Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, including the reboot of “Hellboy” starring David Harbour as Big Red, the stop-motion animated “Missing Link,” the Ethan Hawke bank heist “Stockholm” and the kid-friendly “Mia and the White Lion” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
At the end of “The Best of Enemies,” a new historical drama starring Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell, we meet the real-life inspirations for the characters. Like so many based-on-a-true story films that have come before it, it feels as though a documentary about the actual folks would have been more enjoyable than the recreation.
Set in 1971 North Carolina, Henson plays Ann Atwater, an African-American civil rights activist. Her group, Operation Breakthrough, aids local people with legal advice, housing and a multitude of other social concerns. It’s an uphill battle. Atwater often finds herself at odds with the openly racist town council. One member even turns his chair away when Atwater speaks. Providing unofficial support to the council is good-old-boy C.P. Ellis (Rockwell), president of the town’s KKK chapter.
When the council rules to send Black kids back into an unsafe school the NAACP gets involved, forcing the council to bring the issue before a community charrette, essentially a ten day a meeting in which town folk on both sides of the problem come together to debate. Community organizer Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) chooses two unlikely co-chairs, Atwater and Ellis. Both are unsure if they can work together but the stakes are too high on either side for them to decline the invitation. “Riddick is about to hand the keys to school integration,” says town official Carvie Oldham (Bruce McGill), “and you are going to lock the door.”
After a tense start the sworn enemies find common ground. Despite her personal feelings for Ellis, Atwater responds to his family situation with empath and compassion. Ellis begins to acknowledge the frustration and helplessness of the people he has held in such little regard for his entire life.
“The Best of Enemies,” comes with the best of intentions. Writer-director Robin Bissell details the lives of the two main characters but, it must be asked, How, in a movie about school integration, is the focus on Ellis? It seems tone deaf to present a story of integration in schools that features a climactic speech by a KKK president. Ellis’s life is presented in detail. We learn about his family life, business and spend time inside several KKK gatherings, including one where he is named the region’s Exulted Cyclops. Trouble is, we don’t get the same info on Atwater. Henson does an admirable job of breathing life into the character but Atwater is more or less treated like a supporting player in her own story.
It’s not to say “The Best of Enemies” doesn’t have some interesting moments. Civil rights icon Howard Clement (Gilbert Glenn Brown) delivers a stirring speech detailing a parent’s love for their child, adding “our kids have a whole different menu of pain to deal with.” In smaller moments like that the film’s message of bridge building and empathy ring loud and clear. It is just a shame that this historically significant tale suffers from a skewed POV and predictable plotting.
Richard and CP24 anchor Travis Dhanraj talk about the weekend’s big releases, including Seth Rogen’s smarter-than-you-think “Sausage Party,” “Pete’s Dragon,” a new look at Disney’s most famous dragon and Meryl Streep as the world’s worst singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the family friendly “Pete’s Dragon,” the un-family smörgåsbordof swears and smut that is “Sausage Party” and the marvellously off key “Florence Foster Jenkins. ”
“Pete’s Dragon” is a reboot of a much-loved 1977 Disney musical starring Helen Reddy as the kind-hearted daughter of a lighthouse keeper who adopts Pete, a young boy whose best friend is a dragon named Elliot. Pete and the dragon are back but the songs and Helen Reddy are gone, replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard and an updated look at the story.
Wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) likes to tell tale tales about a dragon who lives nearby in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. But are they really tall tales? His daughter, forest ranger Grace (Howard), thinks they are until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley), a feral 10-year-old mystery boy who says he has survived, solo, in the woods for six years. “Nobody can survive in a forest for six years,” says Mr. Meacham, “at least not alone.” “He says he wasn’t alone,” replies Grace.
Seems Pete’s story echoes the tales Mr. Meacham has been telling about a giant, furry green dragon. The boy says the beast’s name is Elliott (voice of John Kassir). “I need to get back to him,” says Pete. “He gets scared when he’s alone.”
Rather then turn the boy over to Social Services Grace decides to discover if Elliot is real or figment of her father and Pete’s imaginations. “I know these words like I know the back of my hand,” she says. “I couldn’t have missed a dragon.” “Well, you missed Pete,” says her dad.
She enlists the help of her father and Natalie (Oona Laurence), the daughter of Jack (Wes Bentley), the local lumber mill owner. Complicating her search is Jack’s aggressive brother Gavin (Karl Urban) who thinks the dragon is dangerous and plans on capturing it. “Going to go catch a dragon,” he says in a note to his brother.
There be dragons in “Pete’s Dragons,” but “Game of Thrones” this ain’t. As subtle and underplayed as a movie about a dragon can be, the movie is so gentle even the death of Pete’s parents is handled with kid gloves. Instead of wowing the audience with action director David Lowery aims for the heart and hits a bull’s-eye.
The touching story of a boy and his dragon is actually about family and where you find it. The snaggletooth dragon is Pete’s adopted father, a playful gentle giant—he large enough to cover the entire flatbed of an 18 wheeler—who purrs like a kitten and chases his own tail but is fiercely protective of the young boy. It’s a familiar theme in Disney films but Lowery knows that sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re true. He establishes the relationship between Pete and Elliott early on and it is at the heart of the story.
“Pete’s Dragon” feels somewhat old fashioned, harkening back to a time when kid’s movies didn’t contain an ounce of cynicism. This is a simply told story that succeeds because it boils the fanciful tale down to its basics, the power of belief, relationships and friendship… and tops it all off with a cool dragon.
Zac Efron became a teen heartthrob with the success of the High School Musical movies and then did everything possible to decimate and alienate the core audience that made him a star.
He rightly realized that the shelf life of a young Disney star was limited and turned his attention to making serious but little seen films like Parkland, At Any Price and The Paperboy, an art house film better known for a scene utilizing an age-old cure for a jellyfish sting you don’t normally see administered by an Oscar winner like Nicole Kidman.
His latest movie, We Are Your Friends, the first major-studio film set in the world of electronic dance music, is a mix of music and romance that sees Efron play an aspiring DJ who falls in love with his mentor’s girlfriend.
It’s a role that should appeal to his original fanbase, the kids who have aged out of High School Musical and now listen to EDM, where his other screen choices seem to have left them behind. Occasionally he’s thrown them a bone, with popcorn movies like New Year’s Eve, or Neighbors, where he plays the prerequisite 20-something good-looking Hollywood hunk.
Take That Awkward Moment for instance. He played an avowed hook-up artist, a young guy who would rather hang out with his best friends Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) than have a meaningful relationship with a girl. In time-honoured rom-com fashion, it’s a movie that takes advantage of its leading man’s blue eyes and sculpted abs. Efron’s hair is practically a character in the film.
Perhaps while making The Lucky One, a Nicolas Sparks romance co-starring Taylor Schilling, it occurred to him that simply watching good-looking people fall in love does not a movie make.
I couldn’t help but think that Efron, when he says to Schilling’s character Beth, “I know you deserve better than this,” was actually speaking to the audience.
Luckily his other films are less about his looks and more about his ability. The Paperboy is an odd film. It’s an art house thriller — meaning that there aren’t many thrills — in which each of its stars do some fairly intense envelope pushing in a story about a reporter returning to his native Florida to investigate a murder.
Paired with risk-taking actors like Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey, Efron works hard to shake off the early teen idol gloss that made him famous. He mostly succeeds, although director Lee Daniels’s camera still caresses the actor, taking full advantage of his effortless appeal.
In Me and Orson Welles, Efron is overshadowed by an actor playing a man who died many years before the core audience of this movie was even born. Christian McKay plays Orson Welles with such panache that Efron becomes a supporting player in his own movie but still makes a strong impression as a teenager with dreams of being on stage in this handsomely mounted period piece.
Other films like At Any Price, a 2012 powerful tale of fathers and sons and the pressure to succeed, have shown not only his depth but his willingness to stretch as an actor.
So why does Efron, who could have a movie franchise career in a heartbeat, look past the obvious career path?
Efron told the Hollywood Reporter that his often eclectic acting choices are always artistic in nature and never about money.
“I’m constantly searching for characters that are about betterment of self and betterment of others,” he says. “And I’m searching for those parts because those are the ones that make me happy. They’re the ones that fulfil me personally.”
“We Are Your Friends,” the first studio movie set in the world of electronic dance music, can be looked at two ways.
In its most basic form it’s a romance about a young, ambitious DJ trying to make a name for himself but a closer look reveals more.
Cole, played by Zac Efron, learns the hard way that real art, something that comes from the heart and really means something, doesn’t come in shiny happy packages but is the result of life experience.
Like Cole, it’s not hard to imagine that the former teen heartthrob has learned a thing or two in his twenty-eight years. In a search for more interesting roles he’s tried his best to alienate the audience who first fell in love with his High School Musical good looks and charm. I’m not saying that “We Are Your Friends” is great art, but Efron’s involvement suggests that this coming of age story might be his first truly adult role.
The film begins in the San Fernando Valley, a metaphor for the disconnect its characters—Cole, Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer)—feel to the glamorous life of Hollywood. Bright lights, fame and fortune are literally just around the corner but may as well be a thousand miles away. The quartet has a plan, however. They promote a Thursday club show and have dreams of stardom.
Cole gets a leg up from superstar DJ James Reed (Wes Bentley), a troubled guy who teaches the younger man about finding his true path and making music that reflects his life. Complications arise when Cole jumps into bed with James’s girlfriend / assistant Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).
“We Are Your Friends” is a simple story about aspirational behaviour that effectively speaks to millennial angst with one repeated chorus: “Are we ever going to be better than this?” The message is wrapped in a slickly made movie with an interesting dynamic between Cole and James—Bentley absolutely nails James’s world-weary narcissism—and an energetic relationship between the four friends.
On the downside, the romance, which is the catalyst for much of the action, is the least interesting thing about the film. Ratajkowski is a slinky presence, a whirlwind on the dance floor, but aside from pillowy lips doesn’t bring much excitement to the role. Like many of the plot devices used here Cole and Sophie’s fling is a given. The movie telegraphs many of its twists and you know form the moment they meet that something will happen between the two.
What is less expected is the powerful climax. This is a no spoiler zone, but I will say “We Are Your Friends” concludes with a sequence that not only speaks to Cole’s ambitions but makes a larger statement about his generation. “Are we ever going to be better than this?” It’s a potent question and by asking it Efron speaks to a legion of cut adrift twentysomethings whose lives will be much different than the lives of their parents.
In many ways “We Are Your Friends” is a teen movie but Cole’s coming-of-age and Efron’s performance feels very grown up.