Where To Invade Next

Dog Eat Dog Films

Rated R for profanity, drug use, violent images and brief graphic nudity.

Michael Moore Mounts Faux Invasion In Tongue-in-Cheek Mocumentary

Oscar-winner Michael Moore (for Bowling For Columbine) has been challenging the power structure ever since releasing Roger & Me way back in 1989. That groundbreaking exposé indicted General Motors for the outsourcing of jobs which devastated his beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan. Over the intervening years, Moore has exhibited a knack for tackling a variety of hot-button topics from a leftist perspective, including the Iraq War (Fahrenheit 9/11), the healthcare industry (Sicko), and the global financial crisis (Capitalism: A Love Story), to name a few.

With Where To Invade Next, the inveterate rabble-rouser sets his sights on the subject of American imperialism. You may remember that the Bush Doctrine, as espoused by President George W. Bush in 2002, asserted the United States’ right to wage preemptive war whenever deemed in the national interest. Well, relying on that dubious notion, Moore proceeds to play agent provocateur as he circumnavigates the globe visiting countries with cultural and social constructs supposedly worth emulating.

So, instead of conquest with intent to plunder, the focus here is merely on borrowing ideas which might improve our quality of life. For instance, in France, he asks public school cafeteria chefs how they manage to serve their students such fine cuisine compared to the slop American kids are forced to settle for. And his mission in Finland is to discern why its educational system is far superior to ours, while in Italy he learns about the generous employment benefits not only for maternity leave but for honeymoons as well.

This faux invasion mockumentary features the affable Moore in virtually every tableau, mugging for the camera in his trademark style. Yes, his tongue-in-cheek brand of humor is frequently sublime, and his earnest arguments are often persuasive, even if the format feels a little stale after a quarter-century of the same sort of shenanigans.

Yet another progressive political primer from a proven master at questioning authority!

 

Very Good (3 stars)

In English, Italian, French, German, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Arabic with subtitles.

Running time: 110 minutes

 

Trumbo

Bleeker Street Media

Rated R for profanity and sexual references.

Reverential Biopic Restores Reputation Of Blacklisted Scriptwriter

Scriptwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) was at the height of his career when subpoenaed in 1947 to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigating the spread of Communist propaganda by Hollywood. The celebrated, Academy Award-nominee (for Kitty Foyle) had registered a blip on Congress’ radar because of his outspoken support of the party and progressive political ideas like the right of workers to unionize.

When he refused to testify before the Committee, he was held in contempt and summarily shipped off to a federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky. He was finally released after languishing almost a year behind bars, but still found himself blacklisted and booted from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

So, the only way the prolific Trumbo was able to work in the film industry again was by submitting screenplays to studios under a variety of pseudonyms, such as Sally Stubblefield, Millard Kaufman, Guy Endore, Ben Perry and Robert Rich. His scripts for Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956) did land Oscars, though he could neither appear to accept the awards nor even publicly acknowledge authorship.

Eventually, the Red Scare ended and Trumbo’s membership in the WGA was reinstated, but not before exacting a toll on his personal and professional life. That shameful bullying in the name of patriotism is the subject of Trumbo, a reverential biopic directed by Jay Roach (Austin Powers trilogy). The movie stars Bryan Cranston as the beleaguered title character as well as a talented supporting cast featuring Diane Lane, John Goodman, Louis C.K., Elle Fanning and Dame Helen Mirren.

The aim of the revisionist production is to restore Trumbo’s reputation posthumously by poking fun at HUAC and other self-righteous bullies who had taken delight in ruining him, particularly John Wayne (David James Elliott) and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Mirren). While this approach is apt to appeal to audiences with a decidedly leftist agenda, one can’t help but think that it’s easy with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight to dismiss former Cold War patriots as delusional paranoids.

A timely reminder of our First Amendment rights which simultaneously settles the score in favor of a disgraced Freedom of Speech proponent.

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 124 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening January 8, 2016

 

The Forest (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Psychological thriller about a young woman (Natalie Dormer) frightened by paranormal activity transpiring as she searches for her missing sister in the woods at the base of Mount Fuji. With Eoin Macken, Taylor Kinney and Stephanie Vogt.

 

The Revenant (R for profanity, graphic violence, gory images, brief nudity and a rape) Adaptation of Michael Punke’s tale of survival, set in Wyoming in 1823, about a frontiersman’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) harrowing ordeal after being mauled by a bear and left to die in the wilderness by members of his hunting party. Support cast includes Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson and Will Poulter. (In English, French and Native American dialects with subtitles)

 

Anomalisa (R for profanity, graphic sexuality and frontal nudity) Adult-oriented animated adventure about an author (David Thewlis) who is unable to connect with other people until he hits it off with a stranger (Jennifer Jason Leigh) he meets on a business trip. Additional voices supplied by Tom Noonan.

 

Anesthesia (R for profanity, sexuality, drug use and brief violence) Crime thriller about several strangers whose lives intersect serendipitously in the wake of the mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor (Sam Waterston). With K. Todd Freeman, Corey Stoll and the film’s director, Tim Blake Nelson.

 

Diablo (R for violence and brief profanity) Post-Civil War Western, set on the American frontier, about a revenge-minded veteran’s (Scott Eastwood) desperate search for his wife (Camilla Belle) abducted by a ruthless gang of Mexican outlaws. Featuring Danny Glover, Walton Goggins and Adam Beach.

 

Lamb (Unrated) Coming-of-age drama about a middle-aged man (Ross Partridge), grieving the death of his father and the disintegration of his marriage, who saves a suicidal 11-year-old (Oona Laurence) by taking her on a sightseeing sojourn across the country. With Jess Weixler, Tom Bower and Scoot McNairy.

 

The Masked Saint (PG-13 for violence and mature themes) Adaptation of the Chris Whaley best seller of the same name chronicling the real-life exploits of a professional wrestler-turned-pastor (Brett Granstaff) who decided to not only return to the ring but to moonlight as a crime-fighting vigilante. Cast includes Diahann Carroll, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Lara Jean Chorostecki.

 

Sweaty Betty (Unrated) Inner-city saga, set in Washington, DC, about a Redskins fan (Floyd Rich) who raises a pig in the ‘hood with hopes of turning it into the team’s mascot. With Seth Dubois and Rico S.

 

Troublemakers: The Story Of Land Art (Unrated) Counter-culture documentary about a cadre of iconoclastic artists who plied their trade in the ’60s and ’70s on the deserts of the American Southwest.

 

Wazir (Unrated) Unlikely buddies drama, set in Mumbai, revolving around the twist of fate which inspires an Anti-Terrorist Squad officer (Farhan Akhtar) to join forces with a wheelchair-bound chess master (Amitabh Bachchan) to crack a conspiracy. With Aditi Rao Hydari, John Abraham and Anjum Sharma. (In English and Hindi with subtitles)

 

Yosemite (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity) Coming-of-age tale, set in Palo Alto in 1985, revolving around the partially-overlapping misadventures of a trio of fifth graders (Everett Meckler, Alec Mansky and Calum John) living in a suburban community with a mountain lion on the loose. Based on the James Franco short story of the same name, and featuring Franco, Henry Hopper, Steven Wiig and Barry Del Sherman.

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