Movie Review: ‘A Borrowed Identity’

“A Borrowed Identity” establishes its tone with a scene of a young Palestinian boy rising in front of his class to announce, proudly, that his father is a terrorist. Unfolding against the politically charged backdrop of Israel in the 1980s, this thoughtful coming-of-age drama can be comedic and cutesy at times. But darkness is never very far away.

Young Eyad (Razi Gabareen) doesn’t know what the word “terrorist” means. In actuality, his father, Salah (Ali Suliman), works as a fruit picker. But despite Salah’s smarts and an impressive education, menial labor is the only job that the boy’s father can get, after the Israeli government catches him plotting with other Palestinian political activists.

Like his father, Eyad is naturally intelligent. He’s even admitted into a prestigious — and predominantly Jewish — boarding school in Jerusalem. Calling it the best school in Israel, Eyad’s father, insists that the boy attends, even though it’s expensive and far from their home.

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Assimilation is not easy for Eyad, played as a teen by the talented Tawfeek Barhom. His clothes aren’t right. No one can remember his foreign-sounding name. And he has trouble pronouncing Hebrew. Although a group of students takes delight in bullying him, the adversity doesn’t end with their playground taunts. Eyad is also routinely stopped by men in uniform, demanding to see his identification card.

Yet there are brighter moments. Eyad becomes friends with another outsider, Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), a wheelchair-using classmate suffering from muscular dystrophy. He also begins dating the lovely, popular Naomi (Daniel Kitsis), even though they have to keep their relationship secret, for fear of discovery by her disapproving parents.

It’s easy to miss the moment when the jaunty score — by Jonathan Riklis, son of Israeli director Eran Riklis (“Zaytoun”) — gives way to darker rhythms. Even as Eyad flourishes at school, the stakes are rising ominously: Yonatan’s condition worsens; Naomi decides to tell her parents the truth about her relationship with Eyad; and Eyad realizes how much easier his life would be if he simply pretended to be Jewish.

Under Riklis’s direction, the film’s first act lulls the audience into a sense of familiarity, before plunging into a darker reality. The effect is shattering. Based on the autobiographical writings of Sayed Kashua, “A Borrowed Identity” shows us a world in which an us-vs.-them mentality trumps common humanity, leaving the film’s immensely likeable and sensitive hero in a no-man’s land.

“Sometimes I forget you’re an Arab,” Yonatan tells his friend. “Me too,” Eyad responds. The message is clear: To many who look at the cute kid, misspeaking in front of the classroom, or the sweet teen taking care of a sick friend, Eyad will never be more than a label.

★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

Unrated.  Contains nudity and sex. In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles. 104 minutes.

Movie Review: ‘A Hard Day’

If everything that goes wrong for the hero of “A Hard Day” actually took place during a single 24-hour period, it would be a day to rival one of Jack Bauer’s worst. As it is, the action of this highly watchable South Korean thriller — which centers on a police detective (Lee Sun-kyun) who, on the way to his mother’s funeral, accidentally runs over a man — transpires over the course of about a week or so.

That’s long enough for the desperate cover-up that opens the film — with a darkly comic sequence set in a funeral home where the coffin occupied by the officer’s mother’s affords a convenient hiding place — to come unraveled. A few days after the accident, the detective, Gun-su, starts receiving anonymous phone calls from a mysterious witness to the hit-and-run. It isn’t long before we learn the identity of both the victim and the caller. But the film, by writer-director Kim Seong-hun, manages to throw plenty of surprises our way, up to and including the fantastic final shot of the movie, which is as unpredictable as it is satisfying.

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“A Hard Day” may be no picnic for Gun-su, but it’s great fun for fans of Tarantino-esque twists, violence and sick humor.

If there’s a quibble to be had, it may be that the movie’s star simply isn’t well known enough in the United States to instantly signal that he’s the good guy. Gun-su’s early actions — and the fact that his unit is being investigated by internal affairs for bribe-talking — create a certain emotional confusion for us at the beginning of the tale: Are we supposed to root for or against this guy?

It takes a while before our sympathies align with him, thanks to extenuating circumstances that make Gun-su’s behavior — self-serving at best, heartlessly amoral at worst — somewhat more palatable. Once that connection kicks in, it’s easy to like this recently divorced dad who’s devoted to his daughter, as well as his sister and her struggling husband. Gun-su’s mounting tribulations just make him more relatable.

It’s just as easy to like the film, which keeps things breezy and cartoonish, despite a fairly high level of violence and some mildly stomach-turning moments involving an unexpected hiding place for a key. You’ll be glad that “A Hard Day” isn’t happening to you, but you won’t regret observing it all from a safe distance.

★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★

Unrated.  Contains violence and obscenity. In Korean with subtitles. 111 minutes.

America’s Food System Is Out of Whack

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight has made something of an art out of taking otherwise obscure or tedious topics and making them both engaging and hilarious. This week he turned his sights to America’s food waste problem and how a combination of misconceptions and laziness are making the hungry hungrier and the overfed needlessly wasteful.

His rundown would touch on a lot of problems, but it would focus primarily on how a fear of lawsuits from grocery stores and the transportation costs for distributors creates a culture of risk mitigation that leads to lots of otherwise quality food being thrown in the garbage. It turns out the idea that grocery stores and restaurants can be held liable for donating bad food to the needy is entirely untrue; a myth that has spread unchecked despite the fact that Congress passed a law in 1996 that indemnified companies against such lawsuits.

It’s a truly eye-opening segment that masterfully picks apart many of our misconceptions about how we eat - and what we throw away. Watch the clip below:

‘Ant-Man’ Inches Past ‘Pixels’ to Take First-Place Spot

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LOS ANGELES, CA — “Ant-Man” crept past new opener “Pixels” to claim the top spot at the box office this weekend by an ant-sized margin. The Disney and Marvel superhero pic brought in $24.8 million over the weekend, bringing its domestic total to $106.1 million according to Rentrak estimates Sunday.

“Pixels,“ meanwhile, just barely missed first place with a $24 million debut. While studios always hope for the bragging rights of a No. 1 debut, the real issue here is whether or not the Adam Sandler end of the world comedy will make up its $88 million production budget.

“It’s been a little competitive in the marketplace when you consider the extent of the performance of ‘Jurassic’ and ‘Inside Out,‘“ said Sony’s President of Worldwide Distribution Rory Bruer. “To get to where we opened to was quite good.“

Critics were not fond of “Pixels,“ which shows 1980s video arcade game characters attacking Earth, but younger audiences still turned out to theaters – an estimated 62 percent were under the age of 25.

Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrak’s senior media analyst, said Sandler can still attract an audience, but the expensive film has a lot of ground to make up.

“They’re really going to have to count on the international component. That’s going to be key,“ he said.

Overall, the box office is down 3 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Lucy” opened particularly strong. Dergarabedian said that though some are attempting to link last week’s theater shootings to any dip in the box office this weekend, “the numbers just don’t bear it out.“

Holdovers “Minions” and “Trainwreck” took the third and fourth spots with $22.1 million and $17.3 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, the R-rated boxing drama “Southpaw” surpassed expectations and landed a place in the top five with its $16.5 million opening.

Dergarabedian said that its performance is likely due to star Jake Gyllenhaal’s enthusiastic promotion of the film and also the fact that it provides an alternative to the standard summer blockbuster fare.

“‘Southpaw’ felt like a really good fall movie,“ he said.

“Paper Towns,“ an adaptation of John Green’s coming-of-age novel, opened in sixth place with $12.5 million. The Fox film only cost $12 million to produce, but considering Green’s fan base and last year’s massive $48 million debut of “The Fault in Our Stars,“ which Green also wrote, it’s a bit disappointing.

A straight comparison isn’t entirely fair, though. “The Fault in Our Stars” had a much bigger following and transcended age and gender groups with its story of two teens dying of cancer and falling in love. “Paper Towns” is a more narrow and lighthearted high school tale.

According to exit polls, 71 percent of the “Paper Towns” audience was female and 78 percent were under age 25.

Also, Shailene Woodley was a much bigger name when “The Fault in Our Stars” came out, whereas Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff are somewhat lesser known.

Woodley’s “Divergent” association took the modest film “to another level,“ Dergarabedian said.

“I think we have a job ahead of us in the coming weeks to find more of our potential audience who we weren’t able to reach this weekend. But I think we can do that,“ said Chris Aronson, Fox’s domestic distribution president.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Rentrak. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included.

1. “Ant-Man,“ $24.8 million ($35.4 million international).

2. “Pixels,“ $24 million ($21.4 million international).

3. “Minions,“ $22.1 million ($44 million international).

4. “Trainwreck,“ $17.3 million ($220,000 international).

5. “Southpaw,“ $16.5 million ($3.5 million international).

6. “Paper Towns,“ $12.5 million ($8 million international).

7. “Inside Out,“ $7.4 million ($28.3 million international).

8. “Jurassic World,“ $6.9 million (47.6 million international).

9. “Mr. Holmes,“ $2.8 million.

10. “Terminator Genisys,“ $2.4 million ($10.7 million international).


Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Rentrak:

1. “Monster Hunt,“ $46 million.

2. “Minions,“ $44 million.

3. “Ant-Man,“ $35.4 million.

4. “Inside Out,“ $28.3 million.

5. “Jian Bing Man (Pancake Man),“ $25 million.

6. “Pixels,“ $21.4 million.

7. “The Assassination,“ $19.5 million.

8. “Monkey King: Hero is Back,“ $17 million.

9. “Terminator Genisys,“ $10.7 million.

10. “Paper Towns,“ $8 million.

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