Critic's Rating: 3/4 stars. Meaning lies in the googly eyes of the eponymous bear costume: The orbs are eerie, too perfect, but there's wisdom in their childlike fascination. SNL's Kyle Mooney brings the same traits to playing and exploring the unsocialized James, forced to confront the larger world with a vocabulary based solely on Brigsby Bear, a VHS-era kids' show with which James is singularly obsessed. The world, of course, is not into it. Surrounded by Mark Hamill, Claire Danes and Greg Kinnear, the unassuming Mooney is an unlikely but intriguing focal point, sporting the chipmunk expression and man-child lovability of Dana Carvey's Garth. During bouts of family drama, Brigsby is at its most Sundance-y: cute, adequate and unoriginal. Even where the bizarre is concerned, we've seen recent black comedies in which loners don massive, cartoonish heads (Frank) and unhealthily fixate on making kitschy entertainment (Welcome to Me). Yet, the imagination here surpasses other efforts where comedians conceive characters too disturbed for broad laughs. Heartfelt to the end, Brigsby cherishes a thought experiment on the blissful, solipsistic delusion any superfan occasionally harbors: "Did somebody make this just for me?" PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.
Critic's Rating: 1/4 stars. Picture Kramer vs. Kramer stripped of its turbulent emotions and cutting performances and you'll have a good idea of what it's like to suffer through this bland, tear-soaked train wreck. It's the latest catastrophe from director Marc Webb, last seen crashing the Spider-Man franchise, teamed up with a different Marvel tights-wearer for Gifted—Captain America star Chris Evans. He plays Frank, a hunky boat repairman whose adoptive daughter Mary (Mckenna Grace) is a math prodigy. Much of the movie revolves around Frank's manipulative mother (Lindsay Duncan) suing for custody of Mary, which Webb clearly hopes will inspire viewers to dangle from the edges of their seats and cry, "Oh no! Will this chilly schemer wrest annoyingly precocious Mary from her down-to-earth surrogate dad and his dashing beard?" If you can't guess the answer to that one, you'll have a blast. Otherwise, get ready for a mechanical melodrama that's just as joyless as Evans, who possesses not even an ounce of the expressiveness necessary to communicate the anguish of a man living through every father's worst nightmare. His stiffness is galling, since Webb wastes two superior performers—Octavia Spencer and Jenny Slate—in appallingly one-dimensional roles. Now there's an offense worthy of a court battle. PG-13. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Living Room Theaters.
God Knows Where I Am
Winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year's Hot Docs Film Festival, this new feature from Emmy-winning Jedd and Todd Wider (Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) chronicles the life and death of Linda Bishop, a woman suffering from bipolar disorder and psychosis whose body was discovered in a New Hampshire farmhouse in 2008. NR. Fox Tower.
Going in Style
Critic's Rating: 4/4 stars. Going in Style, a remake of the 1979 film of the same name, acts as a bitterly honest ode to aging, ageism and existentialism—themes that are always spry. Director Zach Braff-, yes, Garden State Zach Braff, takes a boat from his preferred cinematic island of young adult melodrama and tackles this film about a trifecta of disgruntled friends who feel forgotten, wallowing in illness and retirement. Hollywood heavyweights Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin begin brainstorming a heist to flush their fiscal troubles down the drain: They're going to rob a bank. Going in Style markets itself through absurdity, but its characters illustrate their hardships through very tangible devices: family photos of grandkids they can't afford to visit, eviction notices and organ wait lists. For these men, the end of life doesn't mean life is over, and sometimes you've got to get creative to keep living. The casual viewer will receive an anticipated dose of elder-specific dark humor: Jokes about death, pensions and kidney failure all make appearances, but these cracks are well-integrated and seldom crude. What one might not expect is a plot that's fairly heinous, both morally and logistically, with characters who remain justified and likable throughout. PG-13. JACK RUSHALL. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Lloyd, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Tigard, Vancouver.
Critic's Rating: 2/4 stars. How much drama can be wrung from the sight of balls rolling into holes? Not much, if this dull golf-course tale is any indication. Set during the 19th century, the fact-based film chronicles the career of star Scottish golfer Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden). The real Morris braved some harrowing ordeals, once winning a match that lasted six snowy days. Yet director Jason Connery rarely captures the passion and cunning that Morris surely would have needed to survive that experience. The inadequacy of his leading man doesn't help matters—Lowden looks like a stale slice of Wonder Bread next to Ophelia Lovibond, who is sultry and soulful as Tommy's wife, Margaret Drinnen. To be fair, Tommy's Honour also gets a lift from Peter Mullan's potent turn as Tommy's austere yet loving father, who remains a golfing legend in his own right. Yet the film ultimately collapses because it's too slow and tasteful to deliver the crowd-pleasing fervor that a great sports film demands. Watching Tommy's gentlemanly exertions just isn't the same as watching Rocky pump his fists in the air atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. PG. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Fox Tower.