Posts Tagged ‘Zoe Saldana’

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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“I KILL GIANTS” My rating: C  

106 minutes | No MPAA rating

Technical brilliance and narrative muddiness wrestle to a draw in “I Kill Giants,”  director Anders Walter’s feature debut after a career in shorts.

Based on the graphic novel by Joe Kelly (who wrote the screenplay) and Ken Nimura, “Giants” melds Spielbergian adolescent fantasy with “Donnie Darko” pessimism. The results look terrific but feel phony.

Barbara (Madison Wolfe) is a teen outsider whose eccentricities may have passed beyond the endearing to the pathological.

With her oversized spectacles, unkempt blond mop and fuzzy rabbit ears (does she know she looks like a pedophile’s wet dream of a Playboy Bunny?), she’s the very image of a young adult  oddball.  A dungeons and dragons geek, she spends her spare hours stalking the woods near her picturesque seaside home and creating poisons and folk art talismans in a hidden lab.

Barbara is convinced that it is her job to protect her town from the giants that roam the countryside.  She has created Rube Goldberg-ish snares for these hulking monsters, and carries in an overdecorated purse a war hammer with which to battle the intruders.

Kelly and Walter establish early on that this is no charming childhood fantasy.  Barbara believes every bit of her trauma-inducing giant-slaying scenario, and devotes her life to the cause.  As a result she is tormented by a classroom bully (Rory Jackson) and spends an inordinate amount of her day in the office of the understanding but frustrated school psychologist (Zoe Saldana).

Thing is, she’s very, very smart.  Barbara can out-insult both adults and her fellow students (with her stinging wit she oozes contempt for “normal” kids), describes her towering foes as “total dicks” and radiates the weary seen-it-all attitude of a veteran warrior suiting up for yet another bloody campaign.

Her self-imposed ostrasization is dented only by the arrival of Sophia (Sydney Wade), a recent British import to the community, who befriends Barbara in spite of the latter’s loner attitude.


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Mark Ruffalo, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide

Mark Ruffalo, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide


90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are moments in “Infinitely Polar Bear” that feel so true and right that you just know they were lifted directly from the life of filmmaker Maya Forbes.

Starring Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana, the picture is based on Forbes’ childhood, when for several months she and her younger sister were raised by their mentally troubled father while their mother earned an MBA.

When it comes to depicting the ups and downs of a person with bipolar disorder, this movie is right on target.

But  Forbes has been unable to fashion these incidents into a compelling narrative. For all the authenticity of its situations, “Infinitely Polar Bear” (that’s the girls’ code for their father’s bi-polar issues) is an emotionally muted and frustrating experience.

Cameron Stuart (Ruffalo) is a loving dad, if an unreliable provider.  The black sheep son of Boston Brahmins, he is unable to hold a job and supports his wife Maggie (Saldana) and his daughters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) with a monthly stipend provided by his rich grandma.

That’s just enough money to pay for a cheap apartment and food for the table.

Maggie, who has the patience of a saint, somehow copes with Cameron’s mood swings.   Sometimes he is crazily active, seizing on some event or activity and devoting himself to it with religious zeal.  This is why the apartment looks like hoarder central, littered with greasy bicycle parts and other projects that never quite get completed.


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Clive Owen, Billy Crudup

Clive Owen, Billy Crudup

“BLOOD TIES” My rating: C (Opening March 21 at the Leawood)

127 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The crime drama “Blood Ties” has a hell of a pedigree.

The cast boasts of Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Mina Kunis, Zoe Saldana, James Caan and Lili Taylor. Behind the camera is the French director Guillaume Canet, whose 2006 “Tell No One” was one of the most satisfying thrillers of recent years.

And yet the movie is a mutt.

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit extreme. “Blood Ties” is  competent. It’s just totally uninspired. There’s more oomph in five minutes of, say, “Goodfellas,” than in two hours of this effort.

The setup isn’t exactly original. Two brothers. One is a cop. The other is a crook.

Chris (Clive Owen) is finally released from prison after doing time for murder. He’s greeted at the gates by his sister (Lili Taylor) and younger brother Frank (Billy Crudup), an NYPD detective. They take Chris home for a reunion with their dying father (James Caan).

Chris claims he wants to go straight, but he has lots of baggage to deal with.  His ex-wife, Monica (Marion Cotillard) is a call girl and periodic junkie. She has managed to raise their two kids, who are now young teens and virtual strangers to Chris. But she wants money, lots of it.


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