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Movie Roundup

Christine, starring Rebecca Hall and based on the real-life tragedy of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, opens Friday, Nov. 4, at Bijou Art Cinemas
Christine, starring Rebecca Hall and based on the real-life tragedy of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, opens Friday, Nov. 4, at Bijou Art Cinemas

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Taika Waititi is about an unlikely pair of outcasts — 12-year-old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) and Uncle Hec (a wonderfully grouchy Sam Neill) — who scamper into the New Zealand backcountry to escape the bumbling clutches of a nationwide manhunt. The film is derivative, predictable, grandiose and utterly sentimental. It is also smart, funny, big-hearted and disarmingly adorable, and it juggles these absurd qualities with dexterity and a winking charm that is almost impossible to deny. Waititi is a sure-footed and savvy director, dropping various genre elements and pop references into a giddy, romping narrative that sails along on a warm breeze of pure fun. Like the recent Netflix hit Stranger Things, which joyously ravages the closet of ’80s Hollywood blockbusters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople borrows liberally and unashamedly from cinema’s wardrobe — the absurdist storybook formalism of Wes Anderson, the heightened neo-pulp drama and slapstick action of early Spielberg, the lush naturalism and anti-civilizing sentimentality of Peter Weir. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is cinematic escapism at its best — the sort of generous, fizzy celebration of boon companionship at which Hollywood once excelled but no more. If you’re looking for a break from this season of discontent and despair, look no further than the portly figure of Ricky Baker and his grumpy Uncle Hec. They’re a total hoot. (Playing just one more week after a long summer run at Broadway Metro)

 

Denial

A sturdy yet affecting courtroom drama, Denial is about a lot of things, including a man’s desire to be bigoted and racist without being called on for bigotry and racism. The first time we see David Irving (Timothy Spall), he’s theatrically interrupting a lecture by professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz). With a stack of cash in one fist, belligerently shouting down Lipstadt at her own appearance, he insists that no one can show him proof of the Holocaust. If someone could, he’d give them a thousand dollars. Lipstadt is the centerpiece of the film, and of the trial that unfolds when Irving sues her in a British court. As the defendant, she must prove that her description of Irving as a Holocaust denier was not libelous, but true. And to prove that Irving is a Holocaust denier, she in essence must prove the Holocaust happened. What elevates Denial from being simply a smart but dry courtroom drama is Weisz’s performance, her characterization of Lipstadt as an opinionated, sometimes argumentative, intense woman who believes fiercely in herself and her sense of justice. It isn’t a perfect film, but in an election season where untruths go unchallenged and absurd rhetoric is par for the course, it’s a satisfying reminder that hatred doesn’t always win. (Broadway Metro)

 

Hell or High Water

From its starkly gorgeous cinematography and atmospheric Western soundtrack to its top-notch cast and propulsive narrative, Hell or High Water is a heartbreaking movie that hums with the undeniable weight of tragedy. A pair of busted-out brothers in west Texas, Tanner (Ben Foster) and Toby (Chris Pine) begin robbing small banks, stealing just enough to pay off the reverse-mortgage that is holding the family’s property hostage. As their crime spree escalates, the brothers are pursued by a crusty Texas marshal approaching retirement (Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingham). But beneath the suspenseful cat-and-mouse story, Hell or High Water evokes a deep and complex sense of inevitability. If The Big Short revealed to us exactly how the banks screwed the middle class from the top, Hell or High Water shows us what getting fiscally fucked looks like at the ground level, in backwater towns where generations of ranchers watch helplessly as their hereditary holdings go up on the auction block of blatant corruption. (Broadway Metro)

 

Mascots

Dear Christopher Guest. Wha happened?! The yellow-brick road you paved from your exquisitely daft performance as Nigel Tufnel in This Is Spinal Tap to your directorial (and actor) credits for the wonderfully silly Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and even A Mighty Wind, has seemingly come to a dead, stale end with Mascots. Made in the same “mockumentary” vein as his other films, Mascots is about the world of competitive sports mascotting — yes, like everything these days, it’s a verb — where the best fight it out to win the World Mascot Association’s Gold Fluffy Award. It’s basically a rehashed Best in Show — Guest’s film about competitive dog shows à la Westminster — but much less funny and with a cast that just can’t find its chemistry. The humor feels altogether dated this time around; perhaps Guest is finally showing his baby boomer stripes. For one, there’s quite a bit of groping, like the pervy fist mascot played by Chris O’Dowd (who finally broke his typecast and is decidedly uncharming), who mimes screwing the wife of the owner of his team in the stands while she objects in horror. In a time of Donald Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” rhetoric, this feels incredibly tone-deaf, and a cheap joke at that. (Netflix)