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"Powerful, at times shocking, but also intensely human." Kino Lorber has debuted the official US trailer for an award-winning documentary called Fire at Sea, or Fuocoammare, from Italy about the migrant crisis affecting Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The doc won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and has played at numerous other film festivals including Telluride, Toronto and New York (coming up). The film is set on an island off the coast of Italy called Lampedusa, one of the places many migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean by boat end up. Fire at Sea was also just selected by Italy as their official entry to the Academy Awards this year, a strong push for this doc to get even more attention. I recently had the chance to see it and wrote that it's a "slow burn, but builds to a bonfire." Highly recommended for doc fans.
"As long as nothing interrupts that serenity, then there's nothing more magical." Gravitas Ventures has debuted a trailer for a documentary titled Don't Look Down, profiling the early 1980's publicity stunt by Richard Branson in an attempt to bring attention to his newly launched Virgin Airlines. Branson decided to hop in a hot air balloon and fly across the Atlantic Ocean, something that has never been done before and is considered dangerous even by other experienced balloonists. "The real story of this incredible adventure has never been told, and using intimate interviews with Branson and the team, never seen before archive (including footage from inside the balloon, shot in real time)." It looks quite thrilling and fascinating. Enjoy.
Just when you thought it was safe to leave your doors unlocked and your windows unbarred, a film like Safe Neighborhood comes along and completely makes you rethink the home invasion sub-genre. It's been the format for a certain type of film for awhile now, and the formula involved has been generally left unaltered. Fortunately there are filmmakers like Chris Peckover who aren't satisfied with resting on the laurels of the typical, home invasion movie, and Safe Neighborhood quickly reveals itself to be something just enough on the fringe to make it noteworthy. It's also going to be an extremely challenging movie to speak about without giving away too many of the film's shocking reveals. But let's give it a shot anyway, tread carefully.
"What you see on the news is a story 150 years in the making." Netflix has debuted the first trailer for the documentary title The 13th, or just 13th, directed by fillmmaker Ava DuVernary in secret over the last few years. It presents an in-depth look at the prison system and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality. The title refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist." This looks like it's going to be hard-hitting and provocative, and hopefully will cause changes. DuVernary commented that "this film was made as an answer to my own questions about how and why we have become the most incarcerated nation in the world, how and why we regard some of our citizens as innately criminal, and how and why good people allow this injustice to happen generation after generation."
"We're trapped down here!" IFC Midnight has debuted a short teaser trailer for an indie horror film titled The Autopsy of Jane Doe, a new thriller about morticians who encounter a "Jane Doe" body unlike any other. Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox play father-son coroners who receive a mysterious homicide victim with no apparent cause of death. "Perfectly preserved on the outside, Jane Doe's insides have been scarred, charred and dismembered." As they begin to go to work, they discover "increasingly bizarre clues" that hold the key to her terrifying secrets. This also stars Ophelia Lovibond, Michael McElhatton, Parker Sawyers, and Olwen Kelly. This is from the same Norwegian filmmaker who made Trollhunter. Reviews from Fantastic Fest say it has "endlessly intriguing mystery, great tension". Take a look at the teaser below.
No one expected this from Ana Lily-Amirpour. The filmmaker who first broke onto the scene with the Iranian vampire tale, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, had the world from which to choose for her sophomore effort. A story about finding love in a cannibalistic, post-apocalyptic wasteland isn't the stretch, but what Amirpour chooses to do with The Bad Batch, her newest film, is quite shocking. She turns the mirror around on modern society showing a dystopian future that is closer to possible truth than many of us would like to admit. Unfortunately The Bad Batch is layered with cryptic subtext and long, drawn out scenes with little-to-no progression; sadly Amirpour's second outing seems like something of a big step back.
"Why are you doing this?" "I like an adventure." Samuel Goldwyn Films has debuted a trailer for an indie drama titled Coming Through the Rye, which is yet another story about one person's fascinating with JD Salinger's seminal novel "The Catcher in the Rye". The film tells the "filmmaker's own true story" about a 16-year-old boy who adapts the book into a play then runs away from his boarding school to go looking for author JD Salinger in the New Hampshire mountains. It reminds me a bit of Searching for Bobby Fischer, a similar story about a boy searching for a long, lost reclusive individual. Alex Wolff stars, and he meets Stefania Owen along the way. Chris Cooper plays Salinger and the cast includes Adrian Pasdar and Amy Parrish. This seems like it might have something to offer fans of Salinger and his work. Have a look.
We can stop making science fiction films now. Arrival has said it all. Yes, there's a very healthy dose of hyperbole with that statement, but that doesn't make the overwhelming feeling the film conveys, directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer, any less resonant. Arrival is smart, simple sci-fi that never panders and never overstays its welcome, and, with Amy Adams on board to be our guide through the waterworks that are sure to come, it's one of the best science fiction films to come around in years and one worthy of the processing required. Emotional and daring in the most exquisite of ways, Arrival becomes that eye-opening tale of alien encounters and communicative sparring that leaves the viewer rattling the ramifications that follow around in their head for days, a key staple for any, good science fiction.
"A major weapons test is eminent - we need to know how to destroy it…" Time for something a little fun to end the week. Mashup creator "Darth Blender" has released a video titled Rogue One: A Pixar Story, which combines footage from different Pixar movies. Playing off of the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, various characters from Pixar movies come together to capture Dr. Porkchop's spaceship. As cheesy as this sounds, it's actually an enjoyable mashup of characters and clips, mixing up the right moments from different movies to make this feel like a single movie worth watching. This also makes me want to rewatch Pixar's Brave again, which I haven't seen since release and it seems to be better than I remember. Have fun.
"Everybody was in a state of panic. It was just chaos." Kino Lorber has released a trailer for a documentary titled Tower, retelling the story of the Texas Tower Sniper who killed 16 people and wounded 32 others in 1966. Described as a "hybrid of animation, interviews, and recreations", the film features rotoscoped footage (think Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly) that recreates some of the moments during the shooting. There's also interviews and other footage that has been rotoscoped, making this a bit more unique and different than just another documentary about a tragic event (shooting) in American history. This seems like it might be interesting to see, since we all know the story but there's a completely different feel to this. Take a look.
Park Chan-wook once again plays outside the proverbial box with The Handmaiden, another stunning epic from the South Korean filmmaker whose name has become synonymous with breathtaking cinema. Chan-wook has become one of those few storytellers whose every work is an event, a film you simply have to see for yourself to take in all the wonder and beauty that comes with it. His latest is just as subversive, blending an efficient, con artist story with an abundance of strange sex, horror atmosphere, ultra-feminism, and, yes, even love. The Handmaiden quickly proves itself as yet another glorious masterpiece of visual style and effective narrative that eats away at your brain long after the final curtain has been raised.
"It's almost like I don't know who that person was…" "I remember her really well." This seems quite charming. The Orchard has debuted a trailer for an indie drama titled Blue Jay, a black & white feature about two old friends from high school who randomly reconnect years later. The screenplay is written by Mark Duplass, who stars in this along with Emmy winner Sarah Paulson. These two used to be high school sweethearts but haven't seen each other in nearly 20 years. This seems like the perfect little festival film that makes you think about life and your own choices and what it means to grow up. We've seen these kind of stories before, but as long as there's honesty to them I enjoy them. I'm looking forward to this film.