films

The NYC Independent Film Festival 2017: A Sea of Surprises

Sandra Bertrand

Sampling an independent film festival is a little like putting a toe in murky waters.  Every genre is here, from animation, documentary, narrative, experimental, virtual reality, short to super short—there’s nothing to do but dive in. As the flyer promises, it’s “never boring.” Dennis Cieri, the NYC Independent Film Festival executive director and founder says, “it’s the indie filmmakers who change the nature of cinematography, as an industry and an art.”  For this eighth year, Cierti’s crew assembled 85 judges to rate 1,278 films.  

Lost and Found: The Life of Artist Edith Lake Wilkinson

Sandra Bertrand

Anderson and Tess busy themselves with painting the walls green at the Larkin Gallery for Edith’s first show in over 90 years and the reception is obviously a successful one.   Along with the exhibit preparations, Anderson finds out through a letter that one of the town’s history buffs shares, that before Edith’s incarceration, she was planning a trip to Paris. She had big plans for her future. Another rather humorous event is a visit Anderson pays to a local psychic who supposedly “channels” Edith, relating how the woman “loved to party and made a lethal rum punch.”

Chinese Film ‘King of Masks’ Focuses on Themes of Love, Tradition and Redemption

Gabriella Tutino

The film, set in 1930 Sichuan, follows a street performer who is versed in the Sichuan opera art of changing silk masks quickly; this skill earns him the name ‘The King of Masks.’ After one of his performances he is approached by another Sichuan opera artist, Master Liang, who is known for his transformations and stage-acting as a woman (his most popular role being The Living Bodhisattva). Master Liang asks the King to join his troupe.

‘Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb’ Arrives on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” like so many unnecessary sequels, isn’t so much bad as irrelevant. The film’s selling point is that it blends top-notch special effects and a family friendly story with an excellent cast that includes Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and the late Robin Williams. The down side is that it fails to bring anything new to the table. 

‘Whiplash,’ ‘Big Hero 6’ Arrive on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

In “Whiplash,” J.K. Simmons plays Terrence Fletcher, a college music professor so brutal and intense that he is literally capable of making students ill. It’s a role Simmons inhabits completely, and it has, quite correctly, become one of the most celebrated performances of the movie awards season. Fletcher is, in the simplest sense, a monster. But he is also capable of inspiring his students to greatness.

‘The Theory of Everything,’ ‘Birdman,’ ‘St. Vincent’ Arrive on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

When Stephen Hawking was 21 years old, he was given two years to live. Today, he is 73. Hawking’s story isn’t amazing simply because he beat the odds in his battle with ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), it is remarkable because he continued to work, becoming one of the most renowned theoretical physicists in the world. Nominated for best picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, “The Theory of Everything” considers many of the major events in Hawking’s life.

‘Nightcrawler,’ ‘Force Majeure’ Arrive on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

Writer-director Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” is the sort of absurdist thriller that presents uncomfortable truths in an entertaining, but undeniably disturbing, manner. The focus is on Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a shifty hustler who makes his living by any means possible. One day, he stumbles upon an auto accident and learns that freelance TV crews make good money selling crash footage to local news outlets. So, Louis gets a cheap video camera and launches his career. 

Deadpan Humor, Acerbic Wit Are Main Themes of Quirky Rom-Com ‘Appropriate Behavior’

Angelo Franco

In her screenwriting and directorial debut, Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behavior is engrossing, provocative, and entirely inappropriate. Laced with Akhavan’s unquestionable flare for frames and motion (or lack thereof), the film explores the depths of sexuality within a cultural context, posing realities that are heartbreakingly honest and widely unexplored, often at the same time.  

‘Neighbors,’ ‘The Rover’ Arrive on Home Video

Forrest Hartman

Nicholas Stoller’s work as a director has been on a steady decline since he helmed the surprising and wonderful 2008 comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” That film, written by star Jason Segel, was funny, original and anchored by great performances. For “Neighbors,” Stoller assembled another terrific cast, but the players are saddled with a schizophrenic screenplay that wants to be edgy yet refuses to take risks. 

Remembering Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius of Silent Comedy

Benjamin Wright

Harold Lloyd lacked the vaudeville training and natural comedy of Chaplin and Keaton, yet he could make us laugh as hard as we did when watching Chaplin, and could elicit as much sympathy and suspense as Keaton, but he had to work harder at being funny. And work he did, churning out more pictures over the course of his very prolific film career than Chaplin and Keaton combined.

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