Hammerle on … ‘City of Gold,’ ‘Hardcore Henry,’ ‘I Saw the Light,’ ‘Midnight Special’

Keywords Features / neglect / Opinion

bob hammerle movie reviews“City of Gold”

Both witty and historically significant, director Laura Gabbert’s “City of Gold” is an “R”-rated documentary that you should really take the time to hunt down. It follows the Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold as he gives you a tour of the many restaurants in his beloved Los Angeles.

hammerle-042016-rating.gifGold is a magical character, and he is a unique critic in that he will as readily patronize a taco stand on a street corner as a five-star restaurant. Though he tries to hide his identity as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, he is easily recognizable thanks to his portly frame, ratty mustache, long hair streaming from his balding head and an incredibly warm smile. It is clear that Gold has seldom turned down a large meal whether he enjoyed it or not.

The restaurant culture in Los Angeles flows largely from contributions made by immigrants. This documentary not only allows you the pleasure of watching him sample food made by chefs from Ethiopia, Korea, China, Guatemala and Mexico, but you also get to meet many of these lovely people and learn their story. For example, an Ethiopian chef came to the States with a 5-year old son, and she worked for years as a waitress to make sure that he received a proper education. He is now a physician, and helped repay her by financing her splendid restaurant.

We are in a presidential campaign where several candidates seek to deport over 10 million Hispanic immigrants while building a wall between Mexico and our country. Such proposals are frighteningly amoral, and this film is a powerful reminder that it is our diverse culture that defines our country as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

“Hardcore Henry”

Though “Hardcore Henry” is one of the most violent films you are likely to see on the big screen, it is done in a unique style that captures your attention from the beginning. In a sense, the viewer becomes a participant in a video game.

The plot is simple, as you follow a lead character whose face you never see. Half man and half mutant, he ends up on the vengeful warpath to stop the world from being destroyed by a Russian madman (Danila Kozlovsky).

Along the way he is assisted by a character known as Jimmy, a guy who literally can transform himself to avoid death. Played by the wonderful South African actor Sharlto Copley, it is worth remembering him from the Oscar-nominated film “District 9” (2009).

The film’s strength comes from the fact that you literally become the avenging angel, as director Ilya Naishuller has placed the camera on the actor so that you feel that you are actually leaping from large balconies and walking over thin rails hundreds of feet in the air. It is a unique piece of film work, and the movie deserves to be seen for that reason alone.

“I Saw the Light”

While director Marc Abraham’s “I Saw the Light” is not a great movie, it does have great moments. Providing the viewer with a quick look at the short, troubled life of country music icon Hank Williams, it allows Tom Hiddleston to shine in that role.

Williams died in 1953 at the age of 29, and in a sense his life was later mirrored by that of Janis Joplin. In five short years beginning in 1948, Williams had more than 30 songs become national hits, selling over 11 million records. In a sense, his impact rivaled that of the Beatles in the 1960s.

Unfortunately, the trouble with Williams’ life is also the trouble with the film. However, the value of the film centers on many of Williams’ classic songs and the fact that Hiddleston actually sang them. His physical resemblance to Williams is shocking, and there are moments when you think that this film found a way to bring the old country star back to life.

Several of Williams’ songs such as “My Bucket’s Got a Hole In It,” “Hey Good Lookin,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” still have meaning to this day, and the reward from seeing this movie comes from enjoying the talent of Hiddleston. Many of you already know him for his sarcastic performance as Loki in the “Thor” movies, and it is worth hunting him down as the increasingly bored vampire lover of Tilda Swinton in “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013).

While this film is not as good as “Get on Up” (2014), the life story of James Brown, or “Trumbo,” a film last year that resulted in an Oscar nomination for Bryan Cranston, keep an eye out to see if Hiddleston receives recognition for his singing.

“Midnight Special”

Writer-director Jeff Nichols follows up his splendid “Mud” (2012) with another interesting film, “Midnight Special.” In a sense, it turns “E.T. the Extra Terrestrial” (1982) on its head in that you have a parent’s young son wanting to “go home.”

The film follows the alleged kidnapping of a 10-year old boy (Jaeden Lieberher) by his father from a strange cult led by a mysterious character played by Sam Shepard. As the police engaged in a massive manhunt for dad, played once again in a mystic fashion by Michael Shannon, and his state trooper friend (Joel Edgerton), dad intends on taking his son to some unknown location to meet a deadline. Along the way they team up with the lad’s mother, played quietly by Kirsten Dunst, and they face violence at every turn from the pursuing authorities.

The boy has to wear goggles during daylight, as beams flash from his eyes in a manner that can destroy anyone or anything standing near him. While his parents clearly have a passionate love for their son, you journey with them with a sense that everyone will have to sadly wave goodbye in the end.•

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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