Song One (2014)

Song One ★✫✫✫✫ Director: Kate Barker-Froyland Film Arcade (Official Site) 86 Minutes In Theaters Beginning January 23, 2015 (Limited) – When Franny (Anne Hathaway), a young graduate student estranged from her family, learns her younger brother Henry (Ben Rosenfield) has been critically injured, she races home to find him in a coma, and her estranged mother (Mary Steenburgen) as flighty and distant as ever. Feeling helpless and alone and with a crazy scheme to try to connect with her comatose brother, Franny takes Henry’s tickets to see his favorite musician, singer-songwriter James Forester (Johnny Flynn), and strikes up a romance with the popular indie-folk musician. Song One, written and directed by Kate Barker-Froyland, features a fantastic soundtrack and cameos from several alternative and indie performers, including Elizabeth Ziman, Dan Deacon and Paul Whitty. Strangely, the film keeps much of this terrific music at arm’s length, focusing on Franny’s face as she listens, or indulging in a few smash cuts in the middle of a song as though it were mere background noise. Had the film respected the music as more than just plot glue, it could have lent some depth to what otherwise is a gossamer-thin story. Much has been made of Barker-Froyland’s coup in landing A-lister Anne Hathaway for her directorial debut. Unfortunately, Hathaway is entirely miscast in the role of the quirky life newbie who is only now beginning to feel her way through adulthood. When Franny sticks shiny bits of paper to the walls of her brother’s … Continue reading

The Duke of Burgundy (2014)

The Duke of Burgundy ★★★★½ / ★★★★★ Director: Peter Strickland IFC Films 106 Minutes In Theaters Beginning January 23, 2015 (Limited) – Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) arrives at the opulent home of Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a beautiful but stern entomologist. Angry at her maid Evelyn for her lack of perfection, Cynthia spends the day reading books and eating bon-bons and becoming increasingly hostile. By evening, Cynthia has had enough, and subjects Evelyn to perverse and oddly sexual punishment for her failures. When the same scenario begins the very next morning, we see this ritual for what it is: a fantasy concocted by Evelyn, desperate to be dominated by her lover Cynthia. This intricate love affair is the heart of Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, the follow-up to his well-received thriller Berberian Sound Studio (2012). A romance with more than a hint of horror and melodrama, The Duke of Burgundy is filled with the kind of vague and inexplicable moments that define softcore porn flicks of the 1970s. It’s a fantasy world, of course; there’s not a single man in the land, the homes are luxurious, all the women are chic and beautiful. There is an abundance of leisure and a standard of living so decadent that the economy can sustain an entire village filled with nothing but lepidopterists and the occasional BDSM equipment salesperson. But who fashions the expensive, custom-made wardrobes that figure so prominently in this world? Why does no one tend the impeccable landscapes? And why does … Continue reading

Loitering With Intent (2014)

Loitering With Intent ★★★★☆ Director: Adam Rapp Metal Rabbit Media 80 Minutes In Theaters Beginning January 16, 2015 (Limited) – “What do writers do?” Dominic (Michael Godere) asks his friend Raphael (Iván Martín). “They go to the country. We’ll go to the country.” The chance to write and star in their own low-budget indie has just magically fallen into Dom’s and Raph’s laps, and the pair scramble to get a script together in 10 days in Adam Rapp’s gentle comedy Loitering With Intent. After a brainstorming session or two — a few of their ideas are good, a couple hilariously awful — the tranquility at the beautiful home of Dom’s sister Gigi (Marisa Tomei) dissolves, interrupted first by the arrival of Gigi’s friend Ava (Isabelle McNally). Soon, Gigi herself arrives, drunk off her ass and in obvious trouble, with news that her war veteran boyfriend Wayne (Sam Rockwell) has gone just a touch crazier than usual. By the time Wayne reappears with his brother, the annoying surfer bro Devan (Brian Geraghty), Raphael has thrown himself into the drama around him, while Dom sequesters himself, refusing to give up on what he believes is his last big chance at success. Loitering With Intent comes pre-packaged with a comfortable and familiar plot. It features the requisite whimsy and heartfelt emotion of a low-budget indie, plus plenty pf introspection and meta references and a handful of 30- and 40-something white guys who realize they finally need to grow up. But there’s something else … Continue reading

The World Made Straight (2015)

The World Made Straight ★★★ / ★★★★★ Director: David Burris Millennium Entertainment (Official Site) 119 Minutes In Theaters Beginning January 9, 2015 (Limited) – Teacher-turned-drug-dealer Leonard (Noah Wyle) takes a wary interest in restless high school dropout Travis Shelton (Jeremy Irvine) in David Burris’ neo-Gothic drama The World Made Straight. Travis has shown up at Leonard’s door with some stolen pot plants in the back of his pickup, hoping to score some funds after losing yet another job. It’s 1974, and the Appalachian hills of Madison County, North Carolina offer few prospects for the locals beyond chronic unemployment, booze and drugs or, for the lucky few, working at the hospital where most everyone gets stitched up after things go predictably wrong. It’s a grim world of muted colors and cold drizzly days, a place where all of life’s answers can be found at the end of a gun. Cast out of his home by an abusive father and seriously wounded by Carlton (Steve Earle), a dangerous local drug dealer, Travis is begrudgingly taken in by Leonard, despite his sometimes-girlfriend’s protestations. The former teacher, known locally as “the Professor,” sees a curious soul in the boy. He may be cursed with a lack of education, hot temper and worthless friends, but Travis has a keen interest in learning, especially the history of the county and the Civil War-era tragedy which his own ancestors had been involved in. The Shelton Laurel Massacre is no fictional construct but rather a very real event, … Continue reading