Cinema

​Eighth Grade: Burnham Makes Strong Feature Debut with Fisher

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | August 15th, 2018

Elsie Fisher’s Kayla Day is the lonely but indefatigable middle-school protagonist of first-time feature filmmaker Bo Burnham’s “Eighth Grade,” a winning addition to the pantheon of the adolescent cinematic bildungsroman. What details and nuances other performers might have brought to the role we wouldn’t dare to imagine, so perfect is Fisher’s take. She constructs a brilliant characterization utterly unselfconscious in its self-consciousness. There are millions like Kayla,…

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​Separated-at-Birth Brothers Meet in ‘Three Identical Strangers’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | August 8th, 2018

Three Identical Strangers - Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Bobby Shafran, separated at birth.

Tim Wardle’s documentary “Three Identical Strangers” shares the seemingly impossible tale of brothers Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Bobby Shafran, separated-at-birth identical triplets who discovered one another as young adults in 1980. Recipient of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling shortly after its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, the movie draws on new interviews and a strong archive of visual material to paint a colorful but…

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​Susco Clicks on Our Fears in ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | August 1st, 2018

Making his feature directorial debut, “The Grudge” writer Stephen Susco scares up a handful of unnerving images and grim thoughts in “Unfriended: Dark Web,” a standalone follow-up to the incredibly profitable 2014 Blumhouse film. Like the first “Unfriended,” “Dark Web” was produced at a cost of roughly one million dollars, practically guaranteeing a big return on investment by the conclusion of its opening weekend. The second installment retains the visual gimmick of…

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​Hearts Beat Loud: Haley Makes Music with Offerman and Clemons

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | July 25th, 2018

Brett Haley follows “The Hero” with another intimate and small-scale drama that touches on love and loss, looking back and moving forward. Nick Offerman, who provided memorable support in “The Hero” as Sam Elliott’s drug connection, assumes lead duties as Brooklyn record store proprietor Frank Fisher. Coming to grips with the imminent closure of his shop and the cross-country relocation of his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) to UCLA medical school, widower Frank avoids the…

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​Boots Riley is “Sorry to Bother You”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | July 11th, 2018

Boots Riley hallucinates a wildly funny feature debut with “Sorry to Bother You,” a sharp-fanged social satire that mashes up the innovative handmade aesthetics of Michel Gondry with the fierce truth-to-power consciousness of Spike Lee. As uneven as it is addictively watchable, the movie caroms from sharply on-point to murkily broad. Fans of alternate reality dystopian nightmares like Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” and Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales,” two of a smallish…

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Granik Returns with Compelling “Leave No Trace”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 27th, 2018

Filmmaker Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace,” based on Peter Rock’s novel “My Abandonment,” demonstrates some spiritual and stylistic kinship with the director’s tremendous “Winter’s Bone,” but the new film stakes out the emotionally intense territory shared by a father and his daughter living off the grid as a means of self-care/self-preservation and survival. Ben Foster turns in a predictably excellent performance as Will, a veteran with serious PTSD. Will’s…

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​Hereditary: Aster’s Horror Debut Keeps It All in the Family

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 20th, 2018

Scaring up early buzz as a premiere in the Midnight section of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” is the horror film of the year. Anchored by the vital performance of Toni Collette as grieving, disintegrating mother Annie Graham -- arguably the actor’s career-best work -- the movie’s other noteworthy MVP may just be Pawel Pogorzelski’s sharp cinematography, which features one breathtaking day/night cut so perfect it serves as a reminder that not even…

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​‘The Rider:’ Dreams Deferred, Dreams Fulfilled

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 13th, 2018

Writer-director Chloe Zhao’s sophomore feature “The Rider” cements her status as one of contemporary filmmaking’s most promising voices. A carefully curated blend of fact and fiction, the movie focuses on the aftermath of a traumatic head injury suffered by a young Sioux rodeo cowboy. Played by Brady Jandreau, the fictional Brady Blackburn is faced with an impossible choice: accept the reality that his riding days are done or court almost certain death by returning to…

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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Fred Rogers Documentary Brings Such a Good Feeling

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | June 6th, 2018

Mr. Rogers

In a bit of fortuitous timing. Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville turns his attention to public television superstar Fred Rogers, an almost universally beloved figure whose unwavering message of peace, friendship, love and kindness contrasts diametrically with today’s bullying tone of undignified late-night tweets issuing from a certain well-covered account. 

One wonders how Rogers, a devoted Republican, might have dealt with the grim political partisanship that currently…

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​RBG: Supreme Documentary Is a Must-See

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | May 30th, 2018

Betsy West and Julie Cohen assemble a welcome biographical portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the octogenarian icon whose legacy already includes her groundbreaking work in the area of gender-based discrimination and her powerful dissents in cases decided by an increasingly conservative high bench. “RBG,” which playfully alludes to the meme-based appellation linking the jurist to hip-hop’s Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., is but one boulder in…

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