Gringo
Naive Nerd Abandoned by Boss in Mexico in Madcap Action Comedy
  Nerdy Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is a loyal employee at Promethium Pharmaceuticals who has been patiently waiting for his chance to share in the success from its lucrative sales of medical marijuana in pill form. Unfortunately, the naive Nigerian immigrant is unaware that the Chicago-based company’s CEO, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton), has no intention of ever giving him a cut in the profits.

  Instead, Richard just fills his head with promises of a lavish lifestyle like he’s seen on rap videos. Furthermore, Harold also has no idea that his backstabbing boss is having an affair with his wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton). Further complicating matters is the fact that Richard is in a committed relationship with his business partner, Elaine (Charlize Theron). 

  The plot thickens when Harold has to fly with them to Mexico to supposedly set up a factory. Truth be told, the real purpose of the trip is to break off relations with a powerful drug cartel run by the ruthless Juan Miguel Villegas (Carlos Corona). 

  You see, Richard wants to go legit and stop selling pills on the black market. Of course, Villegas is unhappy with this development, so it isn’t long before all hell breaks loose. When the dust settles, Richard and Elaine make a break for the States while we find Harold calling company headquarters to say he’s been kidnapped and being held for a $5 million ransom. 

  Thus unfolds Gringo a madcap action comedy directed by Nash Edgerton. Nash assembled an impressive cast, which included his brother, Joel, Oscar-winner Charlize Theron (for Monster), David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Ruck (Cameron in Ferris Bueller) and Paris Jackson (Michael’s daughter). 

  Regrettably, the film’s intriguing premise gives way to an over-plotted adventure with far too many characters and sidebars. Are we supposed to care about the young couple (Seyfried and Harry Treadaway) who cross Harold’s path south of the border? How about Richard’s brother, Mitch (Copley) a former soldier of fortune coaxed out of retirement to search for Harold? 

  There’s never a dull moment, though never a deep one either, for the duration of this hyperbolic homage to incessant overstimulation.

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, violence and pervasive profanity
In English, Spanish and French with subtitles
Running time: 110 minutes
Production Studios: Picrow / Denver and Delilah Productions/ Blue-Tongue Films
Distributor: Amazon Studios / STX Entertainment

The Leisure Seeker
Elderly Couple Embarks on Eventful Road Trip in Bittersweet Romantic Romp
  Ella (Helen Mirren) and John Spencer (Donald Sutherland) have been happily married for 50+ years, and their love hasn’t been diminished one iota by his battle with dementia or by hers with brain cancer. Therefore, it makes sense that the inseparable couple might resist following sound medical advice calling for them to move into different healthcare facilities. 

  Instead, the feisty octogenarians decide to share one last vacation in their mothballed RV fondly referred to as “The Leisure Seeker.” The plan is to drive all the way from Wellesley down to Key West where John, a retired English professor, hopes to visit the home of Ernest Hemingway. 

  So, without letting their doctors or doting kids (Janet Moloney and Christian McKay) in on what they’re up to, the sneaky geezers pack provisions and a shotgun before taking to the highway in their trusty Winnebago. What ensues is a very eventful road trip fueled by a mix of tenderness, nostalgia and a little gallows humor. 

  Thus unfolds The Leisure Seeker, a bittersweet romantic romp directed by Paolo Virzi (Like Crazy). The movie marks the shaky first foray into English-language features by the talented Italian filmmaker. 

  Virzi’s very lucky that he has a couple of consummate thespians playing the leads. Helen Mirren disappears into her role, sporting a thick drawl as a sunny Steel Magnolia originally from South Carolina. And Donald Sutherland is quite convincing as an intermittently lucid Alzheimer’s victim lecturing strangers about literary greats one minute, lost in his thoughts the next. 

  The story is loosely based on Michael Zadoorian’s best seller of the same name which originally had the Spencers as Detroit natives and setting out for Disneyland. Here, Ella and John enjoy their fair share of excitement en route to Florida from New England, including a confrontation where exercising their Second Amendment rights comes in handy, as well as a hilarious encounter with a geriatric patient played by the late Dick Gregory making a memorable cameo. 

  A touching travelogue with just enough heartfelt moments combined with comic relief to warrant this critic’s stamp of approval.

Good (2 stars)
Rated R for sexuality and mature themes
Running time: 112 minutes
Production Studios: Bac Films / Rai Cinema / Indiana Production Company
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

 

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam’s Kapsules
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening March 16, 2018

BIG BUDGET FILMS

7 Days in Entebbe (PG-13 for violence, smoking, drug use, mature themes and brief profanity) Historical docudrama, set in Uganda in 1976, recounting an Israeli commando unit’s daring rescue of a hijacked, Air France jetliner’s passengers and crew. Co-starring Rosamund Pike, Daniel Bruhl, Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres, Angel Bonanni as Yoni Netanyahu, Lior Ashkenazi as Yitzhak Rabin, and Nonso Anozie as Idi Amin.

I Can Only Imagine (PG for mature themes and some violence) Faith-based docudrama chronicling the untold true story behind “I Can Only Imagine,” the band MercyMe’s double-platinum hit about the power of forgiveness which became the best-selling, contemporary Christian song of all time. With J. Michael Finley, Dennis Quaid, Trace Adkins, Priscilla Shirer and Cloris Leachman.

Love, Simon (PG-13 for profanity, underage drinking, sexuality and mature themes) Adaptation of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli’s young adult best seller about a gay teen (Nick Robinson) forced out of the closet by a cruel classmate (Logan Miller) who discovered his sexual orientation online. Ensemble cast includes Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Alexandra Shipp, Katherine Langford and Keiynan Lonsdale.

Tomb Raider (PG-13 for violence and some profanity) Alicia Vikander assumes the title role in this reboot of the action franchise which finds the acrobatic archaeologist embarking on a perilous journey in search of her explorer father (Dominic West) who went missing on a mysterious island off the coast of Japan. With Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Walton Goggins and Nick Frost.

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Augie (Unrated) Inspirational biopic about fitness guru, Augie Nieto, who has been campaigning to find a cure for ALS since being diagnosed with the disease at the age of 47.

Dear Dictator (Unrated) Unlikely-buddies comedy about a deposed, banana republic dictator (Michael Caine) who seeks asylum in suburban America where he helps a rebellious teen (Odeya Rush) overthrow the mean girls clique making her life miserable at school. With Katie Holmes, Seth Green and Jason Biggs.

Flower (R for crude sexuality, graphic nude drawings, drug use, a violent image and pervasive profanity) Coming-of-age comedy about a rebellious 17-year-old (Zoey Deutch) who joins forces with her traumatized step-brother (Joey Morgan) in shaming the high school teacher (Adam Scott) who had sexually assaulted him. Support cast includes Kathryn Hahn, Tim Heidecker and Dylan Gelula.

Furlough (R for a brief sexual reference) Oil-and-water dramedy revolving around a rookie prison guard’s (Tessa Thompson) ordeal escorting a hell-raising inmate (Melissa Leo) home for a weekend visit to her dying mom. With Whoopi Goldberg, Drena De Niro and La La Anthony.

Journey’s End (R for profanity and graphic images) World War I saga, set during the third Battle of Aisne in northern France, chronicling some British soldiers’ struggle to survive in a trench located along the frontlines. Co-starring Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, Toby Jones and Tom Sturridge.

Maineland (Unrated) American Dream documentary about the enormous number of kids from China enrolling in private boarding schools all across America. (In Mandarin and English with subtitles.)

Mantra: Sounds into Silence (Unrated) Spiritual documentary extolling the virtues of chanting as a path to inner peace.

Take Your Pills (Unrated) Investigative documentary exploring the popularity of performance-enhancing drugs like Adderall and Ritalin not just with hyperactive kids, but with college students and Type-A white-collar workers.

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