In Dubious Battle

Drama ‐ February 17, 2017
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When John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle was published in 1936, the New York Times wrote that “You would never know that In Dubious Battle was by the same John Steinbeck if the publishers did not tell you so.” After directing such formally and narratively challenging films as his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” and William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” James Franco’s work in adapting the Steinbeck novel could provoke a nearly identical response. Given how much he typically pushes back against traditional storytelling in his directorial efforts to date, you would never know that “In Dubious Battle” was …

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From Nowhere

Drama ‐ February 17, 2017
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From Nowhere

Back in the day when socially-conscious cinema also had a shot at finding a mainstream audience, some films in that category used the phrase “torn from today’s headlines” to add a little marketing sizzle. “From Nowhere,” which is about three teenage high-schoolers in the Bronx facing deportation because of their undocumented status, is clearly a movie of that ilk, although given the contemporary mode of socially conscious movies, to advertise itself as such would be unforgivably crass. Like most such pictures made in the U.S. today, this is an indie that keeps its indignation under tight wraps, a message picture …

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My Name Is Emily

Drama ‐ February 17, 2017
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My Name Is Emily

Watching a film, or I should say successfully watching a film, usually requires a willed suspension of disbelief. I’d say the same thing goes for making a film. In spite of technology that assists creative artists in getting more technically credible results with less work and for less money than in the past, making a film is still such an illogical process that successfully completing one requires a faith that passeth understanding.

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“My Name Is Emily” is in many respects an average and in several …

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XX

Horror ‐ February 17, 2017
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Horror anthologies are hit-and-miss efforts by nature, with some short films in a collection working far more effectively than others, depending on your tastes. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, right?

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But “XX” feels unusually frustrating in its inconsistency, given its inspired premise. Four women directed four short horror films, each with a woman at its center. Each stakes out a very different space within the genre from a wide variety of perspectives and voices. It’s a great idea, especially since …

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Lovesong

Drama ‐ February 17, 2017
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Whether you find “Lovesong” refreshingly coy and teasing or frustratingly disingenuous and safe in its depiction of two longtime girlfriends whose attraction tiptoes beyond the platonic will likely be in the eye of the beholder.

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On the plus side, the ladies who semi-lust are Riley Keough (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter and an ISA nominee for “American Honey”) and Jena Malone (“Donnie Darko”), both stunningly watchable and talented actresses. This is one of those films that puts most of its trust in longing looks and knowing glances rather …

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