Someday Jodie Foster will reward us by taking a role that's worthy of her immense talent. But until then we'll make do with yet another of her noble efforts to make enlightening mainstream studio productions. The Brave One has the pedigree, budget and buzz-worthy patina of quality to ensure trophy talk, but it lacks a rationale to justify its bizarre metaphorical excesses. Foster stars as Erica Bain, an Ira Glass-style monologist who engages her public radio listeners with textured audio love letters to NYC, in all its messy, vibrant complexity.
A student of famed documentarian Errol Morris, New York-based Jason Kohn adopts his mentor’s excitable visual style and convoluted storytelling to splashy but confusing effect. Bouncing from one subject to the next and back again, it takes nearly half the film for Kohn’s jumbled puzzle pieces to present a meaningful picture. It’s an ambitious attempt to jazz up the political, but the young director’s brash style often undermines the impact of his ideas. Still, there’s no denying the hallucinatory power of juxtaposing Sao Paolo’s sun-bleached cosmopolitanism with its ferocious underbelly of corruption, indigence and crime, especially when watching the obscenely rich commute in bulletproof sedans and private helicopters in order to avoid the retaliating masses.
Florida hot sauce mogul Billy Mitchell is exactly the kind of guy you’re dying to see knocked down a peg. Featured as the ultimate video game champion in a 1982 issue of LIFE magazine, for 20-plus years his score at Donkey Kong (and Donkey Kong Jr.) went unchallenged and — in the world of video game geeks — he was God. Then there’s Steve Wiebe; the gee-shucks, straight-laced family man who can’t seem to get a break. Laid off from his Boeing job the day he signed on his new house, he’s the kind of guy used to coming in second. Unemployed and looking for a distraction, he decides to go for the world record score on a vintage Donkey Kong arcade game. With the benefit of fantastic hand-eye coordination and a healthy dose of OCD, that modest goal seems not only possible but probable. And so the stage is set for the battle of the century. Don’t believe it? I defy you to find a sports film from the last year that matches the competitive twists and thrills in this documentary from Seth Gordon.
Billy Bob Thornton plays, again, a mean man who says extremely nasty things to children. It's a time-honored formula that flops here, because Thornton's Mr. Woodcock is merely a petty little sadist in zip-up sweats. John Farley (Seann William Scott) is a former Woodcock "victim" who overcame his childhood demons to become a successful self-help author. But when he returns to his small Midwestern town to accept an award, he discovers that his old nemesis Woodcock is "boning his mom." Oh, how amusing.
For the hyperaware 6-year-old Vitus von Holzen (Fabrizio Borsani), it isn't hard to see the moment he changed from a beloved and indulged precocious boy to a child prodigy whose future must be managed. It happened the night his formerly bohemian parents were celebrating their upward mobility with a party at their newly-furnished modest apartment, working hard to impress the colleagues of the kid's father, Leo (Urs Jucker), an engineer and inventor. Resentful of Leo's rapid ascent, some questioned his wife, Helen (Julika Jenkins), when she claimed Vitus could play the complex classical pieces whose sheet music rested on their upright piano. So Helen collects her petulant son to prove them wrong. Trotted out to perform for the guests, Vitus is reluctant and defiant, but soon capitulates to his mother's wishes, a response that would mark his relationship with her for years to come.
When aspiring actor William (Mark Webber) meets aspiring singer Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno) in a New York City bar, he quickly finds himself caught up in a nervous dance of delirious infatuation and awkward advances. Every moment of William and Sarah’s budding romance is dizzy with possibility but sober with uncertainty. When intimacy turns into talks of marriage and William is head over heels in love, we know from his voiceover that he’s headed for a fall. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by its director, Ethan Hawke, The Hottest State is an achingly heartfelt and surprisingly touching portrait of love-struck idiocy.
Despite a few jarring notes, this is the real deal — house-made pasta, fresh sauces, traditional dishes at reasonable prices; you can imagine somebody’s mama in the kitchen. The menu is much too long to do justice to — there are calzone, panini and pizza as well as 53 entrées, including veal, stuffed pastas and seafood. Highest praise must go to spaghetti carbonara “alla Bocelli,” osso buco and gnocchi Rita. Other possibilities range from linguine arrabbiata to linguine with shrimp, scallops and whitefish through veal chops, veal piccata and sautéed cod (baccala). And yes, you can add meatballs to any of the pasta dishes. The other special deal is free a cannoli on your birthday.