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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Langella’

Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman

“THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7” My rating: A- (Now streaming on Netflix)

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In the year’s most fortuitous marriage of filmmaker and subject matter, Netflix’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” delivers a superbly scripted and acted mini-epic torn from recent American history.

Along the way it proves conclusively that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” natch) and based on real events of 1968-69, “Trial…” is packed with great moments and knockout perfs. Awe-inspiring in its ability to take a complex subject and examine it from myriad points of view, the film will leave viewers amused, infuriated and inspired.

That it also deals heavily in themes of  official misbehavior only makes it more relevant to a time in which the tools of government are routinely twisted to serve the corrupt whims of the White House.

Sorkin, who both scripted and directed, kicks things off with a kaleidoscopic sequence that explains, in superb cinematic shorthand, the philosophical differences among the various rabble rousers who will come to be known as the Chicago 7.

Middle-aged David Dellinger(John Carroll Lynch) is a suburban family man and literal scoutmaster preparing to go to the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War.  He’s so totally into non-violence that one of his legal team later admits: “You’re a conscientious objector who sat out World War II.  Even I want to punch you.”

In a similar vein, youthful activists Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis (Eddie Redmayne, Alex Sharp) plan peaceful protests in Chicago. They want to change society through the ballot box.

Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong of HBO’s “Succession”)  take a more anarchistic view. If punched, they claim, they’ll punch back. In the meantime, they’ll mock authority.

Finally there’s Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who tells us: “Martin’s dead. Malcolm’s dead. Bobby (Kennedy) is dead. Jesus is dead.  They tried it peacefully. We gonna try something else.”

One of Sorkin’s flashes of genius is to not show us the Chicago riots until later in the film, when we see them in flashbacks as testimony is delivered.

Instead the film jumps from the preparations for Chicago to the convention’s aftermath, when Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell (John Doman) orders U.S. attorney Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to indict the leading agitators for conspiring to cross state lines to incite riots against.  Schultz is a reluctant participant; though he has little in common with the men he will prosecute, he doubts the legitimacy of the government’s case. Nevertheless, he forges on.

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Anton Yeltsin

“LOVE, ANTOSHA” My rating: B+

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

I knew who Anton Yeltsin was, of course.  I’d seen the young actor as Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots, and in a couple of other movies like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

And of course I knew he died in 2017 at age 27 in a freak accident, pinned against a metal gate by his rolling automobile.

None of which prepared me for the gut punch that is “Love, Antosha,” a love letter to the late actor signed by his parents, his boyhood friends, and his heavy-hitting acting colleagues.

It seems nobody who knew Yeltsin had anything but love for him. And that emotion comes roiling off the screen.

Garret Price’s documentary opens with home movies from Yeltsin’s childhood. What we see is an impossibly handsome kid with a big performer’s personality that fills the room.

We also get a bit of back story about his parents,  competitive Soviet ice dancers who emigrated to the U.S.A. to get away from growing anti-Semitism in the new Russian Republic.

Here’s something I did not know:  While a teen Anton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the devastating lung condition (the average life expectancy of a sufferer is 37 years). He was so full of energy, so good at masking his symptoms and plowing ahead, that many of his show biz colleagues were unaware that he had gone through life essentially under a death sentence.

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Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen

“CAPTAIN FANTASTIC” My rating: B- 

118 minutes |MPAA rating: R

There’s something phony…or at least seriously muddled…at the heart of “Captain Fantastic.”

Which doesn’t keep it from being intermittently entertaining and even borderline charming.

Matt Ross’ dramedy stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash, the hippie-dippie/drill instructor Dad to six kids he’s rearing deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

A typical day for these youngsters — they range in age from 5 to 17 — consists of rigorous physical exercise, survival training, hand-to-hand combat and some serious hitting the books. (And I do mean books…there’s no Internet or electricity out in the bush.)

They bathe in streams, grow food in a greenhouse and hunt the local wildlife, and at night hold family jam sessions around the campfire (Ben plays a mean guitar, not to mention the bagpipes).

Ben is what you might call a left-wing survivalist. He’s convinced of the immorality and uselessness of most modern society, and has trained his kids to parrot his views. The family doesn’t celebrate Christmas; the big day on their calendar is Noam Chomsky’s birthday, which Ben marks by presenting each of his offspring with their own very wicked-looking hunting knife.

They’re like a military unit, moving in perfect harmony whether running down a deer or shoplifting groceries.

Just because they’re growing up in the boonies doesn’t mean the Cash kids are intellectually deprived.  The  youngest of them can recite the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, and the 12-year old is reading Middlemarch. The oldest, Bodevan (George MacKay), has a handful of acceptance letters from Ivy League schools; he’s trying to decide when to inform his father of this latest triumph (since it will mean leaving the fold).

Where is Mom, you ask? We never see her — alive, anyway. We learn that she’s been gone for several months for hospital treatment. And the bulk of the film consists of the clan’s road trip to Albuquerque to attend her funeral.

The opening scenes of “Captain Fantastic” are kind of idyllic — if you can ignore the fact that Ben is raising a brood  largely unequipped to deal with contemporary society.

But once the family members find themselves dealing with the outside world — in the person of Matt’s sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband (Steve Zahn) and his wife’s very rich, very opinionated, and (one suspects) very Republican father (Frank Langella) — we realize just what fish out of water they are. (more…)

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