Lonergan, directing his first film since 2000’s You Can Count on Me, can be faulted for cramming in a lot of themes. He indulges in high school debates (teacher Matt Broderick is blasted by one) and claims Woody Allen’s trademark turf, using obvious derivations. The film is, like Lisa, a loose cannon (Lisa would have been a better title than Margaret, a small conceit using a poem that is quoted).
Lonergan pulls off the tragic bus shocker and a remarkable sex scene (as the blithe stud, Kieran Culkin’s sporty idea of foreplay is to recommend William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich). His rich ensemble includes Jean Reno as a foreigner whose suavity squishes in one loaded word. He got a major performance from Paquin, and his Offenbach opera closure is almost as moving as the Verdi one in Bertolucci’s Luna.
Inspiration floods Thunder Soul. Back in the ’70s of Afros and bell-bottoms, there arose a mighty sound in Houston’s impoverished Fifth Ward. The Kashmere Stage Band was a funky-brass group of high schoolers. Shaped and led by a little wizard of jazzed soul, Conrad “Prof” Johnson, they won contests, wowed festivals, cut albums, traveled to Europe.
Johnson retired, but in the nick of mortal time a group of middle-aged grads reunited to stage a show for their frail master. Mark Landsman’s documentary, which newly defines “labor of love,” has rousing sounds, vintage footage, narration by Jamie Foxx, and joy for us all. Go, and groove.
Reviewed in the capsules: Courageous, Dream House, Gun Hill Road, Of Love and Other Demons, Real Steel, and What's Your Number?