Isaiah Washington in “They Die By Dawn,” screening Sunday during the BlackStar Film Festival.
The 3rd annual BlackStar Film Festival kicks off this Thursday, July 31st. The event comprises screenings of more than 40 feature and short films, and panels made up of filmmakers, artists, and other film-industry industry professionals.
BlackStar celebrates cinema by and about people of African descent, highlighting works from emerging filmmakers across the globe. The festival includes works from a range of genres—narrative, documentary, experimental, even music video—and seeks to cultivate an open space for dialogue on the varied landscape of black life.
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Lucy: Luc Besson’s bugnuts quasi-action-thriller-cum-time-and-space-meditation stars Scarlett as a student living in Taipei who gets embroiled in a nasty Asian drug cartel and accidentally ingests an enormous amount of a synthetic drug that allows her to access up to 100 percent of her brain capacity. It’s not a great action flick, and it’s pretty silly as anything more serious, but somehow his energy—and Johansson’s powerful performance—make it more than the idiotic sum of its parts. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
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Writer/Director Richard Linklater has released a steady stream of critically adored indie films since 1988′s It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, but it’s taken the Texan much longer to connect with larger audiences. He doesn’t move in grand plot schemes or subversive genre machinations, his films are content to spend their time exploring lengthy, engrossing philosophical discussions between protagonists—be they young, yet-to-be-lovers in Before Sunrise, an animated character exploring a dream world in Waking Life, or an undercover cop in the near future who tries a new drug and begins to unravel in A Scanner Darkly.
His new film, Boyhood, takes the idea of time passing (another frequent obsession in his work) and actually builds it into the fabric of the film. The result, shot over 12 years, begins with a 6-year-old protagonist and follows him through the day he leaves home for college. It is easily one of the best films of the year. He spoke with us about his body of work, his life outside filmmaking, and the female protagonist with whom he most identifies.
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Boyhood: Easily one of the most-anticipated films of the summer by film critics and indie fans since its debut at Sundance this past January. Richard Linklater’s concept film was shot over the course of some 12 years, chronicling the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of one boy, Mason (Eller Coltrane), as he navigates the difficult and confusing waters of growing up with two loving-but-divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette). Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
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Indie films and delicious food will meet again on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway this summer, with the second year of Film al Fresco, an outdoor film series presented by The Galleries at Moore College of Art and Design that features independent films by emerging artists from the Philadelphia area.
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Variety has the scoop on a new new project starring Philly’s Will Smith, a drama based on GQ article “Game Brain,” which takes on the controversy surrounding concussions in the NFL. More from Variety:
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Imagine a film festival that includes everything from The Karate Kid to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to documentaries on bronies (those male lovers of My Little Pony) and George Takei…and imagine that most of the screenings are free. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Read more »
Hollywood’s blockbuster movie season is officially upon us, bringing with it an endless stream of superheroes, big-star comedies, and a depressing shortage of anything really worth watching. So, what better time to curl up on your sectional for a moment at your personal multiplex? The seat is more comfy, no one is texting during a crucial scene, and the popcorn costs about 40 cents a bag.
To help you choose your films well, we present our monthly guide to what’s new and fantastic on Netflix instant streaming.
Breakdown: A twisted scientist in a surrealist future who can't dream; so he kidnaps little children in order to steal their dreams and stay young himself.
What's the Rumpus? Welcome to the imitable surreal stylings of French visionary Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who, along with his partner Marc Caro, create an absolute whirlwind of visual splendor and complex metaphor. It's a children's fable wrapped in stunning, painterly majesty.
Kill Bill: Vols. 1 and 2
Breakdown: A former highly skilled assassin goes on a hunt for revenge after she's attacked and left for dead by her former associates.
What's the Rumpus? Say what you will about Quentin Tarantino (because, man, I certainly do), but this stylish, intricate revenge spree features some of his most enervating action sequences, and an absolute powerhouse performance from star Uma Thurman. QT has vowed to put both volumes together back into his original formulation, but for now, watching them back-to-back will have to do.
Trailers here and here.
Breakdown: A live recording of one of our seminal comedians at the very peak of his standup career.
What's the Rumpus? The late, great Pryor continued to make comic history with this follow-up to the absolute classic Richard Pryor: Live in Concert. Here, the slightly more measured and thoughtful comedian riffs on everything from a trip to Africa to the freebasing accident that nearly cost him his life.
Breakdown: Werner Herzog continues his cinematic journeys, going to Antarctica in order to film the wilds and curiosities of the region, and the scientists and blue-collar workers who populate the desolate continent.
What's the Rumpus? Herzog's documentaries tend to take shape around their formidable creator, and this exploration of the denizens — both on land and deep in the water — of this frozen Xanadu play like a hallucinatory vision of wonder.
Breakdown: A naïve man is suddenly elected to the Senate, where he encounters corruption and scandal en route to passing a bill.
What's the Rumpus? One of Frank Capra's best known works finds a young Jimmy Stewart raising cain on Capital Hill, railing against the institutionalized graft of his fellow congress people, and holding forth an epic filibuster to both get his bill recognized and clear his name of a propped-up scandal. Capra being Capra, there is a ray of hope that shines through the political murk, but it comes at a heavy price.
Capsule reviews of the weekend’s new movies. Should you see it, wait for DVD, or skit it altogether? We lay it out below.
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1. Only Lovers Left Alive: Jim Jarmusch jumps on the played-out vampire shtick with his own brand of moody, slow-paced atmospherics. However, he was smart enough to cast a thoroughly dynamic pair of leads (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) to portray his depressed, achingly bored immortals. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%
2. The Railway Man: The continued on-screen suffering of Colin Firth shows no signs of abating. Here, he plays a former WWII POW, still haunted by his torture, given the opportunity to confront his primary tormentor many years later. Also with Nicole Kidman (welcome back, Nicky!), as his well-intentioned wife. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
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Enjoying the somewhat peculiar charms of the Tribeca Film Festival, I’ve taken in a host of films on my first two days. Here are some of the highlights.
A thoroughly charming film from writer/director Angus MacLachian (Junebug) about an amiable married man named Otto (Paul Schneider) whose wife (Melanie Lynskey) suddenly blindsides him with a separation, leaving him and his relationship to his young daughter in a sort of limbo. It's something of a comedy (part of the film's conceit concerns the various nutty women Otto gets tangled up with as a newly single man) but with the skillful touch of its celebrated director, it's also able to shift into heartfelt drama. Some of the female characters are pretty much stuck on single-note keys (including that of his ex-wife, to the film's detriment), but there are enough dazzlingly realized moments between both genders that it works quite well, anyway.
Beguiling and witty, this doc from a trio of directors (Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker) concerns the curious case of Mark Landis, a skilled artistic mimic whose shtick involves forging a well-known artist's work and then "donating" the piece to a museum as the real thing. The film follows both Landis, at work on his elaborate deceptions (one of the guises he uses to donate the works is as of a priest), and Matthew Leininger, a former museum registrar Landis once duped, who is hot on his trail. Somehow, the film allows you to pull for both of them.
A showcase for the considerable chops of Rory Culkin — yes, finally, we are at the youngest of the Culkin brood — who plays the titular character, a sweet, somewhat mentally unbalanced young man who, shortly after being released from the hospital after being committed, goes on an ill-advised, shaggy dog quest to find a girlfriend from some years ago in hopes that she will give his ever more unhinged life distinct meaning. Lou Howe's film starts with Gabriel as a distant cypher but deftly spins his audience ever more deeply into his mindspace.
A must-see doc about an infamous break-in into an FBI regional field office in Media, Pa., by a grassroots group of operatives known only as the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, and their subsequent releasing of those incriminating documents to newspapers and media outlets all over the country. Never caught, the group has only recently come out of hiding and admitted to the crime — a game-changing event that eventually forced the formerly all-powerful FBI into serious reform. The film doesn't make the connection overtly, but the echoes of the current Snowden affair are absolutely unmistakable.
Another enchanting doc about an eccentric man doing something slightly extraordinary. Ed Perkins captures the whimsical joy and sadness of his protagonist, Garnet Frost, as he goes on yet another madcap adventure to return to the particular spot in the Scottish highlands where he almost died 20 years before while on a search for buried treasure. Garnet is a fascinating character, equal parts mad, creative genius and tragically lonely.