By Jennifer Merin
WeNews Film Critic
Friday, May 31, 2013
June kicks off with movies about a lonely and troubled teen coming of age, three heroic girls who are not afraid to speak out against repression, a wonderfully updated "Much Ado About Nothing," and the big problems of honeybees.
Credit: Courtesy Freestyle Releasing.
(WOMENSENEWS)-- In "Tiger Eyes," based on Judy Blume's eponymous best-seller and opening June 7, teenage Davey (Willa Holland) has to contend with her father's death, her mother's depression and a move from New Jersey suburbia to the New Mexican desert. She knows no one and is the only Jew in her high school class. Tough times teach her stirring life lessons. Director Laurence Blume handles his mother's carefully crafted and somewhat sentimental script with sensitivity. This is good family film to see with teen daughters.
"Violet and Daisy," in contrast, is a pulpy shoot 'em up film that casts two teenage females (Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan) as New York-based assassins who play patty cake, buy teenybopper garb and target their mark, the hapless Michael (James Gandolfini). Writer/director Geoffrey Fletcher's violent and quirky first feature, an homage to Quentin Tarantino, is as brutal as his Oscar-winning screenplay for "Precious," but also radically different. The film is an engaging genre mix and the performances are good. But do we really want to embrace this sort of fantasy about young women? Up to you.
"Passion," co-scripted by Nathalie Carter and based on the French film, "Crimes d'Amour," presents two excessively ambitious women (Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace) with professional prowess in an all-out war of one-upMANship.
Oft-deemed misogynistic director Brian da Palma's vision is passionately stylish, but ultimately heartless in its representation of women's wiles, smarts and approach to professional advancement.
"Wish You Were Here" is a tourist-goes-missing-in-paradise thriller, co-scripted by Felicity Price, who also stars in the film. Despite the story taking several unexpected and intriguing turns, the film is so plot-heavy that it becomes confusing, even tedious. But the exotic jungle and beach scenery sure is nice for a rainy day.
"Much Ado About Nothing," Shakespeare's exquisitely entertaining comedy, becomes an equally engaging and rarely sophisticated modern romcom through the loving lens of director Joss Whedon. He holds true to the Bard's original text and intention, but adds contemporary comedic shenanigans that make the poetry and plot perfectly accessible to audiences at large. It is shot in classic black and white and the acting ensemble is superb.
"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer" is a gripping and significant documentary about three Russian feminist punk rock artists -- Nadia, Masha and Katia -- who were arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison for staging a performance inside Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The performance satirizes Putin's close relationship to the Orthodox Church and its repressive impact on Russian politics and lifestyle. While documenting the women's trial and appeal, the film shows the women to be smart, articulate, sophisticated and dedicated. They are heroic agents for change in still authoritarian Russia and with the international movement that's sprung up to support them. Archival footage of their performances proves these women to be wicked talented, too. This film is a must.
"More Than Honey" is another important, enlightening documentary. Co-written by Kristen Hoppenhaus, it is an in depth investigation of the current honeybee colony crisis that threatens to curtail crop cultivation across the United States and around the world. This is the most comprehensive bee colony crisis documentary to date, revealing the miraculous nature of bees, as well as the probable causes and certain consequences of their death and disappearance by the hundreds of thousands. The film's extraordinary photography takes you into human-constructed and naturally formed hives, and experts comment about the difference between domesticated and "killer" honeybees. It's fascinating.
Stay tuned for previews of movies opening during the second half of June, from June 14 to 28, including "The Bling Ring," Sofia Coppola's latest venture, and "The Attack," about an Arab Israeli woman who dies in a suicide bombing -- perhaps by her own hand.
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.
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