Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Pablo Solarz's magical THE LAST SUIT opens -- finally! -- in New York and Los Angeles

When The Last Suit (El último traje) opened here in South Florida -- seven months ago! -- it had a hugely successful run, remaining in local theaters for weeks. It is finally reaching New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere around the country, so a re-post for this wonderful movie is necessary.

There's no way to know, I think, as THE LAST SUIT (El último traje) begins, and an old and infirm grandfather gets into a very funny and bizarre conversation with his favorite grand-daughter, just where in hell this movie could possibly be heading. Before long it turns into a road trip, peopled with a host of wonderful characters brought to life by a splendid cast. At heart, though, it is a family saga/memory piece, by the finale of which, you may find yourself, as did I, in a puddle of quiet tears that have been absolutely earned by every moment that has come before.

Made by Pablo Solarz (shown at left), the movie boasts a filmmaker who has had quite an interesting history so far --  from the lovely little surprise, Intimate Stories (which he wrote), to A Husband for My Wife, a script that has been made into a film three times already, in three different languages: Spanish, Italian and Korean.

With The Last Suit, which works beautifully in every one of its many aspects, and which Solarz both wrote and directed, I suspect that this relatively young filmmaker may have a hard time topping himself. If he does, TrustMovies dearly hopes he will still be around to see the result.

What makes this movie work so well is how filled it is with empathy and compassion. This is neither overdone nor all that apparent for awhile, however, because its main character, Abraham Bursztein, played by that crack Argentine actor Miguel Ángel Solá, above and below, who is so damned perfect in the role of the nasty-but-needy grandpa that, were this an American movie, he'd be an immediate shoo-in for an Oscar nomination (and probably the award itself).

If Solá alone were all the film had to offer, it might be enough, so thoroughly has the actor nailed the infirmities and obscenities of old age, rolling them into a performance that -- via its combination of wit, humor and glum reality -- keeps you at bay even as it forces you to enter and finally empathize with the life of this man.

Fortunately, Abraham either meets or is surrounded by character after character who may initially seem gruff and unpleasant (and who would not be when confronted by a guy like this?) but who, once some understanding of the man and his need kicks in, warms up and comes to his aid. This would include the young fellow (Martín Piroyansky, at left, above) unlucky enough to be seated next to Abraham on a plane,

and the hôtelière (Ángela Molina, above, left) from whom he tries to con a "reduced rate" on his hotel room. What a pleasure it is to see one of Spain's great actresses on view here -- and singing, too! Best of all maybe are two characters our not-quite-hero meets along the way who come to his aid in ways both expected and quite not.

The lovely Julia Beerhold plays a German woman of the post-WWII generation who tries with all her might to both heal and make up for the sins of the past. (See the wonderful documentary Germans & Jews for a further and deeper exploration of this.) How Ms Beerhold's character honors Abraham's wishes proves memorable indeed. His last helper, a hospital nurse played beautifully by Olga Boladz, above, is the final enabler in bringing to a close Abraham's journey.

Along that journey, memory plays a major role, and Solarz's ability to infuse his images (as above) with the same beauty and compassion he feels for all his characters is rather extraordinary. Is The Last Suit sentimental? You bet. But the sentiment here is so earned and welcome, and the tale told so filled with humor, surprise and deep feeling that the result is a road trip very much worth taking, while Mr. Solá's performance is an absolute don't-miss.

From Outsider Pictures , in Spanish with English subtitles, and running a near-perfect 86 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, September 21, in New York City at the AMC Lincoln Square and the Kew Gardens Cinema in Queens, and on Friday, September 28, in Los Angeles in Laemmle's Music Hall and Town Center 5. To see if it will be playing near you, simply click here and then click on IN CINEMAS on the task bar at top.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Lisa D'Apolito's documentary LOVE, GILDA tracks the career of a popular 1970s comedian

Gilda Radner was a very big name during the 1970s and 80s, appearing  regularly on Saturday Night Live (SNL) from 1975-80, doing her own one-woman show on Broadway, and finally appearing in some flop movies toward the end of her career. For fans of this popular comedian -- and there are many now in or approaching their senior years -- LOVE, GILDA, the new bio-documentary directed by Lisa D'Apolito, will probably be a "must."

Although Radner herself wrote a memoir, It's Always Something, which was published almost immediately after her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1989, this new documentary should provide further insight ont and enjoyment from this funny, goofy gal.

Ms D'Apolito, shown at right, weaves a nice tapestry of archival photos and film/video, interviews with other comedians (often of the SNL ilk), friends and relatives who, together with the information gleaned from Gilda herself (she was quite prone to writing/diary-keeping) that provides a pretty decent look into the life and career of a special performer.

As to whether the movie will provide non-fans or younger generations unfamiliar with Radner (shown above and below) an understanding of what made the comic special, TrustMovies is not sure.

The snipits we see of her performing are so brief and all-over-the-place that those who don't know and love her various "characters" -- all or most from her SNL days -- may miss that special appeal. They are likely to come away from the film with more of a sense of how "problemed" she was rather than how funny she could be.

We learn about her various relationships (mostly failed) culminating in the one -- with actor/comedian Gene Wilder (above, right) -- that proved the best for her in terms of love, companionship and caring, if not perhaps creativity or artistry.

Among the celebrities interviewed are Melissa McCarthy (above), Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Chevy Chase and Lorne Michaels (below), each of whose remarks add to the sense of (mostly deserved) hagiography that consistently builds here.

Radner's life, at least as shown here -- plagued by eating disorders and the kind of low-self-esteem that she found it easiest to make fun of first, before others beat her to the punch (the kind of self-deprecating humor that current popular comedian Hannah Gadsby claims to have sworn off for good) -- was more sad than funny, something to be surmounted, rather than enjoyed.

From Magnolia Pictures and running 88 minutes, the documentary opens this Friday nationwide in a limited rollout. Here in South Florida, you can see it at the Lake Worth Playhouse, the Living Room Theater in Boca Raton, and the O Cinema, Miami Beach. Wherever you live, click here to locate the theaters nearest you.

Roger Michell's TEA WITH THE DAMES proves a "must" for fans of four great British actresses

Wild horses couldn't hold back fans of the four great actresses -- Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins -- featured in the new documentary, TEA WITH THE DAMES from viewing this film. All four are indeed Dames (the female equivalent of British knighthood) and their storied careers are covered in some detail and depth in this 81-minute documentary directed by that fine journeyman filmmaker Roger Michell (Notting Hill, The Mother, Le Week-end). The film is non-stop pleasure for fans, of which this quartet has millions.
Mr. Michell, shown at left, makes himself mostly scarce as he records a get-together of the four (this sort of thing happens fairly regularly, we are told, as the women have been fast friends for deacdes now), during which the ladies -- sorry, Dames -- laugh, reminisce, bring each other up to date and finally dare to explore their somewhat limited future possibilities.

Michell and his foursome daren't go too deep. Whenever a sad or distressing subject pops up, there's a pause and we can see that a discordant chord has been struck, of which we may or may not already be aware -- the death of a loved one, a failed relationship -- but this is enough to bring us up short, before we move on to lighter topics.

There's a lovely intimacy to the movie, in which the women, of course, understand that they are being filmed. God knows, they're used to this and so can behave as close to "normal" as the viewer could desire. (That's Smith, above, and Atkins below.)

Ms Plowright (at left, below) has lost her sight (something TrustMovies did not know going into the film) and so proves the saddest of the lot. Not that she herself perhaps feels so sad, but it is she, perforce, who does the least here, and that cannot help but make the viewer sad, given all her fine performances that we remember.

The documentary is shot through with archival photos and snippets of some of the actresses stage, screen and TV work, and this proves an utter delight. Seeing Dench (below) performing as a young woman will make some Americans wish that we'd grown up in Britain, just to have been able to see so much more of her (as well as the others') sterling work.

The in-and-out/past-and-present editing (by Joanna Crickmay and Anthony Wall) is first-rate, and the movie bounces along at a good pace. By the time the women break out the champagne, you'll feel as if you could join right in, so intimate, enjoyable, sometimes even memorable -- that's Smith receiving her "Damehood" from Queen Elizabeth, below -- has been this afternoon "tea."

If America has four comparable actresses with this much exceptional work behind them (and some in front of them, one hopes), particularly in legitimate theater, I can't imagine who they are. Even our Meryl pales in comparison.

From IFC Films and Sundance Selectsthe documentary arrives in New York City this Friday, September 21, at the IFC Center and the Quad Cinema, and then the following Friday, September 28, it hits Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal. Here in South Florida, it opens Friday, October 5 in Coral Gables at the Bill Cosford Cinema, in Miami Beach at the O Cinema, and in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater. If you're not near these locations, don't despair: The film will hit VOD next Thursday, September 27.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Judy Greer's directorial debut, A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS, opens

I am hard pressed to think of another actor whose performances over 21 years -- 129 of them, according to the imdb, and generally in supporting roles most often of the comedic variety -- have garnered her such good will (at least among movie-goers like me) than Judy Greer.

From Jawbreakers and Three Kings through Cursed, The Descendents and the recent Measure of a Man plus countless TV shows, Ms Greer, shown below,  has proven consistently interesting, reliable, funny and smart. When TrustMovies learned of her directing debut via a film entitled A HAPPENING OF MONUMENTAL PROPORTIONS, he was both excited and expectant.

The stellar cast Greer is working with, too, could hardly be bettered and includes Common, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, John Cho, Katie Holmes, Kumail Nanjiani and Keanu Reeves. (Mr. Reeves does not appear until movie's end, but his scene -- taking place mostly in a very colorful restaurant men's room, pictured at bottom -- proves bizarrely memorable.)

So: What's not to like? Let's start with the movie itself, which, although Ms Greer, who has directed well enough to pass muster and has most of her actors achieving as consistent a tone as possible, is working here with a screenplay written by Gary Lundy (below) that pretty much sinks the best intentions of the rest of the cast and crew.

What exactly was Mr. Lundy going for, I wonder? Some kind of satire of American society, hypocrisy, the current workplace and our school system, perhaps? If so, the result is slipshop and half-assed. The plot is undercooked, while certain characters -- the school administrator played by Rob Riggle, for instance -- are overdrawn and banged home with a vengeance.

To note but a single joke gone wrong: the suddenly deceased gardener with the name "Kevin," which of course in the Los Angels area where the movie takes place is so wrong, since all gardeners must be Hispanic. The idea may be funny but given the Lundy/Riggle combination, it is repeated so often, long and loudly that what would have been clever once or twice is instead done to death.

Greer and her very able cast try to put the spin of reality (occasionally hyper-reality) onto this mess, but the script and characterization keep upending them.

There are dead moms aplenty, the school's career day in which parents participate, a workplace coffee machine that gets sabotaged, adultery and its payoff, possible suicide, father-daughter/father-son tsuris and other assorted situations, none of which quite work for either comedy or pathos (and especially not for credibility) but instead begin to make us feel real sadness for the performers caught up all this, especially Common, who works particularly hard as a single dad trying to please his daughter while doing his job, as well as his assistant, played by Ms Garner. (The actor is shown above, left, with Mr. Whitford, who plays his nasty new boss, and below, right, with Storm Reid, who plays his sweet, intelligent daughter.)

Along the way there are some funny and/or enjoyable moments, as well as decent performances, too. But the tale told is too often too nonsensical to hold water yet not nearly clever enough for decent satire. Perhaps I am missing the point that screenwriter Lundy is trying to make -- is he just going for something goofy? -- or don't understand or appreciate the style he's using to accomplish it. But I'd have to call this one a misfire of monumental proportions.

From Great Point Media and running 82 minutes, A Happening of Monumental Proportions opens this Friday in a limited run of theaters across the country. In New York City, it will screen at the Cinema Village, and in the Los Angeles area at both the Laemmle Monica Film Center and the Ahrya Fine Arts

Tip-top giallo: Dario Argento's DEEP RED gets deluxe Blu-ray treatment in an uncut version

When DEEP RED, the fifth full-length film from Italian horror-meister Dario Argento, was first release in the USA back in 1976, 23 minutes were hacked out of it to better make it fit the usual horror-film length. Now that the new Arrow Video Blu-ray is here, in a rich and sparkling transfer that makes the film look considerably better than TrustMovies has ever seen it, we can now assess a film that, even in its bowdlerized version, clearly seemed to be Argento's finest work.

Never one to make too much of plot credibility and depth of character, Signore Argento (shown at left during the time of the film's production) still managed to bring to the fore a certain amount of psychological depth, as well as some social concerns of the time period.

This is particularly true of Deep Red, as shown via this uncut, 127-minute version in which the male fear of gender equality and the under-cutting of machismo entitlement are on full display.

Argento's facility with camera angles and widescreen composition -- his cinematographer was Luigi Kuveiller -- is constant and compelling. How gorgeous and often breath-taking is just about everything we see here -- including the adeptly staged murders!

His star in this film (David Hemmings, below) is once again -- as with his antagonists in Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Cat O' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet -- an "outsider" working in Italy, this time as a jazz pianist and teacher named Marc Daley.

Marc hears and then sees a murder being committed in the building above him and begins to do his own sleuthing to discover some answers, thus putting in danger himself, along with a lot of other folk.

These would include his eventual girlfriend (nicely played by Daria Nicolodi, above and below) and oddball best friend (Gabriele Lavia) plus just about anybody/everybody involved in this twisty tale that begins with a family murder and ends with that family completely wiped out.

The film begins with a nod to the paranormal involving a sleek and still quite beautiful Macha Méril (below, center, of Une Femme Mariée), which gives the plot its initial push -- after which paranormal turns merely murderous.

For a change with Argento, the plot twists build nicely and relatively believably, along with the suspense, and there are fewer jaw-dropping, nonsense moments. The finale, too, comes with a shock and a jolt, and for once does not rely on coincidence or any last-minute rescue by the cavalry. The final shot, too, is a keeper: bloody awful -- and precisely enough.

From Arrow Video and released here in the USA via MVD Entertainment Group, Deep Red (Profondo rosso in the original Italian) hit the street last week, September 4, on Blu-ray -- for purchase and/or rental. As usual with Arrow Video, there is a host of terrific Special Features, including Profond Giallo, a very interesting and intelligent half-hour visual essay on the film by Michael Mackenzie; an interview with Argento about this and others of his films; an interview with star Daria Nicolodi; and another with Claudio Simonetti of the group Goblin who did the music for the movie.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lee Liberman's Sunday Corner for September: HITLER'S CIRCLE OF EVIL via Netflix

We are looking and looking harder at the most violent, amoral dictatorship in the modern era and there are many new WWII movies to satisfy. Are we all preoccupied with the totalitarian state at the same time for the same reason? Despite much difference between the era of Hitler and our own, some similar strains are worrying today. Hitler’s Reich was a cult of trumped up magic and messianic ideology; 2018 is a personality cult of Trump. Cults are not recipes for governance. The 10-part British-made documentary/docudrama, HITLER'S CIRCLE OF EVIL, now streaming on Netflix, depicts the Hitler saga from the point of view of the players in his inner circle — his cabinet of sycophants. The series has generally been lauded for accuracy; it features interviews with assorted historians and docudrama’d visuals. In the period following WWI, moderate politics wasn’t working; the extremes veered further left and right than our own left and right. In the 1920’s-30’s it was communist/socialist versus heroic/messianic. The democratic Weimar Republic had emerged to replace the Kaiser; it struggled to govern during the depression that followed the 1929 Wall Street crash and the dire reparations the Allies imposed on Germany after WWI. Poverty and misery were gifts to the messianic Hitler movement.

Hitler’s story started with Dietrich Eckart, a playwright and poet of the far right and believer in the occult Thule society, which held that Aryans had become weakened by inferior races and sought a messiah, a “genius superman”. Eckart was a founder of the National Socialist Party, which became the Nazi Party. When Hitler spoke at a meeting, Eckart was amazed; here was ‘THE ONE’. Nazi fervor sprang from a theory of mythic Aryan superiority. Eckart’s famous play (making him rich) based on Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ is the story of Germanic superhero, Gynt, struggling against trolls/Jews. (Note that Anti-Semitism had been part of the world landscape almost from the creation of Christianity, long before the Nazi rise. The Reich weaponized Jews, Communists, Allies using propaganda.) Eckart finds in Hitler the rough stone he can polish, who can take the message to the people. (Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, and Roger Stone chose Trump to do the same.) Eckart and Hitler bonded as teacher-pupil, father-son. Near death in 1923, Eckart is said to have written a friend: “Follow Hitler! He will dance, but it is I who will have called the tune…. Do not mourn for me; I shall have influenced history more than any other German.” Hitler called Eckart the spiritual father of Nazism and dedicated Mein Kampf to him.

Next up is Rudolf Hess, a military man, pilot, loyalist to the Thule Society. Hess met Hitler at early party meetings and was besotted. In prison together after the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler’s first and futile attempt to gain power, Hess counseled Hitler to shun violence and win at the ballot box. Uncredited, he helped Hitler write Mein Kampf in prison and supported him head, heart, and soul (an unrelated source reports they were lovers). Following prison, they suppressed the street thuggery of party member and military colleague, Ernst Röhm, and reshaped the Nazi party to win power through elections, losing cycles before they began to win. (Below, Hess with Hitler.)

Hess’s title was deputy Fuhrer but he wasn’t Machiavellian enough to survive the power machinations of the inner circle. In 1941, to regain his Fuhrer’s love, he flew alone, in secret to Britain to offer a peace deal; his British captors found him paranoid and mentally unstable. He was never again free; his colleagues were condemned to death at Nuremberg. Hess aged in Spandau Prison where he hung himself in 1987 at 93.

 After the Nazi’s had won a governing majority in the Reichstag in 1933, a one-party state began to consolidate and Hitler’s inner circle became like cats in a bag, asserts historian Guy Walters. Backstabbing and jockeying for favor and reward were encouraged. Manipulative Martin Bormann, for instance, morphed from drone to queen bee. Hess’s subordinate, Bormann seized on the seemingly mundane job of renovating Hitler’s Bavarian Alps chalet, wooing Hitler with the creation of what would become a grand second house of state. At the new mountain court, the inner circle, ‘the Berghof set’, would be feted and forced to ‘suck up’ to the boss. Bormann, the ’Brown Eminence’, gained control over Hitler’s finances and the party coffers, becoming gatekeeper and requiring servility by the others; Hess was completely marginalized. Bormann and Goring became mortal enemies; Himmler and Goebbels hated each other and both hated Goring. The ‘morality’ of the party became sophistication on one hand and depravity on the other, as Hitler’s chintz sofas were where they made plans to invade Poland and Russia and ‘purify’ Germany. (Below the renovated Berghof “mountain home”, bombed in 1945, now in ruins.)

Heinrich Himmler was thought weird even by Hitler, though both believed in the occult and ‘blood and soil’ mythology. Racial Germanic myths and symbols became Himmler’s religion. Too young for service in WWI, he craved militarism and soon gained a full portfolio of all internal and external police and security, his efficiency amplified by ruthless subordinate Reinhard Heydrich. They oversaw the extermination camps in which 11-14 million mostly Polish and Soviet citizens were killed. But pursuing his fetish, Himmler used camp slave labor to restore and embellish Wewelsburg Castle, dating from the early 1600’s, which he had acquired as an indoctrination center. It became a Nazi Camelot and the spiritual home of the SS where Himmler reenacted his fantasy of being a pre-Christian Saxon king. He took the forked cross (the swastika), a symbol of the sun throughout antiquity, coopting its beauty and humanity, likely forever. Wewelsburg, dubbed Nazi-land, is said to be an excursion for present day Germans as an object lesson of civil society run amok.

Joseph Goebbels: If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. 

Dubbed the ‘Poison Dwarf’, Goebbels was a writer, womanizer, and ground-breaking propagandist. As minister, he controlled the press, including the ‘new media’ of radio and film, and applied commercial advertising to politics, employing slogans and subliminal cues to shape morale and public opinion. Propaganda became the art form under Goebbels that is now practiced cheerfully by our right wing (Stone, Hannity, Carlson, Limbaugh, etc). The external enemies were the Allies who subjugated Germany with reparations; the internal enemies were Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Bolsheviks, and ‘degenerate’ social trends. Below, a poster in the U.S. Holocaust Museum reads: “Behind the enemy powers: the Jew”.

“The fat man ate, drank, and made riotously merry…..” wrote James Holland in World War II Magazine, 2016, about Hermann Göring, head of the Luftwaffe: “Göring’s dandy image made him a persistent figure of ridicule. But Hermann Göring was a colossus in every way: a wily Machiavellian with an outsize IQ, skilled at combining charm, guile, and ruthlessness to get what he wanted…..” Hitler called him “man of steel”. (Cartoon below)

Göring became president of the Reichstag and muscled Hitler’s path to a one-party state. He accumulated oligarchic power and extravagant wealth, but his eye was off the ball — the Luftwaffe was heading into war with capable bombers but ill thought-out, sometimes inhumane deployment of assets. Goring boasted that his fliers would wipe out the Allied retreat from Dunkirk. But the Royal Air Force defended strategically and 338,000 Allied troops escaped. Hubris also misled expectations about the Battle of Britain. British radar and (the first) strategic, coordinated air defense kept the carelessly deployed Luftwaffe at bay (below the Spitfire and Hurricane, British mainstays). That loss led to fighting on two-fronts (European and Soviet) and the Luftwaffe’s slow demise. New jet-powered planes enabled Göring to persuade Hitler that the Luftwaffe could rebound, making him Hitler’s chosen successor to the last few days. But Bormann loathed Göring and convinced Hitler he was a turncoat. Göring was arrested, but soon after, Hitler, Bormann, and the Reich were dead anyway. Himmler took poison after his British capture and Goring took cyanide moments before he was to be hung at Nuremberg.

As defeat closed in on Hitler, he gave the ‘Nero’ order to destroy Germany’s infrastructure. It wasn’t followed, and the rats began to scurry off the ship. A lack of knowledge, rigor, and humanity doomed the Nazi’s; the Allies were in possession of these virtues. In the last year, Hitler deteriorated physically and mentally, swinging from irrational euphoria to out-of-control rage, often hallucinating and delusional. Of all likely disease possibilities put forward by physicians (including tertiary syphilis and Parkinson’s), I like schizoaffective: brief reactive psychoses in a narcissistic personality unable to withstand reality.

The above post is written by our 
monthly correspondent, Lee Liberman

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Demange, Weiss & the brothers Miller's WHITE BOY RICK: a feel-bad film done very, very well

The only other full-length film we've seen from Yann Demange -- a born-in-Paris-but-raised-in-London filmmaker who has worked mostly in British television -- is the behind-enemy-lines action thriller, '71. His latest work, WHITE BOY RICK, is set in Detroit during the last half of the 1980s and is often as quiet and slow-moving as '71 was fast and slick. It is also a kind of real-life bio-pic about the sort of character most bio-pics might avoid: a not-very-bright kid from a not-very-bright family who makes just about all the wrong choices.

And yet, by the end of this sad and surprisingly moving tale of failure and family, I think you'll be glad you got to know Richard Wershe, Jr., and learned his unusual story. Filmmaker Demange, shown at right, along with his screenwriters Andy Weiss and twin brothers Logan and Noah Miller, take their time building story and characters -- especially that of their main one, the young man who became known as "White Boy Rick" because of his seemingly oddball entry into the Black bourgeoisie of the 1980s Detroit. (He was also a leading cog in the Black drug trade of that time and place, which we see and learn a lot about from this more realistic, less melodramatic film.)

The title role is played by a newcomer to film named Richie Merritt (above center), who offers a nearly affectless performance for much of the film that works surprisingly well. Rick seems like a fairly typical "dumb teenager" who keeps his thoughts and feelings close to the vest, only very occasionally letting them go "public." Because he and his family are borderline poor, always living on the brink, you can understand why Rick is so ready to embrace the drug trade.

Playing against young Merritt's affectlessness is that ever-energetic actor Matthew McConaughey as his dad, and the two make an appealing and believable combo. McConaughey tamps down some of his excesses (the kind that made his performance in Gold so much fun) but still brings "Dad" to vibrant life, never more so than in the sweet and moving scene in which he greets his new granddaughter (above).

The supporting ensemble includes a wealth of well-known and quite capable actors, from Jennifer Jason Leigh (above, center) to Rory Cochrane (above, right) and Bel Powley (shown two photos below, at left), plus a raft of excellent Black actors, each of whom nails his or her role and all of whom ought to be better known at this point.

The movie, however, belongs to its two leads, and to its tale of lower-middle class America, black and white, struggling to simply manage a decent life but being used, mostly ill-used, by the establishment and turning to crime to make ends meet.

This is an old story, which Demange and his writers give new life -- even if they do leave out where our "hero," Rick, resided after the end-credits sequence, which is all the more moving for simply using Rick's voice rather than an accompanying image of the "real" person.

From Columbia Pictures and running 110 minutes, the movie opens tomorrow, Friday, September 14, in a number of cities around the country. Click here to find the theaters nearest you.