Minors and Miners. Films reviewed: After the Wedding, Mine 9, Good Boys

Posted in comedy, Coming of Age, Disaster, Drama, Drones, drugs, Family, Friendship, India, Kids, Movies by CulturalMining.com on August 16, 2019

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Mountains can grow out of moleholes. This week I’m looking at three movies – a disaster, a family drama, and a comedy with kids – about minors facing major difficulties. There are three tweens caught up in adult-type problems, coal miners caught in a disaster, and a woman who works with orphans in India facing major problems back in New York.

After the Wedding

Wri/Dir: Bart Freundlich

Isabel (Michelle Williams) is an American woman grudgingly back in New York for the first time in decades. She fled the country as a teen after an unplanned pregnancy, and has lived in India ever since. She works at an orphanage in Tamil Nadu, raising the kids there, including Jai, a little boy she found abandoned on a street. But she’s forced to travel to The States for the sake of the kids; to secure a large donation to the orphanage. The donor insists she come, not anyone else.

Theresa (Julianne Moore) is a ruthless media magnate preparing to sell all her assets and retire. She wants to donate to various charities – including the orphanage. But when she meets Isabel she says she’ll only confirm the donation after her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn)’s wedding . And Isabel must attend.

But Isabel is in for a shock. Turns out the father of the bride is Oscar (Billy Crudup) Isabel’s teenaged boyfriend, and the father of the unwanted child they put up for adoption so many years ago! He’s why she moved India in the first place, to erase her past and start again. He seems as shocked to see her as she is to see him. Is this just a coincidence? Could the bride possibly be the baby she gave birth to? And if Theresa finds out that Isabel and Oscar were once lovers will she cancel all the money the orphanage needs so badly?

After the Wedding is a remake of Danish director Susanne Bier’s film from 2006. I’ve never seen the original but I’m told in Bier’s film Isabel and Theresa are male roles and Oscar is a woman. This switch seems to work. And I found the continuous revelations fascinating – I wanted to know what would happen all the way till the end.

That said, the script was so clunky it felt, at times, like it was written by Google Translate. Williams’s main emotion was being perturbed, and the whole film lasted 30 minutes longer than it should have. I didn’t love this movie but I didn’t hate it either: good story, bad script; great actors but who are not at the top of their game here.

Mine 9

Wri/Dir: Eddie Mensore

It’s a mining town in West Viriginia. The coal mine is the only steady employer, but it’s a dangerouns place. Some of the old timers, like Kenny (Mark Ashworth), Daniel (Kevin Sizemore) and John (Clint James), have lived most of their lives underground. The black dust is ground into their skin, their hair, their beards. They don’t like it, but it’s their livelihood, and their only source of health insurance. But when they narrowly escape a methane leak, they wonder if it’s safe to go back down into mine #9. And with no outside foreman or rescue team, if there is an accident, who will save them?

But management insists so down they go, along with Ryan (Drew Starkey) a newbie fresh out of high school. It’s his first time in a mine, though his family has been doing it for centuries. Things seem to be going alright until a short circuit leads to an explosion and a collapse. The mine is filling with poisonous gas with only an hour’s worth of oxygen left. They have to battle fire, rushing water, smoke, dust, methane gas and collapsing tunnels all around them. It’s up to Zeke (Terry Serpico) their dependable leader, to bring them to safety. Who will escape and who will be left two miles down?

Mine 9 is an indie action/ disaster movie about West Virginia coal miners. It has a realistic, gritty feel to it, capturing the dirt, darkness and claustrophobia of coal mining, along with the excitement of escape. Unfortunately it’s also full of problems, both big and small.

I understand why they have to wear oxygen masks to breathe and hard hats for safety, but how can you care about characters when you can’t see their faces for much of the movie? And, seriously, do miners really break into miners’ songs each time they go underground? Their names aren’t Sneezy, Dopey and Doc.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a short trip into a coal mine, you might want to look at Mine 9.

Good Boys

Co-Wri/Dir Gene Stupnitsky

Max, Lucas and Thor are the Bean Bag Boys, three best friends and grade sixers. They’re a team that does everything together. Thor (Brady Noon) pierces an ear to be cool, but is labelled “sippy cup” by the popular kids for not trying beer. Lucas (Keith L. Williams) is a God-fearing boy who cannot tell a lie, but whose beliefs are shaken when his parents announce their divorce. Max (Jacob Tremblay) is a lover not a fighter, and is crushing on a girl he’s never actually met in lunchroom. But when Max is invited to a kissing party, he realizes he has to learn how to kiss before he can go there. These foul-mouthed boys can say the dirty words, but they don’t know how to do them. They can’t ask their parents and they find internet porn too disgusting to look at.

So the Bean Bag Boys concoct a plan: to spy on Hannah (Molly Gordon) the much older, girl next door as she makes out with her drug-dealer, frat boy boyfriend. But how? Using Max’s dad’s drone – something Max is forbidden even to touch. Caught in the act, Hannah and her friend Lily (Midori Francis) seize the drone from the boys. Then they steal her purse. But the purse contains the MDMA the women planned to take that night. Can the three boys escape their pursuers and rescue the drone? Can Max kiss the girl he thinks he loves? Or will the big problems they all face destroy their unbreakable friendship?

Good Boys is a hilarious coming-of-age comedy about extremely naïve kids encountering adult situations – like drugs and sex – for the first time, and deal with them from a child’s perspective. The laughs are constant, with very few misses. A lot of the humour rests on believing the kids are so sheltered they’ve never seen or encountered anything adult.  For example they find Thor’s parents’s sex toys but use them as weapons and kids’ toys. They’re afraid tasting beer will turn them into alcoholics. They’ve heard grown-up words but don’t know their real meanings: Nymphomania means having sex both on land and at sea. Misogyny means giving massages.

The three main kids are great, especially Tremblay (Room), but so are all the other roles. And despite the fact it’s being marketed as an R-rated movie, except for some foul language and innuendo, it’s not outrageously offensive. No serious violence and no sex, just some 11-year-old kids being extremely funny.

After the Wedding, Mine 9, and Good Boys all open today in Toronto; check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.


NXNE 2013. Movies Reviewed: Filmage, All Out War PLUS Dirty Wars

Posted in B-Boys, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drones, Music, Punk, Uncategorized, US, War by CulturalMining.com on June 14, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

NXNE is Toronto’s annual indie music festival. It works like this: Right now, all across the city, on the hour, in dozens of nightclubs and spaces, a different band sets up and plays one intense set, straight through. Then, at the next hour, another band plays, and so on and so on. Plus some really famous bands, like The National, playing for free tonight at Yonge-Dundas Square.

There are hundreds of bands in town for this, from across the country and around the world. Punk to dubstep, indie to experimental, folk rock to hip-hop… you name it, it’s here. And there are also music-related movies (that’s my territory), plus art shows, digital workshops, and even comedians. Quite the experience – you should check it out.

So this week I’m going to talk about two entertaining docs having their world premiers at NXNE, plus a very important one that’s in the news.

Dir: Deedle Lacour, Matt Riggle

NXNE is full of rock docs, so you should choose one with music you enjoy. I liked this one, about a largely unknown 80s band called The Descendants. They played non-political, non-scene driven punk-pop like nobody’s business. Eschewing the standard punk clothing and song subjects, they hand scribbled their album covers and dressed however they wanted. They sang about life, love, farting and frustration: songs with non-stop guitars, bass and always, always drums. Their most famous album was Milo Goes to College.

Some of them were only 15 when they started, but the band Milo CU by Atiba Jeffersoncontinued on and off, in different guises for another couple decades. It’s said that they were a decade and a half too early. Listen to the music and judge for yourself. While Filmage isn’t exactly a thrilling documentary, it does have lots of great tracks, cartoon bits and vintage pics to complement the frequent talking heads.

NastyRayAll Out War
Dir: Robert Pilichowski

What was called break dancing or breaking in the 80’s was a form of impromptu street-side dancing that started up alongside rap, graffiti, and other elements of hiphop culture. That was then – this is now. All Out War is about some current B-Boys who engage in the dance form as an intense, corporate-sponsored competition.

Matches are set up, judgements are made, winners and losers are decided on. Dyzee, a Filipino-Canadian from Toronto wants to make something with his life, but has to watch out for competing crews who start gang fights to depose him. TheNessRoof2 Machine — rural, African-American – is doing well. In the deep south where he’s from, the machine says you prove your worth with the three B’s: B-Ball, B-Boy, and BBQ. Caspar’s a white kid from Hollywood, forced by his stage mom to earn money dancing in ridiculous costumes for TV appearances. And Alienness, an old-skool Latino breaker, once part of the Rock-Steady Crew, is trying to get into Canada for the big competition, the All Out War, the King of the Ring.

If it sounds like a boxing competition, then they’re succeeding in their sports metaphor. The whole event is staged just like a boxing (or MMA) match, complete with an elevated boxing ring, a loud announcer, referees and judges who declare the winners. It’s a sudden- death competition, with each match eliminating one of the competitors.

But it makes you wonder – why did they choose boxing as the genre to imitate? Why not, say, skateboard competitions as the model? Or pole dancing? Or figure skating? If anything, it looks most like the Brazilian dance martial art capoeira. It’s almost as if they had to prove that while it’s a dance form it’s still completely macho and manly and all that (there are no women in this competition). Whatever, excellent precise, sharp photography shows some unbelievable moves, spinning on heads, tying themselves into knots and then flipping back to their feet: incredible. All Out War is a fun, wow-worthy competition to see.

From staged competition of all out wars to the nitty-gritty…

Jeremy Scahill in Somalia DIRTY WARS 1 Courtesy Mongreal MediaDirty Wars
Dir: Rick Rowley

Daoud, an Afghan policeman in Gardaz is shot dead at his home by American soldiers, along with three women (two pregnant), when he ventured outside from a birthday party. Then, unidentified special forces (described as “men with beards and muscles”) then dug the bullets out of the dead bodies with knives (to cover up the evidence) and left them to die. At first it was completely denied by the US government

Jeremy Scahill in Yemen DIRTY WARS 3 Courtesy Mongreal MediaThe movie follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill (the man who broke the Black Water scandal in Iraq) as he connects the dots, from Afghanistan, back to Iraq, and onward to Yemen, Mogadishu, and all over.

His big revelations made in this new movie may be somewhat familiar to you, as the things he uncovered have already made it to the front page of newspapers:  the White House has made frequent statements, promises or out-and-out denials about Scahill’s work.. He shows how secretive special ops, like the previously unheard of JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) have spread around the world. Set up by Bush, they have run rampant Jeremy Scahill in Afghanistan Dirty Wars 4 Courtesy Mongrel Mediaduring Obama’s reign, operating in places where the US is not even at war, like Yemen, sometimes even assassinating US citizens in their operations. The film outlines the war crimes he uncovered in a series of episodes. It’s a combination Indiana-Jones journalistic adventure, and a sad testament to the excesses of undeclared wars. And it shows how it may be the special ops and drone attacks themselves – the dirty wars of the title – that are fueling the anger of future jihads.

Dirty Wars opens today in Toronto, and Filmage, and All Out War are both playing at NXNE this weekend. Go to nxne.com/film for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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