Michael Bergeron
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Film Picks 4.14.16

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It’s apropos that Gary Oldman co-stars in Criminal. Criminal star Kevin Costner seems to have taken a page from Oldman’s book of scenery chewing. Think specifically of Oldman in The Professional (a.k.a. Leon) or The Fifth Element.z1-14

Costner plays a deranged convict kept in solitary who is released under the medical supervision of Tommy Lee Jones. Jones has developed an experimental operation that will transfer the data from a dead CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) to the mind of Costner’s Jericho Stewart. Oldman plays an unscrupulous CIA chief, with Gal Gadot as Reynolds’ widow and Michael Pitt as a whistle blower.

Costner kills with glee in Criminal, laughing maniacally as he clobbers people who have less compassion than his new employers. Set in London, the plot involves a flash drive that contains bypass codes for every nuclear missile on the planet.

The action sequences from helmer Ariel Vromen are slightly above average but it’s the above-the-top performances and state of the art surveillance that really give Criminal a leg up on other actioners of its ilk.

preppieThe Preppie Connection stars Thomas Mann (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) as the titular private school student who devises a way to smuggle coke from South America directly to his friends. Man, you could get away with so much on airlines in the mid-80s.

The plot unfolds in a matter of fact way. Kids do drugs, one kid makes direct contact with cartel spooks and starts his own industry. As events go, things head south when the cartel decides to up the ante. This leads to the film’s most exciting sequence as Mann and his girlfriend have to escape with their lives while being chased through the streets of an unfriendly city. When the film comes to the end you may be surprised to find out the entire affair is based on actual people complete with era news footage covering the story. The Preppie Connection unwinds starting Friday at the downtown Sundance Cinemas Houston.

Cb2WsYyWwAEsvm2The First Monday in May documents an art installation of Chinese clothing through the centuries at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. This doc, opening at the River Oaks this weekend, will mainly appeal to fashionistas.

There is some solid production value on display and the sight of movie stars in glamorous settings can be dazzling. Too much of the doc revolves around the minutia of putting on the event. We see Anna Wintour calling the shots as to who will be seated where at the expensive opening dinner. Wintour asks plainly “What has Josh Harnett done lately?” Look closely at the seating chart for such items as Taylor Hackford listed as the husband of Helen Mirren.

— Michael Bergeron