The Boys Of Baraka

In 2002, 20 black seventh graders from Baltimore’s inner city, many of them from troubled homes, were sent to Baraka, an experimental boarding school in Kenya. Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady spent three years following four of them, and the resulting documentary is sensitive, intelligent, enlightening, and sometimes surprising. Ewing and Grady give us a nuanced sense of these boys’ options, and it’s typical of their attention to detail that during a long-distance phone call, cameras in Baraka and Baltimore record both sides of the conversation. R, 85 min. (JR)

Published on 31 Dec 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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Paycheck

If the Philip K. Dick story this was based on made sense, director John Woo and screenwriter Dean Geogaris have reduced it to gibberish in their eagerness to cut to the chase as frequently as possible. The eminently forgettable Ben Affleck plays a consultant who gets his memory erased periodically in order to protect the secrets of his employers; Uma Thurman plays his forgotten (yet paradoxically cherished) girlfriend. Armed with an esoteric collection of objects he bequeathed himself before his mind was wiped, the professional amnesiac must piece his past together while dodging a boardroom’s worth of corporate villains, led by a glowering Aaron Eckhart. The silliness only slows down for a few hokey romantic interludes. But if you like to see stuff crash or blow up, this is your movie. PG-13, 110 min. (JR)

Published on 31 Dec 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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To Be And To Have

As a documentary, this sounds like a natural: a year in the life of a rural one-room schoolhouse where a dozen students, ages 3 through 11, are taught by a single teacher. Because the teacher appears to be very good and the filmmaker is Nicolas Philibert, whose earlier In the Land of the Deaf and La Moindre des Choses (about a psychiatric clinic) showed tact and sensitivity, this 2002 feature partly fulfilled my high expectations. But the sometimes intrusive role played by Philibert and his small crew seems inadequately dealt with, and I wondered if the segments showing the kids outside school mythologized country life, never alluding to such tokens of the outside world as TV. This is seductive storytelling and good investigative journalism, but I wasn’t always sure which mode I was in. In French with subtitles. 104 min. (JR)

Published on 31 Dec 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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The Godfather Of Green Bay

This low-budget independent feature is supposed to be a comedy about stand-up comics, but I didn’t hear a single laugh at the press screening. Writer-director Pete Schwaba stars as a longtime comedy contender in LA who’s told he can audition for the Tonight Show at a roadside bar in northern Wisconsin, where a talent scout returns annually for the Rocktoberfest. He winds up romancing a former high school teacher (Lauren Holly, the film’s only bright spot), who’s been dating a drug dealer, the title thug (Tony Goldwyn). Schwaba’s uncertainty as a director is underlined by the almost arbitrary jump cuts, freeze-frames, and sped-up action. R, 90 min. (JR)

Published on 31 Dec 1989 in Featured Texts, by admin

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