In “The Angels’ Share” Robbie, a Glasgow hooligan doing community service in lieu of jail time, wants to give his new son a better childhood than he had. But he’s finding it hard to overcome the pull of gang violence.
Then he discovers fine malt whisky.
Although the English director Ken Loach has been making socially conscious movies for close to 50 years, this shaggy comedy unfolds like the work of a young man on a lark.
The leader of Robbie’s community-service team, Harry (John Henshaw), is a Scotch connoisseur. One weekend, having sensed a possibility, Harry takes his crew to a formal tasting. Robbie (Paul Brannigan), it turns out, has a nose.
The title refers to the portion of whisky that evaporates in the keg as it ages. It provides the key to this story of larceny in the world of high-stakes Scotch auctions.
“The Angels’ Share” feels cheerfully off the cuff, though with an edge that threatens to turn nasty. Be warned, the Glaswegian is thick: Perhaps 70 percent of the dialogue was comprehensible to this American ear -- more than enough for a good time.
“The Angels’ Share” is playing in New York and Los Angeles. Rating: **** (Seligman)
Cyberbullies, identity hackers, sexcam hustlers: “Disconnect” is a cautionary tale for anyone who hasn’t caught a “Dateline NBC” in the last couple of years.
Director Henry-Alex Rubin’s “Crash”-like ensemble film of interwoven stories is thoughtfully acted by Jason Bateman, Hope Davis and Alexander Skarsgard, among others.
In fact, they’re good enough (and with suitably dramatic, even tragic, developments) that Andrew Stern’s script nearly convinces us it has something to say beyond, “Internet, scary; people, alienated.”
The characters include a work-obsessed lawyer, his bullied 15-year-old son, the two thoughtless classmates whose jokes go too far and a grieving married couple pushed to the edge by a computer hacker.
In another story stream, when an ambitious local-TV reporter befriends a teenage sexcam performer (the promising Max Thieriot), both atract the attention of CNN and the FBI.
That CNN (or the FBI, for that matter) would take notice of this thoroughly unshocking non-scoop is the sort of disconnect Ruben couldn’t have intended.
“Disconnect,” from LD Entertainment, is playing select theaters. Rating: *** (Evans)
In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) desegregated baseball by putting Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) at first base. Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s “42” provides a high-gloss, feel-great version of the story.
It consists largely of white men saying vile, racist things to the saintly ballplayer, who restrains his anger (just) before hitting it out of the park, to triumphant music by Mark Isham.
Happily for this otherwise mediocre movie, Boseman is a star, consistently appealing and heart-stoppingly good-looking. And Ford seems to have been studying gruffness under John Wayne and Tom Waits; his performance is weird but hard to dislike.
“42,” from Warner Bros., is playing across the U.S. Rating: ** (Seligman)
An art thief (James McAvoy) steals a Goya, then forgets where he put it. He seeks out a hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) to help him remember. What “Trance” is really about, though, is bravura filmmaking: The director is Danny Boyle, who made “Trainspotting” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
“Trance” is a busy, glittering picture, but you never have much of a stake in the outlandish twists (unless you happen to take hypnotism very seriously). Which is probably better, since a measure of remove keeps the gleefully rendered scenes of torture and murder from being too difficult to watch. Appropriately for a movie about amnesia, I’m already having trouble recalling what I saw.
“Trance,” from Fox Searchlight Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: *** (Seligman)
Ignore the Biblical passage quoted in Terrence Malick’s impressionistic, nearly dialogue-free indulgence “To the Wonder.” All things most certainly do not work together for the good.
Awash in the artistic flourishes that heralded genius in “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven” but nearly suffocated the overpraised “The Tree of Life”, Malick’s new film chronicles a young(ish) couple’s tidal love -- here today, gone tomorrow.
Ben Affleck, more silent than not, plays Neil, an American engineer vacationing in Paris who falls for the impossibly lovely Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a Ukrainian single mom raising her 10-year-old daughter.
More girlish than her kid, Marina seems to be Malick’s fever dream of free-spirited womanhood. She’s more apt to pirouette than walk.
On little more than whim, airy Marina and little Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) move with the go-along Neil to Oklahoma, where he has a very earthbound job as an environmental inspector.
Scenes from the near-marriage and its dissolution follow, with mid-conversation snippets of dialogue elbowing for room amidst the dreamy ennui of Marina’s narration (in French, with subtitles) and Malick’s typically great soundtrack, which ranges from Dvorak to the contemporary singer-songwriter St. Vincent.
“What were we missing?” Marina wonders in retrospect, her character wandering (or swirling) forlornly around the barren suburban home.
Other characters (notably, Rachel McAdams as Neil’s short-lived interlude) wander in and out of view. Malick’s go-to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki once again lavishes his soft focus on nature’s abundant wonders -- the film is sumptuous.
A solemn Javier Bardem plays a grim-faced Catholic priest whose loss of spirituality mirrors the couple’s faded love, even as his selfless ministering to the sick and poor stands as a rebuke to Neil’s passivity.
He may be joyless, Malick seems to be saying, but at least he’s doing something besides wallowing. We can only wish this great filmmaker had followed suit.
“To the Wonder,” from Magnolia Pictures, is playing in select cities. Rating: **1/2 (Evans)
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on “Matilda” and New York weekend.