Locke’s Redbox Picks of the Week

by | Nov 28th, 2011 | 11:14PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies, Weekly redbox Picks

Recommended Smaller, Overlooked, or Underrated  Movies in the Redbox Kiosks

A Better Life

Director Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Twilight Saga: New Moon) and writer Eric Eason combine father-son melodrama and a crime-solving mystery quest in this story of an illegal immigrant single father (Demián Bichir) struggling to make–yes–a better life for his teenage son (José Julián). (The son not only doesn’t appreciate his father’s sacrifices and values, but is also tempted by the allure of drugs and gangs around him in East L.A.) It can be hard for actors to play “good and decent” with compelling honesty, but Bichir turns in a wonderfully layered performance that in a perfect world would earn him an Oscar nomination. A Better Life builds story tension around a threat to the father’s dream, but Weitz draws energy and heart from the simple tale of a son learning to understand that same dream.

 

Henry’s Crime

Keanu Reeves plays the titular Henry, a typically Keanu-ean stoic guy who does prison time for a bank robbery he was unknowingly drawn into. When Henry gets out years later, he decides to rob the same bank–to finally do the crime for which he already did the time. This very chilled out Ocean’s Eleven riff (in wintery Buffalo instead of Vegas) packs in plenty of oddball indie bits, but its low-key, small-scale charm works thanks to Reeves, James Caan doin’ his thing as a retired con man, and especially Vera Farmiga as a spirited local actress whose community theater production of Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard Henry must infiltrate to get at the bank next door.

 

Skateland

It’s not hard to see the Dazed and Confused (not to mention American Graffiti and The Last Picture Show) influences at play in this atmospheric tale of going-nowhere young Texans spinning their (roller-rink) wheels and listening to post-disco New Wave in the early ’80s. (Writer-director Anthony Burns also dedicated the film to John Hughes.) But while it wanders at a more laid-back, ennui-laden pace, the solidly naturalistic performances from Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) and Ashley Greene (the Twilight films) give some refreshing heft to the usual post-teen characters. Best of all is TV actor Heath Freeman in his first feature film–as a relatively world-weary returning alum (think McConaughey’s good-time Wooderson with more melancholy self-awareness), Freeman puts a realistic ache behind the cool tunes and feathered hair styles.

 

Every Day

The story’s famliar, but it’s the acting that enlivens this marital dramedy. The always great Liev Schreiber is a (mostly) good dad trying to balance a worn-out marriage to Helen Hunt, an ailing father-in-law (Brian Dennehy,) and a demanding new job as a writer for an “edgy” cable sitcom. That tension-filled workplace also gives us Eddie Izzard as a Philistine boss and sizzling Carla Gugino as a co-worker who leads Schreiber unto temptation. Gugino and Schreiber have a sexy, easygoing chemistry that makes Every Day well worth a watch, but keep an eye on Ezra Miller as Schreiber’s newly out son. Miller stole scenes in the similarly themed City Island last year, and is mesmerizing as a murderous sociopath in this year’s school-violence drama We Need to Talk About Kevin. He’s terrific here as well, once again giving engaging nuance to what could have been a one-dimensional character. Remember Ezra Miller’s name. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of him.

Batman: Year One

DC Entertainment continues its solid run of animated movies with this gritty adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s classic comic-book Year One. The film follows the 1987 Batman graphic novel closely, covering the momentous year in which Bruce Wayne (Benjamin McKenzie) returns to Gotham and takes up the Batman cowl, and Lieutenant Jim Gordon (voiced by Bryan Cranston) arrives in the crime-infested city for the first time. The emphasis is on noir-ish mob battles and police corruption (not flamboyant super villains), and like most of these DC Universe animated films, it’s not for youngsters–in addition to Batman’s usual bone-crunching violence, there’s also adultery and prostitution. (In the latter plot line, Eliza Dushku’s Selina Kyle makes her first moves as the cat burglar Cat Woman.)

 


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