Ten Thousand Saints

(USA 2014)

Married team Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s banal coming-of-age story clearly aimed at Gen X. Going by the references, the story takes place in 1987 and 1988 when New York City still had post-punk cool credibility. Crunchy Jude (Asa Butterfield) and his best friend, Teddy (Avan Jogia), meet urbane Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), the daughter of the girlfriend of Jude’s dad (Ethan Hawke) who is slumming from Manhattan, at a New Year’s Eve party in Vermont. Events from that night lead Jude to New York, where he moves in with his father and reunites with Eliza, who it turns out is in trouble deep and has been losing sleep: she’s pregnant, and she’s keeping her baby, mmm. An unconventional family unit starts to gel with Teddy’s “straight-edge” brother, Johnny (Emile Hirsch), the singer of a punk band.

Too nostalgic for my taste and not exactly deep, Ten Thousand Saints is neither awful nor anything to write home about. I’m not sure what Ethan Hawke saw in the script– not that he picks the most interesting vehicles, anyway. Adapted from Eleanor Henderson’s novel of the same name. Meh.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) C-



The Wolf Pack

(USA 2015)

The Wolf Pack is Crystal Moselle’s bizarre account of one family’s reclusive life imposed upon it by its weirdo patriarch in a public housing project on the lower east side of Manhattan. Forbidden to leave the apartment, pretty much everything the Angulo kids “know” comes from movies. The juxtaposition of the Empire State Building outside the small apartment’s window serves as a constant, nagging metaphor for their situation: trapped in a box inside one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, watching but not participating as life goes on without them.

The Wolk Pack wowed me on many levels. Watching the Angulo pack get through an awkward trek to Coney Island shined a light on each brother’s personality, perhaps to illustrate nature-versus-nurture. The coping mechanisms they adopted, like acting out perfect imitations of Tarantino and Batman movies as an escape, were downright heartbreaking. To see that these kids, mostly boys, came out of this experience as relatively well-adjusted, cool people is fucking amazing.

(Music Box) A-



(USA 2015)

A slice from the life of feisty millionaire fabric lady, NYC socialite, and longtime fashion maven Iris Apfel and her century-old husband, Carl. Crammed with quips and witticisms, observations, and tips on life and fashion, Iris is a much sunnier endeavor than the Maysles’ better-known Grey Gardens. Those bangles, baubles, and beads, oy!

I found Iris the person entertaining and mostly dead-on with her observations about life, but slightly annoying. She shares a birthday with Aaron, Michael Jackson, and John McCain, if that says anything. In any event, she was fun to watch, but Iris ended just before I couldn’t stomach any more.

(AMC River East) C+