This week’s theatrical treats have a little bit of every flavor. Pick your poison.
Juliet, Naked (★★★★) This comedic drama spins a unique and tender story: Annie (Rose Byrne), the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan (Chris O’Dowd), starts a pen-pal relationship with a long-lost musician (a terrific Ethan Hawke), who just so happens to be Duncan’s idol.
Before you think this sounds like a revenge plot for Annie to get back at her loser boyfriend (the film even pokes fun at that possibility), there’s a lot more at play, and it takes you on one of the most gratifying journeys of the year on screen.
Juliet, Naked is film about living with the choices you make. It’s a very fitting story to come out right now, as we are guilty of keeping the ridiculed down and don’t seem too keen on the idea of second chances (looking at you, Disney). The film isn’t overly heavy, but the emotions felt, particularly scenes with Hawke’s character and his children, come from an honest place. The message of accepting your past and working toward the path to recovery is one to really take to heart. It’s a marvelous film with some of the year’s best performances and writing.
Rated R, 105 minutes.
At AMC Grapevine Mills 30, Angelika Film Center and Cinemark Legacy in Plano, and AMC NorthPark 15 and Magnolia Theatre in Dallas.
Kin (★★★) If you are in need of a fun popcorn movie, Kin may be the butter-flavored entertainment you’re craving. It’s nothing extraordinary (equivalent of a surprisingly decent Netflix movie), but the talent involved (especially James Franco as a gang leader with a curly mullet) and the well-balanced sci-fi elements make it a harmless way to pass the time.
Based on the short film written and directed by brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, Kin tells of a young boy, Eli (newcomer Myles Truitt), who comes across an otherworldly weapon (think Dredd) in an abandoned warehouse just as his brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor), is released from prison. Jimmy owes some criminals money for protecting him inside. The problem is Jimmy doesn’t have the money to pay his debts, so that sends him to steal from his father (Dennis Quaid) and run from the criminal outfit with Eli in tow. Oh, and they’re also being followed by a duo of Daft Punk-looking future people who are out looking for that mysterious high-tech gun. Who will get to them first?
Kin is almost like a greatest-hits album of ’80s action movies. It’s not necessarily action-packed, but it has a lot of nods to acclaimed properties, most notably The Terminator. What makes the film work best is the relationship between the brothers. The gun storyline and sci-fi bits take a backseat to the human drama for the better. Truitt and Reynor (Sing Street) act as real brothers would, and it brings a lot of charm to this otherwise fair movie.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.
At Cinemark 14 Denton.
Searching (★★★★) The concept of a movie largely taking place from one laptop sounds rather dull. We spend a lot of our days in front of screens, so why would we want to engage in more of that activity? For one, it’s realistic. And two, director/co-writer Aneesh Chaganty and co-writer Sev Ohanian are smart filmmakers who use the storytelling device to boost the power of their mystery-thriller story.
Searching is a classic detective narrative told through a modern lens. It sees John Cho (Star Trek) in his best performance to date as a determined father looking for his missing daughter (Michelle La). With the help of a professional detective (a very good Debra Messing), they follow the breadcrumbs, which lead them to shocking destinations.
The horror film Unfriended may come to mind, but Searching cleverly breaks away from the stillness of a computer screen. The first 10 minutes alone is a great example. Like the heart-wrenching montage sequence from Up, the opening shows a series of images featuring the daughter from when she was a small child to a talented high school student, all through the different computers the family owns over the span of a decade. From there, the film uses news footage and all sorts of cameras and devices around the story’s setting to keep the film moving at full tilt and the audience invested.
The fight we all have in us to protect those whom we love is a common storytelling thread, but Searching stitches all its emotional and hard-hitting themes together in exciting ways. It’ll knock you clean off your feet.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes. At AMC Stonebriar 24 in Frisco, Cinemark Legacy in Plano, and AMC NorthPark 15 in Dallas.
Skate Kitchen (★★★1/2) This indie drama made me realize how much I miss skateboarding movies. Titles like Gleaming the Cube, Grind and Lords of Dogtown aren’t enough. As fun as each of those movies are, Skate Kitchen is perhaps the most genuine of the lot. It functions so similarly to a Richard Linklater film — something that floats around aimlessly but still manages to hit the disappointments and struggles of life. The little nuggets of wisdom it leaves out are also there to consume and chew on.
The film simply is about a teenage girl (Rachelle Vinberg) who makes friends with a group of other skateboarding girls in New York City. There are no extreme plot twists. It’s just these young women skating around the Big Apple, getting into trouble, getting hurt and developing bonds deeper than blood. It transcends the common boundaries of Hollywood filmmaking and becomes a living spiritual entity, encompassing the essence and tone of youth.
Rated R, 106 minutes. At the Magnolia Theatre in Dallas.