Andrew Bujalski, Miranda July, gas-thieving and gaslighting, post-war love stories, exploitation and consequences of “the Devil’s weed,” Nic Cage and Tony Jaa in a martial arts movie, and more.
AMERICAN TRIAL: THE ERIC GARNER STORY (2019)
Unarmed New Yorker Eric Garner was killed by police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014, but Pantaleo was not indicted. American Trial is an unscripted fiction-documentary that imagines the trial that never happened and features members of Garner’s real-life family.
After meeting online and engaging in a transatlantic relationship, Aviva and Eden eventually meet in person, fall in love, and get married. Their relationship is tumultuous at times due to each other’s often warring personalities. Passionate dance sequences and multiple actors stepping in for each of the two main roles serves to emphasize the masculine and feminine dynamics at play. Directed by Boaz Yakin, who started off his directorial career in 1994 with the crime thriller Fresh.
Jeannie (Tilly Hatcher) runs a boutique and is anxious about being sued by her business partner. In her search for help, she becomes closer with her twin sister Lauren (Maggie Hatcher) and ex-boyfriend Merrill (Alex Karpovsky). Beeswax screened at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and is the third feature from Andrew Bujalski, who has been credited with starting the mumblecore movement with his 2002 feature Funny Ha Ha. In coverage of the festival, Mark Olsen of the LA Times stated that Beeswax “secures Bujalski as one of the finest, most deftly talented filmmakers currently working in America.”
THE CRAFT: LEGACY (2020)
In this Blumhouse sequel to The Craft (1996), four aspiring teenage witches form a coven and explore their powers. Written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones. Stars Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon, and Lovie Simone. Michelle Monaghan has a part too, as does David Duchovny.
(DVD and Blu-ray)
DESOLATION CENTER (2018)
A feature documentary about a series of early-80s guerrilla music and art performance events in southern California that later inspired Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Weaves interviews and performances from Sonic Youth, Redd Kross, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, and more.
FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955)
The legendary Joan Crawford plays wealthy Lynn Markham, a woman who visits a coastal home that belonged to her late husband. While there, she falls for a handsome and charming guy (Jeff Chandler) who likes to hang on the beach or in his boat. They end up getting married, and after some mysterious occurrences and discoveries, Lynn suspects her new husband might try to kill her.
THE GASOLINE THIEVES (2019)
Lalo (Eduardo Banda) is a young teenage boy who wants to impress his crush, Ana (Regina Reynoso), by showing her he can own fancy things – he wants to get enough money to buy an iPhone. In pursuit of this goal, he gets involved with a group selling illegally extracted gas. The first feature from director Edgar Nito, The Gasoline Thieves (Huachicolero) was met with praise at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Rob Hunter of Film School Rejects writes: “The film moves viewers through situations both touching and tragic with a connective tissue built on intense interactions and visuals. It’s a sad and terrifying world at the heart of The Gasoline Thieves, and it’s made all the more affecting and effective knowing that for many it’s a very real world too.”
HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY: THE REN & STIMPY STORY (2020)
A documentary that explores the early 90s success of The Ren & Stimpy Show and the extent of its influence while also delving into the disturbing behavior of its creator, John Kricfalusi.
JIU JITSU (2020)
“Every six years, an ancient order of jiu-jitsu fighters joins forces to battle a vicious race of alien invaders. But when a celebrated war hero goes down in defeat, the fate of the planet and mankind hangs in the balance.” It would be difficult not to have fun while watching Jiu Jitsu. It’s absurd in a good way; Nic Cage brings his entertaining zaniness; the fight scenes are great; and we always love to see Tony Jaa put on a good martial arts show.
Her whole life, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has been trained by her con-artist parents Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) to help them in their scheming and thieving. When newcomer Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) makes her way into the group, things get shaken up and Old Dolio starts to question her relationship with her parents. A strange and moving comedy from celebrated writer/director Miranda July.
MARIHUANA / NARCOTIC (1937)
Marketed as “educational” morality tales to side-step the strict Production Code of the time, both Marihuana and Narcotic were created by notorious exploitation director Dwain Esper. The first film shows the downfall of a bright high school student whose life gets rough after she dabbles in marijuana / “the Devil’s weed” (heroin, crime, and kidnapping are involved). The second is the story of a doctor who eventually goes mad on a path of drugs and sex. Volume 4 in Kino Lorber’s Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture series, which showcases films that “granted themselves a license to depict all the vices major studio films were forbidden to dramatize. Although vulgar by design and technically poor in execution, exploitation films occasionally surprise the viewer with moments of emotional poignance and a gleeful disregard for convention.”
MIDNIGHT LACE (1960)
Doris Day and Rex Harrison star in this neo-noir about a woman who believes she has a dangerous stalker but has trouble getting others to take her concerns seriously. While experiencing the stress of being physically and psychologically messed with, she has to adamantly defend her sanity to a bunch of guys, one of whom knows what’s really going on but won’t say so. Double feature suggestion: Midnight Lace would pair well with George Cukor’s Ingrid Bergman-starring Gaslight (1944), which also revolves around a man trying to make a woman think she’s insane when she’s not.
MY GERMAN FRIEND (2012)
Written and directed by Jeanine Meerapfel, this love story spans many years and follows two people who have grown up together in very different families: one in a Jewish family, and one in a family of Nazis. Both have relocated to Argentina after WWII for very different reasons.
THE PLACE OF NO WORDS (2019)
A young boy explores the complexities, struggles, and beauty of the world with his father. This imaginative and whimsical film centers around the real family of Mark Webber, Teresa Palmer, and their son Bodhi.
RUSSIAN DOLL: SEASON 1
A woman in New York City tries to find her way out of an odd time loop as she repeatedly dies and comes back to a party that’s being thrown for her. Created by and starring Natasha Lyonne.
SEVEN WOMEN FOR SATAN (1976)
A man who is the descendant of a murderous count sees visions of violence against young women staying at his castle, but he can’t tell what’s real and what’s imagined. Directed by Michel Lemoine. DVD Drive-in’s Casey Scott calls it “a nice surprise for Eurocult fanatics everywhere, who like their horror spiced up with sex, camp value, and splashes of poetry.” Includes a new 4k restoration, interviews, deleted and alternate scenes, and more.
SHE SHOULD’A SAID ‘NO’! / THE DEVIL’S SLEEP (1949)
Volume 6 in Kino Lorber’s Forbidden Fruit series, exploitation films She Should’a Said ‘No’! (aka Wild Weed) and The Devil’s Sleep warn of the dangers of marijuana and pills, respectively. They both came out soon after actors Lila Leeds and Robert Mitchum were arrested for marijuana possession and spent a couple months in jail as a result. Mitchum’s career recovered just fine, but Leeds’s was pretty much ruined. Desperate for money, she took her She Should’a Said ‘No’! role as a dancer whose life gets seriously dark after she tries weed. The film was a clear capitalization on her and Mitchum’s arrest scandal and marketed itself as a biographical story about Leeds’s experience with drugs.
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
Two gift shop employees (Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart) aren’t the best co-workers because of how much they dislike each other, which is why it’s especially interesting that they’re falling in love through the mail as each other’s anonymous pen pals. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
Two lovers on the run are met with a surprise when they break into a house and the owners inside present an unexpected twist, complete with a dark secret they’ll do anything to keep hidden.
WE ARE LITTLE ZOMBIES (2019)
Four Japanese orphans form a rock band in this eccentric comedy from Makoto Nagahisa. The New York Times calls it “Smart, noisy and flashily assured… entirely, gleefully its own thing.”
(DVD and Blu-ray)
WHERE I BELONG (2014)
An Austrian woman (Natalie Press) lives with her father in England because they were driven into exile by the Nazis. The war ends, but her world as she knew it is forever changed. After finding love in a new acquaintance, her hope for her future is renewed.