Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finding Dory, Central Intelligence, The Witness, Tickled, From Afar (Desde Allá), Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

Finding Dory (my rating)
Finding Dory (Scruffies' rating)

Central Intelligence
The Witness


From Afar (Desde Allá)
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

Time for your hebdomadal movie roundup, and this one's a mixed bag:

An amazing amount of talent has gone into the slow-in-coming Pixar sequel "Finding Dory" - as the looong end credits attest - but the result earns technical appreciation more than a place in the heart. Nothing that follows matches the poignancy of the moment early on when Dory loses her parents and her way and, plagued by short-term memory loss, cannot even convey her predicament to her fellow sea creatures. The movie offers a number of smiles and a few chuckles, but too rarely breaks from its convoluted and repetitive plot for a bit of quiet, let alone subtlety. Big and Little enjoyed their night out at "Dory" in honor of National Big Scruffy Day, though Little was scared on a few occasions.

"Central Intelligence" sorely disappoints, wasting the comic talents of Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson in a ridiculous and disposable plot about the handoff of secret codes that will, presumably, entitle the evildoer who acquires them to world domination. I nodded off repeatedly in this two hour movie, of which I'd watch only the last few minutes and the end credit blooper reel on a plane.

The pick of the week is James Solomon's documentary "The Witness," in which Bill Genovese goes behind the New York Times headline to find out the truth about his sister Kitty's 1964 murder -- supposedly seen by 38 people, none of whom (the story went) intervened or telephoned authorities -- that became an emblem of bystander apathy in the city and in America. Bill - through rigorous research and by asking questions and genuinely listening to the answers - exposes both the agenda-driven reporting and editing of the Times and the sloppy complicity of other media outlets, including "60 Minutes," that for decades took the Times' story at face value. Just as compelling as the journalistic aspect of "The Witness" is its necessarily incomplete but rich portrait of the lovely Kitty Genovese, whose lesbianism was an open secret at the bar she managed, and of the effect of the saga on Bill, who lost both legs in Vietnam determined not to be the sort of apathetic bystander the Times had portrayed.

I also recommend David Farrier's and Dylan Reeve's bizarre and funny documentary "Tickled," in which Farrier, a sort of Kiwi equivalent of CNN's Jeanne Moos, incurs the wrath of a clandestine, litigious and anti-gay company called Jane O'Brien Media by investigating who is behind its online videos involving a number of handsome, athletic young men (many of them would-be MMA fighters) in a homoerotic "sport" it calls "Competitive Endurance Tickling." Sharp viewers - or anyone with experience in the tickling or similar "scenes" - will likely deduce the tawdry truth early on, dissipating some of the movie's intended aura of mystery. But there are still lots of "you can't make this stuff up" laughs.

Lorenzo Vigas' Venezuelan import "From Afar" ("Desde Allá") - which won the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival - introduces us to Armando (Alfredo Castro in a fine performance), a middle-aged maker of dental molds who hires Caracas street boys to come to his apartment and partially undress for him while he masturbates. One day he solicits a tough mechanic's apprentice named Elder (Luis Silva), who comes to his apartment but decks and robs Armando rather than disrobing for him. Nevertheless, Armando is infatuated with Elder and brings him back for more abuse and cash rape. "From Afar" is ponderously slow in parts and involves several actions by the two men that either lack credulity or for which insufficient groundwork has been laid. I can't recommend paying first-run prices to see it. The ending, though, is a doozy, wise and truthful about how even the most submissive john wields ultimate control over the dominant he pays.

Finally, a name to remember: French director Eva Husson, who with her happy-go-lucky debut, the teen group-sex roundelay "Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)," evinces an eye for image composition, a wit with the beginnings and endings of scenes (and the segues between them), and an ear for how young people talk that portend even stronger work ahead.

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