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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Dern’

Matthew McCaughnahey, Richie Merritt

“WHITE BOY RICK” My rating: C+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It’s easy to see why the real-life tale depicted in “White Boy Rick” got Hollywood’s attention. Here’s the story of a 15-year-old white Detroit kid who back in the ’80s infiltrated a black drug ring for the FBI, survived an assassination attempt, became a cocaine kingpin and ended up serving a long prison sentence.

It practically screams “Movie!”

Yet “White Boy Rick” is a surprisingly limp affair, perhaps because the screenwriters (Andy Weiss, Logan Miller and Noah Miller) and director Yann Demange cannot decide what to make of their offbeat protagonist.

And if they don’t know, those of us in the audience are even more in the dark.

The basics are these: Back in ’84 Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) was helping his bottom-feeding, gun-dealing dad (Matthew McConaughey, in full character actor mode with pot belly and greasy mullet) peddle illegal homemade silencers to Detroit’s gangbangers.

Cornered by a couple of manipulative  and openly amoral FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane), Rick agrees to go undercover if the feds will leave his old man alone. He starts by buying at local drug houses, ostensibly on behalf of his crackhead sister (Bel Powley), and gradually becomes accepted by the crew of a local drug lord (Jonathan Majors).

Before long he’s dropped out of school and is sporting expensive track suits and gold bling (he’s so thick he buys a gaudy Star of David necklace, not realizing it represents Judaism) and doing all sorts of services both for the gang and for his FBI handlers.

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Jon Hamm

“NOSTALGIA” My rating: C-

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Nostalgia” is a points-in-heaven movie.

Basically it’s a little art film (well, it wants to be art, anyway) that has attracted an astounding cast of recognizable actors (Ellen Burstyn, Bruce Dern, Beth Grant, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, James le Gros, Nick Offerman, John Ortiz, Amber Tamblyn) who are working for little or no pay to be part of a noncommercial effort that they hope will have something to say.

Call it movie star penance. These actors are trying to rack up some points in heaven.

Let’s hope they do, because “Nostalgia” isn’t going to make a ding in either the box office or critical circles.

Written and directed by Mark Pellington (“Arlington Road,” “The Mothman Prophecies,” “The Last Word”), “Nostalgia” offers an interesting premise.  It’s about how humans connect with objects and how giving up or losing those possessions can result in both trauma and a positive re-examination of one’s life.

Plotted less as one contiguous story than as a series of interconnected shorts, the film begins with an insurance investigator (Ortiz) checking out the home of an old man (Dern) who is preparing to sell  everything to finance his last years.

Exactly what the insurance guy does is a bit vague. He says he’s there to see if there are items in the house worth bringing in an appraiser…but on whose behalf we don’t know.  Maybe an evaluation of home’s contents has been requested by the old man’s granddaughter and heir (Tamblyn).

Anyway, the insurance guy’s real job — narratively speaking — is to be a sounding board for other characters. (If “Nostalgia” were given to metaphysical musings, you might view the character as a sympathetic angel.)

His next “customer” is a widow (Burstyn) whose home has just burned to the ground.  She’s lost everything except her late husband’s most cherished possession, a baseball signed by Ted Williams.  Eventually the old lady will travel to Las Vegas and a sports memorabilia shop where the copacetic owner (Hamm) buys the baseball for mucho dinero.

Then we follow the sports memorabilia guy to his home town, where he joins his sister (Keener) in clearing out their late parents’ home. This reunion is marred by a family tragedy. (more…)

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