Creepy Coming-Of-Age Flick Explores The Dark Side Of Childhood
Inspired by a couple of short stories by James Franco, Yosemite is an eerie bildungsroman exploring some decidedly dark and dangerous sides of childhood. The drama features a trio of discrete tales which ultimately merge in fairly effective fashion.
The action unfolds in Palo Alto in 1985, which is where we find a trio of fifth graders facing different emotional issues. 10-year-old Chris (Everett Meckler) and his younger brother, Alex (Troy Tinnirello), are driving to Yosemite National Park with their father (Franco) who’s recently separated from their mom.
Their plans for quality time are affected, en route, by their dad’s admission that he’s a recovering alcoholic. Upon their arrival. the vacation is all but ruined when the three get lost hiking, followed by Chris’ finding the charred remains of what looks like a human skeleton.
The second chapter of this coming-of-age adventure revolves around the predicament of Joe (Alec Mansky), a product of divorce in dire need of a father figure. Unfortunately, to fill a void, he naively settles on Henry (Henry Hopper), a creepy-looking loner sharing a love of comic books. Against the boy’s better judgment, he even accepts an invitation back to the possible pedophile’s humble abode.
The last segment is about Ted (Calum John), a kid whose beloved cat, Charlie, has gone missing. Trouble is, there’s been a sighting of a mountain lion roaming around town. And since his father’s (Steven Wiig) ostensibly too consumed with Silicon’s Valley burgeoning Computer Revolution to care about the predator, Ted enlists the assistance of pals Chris and Joe to embark on a big game hunt in the hills just beyond suburbia.
Yosemite was both directed and adapted to the screen by Gabrielle Demeestere (The Color Of Time) who employed an admirably understated approach to Franco’s source material. An earnest examination of the loss of innocence, this critic could’ve appreciated more if the subject-matter hadn’t be so relentlessly dark and disturbing.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Breaking Glass Pictures
A Blackface Variation Of Babe With Street Cred
In 1965, the federal government issued the historic Moynihan Report chronicling the collapse of “The Negro Family” which it blamed on a host of social woes afflicting inner-city African-American communities. A half-century later, blacks and whites still remain substantially separate and unequal.
Evidence of the disparity abounds in Sweaty Betty, a super-realistic buddy flick set in a Prince George’s County, Maryland, ghetto located in the shadow of the nation’s capital. There, we find a cornucopia of colorful characters inhabiting a den of iniquity that it’s hard to believe exists, but obviously does.
The stars of this must-see adventure are Rico and Scooby, a couple of uneducated, unemployed, unmarried single fathers. To call the pair actors would be far too generous, since they’re obviously simply playing themselves.
That makes it difficult to discern whether one is watching a comedy or a documentary, although that dilemma only adds to the quirky picture’s appeal. Everybody on their block speaks such inscrutable Ebonics that directors Joseph Frank and Zachary Reed had the good sense to use subtitles, despite the fact that the entire cast is speaking in English.
The dialogue is not only grammatically-incorrect but is invariably delivered laced with expletives and the N-word. And the conversations are precisely what one might expect of 20-ish baby-daddies with nothing better to do all day than hang out on the street.
One minute, our heroes are commiserating about the burdens of fatherhood, the next, they’re shamelessly flirting with a couple of cute honeys passing by. Meanwhile, their neighbors appear to be equally rudderless, as they spend their time boasting, twerking, mugging for the camera and/or engaging in meaningless chatter.
Oh, Sweaty Betty does have a rudimentary plot, which revolves around a couple of pets: a pig named Charlotte, and a pit bull the protagonists can’t decide what to call: Cocaine, Killer or Petey (since it looks like the pooch on The Little Rascals).
These wannabe entrepreneurs have been raising the hog in the ‘hood with hopes of having it become the mascot of the Washington Redskins. So, on home gamedays, they drive the half-ton oinker to the stadium via pickup truck to participate in all the parking lot hoopla. Unfortunately, it eventually comes to the attention of the local animal control officer that somebody’s raising a farm animal in a residential neighborhood.
But don’t be fooled. Sweaty Betty‘s storyline is inconsequential, at best. Yet, it remains highly recommended for cinematic voyeurs who like laughing from a safe distance at the outrageous flamboyance of a hot ghetto mess.
A blackface variation of Babe (1995) with street cred!
Excellent (4 stars)
In Ebonics with subtitles
Running time: 94 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening January 15, 2016
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi (R for profanity, pervasive violence and bloody images) Docudrama revisiting the events surrounding the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Starring Toby Stephens, John Krasinski and Freddie Stroma.
Norm Of The North (PG for action and rude humor) Rob Schneider portrays the title character in this animated adventure about an anthropomorphic polar bear that travels to Manhattan with several lemmings to prevent a real estate developer from ruining their Arctic habitat by erecting luxury condos. Voice cast includes Bill Nighy, Heather Graham, James Corden, Loretta Devine and Dr. Ken Jeong.
Ride Along 2 (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, violence and drug use) Unlikely-buddies comedy revolving around a hard-nosed Atlanta cop (Ice Cube) reluctantly partnered with a flamboyant rookie (Kevin Hart) who’s also his sister’s (Tika Sumpter) fiancé. Action-oriented sequel finds pair attempting to bring a Miami drug kingpin (Benjamin Bratt) to justice. With T.I., Tyrese, Olivia Munn, Dr. Ken Jeong and Sherri Shepherd, with cameos by NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Band Of Robbers (Unrated) Present-day reimagining of Mark Twain’s classic tales with adult versions of Tom Sawyer (Adam Nee) and Huck Finn (Kyle Gallner) still searching for the buried treasure that eluded them in childhood. Supporting cast includes Melissa Beloist as Becky Thatcher, Stephen Lang as Injun Joe and Beth Grant as Widow Douglas.
The Benefactor (Unrated) Richard Gere plays the title role in this thriller about a devious philanthropist who uses his money to manipulate a couple of naive newlyweds (Dakota Fanning and Theo James). With Cheryl Hines, Brian Anthony Wilson and Maria Breyman.
In The Shadow Of Women (Unrated) Romance drama revolving around the complications which ensue after a fledgling filmmaker (Stanislas Merhar) cheats on his wife ((Clotilde Courau) with their new assistant (Lena Paugam). With Vimala Pons, Antoinette Moya and Jean Pommier. (In French with subtitles)
Intruders (Unrated) Haunted house horror flick about three thieves who get more than they bargained for when they break into the home of an agoraphobic young woman (Beth Riesgraf). Featuring Jack Kesy, Leticia Jimenez and Martin Starr.
Moonwalkers (R for profanity, graphic violence, frontal nudity and a profusion of drug use) Conspiracy theory comedy, set in 1969, about the CIA Agent (Ron Perlman) who teamed up with a rock band manger (Rupert Grint) to fake the first Apollo moon landing. With Robert Sheehan, Stephen Campbell Moore and Kevin Bishop.
A Perfect Day (R for profanity and sexual references) Balkans war saga, set in Eastern Europe, about a trio of aid workers (Tim Robbins, Benicio Del Toro and Olga Kurylenko) who try to save a devastated community’s water supply. Support cast includes Melanie Thierry, Sergi Lopez and Fedja Stukan. (In English, Serbian, Spanish and french with subtitles)