Frameline is underway! Plus: crooners, ping-pong champs, and more, in new movies

|
(0)
What happens in Vegas: Kevin Hart and Romany Malco in star in comedy sequel Think Like a Man Too.
Photo by Matt Kennedy

Frameline 38, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival, kicked off last night and runs through June 29; check out our big list o' blurbs right here. Elsewhere, Clint Eastwood directs a musical, Guy Pearce prowls the outback, a very good suburban noir emerges from the Netherlands, a documentary takes on the cost of higher education, and more! Read on for the goods (and bads). 

 Borgman Popping out from his underground hidey hole, narrowly escaping organized armed vigilantes — indicating an ongoing, possibly global secret battle this movie is content to leave entirely unexplained — the titular figure (Jan Bijvoet) shambles to a nearby home and demands comfort. Refused, he persists, and housewife Marina (Hadewych Minis) acquiesces — at first on the sly, as husband Richard (Jeroen Perceval) has already beaten their paunchy, disheveled, weird would-be guest. But soon Borgman is insinuating himself with the well-off suburban couple’s three children, gradually warping the family dynamic until he has everyone under his power. You’ve seen this kind of “Enigmatic stranger invades complacent bourgeoisie home, wreaks liberating and/or terrifying havoc” thing before, both in thrillers and in artier parables from Teorema (1968) to The King (2005). There is nothing wildly original about Dutch filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam’s seductive, macabre black comedy in outline, not its satire of oblivious upper-middle-class entitlement or even (perhaps especially) when the too-generous hosts and any unlucky interlopers start getting killed off one by one. You can debate Borgman’s precise point, or whether it has one at all. But there’s a tart, bracing quality to this cruel absurdist joke that is as perversely delightful as the film is utterly misanthropic. (1:53) (Dennis Harvey)

A Coffee in Berlin How do you say "mumblecore" in German? Jan Ole Gerster's debut feature has certain arty pretensions — it's shot in black-and-white, and scored with peppy jazz — but it's more or less a rambling day in the life of law school dropout Niko (Tom Schilling). It happens to be the very day Niko's golf-loving father decides to stop funding his shiftless son's slacker lifestyle, though that crisis (which, you know, Lena Dunham built an entire HBO comedy around) receives nearly equal heft as a cutesy ongoing gimmick that sees Niko incapable of getting a cup of coffee anywhere in Berlin. Hipster ennui can be compelling if it has some underlying energy and purpose (see: 2013's Frances Ha, to which this film has been compared), but A Coffee in Berlin comes up short on both. That said, it does offer an intriguing portrayal of Berlin — a city whose modern-chic façade barely contains the history that haunts it — and some of its supporting characters, particularly Friederike Kempter as a former schoolmate of Niko's who has outgrown him emotionally by about one thousand percent, provide pleasant enough distractions. (1:28) (Cheryl Eddy)

Fateful Findings Oh my. With the technical sophistication of Birdemic (2008), Doris Wishman-worthy attention to superfluous detail, and the obliviousness of The Room (2008) toward any semblance of narrative or character continuity, this supernatural drama — or, uh, something like that — is making a bid to be the latest so-bad-it’s-surreal midnight movie hit. Writer-director-producer-editor-star Neil Breen, a man of many hats if no apparent talents, plays Dylan, a writer. As a child, he and friend Leah had found a mushroom that turned into a jewelry box (““Look what I found! A treasure! It’s a magical day!”), and which will come to effect their lives in ways that never make any sense whatsoever. They reunite as re-infatuated adults (Jennifer Autry now playing Leah), which is bad news for the pill-popping wife (Klara Landrat) Dylan is kinda over anyway. Meanwhile, their friends Jim (David Silva) and Amy (Victoria Valene) fight a lot, because he drinks to compensate for their nonexistent sex life, and she’s just incredibly bitchy. Eventually we realize that Dylan is working on a new book that will shockingly expose the rampant global corporate and political corruption that apparently no one has ever noticed before. The climax, which must be seen to be believed, has him triumphantly announcing these (extremely vague) revelations to the cheers of invisible thousands, while disgraced officials are seen committing suicide en masse rather than, you know, retiring to the Canary Islands. There’s a fine line between the hilarious and tortuous that is exactly where Fateful Findings lives. With its flatlined pacing, not-from-this-planet dialogue (Dylan straight facedly tells a dead body “I can’t help you outta this one”), gratuitous nudity, and curious insistence that its characters express emotions by throwing things (laptops, pieces of meat, etc.), this inscrutable vanity project is indeed unique. What it lacks to get you through the (many) boring parts is the compelling personality of a Tommy Wiseau — Breen is (like everyone here) awful, but he’s just a zero onscreen, not a fascinating weirdo. You will want to be drunk for this movie. (1:40) Clay. (Dennis Harvey)

Ivory Tower The latest "issue doc" to come down the pipeline is this very timely and incisive look at the cost of higher education from director Andrew Rossi (2011's Page One: Inside the New York Times). Rossi is a Yale and Harvard Law grad, and he begins his film in the hallowed halls of the latter to frame the question: In the era of skyrocketing tuition, and with the student loan debt hovering at a trillion bucks, is college still worth it? The answer is left open-ended, though with the very strong suggestion that nontraditional education (including community colleges, online learning, and the Silicon Valley-spawned "uncollege" movement) is certainly something worth exploring, particularly for the non-wealthy. Along the way, we do see some positive tales (a kid from the mean streets of Cleveland gets a full-ride scholarship to Harvard; students at rural Deep Springs College follow philosophy discussions with farm work; African American women at Spelman College thrive in an empowering environment), but there's a fair amount of cynicism here, too, with a hard look at how certain state schools are wooing deep-pocketed out-of-staters with fancy athletic stadiums, luxurious amenities, and a willingness to embrace, however unofficially, their hard-partying reputations. Segments following a student protest at New York's Cooper Union, a formerly free school forced to consider collecting tuition after a string of financial troubles, echo Frederick Wiseman's epic At Berkeley (2013), a thematically similar if stylistically very different work. (1:37) (Cheryl Eddy)

Jersey Boys The musical that turned the back story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — the 1960s hit making machines behind upbeat doo-wop ditties like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like a Man," and a zillion more; you will recognize all of them — into Broadway gold ascends to the big screen thanks to director Clint Eastwood, a seemingly odd choice until you consider Eastwood's own well-documented love of music. Jersey Boys weaves a predictable tale of show biz dreams realized and then nearly dashed, with a gangster element that allows for some Goodfellas-lite action (a pre-fame Joe Pesci is a character here; he was actually from the same 'hood, and was instrumental in the group's formation). With songs recorded live on-set, à la 2012's Les Misérables, there's some spark to the musical numbers, but Eastwood's direction is more solid than spontaneous, with zero surprises (even the big finale, clearly an attempt at a fizzy, feel-good farewell, seems familiar). Still, the cast — including Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli, and Christopher Walken as a sympathetic mobster — is likable, with Young in particular turning in a textured performance that speaks to his years of experience with the role. Interview with cast members Young, Michael Lomenda (who plays original Four Season Nick Massi), and Erich Bergen (as Bob Gaudio, the member who wrote most of the group's hits), right here. (2:14) (Cheryl Eddy)

Ping Pong Summer Eighties teen flicks of the My Bodyguard (1980), smart-dweebs-beat-the-bullies ilk are paid homage in Michael Tully's deadpan satire, which is closer in spirit to the Comedy of Lameness school whose patron saint is Napoleon Dynamite. Radley (Marcello Conte) is an average teen so excited to be spending the summer of 1985 in Ocean City, Md. with his family that he renames himself "Rad Miracle." He acquires a new best friend in Teddy (Myles Massey), who as the whitest black kid imaginable might make even Rad look cool by comparison. However, they are both dismayed to discover the local center for video gaming and everything else they like is ruled by bigger, older, cuter, and snottier douchebag Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry) and his sidekick. Only kicking Lyle's ass at ping pong — with some help from a local weirdo (a miscast Susan Sarandon, apparently here because she's an off screen ping pong enthusiast) — can save Rad's wounded dignity, and the summer in general. A big step up from Tully's odd but pointless prior Septien (2011), this has all the right stuff (including a soundtrack packed with the likes of the Fat Boys, Mary Jane Girls, New Edition, Whodini, and Night Ranger) to hilariously parody the era's inanities. But it's just mildly amusing — a droll attitude with lots of period detail but not much bite. (1:32) Roxie. (Dennis Harvey)

The Rover Future days have never seemed quite so bleak as they are depicted in the wild, wild Aussie west of The Rover — rendered by Animal Kingdom (2010) director David Michod, who co-wrote The Rover with Joel Edgerton. Let's just say we're probably not going to see any primo Burner ensembles inspired by this post-apocalyptic yarn: Michod ventures to a plausible future only a decade out, after a global economic collapse, and breaks down the brooding road trip to its hard-boiled bones, setting it in a beauteous, lawless, and unceasingly violent outback. A heist gone wrong leads a small gang of robbers to steal the car belonging to monosyllabic, ruthless mystery man Eric (Guy Pearce). The latter wants his boxy little sedan back, badly, and, in the cat and mouse game that ensues, seems willing to die for the trouble. Meanwhile, one of the gang of thieves — the slow, dreamy Rey (Robert Pattinson), who has been left to die of a gunshot wound in the dirt — turns out to be more of a survivor than anyone imagined when he tracks down the tracker hunting for his brother and cohorts. Michod seems most interested in examining and turning over the ties that bind, in a mean time, an eminently absurdist moment, when everything else has fallen away in the face of sheer survival. Cineastes, however, will appreciate the elemental, existential pleasures of this dog-eat-dog Down Under out-Western, not the least of which include the performances. Pearce's rework of the Man With No Name exudes intention in the very forward thrust of his stance, and Pattinson breaks his cool — and the confines of typecasting — as a blubbering, babbling, thin-skinned man-child. Clad in the mystic expanses of the South Australia desert, which tip a hat to John Ford Westerns as well as scorched-earth-of-the-mind movies such as El Topo (1970) and Paris, Texas (1984), The Rover is taken to the level of tone poem by the shuddering, moaning cellos of Antony Partos's impressive, atonal electroacoustic score. (1:42) (Kimberly Chun)

Think Like a Man Too Kevin Hart and company head to Vegas in this sequel to the 2012 hit comedy based on Steve Harvey's best-selling relationship tome. (2:02)

Comments

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.