La Mission is a well-intentioned film that nonetheless falls head first into the kind of surface-level clichés and stereotypes that are usually reserved for basic cable TV movies. A few decent performances save it from unbearable melodrama and the film has an easygoing pace and rhythm not unlike the low-riding cruises its characters take on Friday nights but it very rarely rings true. Peter Bratt’s (brother of star Benjamin) drama could have been a daringly original slice of life telling a rarely-told story in a typically-unfilmed part of the country but it hits every note that you expect it to hit and none of them ring true.
Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) is a proud father but he’s also a tough, ex-con who happens to be a recovering alcoholic. His son Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez) has clearly been the force in his life that has kept him from going back behind bars and from hitting the bottle once again. Jesse’s a smart, gentle kid but Jesse has a secret – he’s gay. One night, Che discovers Polaroid photos of his son and his boyfriend and the poor kid gets pulled from the closet kicking and screaming. For reasons not quite clear, suddenly the whole neighborhood now knows that Jesse is gay. While Che is trying to come to terms with this curveball, he finds himself drawn to the cute Lena (Erika Alexander) who lives upstairs. Their blossoming love affair helps him find acceptance and even some understanding of his son’s situation. Of course, Latino gangs don’t take too openly to homosexuals and a final act twist adds predictable melodrama to the tale.
My biggest problem with La Mission is the same problem I have with films about Africa that are told through the eyes of the white people who live there. Why isn’t this Jesse’s story? Isn’t there a powerful enough...Read More
Let It Rain is a very French light comedy about character much more than wacky situations. The very talented co-writer/director/star Agnes Jaoui collaborates again with co-writer/star/husband Jean-Pierre Bacri in a piece that will feel a bit too slight and inconsequential for some audiences (even Francophiles) but that features enough quality performances in pursuit of true character development that it merits a recommendation for those who...Read More
M. Night Shyamalan has a lot to answer for. He really hasn’t given audiences anything worthwhile since Unbreakable and even that film met with mixed reactions after the phenomenal success of The Sixth Sense. Once called the “Next Spielberg,” Shyamalan has apparently lost whatever filmmaking common sense he once had. Given the excruciating awfulness of The Happening and the self-indulgent incoherent dribble of...Read More
Taylor Hackford’s Love Ranch is the kind of unabashed embarrassment that should send people to their attorneys to see if there’s any legal way to get it removed from their pages on IMDB, Wikipedia, and the like. It’s hard to put into words how truly horrible the production of the worst screenplay of the year ended up but I will do my best to describe the pain....Read More
It took three movies but those of us who have never read a word of Stephenie Meyer’s melodramatic prose can finally start to understand why the saga of the vampire, the werewolf, and the mopey girl has become an international phenomenon. David Slade’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse is without question the best of the series to date; a film that not only has actual atmosphere and...Read More
If you find the sound of bleating sheep even mildly annoying or the sight of them reminds you of the ones you count to put you to sleep, the new documentary Sweetgrass may not be your best choice. The echo of always-noisy ovine carries through the entirety of Sweetgrass, a film about a migration of thousands of sheep across Montana. At once a nature documentary akin to something...Read More
Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups sure doesn’t seem like it was written by adults. Far from as reprehensibly stupid and offensive as some of Sandler’s previous films (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Longest Yard, Click, etc.), Grown Ups may be the first of this superstar’s high profile vehicles where it feels like his regular director Dennis Dugan (Chuck and Larry,...Read More
Cyrus is not a biopic of the man who gave the world “Achy, Breaky Heart” nor a searing documentary about the tragic fall of a Disney star from pop princess to tabloid joke. No, it is instead a daring comedy about a young man who straddles the line between “eccentric” and “dangerous.” We’ve all met guys like Cyrus, people who vacillate between being interesting personalities and being...Read More
Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me was easily the most divisive film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, provoking walk-outs, boos, and complaints about the festival even booking the movie. What could possibly turn the typically embracing crowd in Park City on a talented filmmaker like Winterbottom (A Might Heart, 24 Hour Party People)? People still react very, very strongly to extreme violence, especially...Read More
Tilda Swinton is one of the best actresses alive. And in much the same way that Alfred Hitchcock made adoring cinematic love letters to his favorite stars of the day, director Luca Guadagnino has created a vehicle that plays perfectly to Swinton’s strengths and frames her like the movie star that everyone should consider he to be. I Am Love is a gorgeous, sensuous drama that...Read More