September 2, 2009


Also this week: Sin Nombre, State of Play, Take Out, The Evil That Men Do

Highlight of the Week

Sugar (Sony) It has become customary for sports dramas to navigate a predictably dull rags-to-riches trajectory. This one doesn’t. Half Nelson collaborators Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden once more turn a misleadingly one-note narrative on its head to rise above what’s inherently formulaic and thus score big with something unexpectedly affecting. The story goes: a Dominican baseball athlete recruited by US team is met with a series of setbacks, both internal and external. But towards the third act the film throws its titular lead a curveball and develops into a bittersweet tale of working-class woe and cultural team spirit. Extras: a making-of with nifty split screens that intercut interviews with behind-the-scenes footage, featurette on Latin American baseball hopefuls, interview with the film’s star Algenis Perez Soto, five deleted scenes. 

Also Available    

Sin Nombre (Alliance) An engrossing road pic from first-time feature director Cary Fukunaga, who shows promise as a storyteller and visual craftsman. Somewhat reminiscent of City of God, the tale follows a border-hopping young woman who encounters a Mexican thug attempting to elude some ex-associates. Extras: commentary with writer/director Cary Fukunaga and producer Amy Kaufman, deleted scenes. 

State of Play (Universal) Faithfully adapted from the 2003 BBC miniseries, this feature version falls short on clever payoffs. Nevertheless, Russell Crowe and the rest of the all-star cast (Ben Affleck notwithstanding) make the most of a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen screenplay co-written by Duplicity’s Tony Gilroy. Extras: 20-minute making-of, deleted scenes. 

Take Out (Kino) With meek production values complementing a stripped-down vérité approach, directors Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou set out to make a self-effacing pseudo-doc about an illegal Chinese immigrant living and working in NYC, but end up demonstrating a new-age neo-realist aesthetic that’s anything but lacklustre. Extras: commentary with filmmakers and actor Charles Jang, interviews, deleted scenes, audition reel. 

The Evil That Men Do (ITC Productions) In between A-list Hollywood stardom and B-list exploit-action stardom, Charles Bronson appeared in this 1984 bad boy about a former assassin back in the habit to avenge the death of an old pal. Extras: trailer.