• On ‘Capt. Fantastic’ and ‘War Dogs’

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    Karen Kunawicz

    Karen Kunawicz

    It’s a pleasant surprise to find an independent little film like Captain Fantastic get a run locally. Blockbusters, Hollywood / big studio fare, love stories and horror films are generally the staple.

    Captain Fantastic is incredibly charming and utterly refreshing—and Viggo Mortensen is absolute bliss on the screen. The man is incredibly, smart and sexy; he can get political, physical or philosophical as the need arises. He’s absolutely perfect for the role of Ben Cash—a father of six who “home schools” his children in mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest.

    Ben Cash teaches his children how to hunt wild animals and take them down with a knife, how to survive in the wilderness also how to be well versed in the Constitution, the works of Dostoevsky and play a musical instrument.

    These kids don’t own mobile phones or a computer, but they can climb trees, think on their feet and discuss works of literature or the Bill of Rights.

    Miles Teller (center) and Jonah Hill (right) in ‘War Dogs’

    Miles Teller (center) and Jonah Hill (right) in ‘War Dogs’

    The death of Ben’s wife Leslie takes them on a road trip to New Mexico where they intend to give her a burial consistent with her beliefs and wishes. It’s interesting to see them engage with the “outside world.” Despite Ben being a bit too stubborn and extreme at times, I couldn’t help but root for him and his unconventional (by today’s standards) brood.

    I do love the nod the film gives to purity, living off the grid, thinking independently and just being comfortably yourself and not part of the mainstream.

    Captain Fantastic was written and directed by Matt Ross (who plays Gavin Belson in HBO’s Silicon Valley). It probably may have to give way to other films by the time you read this but, I couldn’t let the week go without mentioning it.

    By the way, Captain Fantastic got a 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes.

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    Opening this week is Todd Philips’ War Dogs. Philips is probably best known for The Hangover films. So while this film handles rather serious political subject matter: US arms deals, defense spending and weapons contracts, you can expect some irreverent political humor thrown in.

    About 10 years ago, two Miami twentysomethings—David Packouz (Miles Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) discover they can make a substantial amount of money by going to the Fed Biz Opps website and getting contracts to supply the US government with weapons. Of course as the contracts get bigger, so does the risk involved—and these two boys do get into a lot of trouble.

    Philips has succeeded in making something political actually funny—perhaps because the scenario is so absurd yet it is so real and is happening right under our noses.

    * * *

    Captain Fantastic opened on August 17, War Dogs opens today. If you are after cuter dogs, there’s also The Secret Life of Pets (check out “Popcorn Match” on this spread!).

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