Posts tagged independent films
MOVIE REVIEW: Mercury in Retrograde

Michael Glover Smith’s words of mounting depth and weight turn idle chatter into soapboxes that eventually become proverbial fortifications built around questioned principles and shattered wills.  The ensemble of performers delivers on the required heavy lifting from the director to make the multitude of human flaws believable yet still approachable.  Mercury in Retrograde is a hidden gem.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Liquid Truth

The discolored and dingy tile grout at the bottom of a swimming pool and the imagery effect of rippling water seen under the surface bending the images above perspective starkly symbolize the many warped dimensions of Liquid Truth.  The truth in the title is as slippery as the water in director Caroline Jabor’s simmering social commentary.  The film may be foreign from Brazil, but it typifies all too many social media ills that would explode in a parallel fashion here in this country.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Chasing the Blues

Chasing the Blues is a dark comedy through and through.  Director Scott Smith and his co-writer Kevin Guifoile crafted an engaging yarn of hijinks and hilarity.  Their narrative might feel like something out of a Coen brothers rough draft, but this film sides with a far less gonzo approach that suits its shrewder stature.  Like the musical genre at its core, patient storytelling is at the forefront.  Could it use a stiffer punch or two?  Maybe, but then it wouldn’t be the blue and not everything has to be shock cinema.  Waiting for the payoff in this tidy 77-minute film is an easy and worthwhile short hike to climb.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Our Souls at Night

Even from a different generation than the present day, you can’t get more Hollywood than Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.  Both are emeritus stars of Tinseltown royalty on multiple levels, respected and celebrated as award-winning performers, icons of style, sex symbols, and vigilant political personas off-screen.  To see the two of them together again, for the fifth time and the first time in 38 years in Our Souls at Night, is a revitalizing treat unto itself, but to see their shared film be staunchly non-Hollywood in stature is even more refreshing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Young Offenders

The banter and B.S. traded back and forth between Alex Murphy and Chris Walley is as hysterical as it is pleasurably uncouth.  It’s an absolute wonder to realize that The Young Offenders is mutually their first on-camera film roles.  Alex and Chris’s chemistry through sarcasm and shared shenanigans feels and looks effortless.  Flabbergasted energy blasts out of both of them and it’s a hoot to watch.  Seeing the two young actors operate these over-the-top losers with reckless abandon while still injecting a little coming-of-age heart for good measure, makes the film highly entertaining.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Emerald City

I know it’s the clickbait haven of Buzzfeed, but this list of jobs well-known celebrities had before they hit it big is pretty humbling and eye-opening at the same time.  Once the millions roll in and we see the red carpets and flash bulbs, we forget the lucky breaks and hard work it took to get there, and that for every one of those matinee idols a thousand never make it.  Upon seeing Emerald City at the 3rd annual Irish American Movie Hooley, I’ll gladly raise my glass in hopes that Colin Broderick’s minimum wage days are over.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Other Place

Dashes of kink and horror mix within Lee Amir-Cohen to create moments of shock and heat shared with Amanda Maddox in the short film The Other Place.  The star, who also writes and directs this short, has crafted something creepily captivating in front of and behind the camera.  Contracted properly as a short film that leaves you wanting more, this shot glass of venom is a properly measured jolt.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Little Hours

The phrase “nuns behaving badly” sounds like a bad porno title or a silly hashtag.  Alas, that’s the low-hanging fruit and chicanery afoot in The Little Hours.  Tracing inspiration to a yarn from one of Giovanni Boccaccio’s collected 14th century novellas in The Decameron, the new ensemble film from Jeff Baena wraps it religious habit up with wit, erotica, and practical jokes from Italian prose translated into a modern vernacular.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Beguiled

The transitive verb “beguile,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “to engage the interest of” or “lead by deception.”  Hoodwink and divert are synonyms.  Director Sofia Coppola’s remake of The Beguiled means to charm our corsets and britches off right in line with its title’s root definition.  Methodically and dastardly, the film wishes to seduce us with a heightened intrigue of challenged sexual repression.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Book of Henry

Grant Focus Features, director Colin Trevorrow, and debuting feature writer Gregg Hurwitz all the balls in the world for putting out a movie this daringly original during the summer marketplace.  Ambition notwithstanding, the extreme tonal shifts, while effective at keeping you invested in The Book of Henry to see what happens next, only half work in totality.

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MOVIE REVIEW: My Cousin Rachel

Roger Michell stiffens his upper lip from his Love, Actually and Notting Hill fare to tackle a costume drama with My Cousin Rachel.  Oddly enough, this film can stake a serendipitous claim as the second Michell-directed film about “kissing cousins” after Hyde Park on the Hudson.  Unfortunately, more than a little uncomfortable laughter of preposterousness pokes out of this film while trying to portray itself as flowing romantic drama.  That’s not going to sweep anyone.

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MOVIE REVIEW: I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake is unabashedly a “bleeding heart” film on literal and figurative levels.  If this was a Hollywood film, it would be overrun with shouted speeches and orchestrational swells trying to manufacture emotional peaks.  Fluff like that is unnecessary if you have the right poetic realism,  For Loach, that’s second hand and he picks the right soapbox placement and thickness.

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MOVIE REVIEW: It Comes at Night

Take the title of the film whatever way you wish, be it literally with the lurking threats of nightfall in this landscape or figuratively with the visions and nightmares one has while alone with their thoughts before sleeping.  It Comes at Night is tightly comprised of excruciating moral challenges that escalate with time.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Churchill

Brian Cox one of the most underappreciated character actors in the business today.  He has been an accomplished and terrifically versatile mainstay through all levels and genres of film for over thirty years since turning our heads as cinema’s first Hannibal Lecktor in Michael Mann’s Manhunter.  Cox is a consummate performer, brimming with fervid screen presence.  From Braveheart to Super Troopers, he is never the weak link to any picture.  Churchill offers a rare lead performance from Cox and, like the chameleon he’s always been, he reminds us of his indomitable intensity.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Dean

When standup comedians come to the big screen, they tend to stay with what works, extending their personas and bits into feature-length material within their comfort zones.  Most lack creativity to make something unique out of their individuality.  That is not the case with Demetri Martin making his impressive feature writing and directing debut with Dean.  In 87 breezy minutes pushing against the grief of its characters, his film squeezes earnest sweetness out of bleak material that would never play on his comedy club stages.   

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Sex Addict

“The Sex Addict” is tailor-made to serve comedy fans that soak up humor akin to “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”  The humor is naturally vulgar and dark, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  The crowd that will be repulsed can be replaced by those rolling on the floor laughing.  “The Sex Addict” is a ways away from the supreme mockumentary exemplars of Christopher Guest, but that’s the perfect plane for Amir Mo and company to aspire to.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Free Fire

I don't know about you, but I get a kick out of bad gunshot wound acting in all ages of films.  It’s either hilariously drawn out with overacting or it’s unrealistically rapid in fatality.  The brutal facts of getting shot enough to cause death rarely check out in the movies.  That never stops filmmakers from trying new and creative ways to shoot people with varying degrees of entertainment success.  “Free Fire” is one such film daring to blast anything and everything with ammunition encased with twisted zeal.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Win It All

Dare I say it, I think Joe Swanberg has turned a corner with “Win It All,” a new release available on Netflix.  Coherency has been the bane of mumblecore’s existence and, for at least one film, the celebrated Chicago filmmaker has found the right palatable proportions of his craft.  With “Win It All,” Swanberg stays true to the naturalistic everyday settings and improvisational dialogue that he thrives on and thankfully applies them to tighter narrative structure.

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