered protagonist blissfully unaware of reality. Four films come quickly to mind which succeeded at plausibly presenting just such a plotline.
In Room (2015), we witnessed a little boy being imprisoned with his mother in a shed by the rapist who’d fathered him. In Life Is Beautiful (1997), we found a concentration camp internee doing his best to shield his young son from the horrors of the Holocaust.
In Being There (1979), Peter Sellers played a gullible gardener who learned everything he knew about the outside world from TV. And in The Truman Show (1998), Jim Carrey was an orphan who had no idea that he’d been adopted by a corporation that turned his life into a reality show.
Now we have Brigsby Bear, a worthy addition to the challenging genre. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Dave McCary, who’s been writing for Saturday Night Live since 2014. The picture stars SNL‘s Kyle Mooney, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Costello.
As the film unfolds, we’re introduced to James (Mooney), a 25-year-old very content to be still living at “home.” The overgrown kid religiously tunes in to Brigsby Bear, a sci-fi series revolving around a crime-fighting superhero full of energy and optimism.
James has a good excuse for his stunted growth. Truth be told, his supposed parents, Ted (Mark Hamill) and April (Jane Adams), are actually kidnappers who abducted him in infancy. And they secretly produce Brigsby, the only program that ever comes on their TV.
They’ve managed to discourage James from venturing outside the house by filling his head with lies about the air being so toxic that he’d perish without a gas mask. So, he’s freely frittered away his future not only watching all 736 Brigsby Bear episodes, but visiting a fake chatroom devoted to the show.
Everything changes the day James is rescued by the police and returned to his birth parents (Matt Walsh and Michaela Watkins) in Cedar Hills, Utah. Understandably, the adjustment to real-life proves problematic, since he remains obsessed with Brigsby to the point that he talks about it incessantly to anyone who’ll listen.
He’s lucky to find a couple of sympathetic souls in an actor-turned-detective (Greg Kinnear) and Spencer (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr.), one of his teenage sister’s (Ryan Simpkins) friends. They agree to help make a Brigsby Bear movie which just might enable James to find some closure on the sordid opening chapter of his life.
A poignant character portrait capable of catapulting Kyle Mooney from SNL support player to bona fide matinee idol!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 97 minutes
Annapurna Pictures / Annapurna Pictures / First Light
Rated R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity
Claustrophobic Docudrama Revisits ’67 Riots Through The Prism Of Infamous Interrogation At Algiers Hotel
Detroit’s ’67 riots broke out in the wee hours of July 23, in the wake of a police raid on an unlicensed bar where folks had been toasting a couple of vets who’d recently returned from Vietnam. Word spread like wildfire through the black community that the cops had arrested all 82 people they found inside, and it wasn’t long before mobs began looting and firebombing stores all around the ‘hood.
The rebellion would last five days and result in over 1,000 injuries and 7,000 arrests, while also claiming 43 lives. In terms of property damage, about 2,500 businesses were destroyed and hundreds of families were left homeless.
The insurrection was quelled by the Motor City’s police force in conjunction with the state of Michigan’s National Guard as well as federal troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions. While the arrests at the speakeasy ostensibly served as the flashpoint for the civil unrest, the revolt was really the result of long-simmering frustrations with the poor quality of housing, employment and education in the ghetto.
Directed by two-time Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (for The Hurt Locker), Detroit revisits the ’67 riots by telescoping tightly on events which unfolded at the Algiers Motel on the third night of the rebellion. The picture features an A-list ensemble that includes John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore and John Krasinski.
The trouble started when a sniper seemed to be taking pot shots at the police stationed a block away from the Algiers. Truth be told, it was just 17-year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Cooper) firing a harmless starter pistol.
Nevertheless, reasonably assuming they were under attack, officers returned fire before storming the hotel’s three-story annex. Emptying the rooms, they found a dozen guests, two 18-year-old white girls and 10 black males, including members of The Dramatics, the Motown group whose biggest hit was “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.”
The guests were herded into a first-floor hallway where, over the next several hours, they were threatened, humiliated and sadistically beaten during a prolonged interrogation being directed by Patrolman Krauss (Poulter). The white females were stripped naked, and called “whores” and “[N-word] lovers.”
No gun was ever found, but by the end of the torture three black teenagers lay dead: Cooper, Fred Temple (Latimore) and Aubrey Pollard (Nathan Davis, Jr.). Newspapers reported that they were snipers who died during an exchange of gunfire. But autopsies revealed each had been shot from behind at very close range.
Detroit is very difficult to watch, since it’s basically a searing snuff flick which forces the audience to witness the deliberate persecution of innocent civilians at the behest of a racist redneck with a badge. Riveting revisionist history setting the record straight in a way which will undoubtedly resonate with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 143 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening August 4, 2017
The Dark Tower (PG-13 for action, gun violence and mature themes) Adaptation of the Stephen King sci-fi thriller about an 11-year-old adventurer (Tom Taylor) who slips into another dimension where he witnesses a showdown between an evil sorcerer (Matthew McConaughey) and a gunslinger (Idris Elba) defending the universe from extinction. Supporting cast includes Abbey Lee, Dennis Haysbert and Jackie Earle Haley.
Kidnap (R for violence and scenes of peril) Suspense thriller about a single mom (Halle Berry) who turns vigilante after her young son (Sage Correa) is abducted by kidnappers. With Lew Temple, Dana Gourrier and Chris McGinn.
Armed Response (R for graphic violence, profanity and grisly images) Supernatural thriller about a special forces team’s investigation of the mysterious slaughter of the entire staff at a black ops facility. Co-starring Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche and Gene Simmons.
Columbus (Unrated) Romantic dramedy, set in Indiana, about a Korean man (John Cho) who falls in love with a local librarian (Haley Lu Richardson) living with her drug-addicted mother when he comes to America to care for his comatose father. With Parker Posey, Rory Culkin and Jim Dougherty.
Fun Mom Dinner (R for sexuality, drug use, crude humor and pervasive profanity) Girls’ night out comedy about four mothers (Katie Aselton, Molly Shannon, Toni Collette and Bridget Everett) with kids in the same preschool whose simple plan to unwind over a meal turns into a wild evening they’ll never forget. Featuring Hart Denton, Gerald Dewey and Leigh Dunham.
Savage Dog (Unrated) Action thriller about a just-paroled boxer’s (Scott Adkins) quest for revenge against the mobsters responsible for murdering a loved one. With Marko Zaror, Juju Chan and Cung Le.
Some Freaks (Unrated) Romantic dramedy about a one-eyed teen (Thomas Mann) who falls for a chubby, high school classmate (Lily Mae Harrington) only to have their relationship fall apart when she loses 50 pounds in college. Cast includes Marin Ireland, Lachlan Buchanan and Ely Henry.
Step (PG for mature themes and mild epithets) Against-the-odds documentary, set at a girls’ high school in Baltimore, chronicling the effort of seniors on the step team to win a dance competition as well as scholarships to college.
Wind River (R for profanity, rape, graphic violence and disturbing images) Crime thriller about a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who teams with a veteran game tracker (Jeremy Renner) to solve a murder after a body is discovered in the woods on an Indian reservation. With Graham Greene, Judith Jones and Jon Bernthal.