‘I love my father’
Writer-director James Morosini reaps the benefits of a powerful performance from Patton Oswalt in “I Love My Dad,” an incredibly daring film about a divorced father desperate to connect with his clinically depressed son. Morosini plays the son, Franklin, who, at the start of the film, is so sullen that he is practically in a coma. Chuck d’Oswalt, meanwhile, has broken so many promises that Franklin decides the best thing for his sanity is to block his father on all social media. In response, Chuck creates a fake Facebook account, using photos of a local restaurant waitress, Becca (Claudia Sulewski), to trick his son into talking to her.
“I Love My Dad” is part comedy farce, part heartwarming reconciliation story, and part white-knuckle thriller. When Chuck agrees to join Franklin on an ill-advised road trip to meet Becca in person, he enjoys the rare face-to-face bonding time with his child, even though he’s constantly on the verge of getting caught – especially when his son begins texting his “girlfriend” online and asking her to be more intimate. It’s a delicate balancing act to keep “I Love My Dad” funny, edgy and true; and Morosini can’t always polish it. The severity of Franklin’s depression makes it harder to find his father’s deception as outlandish as the movie sometimes makes it out to be. As the time for Chuck to confess approaches, the tension is almost unbearable.
That said, it’s exciting to see Morosini taking so many risks with the unfolding of his story, even if they don’t all pay off. It helps that he has such acting stars in Sulewski, who plays Franklin’s imaginary version of Becca as every guy’s best friend and potential sex goddess, and Oswalt, who plays Chuck as the cut man. always round corners. Together, Morosini and Oswalt capture the panic that seizes some parents when they see their children sink into despair. They sensitively dramatize a father’s fear that anything he does to make things better will ruin everything for good – though that doesn’t stop him from slipping up anyway.
‘I love my father.’ R, for sexual content and language. 1h36. Available on VOD
’13: The Musical’
During its original Broadway run in 2008, the musical “13” had a headline-grabbing gimmick: Its cast and musicians were all teenagers. (The show also featured then-rookie Ariana Grande in a minor role, though no one knew at the time how big that would be.) For the film version, director Tamra Davis and screenwriter Robert Horn develop Horn and Dan Elish’s original. book, adding some adults to the story of Evan (Eli Golden), a New Yorker whose divorced mother, Jessica (Debra Messing), moves him to his small Indiana hometown, where he tries too hard from making enough new friends to throw a big bar mitzvah party.
The changes make this “13” feel more like a conventional Netflix teen movie — all about puppy love and jostling for popularity — rather than the one-of-a-kind theatrical experience it once was. But Jason Robert Brown’s songs are still incredibly lively, turning common teenage experiences like crushes, first kisses and horror movies with friends into rhythmic bops. And middle school still sets “13” apart from its teen photo competition because its characters are more clumsy and insecure — not really miniature adults yet, but kids secretly terrified of growing up.
’13: The Musical.’ PG, for some thematic elements and its crude humor. 1h31. Available on Netflix
The weird but true story of con man Robert Freegard has already been told on screen in the Netflix docuseries “The Puppet Master,” which focuses on the long chase to bring him to justice. The new British thriller ‘Rogue Agent’ takes a somewhat different approach, dealing more with how the scammer manipulated his victims. Co-writers and co-directors Adam Patterson and Declan Lawn (and their co-writer, Michael Bronner) focus specifically on a few of the women Freegard tricked into thinking he was an MI5 agent; and they examine how he was able to persuade them to turn their lives upside down and empty their wallets for him.
The film’s main protagonist is Alice (Gemma Arterton), a lawyer so charmed by the handsome and disarming Robert (James Norton) that she opens a bank account with him, as part of what he assures her is a process of normal check before she became part of his spy ring. When Robert subsequently steals Alice’s money, she begins to work with law enforcement to find some of his other targets – even though the cops are unsure if lying to women is technically a crime.
The procedural/mystery elements of “Rogue Agent” are a bit rote, and they never generate as much suspense as they could. But the scenes of Robert working his mojo on impressionable ladies – including a terrified college student (Marisa Abela) and a psychologically unstable American (Sarah Goldberg) – are both absorbing and outrageous, providing a stark contrast to the more forceful recoil of ‘Alice. The film is ultimately a thoughtful study of how anyone, however vulnerable or confident, can be fooled by someone who projects confidence and expertise.
‘Rogue agent.’ Unclassified. 1 hour 55 minutes. Downtown Laemmle, Encino; also available on AMC+
The genre-blending Canadian film “Tin Can” features some of this year’s most unsettling body horrors, starting with the scene that sparks the story. Anna Hopkins plays Fret, a medical researcher who works to thwart a spreading plague called Coral, which causes humans to develop a rigid, restrictive shell over their skin. At the start of the picture, Fret is knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and placed in a suspended animation tank intended for severe Coral patients. When she wakes up, she spends several minutes disoriented, trying to pull out the many tubes sticking out of her. This is not a sequence for the delicate.
From there, writer-director Seth A. Smith and co-writer Darcy Spidle follow Fret as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to her, initially while she was still confined in that tank – with a few other prisoners within earshot nearby, offering their own theories and suggestions. Did Fret wake up far in the future where Coral was healed? Or did his abduction reveal that there was still something nefarious and artificial about this disease? “Tin Can” slowly – perhaps too slowly – puts this puzzle together.
Smith is ultimately less concerned with the fix than the squish. At times, this film turns into a pure, uncomfortable sensation, as Smith takes a long time over characters who grunt, gasp, and choke — cursed by the limitations and demands of their own physical fitness. There are classic sci-fi elements here, yes. But “Tin Can” is more like a symphonic poem about the inherent frailties of humanity.
‘Tin can.’ Unclassified. 1 hour 44 minutes. Available on VOD
In the animated serial killer thriller “Canvas,” there’s a pretty big disconnect between the film’s rotoscoped look, which is surprisingly trippy, and the writing, which is often clunky and unnecessarily confusing. First-time filmmaker Ryan Guiterman begins with a pretty solid sci-fi/horror premise: an evil alien nicknamed “The Painter” has sown an atmosphere of paranoia and fear via ritual murders, which an FBI agent attempts to cover up and an investigative journalist tries to expose. But Guiterman tells this story mostly via a series of monologues and stiff conversations — like something out of an old micro-budget B-movie, only with animation overlaid. The effect is sometimes effective, adding an extra surrealism. But it’s also alienating, keeping the audience away from the characters and their various crises. “Canvas” has a certain aesthetic appeal, but beneath its surface there isn’t really a narrative underpinning.
‘Cloth.’ Unclassified. 1 hour 23 minutes. Available on VOD
Also on VOD
“Elvis” brings director Baz Luhrmann’s distinctive style – full of twinkling flash and restless energy – to the story of rock ‘n’ roll legend Elvis Presley (Austin Butler) and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks ). One of this year’s biggest global hits, the film is a dizzying tour of American pop culture from the 1950s to the 1970s, as well as a reflection on the perpetual back and forth between art and commerce. . Available on VOD
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Heat” was originally released in 1995, but writer-director Michael Mann’s heady Los Angeles crime drama remains a perennial favorite for genre fans, beloved for the spirited performances of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as the men of grizzled action on opposite sides of the law. In conjunction with Mann’s new sequel “Heat 2”, the film is re-released in a special 4K Ultra HD edition, loaded with bonus features. 20th century workshops