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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Dern’

“THE MUSTANG”  My rating: B+ 

96 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A violent, alienated man and an equally angry horse form an unexpected bond in “The Mustang,” an understated effort that often plays like documentary but carries the emotional weight of a classic drama.

Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s film opens with a roundup of wild mustangs in a vast Western landscape. The animals are herded by  helicopters into stock pens. From there they are loaded onto trucks.

Cut to a Nevada prison where Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has just joined the general population after  months in solitary confinement.  We never learn what he did to merit that treatment; all he’ll say is that he’s not good with people.

The prison psychologist (Connie Britton) struggles to get a word out of the sullen, withdrawn inmate. She’s trying to find a prison job or activity that will interest him. Finally she settles on the horse-training program, which takes recently captured wild mustangs and turns them into well-behaved riding horses that can be sold at auction.

Not that Roman overnight becomes a cowboy.  His main job involves shoveling shit. But he’s intrigued by the violent horse that occupies a metal shed on the prison grounds. The animal inside spends all day banging on the walls and shrieking its defiance. It’s a kindred spirit.

The old hand who runs the program (Bruce Dern) believes the horse is too mean to be domesticated, but gives Roman — who has absolutely no background with these animals — a chance to train the beast. If it doesn’t kill him first.

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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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