Picks of the Week
End of Watch
(R, 120 minutes, Universal): There are no dirty cops in this tense, violent and surprisingly affecting police drama from writer David Ayer. Ayer, who also directs, has created a portrait of law enforcement under pressure that proves as ennobling as it is gritty. Rapper Yahira Flakiss Garcia plays a scary gangbanger that LAPD officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) tangle with when, in the course of their routine patrols, they inadvertently interfere with the local operation of a Mexican drug cartel. On the down side, its yet another movie using the found footage, gimmick. Much of the film consists of shaky, hand-held images purportedly shot by Brian for a filmmaking class hes taking. Even the villains are of the YouTube generation, bringing a video camera along for a drive-by. Its an unnecessary distraction from the story, which is a good one. Contains often intense violence, obscenity, sexual dialogue and drug use.
Extras: commentary with writer/director Ayer, deleted scenes, five featurettes.
Searching for Sugar Man
(PG-13, 86 minutes, Sony): In the 1970s, when their country was isolated from the world because of its apartheid policies, young, white, liberal South Africans took solace in a particular record. It was Cold Fact, by Rodriguez, a Detroit-born Mexican-American who recorded two records that went virtually unheard in the United States. After the commercial failure of both, Rodriguez vanished from the music biz. Viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, the singers puzzling disappearance required a dramatic explanation. Although the movie eventually establishes the facts of Rodriguezs life, its in no hurry to do so. Instead, Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul savors the hunt begun by a South African fan. The mystery finally is solved, in a way thats narratively satisfying. Indeed, Searching for Sugar Man, pays off so neatly that viewers might suspect the movie is fiction. Contains profanity and drug references.
Extras: Commentary with Bendjelloul and Rodriguez, a making-of featurette and a fan Q&A session.
(R, 95 minutes, Gaiam Vivendi): In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay vanished from his San Antonio neighborhood. Three years later, a kid in a Spanish childrens home claimed to be Nicholas. Aside from a gap in his front teeth, the guy didnt look much like Nicholas, but when Nicholas older sister, Carey Gibson, arrived in Spain, she identified the stranger as her brother. That put the con man on the path to a U.S. passport and a new family. A private investigator was convinced that the kid was lying, and an FBI agent gradually came to the same conclusion. But Nicholas mother and sister insisted that the right boy had returned. As for the impostor, he explained his appearance, demeanor and accent with an elaborate tale of sexual abuse. The complicated identity of the poseur is eventually disclosed, but first he explains, in great detail and with evident pride, how he conned Gibson. Whats most fascinating are the movies larger questions about why some people tell impossible lies and why others believe them. Contains profanity.