Review: A Tony Hawk documentary, ‘Metal Lords’ and more movies to watch this weekend
It’s odd in a way that skateboarding has become such a huge spectator sport. Sure, its big-air tricks look spectacular — when landed, anyway. But a lot of top-tier skating requires athletes to wipe out, over and over, painfully and often in public. Sam Jones’ documentary “Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off” makes that plain in its opening sequence, in which the celebrity skater, now in his 50s, tries and fails repeatedly to stay on his board while attempting an almost impossible spin. What Hawk’s doing is a grind — as frustrating to watch as it must be to attempt.
Hawk has participated in multiple very good docs about the rise of skating culture, but Jones’ film is the most comprehensive to date about Hawk himself. Clocking in at just over two hours, “Until the Wheels Fall Off” tells pretty much his whole story: from his days as a skinny teenager who favored balletic grace over macho power, to his rise to fame and fortune in the X Games era. Because Hawk’s generation documented nearly every event — in part since that’s how they made money in the early days, from skate videos — Jones has copious footage to cover Hawk’s decades in the spotlight.
Yet what makes this such an engaging and enlightening documentary is Hawk himself — so frank and reflective in his interviews. He’s had rough patches: some family heartbreak, some busted relationships and some economic hardship when skating waned in popularity. But his good heart and his dedication to pushing his limits has won converts even among some formerly bitter old rivals. This lively and at times moving film explains, eloquently, why Hawk has endured in popular culture — and why he can’t stop risking his bones to master the maneuvers few can do.
'Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off'
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Playing: Available now on HBO Max
For as long as adolescents have angst, there will be films like “Metal Lords,” a high school dramedy about alienated kids who bond by starting a band. Directed by Peter Sollett (best known for the youthful romance “Raising Victor Vargas”) and written by “Game of Thrones” co-creator D.B. Weiss, “Metal Lords” traffics way too much in teen movie clichés; but whenever it sticks to the music and the relationships between its core trio of weirdoes, it’s genuinely affecting.
Jaeden Martell plays Kevin, a meek loner who trains himself to be a decent hard rock drummer to help out his best friend, Hunter (Adrian Greensmith), an uncompromising metalhead who reflexively lashes out at the world. Isis Hainsworth plays Emily, a skilled cellist whom Kevin recruits to be in the group over Hunter’s objections.
These young actors give rich performances, digging into their characters’ underlying fears and dreams — even when the story has them coping with hackneyed complications like bullying jocks, insensitive parents and strict teachers. The film’s pivotal piece is Greensmith’s Hunter, who is as impressively impassioned as he is self-destructively abrasive. “Metal Lords” is disappointingly formulaic, but Hunter’s restless energy keeps the picture lively, all the way up to its cathartic musical finale.
Rated: R, for language throughout, sexual references, nudity, and drug/alcohol use – all involving teens
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Available on Netflix
The key element to nearly any coming-of-age story is its location; and that’s certainly the case with “Coast,” an indie drama about a directionless teen named Abby (Fátima Ptacek) who loves vintage punk rock and can’t wait to move away from her dinky California farming town. Directed by Jessica Hester and Derek Schweickart from a screenplay by Cindy Kitagawa, “Coast” rambles a bit in the early going; but the movie finds its narrative drive when Abby meets Dave (Kane Ritchotte), a charismatic traveling musician who makes her feel special and offers her a possible pathway out of the sticks. There’s not much new to this plot, but the filmmakers invest a lot of personal feeling and creative energy into their depiction of a rural community populated by the children of immigrants, as seen from the perspective of a kid too bored and angry to appreciate — yet — what makes her home special.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Glendale; also available on VOD
The surprise success of this year’s best picture winner, “CODA,” may lead some viewers to seek more movies about Deaf culture. For something more offbeat than “CODA,” they should try the inventive comedy “What?,” which applies the look and techniques of classic black-and-white silent movies to a contemporary showbiz story. Written and directed by Alek Lev, the film stars John Maucere as Don, a deaf actor who is popular in his own community but would rather be taken seriously in Hollywood. Lev can’t reconjure the visual magic of Chaplin and Keaton; his staging and shots lack their meticulous design and focus. But while this movie could use more comic snap, it’s quite sharp about the daily challenges a Deaf actor faces in an industry built on winning people over with well-spoken bluster.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Playing: Lumiere Music Hall, Beverly Hills; available on VOD April 19
Part advocacy documentary and part you-are-there report, Liz Marshall’s “Meat the Future” follows the ongoing efforts of scientists and ecologists to make breakthroughs in the new technology of meat grown from animal cells. The film mainly follows Dr. Uma Valeti, a cardiologist passionate about healthy living, environmental sustainability and protecting animals. The movie lays out key data points that persuasively — if a bit dryly — position laboratories as the inevitable future of food. But more engaging are the sequences showing technicians at work and lobbyists trying to win over a skeptical press and wary farmers.
'Meat the Future'
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: Available on VOD
Also on streaming and VOD
“Return to Space” documents the long process of trial and error (and hope and vision) that went into Elon Musk’s SpaceX launching a privately funded manned mission to the International Space Station from American soil. The Oscar-winning “Free Solo” directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make use of the company’s own astonishing behind-the-scenes footage to tell a dramatic story. (Netflix)
“Cow” is a documentary from the acclaimed “Fish Tank” and “American Honey” filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who spent years with her crew filming the daily life of a dairy cow, watching her give birth, give milk and fulfill a crucial if underappreciated part in the food chain. (VOD)
“All the Old Knives” stars Chris Pine and Thandiwe Newton as grizzled spies and occasional lovers who meet for dinner to hash out the details of a recent botched operation — trying to figure out who’s to blame and who they can trust. (Prime Video)
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Parallel Mothers” earned an Oscar nomination for its star Penélope Cruz, who plays an accomplished photographer who employs a cash-strapped younger woman as a maid. Writer-director Pedro Almodóvar brings his usual blend of entertaining melodrama and complex character study. (Sony)
“Jockey” stars the veteran character actor Clifton Collins Jr., giving a career-best performance as a battered and bruised champion rider struggling to keep his career afloat while also mentoring a young man who claims to be his son. (Sony)
“The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter” is a classic of 1980s kung-fu cinema, with Gordon Liu playing a martial arts student who learns a special pole-fighting technique while on a mission of revenge. A new special edition Blu-ray features vintage interviews and insights from experts, who explain how an unexpected tragedy both complicated the production and cemented its legacy. (Arrow)
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