ANT-MAN || Marvel continues its Cinematic Universe, this time with another unknown superhero brought to the masses with “Ant-Man”. If Marvel taught us anything with “Guardians Of The Galaxy” its that they can deliver when it comes to presenting new, unfathomable ideas. Chances are you probably heard of the falling out between director Edgar Wright and the Marvel heads, which can be seen distinctly in the many shoe-horned moments in the film that make it feel like two different ideas jammed into one. The heist idea gives the film its distinct feel, which is exactly what Marvel needs to keep doing to make each film feel different. Although once again relying too heavily on comedy, Paul Rudd is the perfect lead and Michael Pena and his comic relief is the surprise highlight of the film.
THE STANFORD PRISON EXPERIMENT || This is definitely not the first time this idea has been presented, but to my knowledge, its the first time I’ve seen it portrayed as actual college students participating. Delving into the the true to life experiment at Stanford where volunteers were separated into guards and prisoners and the shocking events that followed, not only does this version look thrilling it boasts an ensemble cast of Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, and Olivia Thirlby.
TRAINWRECK || Amy Schumer went from relatively unknown to household name in a matter of months. And teaming with Judd Apatow and Bill Hader only helped her case, as she takes on the often male-dominated role of the floozy. There’s plenty of comedy to be had here, but the true star of the film is Lebron James, who delivers the funniest lines with the best deliveries every time. Expect to see him showing up in more films to come.
ARDOR || The freshness of “Ardor” is much appreciated. The deep rich colors and tones help you to feel like you’re actually along the Parana River. A poor tobacco-farming family is at the center of the story, as a fire breaks out in the land around them, slash-and-burners coming to push this family out of their home. But help comes when Kai (Gael Garcia Bernal) shows up out of the jungle and prepares the family to fight. Alice Braga looks great in this, Bernal looks great, and the visuals are on point.
COURT || Taking a fictional look at India’s justice system, “Court” follows the trial of an elderly folk singer who writes a song that allegedly inspires a sewage worker to commit suicide. This dark and comedic look at the justice system aims to mainly point out the injustices in the system, while obviously taking a distinct stance. With several wins at prestigious film festivals, including Venice and Mumbai, the film definitely has the accolades, but lacks a bit, at least for my tastes, in the narrative department.
A HARD DAY || South Korean director Kim Seong-hun takes a fresh spin on the accidental death cover-up story. Swerving to miss a dog in the middle of the road, homicide detective Geon-soo fatally hits a man. For some reason, he does not want to bring this police and seeing as he’s on his way to his mother’s funeral, what better place to hide the body than in her casket. When the truth starts to catch up with him and mysterious man comes forward saying he knows what happened, the suspense of the film is palpable. Great moments include a buzzing cellphone after Geon-soo puts the man’s body in his mother’s casket.
IRRATIONAL MAN || Every year, I make a point to see Woody Allen’s latest film. And most years are hit or miss, with films like “Midnight In Paris” and “Blue Jasmine” being successes, while “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger” and “Magic In The Moonlight” are less than desirable. With “Irrational Man,” the critics have not boded well on the film, but with a cast boasting Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, there really can be no missing it. Phoenix is the title character, seeking help from the women around him as he tries to come to terms with something plaguing him.
JELLYFISH EYES || Mixing live action and animation, “Jellyfish Eyes” is the directorial debut of acclaimed artist Takashi Murakami. Set in a post-Fukushima world, Murakami’s film shows a group of school children with digital friends that fight one another, not that different from the animated series Pokemon. But the stakes are much higher with these battles. The computer-animation in the film is quite striking in aligning with the live action nature of the film, but overall, this feels a little lackluster.
JOE DIRT 2: BEAUTIFUL LOSER || This sequel is just a testament to the death of David Spade’s career. Why it released on Crackle for free instead of getting a theatrical release is a testament to just how unneeded this sequel was. Despite getting a lot of the original cast to reprise their roles, like Brittany Daniel, Dennis Miller, and Christopher Walken, the story is just an assembly of previously used story tropes like “Forrest Gump” and “Wizard Of Oz”.
LILA & EVE || To alter a saying, “Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned,” and in “Lila & Eve,” two scorned mothers take it upon themselves to get revenge. Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (“The Help”) has lost her son to a drive-by shooting. And with the coercion and help from Jennifer Lopez, they go on a spree in the underbelly of their city to find those responsible with the barrel of a gun. But with a detective (Shea Whigham) sniffing around, there’s no easy way out. Despite the acting prowess of Davis, this feels a tad underdeveloped and a little too much like a Lifetime Original Movie.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE || Joshua Oppenheimer is the director responsible for the Academy Award nominated documentary “The Act Of Killing, ” an unprecedented look at former Indonesian death-squad leaders which should have won the Oscar. Oppenheimer returns with the support of Werner Herzog in yet another powerful documentary, “The Look Of Silence,” which could earn him another Oscar nomination, with a critically acclaimed look at Indonesian genocide survivors facing the men responsible for so many deaths.
MR. HOLMES || In recent years, we’ve seen Sherlock Holmes portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr., not until “Mr. Holmes” have we even entertained the notion of Holmes as an old man. This time, Ian McKellan takes the reins of the sleuth, as he spends the end of his days tending to his bees and dealing with the loss of the incredible powers of his brain. With one last mystery to solve, which apparently is his own, he enlists the help of his housekeepers son.
NORTHERN LIMIT LINE || Depicting a battle known as the second battle of Yeonpyeong, where two North Korea vessels fired at the South Korean patrol boat named Chamsuri 357, killing six men and leaving 18 injured, the trailer for the film mixes interviews with the men actually involved with the reenactment within the film. It was a time of camaraderie turned bad when the firing began, leaving these men with a story they felt needed telling.
OOOPS NOAH IS GONE || Originally titled “All Creatures Big And Small,” this is a cute independent animated film about the animals that didn’t make it onto Noah’s ark. Living outside the realm of Dreamworks and Disney/Pixar, the fact that any other animated films can get made in this day and age, and especially look as good as this one is astounding to me. Surprisingly and in its favor, the film does not take on any of the Christian connotations that go along with this Biblical story.
SAFELIGHT || Despite a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, my love for Juno Temple wins out in me wanting to see “Safelight,” in which she plays a runaway turned hooker at a truck stop, who is more or less rescued from her pimp by a high school senior with a disability (Evan Peters). Headed on a road trip to take pictures of lighthouses, Temple and Peters bond, forming a connection that could be broken by the vengeful pimp. Ariel Winter is another draw, playing a supporting role with some connection to Temple’s character.
STEAK (R)EVOLUTION || “A search for the world’s finest steak”. It’s very rare in the world of documentaries to display the killing of cows for consumption in a positive light, but “Steak (R)evolution” is all about the positivity in association to how the animals are treated before they are slaughtered and how that relates to the taste and consistency of animal being consumed. Not trying to make a point whether eating animals is right or wrong, but instead focusing on dealing with the idea in the correct manner.