Should you watch the new CBS series “Tracker” right after the Super Bowl? We have some thoughts.
Not a football fan? You’re in luck. “The Monk and the Gun,” “Disco Boy” and “Out of Darkness” are three worthwhile alternatives along with our find of the week, which centers its action in a car trunk.
Say what? Read on.
“Tracker”: Any series that debuts after the Super Bowl needs to avoid two things: being too brainy, and being too dumb. Creator Ben H. Winters doesn’t fumble with “Tracker,” but he doesn’t necessarily score a TD — it’s more like a tie-it-up field goal. Justin Hartley makes for a likable lead as Colter Shaw, a dreamy outdoors loner freelancing his survivalist instinct services to two endearing dog-loving bosses and couple (Robin Weigert and Abby McEnany). Colter is the equivalent of a human bloodhound sent out to sniff out missing miscreants. He’s also one elusive brooder, haunted by traumatic family events from his youth. Author Jeffery Deaver’s novel “The Never Game” inspired all of it and the material offers ripe opportunities to capitalize on the beauty and treachery of the outdoors — in between gratuitous shirtless shots of an extra-fit Hartley. Both are welcome sights. Is this great TV? Oh, no. But it is undemanding, enjoyable, and has potential for further development. It’s easy on the brain and, oh yes, the eyes. Which kind of makes it perfect post Super Bowl viewing: Details: 2½ stars out of 4; debuts after Super Bowl LVII on CBS.
“The Monk and the Gun’: Bhutanese filmmaker Pawo Choyning Dorji follows up his lovely Oscar-nominated “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” with another beauty set in his homeland. Like “Lunana,” “The Monk and the Gun” features meditative views of the unspoiled Himalayan kingdom and also serves up a heartwarming slice of Bhutan life. It’s a more complicated and satisfying story than “Lunana,” and centers on the ramping up of a mock election after the country’s beloved King in 2008 stepped down to give citizens the right to vote. In the midst of this unpopular move, a concerned lama (Kelsang Choejey) requests that his disciple Tashi (Tandin Wangchuk) find two guns before the full moon rises. For what purpose? No one knows. Tashi’s path crosses with an American gun collector (Harry Einhorn), a meet-up that accentuates the cultural clash between America’s capitalist views and Bhutan’s pursuit for interior enrichment. “The Monk and the Gun” delivers a gentle caress of a message that’s quietly delivered, but holds power in this volatile American election year. Details: 3½ stars; in theaters Feb. 9.
“Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó”: Fremont filmmaker Sean Wang’s Oscar-nominated documentary short (around 17 minutes) is a tender kiss to not only his adorable maternal and paternal grandmothers, now roomies, but to everyone’s grandparents, alive or passed on. Wang’s playful, heartwarming style — used to full effect in his award-winning feature-length debut “Dìdi,” which just got scooped up for distribution by Focus Features — conveys so much joy and love, you’ll fall in love with it. Wang takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to observe these delightful Fremont grandmothers — horsing around, throwing shade about one’s frequent flatulence (they share the same bed), organizing shoes and even playing dress up. In their 80s and 90s, both women also reflect on their tough times growing up and how they prevailed and are now ready to just have fun and enjoy the time they can spend with their grandson. “Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó” puts a gigantic smile on your face and a boulder-sized lump in your throat. (P.S.: Do watch the extra scene showing their reaction to the Oscar nomination announcement. It’s priceless.) Details: 4 stars; drops Feb. 9 on Disney+ as part of its “People & Places” series.
“Disco Boy”: In both its visual style and storytelling sense, director Giacomo Abbruzzese’s debut feature mesmerizes from beginning to end. It’s an incredible filmmaking debut, and an unpredictable one as well, in which Franz Rogowski continues to prove he’s one of this generation’s most intriguing actors. Here, he stares into that guilty heart of darkness as Belarusian immigrant Aleksei, who enters the French Foreign Legion after a tragic incident. Aleksei’s time in the barracks and in training get intercut with the story of a Nigerian brother (Morr Ndiaye) and sister (Laetitia Ky) ]rebelling against what’s happening on the Niger Delta, a land relentlessly stripped of its resources and minerals by various countries. When Aleskei’s world collides with theirs, it disrupts the fabric of everyone’s existence, leading to a surreal, haunting finale that’s as fitting as it is indefinite. Details: 3½ stars; in select theaters Feb. 9.
“Out of Darkness”: The often baseless fear of the unknown and the “other” serves Andrew Cumming’s debut well in this creepy, atmospheric horror/thriller set 45,000 years ago when six journeyers arrive on unforgiving land. Ruth Greenberg’s screenplay does a fine job of illustrating the plight of refugees and the misguidedness of colonizers, a message that takes shape after Adem (Chuku Modu), the clan’s brutish leader, has his 11-year-old son Heron snatched in the dark. He and others, including a “stray” to the clan (Safia Oakley-Green) and the empathetic Geirr (Kit Young), risk all to find him. Tense throughout, “Darkness” focuses on the the darkness in human souls rather than imagined creatures of the night, making it all that more disturbing, and — of course — relevant. Details: 3 stars; opens Feb. 9 at area theaters.
“Suncoast”: Director/screenwriter Laura Chinn’s deeply personal first feature fictionalizes a painful period in her life when her unresponsive brother, who had terminal brain cancer, got relocated to a Florida hospice care facility for the final phase of his life. Chinn’s film toggles between the anguish that envelopes mother and daughter and the developments of a routine coming-of-age story. But the two don’t mix all that well. It is the cast — in particular Nico Parker as conflicted teen Doris, who wants to enjoy high school but cares for her brother while supporting her tightly coiled mother (Laura Linney) — that distinguishes it. Woody Harrelson is well cast as Doris’s new friend Paul, a protestor grieving the loss of his wife. Paul is camping outside of the hospice where Terri Schiavo — the lighting rod in the right-to-die debate in 2005 — is staying and creating a media firestorm. The Schiavo references, unfortunately, lack context. When “Suncoast” focuses on Doris and her emotionally brittle mom — Linney makes you feel the panicky fear of a mother about to lose her child — it’s heartbreaking, and is at its best. Details: 2½ stars; available to stream Feb. 9 on Hulu.
Find of the week
“Trunk (Locked In)”: An entire thriller constructed on the premise of a desperate woman trapped in a car trunk sounds like it would run out of gas well before it reaches its final destination. Guess again. Director and screenwriter Marc Schiesser’s claustrophobic film never hits the brakes as 28-year-old Malina (Sina Martens) comes up with industrious ways to figure out who is the driver and how to get out of an impossible situation. Oh, it’s preposterous, but there are enough unexpected turns in the plot to keep you guessing as you bite those nails down to the quick. Details: 3 stars; available now on Amazon Prime.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected].