By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Friday, August 1, 2014
"Rich Hill" is another big winner opening Aug. 1. There's also plenty of escapes into silliness in this lineup, and later in the month Jennifer Kroot's "To Be Takei" offers a show-biz treat.
Credit: Courtesy of Identity Films
(WOMENSENEWS)--"Louder Than Words" is a compassionate truth-based drama opening Aug. 1 that begins with the fraught family environment left after cancer claims a child's life. Inspiration arrives when the parents (Hope Davis and David Duchovney) decide to honor their deceased daughter's (Olivia Steele-Falconer) memory and spirit.
They found the Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, where thousands of children and their families are provided superb care and offered the hope of healing. This affecting story, so beautifully told, is a real tearjerker. Bring tissues -- and be fully prepared to become a health care advocate and activist!
Topping my list of recommendations this month is "Rich Hill," also opening Aug. 1. The cousins who direct the documentary, Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, deliver a stunning study of the lives and prospects of three boys coming of age in a small town in heartland America. Focusing on rural Missouri's economically-challenged titular community of Rich Hill, they follow adolescents Andrew, Harley and Appachey in their daily lives, showing the daunting struggles these typical aspiration-filled teenagers face in their troubled and troubling social and economic circumstances. Neglected by their unemployed and impoverished parents, facing family instability and feeling all alone in a world rife with problems, these kids still show amazing faith in the American dream and their own abilities to work hard to achieve it. You leave the theater really rooting for them and our presently distressed country.
"Web Junkie," Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam's documentary about Internet addiction, follows Chinese teens to Beijing's Daxing Boot Camp, one of 400 rehab centers where kids addicted to "electronic heroin" (mostly boys) are given therapy to quell their compulsion for "World of Warcraft" and other games that have replaced reality – and social responsibility -- in their daily lives. The well-made and highly relevant film focuses on China, but the subject and situation it explores are global.
"Fifi Howls from Happiness" is a documentary by an Iranian artist about an Iranian artist, both of them exiled from their homeland. Filmmaker Mitra Farahani, now living in Paris, tracks her countryman, the controversial, outspoken and irrepressibly gay painter Bahman Mohassess, to Rome, where he lived in retreat and retirement at a hotel after departing from his homeland in 2006. Mohassess is a fascinating character whose perspective and witty remarks on art and Iran's social and political history are engaging.
However, the film is overly talky and may not hold the attention of audiences who aren't already smitten with this artist, known as the "Persian Picasso." That said, Mohassess died, at age 79, before the film was finished, and it is his legacy. So, respect!
"Step Up All In" is the next and ultimate installment in the popular dance battle franchise. Director Trish Sie marshals a lot of youthful talent, including some of the stars of previous "Step Ups." The cast brings extraordinary energy and athleticism to this biggest and best-yet crew competition - ostensibly the ultimate dance challenge - which awards the winners a three-year contract in Las Vegas. Stuff the predictable storyline with its obligatory romance and youthful angst into the recesses of your movie-watching mind and focus on the dancing. It's spectacular. And you can see it in 3-D! Or 2-D, if you'd prefer not to encounter high kicks and pelvic thrusts in your face.
"The Hundred-Foot Journey" features a culinary competition between a Michelin-starred traditional French restaurateur (Helen Mirren) and a phenomenal young Indian chef who opens his own eatery, Maison Mumbai, across the street in provincial Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a quaint tourist town. The cross-cultural sparks fly over the cuisine and eventually ignite a romance. Quirky. Charming. Funny. Delicious. A must-see for foodies. But don't go hungry!
"The Maid's Room" is a gripping femme-centric thriller about a Latina maid (Paula Garces) who discovers that her rich employer's Princeton-bound son is responsible for a fatal hit-and-run accident in the posh Hamptons. She realizes that her knowledge can be used as a weapon against her employers for her own gain, but quickly learns from them that it is a weapon that can also be used against her. No spoilers. Suffice it to say the film's plot and style are appealingly Hitchcockian.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Yes, they're baaaack! This time in concert with Megan Fox, cast as the intrepid reporter. See it if you must, but it's far from a must-see.
In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading female film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the prestigious Broadcast Film Critics Association.
Would you like to Comment but not sure how? Visit our help page at http://www.womensenews.org/help-making-comments-womens-enews-stories.
Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story? http://womensenews.org/story/arts/140731/bring-tissues-and-go-see-louder-words