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Entries in John Esther (35)

Monday
Feb232015

Things of the Aimless Wanderer

Things of the Aimless Wanderer
Director: Kivu Ruhorahoza
Released on: January 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

It does not take long to realize Kivu Ruhorahoza's Things of the Aimless Wanderer is something special. Well, different at least.

Set in North Rwanda, Things of the Aimless Wanderer begins with somewhat of a prologue where an Rwandan warrior (Ramadhan Bizimana) stalks a lonely white dude (Justin Mulliken) wandering the jungle. While wandering the jungle, whitey encounters a young, topless Rwandan woman (Grace Nikuze). There is a gaze off between the three characters.

Cut to early 21st century and "A girl has disappeared."

Told in three different yet related stories Ruhorahoza calls "a working hypothesis," the disappearance of the girl (or, rather, a young woman) offers up three scenarios involving sex, murder and shame. Using the same actors — plus a narrator (Matt Ray Brown) who speaks for the white journalist — the smaller stories are rather about bigger issues about the culture of Rwanda changing and expanding and how Rwandans are adapting to it (an allegory of sorts some may say). Except we are not getting a direct viewpoint from Rwandans but vis-a-vis what Ruhorahoza imagines what an American (or perhaps any white westerner) would see if he or she lived among the anxious Rwandans.

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Monday
Feb232015

Cronies

Cronies
Director: Michael Larnell
Released on: Janury 25th, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Louis (George Sample III) and Jack (Zurich Bucker) go way back. Childhood friends, these two share the kind of special bond that no two kids should ever have to share. But the years have gone by, and while Louis seems to have matured — at least a little — Jack is as angry and edgy as ever.

Accordingly, Louis currently prefers the company of Andrew (Brian Kowalski), a kid from the other side of the 'hood but no less slothful and youthful than Louis or Jack. "Andy," however, is a lot more mellow than Jack.

Until the day of the (mostly) black and white "Cronies" takes place, Jack had never heard or met Andrew. This is in part due to the fact that if Louis had mentioned Andrew, the mistrustful Jack would have annoyed Louis with questions fueled by insecurity and masked by anger.

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Monday
Feb232015

Chorus

Chorus
Director: François Delisle
Released on: January 23rd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / March 2015 [Canada]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Shot in black and white and mostly during Canadian winter months, the look of Chorus is as dreary as its tale of woe.

A man named Jean-Pierre (Luc Senay) walks into an interrogation room and sits down across from a police official named Hervé (Didier Lucien). He does not want a lawyer. The overweight, slouching (toward Gomorrah) criminal is there to admit to another crime he committed. It happened ten years ago and it involves an 8-year-old boy who was not very good at sports, had lost his bike key and broke the cardinal rule about getting into a car with strangers.

As Jean-Pierre continues his story, a sense of dread seeps in. This is a story which cannot end well. But, before Jean-Pierre is done telling his story, writer-director-cinematographer-editor Francois Delisle's film cuts away to the film's two protagonists, a couple filled with existential dread. Except the couple are no longer together.

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Monday
Feb232015

Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher
Director: Kim Longinotto
Released on: January 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Brenda Myers-Powell is not the kind of person you want to meet at night. It is not that she is a bad or dangerous person or that she is straight up annoying or anything like that. If you run into Mrs. Myers-Powell at night it is most likely because you are living a very troubled life.

Born in 1962, Myers-Powell started getting molested before the age of five. Abused and confused, she had two children by the age of fifteen. At that time, she and her daughters were living with her grandmother and grandmother had bills to pay.

To help grandma out, Myers-Powell did what the ladies across the street from her grandmother’s house did: prostitution. Turning tricks at the age of fifteen, Myers-Powell would remain a prostitute on the streets of Westside Chicago for 25 years. Over those years, “Breezy” was beaten, stabbed, addicted to narcotics and not very present for her two daughters. It took a near-death experience shortly before her 40th birthday to get Myers-Powell to reevaluate her life and get off the streets.

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Monday
Feb162015

The Bronze

The Bronze
Directed by: Bryan Buckley
Released on: January 22nd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

If you found the comedy of director Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids just a little too quaint and bore-joy-see for your tastes, The Bronze,
directed by Bryan Buckley and co-written by wife and husband Melissa and Winston Raunch, should be right up your golden hole.

Once an inspiration to millions of Americans, Hope Anne Greggory (Melissa Raunch) was an Olympic gymnast who refused to let a major injury stop her from competing for a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Hope fell short and earned the bronze medal. Nonetheless, she became a national star and the little darling of her hometown, Amherst, Ohio. Her fame was short-lived, however, and it wasn't long before nobody in the world cared except the people of Amherst and her father, Stan (Gary Cole).

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Monday
Feb162015

Eden

Eden
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Released on: January 23rd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / May 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Spanning over two decades, director Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden chronicles the garage-techno-electronic music scene from 1992 to the near-present through the film’s protagonist, Paul (Felix de Givry).

When we first meet Paul he is studying literature at a local Paris university. He seems to have great promise in writing, but his interests lie in the newfound beats sweeping around America and parts of Western Europe. From Chicago to Berlin to New York to London to Stockholm, DJs were adamant on keeping disco alive (what punk rock?). Since disco had become pop music and youth like to rebel – even if their rebellion is reactionary at times – they no longer called it disco but whatever genre moniker was the tune of the day.

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Saturday
Sep062014

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Directed by: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Released on: August 29th, 2014 [USA/LIMITED]
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) has just returned to Brussels from a business trip abroad. After leaving several messages for his wife, Edwige (Ursula Bedena), without receiving response, Dan comes home to find the door is chained from the inside. When Edwige still does not answer Dan through the ajar door, Dan breaks the chain and enters his home.

Edwige is missing. Rather than immediately call the cops, Dan goes on a drinking binge and then rings up his neighbors to see if they have seen his wife. One of his neighbors lets him into her home. A strange woman whose face remains shadowed in darkness, Dora (Birgin Yew), relays a ghastly story about the day her husband went missing in the ceiling after he tied her up and sedated her. (She wakes up later to help him, somehow eschewing or forgetting or forgiving her husband's horrific behavior.)

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Monday
Aug182014

A Will for the Woods

A Will for the Woods
Directed by: Amy Browne, Tony Hale, Jeremy Kaplan, Brian Wilson
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [SCREENINGS]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Faced with a terminal illness, Clark Wang decides to eschew America's typical burial methods and take the green way out and under.

At most a slight deviation from the way most humans have been buried since the beginning of time (and continue to do so in much of the world), a green burial is the eco-friendly, formalized ritual where the deceased is laid to rest in a natural setting using biodegradable materials. There is no embalming or concrete involved. Often a simple stone is used as the marking spot.

Not only does this ritual allow one to "return to the earth" in an environmentally responsible way, it also allows natural land to remain free from development since the land is now a burial site.

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Monday
Aug182014

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
Directed by: Jeff Baena
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Written and directed by Jeff Baena, Life After Beth tells the comedic-tragic teenage tale of a single child named Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) who went hiking one day, was bitten by a snake and died. (Snakes and teenage girls are always a scary combination.)

At first, Beth's death causes great grief in her father, Maury (John C. Reily), her mother, Geenie (Molly Shannon) and her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan). Following the funeral, Zach begins to bond with Beth's parents, especially Maury. The two play chess together, talk about what they wished they had said to Beth when she was alive and they even share some wacky tobacky. Geenie gives Zach Beth's winter scarf, which he wears around his neck like a chain in the summertime.

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Friday
Jul112014

A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy)

A Coffee in Berlin ("Oh Boy"/Germany)
Directed by: Jan Ole Gerster
Released on: June 13th, 2014 (USA)
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Winner of six German Film Academy Awards, including Outstanding Feature Film, Best Director and Best Actor, Jan Ole Gerster's wry indie flick about the metamorphosis a young 20-something-year-old named Niko (32-year-old Tom Schilling) and his experiences —without getting a damn cup of coffee — is just as good as his country's men's soccer team.

A college dropout without a job, Niko has been filling his life with aimlessness, lethargy and his share of citations for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol. He just left his girlfriend, Elli (Katharina Schuttler) in Paris, his things are not unpacked in his Berlin apartment and his friends have to drag him out anywhere. Sometimes Niko makes an effort to get a cup of coffee, but that seems to be as impossible for him to achieve as anything Niko is not trying to do.

One day, through a series of events, Niko encounters various kinds of individuals — some new, some familiar. Drug dealers, drunk teenage punks, an actor playing a Nazi in a film (Arnd Klawitter), a kind grandma (Lis Bottner) protecting her drug dealing grandson (Theo Trebs), a smarmy psychologist (Andreas Schroders), and an enraged father (Ulrich Noethen) who has just found out his son's actual matriculation status. These encounters reinforce Niko's sense of alienation and ennui.

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