Currently browsing the "Indie" category.

Review: Babyteeth

In this wonderfully dark dramedy from down under, Milla (Eliza Scanlen – Little Women) is a cancer stricken 16-year-old who falls for free spirited drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace) much to the horror of her parents who only want to shield her from everything bad for whatever time she has left. But it is that relationship that keeps her going and ultimately brings them all to a place of acceptance. It’s a funny and touching and surprising film full of great performances.

Review: Military Wives

Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.

Quickie Review: Arkansas

Arkansas is one of those indie flicks that somehow finagled a pretty impressive cast – Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox – even though it’s directed by a first timer, Clark Duke (actor from Hot Tub Time Machine, The Office), who also wrote the adaptation and took one of the lead roles. It’s the story of a couple of low-level drug runners Kyle (Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke) who bumble their way through the Southern drug world working for a mysterious guy named Frog (Vaughn). Along the way they meet Ranger Bright (Malkovich) who becomes their direct boss and local nurse Johnna (Eden Brolin, Josh’s daughter) who somehow falls for Swin. It’s a film that might have worked if the director/writer had a better sense of timing and character development, but it’s ultimately a waste of talent and time.

Quickie review: Working Man

In this time of sheltering in place anxiety, this indie flick touches a nerve. It’s the story of a Rust Belt factory closing down and the workers feeling lost without a job to go to. At the center of the film is Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety – Sneaky Pete) a man running from his pain by continuing to work past retirement age. But when his reason for getting up in the morning is taken away from him, he’s unmoored. So he returns to the factory, sneaking in and spending his days tidying up the place. But when the rest of his fellow workers find out, and urged on by his new friend and neighbor Walter Brewer (Billy Brown – How to Get Away with Murder), a movement is started to get the plant up and running again. And Allery is thrust into the uncomfortable role of leader.

Review: Bull

I hadn’t heard of this one and was a bit wary of it since it seems to be about rodeo, not high on my list of entertainments. But I really liked it. Set in a poor Houston suburb, it’s the story of 14-year-old Kris (first time actress Amber Havard) who’s living with her Grandma since Mom is in the slammer. She’s just trying to get by, but crosses the line one night, breaking into her neighbor Abe’s house. Abe (Rob Morgan – Mudbound, Just Mercy) is an aging rodeo rider who’s also just hanging on by a thread. But instead of sending her to jail, he makes a deal that she will work for him for a bit. What follows is a classic story of the curmudgeon who gradually becomes a friend, and a young girl finding herself through adversity.

Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that I would surely endorse watching if and when there’s talk again of overturning Roe v. Wade or further eroding abortion rights. But right now, when our focus is squarely on the Coronavirus and escaping the dread of the Coronavirus, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that even ardent supporters may want to relegate to the back burner. Unless, that is, you’re psychologically inclined to indulge in some at-home viewing that is reserved and grim and poignant and raw, providing an authentic take on one teen’s intensely personal journey to abort an unintended and unwanted pregnancy.

Review: Swallow

This R-rated psychological thriller was a complete surprise to me. In a good way. It’s a Stepford Wives meets #Girlpower story that has you yelling at the screen and wondering what will happen next right up until its satisfying ending. Haley Bennett (Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven) is mesmerizing as Hunter, the gilded cage wife of a wealthy financier. She seems to have it all, but there’s definitely something missing, and she fills her days in an OCD housecleaning fog. But when she gets pregnant, she develops “pica” – the compulsion to consume inedible objects and materials. Of course there’s a deeper psychological reason for her mental state, and as the film progresses Hunter is forced to confront a dark secret to break free.

Review: Downhill

If you head into Downhill expecting a raucous, LOL comedy filled with humorous gaffes and charming banter between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, you’re in for an uphill climb. Downhill is a slow, occasionally poignant, occasionally funny remake of the critically-acclaimed Swedish dark comedy Force Majeure. If you saw the 2014 Swedish film, you probably saw the better version.

Review: The Assistant

The Assistant is the #MeToo movement’s searing indie alternative to Bombshell. It’s a slow observational drama that follows a day in the life of a junior assistant to a powerful media executive who is never named, or even seen. The boss-man is just sporadically heard, feared, revered and referred to by various people in the office, where actors, production executives and pretty young things wander in and out throughout the day to conduct “business” – however that may be defined.

Mini-review: A Patient Man

This one is so very indie. Not a recognizable big-name actor in sight. That’s sometimes a good thing. You don’t know where to look, who is the important person. Sadly in the case of this film, you wish there had been a more recognizable, better actor in the lead. For a thriller, it comes off as less than engaging because you never connect with the central character. I can’t tell you the particulars because, it’s is one of those films that the less you know going in, the better, since things unfold slowly as the story drops a clue here and there. But the gist is that a man is returning to work after having been in a horrible traffic accident and he’s trying to piece it all together. But he’s also trying to figure out who is to blame and how to punish them.