Blood Father
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rated: R for violence, profanity and drug use
Theater: Arbor Lakes

Mel Gibson so rarely stars in movies these days that this thriller would be an event even it were lousy. Luckily for Gibson fans, the movie’s a small gem: a good old-fashioned chase picture, thickened with pulp.

Gibson plays an ex-con struggling to stay clean. Erin Moriarty plays his long-lost daughter, who shows up with murderous drug dealers on her tail. To keep her alive, he’s forced to revisit some of the worst of his old friends and use decades of know-how gleaned from prison and backwater biker gangs.

Director Jean-François Richet (“Assault on Precinct 13”) maintains too zippy a pace, not leaving much space for nuance. But he’s helped by reliable character actors such as William H. Macy (as a neighbor) and Michael Parks (as the kingpin of a racist memorabilia empire).

Most important, Richet has Gibson, whose manic “Lethal Weapon” energy has mellowed into something soulful. The character is a wonder to watch, and the guy playing him is welcome back any time.
NOEL MURRAY, Los Angeles Times

 

Gleason
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rated: R for language.
Theater: Uptown

 

Former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS at 34 and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Six weeks later, he and his wife, Michel, learned that she was expecting their first child. As a gift for their child, Gleason began recording endless home video footage explaining the adversity he faced. Director Clay Tweel has collated those countless hours of material into an intimate, deeply moving film.

Gleason, a beloved superstar in New Orleans, explains how he tried to use his fame for the benefit of others. That hardworking, dutiful attitude continued throughout his ever-deepening illness. He created a foundation to provide the newest voice synthesis equipment to other ALS sufferers losing the power of speech, inviting some to join his international family vacations as his guests.

The film shows how that heroic level of generosity became near-obsessive, pulling him from vital commitments to his own health, his bonds with Michel and their son, Rivers. It records Gleason’s growing conflict with his overbearing father, whose belief in faith healers became a painful dispute. The years of steadily declining health are a story familiar to any family that has suffered a loved one’s loss. It’s made more meaningful in the way that his understanding of his mortality helps him to lead a truly meaningful life.

The minister who marries the happy Michel and Steve at the film’s opening says the challenge of marriage is “how do we act as a couple when things aren’t great, when things are difficult.” This documentary proves how vitally important that insight is.
Colin Covert

 

Lo And Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated but suitable for all.
Theater: Lagoon.

 

Werner Herzog has given us moving documentaries about distant lands (visiting the research stations of Antarctica in “Encounters at the End of the World”), prehistoric life (a stunning 3-D examination of Paleolithic art in “Cave of Forgotten Dreams”) and tragic biography (“Grizzly Man,” about a careless amateur naturalist torn apart by a bear that also killed his girlfriend). His subject in his newest film is abstract and theoretical. “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” attempts to explore the origins, present and future of the planet’s rapidly evolving computer technologies.

This is a bigger mouthful than even a master like Herzog can digest. Attempting to deeply define human-to-machine interaction, he divides the topic into a collection of well-intended but superficial interviews. His mixed bag of experts include technologists, historians, futurists and more, each pursuing their own focus in their own language.

One chapter introduces a family whose daughter’s tragic death triggered a deluge of personal attacks from malicious online trolls. That cruelty left the mother feeling that the internet is a reservoir of evil, but vicious smear campaigns have been going on as long as poison-pen letters have been delivered. Later, online gaming and porn are portrayed as degeneracy weakening the moral fiber of internet addicts. It’s an argument that resembles attacking public libraries because they contain potentially detrimental works amid vast volumes of scholarship.

To be fair, there’s solid entertainment in hearing ex-con Kevin Mitnick’s memories of his daredevil days as a pioneering hacker, seeing inventor Sebastian Thrun’s exploits creating championship-winning autonomous cars, and observing cosmologist Lawrence Krauss’ anxieties about the doomsday consequences of one big web-short-circuiting solar flare. But as it skips from stand-alone chapters on potential telepathy, to Elon Musk’s plans for Mars tourism, to zippy little robot soccer teams, the film is no more focused than two hours spent clicking across Google.
C.C.