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directed by Ethan Hawke

(R, 2 hours, 9 minutes)

Ethan Hawke's delicate Blaze isn't really about obscure singer-songwriter Blaze Foley, although Foley (played by Little Rock native Ben Dickey) is a central character. It's about what you might have to give up as an artist; about living an authentic life.

Foley, born Michael David Fuller in Malvern in 1949, who died penniless after being shot by the son of an elderly friend in Austin, Texas, in 1989, wrote and sang a lot of songs, slept in dumpsters and under pool tables, disappointed some people and annoyed others. He walked with a limp from a childhood bout with polio and needed medication to keep his brain from jumping out his skull.

He met actress and playwright Sybil Rosen when he was living in an artists' colony in Carroll County, Ga., in the mid-1970s. (Rosen's memoir, Living in the Woods in a Tree, serves as the basis for the movie, which Rosen wrote with Hawke. She plays her own mother in the film.)

Rosen believed in Foley, and they set out on the road so he could attempt a career from Atlanta to Chicago to Houston and finally to Austin, where he was embraced by the vital singer-songwriter community and hooked up with legendary singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton), who would become his mentor, substance abuse buddy and role model.

Van Zandt is like one of Jean Genet's street saints; an authentic outlaw. And he pulls Blaze -- who maybe could have gone either way -- into his dark vortex.

Blaze could be deconstructed as a triumph of casting; Dickey, Shawkat and Sexton all seem born to play their characters. And Hawke knows how to make a film feel real. While the narrative is jumbled -- Blaze is like a box of photographs spilled on a floor and picked up in random order -- the control is strong.

While it's easy to be cynical about things like this, Blaze seems to genuinely come from a place of love. It doesn't presume to know the answer to its central question: Do you have to blow off everything to not be a hack?

With Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Linklater.

They Shall Not Grow Old (R, 1 hour, 39 minutes) You may think you don't have much interest in watching a film about British troops engaged in battle in World War I. You will likely reconsider that opinion after watching this extraordinary work by Peter Jackson (the talent behind the Lord of the Rings films).

Using black-and-white footage of British soldiers on the front line of battle in Belgium, Jackson assembled a crack team of restoration experts to remaster the footage in color, adjust the speed of the images produced by then hand-cranked cameras to mimic reality, and employ lip-reading experts to figure out what the subjects are saying that's now being used as audio.

There's an added layer of detailed, personal and provocative narrative by soldiers who had been interviewed in the 1960s and 1970s. The stories they tell range from tragic and moving to laughable -- all revealing a historical period that words alone can't describe.

Everybody Knows (R, 2 hours, 13 minutes) Strong performances by a highly watchable cast can't overcome a less-than stellar ending in this drama that doesn't quite fit the definition of a thriller. Laura (Penelope Cruz), a native of Spain living in Buenos Aires, returns to her hometown outside Madrid with her two children to attend her sister's wedding; the journey is upset by a kidnapping that brings long-ago secrets into the open. With Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darin, Barbara Lennie; directed by Asghar Farhadi.

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (PG, 1 hour, 47 minutes) Despite its awkward title, this sequel to the original Lego movie (released five years ago) will energize fans of the genre while taking a toll on those who find it all a bit exhausting. This time, the citizens are facing a new threat from invaders from outer space, intent on wrecking everything faster than it can be rebuilt. Animated with voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett; directed by Mike Mitchell.

The Prodigy (R, 1 hour, 32 minutes) The latest in the ever-popular evil-kid horror genre, this alternately demented and dull effort concerns a mother who, concerned about her son's disturbing behavior, thinks (naturally) there's a supernatural cause. With Taylor Schilling, Colm Feore; directed by Nicholas McCarthy.

What Men Want (R, 1 hour, 57 minutes) Taraji P. Henson is worth watching in this uneven yet high-energy comedy in which a female sports agent, competing against the guys in her profession, gains an unexpected edge over them when she develops the ability to hear their thoughts. With Tamala Jones, Tracy Morgan; directed by Adam Shankman.

Blaze, directed by Ethan Hawke

MovieStyle on 05/10/2019

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