Toward the end of The Last Days in Vietnam, a marine who was part of the evacuation of Saigon describes the terrible episode as the Vietnam War “in microcosm.” That is to say: It had the tragic mix of good intentions and poor leadership that led to broken promises and a country’s demise. Yet, filmmaker Rory Kennedy’s vital and moving documentary on the Fall of Saigon isn’t so much about her pointing a finger, as it is about highlighting the pain, panic, heartbreak, and heroism wound up in those dark days in the spring of 1975.
No plans Tuesday night? Then perhaps you’ll be down to judge some short films in the world’s only global film festival. It’s called Manhattan Short, and it’s happening (locally) at Minneapolis’ St. Anthony Main Theatre.
“Take Me to the River” has a quality many documentaries lack: it gets better as it goes on. At first, director Martin Shore’s love letter to the Memphis music scene feels like it might be one of those making-of documentaries with too much studio footage to be seen outside of fandom. But as its legends of soul and blues sing on screen, a story unfolds that reverberates with incredible vitality. The takeaway? American music wouldn’t be what it is today same without what flowed from the Mississippi Delta.
Fall officially started on Monday, but the announcement that the British Arrows Awards are returning to the Walker Art Center is truly a sign that summer is in the rear-view mirror.
The love life of ‘50s Hollywood star Errol Flynn is too easily imagined in the lingering phrase “in like Flynn.” The notorious playboy is the “Robin Hood” this film’s title refers to, and his end-of-life relationship with a teenage girl is the focus of writer-director duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. The two dive into the relationship’s gray areas, yet the work doesn’t emerge all that dark or dirty. That’s strange, because it probably should.
Food reigns supreme at the Minnesota State Fair, but a lot of it isn’t from Minnesota. The popular Pronto Pup, for instance, isn’t even from the Midwest.
“God has to be busy with everyone else” — Those are the heartbreaking words said by one of the three boys whose lives filmmakers Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo follow in Rich Hill, a sobering yet vividly human documentary about poverty in small-town, Middle America. From the get-go, it’s apparent that at least one of these boys has been called “white trash,” but the film never treats them with scorn. Instead, cinematographer Droz Palermo captures their lives with incredible grace, so much so that it brings to mind the effervescent films of Terrence Malick. But as impressive as the camera work can be, the details in Rich Hill sting.
Anna Kendrick was good in Drinking Buddies, but she’s better in Happy Christmas. This time, in another work of director Joe Swanberg, she plays an infectiously bubbly, if irresponsible, 27-year-old named Jenny, who’s moved to Chicago after breaking up with her boyfriend. She stays in the Windy City with her brother (played by Swanberg), and the film focuses on her struggle to balance her youthful energy with the realpolitik of growing up. And despite what the title suggests, the film’s not really about Christmas.
Mood Indigo, the latest from French director Michel Gondry — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep — kicks off as a whimsical, surreal Parisian love story before falling, like an autumn leaf, into a melancholy look at aging, death and possibility of fate. The Paris of Gondry’s imagination is remarkable. It’s a quasi-steampunk, sci-fi wonderland with bizarre inventions: keyboard instruments that mix cocktails, flying cloud cars and alarm clocks that scurry up walls, like spiders. Those familiar with Gondry’s work will recognize his flair for fantastical production, of which he is an undeniable master. For those unfamiliar, think of him as a Gallic Wes Anderson, but less of a perfectionist.
It’s unfortunate that this film had to go up against Boyhood. That 12-years-in-the-making, coming-of-age colossus is my most anticipated movie of the summer, and it comes out the same weekend as Hellion, which is also a film about growing up. It’s also unfortunate that Hellion is a bit hit-or-miss.
To say something is seriously wrong with the cost of college – and mountain of debt piling atop the backs of America’s young people – is to state the obvious. Andrew Ross, the director of Ivory Tower, understands this. Instead of just saying “Guys, we’re in a hell of a pickle here,” his documentary gives us a road map as to how we got to this place and tries to decipher, through the fog of unrest and a forest of blinking technological light bulbs, what our possible options are to move forward. Don’t get me wrong, though: Ross doesn’t hint at a savior. The reason, after all, this is such a big mess is that no one has the knowledge, or will, to fix it. Still, it’s a given things are bound to change pretty soon. Everyone, it seems, agrees on that.
Relentless, thoughtful and weirdly surprising: “Snowpiercer” is a twisty, sci-fi rollercoaster that’s tough to pin down and just as hard to forget. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong channels a dystopian world in the somewhat comic style of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil but swaps out the political satire for action and allegory. The result is a tonic for those bored of CGI spectacles and a top-shelf option for the holiday weekend.
In April 2011, Ai Weiwei — the Chinese artist who helped design the Beijing “bird’s nest” Olympic stadium and who filled London’s Tate Modern with 8 million sunflower seeds — was arrested by authorities in his home country. They held him in detention for nearly three months on what later turned out to be tax fraud charges. After that, they placed their most prominent international artist on house arrest. This is where Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen’s documentary The Fake Case starts. The beloved, world-renowned creator is leaving the very grip of the authorities’ intimidation chamber, and he’s rattled — not talking to international press, keeping quiet. Something’s wrong.
Brooding, tense, and disturbingly quiet: “Night Moves” feels strangely like a thriller despite its slow, steady burn. It’s like watching the last embers in a fire pit. The flames are low, yet there’s a strange power in the wood’s hypnotic, pulsing glow.
It’s been 23 years since Alejandro Jodorowsky, the filmmaker whose El Topo sparked the midnight movie craze in the early ’70s, made a film. And although the playwright, actor, author, musician, and spiritual guru is 85, his latest, The Dance of Reality, is just as dazzling and unforgettable as the titles that earned him his wings as the patron saint of cult cinema.