Flick of the Week: Casa de mi Padre

Turner Classic Movies is coming to the Prince Music Theatre (1412 Chestnut Street) on Thursday night at 7:30 pm as Ben Mankiewicz introduces Eva Marie Saint and Hitchcock’s classic thriller. Click here to get your FREE tickets.

If you’ve never seen North by Northwest on the big screen—or at all—this is your BIG chance. Hitchcock’s smart, breezy thriller features a great performance by Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill, a man innocently swept up in international intrigue when he is mistaken for a stranger. He meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) and they fall in love—but is she a spy working for the evil Phillip Vandamm (James Mason as his icy best)?

North by Northwest provides many fantastic sequences as the characters cross the country from New York to South Dakota. (Fun Fact: The title comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, not geography).  Pay close attention in the famous scene of Grant being threatened by a crop duster—there is no music—and hang on during the exciting finale on top of Mount Rushmore. Grant is charming, Saint is erotically alluring, and Hitchcock was at the peak of his powers. North by Northwest generates laughs, action, romance and chills in equal measure.

Opening this Week:

21 Jump Street A big screen version of the small screen hit about undercover cops trying to bust a high school drug ring.

Being Flynn Robert DeNiro stars as a homeless, alcoholic father, and Paul Dano as his scared son Nick, in this adaptation of Nick’s memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.

Casa de mi Padre It’s tempting to write the entire review for Casa De Mi Padre in Spanish, as this Will Ferrell comedy patische, filmed in MexicoScope, is spoken almost entirely in Spanish. Ferrell plays Armando, the goodhearted, but dumb son of a landowner. He cares more about sheep than women it seems, but just hasn’t found the right girl. Until—da-dum!—his brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his muy caliente fiancé, Sonia (muy caliente Genesis Rodriguez). Armando soon suspects not only that Sonia does not love his brother—but also that-da-da-da-dum!—Raul is…a Narco Americano (drug dealer) battling The Onza (Gael García Bernal).

Told in the style of a 1970s grindhouse feature crossed with the extreme close-ups of a telenovia, The slow motion action sequences—a wedding that turns into a shootout—is fantastic, as are the fake sets and animatronic “cato blanco” (that’s white cat, a Bengal Tiger). The exaggerated expressions and film jumps all contribute to the film’s jokiness, as do the fabulous musical numbers. (One song, “Lala” is hilarious.) Ferrell actually acquits himself well in the role, which include an extended and amusing bare-ass love scene. Even better is Gael García Bernal as the drug lord who wears a white suit and some funky boots. Casa de mi Padre is about a three-joke film. But they are three very funny jokes.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home Jeff (Jason Segel), who lives at home—in his mother Sharon’s (Susan Sarandon) basement—is asked to complete a simple task: buy and fix a broken shutter on a kitchen door. Of course, this 30 year-old stoner gets distracted along the way, and things quickly go south. The chief trouble comes when he encounters his annoying older brother Pat (Ed Helms, highly annoying) who has just bought a new Porsche and faces a marital crisis that he hopes Jeff can help him solve. Segel makes Jeff the character amusing as he wanders through his life searching for meaning, but Helms will grate on viewers who don’t find his manic antics fitfully funny. Even though a subplot involving Sharon’s secret admirer at work seems thin, this slight film is slightly charming.

Natural Selection The circumstances that bring the Christian Linda White (Rachael Harris) and drug using escaped ex-con Raymond (Matt O’Leary) together in the oddball odd couple comedy Natural Selection may be best left for viewers to discover. What can be revealed is that they involve Linda’s husband Abe (John Diehl) and his strict views on procreation. Linda tracks down Raymond in Tampa with the intention of bringing him home to her husband in Texas. But of course things go quickly awry. Since the cops are after Raymond, he tries to trick the naive Linda out of her car, but an incident involving hot coffee and an exposed penis result in Raymond needing Linda’s care.

While Raymond is pretty insistent that he does not really want her help, Linda unexpectedly wins him (and viewers) over during a conversation they have at a diner they break into one night. This scene adds some depth to their characters, and makes Natural Selection more interesting—as do a few smart third act twists. Writer/director Robbie Pickering has fashioned a redemption tale as a deadpan dark comedy. Some of the humor—such as a running gag involving Linda’s brother in law Peter (Jon Gries), a Texas minister, using phrases like “Goddammit”—will generate laughs or eye rolls. But the performances, by O’Leary and Harris especially are so acute that they smooth over the film’s rough and sometimes dull passages.

Seeking Justice Nicolas Cage stars in another vigilante film, when he should be seeking a career.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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