Indie Spotlight: ‘Life of a King,’ ‘Like Father, Like Son,’ ‘Maidentrip’

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Malcolm Mays star in "The Life of a King." Credit: Millenium Entertainment
Cuba Gooding Jr. and Malcolm Mays star in “The Life of a King.”
Credit: Millenium Entertainment

‘Life of a King’
Director: Jake Goldberger
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Lisa Gay Hamilton
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

Cuba Gooding, Jr. has made a Hallmark or Hallmark-y TV movie in his time, along with the reasonably notorious attempted feel-good picture “Radio.” By all rights, “Life of a King” should be another. It’s the real-life tale of Eugene Brown, an aging ex-con who started up a chess program for at-risk inner city youths. But if it hits a lot of the expected notes, it does it from a slightly skewed angle. Director Jake Goldberger eases back on the saccharine, downplaying the mechanics of the story and only cranking up the music when an appreciably obscure soul tune takes over the soundtrack.

While a lot of underdog stories want to be “Rocky,” they really end up with the actually triumphant ending to “Rocky” sequels. This actually does the almost-but-close-enough original “Rocky” capper, one cliche that could be used by more knee-jerk weepies. The presence of Gooding might raise alarm bells, but he’s getting better with age. Few Oscar winners have had the dire post-win career he’s had, but he’s the most low-key thing about the film, rocking a weariness that can’t be faked, and visibly fighting not to be merely pitied. Between this and his hilarious scene-stealing fits in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” Gooding may be back.

"Like Father, Like Son" considers what happens when families discover their children were switched at birth. Credit: IFC Films
“Like Father, Like Son” considers what happens when families discover their children were switched at birth.
Credit: IFC Films

‘Like Father, Like Son’
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Stars: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

 Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda is one of the gentlest, least judgmental forces in the business, which makes him ideal for exploring, without the need for hard answers, subjects like death (“After Life”), family dynamics (“Still Walking”) and childhood (“Nobody Knows,” “I Wish”). That makes him a perfect fit to tackle an issue without an easy solution: what to do after it’s discovered two children have been switched at birth. Two families — one middle-class business types; the other more hippie small business owners — discover that their sons have been mismatched, and spend the rest of the film wondering what to do: switch them back, keep each kid with the family who’ve raised them or some third option.

There’s a sort of end point in mind from the beginning, but Koreeda remains more interested in the ever-shifting relations between the very different families. Issues of class come into it, with the more well-off family struggling to deal with their snobbery and misconceptions relating to the people with whom they’ve been forced into knowing. But even with a tighter story structure than he’s used to, the ever-curious side of Koreeda wins out.

"Maidentrip" presents the journey of Laura Dekker, a teen who sailed around the world. Credit: First Run Features
“Maidentrip” presents the journey of Laura Dekker, a teen who sailed around the world.
Credit: First Run Features

‘Maidentrip’
Director: Jillian Schlessinger
Genre: Documentary
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

New Zealand-born Danish teenager Laura Dekker made headlines when she announced a few years back that she wanted to become the youngest person to circumnavigate globe by herself. Few events cry out more for a documentary, and luckily “Maidentrip” is a grounded one — neither sensational nor unduly dramatic. In fact, it’s disarmingly light, much like its teenager. No “All Is Lost” tale here: Despite being on a swank-ish boat all by herself for a year and a half — albeit with plenty of pitstops, sightseeing and chances for her to hang it with documentarian Jillian Schlessinger’s film crew — she faces few hardships and only transitory bouts of loneliness. The film doesn’t push an agenda or anything, much really, not even making generational generalizations, despite Dekker having shot much of the footage by herself.

In fact, its most revelatory aspect is entirely tacit: that Dekker is the perfect age at the most perfect time in history to attempt a globe-trot without succumbing to madness or death. The film could stand to be longer, to have a few more longeurs that take in scenery and clear the mind. (It moves faster than most screwballs.) But doing that might have been to impose something on the material that simply was never there.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.