GMG - Las Vegas Weekly

September 4, 2014

Las Vegas Weekly

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44 LasVegasWeekLy.com September 4–10, 2014 A& E | screen What if Elvis Presley's stillborn identical twin brother was actually secretly sent to live with another family and grew up to become an Elvis impersonator? That's the rather silly but potentially intriguing scenario posed by the faith-based drama The Identical, although the movie's bland wholesomeness and meager production values get in the way of exploring the idea with any real depth. The biggest problem is casting Elvis impersonator and first-time actor Blake Rayne as Ryan Wade, the unwitting twin brother of Elvis-like rock star Drexel "The Dream" Hemsley. Rayne is out of his depth next to the cast of veteran actors, including Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd as Ryan's adoptive parents, a stern preacher and his wife. The religious message is less heavy-handed than it could have been, although the omnipresent narration obliterates any possible subtlety. Mostly Rayne just coasts through the movie looking dazed, only coming to life when he sings one of the off-brand faux-Elvis songs on the soundtrack. –Josh Bell F I L M Elvis has lEft thE building F I L M | V o D CrimE pays a strong cast anchors the low-key Life of Crime As far as Elmore Leonard adapta- tions go, Life of Crime has nothing on Get Shorty or Out of Sight or Jackie Brown, but it does a better job of translating the late crime novelist's work than plenty of other movies have. Based on Leonard's 1978 novel The Switch, Life of Crime takes place in that same year in Detroit, where two small- time criminals (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def) conspire to kidnap Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), the wife of a wealthy, corrupt real estate mogul (Tim Robbins). As they often do in Leonard's sto- ries, complications ensue, and ransom- ing Mickey becomes difficult when her husband is more interested in spending time with his mistress (Isla Fisher) in the Bahamas than in paying to get his wife back. Life of Crime is a bit slow- moving at first, but it gets more enter- taining as plans go further and further awry and the characters' true emotions start to emerge. Writer- director Daniel Schechter is no Quentin Tarantino, but he evokes the time period with subtle flourishes and gets strong performances from his en- tire cast, especially Fisher as a woman much savvier than she first appears to be. Life of Crime isn't spectacular or groundbreaking, but it does Leonard's lean prose justice. –Josh Bell aaacc LIFE OF CRIME Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, John Hawkes. Directed by Daniel Schechter. Rated R. Available on Video on Demand. Local filmmakers Jerry and Mike Thompson follow up their charming 2009 feature debut Thor at the Bus Stop with the equally charming but slightly less ambitious Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West, a showcase for Strip headliner Gregory Popovich and his menag- erie of pet performers. Funded on Kickstarter (disclosure: I was one of the backers, and I have a brief cameo) and shot in Vegas with local actors, the movie has a distinctive home- town, let's-put-on-a-show feel, embodied by Popovich, who stars as a fictionalized version of himself. The movie's Popovich is a down-on-his- luck street performer living in a junkyard full of animals, who also happen to be his only friends. When his cruel neighbor reports him to the authorities for running an unauthorized animal shelter, Popovich has a limited time to raise enough money to properly license his facility, or risk losing his animal friends. It's a setup that was already familiar back in the silent-movie era, but the Thompsons (who co-wrote the script with Popovich) use the simplicity to their advantage, creating straightforward, family- friendly entertainment that is more interested in show- casing animal antics than in telling a complex story. The simplicity also works to Popovich's strengths, which are physical comedy and interacting with ani- mals, not emoting or delivering dialogue. There are echoes of classic silent comedians Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin (especially Chaplin's 1928 com- edy The Circus) in Popovich's story, and the Thompsons do a good job balancing the slap- stick and sentiment. The movie incorporates a number of routines from Popovich's stage show, and the plot sometimes swerves awk- wardly to include them, but they're clearly the main draw. In a way, that's a shame, because the kind of oddball characters that the Thompsons proved so talented at creating in Thor get pushed to the margins. Mike Thompson steals every scene he's in as a fellow street performer known as Space Mime, and he gets one pretty amazing showcase during a talent- show segment, but for the most part, the vari- ous dogs, cats and other creatures deserve billing above the human supporting cast. Given how impressive their antics are, though, it's hard to begrudge them their moment in the spotlight. aaacc P OP OVICH AND THE VOICE OF THE FABLED AMERICAN WE ST Gregory Popovich, Melody Melendez, Antonio Fargas. Directed by Jerry and Mike Thompson. Not rated. Opens Friday. F I L M pEt powEr Local filmmakers the Thompson brothers deliver another charmer by JoSh bell > DOg DAyS Popovich and one of his pet pals. aaccc THE IDENTICAL Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd. Directed by Dustin Marcellino. Rated PG. Opens Friday.

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