Pick of the Litter – February 2017

BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

(Universal/Legendary) Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Tian Jing. Zhang Yimou is one of China’s most influential and visionary directors. He’s created some of the most visually appealing films of the past 20 years (Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers, Hero etc). This is his first Hollywood production and it promises to be a doozy – a European mercenary goes to China to find that a desperate battle is taking place at the Great Wall against a mysterious menace the Wall was meant to keep out. This could well be humanity’s last stand. February 17

INDEPENDENT PICKS

War on Everyone

War on Everyone

(Saban) Michael Peña, Alexander Skarsgǻrd, Theo James, Tessa Thompson. A pair of corrupt L.A. cops has no problem extorting money from criminals and framing them for crimes they didn’t commit. Hoping to make that big score, they go after the manager of a seedy strip club and his whacko boss but end up uncovering a darker secret that’s way out of their league. This is from the Irish director John Michael McDonagh whose previous films The Guard and Cavalry showed an eccentric black humor. February 6

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro

(Magnolia) James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. When author and social activist James Baldwin passed away in 1987, he was working on a manuscript called Remember This House which detailed the history of race relations in America through the lens of the death of three of his close friends – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Director Raoul Peck has created a documentary based on the manuscript and extrapolates how it might have turned out in finished form. Given the tensions that continue to plague this country, this documentary is as timely now as it would have been in Baldwin’s day. February 3

David Brent: Life on the Road

David Brent: Life on the Road

(Netflix) Ricky Gervais, Jo Hartley, Mandeep Dhillon, Andrew Brooke. Before there was The Office there was The Office, the BBC version of a comedy that masqueraded as a documentary. Now, Gervais (who created the show) is back as David Brent, the absolutely clueless and somewhat misogynistic boss who has since moved on to become – wait for it – a singer/songwriter. He’s on the road but that doesn’t stop him from a return to his old stomping grounds.  February 10

From Nowhere

From Nowhere

(FilmRise) Juliana Nicholson, Denis O’Hare, Jim Norton, Anita Petry. With President Trump’s controversial executive orders regarding immigration very much in the news, this timely feature puts a human face on illegal immigrants. Three Bronx teenagers, undocumented immigrants all, are close to graduating high school but navigating the tricky procedures of getting their papers in order proves to be an almost insurmountable challenge. February 17

As You Are

As You Are

(Votiv) Charlie Heaton, Owen Campbell, Amandla Stenberg, Mary Stuart Masterson. The events leading to a tragedy are pieced together from the friendship of three teens in the 1990s. Two boys, whose parents are dating, develop a particularly close bond that becomes unexpectedly sexual and begins an inexorable journey towards a single gunshot. Using the music of Kurt Cobain as a link, this intense film wowed audiences at the 2016 edition of the Sundance Film Festival. February 24

My Life as a Zucchini

My Life as a Zucchini

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Will Forte, Amy Sedaris, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page. A young orphan with the intriguing nickname of Zucchini comes to an orphanage after his mom disappears. With the help of a kindly police officer, Zucchini turns a hostile environment to one of love and affection with his friendship and courage. He even may find his one true love. The film has been nominated for an Oscar as Best Animated Feature and was Switzerland’s submission for Best Foreign Film. February 24

 

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