Thursday, June 5, 2014

Two from the indie side


A widowed working-class father tries to raise two boys while coping (or failing to do so) with the death of his wife in Hellion, a drama set in Galveston, Texas. Dad (Aaron Paul) clearly lacks the skills to handle his sons, and the older boy (Josh Wiggins) is in the midst of a prolonged rebellion that lands him in trouble with the law. Director Kat Candler has hold of a strong subject, but her movie tends to dawdle as it searches for a way to bring its many issues to a dramatic boil. Wiggins' Jacob is a motocross enthusiast, but Hellion isn't really about a kid's fascination with motocross: It's a look at the impact of a father with lmiited parenting skills on his two sons, the younger of them played by Deke Garner. At one point, Garner's Wes is sent to live with his aunt (Juliette Lewis), a woman who believes that her brother-in-law is obviously deficient when it comes to assuming responsibility. Paul does a nice job portraying a man who as trouble admitting that he doesn't know how to control his sons, but who wants to keep custody of them. Wiggins, who provides the movie with its center, does a fine job portraying a basically decent kid whose future is uncertain. Eventually, atmosphere and situation must give way to drama. Unfortunately, Candler's high-powered finale doesn't quite ring true.


In Ping Pong Summer, director Michael Tully makes a return trip to youth. Ping Pong Summer tells the story of Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte), a teen-ager who goes on a seashore vacation with his mother (Lea Thompson), father (John Hannah) and sneering sister (Helena May Seabrook). Early on, Rad encounters the local bully (Joseph McCaughtry), who also happens to be an ace at Ping Pong. That gvies the movie the opportunity to build toward a final face-off at the Ping Pong table between McCaughtry's Lyle and Rad. Although Rad's beginning to take an interest in girls, he can't bring himself to express his fondness a local beauty (Emmi Shockley), even though she seems to like him. Set during the 1980s, the mildly diverting Ping Pong Summer proceeds as if we all might share a fondess for the Maryland shore where the Miracle family takes its vacation. Predictably, the film introduces an oddball woman (Susan Sarandon) who lives next door to the Miracles and who we know from the start will play a role in Rad's inevitable march toward self-confidence.

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