Each week, new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen.
The Voice reviews all of ’em. Here’s some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited.
The critics were cranky this week, none more so than Nick Schager, who takes a stand against the weirdly pro-Confederate “revisionist bullshit” of Field of Lost Shoes, a movie that actually isn’t playing NYC but is still worth knowing about. Schager writes that the film
“… recounts the true-life saga of seven Virginia Military Institute cadets who in 1864 died in service to the Confederate Army during the Battle of New Market. Awash in phony-looking facial hair and clichéd period drama, Sean McNamara’s drama defines those brave boys via their love of black people, their embrace of Jews, and their desire to fight so that they might protect their homeland from “foreign invaders,” uphold their “traditions,” and preserve their “future.” Save for a brief prologue, there isn’t a pro-slavery Southern man to be found in this fantasyland vision of the Civil War, only kind-hearted, open-minded progressives who want to be with their love-at-first-sight gals, or pursue sculpting careers, or liberate their oppressed African American brethren.”
Perhaps sensing that Yankees won’t cotton to that, Field of Lost Shoes isn’t playing this far north — but it is all over L.A. and the South.
“The film pulls off a few gorgeous juxtapositions — the moon rising directly above Björk’s head, a mushroom growing in time-lapse footage amid the choir — and probably gives a better view of the performance than actual concert tickets did. (Could anyone in the cheap seats tell that those massive pendulums onstage are a kind of bizarre new string instrument?) But the visual tricks lose their potency before the halfway mark, leaving the energy of Biophila Live to rise and fall with the music. And onscreen, Björk and her musicians simply can’t hold us rapt through the many abstract, ponderous moments the way they could onstage.”
Björk probably will never cover “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off,” the signature song in Hellaware, a satire about a New York photographer who immerses himself in something like Juggalo culture. Pete Vonder Haar writes:
“Enter Young Torture Killaz, a teenage ICP analogue from Delaware whose song ‘I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off’ Nate [the film’s central personage] stumbles across on YouTube. He rationalizes his interest in the trio as an attempt to escape the ‘incestuous socialite shit’ that plagues the NYC scene (said non-ironically while wearing a cardigan and yellow ski cap). This is about the level of satire you can expect in Michael M. Bilandic’s Hellaware, a broad and occasionally disjointed indictment of the New York art scene and horrorcore rap that leaves no broad side of a barn untargeted.”
And here’s “I’ll Cut Yo Dick Off,” which, yes, is supposed to be godawful.
Here’s a happier reviewer! Sherilyn Connelly warns that Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart — which is not opening in New York but is available on demand — dips into the uncanny valley, but overall
“… is the best Tim Burton film that Burton will hopefully never (re)make. It’s based on both a book by co-director Malzieu and a concept album by his band Dionysos, who also provides the unusually heavy music. Jack (Orlando Seale) is born on the coldest day ever known in 1800s Edinburgh, so cold that his heart is frozen; midwife and eventual adoptive mother Madeleine (Barbara Scaff) replaces said heart with clockwork — and the caveat that Jack must never get angry and/or fall in love.”
Connelly also was cheered by the doc Advanced Style, which posits that living in New York can help us live longer and more stylishly:
“Early on in Ari Seth Cohen’s inspirational Advanced Style, a question that was only hinted at in the thematically similar documentaries Hats Off and Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is finally addressed: Why is it that the most active, fashionable women who are long past retirement age all seem to live in New York? Because the tendency of New Yorkers to walk everywhere promotes longevity, we’re told, and the wide streets act as natural runways.”
And Chris Packham finds much to admire in the clever, un-contrived comedy Hollidaysburg, which is not hitting New York screens but is available on demand:
“A coming-of-age comedy that compresses the whole transition from adolescence to adulthood into one Thanksgiving weekend, the film concerns a group of high-school friends returning home from college a scant three months after prolonged, emotional goodbyes at the end of the summer. Scott (Tobin Mitnick) and Heather (Claire Chapelli), former sweethearts who have matriculated on separate coasts, spend the weekend mostly avoiding each other.”
But, generally, the reviewers found this week’s smaller films tough going. Amy Nicholson found herself left cold by the characters of the romantic comedy Two Night Stand, whose first-date lovers offer brutally honest Yelp-style reviews of each other:
“They rate their bonking a three out of five stars (and one another’s personality a notch lower) and then get more specific. She needs to leave the lights on and strip more suspensefully, he needs to stop hammering away like a woodpecker and quit spelling the alphabet on her lady bits with his tongue. Honest? Sure. Romantic, funny, and charming? Not even close.”
And Zachary Wigon had high hopes for the hard-to-Google British crime flick Plastic, but found them dashed:
“For a film with shootouts, heists, and high-speed chases, Julian Gilbey’s Plastic is a strangely lifeless affair. The crime pic, about undergraduate credit-card scammers who incur the wrath of a London gangster, checks off all the boxes — underdogs in trouble, beautiful girl used as a love and kidnap object, slow-motion climax — of an action movie from 1999, with as much originality as you would expect from a film made 15 years past its expiration date.”
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