Currently browsing the "Indie" category.

Review: Neither Wolf Nor Dog

This ever so indie film was funded with a Kickstarter campaign and then self-distributed. And right now it is the longest-running US theatrical release in more than a decade, having premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in 2016. And it’s finally making its way to the big cities now. Set in Lakota Sioux country, the film takes a white author on a coerced road through Native America as an elder and his friend impart their wisdom to him. The elder is played by the late Dave Bald Eagle who gives the film its deep resonance. Adapted from a semi-autobiographical book of the same name, Neither Wolf Nor Dog isn’t destined to be a blockbuster, but its message from the Native American community is one that should be heard.

Review: Luz

The classic horror film hasn’t entirely disappeared from the cinema landscape, but the current trend it to make more of it than just the easy jump out of your seat shriek-fest. Get Out, Suspria, and Hereditary have shown that there’s an audience for new kinds of horror. And Luz rides in on that wave with a minimalist demonic possession flick that takes place mostly in a police station.

Quickie Review: The Fall of the American Empire (aka La chute de l’empire américain)

I stumbled into watching The Fall of the American Empire because I thought my podcast partner would surely want to talk about it, since he’s usually the one to champion any movie in French (it’s partially sub-titled). Alas, I was on my own. He didn’t see it! And that’s a shame because he probably would have liked it. Arty Chick may like it too. The Fall of the American Empire is a French-Canadian film that blends elements of a comical heist movie, serious social satire, and crime drama. It’s about a shy and insecure guy with a PhD in philosophy who works as a package courier to make ends meet. One day, while making a delivery, he encounters the aftermath of a robbery gone wrong – and two big bags of cash. What to do? Leave the scene empty handed? Turn the money over to the cops? Return it to its ‘rightful’ owners (who happen to be violent gangsters)? Or… take the money and run?

Review: Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit is a mainstream movie filtered (or squeezed) through an indie lens. It tells the story of Violet, a shy 17-year-old high school student who enters a local singing competition and ends up making a splash on a British television show that resembles – and consequently satirizes – the likes of American Idol, X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent. If you enjoy that genre, then Teen Spirit should lift your spirits, however fleetingly, thanks in large part to its talented lead, Elle Fanning (20th Century Women, The Neon Demon) who really can sing!

Quickie Review: The Hummingbird Project

If you’re looking for something thought-provoking, but less terrifying than US, The Hummingbird Project is the smart person’s financial thriller. That means, it helps to be somewhat of a geek to embrace what is surely meant to be a cautionary tale for our modern, digital world. The movie, from writer/director Kim Nguyen (War Witch) grew on me as it went along, even though the subject matter didn’t exactly thrill me and I didn’t particularly like the ending. Perhaps if it were based on a true story – which it seems like it would be, but isn’t – I’d have felt more invested in the characters and the plot, about two cousins who concoct a plan to build a fiber-optic cable line from Kansas to New Jersey to shave a millisecond from the transfer of stock information, thus enabling traders with access to the line to make millions. In case you’re wondering, one millisecond is the speed of a hummingbird’s wing-flap (at least, I think that part is true!).

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.

Quick Takes: Never Look Away; Transit; Woman at War

With Arty Chick off to parts unknown to direct a documentary, it’s possible her reviews will be fewer and farther between for a while. So I will try and highlight some of the artier films that I happen to see (and like). I’ll also note if they’ve been discussed on my weekly podcast, “The Cinema Clash” with Charlie Juhl, who tends to share Arty Chick’s passion for smaller, indie and foreign films. If we both a like a particular film, there’s a good chance you will too! Topping my list of recent forays into foreign-film land is the Oscar-nominated German film, Never Look Away. It’s part psychological drama, part war drama, part period romance. It takes place over the course of about 30 years, which helps explain the film’s three-hour running time.

Review: I Am Not a Witch

In this odd little satirical film from Zambian-born director Rungano Nyoni, 8-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) is branded a witch and sent away to the camp where all the other witches are kept. It’s a strange place that tourists are brought to to see the women (yes, they’re all female) all tied to enormous spools of white ribbon, which allow them only limited freedom to roam and keeps them from flying away. Shula is told she can either accept the spool or be transformed into a goat. She grudgingly takes on the spool.

Quickie Reviews: The Isle; Untogether

The Isle is for the horror flick lovers out there. It’s set in 1846 on an island off the coast of Scotland that is shrouded in mist. Three survivors of a shipwreck row ashore to find it nearly abandoned. But then they meet the only four people still living there, a couple of women and a couple of men. And they can tell that things are not normal, and the island folks are not opening up about what happened to all the others who lived there, and the 3 men really want to get off the island, but can’t seem to find a way. Then they start dying. It takes some time for the men to figure what’s happening, and once they do, they’re powerless against it.

Quickie review: Don’t Come Back from the Moon

This quietly meditative indie sells itself on James Franco’s involvement, but truth be told, he’s only in it for a moment before he, like all the other fathers in town, disappears following the closing of the local factory. And that’s okay, since the kids who are left behind are the real story anyway. Based on a book by Dean Bakopoulos, the story centers on a group of young adults who are coming of age in a desert town on the edge of a dying lake. When their fathers abandon them, there is initially a sense of kids gone wild before they settle into the reality that they need to step up and take care of each other.