Perry weaves a very dense screenplay, focused, by turns, on different characters, filled with thinking, self-examination, pain, and longing, with no easy answers. His camera burrows into the story, getting fearlessly close to these dark souls. The author characters are definitely meant to evoke Philip Roth, and the movie even borrows its title font from the famous cover of Roth's Portnoy's Complaint.
Run All Night (Vudu)
Modern-day action star Liam Neeson stars as another one of his appealingly weathered veterans of violence, trying to avoid trouble but unavoidably sucked back in. He plays an aging hitman, Jimmy Conlon, whose grown son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) wants nothing to do with him. Jimmy's pal, gangster Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), also has a son, live-wire drug user/pusher Danny (Boyd Holbrook). When Mike accidentally shoots and kills Danny, Shawn vows revenge on both the son and his father. Jimmy must use all his skills to keep himself and Mike alive.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who made two other Liam Neeson movies (Unknown and Non-Stop), doesn't totally marry his clumsily edited action scenes to the drama, and they can seem obligatory, but he does seem to have an affection for the characters and the way they interact in the little world of their New York neighborhood. Thus, the movie, oddly, becomes more interesting in its slower moments. Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Common co-star.
La Mission (Hulu)
La Mission (2009) was clearly a labor of love for actor Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Traffic, etc.) and his older brother Peter. Both brothers produced, Peter wrote and directed, and Benjamin stars as Che Rivera, a bus driver who has lived in San Francisco's Mission District his entire life and loves to restore cars. He's a widower with a grown son, the bookish Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez). Jesse is gay, and has a white lover (Max Rosenak), but is terrified to tell his father. Meanwhile, Che meets his new neighbor, Lena (Erika Alexander), whom he views suspiciously as a slumming rich girl.
The movie introduces several more characters and situations, but Peter Bratt is less concerned with plot than he is with presenting a portrait--a mural--of this neighborhood and its unique culture. At the center, Benjamin Bratt gives his most in-depth and nuanced performance since his work in Piñero (2001); he knows this guy so well that he can embody him all the way down to his soul.
A Town Called Panic (Fandor)
In some circles, the year 2009 was something of a landmark in animation, with at least a half-dozen great, inventive, and breakthrough features being released. A Town Called Panic (2009) was a little lower on the radar, and fairly strange, but still very much worth seeking out. The characters look like little toy figures with plastic flats stuck to their feet to help them stand up. Horse (voiced by Vincent Patar), Cowboy (voiced by Stéphane Aubier) and Indian (voiced by Bruce Ellison) all live in the same house, and Horse is clearly the one in charge. For Horse's birthday, Cowboy and Indian decide to build a barbecue, but accidentally order too many bricks and destroy the house. This, somehow, sends them on an adventure under the sea and to the center of the earth.
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