Pick of the Litter


This film is truly about man’s best friend.

(2018) Documentary (Sundance Selects) Phil, Poppet, Primrose, Patriot, Potomac. Directed by Don Hardy, Jr. and Dana Nachman

 

All right, in the interest of full disclosure I will make my confession now: I am a dog nut. Not a dog lover – that implies some sort of sanity. I’m absolutely crazy about dogs. There was a meme going around Facebook not long ago about the seven signs your spouse is a dog nut – I fit all seven of them. It drives my poor wife to distraction sometimes. Naturally, when I found out about this documentary about puppies going through the rigorous training of becoming a guide dog I was all in.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is a Northern California-based organization that as their name implies provides guide dogs for those who are sight-impaired. The standards are high and the training rigorous. Many of the puppies that are enrolled in their training program are born right there at GDB and in this particular case we follow the five Labrador puppies from a single litter. Their names are Patriot, Potomac, Primrose, Poppet and, incongruously, Phil.

Each of these puppies will be weaned from their mother in the San Rafael kennel, then placed at five months with “puppy raiser” families which include “empty nest” couples, a high school student and his mom, a PTSD-suffering man who uses the dogs as a distraction from his own issues, and families who simply want to help out. Each of the pups will have one of three outcomes. If they are unable to handle the standards of training, they will be “career changed” i.e. washed out of the program and placed with other charities or, occasionally, placed with families permanently. The second outcome is that females may be kept at the San Rafael facility to be bred. Finally the outcome everyone wants, to pass all the rigorous tests and be placed with a blind person to be their best friend and protector.

The puppy raisers go into this with the understanding that they will get the dogs for no more than a year and in some cases, much less. They are fully aware that they are training their charges for someone else’s benefit, not their own. Throughout the process, the dogs will be tested every three months for certain sorts of behaviors that might disqualify them; an inability to follow commands, a tendency to be easily distracted – that sort of thing. Some dogs may be taken out of the program before their time with the puppy trainers is done.

When their time with the raisers is done, the puppies are brought back to the GDP facility for more intensive work with trainers who will give them particular skills, such as dealing with traffic, with train platforms, walking on streets without sidewalks, the kinds of things that the sighted take for granted but can be deadly if not navigated correctly. The dogs go through a series of exams that test them on particular skills. If they don’t pass, they are given one more chance. If they pass, they advance. If not, they are career changed.

While this is like a lot of child competition documentaries that have proliferated like Starbucks franchises lately, there is a distinct difference in that while there is rooting interest in all the pups, there are no real losers here. None of these dogs have any awareness of the stakes involved; they are all going to wind up somewhere in caring environments.

We don’t see a whole lot of the training the pups go through with their puppy raisers, although the primary responsibility of the raisers is to bring the candidates into the world, learning to interact with their surroundings so that they are better able to do their jobs. The puppy raiser parents are trying to give their charges the best possible chance at acquiring the skills they will learn in the more intensive training phase in San Rafael.

The dogs have plenty of personality; Potomac is “mouthy” and loves to nip his handlers. Phil is endearing and has a bit of a hound dog appeal. Patriot has a ton of energy which sometimes makes it difficult for him to focus. Primrose is affectionate almost to a fault and Poppet is cool, calm and collected (for the most part).

This is as much about the trainers and the raisers as it is about the dogs themselves and I’m sorry that I didn’t get their names written down but I’d forgotten my notebook when I attended my screening. However, I was completely enchanted (dog nut) and was grinning ear to ear throughout the film (dog nut). I was rooting for all the dogs to succeed (dog nut) but I did have one particular favorite (dog nut). In these times of divisiveness and stress, dogs are a natural tonic (dog nut) and this movie may even convince a few non-dog nuts. However if you’re anything like me (and more power to you if you are) you’ll want to see this one every time you’re feeling blue. Expect that this one will be a permanent part of my video collection once it’s available for sale.

REASONS TO GO: Dog lovers, this is your jam. The stories of the trainers and foster families are pretty compelling. Gives you a sense of what the training the dogs go through. I was grinning ear to ear from beginning to end and never lost interest.
REASONS TO STAY: Cat people may take umbrage.
FAMILY VALUES: The film is perfectly suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Guide Dogs for the Blind was founded in San Rafael, California in 1942 to aid blinded soldiers returning home from the Second World War.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 10/9/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: 67/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Heart of a Dog
FINAL RATING: 10/10
NEXT:
All About Nina

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New Releases for the Week of October 5, 2018


VENOM

(Columbia/Marvel) Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Jenny Slate, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Lee, Sope Aluko, Reid Scott, Mac Brandt, Melora Walters. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Investigative reporter Eddie Brock tries to redeem himself following a scandal following a government experiment involving an alien symbiotic lifeform but accidentally becomes infected by the symbiote. He becomes Venom, a violent and often malevolent entity who has his own agenda but with a shadowy organization with nefarious ambitions of the own trying to develop their own version, the alien and the reporter realize their interests intersect.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, DBOX, DBOX 3D, IMAX, IMAX 3D, RPX, RPX 3D, XD, XD 3D
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for language)

A Star is Born

(Warner Brothers) Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Dave Chappelle. The latest version of a timeless classic finds a grizzled musician with a rosier past than future falling for a young woman who has given up on her dream of stardom. He coaxes her into the spotlight and her career immediately takes off but the higher she soars, the more strain on their relationship is placed particularly since he has a substance abuse problem that is putting everything in jeopardy. Cooper also makes his directorial debut.

See the trailer, a video featurette and a music video here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard, Dolby
Genre: Musical
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language throughout, some sexuality/nudity and substance abuse)

The Church

(Hard Floor) Clint Howard, Bill Moseley, Ashley C. Williams, Meghan Strange. The minister of a once vibrant and iconic Baptist church in a decaying Philadelphia neighborhood resists gentrification despite pleas from his status-seeking wife and bribes from unscrupulous developers. He is determined to preserve the legacy of his family’s ministry in the neighborhood even if he has to break a few commandments to do it!

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs

Rating: PG-13 (for some violent content and thematic materials)

Mandy

(RLJE) Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke. A peaceful couple living in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest has their lives shattered by a twisted cult leader who develops an obsession with Mandy, the distaff half of the couple. Red, the male half, is forced to go on a journey of vengeance, blood, fire and rage.

See the trailer and video featurettes here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Monsters and Men

(Neon) Anthony Ramos, John David Washington, Nicole Beharie, Cara Buono. A young man with a promising athletic future witnesses a police shooting, recording it on his cellphone. He has the valuable proof that will validate the assertion that it was unjustified but releasing the footage could jeopardize his future.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for language)

Pick of the Litter

(Sundance Selects) Dana Nachman, Don Hardy Jr. This documentary follows a litter of puppies from the moment of their birth through the two years of training to be service dogs for the blind. The bar is set high and not every dog makes the cut. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, the film provides insight as to how dogs go from unruly pups to disciplined service animals.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: NR

Shine

(GVN) Jorge Burgos, Gilbert Saldivar, Jadi Collado, Alysia Reiner. Two salsa dancing Puerto Rican brothers in Spanish Harlem are estranged by a family tragedy. Years later they have chosen different paths; one looking for success as a real estate developer, the other devoted to preserving their old neighborhood at all costs. What’s a dancer to do…except dance?

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Urban Dance
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC West Oaks, Cobb Plaza Café Cinema, Old Mill Playhouse, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes

Rating: NR

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Andhadhun
Bayou Caviar
Exes Baggage
Nota
Ride

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

96
A Crooked Somebody
Exes Baggage
Fats Buddies
The Hate U Give
Hello, Mrs. Money
Nota
Prathamika Shale, Kasargud, Koduge Ramanna Rai
The Sisters Brothers

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

96
A Crooked Somebody
Loveyatri
Loving Pablo
Nota
Pariyerum Perumal
Raatchasan
Ride
Tea With the Dames
Varathan
Viking Destiny

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

96
Andhadhun
Exes Baggage
Nota

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

A Star is Born
The Church
Mandy
Pick of the Litter
Tea With the Dames
Venom

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Tampa, FL)

Pick of the Litter – October 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Venom

(Columbia) Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Jenny Slate. A photojournalist is infected with a malevolent alien symbiote whose moral compass doesn’t exactly point in the same direction as the host. However, the two will not only have to co-exist but the human half must allow the symbiote to take over so as to utilize the incredible powers it gives him if he is to stay alive.  October 5

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Happy Prince

(Sony Classics) Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson. Everett (who also co-wrote and directed this film) stars as Oscar Wilde, one of the greatest English writers of all time and at one time, the toast of London. Known for his biting wit, Wilde ran afoul of the law due to his sexual predilections which in Victorian England were forbidden. This story is about the last days of his life as he views his failures and his troubles with humor and ironic detachment.  October 5

22 July

(Netflix) Thorbjørn Harr, Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Ølgarden, Jonas Strand Gravli. Oscar-nominated director Paul Greengrass returns with another true story-based film for the streaming giant. The narrative feature documents the terrorist attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011 when a deranged right wing terrorist detonated a bomb in the central government district in Oslo and followed up two hours later by attacking a summer camp run by the ruling party with rifles and handguns. All in all, 69 people (mainly teens and young people) were killed at the camp and an additional eight in the bombing. It was Norway’s deadliest day since World War II.. October 10

Beautiful Boy

(Amazon) Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan. Based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, a loving father and son try to cope with addiction over the course of many years. Carell gives a performance that some are already touting for Oscar recognition. October 12

I Still See You

(Lionsgate) Bella Thorne, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Price-Francis, Richard Harmon. A massive event has caused the deaths of a vast percentage of the population; the dead however continue to be seen as ghosts who while visible cannot communicate or interact with the living. One young woman, struggling to study the phenomenon, becomes the target of a malevolent entity which may be able to reach out and touch the living and not in a good way. Chalk this one up to “an interesting premise.”. October 12

Liyana

(Abramorama) Gcina Mhlophe, Shofela Coker. A teacher in Swaziland assigns five children to write a story about a young girl their age on a quest that reflects their culture. Their story is captured in dazzling animation while the children’s lives are caught in live action documentary. This is a magical union between reality and imagination. October 12

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

(Fox Searchlight) Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone. Lee Israel is an author without an audience. Once a bestselling biographer of celebrities along the lines of Katherine Hepburn and Estee Lauder in the 70s and 80s, she has fallen out of step with public tastes. Desperate for income, she resorts to deception abetted by her loyal friend Jack. File this under “You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up.” October 19

Mid90s

(A24) Sonny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston, Na-Kel Smith. A 13-year old in L.A. during the 90s has to deal with a group of skater friends and a troubled home life. Directed by Jonah Hill, the movie has been getting quite a lot of buzz even before its debut at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. October 19

 What We Had

(Bleecker Street) Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster, Blythe Danner. With four leads as good as any you’ll see in a single film this year, this Oscar contender stars Swank as a woman who gets an urgent phone all from her brother in the middle of the night. Her mother who has a degenerative Alzheimer’s-like disease is becoming too difficult to manage at home but her father stubbornly refuses to let go of the life they have together.. October 19

Border

(Neon) Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Viktor Åkerblom, Rakel Warmlander. A Swedish customs officer becomes fascinated with the subject she is investigating but the more she finds out about him, the more she realizes that the two of them are linked in a way she couldn’t prepare herself for. The winner of Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it is also Sweden’s official submission for the 2019 Foreign Film Oscar. October 26

The Dark

(Dark Sky) Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Marcovics, Margerete Tiesel. Look, it’s Halloween, right? You gotta have a horror film on this list and this film might just be the best  of the bunch. In a stretch of cursed woods, an undead teen girl meets a blind living boy. Both have been the victims of terrifying abuse. They find solace in each other but even in cursed woods the world won’t let them alone. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but it might take a body count to get there. October 26

Pick of the Litter – August 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

The Meg

(Warner Brothers) Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis. A decorated diver is recruited to rescue a submersible that has been attacked by a sea creature previously thought extinct and lies disabled on the deepest part of the ocean floor. With time running out for the crew, a rescue operation is to be mounted but there’s one hitch; the diver encountered the creature once before and is terrified of it. If the crew is going to be saved he is going to have to get past his fear of the 75-foot prehistoric shark known as Megalodon. August 10

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Nico, 1988

(Magnolia) Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek. Nico was a rock and roll legend and a rock and roll casualty. In 1988 she was living in Manchester, struggling with addiction and the demons brought on by fame. Dyrholm gives a searing performance as the former singer for the Velvet Underground who shunned her fame and yearned to live life on her own terms.. August 1

La Familia

(Film Movement) Giovanni Garcia, Reggie Reyes, Kirvin Barrios, Indira Jimenez. A father and son are barely squeaking by in the gang-infested barrios of Caracas. When the son gets into a scrape with ta boy he shouldn’t have, the father realizes they cannot stay and survive. The willful boy detests his father, whom he sees as a coward. A day laborer, he brings his son to work with him as he desperately tries to earn enough to get them out before they can be caught and killed, slowly showing his son what a straight life looks like. This played the Miami Film Festival earlier this year and Cinema365 reviewed it which you can read here. August 3

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

(FilmRise) Chloe Grace Moretz, Jennifer Ehle, Marin Ireland, Sasha Lane. The conservative guardians of a teenage girl send her to God’s Promise, a gay conversion therapy treatment center. Set in 1993, the movie is about the discovery of who you are and learning to be okay with it. This was one of the more talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. August 3

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

(Netflix) Lily James, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Michiel Huisman. Following the end of World War II a writer comes to Guernsey Island to do a reading for their literary society. She unexpectedly bonds with the residents and determines to write a book about their experiences during the war which opens old wounds but could also bring much-needed closure. August 10

Juliet, Naked

(Roadside Attractions) Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd, Lily Newmark. A young English woman’s boyfriend is obsessed with an obscure American rock idol who has been out of the spotlight for twenty years. A chain of unlikely events puts her in touch with the musician online and when he comes to London, the two get together and sparks fly. Who will she wind up with, the rocker or the schlubby boyfriend? August 17

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl

(GKIDS) Starring the voices of Gen Hoshino, Kana Hanazawa, Hiroshi Kamiya, Kazuya Nakai. A group of teens, following a time-honored ritual of college sophomores, go out on the town to drink as much as they possibly can. Senpai, a classmate who has a crush on one of the girls, contrives to find ways to “accidentally” run into her during the night in question. This is definitely not just for kids. August 21

 

An L.A. Minute

(Strand) Kiersey Clemons, Gabriel Byrne, Bob Balaban, Ed Marinaro. One of the most successful writers in the world who’s known for producing potboilers that get made into big budget movies, is eager to try his hand at something that has more meaning. When he encounters a vibrant and innovative young actress in a small theater, he is inspired. He then watches as her star begins to eclipse his own. August 24

Active Measures

(Super LTD) Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin, John McCain, Hillary Clinton. This is a look at Russian meddling into the 2016 Presidential election and how it happened. The collusion between Trump and Putin didn’t start with the election, according to this documentary – and it won’t end there. A chilling entry into the most recent Hot Docs Film Festival.. August 31

Pick of the Litter

(Sundance Selects) Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman. This heartwarming documentary follows a litter of puppies selected to participate in the Guide Dog training program. The standards are high and not every puppy will make the cut, but the journey will be one that you’ll never forget. August 31

Pick of the Litter – July 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ant-Man and the Wasp

(Disney/Marvel) Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer. Earth’s mightiest (and tiniest) hero returns to face a new nemesis, take on a partner, and go to the quantum realm to rescue Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp whose mantle has been taken up by her daughter in the original’s absence. The movie is set before the events of Avengers: Infinity War but as with the upcoming Captain Marvel what happens in this film will have a massive effect on the upcoming untitled sequel. July 6

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Under the Tree

(Magnolia) Steinϸór Hróar Steinϸórsson, Edda Björvinsdóttir, SigurƋur Sigurjónsson, ϸorsteinn Bachmann. Two neighbors live in an idyllic Icelandic suburb. The cracks in the veneer begin to show when one complains that their neighbor’s tree is hanging over their sundeck. Things just escalate from there in this Dramedy reminiscent of The ‘Burbs. July 6

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

(Amazon) Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black. Gus van Sant directs this Sundance hit featuring the true story of cartoonist John Callahan who was paralyzed in a car accident. Getting his life back together after the injury will be one thing but a far greater challenge will be getting sober. July 13

Shock and Awe

(Vertical) James Marsden, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Milla Jovovich. George W. Bush made the startling claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, leading to our invasion of Iraq. More than 15 years later, we’re still there despite the fact that no WMDs were ever found. This movie chronicles the reporters who looked to see through the official story to discover the truth about our war in Iraq. An all-star cast highlights the latest film by Rob Reiner, who also stars. July 13

Generation Wealth

(Amazon) Jacqueline Siegel, Florian Homm Tiffany Masters, Robert Strauser. The United States has seen a drastic shift in values over the past 20 years. The acquisition of wealth has become an obsession to the point of toxicity. How did this change come about and what does it mean for our society? This chilling documentary is brought to us by the filmmakers behind The Queen of Versailles. July 20

Our House

(IFC Midnight) Nicola Peltz, Thomas Mann, Percy Hynes White, Xavier de Guzman. A young genius, attempting to create a means of sending electricity without wires but instead accidentally invents a device that amplifies paranormal energy in his house. At first he hopes to bring back the spirits of loved ones who have passed on but it soon appears that he has unleashed something far worse than he could have ever imagined.. July 27

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

(Greenwich)  Scotty Bowers, Peter Bart, Stephen Fry, William Mann. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, being outed as gay was a career killer. It was not unusual for gay and lesbian stars to lead a double life. The only degree of normalcy came from Scotty Bowers, a World War II veteran who provided men and women for gay and lesbian stars to have relationships with. This highly unusual documentary played this year’s Florida Film Festival. July 27

Pick of the Litter – April 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Avengers: Infinity War

(Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin. Summer starts early this year as the traditional first weekend in May Marvel play date has been moved back a year this year as Earth’s mightiest heroes will face their mightiest challenge as the mad Titan Thanos comes a’calling and he has the Infinity Stones firmly in his sights. These gems, which have been making appearances since Phase One of the MCU, are incredibly powerful on their own but when gathered together and placed in the infinity gauntlet they give the wearer virtually unlimited power to re-shape reality in his or her own image. This is the first of a two-part Avengers movie which will bring Phase Three to a close and change the landscape of the MCU permanently and not everyone will survive. April 27

INDEPENDENT PICKS

 

The Endless

(Well Go USA) Callie Hernandez, Emily Montague, James Jordan, Tate Ellington. Two young brothers who escaped a doomsday cult return to the cult’s compound after getting a mysterious message. When they arrive, they discover that there may be something that the cult has discovered that may prove their beliefs not far from the mark. Critics are already comparing it to some of the best horror films of the decade and promising that this one is a game-changer. From the trailer, it appears that the critics could be on to something. April 6

Borg/McEnroe

(Neon) Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Nuvotny. One of the greatest tennis rivalries of all times took place during the 1980s and the two men involved couldn’t have been more different. There’s the passionate, temperamental American John McEnroe and the cool, machine-like Bjorn Borg. Together they dominated men’s tennis in their heyday and their battles with each other were legendary. This will be playing the upcoming Florida Film Festival. April 13

Aardvark

(Great Point) Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Jon Hamm, Sheila Vand. A disturbed man goes to see a psychiatrist about the return of his brother. The two have an abusive relationship but the psychiatrist suspects that the man may be bipolar or have a severe mental illness, especially when she meets the brother who proves to be much different than her patient described him. However, as the tales grow more and more wild she begins to wonder if maybe there is something much stranger happening to her. April 13

The Devil and Father Amorth

(The Orchard) William Friedkin, Gabrielle Amorth. The claim to fame of William Friedkin was that he directed the classic horror movie The Exorcist. However, he hadn’t ever seen an actual exorcism being performed – until now. This is, incredibly, not a narrative film – it’s a documentary.  April 20

Ghost Stories

(IFC Midnight) Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther. The promotional material claims that this is the best British horror film in years and it just might be. A debunker of paranormal phenomenon is presented with three cases that nobody has been able to disprove; the deeper he investigates, the more the cases begin to be connected – to him. April is turning out to be a great month for horror movies this year. April 20

Disobedience

(Bleecker Street) Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Anton Lesser. A woman, exiled from the conservative Jewish community that she grew up in after a sexual transgression, returns to mourn her father who had just passed away. The same patterns and passions that ignited the ire of the community smolder in her once again as the past looks ready to be repeated once more. April 27

The Gospel According to André

(Magnolia) André Leon Talley, Whoopie Goldberg, Anna Wintour, Tom Ford. Perhaps the most unlikely fashion icon ever, Talley went from humble beginnings in the segregated American South to the runways of Paris and Milan. One of the more quotable designers, his sense of style has informed not only the Fashionista community but also the African-American community as well. Not bad for a tall, gay African-American man from the South. April 27

The House of Tomorrow

(Shout Factory) Asa Butterfield, Alex Wolff, Nick Offerman, Ellen Burstyn. A high school boy lives a sheltered life with his great-aunt and legal guardian in Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome house, the House of Tomorrow. When he meets another young man with a heart condition and a love for punk rock which he shares with geodesic dome boy, both of their lives will be changed forever. April 27

Pick of the Litter – March 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ready Player One

(Warner Brothers) Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg. By the year 2045 the world has fallen into an epic malaise. There isn’t much hope, there isn’t much happiness – except in the Oasis, a virtual world that belongs to the most profitable corporation in the world. When the recently deceased founder of the company initiates a contest that will give gamers the opportunity to inherit control of the company and of the Oasis, it initiates a scramble to find the hidden Easter Egg and win the Oasis. However, there are forces at work that will stop at nothing to get that prize. Directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, the film is based on the pop culture masterpiece by Ernest Cline. March 29

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Foxtrot

(Sony Classics) Lior Ashkenazy, Sarah Adler, Yonathan Shiray, Shira Haas. At a desolate army outpost in the Israeli wilderness, tragedy strikes as it often will there. The family left behind of a young soldier stationed there must come to terms with their grief and loss in the wake of these events. This was Israel’s official submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Academy Award. March 2

Submission

(Great Point Media) Stanley Tucci, Kyra Sedgwick, Addison Timlin, Janeane Garofalo. A professor of writing at a university struggles with his own writer’s block and that creeping feeling that his best work and happiest days are behind him. He takes an interest in one of his students whose work is sensual and erotic, and who apparently has a major crush on him. However, he discovers that the attention comes at a terrible price. March 2

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

(A24) Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan. A gifted young writer creates a book that becomes a national phenomenon – and a national controversy – and then he disappears completely from view. A detective with murky motives goes on the trail of the missing author, digging up unsavory secrets about his past in the process. March 2

The Death of Stalin

(IFC) Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin. When the dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was plunged into chaos as various factions fought for control. Master satirist Armando Iannucci (In the Loop) turns these events into a wicked comedy that is both irreverent and perhaps, a look at what modern politics have devolved into.  March 9

Itzhak

(Greenwich) Itzhak Perlman, Toby Perlman, Alan Alda, Billy Joel. One of the greatest violinists to have ever lived certainly wasn’t  a sure bet for greatness when he started out. A polio victim, he fought to be taken seriously as a musician when teachers and others only saw his crutches. He rose nonetheless to become one of the greatest musicians of our time and a man whose passion for life is as infectious as his violin playing. March 9

The Forgiven

(Saban) Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser. After the end of apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets with a brutal murderer in a notorious prison; one seeking answers in a murder forgotten by the authorities, the other seeking redemption. Based on actual events, this story was a powderkeg of controversy in the early years of Nelson Mandela’s presidency; veteran director Roland Joffe was behind the camera for this one. March 9

Maineland

(Abramorama) Miao Wang. There has been an enormous wave of affluent children sent by their parents from mainland China to study at private schools in the United States. Some of the expectations of the kids, buoyed by American movies, are not terribly reasonable but the reality of their Chinese schooling sends them to a country far away from their home with great hopes nevertheless. March 16

Back to Burgundy

(Music Box) Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot. Master director Cédric Klapisch returns with this heartwarming tale of a young prodigal son, who left his family vineyard in Burgundy to see the world, returning when his father falls ill. Reuniting with his sister and brother, the three must rebuild their relationship and their trust in one another if they are to weather this crisis. March 23

Getting Grace

(Hannover House) Daniel Roebuck, Madelyn Dundon, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook. A teenage girl who is in the final stages of terminal cancer befriends a socially awkward funeral director in an effort to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Her zest for life and unconventional attitude give him the courage to be himself. Roebuck, who plays the funeral director, also directed the film. March 23

Beauty and the Dogs

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli, Noomen Hamda, Mohamed Akkari. A film based on actual events, this follows the fight for justice by a young Tunisian woman who undergoes a terrifying ordeal after leaving a student party with a mysterious young man. Her battle will be uphill since the law favors the side of those who torment her. March 23

Caught

(Cinedigm/Great Point) Mickey Sumner, Cian Barry, April Pearson, Ruben Crow. A couple, both journalists, living in the idyllic English countryside, go out for a walk on the nearby moors and snap some pictures of apparent military activity there. Not too long afterwards, a strange couple dressed similarly show up at their door asking what seem to be polite questions at first but as the questions grow more bizarre and personal, they soon realize this isn’t an ordinary man and woman and the two journalists will have the scoop of the century – if they live to file it. March 30

The China Hustle

(Magnolia) Jed Rothstein, Alex Gibney. Wall Street is at it again. Chinese companies, based in America, have been attractive to investors since the Chinese economic boom of the last decade. Hoping to make up their losses from the 2008 recession, there has been heavy investment in these 500 or so companies. The trouble is that they are paper companies – they don’t actually produce anything. Fraud is being perpetrated on a massive scale and the government knows about it. As one of the financial experts says grimly, “Hold on to your wallets.” March 30