Beware of Mr. Baker
The life and career of legendary British rock drummer Ginger Baker is chronicled in this straightforward yet insightful documentary that pays tribute to its subject without resorting to hagiography. Through interviews with Baker and other percussion icons, as well as archival footage, the film traces Baker’s early jazz influences, his volatile stint as a drummer alongside Eric Clapton in the bands Cream and Blind Faith, his subsequent battles with various addictions and hell-raising behavior, and his travels around the world. His flamboyant personality and fascinating life story help compensate for a rather bland approach. Regardless, it’s worth a look for fans of classic rock. (Not rated, 92 minutes).
The Central Park Five
This documentary about injustice comes from acclaimed co-director Ken Burns, recalling the story of five minority teenagers who were arrested and falsely imprisoned in 1989 for the rape of a white woman in Central Park, then were exonerated when a different man confessed to the crime. The film is incisive in its study of racial politics and the justice system in New York at the time, and breaks down the case from all angles, including emotional interviews with city officials, all five of the subjects and their families. The result is both compelling and infuriating, even if its lacks depth and context in certain areas. (Not rated, 119 minutes).
An exhilarating opening fight scene sets the stage for this otherwise cheesy chop-socky Hong Kong saga that stars Donnie Yen as a factory worker trained in the martial arts who unwittingly becomes the investigated as a killer by an overzealous detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro), involving him in a series of life-and-death struggles. The intention of director Peter Chan (The Warlords) apparently is to compensate for mundane plotting (which bears an unfavorable resemblance to A History of Violence) with a barrage of well-choreographed action sequences. He partially succeeds thanks in part to a dynamic performance by Yen that helps to cover up the more egregious plot holes. (Rated R, 98 minutes).
Veteran Irish actor Colm Meaney shines in this otherwise uneven drama that feels like two movies in one. He plays Fred, a once-proud Dublin man who now is unemployed and lives out of his car. He reluctantly strikes up a friendship with a young homeless man (Colin Morgan) who tries to get him to smoke pot and overcome his fears. It’s a slight examination of homelessness and a man in a mid-life crisis, combined with a clumsy feel-good story about impetuousness that includes a forced romantic subplot. The result has its modest and bittersweet charms, but there’s not much substance to the script. (Not rated, 94 minutes).