Picks of the week
‘Wish I Was Here’
(R, 120 minutes, Universal): Billed as a comedy, the film has its funny moments, but don’t be fooled: It’s a tear-jerker.
Ten years after “Garden State,” actor and writer Zach Braff explores another infinite abyss in this story of a father trying to stay afloat during a chaotic time for his family. For all its fairy tale reveries and songs from the Shins, the movie digs up some real emotions.
‘Wish I Was Here’ touches on timely themes and does so with an artistic vulnerability. You have to hand it to Braff. For a guy who must feel unfairly targeted, he doesn’t shy from being who he is and making, essentially, a grown-up version of “Garden State.”
Contains profane language and sexual content. Extras: deleted scenes, “Directing While Acting” featurette; commentary with Zach and co-writer/producer Adam Braff; commentary with Braff, director of photography Lawrence Sher and editor Myron Kerstein.
‘Life of Crime’
(R, 99 minutes, Lionsgate): Some are characterizing “Life of Crime” as a prequel to the great “Jackie Brown.” The new film, based on crime king Elmore Leonard’s 1978 novel “The Switch,” centers on two characters featured in the 1997 film (also based on a Leonard book, “Rum Punch”).
Aside from sharing the characters of Louis Gara and Ordell Robbie – played by Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson – “Life of Crime” is no prequel. The events of the two tales are completely unrelated, and the new Louis and Ordell, as portrayed by John Hawkes and Mos Def (who is now calling himself Yasiin Bey), register less indelibly on our senses than they do in “Jackie Brown.”
Both actors do an adequate job of bringing to life the characters that they have been given. But the story, adapted for the screen and directed by Daniel Schechter, feels noticeably sluggish and spiritless.
Contains crude language, sex, nudity, drug use and some violence.