I saw Won't Back Down last week, and found it quite dull and uninteresting, despite all the controversy the subject matter has attracted from teachers unions. All that noise may even help the film at the box office, as audiences might be motivated to go see for themselves, what all the hoopla is about.
Two determined mothers, one a teacher, look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children.
It's what we'd call a "message movie" – the message delivered heavy-handedly, simplistically addressing what I think is a far more complex, layered issue than the film suggests; which is too bad, because the talent the project attracted (Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter, Lance Reddick, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Bill Nunn and others) is incredibly impressive. A strong ensemble cast of actors that I'd love to see in something else together; they all feel wasted here, but do what they can with the material given, in what really should be a TV movie of the week, better suited for the Hallmark Channel.
Critics seem to agree for the most part, as the film is registering a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Also opening this weekend, Cee-Lo Green, voice-stars as 'Murray the Mummy' in the the animated family film, Hotel Transylvania.
In Hotel Transylvania, Dracula operates a high-end resort for monsters away from the human world. When a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count's teen-aged daughter, he goes into over-protective mode.
In addition to Cee-Lo, the film features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Jon Lovitz, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon and David Spade.
Take the kids, because it's really for them… Trust me!
And finally, my pick of the week, a medical drama served up non-scripted style.
It's called The Waiting Room, an ITVS-funded, character-driven, cinema verité doc that, thanks to unprecendented access, takes the viewer inside the doors of an ER at an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients – I'm sure many of you can relate.
It's a raw, intimate, and uplifting look at how patients, caregivers and hospital staff deal with each other, illness, bureaucracy and hard choices.
The ER waiting room serves as the grounding point for the film, capturing in vivid detail what it means for millions of Americans to live without health insurance. Young victims of gun violence take their turn alongside artists and small business owners who lack insurance. Steel workers, taxi cab drivers and international asylum seekers crowd the halls. The film weaves the stories of several patients – as well as the hospital staff charged with caring for them – as they cope with the complexity of the nation’s public health care system, while weathering the storm of a national recession. The Waiting Room lays bare the struggle and determination of both a community and an institution coping with limited resources and no road map for navigating a health care landscape marked by historic economic and political dysfunction. It is a film about one hospital, its multifaceted community, and how our common vulnerability to illness binds us together as humans.
Directed by Emmy-award winning documentarian Peter Nicks, the film made its debut in competition at the 55th annual San Francisco International Film Festival, in April, and has now secured a theatrical release, albeit limited.
It's already playing at IFC Center in NYC (it opened on Wednesday), and opens today in Los Angeles, as part of a gradual national theatrical roll-out by International Film Circuit.
See it if you can!
That's it for this week!