DOPE || More often than not, general audiences are exposed to the similar story of gangsters trying to make their way on the hard streets of Inglewood, California. But in “Dope,” it’s the nerds that are trying to navigate their way to escaping and living normal lives. So when Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends try to have a normal night, they bite off more than they can chew when the leader of a gang sticks them with drugs and a gun and tells them to sell it. A favorite at Sundance, this does look like a refreshing take on the tales from the streets.
INSIDE OUT || Pixar hardly steers wrong, so even if “Inside Out” wasn’t their best outing yet, it has enough comedy and heart to beat most animated films coming out these days. Dealing with the complex emotions of a young girl during a stressful time in her life, a cross-country move, the film takes place inside her head, where the cast of emotions are portrayed in a control room setting, making sure her experiences and memories are exactly as they should be. Most notably in the voice cast are Amy Poehler as Joy, Lewis Black as Anger, and Bill Hader as Fear. Expect this one to make a run for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
MANGLEHORN || When David Gordon Green is allowed to make the dramatic films he was born to make (“All The Real Girls”, “Joe”), the true artist is revealed. Al Pacino stars in Green’s latest, “Manglehorn” about a lonely locksmith who is stuck on a former love while navigating the throws of a new love. Holly Hunter and Chris Messina, no strangers to powerfully emotional Indies, star alongside in what could end up being one of my favorite films of the year if it even remotely continues the trajectory set by Green with “Joe”.
3 1/2 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS || Racism is still one of the biggest problems facing society today and we’re reminded of that every time we turn on the television and see news outlets pouring over shooting after shooting, death after death, in connection with the color of someone’s skin and the stereotypes placed on them. This particular documentary focuses on 17-year-old Jordan Davis who was shot and killed when he and his friends pulled into a gas station playing loud rap music. Confronted by Michael Dunn, who claimed self-defense after shooting at them, goes on trial and the documentary follows the backlash and bigger picture that follows.
BALLS OUT || In a feeble attempt to recreate any sort of raunchy comedy magic the National Lampoon films had, “Balls Out” steps into the world of intramural college football. You’ll recognize Nikki Reed and that’s about it. What you won’t recognize is any sort of actual raunchy humor, at least in the trailer. A woman licking another man’s face or a man ripping off his pants while playing football just doesn’t scream hilarious to me. Were this lean on sex or crudeness, it might have a place next to a film like say “Van Wilder” but instead it lands more next to “Not Another Teen Movie”.
BURYING THE EX || What could easily be considered a B-movie is actually saved by a bright young cast. Ashley Greene and Alexandra Daddario are sexy enough to pull off the roles of love interests in any film, while Anton Yelchin has seen his star rise as of late too. Who cares if the film borrows from say “My Boyfriend’s Back” (1993) or even “Life After Beth” (2014) because with this sexy young cast, it feels refreshed.
EDEN || A struggling DJ deals with the uncontrollable life around him in Paris in the film “Eden,” which is described as going to an actual rave. Unfortunately, the film feels a little too much like every other struggling artist film. The inclusion of Greta Gerwig almost sets the film apart, except a) it does not quite take the step of moving her completely out of her wheelhouse, to which I am anxiously anticipating, and b) she looks to play a very small role in the overall film. I wanted to be interested in the film, but sadly I am not.
THE FACE OF AN ANGEL || Director Michael Winterbottom’s (“The Killer Inside Me”) latest film, “The Face Of An Angel” tip-toes on the line of me actually wanting to see it. On one hand, it looks like a dull, slow burn thriller with little to know dynamics setting it apart from anything else. Daniel Brühl can be good, but doesn’t look at his best in this. Kate Beckinsale should be a bigger sell than she actually feels. And Cara Delevingne is surfacing in more and more films these days. And these things separate are not necessarily anything I want to see. But together, the just slightly tip the hand for it to land on my radar.
GABRIEL || As much praise as the critics give Rory Culkin in “Gabriel,” I cannot help but feel a hollowness in the film. Trying to come off like a complex, psychological thriller, I’m failing to see exactly what the film is getting at. Yes, Gabriel (Culkin) is a little off, but the trailer does not help to explain why he’s looking for a woman named Alice, while his mother is afraid of him, and what him sitting in a bathtub has to do with anything. If it’s that he almost killed himself, okay, but why does that make it so much different than anything else?
THE OVERNIGHT || Pairing Jason Schwartzman and Adam Scott seems like the perfect thing to do in general, but add to them, the talented Taylor Schilling (“Orange Is The New Black”) and the sexy Judith Godrèche, and this Sundance selection, “The Overnight” becomes one of the most anticipated sexy comedies of the year. You’ve heard about couples swinging, but rarely do you see it portrayed in such a comedic and real way. Promising to deliver on its comedic and raunchy nature, with the cast alone, this will have to be seen.
PHANTOM HALO || Two things are for certain coming out of the trailer for “Phantom Halo”: 1) Tobin Bell should stick to the “Saw” films because he does not have the face for anything else and 2) Rebecca Romijn is still extremely attractive. Unfortunately, she deserves better than is wanna-be gritty action film about two pickpockets that want to take their schtick to the next level. It looks melodramatic, uninspired, and lacking.
RUBBLE KINGS || Very specifically chronicling an era of high gang activity in New York City between 1968 and 1975, this documentary interviews those involved, complete with archival footage, the only thing missing from “Rubble Kings” is any sort of entertainment value for people that are not historians or people directly effected by the situations.
TRIBE || A film with no spoken dialogue; color me the slightest bit intrigued. Add to that some amazing visuals and the “Tribe” winning multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards (including the coveted Critics’ Week Grand Prix) and this is a film that has enough groundswell to get me to see it. Filled with long takes and sign language, the “no dialogue” could feel like a gimmick, but by the end of the trailer, it doesn’t.
UNREAL || The imagery of mountain biking down a hill with wild horses running around you is quite breathtaking in and of itself. Then add to that other death-defying treks down glaciers and mountainsides, mixed with some highly evolved camera equipment showing huge detail and rich images, and “Unreal” starts feeling less like a haphazard documentary and more like a sports film incognito.
WEEPAH WAY FOR NOW || You might recognize both the actresses in “Weepah Way For Now”. A.J. Michalka is best known from her supporting role on “The Goldbergs” and Aly Michalka has been seen in features like “Easy A” (2010) and “The Roommate” (2011), but without seeing their last names, you probably wouldn’t realize that they are sisters. Dealing with living on their own for the first time, this film follows in the footsteps of Indie darlings but does not quite succeed in feeling special or different.