The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

DallasIFF2019 - Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes





Elderly con-artists Jerry (David Kendrick) and Carl (Sonny Carl Davis) have worked their way across Texas, tricking multiple women out of their money. The two have begun working on their supposed final job when Jerry falls in love with the target, the waitress Maureen (Morgana Shaw). Unknown to the two, their previous target’s ex-boyfriend, Les (Frank Mosley), is a private investigator, hired to track down Jerry (who apparently does the wooing while Carl - whose existence is unknown to Les and his ex – sits on the sidelines) and her stolen money. The alcoholic Les slowly closes in on the two men as they work on the unsuspecting Maureen.

“Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes” is an odd piece of cinema – a low budget country / folk musical western based on a short story by James Joyce (“Two Gallants”), featuring the music of John Prine, and starring mostly older actors. While first time writer / director Graham Carter has an intriguing concept for his feature debut, it’s one that never works.

The cinematography, shot in the now almost entirely unused Academy ratio (think television screens before everything went to widescreen HDTV), looks cheap – a forgivable distraction given the film’s extremely low budget. Carter opens the film by listing four directors. Only one name – Edgar G. Ulmer – stuck in my brain due to being somewhat familiar with a few of his movies. Ulmer’s mention is suitable since he spent his career making mostly low budget affairs.

Carter builds his cast with actors who have long resumes but aren’t instantly recognizable faces, bit time players getting a chance at bigger roles in a smaller production. Unfortunately, Carter isn’t able to get good performances from his cast. Davis and Kendrick’s performances often come across as forced, with Davis becoming particularly goofy in some of his scenes. Frank Mosley doesn’t even win you over with his portrayal of the bumbling P.I., who fortuitously manages to stumble his way across the con-artists trail.

Shaw and Kendrick romantic relationship, arguably the central focus of the movie, doesn’t have any spark. Earlier in the movie, before Jerry starts courting her, Maureen catches Jerry and Carl spying on her, the inept pair barely hiding behind a truck parked outside her house. She already suspected these guys were up to no good, why does she still agree for a date? It’s a relationship you know won’t end well and, in all honesty, don’t in the least bit care about.

This all leads to the film’s cringe-worthy musical numbers. None of the cast members can carry a tune, yowling their way through the arrangements of Prine’s music. While most of the numbers feature the performers just standing there, one lamely makes a failed attempt at more interesting choreography.

As bad as the musical sequences are, a couple scenes do show some promise for Carter. In these scenes, Carter opts to film the actor or actress standing in a darkened space, lit so that their face and front side are easily visible but leaving the background dark while also stylishly lighting them from behind, creating a sparkling outline against the inky blackness. These are brief moments of appeal in a feature that slogs through its run time.

Besides the aforementioned positives, nothing in “Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes” cohesively comes together. Running only a scant 75 minutes (according to the festival schedule), it’s a movie that is more of a punishing chore to sit through than anything.
(Review by Bret Oswald)




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Peterloo





Mike Leigh's new feature tackles the tragedy in 1819 when a crowd of some 60,000 people from Manchester and surrounding towns gathered in St Peter’s Fields to demand Parliamentary reform and an extension of voting rights. The release of the film marks the 200th anniversary of what has become known as the Peterloo Massacre. The peaceful gathering to listen to an activist speaker turned deadly when the militia charged the crowd in an attempt to arrest the organizers.

The story begins with a young soldier, Joseph, who has returned from the Battle of Waterloo suffering from PTSD and still wearing his uniform. He comes from a poor family in Manchester. His parents Joshua and Nellie. Joshua, son Robert, daughter Mary, and daughter-in-law Esther live together and toil in the local cotton mill seven days of the week. In the depressed economy the traumatized Joseph cannot find work. The men attend meetings where local agitators discuss radical campaigns for equal civil and political rights. The magistrates sends spies to these meeting to gather evidence to arrest the leaders and speakers. Obviously everyone having equal rights will put a crimp in the status quo. Some of the magistrates are of the notion that there should be a separation of have's and have not's.

It's a very wordy script and with the heavy accents it's sometimes difficult to understand some of the dialogue. The story doesn't focus on a major protagonist but gives insight on divergent groups. From Joseph's family on how his mother bakes hand pies and sells them for a penny each at the local market, to magistrates giving outrageous prison sentences to the poor for small infractions. There are the local merchants discussing the needed reforms, they gather at the local newspaper that is printing and supporting the reforms. There are scenes with the dandy Prince Regent who is more concerned with his personal comforts than the concerns of his subjects. He's easily manipulated to see the coming gathering to hear the famous radical Henry 'Orator' Hunt speak. There is also some conflict with some of the organizers who are put off with Hunt's demand that he would be the only one to speak. Attendants are encouraged not to bring any weapons less the powers that be see it as a hostile intent. Ultimately it doesn't matter to those pulling the strings.

The film is clocks at 2 hours and 34 mins. The small details of their lives, the costumes, the set decorations, is very immersive. It maybe more difficult to follow the characters, but the issues of what these people are experiencing are very universal and can be related to what we are going through today. The incident was christened Peterloo by the reporters covering the event. Shocked and shaken, 15 people were killed and 700 wounded when the mounted cavalry charged the crowd wielding sabers. The massacre played a significant role in the passage through Parliament of the Great Reform Act 13 years later.
(Review by reesa)




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Friday, April 19, 2019

Fast Color




In the near future-ish, the world is under an extreme drought. Water is a precious commodity. The landscape is dry, most businesses and buildings have long been abandoned. It's as if everyone has hunkered down somewhere unseen. We meet Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who may be running away from something. She seems to have a strange ability to cause earthquakes. A man speaks to her in a cafe. He says he knows what she can do and wants to help. He's a scientist and had been looking for her for a long time.

So begins this quiet, intriguing woman-centric, part sci-fi, part family drama directed by Julia Hart who wrote the script with Jordan Horowitz. It's a tight quiet film that doesn't waste time on explaining everything and lets the viewer immerse them selves into the lives of Ruth, her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and Ruth's daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney). Ruth's power was different from her mother so she ran away. Got into drugs and alcohol finding herself pregnant. Knowing that her "episodes" was not safe she left Lila in her mother's care. They live in an isolated farmhouse. Nina Simone's "New World Coming" is playing on a turntable while Bo is smoking a cigarette on the porch. Suddenly she manipulates the smoke in a colorful array before it falls to the ground. This is the first inkling that maybe Ruth's seizures are not singular. Her daughter Lila is a gifted mechanic, is able to make her cup disintegrate and come back together. The colorful effects she is able to experience afterwards is what makes her smile, blissful in the beauty that only she can see. Ruth was never able to see those colors. Nor could she use her powers like her mother and her daughter.

While Ruth is trying to resolve her relationship with her family, the guy from the cafe Bill (Christopher Denham) tries to get the government agents to not take Ruth by force. After all they don't understand what she can do to them. The police chief Ellis (David Strathairn) who has a personal connection to the women warns Bo that they are on to them. The male characters in this are very secondary to the female leads. They use their force and single minded authority to threaten and bully. The issues of climate, female empowerment, and creativity are all woven in to the story. Ruth discovers a book that was written by several generations of women of their family. All having the same kind of powers. Ruth realizes that she is gifted by something that is extraordinary.

This may seem slow at first, but you really feel for the characters involved. As Bo tells Ruth, "This is only the beginning". The ending really begs for a continuation of what they can accomplish in the future.
(Review by reesa)




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DallasIFF2019 - The Biggest Little Farm




Director: John Chester Studio: Neon

Review: The Biggest Little Farm (DIFF)

I wasn’t into documentary films based on educational discoveries, histories, or one’s own experiences on encountering any events or situations, but needless to say, this documentary really hits high on this year's Dallas International Film Festival as well for other film festivals around the country. Director John Chester really put much commitment on helming and explaining each events that takes the audience to the wonders of farming. I mean, to those who don’t know, it’s a documentary about two city dreamers and a dog unleashes a farming dream to own a many acres of land and operate a farm there with trees, animals, and soil.

Here in “The Biggest Little Farm,” John Chester and Molly Chester, along with their dog named Todd, develop an inspiration that chronicles the 8-year story of Apricot Lane Farms as a farmers and caretakers for the farm animals and fruit trees. Throughout their history with farming, the farmers are able to clean and plant thousands of trees using manure and gather many animals to the farm by seeking assistance from the public as support. However, as the farming continues, they made it through several horrible twists of events including drought, coyotes, and others. As a result of these events, they come to realize that they must survive to reach greater heights for the sakes of their farm and animals and to understand the wisdom of nature, and of life itself.

The film itself gives a warm, fuzzy feelings based on their personal experiences on farming where dreams can come true. John Chester and Molly Chester made a choice on owning a hundreds of acres that will lead to the audience to know about the environment, the need of bees for fruit and honey, and the dangers of these farm animals. The farm also serves as a friendly, educational location to study nature, microorganisms, biology on animals and plants, and long periods of drought.

Though, the hardest things to watch are the animals’ endangerment from carnivores, wild drifting weathers, and small bugs that ate fruit from the planted trees. These can become quite a predicament when it comes to farming as well as taking care of them along with their babies and chicks as families and mammals become the center of the film’s dynamics.

There isn’t much from the entire plot here, “The Biggest Little Farm” is really light, fun-filled adventure to explore the valleys of nature and humankind all around. With a sharp eye with a careful glance of the setting and the characters, the plot and the story really fit well and falls to the category for both audiences and environmentalists. Even the dog serves as an advice and inspiration to both farmers. “The Biggest Little Farm” is a great film, but there’s nothing more to add to increase attention and see what the outside of the farm’s circle is. I loved it, but I can’t give a higher grade for this.



GRADE: B+

(Review by Henry Pham)



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Hellboy





Neil Marshall’s rendition of “Hellboy,” takes full advantage of the MPAA’s R-rating in that he relishes the violence factor throughout the running time.

This one does not have Ron Perlman, rather David Harbour of Netflix’s Emmy-winning “Stranger Things” as the title character, who lives in a place all his own.

Ian McShane of TV’s awesome “Deadwood” as well as “John Wick” is Hellboy’s father, professor Boom. He essentially oversees the Bureau for Paranormal Research Defense of which Hellboy is involved with in some capacity. Like the very inventive “Men in Black” franchise they are just a fictional part of the federal government.

Early on in the movie, a giant indiscriminately rips off the lower jaw of one of the priests on the grounds of the church in the middle of the countryside

Milla Jovovich of countless “Resident Evil” entries is the villain of the tale, an evil sorceress known as Nimue, aka The Blood Queen. Early on in the movie, she is dismembered and cut into various pieces and spread across the land during the reign of King Arthur.

Mark Stanley provides the necessary support as King Arthur earlier in the tale. Same goes for Brian Gleeson as Merlin, who knows about the various tricks of the trade

She thinks that being with Hellboy would be the perfect match, but Hellboy completely disagrees with that notion. He says that he is a “Capricorn,” and she is just fn’ nuts.”

Also involved in the storytelling tale are various ghouls, ugly entities and disfigured witches galore. One scene also involves a witch eating parts of a child in a stew.

Her identity is that of a creepy disfigured peg-legged old woman who just lives for the moment.

Marshall has done some great films, notably his sophomore effort, 2005’s “The Descent.” Although that was a horror entry, it had some dynamic storytelling techniques involving a group of friends encountering some netherworld blind zombies. He also was Emmy nominated for a couple of episodes of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in 2012 and 2014.

Besides Marshall, another writer comes into the fold with Mike Mingola, who created Hellboy many years ago in a Dark Horse comic book of the same name. His writing captures the inventive fantasy dynamics that encapsulate the planet this new incarnation of Hellboy and the world it currently inhabits.

The rest of the cast, including Daniel Dae Kim (“TV’s “Hawaii-Five-O,”) Penelope Mitchell, Sophie Okonedo (Oscar nominee for “Hotel Rwanda”(2005) and Sasha Lane (“Hearts Beat Loud”). All fit the bill and are suited for the complete storyline.

I had such a good time watching these denizens fully embrace all of the characters and their identities. I just smiled all the way until the last frame of celluloid ended this engaging story.

When it comes down to it, “Hellboy” does what it’s supposed to do and just entertain the audience for a solid 2 hour spell. The $50 million budget shows up on the big screen, since one witnesses giants storming down the river Thames.
(Review by Ricky Miller)





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DallasIFF2019 - Midnight Family






MIDNIGHT FAMILY
*** (out of ****)

In Mexico City, a metropolis of nine million people is only served by 45 functioning government ambulance. This is the startling fact that begins Midnight Family, and indeed, the text continues to startle. In the wake of such an institutional or economic failure to serve the people, privately operated ambulance services spring up out of nowhere. Luke Lorentzen’s film follows the activities of one family that operates such a service, but while the calls they respond to are the central purpose of the film (providing what can only be described as “set pieces,” given the way the director captures the action), this is a movie that is more valuable for the things it has to say about this family.

A curious thing to notice from the beginning is the feeling of seeing staged moments within and involving this family. Some of this cannot be faked, such as the exhaustion felt by Fernando, the current patriarch of the Ochoa family, who takes medicine for and constantly checks his heart rate. This job is a source of enormous stress for the man, who must worry equally about the success of his business and the well-being of his family. The survival rate of his patients is certainly a concern, but of equal or greater concern for Fernando is the ability to pay for the equipment that is the vessel for that medical care.

The operation seems to have been manhandled by Fernando’s son Juan, a 16-year-old paramedic, wise beyond his years but also a bit conniving. As an example of this, take his treatment of an 18-year-old patient who has been viciously headbutted by a boyfriend: As willing as he is to call her mother, he also keeps in mind the necessity to send them to a private hospital. We do not come to understand the depths of this decision until the late in the film, when the full portrait of the capitalistic model of this ambulance is painted. It comes into full view with a remarkable sense of honesty and compassion. It also reveals a darker heart to these subjects. Josué, the youngest child, is an exception, but nearly everyone else here seems to be playing to the room.

Conversations, both on the phone and between people face-to-face, have an oddly staged feeling. The feeling is a wrong one: These are genuine people, but they also are trying to represent their business to a cameraman. The calls are genuinely terrifying, particularly the way Lorentzen (who was cinematographer and editor) sets the camera on the dashboard of the ambulance, amplifying the tension. The filmmaker could have gone a bit deeper into this aspect of the film, particularly its toll on this family (It also immediately lends itself to being serialized in television form). But Midnight Family is a curious and quite effective examination of economic straits.
(Review by Joel Copling)




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DallasIFF2019 - The Death of Dick Long







(Review by Chase Lee)




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DallasIFF2019 - Shadow







(Review by Chase Lee)




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Thursday, April 18, 2019

DallasIFF2019 - Midnight Family






(Review by Chase Lee)




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DallasIFF2019 - Brian Banks








(Review by Chase Lee)




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DallasIFF2019 - Girls of the Sun







(Review by Chase Lee)




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DallasIFF2019 - Girls of the Sun




GIRLS OF THE SUN
** (out of ****)

Girls of the Sun is not explicitly based on true events, though one can imagine that the story could be based in truth. Perhaps it is only wish fulfillment, but the existence of a group of Kurdish women, who were formerly captives of ISIL, forming a battalion to fight back against the forces who imprisoned them would be extraordinarily empowering. Surely, a group like this one does exist somewhere, and Husson has made a serviceable attempt to pay tribute to such a group.Those achievements are all in the broad strokes, of course. Assessing the film on its specific merits is a bit less rewarding, and that’s a shame.

Husson’s screenplay (in collaboration with Jacques Akchoti) starts as the story of Mathilde (Emmanuelle Bercot), a combat journalist whose appearance and demeanor seem specifically based on Marie Colvin (from the eyepatch to rumors of a major event in Homs, Syria). She arrives somewhere in Northern Kurdistan, intending to follow a group of women who have escaped captivity with ISIL, trained as soldiers, and formed a squad of militant vigilantes with minor support of the local military.We learn a little about Mathilde over the course of the story, such as the fate of her husband a few months before the beginning of this tale and the custody of her daughter at the hands of her parents.

The film is so devoted to telling Mathilde’s story that it is bookended by extended sequences from her perspective. Everything between that, though, is dominated by group leader Bahar, played by Golshifteh Farahani in a performance of breathtaking endurance (Note the way, in one scene, she dispatches a faceless enemy and keeps yelling for just a second-and-a-half longer than the act necessitates). We learn a bit more about Bahar, whose family has been ripped apart by ISIL in front of her eyes. Extended flashbacks reveal the breadth of the character’s endurance, too, in particular the maternal and militant roles she plays.

The film, though, seems indecisive about which of these stories it wants to tell in the beginning, and in the process, it does neither of those stories any favors. Mathilde remains something of a cypher, having only a single scene devoted to why she has become a war correspondent. Bahar comes out a little better, but her story is consistently used as a narrative device, with those flashbacks (which are quite extended, indeed) providing all the information but not really establishing a useful or insightful perspective. The singular point of Girls of the Sun is the horror of its story, and although that doesn’t mean the film is empty in any real way, it does only provide a single layer with which to work.
(Review by Joel Copling)



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DallasIFF2019 - American Factory




AMERICAN FACTORY
***½ (out of ****)

In 2008, General Motors shuttered its Dayton plant, leaving the residents of the Ohioan city in a scramble to find some foothold for itself. The year is not a coincidence, by the way: This was, indeed, on the tail end of the worst of the economic recession following the devastating housing bubble of 2007. We hear stories of what happened to some of the plant’s employees in the wake of its closing, and they are tragically predictable: One woman lost her home when she lost her job, forced to live in a single-room set-up in her sister’s basement. That, of course, is just one story. We do hear others, and the connecting point is the same: For a town like Dayton, the GM plant was a lifeline.

This is only the prologue of American Factory, a documentary equally as inquisitive as it is heartbreaking, which chronicles an attempt to put Dayton and its residents back on their feet. Potential salvation comes, not from an American company, but Fuyao, a Chinese glass manufacturing company. Its chairman, Cao Dewang, has decided to invest in American business. To that end, he has formed Fuyao Glass America, a Stateside division that will manufacture the glass found in windows and rearview mirrors of cars. It is a can’t-miss proposition, and by setting the business within the husk of the old GM plant, Cao has aimed directly at the heart of this town in dire economic straits.

What follows is a fascinating exploration of a series of dichotomies and contradictions within these opposing economic cultures. In China, workers live at their place of business, seeing their families only a handful of times per year and generally being run like work is basic training for the military. The attitude, of course, is one of productivity ahead of livelihood, and the Communistic structure is a huge part of this. In the long term, then, the result is exceptional productivity and incredible isolation. Wong, a worker in the furnace, has come to the United States and been separated from his family in the process. Once one realizes that he wouldn’t be around them much to begin with, it’s a bit of a kick in the gut.

In America, workers have more freedom. Weekends are a thing, the shifts are only eight hours (not including the paid, thirty-minute lunch break but including the two 15-minute breaks allowed on each side of lunch), and they get to see their family nearly every evening. Through the observational approach taken by directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, we see that such comfort and complacency have gotten in the way of efficiency in the workplace. Glass cracks or, because of a problem with the cooling temperature, explode. Once Chinese workers come in, the disparate styles of working slow production nearly to a halt.

Some of the early segments are amusing in a genuine, then cringeworthy, way, with workers on both sides of the cultural divide acting with bemusement at the differences (In the film’s funniest moment, Cao worries about the decorative purpose of an emergency fire alarm when its placement is mandated by law). When the central conflict – of a union threatening to form, following complaints of treatment and workplace injuries, and of Cao threatening the shuttering of a business in response – arises, though, American Factory earns all the feelings it elicits.
(Review by Joel Copling)



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DallasIFF2019 - Sister Aimee




SISTER AIMEE
*** (out of ****)

Sister Aimee weaves a complex, stranger-than-fiction tale, set against the dusty backdrops of California and Mexico in 1926, that, according to a title card, is about 95% fiction. The set-up here is based in truth: A famous evangelist once faked her death to escape the spotlight, then resurfaced after some time and a lot of tabloid-level rumors of infidelity and fraud. By all accounts, Sister Aimee Semple McPherson was a fraud, out to do this for money, and an entertainer, incorporating something of a concert/showboating element to her miraculous “healings” and sermons.

In their approach, writers/directors Samantha Buck and Marie Schlingman blend an ambitious mixture of nihilism and comedy. This is a self-contained world in the same way the worlds of the Coen brothers’ films are, and that also means it’s a pretty bleak one. Because of that, perhaps the screenplay relegates Sister Aimee (Anna Margaret Hollyman), at least for a while, to the role of passive protagonist. We don’t know much about the woman’s background, which is imparted mostly through quick flashbacks to a reverent crowd and a mother (played by Julie White) entranced by the income of her daughter’s services.

Aimee, though, despises the spotlight, drowning herself in promiscuity in response to it, and meets Kenny (Michael Mosley), a stranger who has a plan that whisks them both off to Mexico. All Aimee needs to do is fake her death and establish a new identity. They will be the Ormistons – Steven and Dot – and in order to make their way through Mexico, they hire a mysterious guide named Rey (Andrea Suarez Paz), whose mysterious past keeps time with a local legend. What follows is a twisted tale of murder, revenge, and imprisonment that the directors cut through with the relatively light comic touch.

It takes a little while to get into that rhythm and atmosphere, with the early parts of the film awkwardly introducing a lot of information through flashbacks as clunky narrative devices. The cinematography, provided by Carlos Valdes-Lora, is appropriate to the dusty-chestnut feel of a Western, except this one consistently subverts the tropes commonly connected to any film in the genre. A point is made to switch the gender roles of Aimee and Kenny, at least with regard to their place in the car being driven: Aimee eventually takes the wheel, after having been in the backseat for a time, and Kenny makes the same movement in the opposite direction.

The most intriguing character, though, is Rey, whose tragic past catches up to the present in unpredictable ways, and Suarez Paz is quite good at keeping much of the character’s emotion potential rather than active. She grounds the film and keeps its quirk energy from taking over entirely. The film almost crumples under the weight of its own strangeness, especially with a last-minute musical number that rather sticks out when it should bring the house down. Sister Aimee works, though, because it’s an odd duck. That alone should be enough to give it some credit.
(Review by Joel Copling)




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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

DallasIFF2019 - Before You Know It





Actress turned writer / director Hannah Pearl Utt opens her film, “Before You Know It,” with a long tracking shot following two women, Rachel (Utt) and Celia (Ayden Mayeri), as they walk down the street. Their conversation gives no indication of their relationship. It has a nice flow and seems like the two are comfortable with each other. That is until we find out that Rachel and Celia are on a date and that Rachel lives in an apartment with her father Mel (Mandy Patinkin), sister Jackie (Jen Tullock), and Jackie’s pre-teen daughter Dodge (Oona Yaffe) above a run-down theater. Celia seems uncomfortable with this fact and isn’t heard from again.

This opening scene highlights one of the strengths of Utt’s writing. Her characters are diverse but she doesn’t feel it necessary to shove the fact down the audience’s throat – a welcome change from movies where characters’ defining characteristics derive from what makes them different. In “Before You Know It,” Rachel is a woman who just happens to be a lesbian, a fact that doesn’t become her defining characteristic and isn’t mentioned again for most of the film.

Mel is a playwright, who is working on finishing his latest play – set to co-star actress daughter Jackie with Rachel working as stage manager. Mel has been chosen by a fellowship to receive an award in a ceremony he attends with his daughters. The ceremony does not go well. Mel rejects reading the speech he has written in favor of taunting the audience and the fellowship in an un-jovially childish act. Rachel and Jackie don’t have long to feel appalled by their father’s showmanship. Upon returning home that night, Mel, who has had too much to drink, slumps to his death on Jackie’s shoulder.

Through the reading of their father’s will, the sisters find that their once thought to be deceased mother is alive and well. She’s an actress on a popular daytime soap – and now the sole owner of the theater and apartment in which the sisters live.

Prior to their father’s death, an accountant – Charles (Mike Colter) – was hired to help the family sort out the theater’s finances. Charles finds that Mel has left his daughters with massive debt, causing Rachel to worry that once their mother learns this news she’ll sell the building, leaving her daughters and granddaughter homeless. Rachel also learns that Sherrell’s signature is required on a form in order for the women to continue holding performances in the venue, leaving her conflicted on their next course of action. Jackie becomes convinced that the best idea is to meet the woman, Sherrell (Judith Light), while Rachel remains reluctant.
(Review by Bret Oswald)




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DallasIFF2019 - Deadtectives






In “Deadtectives,” a group of paranormal investigators, led by Sam (Chris Geere), with their own TV series, also called Deadtectives, go to a woman’s bakery to help her catch a “ghost” that is haunting her establishment. It doesn’t take long to realize that Sam and his crew – friend Javier (José María de Tavira), brother Lloyd (David Newman), and wife Kate (Tina Ivlev) – are a bunch of hacks, resorting to cheap parlor tricks to prove to bakery owner Ethel (Cecelia Antoinette) that they have rid her restaurant of the assumed spectral pest.

While Lloyd truly does believe in the paranormal (designing several contraptions reminiscent of objects used in other ghost themed movies – ghost seeing glasses ala William Castle’s “13 Ghosts” and, later, devices similar to the proton packs worn by the “Ghostbusters”), Sam, Javier, and Kate – Kate has grown more than a little uncomfortable with their shtick – do not. Kate reveals her concerns to Sam, hoping to get him to debunk Ethel’s haunting and ease the woman’s nerves. Ignoring Kate’s advice, Sam finishes the case by telling Ethel that her grandmother’s ghost is mad that she stole her recipe and claimed it for her own.

Director Tony West sets the goofy, tongue-in-cheek tone of “Deadtectives” from the opening scene. The guys, who do the “ghost” hunting while Kate watches on some monitors with their client, overact for their cameras, attempting to draw in viewers with their hysterics and raise their ratings. Kate seems the sole voice of reason and the only level-headed member of the group.

Producer Konrad (Cris Rice) is unhappy with the show, giving the group one more episode to turn things around before being canceled – also informing Sam that his wife plans on leaving the show and moving to another. Konrad forces a new producer, Abril (Martha Higareda), and effects supervisor, the creepy Bob (Mark Riley), onto the show with the intention of upping the scare quotient with more believable effects and tons of blood. He sends the group to Mexico where they are set to investigate a reported haunted house. In the face of cancellation, the Deadtectives find themselves with a new dilemma – ridding a truly haunted house of its ghosts when they have no clue what they are doing.

“Deadtectives” script, written by director Tony West and David Clayton Rogers, is a clever one. Haunted house, as well as slasher, tropes are worked in to the movie, played up with a comedic slant. The audience finds themselves in on the joke before the cast discovers the truth. The Deadtectives initially believe that effects master Bob is behind the strange events happening in the house.

The ham-fisted acting keeps the viewer from caring about the characters and causes the jokes to feel forced. Even when his character isn’t hamming it up for his show, Geere still plays his character too over-the-top. The other actors find themselves guilty of this as well. Again, Ivlev’s Kate is the most level-headed and believable of the group but her acting isn’t strong enough to carry the film.

Most of the comedic moments in “Deadtectives” feel forced, resulting in a movie that never finds it’s footing. “Deadtectives” works as neither a comedy nor a horror movie. It’s not particularly funny and it most definitely isn’t the least bit frightening. It’s a film that could have worked (and, to be honest, might still play well for the late-night crowds). Unfortunately, director West isn’t able to skillfully combine the two genres, resulting in another failed attempt at creating a cult movie.
(Review by Bret Oswald)




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DallasIFF2019 - Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window






LEAVE THE BUS THROUGH THE BROKEN WINDOW
**½ (out of ****)

Having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Andrew Hevia embarked on a project to explore the Hong Kong art scene. Arriving there with little money and less preparation, he found himself ill-equipped to explore such a scene: He had never learned Chinese history or to speak the language of the region, and the apartment he was able to afford was comprised of two small cubbies (the living area on the bottom and a bed positioned on top) for a total living space of forty square feet. Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window is as much an exposé of the local art world as it is about his experiences trying to find an entryway into it.

The first thing one notices is that the writer/director refuses to adhere to the traditional rules of documentary filmmaking. The narration, which complements the imagery instead of leading it or simply relaying what we are seeing, is delivered via the automated voice of a dictation program. The voice that Hevia adopts is second-person, placing the viewer in the shoes of the filmmaker and intentionally causing the unnerving feeling of being the one to and with whom everyone is talking. We hear Hevia’s actual voices only once here, and it isn’t in the context of narration but in the background of a scene late in the film.

That choice of narration, then, is a bit of a joke, and it is pretty funny, especially when Hevia gives the robotic voice a few choice curse words to speak. The gimmick, though, wears a bit thin as the filmmaker proceeds to rely entirely upon it to tell this story of exploration, discovery, and the cultural divide between filmmaker and subject. The result is that he feels more than a little bit out of his depth. As potentially fascinating as these ideas are, the director hasn’t quite honed his craft to convey it convincingly. The camera is quite clearly of the digital-home-video variety, and the images are subsequently lo-fi and almost voyeuristic in nature.

As for those ideas, they arrive inherently with the kind of experience Hevia has here. He stumbles through the streets of Hong Kong, meeting various artists but sometimes unable to capture their art on video in the way he would like. We get names and faces here, but because of Hevia’s rush to record everything, they rather blur together eventually. One man paints images from popular Chinese movies of the past. Another uses plantlife to enhance a work of landscape art. An installation piece involves statues looming from atop buildings, which is rather creepy in the night sky. The art is interesting, and Hevia has made his own installation piece of sorts. With its unique approach to documenting an experience, Leave the Bus Through the Window nearly elevates itself. Then there is the undeniable feeling that it only scratches the surface of Hevia’s own ideas.
(Review by Joel Copling)





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DallasIFF2019 - American Factory






(Review by Chase Lee)



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DallasIFF2019 - Sister Aimee








(Review by Chase Lee)



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DallasIFF2019 - Ophelia





OPHELIA
*½ (out of ****)

Ophelia purports to be a “retelling” of Hamlet from the perspective of the eponymous love interest of the tragedy’s eponymous prince of Denmark. It changes so many things about the story and especially the ironic ending of William Shakespeare’s play that it can barely be called a retelling, but it also features Hamlet himself so heavily that the character essentially shares top billing with this movie’s version of Ophelia. Director Claire McCarthy’s vision of this world is surprisingly flat-footed, too. The images are all blunt colors and stagey lighting and obvious sets and costumes. It feels more like an amateur production than anything else.

It is also entirely unconvincing as a story set-up from the get-go. Briefly recounting a childhood in which Ophelia is a vagrant adopted by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), the film catches up to her adulthood, in which the maiden to the queen is played by Daisy Ridley (whose solid performance easily elevates everything about this character on page). Screenwriters Semi Challas and Lisa Klein attempt to adopt a progressive view of the character as a world-weary, hardened woman, yet when this version of Hamlet (George MacKay) catches her eye, much of the film’s length is devoted to her hushed adoration of the prince. The chemistry between the two characters is predictable: He charms her, and she resists it until the inevitable moment when they must fall deeply in love.

The Bard’s own view of Ophelia remains, then, and that means that she ultimately has no agency as a character. Her happiness is entirely tied to the story of Hamlet, to which McCarthy, Challas, and Klein are tethered. The specifics of that story remain: Her father Polonius (Dominic Mafham) still objects to her romance with Hamlet and is still the victim of a tragic case of mistaken identity. The queen is still locked in romance with Claudius (Clive Owen, donning an unfortunate wig that always seems close to falling off), except there has been a new character added: a local witch with her own tragic backstory, which is tied inevitably to the queen’s.

There is more from where those changes come, and it seems that the screenwriters and McCarthy desire nothing more than a complete overhaul of Shakespeare’s text, offering closure where there was none before (a slight improvement from a certain point of view) and an alternate version of the story’s final events that favors the film’s distinctive overuse of slow-motion photography. Ophelia favors melodrama over tragedy, and that is just one of a slew of problems had by this new, manufactured version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. One pervasive thought remains: Spare me.
(Review by Joel Copling)




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DallasIFF2019 - Sorry Angel




SORRY ANGEL
*** (out of ****)

The contradiction of Sorry Angel is that not much happens within this story of two men who find love with each other unexpectedly, yet within that romance, everything happens. This is something of a delicate, affecting travelogue through an entire arc of a romance, with writer/director Christophe Honoré affording well over two hours to that arc. We get the meet-cute, in which each participant is immediately and inexorably drawn to each other, all the way through the point at which both men have reckoned with the reality of their distinctive circumstances.

The final scenes, by the way, won’t be revealed here, but let us only say that Honoré offers these men different paths that are entirely within character for both of them. The story takes place within a specific time, which is about a decade into the AIDS crisis that paralyzed the 1980s. It’s the mid-90s here, as we see posters for 1993’s The Piano and the timely performance of Orlando by Isabelle Huppert (which ran from 1993 to 1995). There is clearly more cultural and societal understanding, then, of the ravages of the disease on people, particularly those within the queer community.

Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) has seen those effects firsthand. His ex-partner Marco (Thomas Gonzalez) has left a message stating that his health has taken a dramatic turn for the worse near the beginning of our story. He moves back in with Jacques, who is an author of some renown in Paris but, currently, doesn’t seem to have any more books in the works. Jacques’ roommate Mathieu (Denis Podalydès) doesn’t think this is a good idea, and indeed, it turns out not to be for anyone involved – not Jacques, not Marco, and not Jacques’ young son (played by Tristan Farge), who came from a very different part of the man’s life.

At the same time, Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a student from Brittany, is living his life as a closeted bisexual man, preferring the company of men but spending a lot of time in bed with Nadine (Adèle Wismes). She seems to get the picture, and Wismes is quite good as a young woman who very much loves her companion but cannot deny the burgeoning understanding of his sexuality the respect it deserves. Arthur meets Jacques in a movie theater showing some vast epic of sorts. The former pretends to find the film respectable but bored. The latter encourages him to stop pretending. That kernel of honesty from the older man is, perhaps, the first sign of a future between the two.

Thus begins a romance depicted with a great amount of honesty and sympathy, especially as they do not live near each other and bed different people in the interim. The performances from Lacoste and Deladonchamps are exceptional in the way the actors are able to convey a lot through blank-slate expressions and emotionally repressed dialogue, leading to a confrontation in which Jacques, now struggling with failing health, and Vincent, faced with a decision, showcase enormous support for each other by making an argument for extended absence. It’s a lovely moment, and such lovely moments anchor Sorry Angel and its lazy-day structure.
(Review by Joel Copling)




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Monday, April 15, 2019

This Week at Alamo Drafthouse North Texas (4/15 - 4/21)




Calling all movie lovers… Here’s what’s happening this week at Alamo Drafthouse North Texas!

Music is in the air this week at Alamo Drafthouse locations across North Texas! Art-rock duo The Valley Below present a concert wrapped in a cinematic experience with The Pink Chateau, the Brunch on Broadway series invites you to rock out to Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Denton Black Film Festival presents a 35th Anniversary screening of Purple Rain.



This Week's Highlights…


In The Valley Below Presents: The Pink Chateau
- A combination of a music and theatrical experience, presented by the music group, In the Valley Below. Viewers can expect a fully immersive experience, with a performance by the band in the theater!

Brunch on Broadway: Jesus Christ Superstar
- Enjoy these classic movie screenings with a special brunch menu that is unique only to this series! This 1970s rock opera is considered one of the best of it's kind, telling a unique version of the biblical masterpiece that was once condemned by the church

Denton Black Film Festival Presents: Purple Rain
- The Denton Black Film Festival present a special 35th anniversary screening of Prince's semi-autobiographical debut!

MONDAY | APRIL 15
Cedars
Screening: Movie Party: Mean Girls at 7:00PM

Denton
Screening: The Mighty Peking Man at 7:00PM

Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM; Cream of the Cult: Straight to Hell Director's Cut at 9:00PM

Las Colinas
Screening: Movie Party: Mean Girls at 7:00PM

Richardson
Bar Event: Geeks Who Drink - Glass Half Full at 8:00PM



TUESDAY | APRIL 16

Denton
Screening: Go at 8:45PM; Grave of The Fireflies at 7:00PM

Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM

Las Colinas
Screening: Go at 10:05PM; Fist City: Fast Five at 6:50PM

Richardson
Screening: Video Vortex: Blood Lake at 9:05PM
Bar Event: Tiki Bingo - Glass Half Full at 7:00PM



WEDNESDAY | APRIL 17

Cedars
Screening: In The Valley Below Presents: The Pink Chateau
Bar Event: Geeks Who Drink - Vetted Well at 8:00PM

Denton
Screening: Campaign Cinema: Say Anything... Movie Party at 7:00PM; Idle Hands at 9:00PM

Lake Highlands
Screening: Go at 9:35PM; Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM

Las Colinas
Screening: The Mighty Peking Man at 9:10PM

Richardson
Screening: The Mighty Peking Man at 9:00PM; Campaign Cinema: Say Anything... Movie Party at 7:00PM




THURSDAY | APRIL 18

Cedars
Screening: Go at 9:00PM

Denton
Screening: Bad Radio: Swingers at 7:00PM;

Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM; Movie Party: Life of Brian at 6:50PM






FRIDAY | APRIL 19
Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM





SATURDAY | APRIL 20

Cedars
Screening: PBS KIDS at the Alamo: Explore the Outdoors at 10:00am; Porco Rosso [Dubbed] at 4:00PM; Porco Rosso [Subtitled] at 6:40PM

Denton
Screening: PBS KIDS at the Alamo: Explore the Outdoors at 10:00am; Half Baked at 4:20PM; Porco Rosso [Dubbed] at 4:00PM; Porco Rosso [Subtitled] at 4:00PM

Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 1:00PM; Kiki's Delivery Service [Dubbed] at 3:45PM; Kiki's Delivery Service [Subtitled] at 6:45PM

Las Colinas
Screening: Free Victory Mubi Screening: All That Jazz at 9:30PM; Ponyo [Dubbed] at 10:15PM; Ponyo at [Subtitled] 3:50PM

Richardson
Screening: Miami Connection at 8:30PM; Reefer Madness at 4:20PM; Spirited Away [Dubbed] at 4:00PM; Spirited Away [Subtitled] at 7:05PM



SUNDAY | APRIL 21

Cedars
Screening: PBS KIDS at the Alamo: Explore the Outdoors at 10:00am; Brunch on Broadway: Jesus Christ Superstar at 11:00AM; Princess Mononoke [Dubbed] at 4:00PM; Princess Mononoke [subtitled] at 7:20PM

Denton
Screening: PBS KIDS at the Alamo: Explore the Outdoors at 10:00am; Denton Black Film Festival Presents: Purple Rain at 5:30PM; Free Victory Mubi Screening: All That Jazz; Ponyo [Dubbed[ at 4:00PM; Ponyo at 6:50PM
Bar Event: Geeks Who Drink - Vetted Well at 7:00PM

Lake Highlands
Screening: Movie Party: Clue at 7:30PM; My Neighbor Totoro [Dubbed] at 2:25PM; My Neighbor Totoro [Subtitled] at 4:55PM

Las Colinas
Screening: Spirited Away [Dubbed] at 4:00PM; Spirited Away [Subtitled] at 7:05PM

Richardson
Screening: Ponyo [Dubbed] at 10:15PM; Ponyo [Subtitled] at 3:50PM; Harvey at 1:00PM



First Run Movies Now Playing..

Hellboy
Missing Link
Shazam!
Pet Sematary {2019}
Dumbo
Us
Captain Marvel
The Beach Bum
The Best of Enemies








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DallasIFF2019 - Suitor







Solely titled “Suitor,” this film serves as a friendly reminder that sometimes it does pay to do your homework before going to see a movie. The movie I had originally intended to see was rescheduled for a much earlier time so I decided to see this one instead, looking no further into it than its scheduled start time, title, and country of origin (Czech Republic). Before and during watching, I had no idea that this movie was the concluding chapter in a trilogy – implied by the title card at the start of the film but not known for sure until looking it up online later. As a result, this might not be an entirely fair review since I have not seen the first two movies that “Suitor” is a sequel to.

Taking place in the late 1950s, city girl Daniela (Anna Fialová) meets and falls in love with country boy Mirek (Ivan Lupták) while staying with her aunt and uncle over the summer. Daniela’s father Jindrich (Martin Finger) is furious, wanting his daughter to end up with an educated man to better her place in society. Frustrating the rest of the family, especially his wife (Anna Geislerová) and Daniela (obviously), he continually goes out of his way to ensure that his daughter’s relationship does not work. Jindrich reschedules his war group meetings (a political group against the current communist regime of Czechoslovakia) for Saturdays to interfere with Daniela and Mirek’s weekly date night and he tries multiple times to force his war buddy’s son, Slavek (Jachym Kucera), on her.

As a stand-alone movie, “Suitor” doesn’t quite work. It’s assumed that viewers are already familiar with these characters. There are several people introduced who are given little to no introduction as to how they are connected to the other characters. Events and objects are mentioned that were more than likely involved in the first two movies. One of Daniela’s aunts hugs a teddy bear at the end of the film with the stuffed animal shot in a way that makes it obvious that it is meant to have some visual connotation for a past event.

The fact that “Suitor” is the third part of a trilogy could also explain why it seemed there were so many unnecessary subplots. Toward the film’s conclusion a subplot involving Jindrich finding out that one of his friends has snitched on him is brought up only for it to be quickly resolved a few scenes later. The sequence feels completely unnecessary in relation to the rest of the story. It might resolve things brought up about these two in the previous films but in context of this movie it does little more than draw out a film that was already starting to drag.

Though “Suitor” isn’t a particularly good movie – easily forgettable by the end of a day full of watching other films – it’s still fairly well made. The camera work is well done and the mellow, jazzy score featuring a muted trumpet, piano, and percussion helps to set the tone. The actors do a good job with their roles. Fialová and Lupták’s relationship feels natural and Finger really sells his portrayal of her overbearing father, just the sight of the character becomes unwanted. But, all things considered, this is one best left unwatched.
(Review by Bret Oswald)




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DallasIFF2019 - In Fabric






Writer / director Peter Strickland continues his obsession with European genre cinema of the 70s with his latest film “In Fabric.” It’s a giallo-esque thriller which features a similar onslaught of colorful, intense visuals mixed with an overbearing soundtrack familiar to fans of the genre. Except, instead of the killer being a mysterious black-gloved figure, it’s a vibrant red dress (labeled “Artery Red” in the department stores catalog).

The film opens with a stylish credit sequence, the movie’s credits plastered over department store imagery, before moving into the story of Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a divorced mother of one living in a house with her son, Vince (Jaygann Ayeh), and his rude, goth-like girlfriend, Gwen (Gwendoline Christie). Sheila’s decided to start diving into the dating pool again. She enters into Dentley & Soper, a department store flooding the TV with odd, occult-like commercials advertising a massive sale, to buy a new dress for her first blind date. There she interacts with a bizarre saleswoman (Fatma Mohamed), who speaks in confusing and threatening riddles and sells her a red dress (oddly not Sheila’s size but one that still fits her perfectly).

Her date does not go well. The man she meets is aloof, blatantly ignoring the questions asked to him by both Sheila and their waiter, and, to make matters worse, the dress is starting to leave an angry rash on her skin. Throughout her date Strickland cuts to imagery of Mohamed, who acts just as bizarre in her off-hours. The saleswoman is seen tenderly removing her wig before climbing into a low rectangular dumbwaiter and lowering herself to who-knows-where (her destination is revealed in the film’s concluding scene). This bit of strange behavior is the least of the staff’s oddities. The saleswomen are often scene fondling the mannequins – in one scene caressing a mannequin until its vagina begins to bleed, overseen by the masturbating manager (Richard Bremmer) who’s just as peculiar as the rest of his staff.

The dress (often shot in lush, shadowy close-ups focused on the fabric’s folds) begins to haunt Sheila. It is often shown floating or moving on its own, shot in a way to make this not seem as ridiculous as it sounds. Sheila decides to rid herself of the object but her attempts to return the item are met with annoyance and still more bizarre riddles from the staff.

The actors do a phenomenal job of portraying their characters. Mohamed is natural with the deliveries of her cryptic sales pitches and disjointed movements. Jean-Baptiste conveys her role as the put-upon mother ready to rejuvenate her life, causing the audience to care about her character through her unusual circumstances and interactions with the supporting cast around her – more specifically the cruelty of Gwen and the start of her relationship with eventual boyfriend, Zach (Barry Adamson).

Cinematographer Ari Wegner beautifully lights and frames the feature, capturing the lush backgrounds of Sheila’s home and the world of the department store. Colors appear bold on screen, an elaborate green-hued paisley wallpaper pops against the actors in the foreground and the sales-people are shot with sinister shadows darkening their faces. Composer Cavern of Anti-Matter creates a score that feels like it’d be right at home in the cinema of the 70s, perfectly accenting and drawing the audience in to Strickland’s world.

Strickland should have concluded with Sheila’s story. Instead, he finds it a good idea to turn the narrative of “In Fabric” into a story similar to that seen in films like “Winchester ‘73” and “The Red Violin,” following the cursed object to a new set of owners – young couple Reg (Leo Bill) and Babs (Hayley Squires). The change in characters feels abrupt and unwanted, needlessly causing a film that felt like it was in its concluding moments to suddenly start anew.

This second act, while shorter, makes “In Fabric” feel like it’s forcing the audience to watch an unnecessary sequel, allowing these new characters to interact with the same people that Sheila did in the movie’s first act. Reg goes to see Stash (Julian Barratt) and Clive (Steve Oram), a different set of oddball characters that Sheila, who works in the bank with them, is also forced to interact with. The two men ask both characters to describe their recent dreams to them, the descriptions seeming to give both men an orgasmic rush. Babs returns to the department store, where she’s asked to leave once the saleswoman (Mohamed again) notices the red dress she’s got on.

Answers are never given to the film’s many questions – not that they are necessarily wanted. Are the workers of this department store a coven of witches? What motives do they have for selling this dress and are the other clothes on sale in the store having a similar effect on the other patrons?

“In Fabric” could have been considered a new masterpiece of the genre if it had focused solely on the opening act. Instead, Strickland tries to give too much turning a good thing into a bad one, wearing the audience down with the films second act. “In Fabric” is still a film worth checking out for its positive attributes, most obviously the cinematography and its soundtrack, but the negative aspects really bring this one down by it end.
(Review by Bret Oswald)


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