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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!

The Beguiled Review

When I heard this film was being done, my first thought was, “A remake of the 70s Clint Eastwood flick? Why?” But fortunately it’s not a remake. Sophia Coppola has turned the previously digested source material into her own sensually atmospheric historical drama. Starring a very talented bunch, including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Colin Farrell, it’s a psychological tableaux set in the waning days of the Civil War at an isolated girls’ school in Virginia. When a wounded Union soldier (Farrell) is brought into their midst, their routine life is disrupted, they each begin to vie for his attention, and you just know it can’t end well.

20th Century Women

20th Century Women takes place at the end of the 70s in Santa Barbara, California. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is a bohemian, mid-50ish, single mom trying to raise her son, adolescent Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). They live in a big old house in the middle of renovations and have two boarders – budding photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Zen mechanic William (Billy Crudup). And there is a teenage neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) who frequently climbs in the window to lie chastely in bed with young Jamie, her BFF, to his growing dismay. Dorothea feels that she needs help with Jamie, and thinking they’re closer in age, she asks the girls to help her with his transition to manhood. What follows is both funny and touching.

Trumbo

Trumbo is set in Hollywood in the 1940s and 50s during the Red Scare, when the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was convinced that there were Commie spies planting propaganda in movies, and a lot of once bright careers were destroyed as a blacklist kept them from getting any work. The film centers on Dalton Trumbo, one of the highest paid screenwriters in town who begins the film at the height of his career. But after refusing to testify in front of the HUAC, he’s sent to jail and once released has to find creative ways to continue his craft. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) plays Trumbo, and his Oscar-worthy performance elevates a less than exciting script.

Ginger & Rosa

It may be called Ginger & Rosa, but it is Elle Fannings’s movie. She plays Ginger, a 16-year-old in London in 1962 whose entire world is in a precarious position for a whole slew of reasons. Her family is coming apart. She is more and more concerned about the threat of nuclear war. And she is at that point in adolescence where the weight of everything just seems too much to bear. She has always been able to talk to her best friend Rosa (Alice Englert) about anything, but now that she is more interested in protesting for disarmament, all Rosa can think about is true love, and the two who have been best friends since birth begin to drift apart.

We Bought a Zoo

It’s a good thing Matt Damon didn’t succumb to warnings about working with children and animals. Because without Matt Damon, We Bought a Zoo could have been really lame. Instead, it’s a heartwarming family film that manages to tackle some pretty big issues without getting too sappy or sad.

Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a young widower struggling to raise his two kids, Dylan, 14, and Rosie, 7, in the months following his wife’s death. Desperate for a change of scenery and a fresh start, Mee moves the family out of the city and into a fixer-upper in the country that happens to be situated in the middle of a zoo that also needs some major fixer-uppin’.

Super 8

Super 8 is a blast from the past – especially for those of us who, um, grew up in the 1970s.

Somewhere

Somewhere goes nowhere and I suppose that is the point, but it makes for an awfully boring movie. I spent most of this movie waiting for something, anything, to happen, and a good chunk of it waiting for somebody to say something, anything. There’s almost no dialogue for the first 20 minutes or so of the movie. Again, I guess there’s a point being made there, but oh. my. god. Zzzzzzzzzz.