Currently browsing the "Indie" category.

Quickie Review: Arkansas

Arkansas is one of those indie flicks that somehow finagled a pretty impressive cast – Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox – even though it’s directed by a first timer, Clark Duke (actor from Hot Tub Time Machine, The Office), who also wrote the adaptation and took one of the lead roles. It’s the story of a couple of low-level drug runners Kyle (Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke) who bumble their way through the Southern drug world working for a mysterious guy named Frog (Vaughn). Along the way they meet Ranger Bright (Malkovich) who becomes their direct boss and local nurse Johnna (Eden Brolin, Josh’s daughter) who somehow falls for Swin. It’s a film that might have worked if the director/writer had a better sense of timing and character development, but it’s ultimately a waste of talent and time.

Quickie review: Working Man

In this time of sheltering in place anxiety, this indie flick touches a nerve. It’s the story of a Rust Belt factory closing down and the workers feeling lost without a job to go to. At the center of the film is Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety – Sneaky Pete) a man running from his pain by continuing to work past retirement age. But when his reason for getting up in the morning is taken away from him, he’s unmoored. So he returns to the factory, sneaking in and spending his days tidying up the place. But when the rest of his fellow workers find out, and urged on by his new friend and neighbor Walter Brewer (Billy Brown – How to Get Away with Murder), a movement is started to get the plant up and running again. And Allery is thrust into the uncomfortable role of leader.

Review: Bull

I hadn’t heard of this one and was a bit wary of it since it seems to be about rodeo, not high on my list of entertainments. But I really liked it. Set in a poor Houston suburb, it’s the story of 14-year-old Kris (first time actress Amber Havard) who’s living with her Grandma since Mom is in the slammer. She’s just trying to get by, but crosses the line one night, breaking into her neighbor Abe’s house. Abe (Rob Morgan – Mudbound, Just Mercy) is an aging rodeo rider who’s also just hanging on by a thread. But instead of sending her to jail, he makes a deal that she will work for him for a bit. What follows is a classic story of the curmudgeon who gradually becomes a friend, and a young girl finding herself through adversity.

Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that I would surely endorse watching if and when there’s talk again of overturning Roe v. Wade or further eroding abortion rights. But right now, when our focus is squarely on the Coronavirus and escaping the dread of the Coronavirus, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that even ardent supporters may want to relegate to the back burner. Unless, that is, you’re psychologically inclined to indulge in some at-home viewing that is reserved and grim and poignant and raw, providing an authentic take on one teen’s intensely personal journey to abort an unintended and unwanted pregnancy.

Review: Swallow

This R-rated psychological thriller was a complete surprise to me. In a good way. It’s a Stepford Wives meets #Girlpower story that has you yelling at the screen and wondering what will happen next right up until its satisfying ending. Haley Bennett (Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven) is mesmerizing as Hunter, the gilded cage wife of a wealthy financier. She seems to have it all, but there’s definitely something missing, and she fills her days in an OCD housecleaning fog. But when she gets pregnant, she develops “pica” – the compulsion to consume inedible objects and materials. Of course there’s a deeper psychological reason for her mental state, and as the film progresses Hunter is forced to confront a dark secret to break free.

Review: Downhill

If you head into Downhill expecting a raucous, LOL comedy filled with humorous gaffes and charming banter between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, you’re in for an uphill climb. Downhill is a slow, occasionally poignant, occasionally funny remake of the critically-acclaimed Swedish dark comedy Force Majeure. If you saw the 2014 Swedish film, you probably saw the better version.

Review: The Assistant

The Assistant is the #MeToo movement’s searing indie alternative to Bombshell. It’s a slow observational drama that follows a day in the life of a junior assistant to a powerful media executive who is never named, or even seen. The boss-man is just sporadically heard, feared, revered and referred to by various people in the office, where actors, production executives and pretty young things wander in and out throughout the day to conduct “business” – however that may be defined.

Mini-review: A Patient Man

This one is so very indie. Not a recognizable big-name actor in sight. That’s sometimes a good thing. You don’t know where to look, who is the important person. Sadly in the case of this film, you wish there had been a more recognizable, better actor in the lead. For a thriller, it comes off as less than engaging because you never connect with the central character. I can’t tell you the particulars because, it’s is one of those films that the less you know going in, the better, since things unfold slowly as the story drops a clue here and there. But the gist is that a man is returning to work after having been in a horrible traffic accident and he’s trying to piece it all together. But he’s also trying to figure out who is to blame and how to punish them.

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 trip 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.