Review: Mudbound
Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mainstream Chick with Greta Gerwig @Middleburg

Currently browsing the "Indie" category.

Review: The Florida Project

The Florida Project is from Sean Baker who brought us the wonderful Tangerine in 2015. It has a similar vibe, just a step up from documentary without a lot of story development. Where that one was on the streets of LA, this time it’s summer in Orlando. School’s out for a group of kids who live in low-rent motels not too far from Disney World. They spend their days running around looking for adventure and getting into trouble. 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) is the center of it all. She’s foul-mouthed and full of piss and vinegar, just like her ne’er-do-well mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) who definitely loves her, but can’t really take care of anything. Mom’s figured how to get what she needs to hang on, but not much more. And the motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) is seconds from throwing them to the curb.

Review: Lucky

Indie flick alert! Don’t go to see Lucky expecting a real story. Not much happens in it. Go expecting a series of scenes with quirky characters saying meaningful things. And mostly go to see Harry Dean Stanton’s wonderful final performance as an oddball loner looking mortality and life in the face and soldiering on.

Review: Rebel in the Rye

I vaguely recall reading “The Catcher in the Rye” in High School. But I must not have been overly impressed with teen-angst icon Holden Caulfield because unlike characters in, say, “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Lord of the Flies,” Holden and his story failed to stick with me into my adult years. Perhaps that’s because the 1951 novel (that’s sold more than 65 million copies) was never adapted for film! At least now I understand why, thanks to the mildly intriguing biographical drama, Rebel in the Rye, about famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger who steadfastly refused to sell theatrical rights to his most famous work.

Review: Columbus

This one is indie all the way. Set in Columbus, Indiana, it’s the story of Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a local girl in love with the architecture of her small town but at the same time dying to get out. Enter Jin (John Cho) who’s come all the way from South Korea because his famous father fell ill here while on a speaking tour. She’s a fan of his architectural scholar dad. He’s estranged from him. As Jin gets to know Casey, he sees that she’s smart and ambitious, but her recovering addict mom is holding her back. And while these two broken adults share their bad parenting stories, Casey gives Jin a tour of her favorite architectural spots around Columbus. Not a lot happens, but it is interesting to watch.

Quickie Reviews: I Do… Until I Don’t; Crown Heights; Polina

Nothing gets you pumped for the start of the Fall movie blitz quite like the final weeks of summer at the box office. Bring it on! I’m ready for Awards Season! But first… a quick look at the latest releases that are unlikely to gain much traction as families enjoy a final long weekend of togetherness before the days get shorter, kids return to school and commuter garages reach capacity by 8 a.m.

First up on the altar of sacrifice: I Do… Until I Don’t, an ensemble comedy from writer/director/actress Lake Bell (In a World) about marriage and commitment. Here’s the gist: a bitter documentarian from the BBC shows up in divorce-mecca Vero Beach, Florida to test and prove her theory that marriage should be a seven-year contract with the option to renew. She recruits three seemingly diverse couples to appear in her documentary. They include Alice and Noah (Bell and Ed Helms), a boring couple struggling to keep their window-blinds business afloat while also attempting to have a baby; Alice’s kooky sister Fanny (Amber Heard) and her peace-loving soulmate Zander (Wyatt Cenac) who claim to be happy in their forward-thinking ‘open relationship’; and Cybil and Harvey (Mary Steenburgen and Paul Reiser), an older couple going through a bit of a midlife crisis as their anniversary approaches.

Quickie Reviews: The Hitman’s Bodyguard; Logan Lucky; Patti Cake$

The Hitman’s Bodyguard falls into the bucket of mindless summer entertainment that offers a decent-enough cinematic escape for anyone willing to accept the movie for what it is and not over-analyze its foibles. Ryan Reynolds channels his Deadpool sarcasm to play Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck “protection agent” (i.e. bodyguard) who is called upon to safely transport his nemesis, notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel “Snakes on a Plane” L. Jackson) to the Hague so he can testify against brutal East European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a familiar formula: The clock is ticking. If the witness doesn’t get to the Hague before a 24-hour deadline, the evil dictator will surely walk free. Cue the overlong gun battles, myriad car and motorcycle chases, and outlandish boat escapes as Dukhovich’s cronies take aim at Bryce and Kincaid.

Quickie Reviews: The Glass Castle; Wind River; The Fencer; A Taxi Driver

I’m generally a fan of (or maybe a sucker for) movies based on real people and events, so that could be why I had a pretty good week at the movies with two mainstream dramas and two foreign films. First up: The Glass Castle, based on Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about her unconventional upbringing and coming to terms with the complexities of her relationship with her dysfunctional parents and remarkably normal siblings. The film features a stellar cast that includes Brie Larson (Room), Chandler Head and Ella Anderson as Jeannette (through the years), Woody Harrelson as her fundamentally flawed but occasionally well-meaning father, and Naomi Watts as her eccentric artist mother. The parents are the types to define homelessness and squatting as a ‘lifestyle choice’. I haven’t read the book, but those around me who did seemed satisfied with the way the film played out. Others, however, (while still acknowledging the strong performances) criticized the movie for glamorizing or romanticizing what they saw as dangerous, irresponsible and often cruel parenting. I thought it walked the line fairly well, in much the same way as last year’s well-received indie Captain Fantastic.

Review: Ingrid Goes West

This is an odd and uncomfortable indie comedy. The Ingrid of the title has serious social/mental problems. Played by Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) she lives very much alone but online, and actually thinks people are her besties because she follows their social media feeds and knows all about them. In the first scene of the movie, Ingrid crashes a wedding she wasn’t invited to, assaulting the bride who she felt so close to because she’d seen and “liked” all the wedding plans on Instagram. But once that “relationship” has turned sour, she goes back online and finds her next victim/best friend who just happens to live in Los Angeles, and she’s off to insinuate herself into her life. Taylor Sloane played by Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) is a lifestyle star on Instagram and is soon real life friends with Ingrid. But you are constantly worrying that she’s going to figure out she’s being stalked.

Quickie Reviews: The Dark Tower; Brigsby Bear; Detroit; Step; An Inconvenient Sequel; Escapes

The Dark Tower. I’m not a Stephen King purist so I didn’t go into this movie with the same high expectations as those who’ve read the series of books that The Dark Tower is based on. Perhaps that’s why I liked it – not a lot, but enough to slot it into the “acceptable summer cinematic escape” category for the 12-and-up crowd. It’s an action adventure fantasy flick with a confounding plot that boils down to a physical and psychological battle between good (Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland) and evil (Matthew McConaughey as creepy Man in Black) across parallel universes.

Quickie Reviews: Atomic Blonde and Landline

Atomic Blonde is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. As the Cold War appears to be nearing its end, the spy game is hot as ever. British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve a stolen list that threatens to expose the identity of all Western spies. It’s a familiar plot line in espionage thrillers, and in this case, the convoluted plot is a mere vehicle for launching a tangled web of deceit among Broughton’s contacts (including James McAvoy as embedded station chief David Percival) and triggering a whole lot of extended fight scenes. Lorraine’s weapons of choice include anything she can get her hands on – from guns and knives, to keys and high heels – all swung with lethal force. The film is like a hyper-violent Jason Bourne or Bond movie with a lead that happens to be a badass chick.