SPACE JAM: A NEW HERITAGE: 3 STARS
What’s up doc? A sequel to a 25-year-old movie, that’s what happens.
âSpace Jam: A New Legacy,â now in theaters, refreshes Michael Jordan’s 1996 hybrid live-action / animated sports film with a new star and many familiar (animated) faces.
The story begins in Akron, Ohio, in 1988. Teenage LeBron James is a gifted basketball player, but is distracted by his handheld and his cartoons. A reprimand from his trainer – “You are a once in a lifetime talent!” – convinces him to focus on basketball and forget about childish things.
It is a lesson close to his heart.
By the time he’s grown up and become a superstar, he’s just a business and can’t understand why his son Dom (Cedric Joe) is more interested in coding than cross-dribbling. Young James is also busy making a basketball video game to become a team player.
Meanwhile, inside the Warner Bros. Serververse, Al-G Rhythm, a computer program stuck inside the Serververse, and resembling Don Cheadle, has its sights set on LeBron as his way to the world. “Once I combine King James with my amazing technology,” she said, “I will finally get the recognition I deserve.”
Problem is, LeBron isn’t impressed with the studio’s offer to scan him in movies, making him a virtual movie star. âSay yes,â say the studio reps, âand we’ll create mind-blowing entertainment forever.â
But it’s a no. âIt’s one of the worst ideas of all time,â says LeBron. âAthletes taking action. It never goes well.
Dom loves the idea, and his curiosity about the process leads him to the tech department at Warner Bros., where he and LeBron are sucked into the movie studio server and come face to face with “the infamous nimrod” Al-G Rhythm.
Trapped in the digital space, the only way out is a high-stakes basketball game. LeBron must recruit the Looney Tunes gang to play against the AI ââGoon Squad, made up of virtual avatars with superpowers and names like Wet-Fire, White Mamba, and Chronos.
From the Nike logo that LeBron leaves sunk into the ground when he falls into the Looney Tunes verse, to the “Mad Max”, “Casablanca”, “Austin Powers” and “Matrix” takeoffs, to the endless mentions of Warner Bros. in the scenario, it’s hard not to feel like intellectual property and product placement is running the story. It’s a wild and woolly world, imaginative and unpredictable, but it often feels like marketing rather than a story.
The kids won’t care. And that’s who this movie is for.
Director Malcolm D. Lee will entertain young minds with video games and cartoon-inspired action, while adults will experience Michael Jordan’s clever joke and longing to see old characters like Bugs Bunny and Marvin. the Martian in new situations. There’s also a pretty fun game to spot the mix and match of the characters that make up the big game audience. I spotted the Gremlins, the “Wizard of Oz” flying monkeys, Pennywise the Clown, and a dozen others.
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” tones down some of the grown-up edges of the first film – there is no reference to Quentin Tarantino this time around and Lola Bunny, now voiced by Zendaya, no longer wears a crop top – which Give A Family – Friendly movie with great messages about being yourself and not being what other people want you to be, and the importance of playing by the rules.
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN: 4 STARS
In the opening moments of âRoadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,â a new documentary about the late television host and writer, now playing in theaters, we hear the lead character’s voice speaking the obvious. âIt doesn’t have a happy ending,â he says.
For fans of Bourdain, the former heroin addict chef turned author turned television star turned cultural avatar, “Roadrunner” carries high expectations.
The angry but empathetic Bourdain, who was 61 when he committed suicide while filming a television show in France, inspires strong feelings. A standard hagiographic look at his life, mulling over the well-known details of his career, would meet with a collective yawn. Get too picky and it could be seen as disrespectful to the memory of a man who many people still miss.
âRoadrunnerâ kind of straddles the line, offering a balanced glimpse into the personal and professional life of the scrappy chef. Using clips from Bourdain’s shows “No Reservations”, “The Layover” and “Parts Unknown”, new interviews with friends and family and personal footage, director Morgan “20 Feet from Stardom” Neville compiles a look of Russian nesting doll from her subject.
The result is a deep dive into the life of a complex man; a person who has traveled the world dozens of times in search of meaning with every aerial mile point gained. “His whole personality was that of a researcher,” says Alison Mosshart, singer of The Kills and The Dead Weather. “He was always looking for something, and it was agony for him.”
Neville captures some of that agony, forcing the viewer to see familiar images recontextualized by Bourdain’s colleagues and friends. Without running out of material to choose from – Bourdain’s 250 days on the road a year has been meticulously filmed and documented – Neville chooses moments that reveal Bourdain’s timeline, fame, and search for normality.
Often the most revealing images are not of the man speaking, but the exhausted or melancholy look visible in his eyes as he performs on camera. “Life was never going to live up to the way he imagined it,” said Helen M. Cho, producer of the “Parts Unknown” segment. “He braced himself for disappointment.”
The circumstances of his death are of course under investigation. Her colleagues bring tears to their eyes as they describe her final months as a longtime drug addict who turned to Italian actress and director Asia Argento. âRoadrunnerâ examines Bourdain’s last days, but this is not a thriller or exercise to point the finger at. This is the story of his life, not of his death.
âRoadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdainâ provides an emotionally raw portrayal of a gifted and charismatic man who has traveled the world but never quite understood where he needed to be. “You’re not going to overcome or eliminate intelligent pain,” comments artist David Choe, who gives the film a suitably Bourdain-esque ending.
PIG: 3 STARS
The trailers for “Pig,” the new movie from Nicolas Cage currently in theaters, suggest a bacon-flavored version of “Taken,” but that’s not the subject of the film. There’s a kidnapping, a chase, and even a slogan – âI need my pig. – but that’s a grieving thesis, so don’t expect a wild action flick.
Cage plays Robin Feld, a once revered chef from the Portland, Oregon area who gave up everything to live in the middle of nowhere with his truffle-hunter pig. His only contact with the outside world is Amir (Alex Wolff), the young man who supplies restaurants with the truffles that Robin and his beloved pig find in the woods.
After a day of foraging, Robin and the pig settle in for the night, when suddenly the door is broken. Robin is knocked out and the pig is kidnapped. The next day, with dried blood still stuck to his face, Robin recruits Amir to drive him around Portland in search of those responsible for the pignapping.
âPigâ is billed as a thriller, but it isn’t. It’s more of a waste of history and what happens to people when the thing they care about is taken away. A keyphrase appears in a long scene between Feld and a local chef as they discuss the passion when it comes to food, life, and relationships.
âWe don’t really care about a lot of things,â says Feld. It’s a talk about the deep connection we make with the people and things that matter to us, and the importance of taking these passions into account.
It is also a testament to the void these passions leave when bad things happen. No spoils here, but âPigâ isn’t about the kidnapping or the chase, it’s about the passion, and the deep well of emotion that goes with it.
Once again, Cage takes on a taciturn character with a past. For the first half of the movie, the Pig has more lines than Cage. As such, the gonzo actor keeps screaming and storytelling to a minimum. For much of the film, despite his ragged appearance, he’s held back almost to the point of sleepwalking. It doesn’t make the viewing compelling, but as the character opens up verbally, we begin to understand their motivations for their past and present behavior and the character becomes sharp.
âPigâ is a well-played movie that goes beyond its absurd premise – the man is looking for his kidnapped pig – but can play a chord too minor to really hit home emotionally.