"Man on a Mission"
6:30 p.m. Friday, April 13
If your dad is a Skylab astronaut and you grew up in a neighborhood full of NASA employees, it’s understandable why you might be interested in space travel. But what would you pay to make that dream come true? Does $30 million or so sound reasonable?
It did to Richard Garriott, who made his fortune by designing computer games for the Apple II back in the late 1970s and spent a sizable chunk of his savings to follow in his father’s footsteps. The lighthearted “Man on a Mission” chronicles the engagingly eccentric Garriott (he’s sort of like Dudley Moore’s “Arthur” character, minus the alcoholism) as he prepared to head to the stars aboard the Soyez TMA-13 in 2008.
Garriott’s dedication is impressive, to say the least: In addition to writing a whopper of a check, he must endure punishing physical training, learn the Russian language and even undergo precautionary surgery. If Garriott ever griped about any of this or experienced self-doubts, director Mike Woolf must have looked the other way. “Mission” is so determinedly upbeat and sunny that it can’t help but come across as much more than a mildly entertaining, starry-eyed puff piece. — James Sanford
"Fake It So Real"
2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 14
Paint your face, squeeze into those Spandex pants with the glittery belt, lace up the boots and tie on your headband. Ta-da! You’re either ready for ‘80s Night at the club, or an evening with the Millennium Wrestling Federation in Lincolnton, N.C.
Director Robert Greene’s reasonably gritty documentary follows a devoted band of musclebound guys as they prepare for one of their Saturday night smackdowns; the enterprise is so bare-bones that the “stars” have to build their own ring and set up the folding chairs for their audience. They don’t even have a street team to distribute their photocopied fliers to the local Pizza Hotline.
The show, they insist, is staged, but it’s not phony: “Nothin’ fake has real doctor bills,” mutters Pitt, one of the veterans. Indeed, “Fake” is achingly frank when it comes to detailing how this head-cracking hobby ruins bodies and relationships. While none of the wives, girlfriends, parents or kids of the wrestlers are interviewed, all the fighters seem to have sacrificed marriages, friendships and romances in their quest for small-town celebrity status.
Much of “Fake” is devoted to Gabriel Croft, an amiable, slightly daydreamy rookie who’s in the process of building up his body and creating his persona. He plans to play a sort of avenging angel, but his friends warn him against overanalyzing his character: “You’re trying to write this guy a bibliography when you should really just write him a quote,” one mentor helpfully suggests.
If the emotional and physical pain seem genuine, the humor in the film is largely unintentional. Although the men spend alarming amounts of time reminding everyone of their heterosexuality, they certainly take their sequins, feathers, eye makeup and rainbow halos as seriously as any card-carrying drag queen or pansexual rock star.— James Sanford
7 p.m. Saturday, April 14
Hell is a place with a blackboard, according to director Tony Kaye´s "Detachment," a portrait of inner-city high school life that makes "Dangerous Minds" look like an Up With People pageant. Happiness is hard to come by in Carl Lund´s sometimes unsettling screenplay, which spells out (in no uncertain terms) that poor supervision, lack of discipline, helpless administrators and misguided No Child Left Behind policies have put many kids and teachers on the fast track to disaster. Henry Barthes (Adrien Brody) is a substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom, hoping for the best and usually ending up in a worst-case scenario. In his latest assignment, he´s stuck trying to teach English to a few dozen zombies who are fluent in profanity and little else. Meanwhile, his fellow instructors pop pills to keep themselves in a state of false bliss, weather withering tirades from ignorant parents or reminisce about the good old days when moms and dads actually showed up on Parent/Teacher Night. The soon-to-be-ousted principal (Marcia Gay Harden) can´t offer much assistance to anyone as she struggles to hold herself and her career together. One associate (Lucy Liu) finally explodes, lashing out at a smart-mouthed underachiever and informing her that life as an illiterate will be "a carnival of pain." It’s often a rough ride, but "Detachment" is impressively played, and the dingy colors and rough-edged cinematography give it a documentary-style punch. While the movie brings up more issues than it has time to adequately address, its hard-nosed approach perfectly suits the unsentimental material.— James Sanford
2 p.m. Sunday, April 15
In a beautiful character study that’s every bit as good as director Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” Dennis Peterson (Kim Kold) is a mountain of a man, a 38-year-old Danish bodybuilder who’s still living at home with his nagging mother. Dennis is exceedingly socially awkward, but he really comes alive when he’s powering weights around and flexing with other men in front of mirrors at the gym. Something’s buzzing around in that thick skull of his, but you can never really tell what it is, creating a charming mystique. Why does he have such a hard time talking to women? Why is he so subservient to his mother? Will he find love in Thailand? The questions are compelling, and there’s some surprisingly good acting from real-life bodybuilder Kold. — Allan I. Ross
"We Need To Talk About Kevin"
7 p.m. Sunday, April 15
The title refers to what the increasingly distressed mom Eva (Tilda Swinton) tries to tell her cheerfully clueless husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly), to no avail. But Eva has watched her son mature from an inconsolable screaming infant to a hostile child to a sullen, secretive teenager (Ezra Miller) who ties up his little sister in tinsel garlands (“Kevin and I were playing ‘Christmas Kidnapping!’ she happily squeals) and collects computer viruses; she’s not sure what’s coming next, but the almost relentlessly ominous mood maintained by director Lynne Ramsay suggests that whatever it is, it won’t make a mother proud. This frequently jarring, sometimes uncomfortably funny adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel constantly challenges viewer sensibilities a la “American Beauty” and “Little Children.” At its center is a stupendous, extraordinarily complex performance by Swinton that keeps pulling you in, even when the subject matter threatens to become agonizingly grim. — James Sanford