Friday, August 26, 2016


Opening this weekend:

Don’t BreatheIt’s sort of like Wait Until Dark in reverse: Three crooks are in a blind person’s home, but this time they’re the victims and the blind person is the menace.

Like the 2014 chiller It Follows, this shocker is set in the deserted economic wasteland of Detroit. It follows a trio of attractive young burglars (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) who learn of a blind guy living in the last occupied home in his ghost-town neighborhood, and reportedly sitting on a fortune.

They get into the once-beautiful, now fortified house, and discover that the man in question (Stephen Lang), a Iraq war veteran with, apparently, some specialized training, may be sightless, but he isn’t helpless, and has reasons beyond protecting his money to want them not to escape. They’re soon fighting for their lives.

Directed by the Uruguayan Fede Alvarez from a script he wrote with Rodo Sayagues, Don’t Breathe has some obligatory scenes early on meant to make us sympathize with the robbers. From there, though, it gets off to a sensational start—tense, atmospheric, simultaneously poignant and grimly funny.

After a while, the strain of maintaining its rather narrow central premise starts to show, but just as the complications are starting to seem contrived, Alvarez and Sayagues throw us an unsavory, messed-up plot twist that I didn’t see coming. And then, just as that’s sunk in, they throw us an even more unsavory, more messed-up plot twist that I really didn’t see coming. How plausible it all is, I can’t say, but it’s nasty and wild and I, at least, hadn’t seen it before.

Jane Levy are Dylan Minnette are likable (Zovatto is odious, on purpose), but what elevates the film from mere skillful lurid thrills is Stephen Lang. With only a few lines, spoken in a disused croak, and his craggy face adorned in a regal halo of silver-gray hair, he brings a Shakespearean bearing to this boogeyman part. The veteran Lang is a great actor who’s never quite had a great movie role, but through sheer force of his presence he makes this one come pretty close.

Opening in the Valley at Harkins Shea, and also available on DirecTV:

 Morris From America Markees Christmas plays the title role in this coming-of-age tale. He’s a 13-year-old black kid from New York living with his widowed dad (Craig Robinson) in Heidelberg, Germany.

An aspiring rapper whose chubby cheeks undercut his attempt at a badass scowl, Morris is a miserable stranger in a strange land but, encouraged by his Dad, he gamely tries to make some German friends, and catches the interest of a flirtatious blond (Lina Keller). She probably honestly likes him well enough, but she really likes his potential to upset her mother. She gets Morris into mischief, with his eager consent.

Simply and tightly written and directed by Chad Hartigan, Morris From America is one of the funnier and sweeter films I’ve seen this year. Christmas makes an impressive movie debut as Morris, and he shows a nice rapport with Carla Juri as his German tutor. But the standout performance is by Craig Robinson as his Dad, trying to communicate with his kid, wanting him to experience life while knowing full well that he’s having the sort of adventures that terrify parents—trying, simply, to stay calm.

In the opening scene, the Dad, an old-school rap nut himself, tells Morris that he’s grounded, on the charge of “liking terrible music.” I wasn’t aware that this was a parental prerogative. Good to know.

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