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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT’

Recovery is a marathon not a sprint, not that the snarky wheelchair-bound protagonist of Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry would be able to stand for either. Telling the true story of celebrated, irreverent Portland cartoonist John Callahan, from his reckless drinking days to his untimely paralysis to his long tenure at AA, Van Sant’s latest is a hopeful salvation saga sprinkled with un-PC delights lead by a powerful Joaquin Phoenix performance. Lippy but uplifting, Don’t Worry crutches on a jumbled timeline that can make the narrative feel sloppy and untethered but is harnessed by a message of preservation in the face of all obstacles. Jonah Hill is raw as a flowy flaxen-haired sponsor amidst a standout supporting cast. (B) Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘HEREDITARY’ 

Every once in a blue moon, there comes a horror movie that’s legitimately capital-T terrifying. One that’ll cause your eyes to dart around the dark stillness of the theater at the smallest creak. One that’ll hitchhike a ride home with you to invade your dreams; an unabortable mental pregnancy. One whose delirious imagery will burn into your cranium as if doused in paint thinner and struck by a match. I am happy to report that A24’s Hereditary, dear readers, is just that kind of movie. It’ll take your damn head off. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES’ 

John Cameron Mitchell is a man of many talents, talents which erupted in 2001 when he wrote, directed and starred in to-be cult classic Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a devilishly stylish, strictly adult, anti-musical about a transgender punk-rocker from East Berlin. Mitchell has flexed his filmmaking muscles infrequently since, his most notable follow-up work being 2010’s sorrowful study of marital grief, the well-regarded Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. With his latest work, the somewhat over-named How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Mitchell exercises a different set of sinew, stretching into unfamiliar territory – new-age punk-rock sci-fi – in an effort that reaches for the stars but comes up a parsec short.  Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘HEARTS BEAT LOUD’

Nick Offerman plays a hipster record shop owner/has-been musician/doting father to the talented and driven Sam (Kiersey Clemons in a vibrant coming out party of a performance) as the two start an unlikely band in Brett Haley’s lovely indie musical Hearts Beat Loud. The pair share wonderful screen chemistry – Offerman has never been better – while the movie itself transforms into a warm blast of dreams, acceptance, and growing pains that’s luminously riddled with maturity. This charmed musical crowdpleaser hits all the right notes, delivering a bucket of all-the-feels alongside some delightfully head-bobbing tuneage. (A-) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID’

Not even children are spared in this gritty Mexican fantasy-thriller from writer/director Issa López. Both grounded in dark realities and anchored by larger-than-life fantastical elements, Tigers Are Not Afraid shares DNA with Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language horrors movies (think Devil’s Backbone), which smuggle pervasive social commentary in with spooky, mythic thrills. A 10-year old girl joins up with a similarly orphaned child gang, roaming the streets and eluding ill-intentioned adults in this unsettling fable about loss and criminality. Moody and uncompromising, Tigers marks López as a blooming talent to keep a close eye on. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS’ 

Eddy Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran had their lives turned upside down with the discovery that the three 19-year olds were long-lost triplets. Overnight media sensations, the long-separated trio discover a nefarious plot to settle the argument on nature vs. nurture in this stranger-than-fiction type documentary from Tim Wardle. Equally compelling and fascinating, Three Identical Strangers is a psychological tragedy that shuffles between the influences of fame, genes, and mental disease to startling effect. Runs out of steam as the surprises fade away but remains a largely arresting watch nonetheless. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘RUIN ME’ 

This concept horror from Preston DeFrancis tries to combine the shlocky guesswork of a whodunnit in with the craze of Escape Rooms to middling effect. When ex-addict Alexandra (Marcienne Dwyer) accompanies boyfriend Nathan on Slasher Sleepout, the orchestrated haunt becomes menacingly real and the pair must fight for survival. Some of the narrative twists work but the acting is standard C-list horror subpar, the practical effects disappointing, and the scares lacking entirely. The script from DeFrancis and Trysta Bissett is loaded with bromides and jump-to-conclusions dialogue as well as some hare-brained endgame mustache-twirling that comes across as more tasteless and off-putting than brutal and brilliant. (C-) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘LEAVE NO TRACE’ 

Following 2010’s Winter’s Bone, Debra Granik continues to peer into the grungy sideshow of backcountry American life in the delicately told Leave No Trace. About a father and daughter who attempt to live off the land, Granik’s third feature film tackles heavy themes with a soft touch, allowing Ben Foster and Thomas Harcourt McKenzie’s soulful performances to soar in this quiet coming-of-age character study. A treatise on the bonds that tie and emotional scars too ugly to bear, Leave No Trace is a graceful and absorbing drama about the profundity of family love. (B+) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘BEAST’ 

This moody slow-burn from writer-director Michael Pearce is a psychosexual tone-poem of quiet desperation. On a reclusive island, Jessie Buckley’s misfitted Mal falls for Pascal (Johnny Flynn) who just so happens to be the chief suspect for a string of heinous murders perpetrated against the communities’ women. Pearce’s seductive romantic thriller plays a tantalizing game of cat and mouse, teasing the audience with an eerie soundscape and an off-axis visual palette. Buckley is a find as Mal, offering a full-charged performance and a different breed of leading lady. (B) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘SORRY TO BOTHER YOU’ 

Sorry to Bother You is on its own level of strangeness. Like stranger than tentacle porn strange. Bold, experimental, and loaded with rich, cryptic and powerful themes of the African American and working-class experience, Boot Riley has crafted a sashimi raw, energetic manifesto exploding with purpose, despite flaws. Seeing Lakeith Stanfield’s lackadaisical mystique dominate a lead role is a joyous experience but the film’s attempts at comedy can sometimes be too broad, even when rooted in razor-sharp satire. Going places you will never in a million years anticipate, STBY is rich with strange soul and sickening twists and turns, smuggling “white voice” and meta-human rights in to challenge audiences in this not-to-be-ignored creationist tale that tackles new racial epitaphs and demented sociopolitical hierarchies. (B) Read More