3 GENERATIONS

Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, and Susan Sarandon in Three Generations.

3 GENERATIONS
USA
Director: Gaby Dellal
Runtime: 87 minutes
Language: English

Whenever I see a  movie that has LGBT content I usually go for it without even a second thought. I’m not necessarily looking for anything that stands out — and to be frank, Gaby Dellal’s movie About Ray, re-titled 3 Generations (for what reason only the producers know; I’ll guess it’ s to somehow include a more universal theme of family and honor its cast of older females comprised of Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon) doesn’t quite emerge as a full product even though its intentions are honest. The problem lies not in the titular Ray. Elle Fanning is a standout (and has been since she suddenly exploded in 2012 in Ginger and Rosa) as the girl who acts and feels like a boy and wants only for a parent’s signature to resume her sex reassignment surgery that will allow Ray to go to a new high school as the gender that he truly is. Ray’s household . . . another story altogether, and not a pretty one.

Ray lives with his mother Maggie (Watts), herself living with her mother Dodo (Sarandon) and her mother’s wife (Linda Eamond in a somewhat eh, thankless role). You could say this would be the perfect family, but it’s not. Dodo for some reason cannot bring herself to accept that Ray is a boy. Maggie still selfishly pines for her daughter, not realizing the pain she’s putting Ray through. Adding to this, the aforementioned signature that Ray so desperately needs in order to achieve the last piece of the puzzle of who he is, and the father (Tate Donovan) turns out that not only he won’t sign, but he’s also a class-A asshole. It doesn’t matter to him that he’s long moved on with his life and never once showed any interest in Ray when he was little Ramona, now he feels entitled to Ray’s affairs, and this, needless to say, is driving Maggie ragged.

My main issue with this movie is that it deviates far too often into the forced neuroses of the women that Ray is surrounded with and ever single one utters lines and emotions in exclamation points. No one can talk without shouting, smoking profusely, or talking in sitcom-friendly lingo. [I almost kept expecting a laugh track in certain scenes.] The situation  gets worse (and I mean it in a literal way, not just pertinent to the story) when Ray impulsively goes visit his father, discovers he has a family he never knew, tells him what he thinks of him (in one crucial, honestly brutal scene). Soon we have Maggie intervening in the scene with a bucket of baggage at the ready, oblivious to the fact that Ray is present. A situation that could have been resolved a bit  more intelligently — and thus reveal a side of Ray’s father heretofore unseen — devolves into a shrill shouting match that all but brings down the house in one fell swoop.

Even so, I still encourage people to come see this film with all its imperfections. Some of the drama feels relevant but for now, it’s better to have any kind of drama, even when it’s dated, than nothing at all. I hope that the next trangender drama manages to cut the fat out of the muscle and remove excess characters like Sarandon’s, Eamonds, and to a extent, Watts’ and Donovan’s and focus more on the person as a whole. Fora movie initially called About Ray, we get precious little insight into his character and what little we do seems rather redundant

FLOWERS (LOREAK)

 

FLOWERS
Spain
Director: Jon Garano and Jose Mari Goenaga
Runtime: 97 minutes
Language: Basque

Mostlyindies Grading:

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Criminally under-screened when it made its way to US Cinemas in the fall of 2015, Flowers for Ane as it is also known is a quiet mood piece that has parts of a simmering mystery whose arms have a greater arc — namely, that of the one that relates disparate characters to one another via the disguise of a bouquet of gorgeous flowers.

Ane (Nagore Aranburu), a woman in her forties it seems, has been diagnosed with menopause. It doesn’t help that she’s already trapped in a dead marriage, but one day she opens the door of her house to an eccentric gift: a bouquet of flowers, from a stranger. No return address, nothing to attach it to. The flowers become a regular appearance — one bouquet a week — and it’s a cause of embarrassment for her, and places more strain on her marriage. She has her suspicions of who may be sending them, and an accident a coworker suffers, in which a pendant of Ane is found in his car, seals her suspicions.

From then on she pays tribute to her dead coworker, not knowing his wife Lourdes (Itziar Ituno), a tollbooth employee, has seen her leave bouquets of flowers at his memorial. Lourdes has been in a love-hate (or, let’s put it frankly, a hate-hate relationship) with her now dead husband’s mother Tere (Itziar Aitzpuru). Think the comically strained relationship between Debra Barone and Marie Barone, remove the comedy, amp up the passive aggressiveness, and you get the picture. These two women can’t stand each other. How Loreak manages to balance this trio of women who eventually reach a sort of inner peace within themselves — of sorts — is a trick that both directors are keen to pull off; however, the story’s deep symbolism, of people connected by acts of random kindness and the ubiquitous flowers, might be a little too outre to bear, even at a lean 95 minutes. And the final piece of the mystery — that of the sender, and his motives — might reveal there’s more to the story than we’re being told. Even so, Loreak is a solid melodrama about human compassion.

Flowers is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

 

TWO BY GERE: THE DINNER AND NORMAN

Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Richard Gere, and Rebecca Hall star in the darkly funny The Dinner.

https://rainierfruit.com/levitra-for-pulmonary-hypertension/ essay writing service uk how to write a self assessment essay how do i recover permanently deleted emails from my iphone cheap phd essay writers for hire for university https://www.nationalautismcenter.org/letter/how-to-write-a-composition-paper/26/ best custom essay service reviews cialis lineville does viagra work with no prostate buy lamisil tablets online topic outline mla best place to buy book reports online creative writing similes check research papers plagiarism sample research paper on climate change follow site cialis arbutus follow site buy unique paper https://qhrtechnologies.com/dose/viagra-pulminary-hypertension/95/ writing letter of recommendation god helps them who help themselves essay viagra und alkohol wirkung viagra c best supplier thesis statement about english renaissance how long does viagra stay potent source how to write a good dissertation introductionВ how to change my public ip address mac source site dissertations outline assignment ada krauser help THE DINNER
USA
Director: Oren Moverman
Runtime: 120 minutes
Language:  English

B+

There’s nothing as lurid as watching four grown people get together for an uncomfortable night together in which they progressively set aside the pleasantries and start revealing the ugly hidden just underneath the smiles, the gestures, the light exchanges, and the occasional snap of a misinterpreted question. It’s been done to death — think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, September, Closer, and most recently, August: Osage County — and it still manages to draw you in like that train wreck you absolutely do not want to miss even if it means holding it in until your bladder or something more . . . backdoorsy can stand it no longer.

The Dinner is the newest in this branch of dark comedies, a movie that is already bristling from the first handful of scenes as Paul Lohman (an acid tongued, quick-tempered Steve Coogan, totally against his more comedic type), a history professor with who treats life as the Battle of Gettysburg who clearly has resentment issues towards his politician brother Stan Lohman (Richard Gere, understated) and would rather not sit down at a too-posh for his ilk restaurant, order over-the-top fancy food and drinks, and talk. However, a talk has to happen, and their future and the future of their two sons depends on it. You see, both Lohman’s sons have committed a crime. They’ve killed a homeless woman by lighting her on fire inside an ATM booth, but so far, surveillance cameras haven’t captured their faces in full. So what are they to do?

While Moverman’s 2014 entry, Time Out of Mind, tackled the forgotten from a point of view of the downtrodden (and gave Gere one of his finest, most moving performances as a man that society forgot), here he goes the opposite direction. He exposes that very same society — the haves vs the have nots — and presents every scene as part of an elaborate dinner complete with its courses, every segment revealing just how ugly the four of them (which also includes Laura Linney as Coogan’s wife and Rebecca Hall as Gere’s wife and both are a delight to watch) can and will go in order to either one-up the other, bring blame, and finally, reach no real agreement on how to act. Moverman’s movie is appropriate for its release as it depicts the excesses of affluenza and what can happen when indulgence and money get in the way of morals and scruples.

The only part that I personally didn’t really care for was some of the exposition leading to the dinner itself. Some of the backstory involving Chloe Sevigny as a family member who exists as a part of a subplot involving her adopted son Beau Lohman (Miles Harvey) serves little purpose as to open up the story from the confines of the restaurant. I would have preferred to keep the events of Moverman’s movie within its increasingly claustrophobic interiors to enhance the savagery rising from beneath the foursome’s distress and harshness towards each other. Still, The Dinner — the American version of the Danish novel by Herman Koch, filmed twice as the Danish movie The Dinner and the Italian movie I Nostri Ragazzi — is a nasty piece of work that offers no easy answers and four great actors behaving deliciously awful towards one another.

NORMAN, THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER
USA
Director: Joseph Cedar
Runtime: 116 minutes
Language:  English

B

It’s criminal to me to see that Richard Gere is approaching 70 and has never even once received a single acknowledgement from the Academy for any of the complex characters he’s played on screen since American Gigolo almost 40 years ago. And yet, he continues to work, to bring something unique into his roles, and with the advent of indie films, he can now work on quality pictures that don’t necessarily have to be commercial successes as long as the performance onscreen remains intact and his best. In Joseph Cedar’s movie Norman, Gere plays a character that exists, and is a chameleon, even when we never get even as much as a glimpse of who he is underneath the perpetual beige peacoat, Burberry scarf, and cab driver’s beret he wears while haggling people for a deal. He may as well he homeless for all we know, but somehow, the man, larger than life, insinuates himself into the lives of Upper Crust Manhattan, makes his mark, and disappears without as much as a trace (although his repeated calls to associates . . . not so much).

To discuss about the quixotic twists and turns that lead Norman into morphing from being a small time dealer (okay, con-artist, let’s say it) to be all but the toast of New York is to spoil all the fun. Norman might as well be distantly related to the aunt in Travels with my Aunt with the difference that we never meet a son or daughter and Norman’s only apparent ambition gets revealed in the end in a poignant shot. I would say that it is safe to call Norman a noble opportunist, albeit not a clever one — had he been clever, he’d have turned into a Madoff for sure — and Richard Gere tackles this character, sheds every last piece of vanity, and becomes this mousy little Jewish man that might be charming in small — very small — doses. And perhaps, now that I think of it, it’s probably for the best to never reveal where Norman actually lives, who his family is, who is roots are. The choice to avoid these questions elevates Norman the man from little more than a potentially pathetic creature and turns him into almost myth.

BUSTER’S MAL HEART and Other TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL STANDOUTS

[Originally written May 3rd, 2017]

So, one more year of the Tribeca Film Festival and I’m as happy as a fat cat after finishing off a meal full of good, salty stuff. It’s not often when I can get a chance to go see world premieres and exclusives at an indie film festival (mainly because I travel a lot) so this time I made a point to instead of trying to over-compensate and watch all of the films coming out as I did last fall at the New York Film Festival but to see the ones that caught my attention the most. I did have a slant towards foreign selections because while the American entries  usually get shipped, the foreign ones fare somewhat less well. Some do make it to the screen (The Wedding Plan is into its third successful week at the Quad and the Lincoln Plaza) while others either play at the Film Forum or get the VOD treatment if at all.

Here are the ones I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival:

THE DIVINE ORDER
Switzerland-Germany
Director: Petra Biondina Velpe
Runtime: 91 minutes
Language: German

Mostlyindies rating: B+

It comes as a shock that Switzerland, a country that has given us Geneva, was basically in the woods when Gloria Steinem and the feminist movement happened in the US. Up until the early 70s women did not have any rights in Switzerland–much less the power to vote. Nora (Marie Leuwenberger) lives in a small, ultra conservative town and is completely oblivious to the rapid modernization of the world around her. Her daughter (Ella Rumpf, previously seen in the French horror film Raw) is in prison for having flirted with a boy Nora and her husband didn’t approve of. Nora herself is basically a prisoner of her own life; she has no income and her husband legally has the rights to keep her in the house, cooking, cleaning, keeping it nice and warm while he produces the cash. It doesn’t come as a fluke when Nora somehow accidentally walks into feminism. She then proceeds to change her looks, dress in the style of the day (the movie takes place at the dawn of the 70s), and meet up with like minded women looking to emancipate themselves from male dominance. Soon they’re attending vagina workshops, rediscovering themselves, and distributing pamphlets all over town. Predictably, this doesn’t go over too well with the men who fear they will lose total control of a world that belongs to them, and little do they know that the women plan to fight for their rights, tooth and nail. The Divine Order never gets too overtly serious for its own good, but it still manages to describe the struggle for women’s equality — a fight as of this writing not fully won as women still make less than men — and it feels fresh since we only recently had a women’s march on Washington. There is a universality to this story that is reflected in another movie (not a Tribeca selection, though) called The Women’s Balcony, an Israeli film that tackles women’s rights through religious customs, but more about that later.

 

TOM OF FINLAND
Finland
Director: Dome Karukoski
Runtime: 115 minutes
Language: Finnish, English

Mostlyindies rating: B-

How do you depict the life of an artist who’s visual work (alongside fellow artists George Quaintance and Dom Orejudos, a.k.a. Etienne),  has become the cornerstone of hypermasculine gay fetish art without carnalizing it or treating it as sleaze? Dome Karukoski’s biopic of Touko Laaksonen eventually brings some of that onto the screen — there’s really no other way to tell  a convincing story without inserting images of hunky male models that were the ideals of Laaskonen’s art — but it also focuses on the events that shaped Laaksonen into the artist (and role model) he eventually became).

Early on, Tom of Finland takes the shape of a war movie in which even sexual encounters — all taking place in near obscurity — is treated as if it were a spy film. One gets a chance to see what influenced Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) in a scene that lingers on after it’s over. He murders a Soviet paratrooper, but following this event, he can’t but approach the dead man and stare into his unearthly beauty (and tell-tale mustache), a thing which points at the type of men he would later draw. Later on, Laaksonen meets the man who would be his life-long partner (Lauri Tilkanen) in a dark cruising scene rife with a sense of shame, anonymous, and the threat of capture. It is  also telling to see subplots about intolerance that revolve around Laaksonen’s kind but homophobic sister and Laaksonen’s former general in command Alijoki (Taisto Oksanen), a closeted man who’d bailed Laaksonen out of a Berlin jail for attempting to sell his fetish art, threw fetish parties for a tight-knit circle of gay friends, experienced the wrath of the police of the time who raid his house, take him to prison, where he decides he no longer wishes to be gay.

The second half of the picture is a little less repressive, and justifiably so: Following Stonewall, it seemed that an iron curtain had been lifted; no longer was it a crime to be gay, men began finding their identities through Tom’s art, which by the 1970s and 80s was showing up everywhere (albeit underground). Of course, there is the shadow of AIDs that makes its way into the story’s homophobic subplot and a backlash against Tom’s art soon follows, but it doesn’t damper the movie’s spirit inasmuch as reaffirm it and like crabgrass — the weed that won’t die — Tom’s art finds its way into bookstores and open consciousness.  If there is a moment when the film somewhat loses steam it’s when it becomes preachy towards the very end in an effort to provide a sense of inclusivity to all types of men (as opposed to the type that would be considered a Tom’s man). Overall, the movie is quite insightful in bringing as much of Laaksonen’s storied life into two hours, and perhaps it does become a little too serio-comic towards its second half for its own good, but it’s better than not having anything at all. Watch for Tom’s muse, his Kake character, who makes appearances here and there in the most unlikely of places.

Tom of Finland has no date of release yet in the US but might be included in LGBT film festivals later on.

 

MANIFESTO
Australia
Director: Julian Rosenfeldt
Runtime: 90 minutes
Language:  English

Mostlyindies rating: B

Coming into Manifesto is like entering a giant atrium with multiple installations playing at once — with the exception that every installation features Cate Blanchett playing a different character, sometimes funny, sometimes commanding, sometimes meek, petty, argumentative, insane, informative, or plain chaotic, and it’s a conceptual bliss, a shot in the dark, a burst of light, a cry of pain. I won’t go into details about what Manifesto is — what it’s trying to say — which is, in a nutshell, a statement about art and the state of the world today. I recognized my favorite piece — Tristan Tzara’s Manifesto on Dada. The way Blanchett enters into this powerful monologue in the form of a eulogy on Someone Who Has Died is at first, controlled, but clearly spitting the words out in preparation for a declaration of war. It’s not long before her tone sharpens, rises, and becomes deeper, louder, every time punctuating a sentence with the word “Dada.” [For the uninitiated, Dada is a baby’s cry — the primal scream is you will, and Dadaists took its ‘scream’ as to mean everything and nothing at the same time. Life is bullshit, and then you die. The end. Hoe does this one piece relate to the other? Does it even matter? Bookended in the movie she appears as a crazy homeless man espousing Marxisms, walking along in a landscape that once may have been thriving with human life and industrial wealth but has long since disappeared, leaving only ruins and decay. And yet in another vignette she’s two characters talking in “weather-speak” — that clipped lingo weather forecasters adopt when depicting storms, et. al., and then it reveals that while art is shit, so is there own performance. This is what I love about experimental film — it can be analyzed left to right, up to down, and it still reveals everything and nothing. We should have more films that challenge the audience and make them scratch their heads. We need more Manifesto.

 

THE LOVERS
USA
Director: Azrael Jacobs
Runtime: 95 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies rating: A

They’re married, but the marriage itself is at a dead end and exists only for curt hellos, good mornings, good byes, while both live separate as strangers. They’re so out of touch with each other that neither of them know the other is carrying on with someone else. So . . . why are they still married? Why haven’t the just split up? That’s the question that gets smothered one morning to MIchael (Tracy Letts, letting his romantic and yes, sexy lead flourish) and Mary (Debra Winger, a welcome return to movies) when something so out of left field happens.

They fall back into lust.

And it hits not as a fluke — it hits big. Huge. It’s almost like a drug that suddenly both have discovered — it keeps on delivering highs upon highs and for once, both have become civil, even friendly, towards each other. The problem is, again, they’re both involved in heavy relationships with other people (Aiden Gillen and Melora Walters) whom they continue to lie to and lead on as if nothing were happening, but it doesn’t take long for the second pair of characters to find out. Coming into the mix is a visit by their son Joel (Tyler Ross) and his girlfriend Erin (a sensitive Jessica Sula; if you remember she was one of the three kidnapped girls in Split). Joel has no pleasant memories of his parents and wonders what the shtick of happiness is all about.

The Lovers is all about small, private, intimate performances that make it as a domestic dramedy seem so real you might as well be peering into someone else’s house and documenting. In a previous time this could have gone into Noel Coward territory, but writer-director Azazel Jacobs treats his topic as adult as he possibly can, and even when dramatics take over, it never comes across as too strident. What I liked the most about The Lovers, however, was the sole presence of Letts and Winger as husband and wife who re-ignnite their passion. These are two actors playing people caught in a completely inappropriate and awkward situation, who know they need to call it quits and not hurt their new partners, but wonder if they can do so without causing harm to themselves. This is a smartly made movie.

 

PARIS CAN WAIT
USA / Japan
Director: Eleanor Coppola
Runtime: 90 minutes
Language: French, English

Mostlyindies rating: A

Some of the simplest stories can often hide the most complexities if the right actors can elevate their parts into something completely different and this is the case of Eleanor Coppola’s Bonjour Anne (re-titledParis Can Wait, which actually makes more sense; Bonjour Anne would seem to signify a drama about a woman leaving towards an uncertain future heavy with drama). A movie that depicts the adventures of an American housewife often neglected by her busy movie-prodicer husband (and I can’t possibly not guess that there may be something autobiographic to this scenario as director Eleanor Coppola is the wife of Francis Ford Coppola), Paris Can Wait has a sense of the romantic without directly approaching it. Anne, the wife in question, seems to be content with her life — but even in the limelight she seems to be but a shadow next to her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin, displaying the right dose of self-involvement without coming across as a grotesque caricature of narcissism; he does love Anne but he has a career to honor as well).

When business matters force their vacation at Cannes to come to a screeching halt, Michael flies back out to the Budapest to scout locations for his new film, leaving Anne stranded. While she states she could easily take the train and be in Paris in less than seven hours, Jacques (Antoin Vlard), a business associate of Michael, offers to drive her  Michael accepts the deal and before you know it Anne and Jacques are off touring the French countryside, making stops here and there while she alternates between sort of enjoying herself and growing increasingly frustrated that Jacques won’t drive her directly to Paris, but instead would rather prefer to literally stop, smell the flowers, and engage in an impromptu picnic.

Paris Can Wait shares with the Before trilogy (particularly Before Sunrise) that it features mostly two characters getting to know each other’s through keen character observation. It’s clear from the start that Jacques might be a little too interested in Anne for comfort–everything he does and says carries a weight that is meant to impress her–but Anne… while confident and self-possessed, she’s a little different. She’s more reserved, cagey. She continually talks about Michael but one gets that she’s  not exactly “happy”  and certainly their interrupted phone calls are a glaring example that they have a fractured communication. Also there’s that little action Anne does when storing pictures in her camera–while she deletes any evidence that she took shots of Michael, one in particular catches her attention and she keeps it.

Reader, Paris can Wait is so deceptive it’s a surprise when we reach a point where the romantic suspense is overflowing. Anyone else would have made a trifling mess closer to farce but Eleanor Coppola times her wispy travelogue with an increasing sensuousness that comes alive with Lane and Vlard’s effortless, textured acting and delicious chemistry. The film teeters and balances itself on an invisible line that we know at a moral level should not happen, All is left is for us to sit back and see not if, but when these two will cross that line.

 

BUSTER’S MAL HEART
USA
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Runtime: 96 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies rating: B+

Stress can make its way into a man’s mind in a plethora of insidious ways and before you know it he’s turned from being a mild-mannered individual and morphed into something monstrous. That is the feeling I gleaned from watching Sarah Asian Smith’s Buster’s Mal Heart — that of a man trapped by his own limitations, a low-paying job as a hotel concierge, a family that sees him as threat, and a wild man trapped at sea screaming at apparitions that may or not be real. [I took mild issues with the fact that he’s Hispanic, played by Rami Malek, an actor of Egyptian descent, only because whenever you see men going off the deep end they are mostly NOT Hispanic but White, but I digress; I get it, it could be anyone)

Buster’s Mal Heart drives you right into the aftermath of the matter. We see Buster (Malek) being chased down by some cops who are trying to gun him down. But why? What could he have done that he needs to be either brought back to face imprisonment or be obliterated by a volley of bullets? Soon later, we see him in flashbacks, wandering the Pacific Northwest, hair down to his shoulders, sporting a thick beard, with wild eyes that seem to be seeing something we cannot. He invades summer homes that are now closed for the cold, he comically defecates in places that he really shouldn’t, and all the while, even deeper memories surface. There’s a wife (Kate Lyn Sheil) and child. There are her parents (one of them is played by Lin Shaye who appears in the Insiduous franchise), and they clearly have some issues with Buster, Even so, this can’t quite be the reason that Buster seems to go nuts in later scenes.

I love Buster’s Mal Heart for reasons that exist in domestic horror stories: we know there is a monster, but it has no face. We know that perhaps all this Y2K conspiracy (the movie takes place in 1999, right before or during the brief but disturbing period where people feared the worst) might be total bogus only because it’s rather clear to us as outsiders looking in that clearly nothing happened; no new world order ascended, and we’re still here trying to sort realities out. What makes Buster’s Mal Heart such a frightening movie is that the characters here are up against the same enemy in It Comes at Night and a multitude of other horror stories: the horror of themselves, their own minds that are on the verge of complete collapse. What emerges as an even bigger tragedy is that Buster, our antihero, never had a chance to win from the word go.

 

THE CIRCLE

US – United Arab Emirates
Director: James Ponsoldt
Runtime: 105 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies rating: C+

It’s no secret that we live in surveillance nation and James Ponsoldt’s motion picture, already in heavy promotion as of late last year, looked like an interesting premise that came in at a perfect time when it seems that the only way anyone can even exist is by and through a social network. So, a movie that places our heroine (Emma Watson) in a Facebook-esque company headed by a creepy yet jovial Tom Hanks where sharing — heck, oversharing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week —  would be the likely place to construct a thriller about the loss of personal identity, right? Of course. And for the better part of the movie, it succeeds in doing just that. Even from the word go there is something off about how complacent everyone seems, how there seems to be an almost reverential attitude towards The Circle’s CEO (Hanks, doing a blend of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg although I am inclined to go more for the latter). Watson becomes The Circle’s breakout story, but that comes at a cost — one that insinuates itself more and more as the film gets deeper into its story. Something happens inside of Watson’s character and she makes her escape to a secure place to be by herself. She gets immediately captured — yes, I will use that word — by other employees working for The Circle who bring her back home, safe and sound . . . only to proceed to degrade her to bits in public as a form of punishment for having renounced her role in the company.

[Also, floating around the story’s edge, is a character that could easily be based in either Apple’s or Facebook’s other founding members, a man who holds an important link to revealing the truth behind the Man Behind the Curtain. He only exists to bring a sense of even more menace outside the movie’s fabric, but the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with him for the most part.]

What happens when Watson’s character gets the dog’s collar — and it indeed is, something of a collar, but you have to see it to believe it and it is truly disturbing — is a complete and unexpected character change. She gives in, seemingly unable to even think for herself, and we see her now as an automaton, going through the motions, sharing everything with everyone within her network with the only privacy left being for her to go to the bathroom to do her business. The submission Watson goes through, her personality transformation from person to digital character, is a profoundly disturbing part of the film that I wish the director would have elaborated on more. The Circle, in order to gives its audience a more satisfying sense of closure, stops right here and devolves into something I call back tracking — it forgets how sinister its own presentation of Big Brother through the form of tiny cameras truly is and then picks up a character that had it had forgot, a character who I feel had the ability to stop this crazy all this time, but whose act of liberation had to be ceded to the Final Girl in a horror movie that doesn’t fully live up to its own hype.

 

NADIE NOS MIRA (NOBODY’S WATCHING)
Argentina
Director: Julia Solomonoff
Runtime: 108 minutes
Language:  English/Spanish

Mostly indies rating: B+

There are two stories being told in Julia Solomonoff’s observant drama about a gay actor attempting to make it happen in the United States. The first one is the most obvious and is actually the less interesting only because it follows a well-established pattern. Nico (Guillermo Pfering), an Argentinian actor who shot to fame via a series, has left it all behind to come to the US and pursue a successful film career. While his fictitious counterpart languishes in a coma to justify his absence, Nico languishes in poverty, rooming with a female friend, while attempting to make ends barely meet as a nanny to anyone who will pay him, which includes his friend Andrea (Elena Roger).

The second story, which emerges from the background of Nico’s increasingly sad life, is the fact that he is a man running away from himself. Having been involved with a married man who, to complicate things, is the producer of the show that shot Nico to fame and has no intention of letting him go, Nico fled to the US to start a new life and potentially find himself. Now Nico passes the time biking throughout New York, waiting for his next project that will never happening, and while babysitting, resorting to petty theft. Auditions go bad — he’s either not Latino looking or just not the right fit, and his accent, an American producer tells him later in the film, is too exotic to sell a part.

Nothing that happens in Nadie nos mira comes as anything new; indie cinema is filled with movies that touch the topic of a character locked in a seemingly impossible situation swimming upstream. However, Solomonoff’s movie never reduces Nico to a caricature of failed aspirations — we feel his pain, his increasing desperation to make matters work even when it becomes clear that at one point he will have to open his eyes. What she does manage is to convey, rather beautifully, a nuanced portrait of an illegal alien and how he will grapple with the sense of alienation and the possibility that perhaps he is chasing a pipe dream. Certain comparisons will draw it towards 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, but this is its own movie, thoughtful and compassionate towards people who for whatever reason come to a country looking for answers where there may not be any.

 

SAMBA
Dominican Republic
Director: Israel Cardenas and Laura Guzman
Runtime: 90 minutes
Language: Spanish

Mostlyindies rating: C

Using boxing as a means to redemption goes all the way back to almost 100 years ago when The Champ made its way into movie theaters in its first incarnation (the second would arrive in 1979 and was a total tear-jerker). Only last month American theaters played the Finnish boxing biopic The Best Day in the Life of Olli Maki, and Chuck, also known as The Bleeder as it was released right after its Tribeca debut, also touches on the topic of boxing legend Chuck Wepner.

Laura Guzman and Israel Cardenas movie isn’t a biopic, but a story told in a neo-realist style about Francisco Castillo (Algenis Perez Soto), a man released from a 15 year sentence to an uncertain future. Rejected by both his mother and his son Leury (Ricardo Toribio, last seen in Guzman’s and Cardenas’ Sand Dollars), who’s engaging in criminal behavior, Francisco somehow finds himself (after getting fired from a job at the port because of his criminal past) joining a boxing gym and being tutored by a former Italian boxer Nichi Valente (Ettore D’Allessandro), a man who also comes with his own set of financial problems and excess baggage and who along gym owner Luna Torres (Laura Gomez of Orange is the New Black) see Francisco, who becomes quite the asset, as a cash cow.

This is a rather straight-forward story, basically well done in all aspects, that offers a glimpse at the lives of a man caught in his own personal hell desperately trying to find a second shot. It doesn’t offer anything new but it still emerges over its somewhat slight material and paves the way for future projects to come out of Dominican Republic as it begins to make its presence known in film festivals. Will it have a run in the States? Possible, but for the time being, Samba makes its debut in Dominican Republic on June 29.

ON VOD: DON’T HANG UP

DON’T HANG UP
USA
Director: Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot
Runtime: 83 minutes
Language: English
Mostlyindies’ grade: C+
Take a familiar horror movie trope, switch the genders, update the technology, add a little nasty sadism courtesy from the Saw franchise, and you have yourself a nifty little picture by unknown directors Damien Mace and Alexis Rojsbrot who make their film debut with Don’t Hang Up, a movie you may not have heard from because it perhaps played only at Cinema Village (where micro-indies go to play for a solid week). Luckily for online platforms and FilmPulse, I was able to catch this little piece of nasty right in the comfort of my living room a couple of months ago and it still resonates in my mind.
Without revealing too much of what happens — even though after so many “the caller is inside the house!” movies featuring starlets who can scream, run, and wield a laundry list of throwable and sharp items in the name of self-defense you probably might find yourselves doing the biggest eye-roll ever when you approach this film. After all, how many variations can there be on the genre? Well — this is where Don’t Hang Up enters the picture. A woman gets woken in the middle of the night by a phone call. It’s a police officer, and he tells her she’s in danger. There is an intruder inside house. The woman instantly fears for her daughter’s safety. The officer tells the woman her daughter has been kidnapped, but not to make any sudden moves since the house is surrounded by the police. The woman, clearly terrified, doesn’t take any chances and grabs a gun. Before we get to know what happened we cut to a YouTube channel run by teen age boys who prank call people and then post their reactions on the net for all to listen to, or as trolls would say, ‘for the lulz.’ [To credit, this has been a common practice on YT for over 10 years now, so the premise isn’t too far fetched.]
What the boys — unlikeable, all of them, even when they look as pretty as Garrett Clayton, last seen as porn star Brent Corrigan in last year’s King Cobra — haven’t prepared for is for happens next. They find themselves getting calls from someone who seems at first as merely taunting — your typical complainer condemning these extreme pranks — but who starts to turn the tables onto them with terrifying speed. It’s not long when a battle of wits ensues and gets extremely ugly, fast. Mace and Wajsbrot clearly know their way around a set as their camera wanders in and out of the house where the entire picture takes place almost as an omniscient stalker. Unfortunately, their cast is pretty much throwaway. None of the two main characters — Brady (Clayton) and Sam (Gregg Sulkin) get much in the ways of sympathy from the viewer, considering they’re both pretty much bundles of testosterone, bros if you will, looking for cheap laughs at the expense of someone else’s humiliation, and I have to admit the effect of seeing them on the other side was satisfying. It may be a slight change in gears, but as a solid little piece of pulp cinema, Don’t Hang Up is solid.

A DARK SONG

 

A DARK SONG
Ireland / UK
Director: Kiam Gavin
Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: English

3/5

This has been a year of mildly good horror movies that satisfy but not in any way memorable — certainly not like the terrifying The Eyes of My Mother, to name one. A Dark Song hails from a country that has produced some truly disturbing pictures, and when it premiered at the IFC it was shown as a double-bill with The Kill List, a movie that if you haven’t seen it, you should, it;s that good. Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song navigates a fine line between the real and not real in telling its story of a young mother determined to summon up dark forces to bring her dead son back from the dead.

From the word go, the mood is a little unnerving. Steve Oram, seen previously in 2012’s Sightseers with Alice Lowe (herself seen earlier this Spring in Prevenge which you can catch via Shudder, by the way), plays his warlock/wiccan role with an almost frightening intensity and subjects co-star Catherine Walker into what seems to be a form of boot-camp for the magically inclined before sealing the house they’ve rented far, far from the world, and commencing with the ritual. At first we don’t see too much happening and there are stretches of time where all we get are the two characters bickering at each other, and in one uncomfortable scene, an act that technically amounts to visual rape, where Oram orders Walker to remove her clothing — not for anything magical, but to simply masturbate.

Once the paranormal starts manifesting itself, the movie takes a turn and one scene in particular is a cut above the rest. We see Walker approaching a couch that may or may not have a dark figure sitting on it, apparently having a smoke. As she gets closer, it becomes clearer and clearer that something is in the room with her, looking at her with unknown intent, but a slight change of the angle, and poof! The thing, whatever it was, is gone. Nothing like this matches the sense of dread that has been building up — partly because Oram’s Joseph is so mentally volatile and Walker’s Sophia oscillates between wanting something very badly and disbelieving of it all since nothing has actually happened of note. It’s the age-old saying that horror movies are at their best when they withhold rather than show and in this aspect, A Dark Song uses this to great effect, until the denouement arrives, and then it just becomes another typical horror flick that almost went over and into the abyss but stopped just short.