The power of people. But who is the leader that can inspire people to actually get out and protest? Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower is a documentary about the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014, as well as the story of Joshua Wong, the young activist who lead the movement. I've been excited to see a documentary about this specific moment in Hong Kong's history, and this film covers that event and much more. This really shook up something deep inside of me. Joshua Wong is now my idol, I'm totally inspired and invigorated by him and his endless passion for democracy through peaceful protest - power in numbers. I admire this kid so much, and this doc is a fantastic introduction to who he is and what he helped achieve.
After working with Jessica Williams in his 2015 film People, Place, Things, writer/director Jim Strouse (of Grace is Gone, The Winning Season) recruited her for a lead role and wrote an entire film around her. The Incredible Jessica James stars Jessica Williams as a struggling playwright living in New York City, dealing with a break up. Strouse makes light, amusing, charming films that have fun stories based on real situations. The Incredible Jessica James is no exception, and might just be Jim's best film to date. It's full of so much life and passion and love and, most importantly, optimism. In these troubling, tumultuous times, where depression and frustration are all too prevalent, a little bit of refreshing optimism goes a long way.
What a weird film this is. Ingrid Goes West is an indie comedy from director Matt Spicer, making his feature directorial debut. It's about a self-centered, vain woman obsessed with Instagram who moves to Los Angeles to chase down, mimic and befriend another Instagram celebrity. Aubrey Plaza plays the deranged woman who has nothing to live for in life except "Likes", so she takes some inheritance money and starts replicating the lifestyle of an internet-famous person living a "perfect" life. While this sounds like it could be a good drama, it's actually a comedy with some wild laughs, even though they're at the expense of people who live obsessive, narcissistic lives. The film is enjoyable overall, but has a few problems that hold it back.
This film is awesome. Band Aid has a fun concept: a married couple struggling to stay together decides to start a band and write songs about their fights. Written by, directed by, and starring Zoe Lister-Jones, along with an all-female crew, the film is a funny, heartfelt, thoroughly enjoyable look at relationships and love. Band Aid features a few original songs that were performed live on set while shooting, as well as with fantastic performances by the husband and wife in the relationship. Adam Pally co-stars with Zoe, and the two feel completely authentic in their depiction of a married couple stuck at a rough spot in their lives trying to figure out where to go. I very much enjoyed watching this film, and I hope audiences give it a look as well.
I didn't think watching amazing footage of coral dying would make me so emotional, but it did. I was wiping away tears through this fantastic documentary, Chasing Coral, the follow-up to Jeff Orlowski's Chasing Ice. Orlowski is a very passionate, extremely talented filmmaker who not only dives deep into his projects, but knows how to make an engaging and encouraging documentary. Chasing Coral documents Orlowski's mission to capture time-lapse footage of coral in the ocean being bleached due to rising water temperature, which is caused by the excessive amount of fossil fuels we're burning. Not only does he get the footage, he crafts a gripping narrative around chasing coral and ends with a enthusiastic call for action. Go see this doc.
Have you ever seen a film that is so incredible, so extraordinary in every way, that when it's over you feel totally drunk on happiness, high on cinema, floating away with huge smile? That's how I felt walking out of the world premiere of Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name at the Sundance Film Festival. This film is a masterpiece. Everything about it is so wonderful and so moving and so unforgettable. Call Me By Your Name is the latest film by Luca Guadagnino, adapted from André Aciman's book of the same name, about the sexual awakening / coming-of-age of a young boy from Italy. It's a sweaty, sultry, seductive story infused with sensuality and intense intimacy. An utterly sublime cinematic experience that left me floored.
As a movie lover, I'm inherently aware of how important storytelling is to inspiring and invigorating all of us. It can bring us together, make us feel hopeful, and teach us that we should always keeping dreaming, and always be ourselves. Brigsby Bear, a Sundance film co-written by and starring Kyle Mooney, directed by Dave McCary and produced by the Lonely Island guys as well as Phil Lord & Chris Miller, is a wonderful ode to the power of storytelling and friendship. I wasn't expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did, but there is a genuinely sentimental side to it, on top of all the laugh-out-loud comedy, that elevates it from something fun to something truly memorable. You won't be able to forget the Brigsby Bear after seeing this.
I'm just going to come right out and say it here right at the beginning - Taylor Sheridan is one of the best screenwriters working today. It's not even debatable. And with Wind River, he shows that he is just as capable and talented at directing as well. Wind River is the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (of Sicario and Hell or High Water previously) telling a riveting murder mystery in the snowy mountains of Wyoming. Sheridan's screenplay is brilliant, filled with metaphors and truthful characters and twists and turns and thrilling moments, all intertwined within themes of grief and vengeance and survival and good-vs-evil. It's topped off by fine performances from the entire cast, making this an invigorating film.
What would you do, how would you change your life, if there was definitive scientific proof that there is life after death? That is the pivotal question at the heart of The Discovery, the new film from writer/director Charlie McDowell (of The One I Love previously). McDowell is an immensely talented filmmaker proving with this new film that he is making cinema for intelligent minds. The kind of uber-intelligent films which challenge audiences to examine their own choices while also asking very big (often unanswerable) questions about the world around us. The Discovery is a deep, very deep, film that earns appropriate comparisons to Primer and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and if that interests you, it is definitely worth your time.
Assassin's Creed is the best film adaptation of a video game we've ever seen. Granted, that's not exactly a huge wall to scale. The world of video games adapted to the big screen has had more valleys than peaks, and problematic films like Silent Hill and Resident Evil are considered the best this brand of movie making has to offer. Cult status has been kind to movies like Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat in recent years, but even those fall into the category of fun rather than good. Leave it to a filmmaker like Justin Kurzel (of Snowtown and Macbeth) to show how it's done. With breathtaking visuals, commendable performances, and an unconventional story Assassin's Creed handily Parkours its way up through the ranks to come out
The new regime behind the Star Wars franchise came with a promise to the die-hard fans of the world. We would be offered one, new entry into the series every year until the brand became old and tired or until the stars overhead burned out, whichever came first. That meant every other film would take a side step away from the main saga and branch out into the ever-expanding universe surrounding it. This meant something as trivial as the first paragraph of A New Hope's opening crawl could be fleshed out into a feature film, which is what they've done with Rogue One, the first of many Star Wars stories to come. What looks like fodder to fill out the Star Wars release slate on paper, though, ends up delivering the freshness this beloved franchise desperately needed and all the excitement those die-hard fans have come to expect.
Directed by Gareth Edwards (of Monsters and Godzilla), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first in a new series of Star Wars standalone films. Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, this is inspired by the opening crawl in George Lucas' original 1977 film:
"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…"