Here are three films you will have trouble finding in your local mega-plex. If you are lucky enough to have an art house theater in your town get down there, because each one is worth a look.
Here’s quick review looks at: a terrific little film with Morgan Freeman and Paz Vega titled 10 Items or Less (no relation to the television show of the same name), the latest from director Pedro Almodovar, and Nick Nolte, as a drunk umpire in sudden need of a son, in his latest indie flick.
Off the Black: 3 Stars
The tagline for the film is “Would you let this man be your father?” That’s the question Dave (Trevor Morgan) has to ask when a man offers him money to pose as his son at his class reunion. Ray Cook (Nick Nolte) is a drunk loner without family, at least any who speak to him. Ray spends his life umpiring kid’s baseball games, and making VHS tapes for his real son who wants nothing to do with him. Nolte gives a nice turn here as the gruff but injured Ray. Is it exceptional? Not really, but despite it’s small budget this indie film from writer/director James Ponsoldt (Junebug and Hurricane, Coming Down the Mountain) has some charm, which is lacking from many of the theaters at your local mega-plex. Oddly, for “a crude sexual remark,” the film is rated R, (yeah because no PG-13 films contain anything like that). Indie fans, and fans of Nolte, should check it out.
10 Items or Less: 4 Stars
Some movies are just a joy to watch; this is one of those films. Morgan Freeman plays an out-of-work actor considering starring in a independent film. For research he spends time in a grocery store where he meets the checker (Paz Vega) for the “10 Items or Less” express lane. The charming actor and the quirky clerk strike up a friendship and spend the day together discussing life, preparing for Scarlet’s job interview, and shopping at Target. The film proves if you get two good actors and some snappy dialogue all you need is to put the camera down and let them work. Freeman, as expected, is terrific, but it’s Vega who really shines as the fiery but wounded clerk beaten down by life much too soon. You’ll have to search for it, but it’s worth it. Make sure you stay through the credits for the extra scenes (and one of the funniest disclaimers I’ve ever seen).
Volver: 4 Stars
The troubled lives of mothers and daughters is the focus of Spanish film which is a good candidate for Best Foreign Film of the year. The plot follows a woman (Penelope Cruz) dealing with raising her daughter (Yohana Cobo), the death of her mother (Carmen Maura) and aunt (Chus Lampreave), and covering up the murder of her husband (Antonio de la Torre). The films starts out in a typical Hollywood murder cover-up, and I was groaning that other countries might be stealing our crap, but then the film’s layers slowly unfolded and that opening only teased at where the film wouldn’t go. I’m not a big fan of Cruz, just watching her look cute and try to spit out American dialogue makes me crazy, but here in her native language she doesn’t worry and simply acts. And that makes all the difference.