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Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Review: All About Nina

Nina (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a foul-mouthed comedienne in New York struggling to make her mark. And she’s in a sick relationship with a married man. Something’s gotta change. Her only hope is a move to LA where there’s a competition that, should she win, she’ll get a one hour special all her own on a hit show called Comedy Prime. So NY girl heads to the coast. And she meets nice guy Rafe (Common) there. Only she’s really not that good at healthy relationships because she has all this baggage. So will she win the competition and figure out how to be with a guy who treats her right?

Review: The Children Act

The Children Act is a quiet and thoughtful drama starring two of the most versatile actors of our time: Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, Saving Mr. Banks, Harry Potter) and Stanley Tucci (Big Night, Spotlight, The Hunger Games). Thompson plays Fiona Maye, a British High Court judge tasked with making difficult, time-sensitive decisions involving the health and welfare of children. Her job is all-consuming, and her devotion to it has taken a heavy toll on her 20-year marriage – to the point where her loving but frustrated husband Jack (Tucci) tells her he is going to have an affair. The pronouncement sends Fiona into an emotional tailspin just as she’s getting swept up in the high-profile case of a teenage boy dying of leukemia.

Quickie Reviews: The Wife; The Happytime Murders; Skate Kitchen; Support the Girls

The Wife is a slow-burn drama with a mystery twist that explores the relationship between Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce), a long-married couple who travel to Sweden to collect his newly-awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. The two seem to complement each other in style and temperament, with Joan playing the doting, charming, graceful and diplomatic wife and mother while Joe oozes vanity, selfishness and a philandering spirit. There does appear to be true love at the core of the relationship, but there’s a simmering resentment that threatens to boil over in Joan as the award ceremony approaches. We learn why through a series of flashbacks to Joan and Joe’s courtship and from their present-day interactions with a writer (Christian Slater) who is trying to convince the Castlemans to let him write Joe’s definitive biography.

Cinema Clash podcast: Incredibles 2; Tag; A Kid Like Jake; Hearts Beat Loud; The Misandrists

Incredibles 2 scored big at the box office in its opening weekend, and rightly so. It was a great family film for Father’s Day, and it’s certainly the early front-runner for best animated movie of 2018.

Quickie Reviews: Hotel Artemis; American Animals

If Ocean’s 8 feels too safe a bet, and Hereditary looks too darn creepy, have no fear — you’ve got a couple of quirky alternatives to choose from in a crazy crowded weekend at the box office. Hotel Artemis stars Jodie Foster as “The Nurse”, the caretaker of a secret “members only” hotel/ER that caters to wounded criminals. The rules are simple and few: No guns. No cops. No killing the other patients. But on a single night in riot-torn Los Angeles 2028, rules are broken – and blood is shed.

Review: Bye Bye Germany (Es war einmal in Deutschland)

This “based on a true story” movie takes place in 1946, in a displaced persons camp, where those who survived the Nazi death camps are being held until they can get themselves to America. But they need money to do that. Enter David Bermann (Moritz Bleibtreu), a man with a plan. His family had a linen shop before the war, and he recruits a group of salesmen to sell high-end linens to the gullible Germans surrounding them. But while the biz goes well, he’s also being interrogated by an American Army Investigator (Antje Traue) who suspects that he collaborated with the Nazis. The film is by turns funny and sad and sweet and horrifying. And well worth seeing.

Review: The Rider

The Rider is an arthouse lover’s dream – quiet, authentic, raw, visually captivating with minimal dialogue. It’s the kind of indie that mainstream chicks like me can express a certain appreciation for, while still cautioning the masses that its greatest appeal will surely lie almost exclusively with the arty crowd. The film is a hybrid – part western, part docudrama, part biopic about a young cowboy whose days on the rodeo circuit come to a crashing halt when he suffers a devastating injury.

Quickie Review: Beirut

Beirut is a fairly standard spy thriller and political drama that takes place primarily in 1982 but still feels relevant and timely given the perpetual, seemingly futile efforts to secure peace in the Middle East. The film stars Jon Hamm (Baby Driver, “Mad Men”) as Mason Stiles, a US diplomat who flees Lebanon after a tragic incident at his Beirut home in 1972. Fast-forward ten years, and Stiles is called back to Beirut to help negotiate the release of a friend and CIA operative whose captors insist on talking only with Stiles, for reasons that relate back to his time in the war-torn country.

Review: Oh, Lucy!

Without doubt one of the quirkiest movies I’ve seen in a long time, Oh, Lucy! is by turns hilarious and sad and brutally honest. The central character is Setsuko, a 40-something Japanese woman, who’s bored beyond belief with her life when her niece Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) talks her into taking a “free trial” English lesson. And what a class that is! The first clue that this will not be a normal school is that it’s set in a massage parlor. Then there’s the cute teacher John (Josh Hartnett, Penny Dreadful) who employs some “innovative” pedagogical techniques including decking his students out in wigs and doling out copious hugs. He christens Setsuke “Lucy” for the class, and though she was only going to check it out, she has so much fun that she decides to do the classes for real. But when John suddenly heads home to the States, along with her niece Mika, Lucy decides to follow them, and her stuck-up sister Ayako (Kaho Minami) tags along. What follows is Lucy’s Southern Californian odyssey of self-discovery.