Zach (Trevor Wright) is a promising artist who turned down CalArts to stay in San Pedro and help his irresponsible older sister (played by the amazingly gifted L.A. actress Tina Holmes) care for her little boy. At the beach, Zach, who surfs as often as possible, reconnects with his best friend’s older brother, Shaun (Brad Rowe, above). The two start hanging out and eventually begin an affair, Zach’s first with a man. Like much of this impressive first film from writer-director Jonah Markowitz, Zach and Shaun’s relationship feels authentic and true; you can imagine them being together for a long time to come. Those seeking high drama may be frustrated with the low-key Shelter, but Markowitz has put his faith in small moments, like the little grin that suddenly plays across Zach’s face as he drives home from his first night with Shaun. Wright is a find, while Rowe may surprise those who dismissed him as a Brad Pitt look-alike when he first came to attention in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss. Here, Rowe displays new authority and confidence, as if lately he’s been looking in the mirror and seeing himself, rather than that other, more famous blond. (Chuck Wilson)
"Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be, whether a long string of perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness, the crystalline structure of a gem that has never seen the light, the distributions of fortune, what time the milkman gets up, the position of the electron, or the occurrence of one astonishingly frigid winter after another. Even electrons, supposedly the paragons of unpredictability, are tame and obsequious little creatures that rush around at the speed of light, going precisely where they are supposed to go. They make faint whistling sounds that when apprehended in varying combinations are as pleasant as the wind flying through a forest, and they do exactly as they are told. Of this, one can be certain.
And yet there is a wonderful anarchy, in that the milkman chooses when to arise, the rat picks the tunnel into which he will dive when the subway comes rushing down the track from Borough Hall, and the snowflake will fall as it will. How can this be? If nothing is random, and everything is predetermined, how can there be free will? The answer to that is simple. Nothing is predetermined, it is determined, or was determined, or will be determined. No matter, it all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given—so we track it, in linear fashion, piece by piece. Time, however, can be easily overcome; not by chasing the light, but by standing back far enough to see it all at once. The universe is still and complete. Everything that ever was, is; everything that ever will be, is—and so on, in all possible combinations. Though in perceiving it we imagine that it is in motion, and unfinished, it is quite finished and quite astonishingly beautiful. In the end, or rather, as things really are, any event, no matter how small, is intimately and sensibly tied to all others. All rivers run full to the sea; those who are apart are brought together; the lost ones are redeemed; the dead come back to life; the perfectly blue days that have begun and ended in golden dimness continue, immobile and accessible; and, when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time, justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but as something that is."
In a Mexico City hotel bar, killer-for-hire Julian Noble (Pierce Brosnan), who’s better at whacking strangers than talking to them, offends and later charms business traveler Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), a decent man whose smile doesn’t quite mask the pain he feels over the death of his son. At the bullfights the next day, the two men share a mini-adventure, then Danny heads home to Denver to tell his wife (Hope Davis, transplendent, as ever) about the crazy hit man he met, only to have Julian knock on their door a few months later. “I need your help in facilitating a fatality,” Julian admits, and what follows is a long, beautifully played night of booze and stories—one of my favorite scenes in recent film—as Julian cinches Danny’s help in one last, crazy hit. As imagined by writer-director Richard Shepard, Julian is James Bond gone awry — crude, drunken, freaked — and Brosnan, who has, as both producer and actor (he’s both here), a keen eye for a great script (last year's Seraphim Falls is superb), grabs hold of the character like a man who’s glimpsed divinity. Yet, charms aside, Julian remains a cold-blooded killer; if we care about him, it’s because Danny cares. And maybe Brosnan is so shockingly good in this film because Kinnear gives him the sounding board and safety net that the actor never had in his sadly solitary spy flick duties. Destined to forever be regarded as the nice guy, the underrated Kinnear proves himself a great listener — an all-too-rare acting skill that rarely earns awards or blurbs. He’d make a great bartender. (Chuck Wilson)
Just about every night of the week these days, I arrive home from work, walk the dogs, make some dinner, flick on the tube, and get stopped in my tracks by an episode of the HBO psychotherapy series, "In Treatment". The series, as you probably know, is based on an Israeli TV show by Hagai Levi, adapted for America by Rodrigo Garcia (and assorted writers & directors). Airing five nights a week, the show spies on the weekly therapy sessions, respectively, of: a beautiful woman (Melissa George), a teenage girl (Mia Wasikowska), a Navy pilot (Blair Underwood), and one married couple (Embeth Davidtz & Josh Charles). On Fridays, the therapist (Gabriel Byrne), who's personal life is a disaster (he's in love with a patient; oops), goes to see his own shrink (Dianne Wiest), sometimes accompanied by his pissed-off wife (Michelle Forbes). The actors, one and all, are doing magnificent work, and to single out one from the other is impossible, though when you’re watching them do their magic, on any given night, one at a time, it can seem the most intensely felt performance you’ve seen in ages. (In movie & TV therapy sessions, people cry, one long single tear after another, and who doesn't relish an artful cry?) I often think that good actors—especially character actors, who often toil for years and years in the land of stereotype—when handed a script rich in texture and possibility, must grow momentarily dizzy, knowing in their gut that this is the part, that this is the moment, that here, at last, they'll get to really work. The actor Glynn Turman, who starred 33 years ago in the (still) wonderful inner city comedy, "Cooley High", and on "The Wire" more recently, popped up tonight as the father of a patient who died suddenly last week. The father fears that his son killed himself—the death has been labeled an accident—and he’s come to accuse the shrink of driving his child into a state of hopelessness. But then, moments later, he's blaming himself, as a father will, and then, after a little more talk (he's really talking to himself, not the therapist), he doesn’t know who to blame. Talking it out, he discovers, doesn’t provide resolution so much as illuminate the questions our souls yearn to have asked. That rarely feels like a blessing, and the terror of the world is that for some, those questions are too scary to face, let alone ask aloud. (Chuck Wilson)
THE HAMMER Going in to see The Hammer, the only thing I knew about its star, Adam Carolla, is that he hosts a radio talk show that I’m not likely to ever hear, and that he was once the wise-cracking sidekick to Dr. Drew, the MTV sex advice shrink who’s recently become the go-to rehab guru for fallen “B” list celebrities. I expected slutty women jokes from a radio talk jock movie, but found instead a surprisingly gentle comedy about getting a life at the belated age of forty…a theme I find all-too-resonant these days. Carolla is Jerry Ferro, a beer-guzzling carpenter who moonlights as a boxing instructor at an L.A. fitness gym. Spotted by a big-time coach, Jerry’s invited to train with two young guys who are hoping to make the Olympic boxing team, a goal Jerry would have attained when he was a 19-year-old Golden Gloves champ, if only he hadn’t chickened out. Carolla really was a boxer back in the day, and his athletic chops clearly thrill director Charles Herman-Wurfeld (the terrific Kissing Jessica Stein), who makes a nice running joke out of Jerry’s dazzling fancy-foot jump rope skills. Because the director and screenwriter Kevin Hench keep their comic arrows as modestly aimed as the film’s indie budget, nearly all the jokes in this movieland solidly, including one gag I’ve been quoting all week about a dumb-as-a-board straight-guy boxer who discovers—too late—that boxing in the Gay Olympics isn’t the cakewalk he was expecting. Grounded by Jerry’s believable romance with a public defender (Jessica Stein star Heather Juergensen), The Hammer, which opens Friday, is a genuinely funny little movie that should work for the teen next door and the old couple across the street. How often does that happen? (Chuck Wilson)
I fear this blog is drifting a bit from movies, but maybe that's okay once in a while. I'll swing it back but in the meantime, here is a classic musical moment that really got my heart racing the first time I saw it. It's the beautiful, not-as-famous-as-she-should-be singer, Heather Headley, singing to Elton John at his Kennedy Centers Honors tribute in 2004. She brought the house down, and if she looks particularly emotional, it's because she won a Tony Award for playing the lead in Elton's musical, "Aida". When they cut to the sky box, look for the grin on Annette Benning's face--she's behind honoree Warren Beatty. Annette knows a genius moment when she sees it. Play it loud and enjoy.