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Posts Tagged ‘Carmen Ejogo’

Joel Egerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

“IT COMES AT NIGHT” My rating: B

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The “it” of “It Comes at Night” doesn’t creep about on four legs or slither on its belly.  No fangs or claws. No growls or shrieks.

The subject of Trey Edward Shults’ sophomore feature (after last year’s devastating family drama “Krisha”) is fear. Fear of both the unknown, of whatever may be lying in wait for us, and fear of our own human selves which, given the right circumstances, can devolve into monsters far scarier than those lurking in the imagination.

As the film opens an old man is dying.  His eyes are black. Festering pustules dot his  body. Blood seeps from his nose and mouth. He breathes in gasps.

Whatever is killing the old man has spooked the other members of his family, who say their muffled goodbyes through biohazard masks. Then they load him up in a wheelbarrow and push him out to a pit where he will be dispatched with one bullet and his remains burned.

This is the new normal for Paul (Joel Egerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).  They live in a house deep in the woods. The windows are boarded up so that from the outside the place looks abandoned. They don’t venture outside any more than is absolutely necessary.  They are on constant alert for unwanted visitors.

What catastrophe has befallen mankind that they must live this way?  Schults’ screenplay never provides an answer and, anyway, that’s not what “It Comes at Night” is about.

Late one night the three hear someone trying to break in.  They capture the intruder, a young man named Will (Christopher Abbott) who claims he thought the house was empty when he began scavenging for supplies. Will says his wife and young son are waiting for him in a cabin nearly 50 miles away.

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Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker

“BORN TO BE BLUE” My rating: B

97 minutes | MPAA rating: R

We are introduced to musician Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) in a filthy jail cell. He’s lying on the concrete floor in a fetal position, sweat pouring off him, surrounded by cigarette butts. He seems to be going through heroin withdrawl.

So we know from the getgo that “Born to Be Blue,” Canadian filmmaker Robert Budreau’s feature about the “James Dean of jazz,” is going to be a rough ride.

Trumpeter/vocalist Baker (1929-1988) is famed as the inventor of West Coast swing. He is also the very model of the white junkie jazz genius, his main competition for the title being the late Art Pepper.

“Born to Be Blue” isn’t a formal biopic. Rather, writer/director Bureau attempts something like Todd Hayne’s Bob Dylan-themed “I’m Not There.” Think of it as a fantasia on the life and loves of a terrific musician who was also a deeply flawed individual.

The junkie jazzman is hardly a new cinematic concept, but “Born…” benefits from what may be Hawke’s strongest performance. Chet Baker was a handsome, charismatic charmer who, when he wasn’t creating great music, was battling demons.

Watching Hawke’s work here, we realize why people were drawn to Baker, and why most eventually bailed.

The film begins in 1954 with the young Chet playing New York City, pursued by swooning bobbysoxers and desperate to earn the approval of his idols and competitors, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie.

In this black-and-white segment he picks up a beautiful black woman and takes her to his hotel suite, where she turns him on to heroin. Their buzz is interrupted when the woman (Carmen Ejogo, the Brit who played Coretta Scott King in “Selma”) breaks character and accuses Chet of ignoring their dialogue and improvising.

 

 

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selma-bridge“SELMA”  My rating: B+ 

127 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Like writing history with lightning.”

That was President Woodrow Wilson’s reaction to a 1915 White House screening of the Civil War epic “Birth of a Nation,” a film whose artistic ambitions were matched only by its racism.

A century later, director Ava DuVernay has given us “Selma,” a docudrama about a pivotal campaign in the fight for civil rights for black Americans. You could say this film writes history not so much with lightning as with compassion.

“Selma” often gets the details wrong (shuffling chronologies and geography, for instance), but its emotional heft is undeniable. In re-creating the 1965 protest marches from Selma, Ala., led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the movie captures the epic sweep of social upheaval, but also the way it played out for the individuals — famous and anonymous — who made it happen.

David Oweyolo as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

David Oweyolo as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s as close to being there as most of us will ever get.

The screenplay by Paul Webb (his first) cannily begins with three scenes that establish the film’s breadth of focus and what is at stake.

In Oslo, Norway, the Reverend King (David Oyelowo, who like most of the lead players is British) accepts the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Selma, black housewife Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey, one of the movie’s producers) attempts to register to vote. A sneering clerk orders her to recite from memory the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. When she does so flawlessly, he tells her to come back when she has memorized the names of all the county judges in Alabama.

And in Montgomery, Ala., four black girls are killed when a bomb planted by racists goes off in their church during Sunday services.

King and other civil rights leaders focus their efforts to register black voters in Selma, a burg so racially backward and with such thuggish law enforcement that it perfectly meets their needs.  With the media focused on the situation — dignified protestors being abused by white cops and racist mobs — the federal government will be forced to get involved. (more…)

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