Michael Bergeron
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Film Facts: “The Book of Henry” + more

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Colin Trevorrow represents a new paradigm in film directors. Trevorrow went from a single indie cult film (Safety Not Guaranteed) to directing tentpoles like Jurassic World (2015) and the unavoidable Star Wars: Episode IX (2019).

Trevorrow’s newest film The Book of Henry is the typical payoff where a proven money making director gets to film a pet project. The Book of Henry is a keeper.

There are multiple themes and genre conventions that change so often it almost feels like a spoiler to reveal only the most essential details. Suffice it to say that what starts out as a conventional kid flick rapidly escalates into at least two distinct genres, one dealing with mortality in a rather heavy handed way and the other hitting all the buttons on the unbearable suspense of who’s going to die next.

Trevorrow (just say his name like “tomorrow” except with a “v”) isn’t the first person to get their chance to parlay indie charm into a distinct career. Patty Jenkins, helmer of Wonder Woman, in addition to plenty of cable and television episodic credits previously had only directed one feature – Monster (2003), which won an Best Actress Oscar for her lead actress Charlize Theron.

Naomi Watts raises two kids as a single mom in a small town, yet next door the police commissioner, himself a single parent, may be abusing his stepdaughter. Before long we’re dealing with a route that spirals into more elaborate paths than was suggested at first. When we realize that the “book of Henry” is a manual for assassination, you become fully aware of Trevorrow’s agenda.

The Book of Henry is playing at area theaters.

A married couple decides to form a band and use their continuing arguments as the inspiration for songs. Band Aid works its magic through some exceptional character chemistry as well as some good songs.

Zoe Lister-Jones gives Band Aid a spine as the movie’s writer/star/producer/director/song-writer. In some ways Band Aid continues the male-female squabbles of Breaking Upwards (2009), which was directed by Lister-Jones’ husband Daryl Wein, written by her and starring the two of them. Wein and Lister-Jones also collaborated on Lola Versus (2012).

But this is Zoe’s flick and while Wein pops up in a cameo as an Uber customer, as does her television-acting-co-star Colin Hanks (Life in Pieces), the emphasis solidly revolves around her perception of the events that unfold.

Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Palley) have an issue about who washes the dishes. Aptly the band moniker is The Dirty Dishes. While at first repulsed by their neighbor Dave (Fred Armisen) they realize they need his drumming skills to complete their band that includes Zoe on bass and Adam on guitar. Sometimes they put slices of pizza on their harmonica neck braces so they can eat while they play.

Armisen seems to be a character out of Portlandia, and that’s not really a bad thing. Dave’s a sex addict. A couple of sexy women, also sex addicts, hang out at his suburban house. Whenever Anna and Ben drop by Doug’s house they encounter his constant BFFs – Cassandra Diabla (Jamie Chung) and Crystal Vichycoisse (Erinn Hayes). Dave and company never have sex with each other but because of their common sex addiction they constantly engage in hugging therapy.

Anna and Ben also live in an outlying suburbia whilst supporting their failed careers as writers and artists with free-lance graphic logo gigs and Uber driving.

Other conflicts offer Ben’s mother badgering him about having children. The child dynamic transfers into character traits that are revealed both comically and yet with the upmost seriousness.

One of the argument sequences goes on for a while, throws the mood into a serious dimension and gives you real insight into the emotions of the characters. You have to admire the practically theatrical commitment to the performances that make the film seem real.

Band Aid is currently unspooling at the Alamo Drafthouse Mason Road this week.

An aging movie star deals with cancer, hero worship, an estranged daughter, a new girlfriend half his age, appearing at fan events and the ever-expanding habit of scoring and smoking pot.

The Hero gives Sam Elliott a legendary role. And Elliott is legendary in real life but not as a John Wayne western icon, which is how The Hero posits him. Elliott is who he is because of supporting roles like The Stranger in The Big Lebowski (1998). You have to go back to Elliott’s 1976 Lifeguard for a film in which he is the titular star.

Elliott for the record appears in features as diverse as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1968) as Card Player #2 and in Ang Lee’s version of Hulk (2003).

The Hero reunites Elliott with the director of his previous film I’ll See You in My Dreams (Brett Haley) where Elliott was a late life romance for widower Blythe Danner. It’s almost like Haley realizing the vehicle he had created for Danner played so well to femme and art house audiences that he set out to make a twilight-years tale for a similar if not more hirsute filmgoer.

In I’ll See You in My Dreams Elliott’s character dies. It’s hard to say whether Elliott dies in The Hero because in the first place heroes never die. Lee Hayden (Elliott) does have cancer after all, but he also has a positive attitude even though he also carries a big chip on his shoulder.

In The Hero Elliott is like a character actor playing the lead in his own movie.

Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter and Katherine Ross co-star.

The Hero is currently unwinding at the River Oaks Theatre.