INDIE FLICKS: DON'T THINK TWICE
A close-knit improvisational troupe falls apart in writer-director Mike Birbiglia's Don't Think Twice (R), an uncommonly wise movie about comedian psyches, their propelling egos and extrovert fragility. Birbiglia's standup experiences made 2012's Sleepwalk With Me the finest nondocumentary ever about the serious art of comedy; this one is right there with it.
Birbiglia stars as Miles, founder of a Manhattan improv team disrupted when one member, Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), gets recruited for a late night TV comedy show like SNL. It's the big break every member of the group expected for themselves, and there's tension beneath the congratulations. They know their window to fame is closing.
Despite its dramatic elements, Don't Think Twice is packed with shrewdly conceived humor, springing from how clearly these characters are defined. They kid because they love each other, drawing blood in heated moments for the same reason. The father of one troupe member suffers a devastating motorcycle accident, and everyone joins the hospital vigil, unable to resist mocking the victim's slurred speech. That's what true friends do, in this irreverent world of one-upping the other comic.
Don't Think Twice wobbles a bit near the end when Birbiglia must wrap together such tangents, finishing a bit too neatly for the satisfying randomness of what preceded. But this is another entertaining and enlightening movie from Birbiglia about people who make us laugh, for whom life isn't always funny.
Opens Friday at Tampa Theatre. A-
William Wyler's 1959 version of Ben-Hur won 11 Academy Awards, tied for No. 1 all time, including best actor Charlton Heston, playing his most famous character not named Moses.
Naturally, modern Hollywood believes Ben-Hur (PG-13) needs a remake.
Jack Huston dons the tunic as Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince converted to Christianity after being enslaved thanks to his Roman soldier brother (Toby Kebbell). It's a story ripe with faith-based support, but what everyone really wants to know is: How's the chariot race? We'll see.
A review of Ben-Hur will be published at t ampabay.com/movies.
On the other hand, Collide (PG-13) doesn't stir much curiosity with its face-palm plot. Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road) is a backpacker touring Europe when his girlfriend (Felicity Jones) is hospitalized. Needing money, he does the only sensible thing: work for drug smugglers as a driver on the high-speed Autobahn. Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley play villains, ensuring scenery will be chewed.
MOVIES WITH CAUSES: WMNF-FM, FILMME GUILD, TIGLFF
Three upcoming movie events will benefit two Tampa Bay cultural staples and a promising startup.
Tonight at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine Arts, the Filmme Guild presents Daisies, a 1966 import from Czechoslovakia, in which two teenage feminists prank the world around them. The movie will be followed by a discussion led by group founder Allie Gemmill.
Admission is $5, which includes museum access after 5 p.m. The movie begins at 6. The Filmme Guild explores the roles of women in cinema, as creators and characters. I joined them last month for Todd Haynes' Safe, and can vouch for this group's cinema savvy.
On Wednesday, community radio WMNF-FM 88.5 hosts the Florida premiere of Miss Sharon Jones!, a documentary profiling the lead singer of the Dap Kings, and a pancreatic cancer survivor. The film is directed by Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, U.S.A., Shut Up and Sing). Tickets are $11, available at wmnf.org. Show time is 7:30 p.m., at Tampa Pitcher Show, 14416 N Dale Mabry Highway.
Also on Wednesday, St. Petersburg's Freefall Theatre, 6099 Central Ave., hosts a screening of Me, Myself and Her, the story of a lesbian couple disrupted when a man stirs old romantic feelings. It's part of the venue's monthly fund and awareness raisers for the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Tickets are $15.
in theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Hell and High Water: Gritty, modern day western starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine.
2 Don't Think Twice: Mike Birbiglia's latest gem treating comedy seriously.
3 War Dogs: Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as arms dealers.
4 Indignation: Logan Lerman shines in a classy adaptation of Philip Roth's novel.
5 Florence Foster Jenkins: Meryl Streep bids for her 20th Oscar nod, as the worst opera singer ever.
(Dates subject to change)
Aug. 26: Mechanic: Resurrection; Hands of Stone; Southside With You; Don't Breathe
Sept. 2: The Light Between Oceans; Morgan; Equity; Solace
Sept. 9: Sully; Before I Wake; When the Bough Breaks; The Disappointments Room; The Wild Life
Sept. 16: Bridget Jones's Baby; Snowden; Blair Witch
Sept. 23: The Magnificent Seven; Queen of Katwe; Storks; The Dressmaker; The Hollars
Sept. 30: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children; Deepwater Horizon; Masterminds