Jenny Slate stars in the film “Obvious Child.”
Credit: Courtesy of A24 Films
(WOMENSENEWS)–Opening on June 6, “Obvious Child,” directed and co-written by Gillian Robespierre, is a delightful and refreshingly quirky rom-com that follows the romantic adventures of a Brooklyn, N.Y., standup comic (Jenny Slate) who’s been dumped by her boyfriend. On the rebound she finds herself hanging out and getting it on with a buttoned-up new guy (Jake Lacy) whose charm knows no limits. When he warms her butter for her so it will spread more easily on her dinner roll, he warms her heart, too. She’s smitten and that makes it very difficult for her to tell him she’s become pregnant and is planning to abort his child. So the lighthearted fun is rounded out with some relevant femme-centric angst. The plot and performances, dialogue and direction are first rate. A must-see.

Also Opening June 6 

“The Fault in Our Stars” is an affecting and sensitively hewn coming-of-age rom-dram in which Shailene Woodley and Ansel Algort star as lovestruck teenagers striving to survive cancer and, while doing so, to experience the material world, their inner lives and each other as fully as possible before they meet their fate. The film is a bit soap operatic, but the straightforward simplicity of the storytelling and uncompromisingly strong performances keep it from entering the realm of mawkishness. Highly recommended. But remember to bring tissues.
If you value civic equality and civil liberties, “Citizen Koch” might make you weep, too. Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s investigative documentary is an alarming expose about the degree to which big money –that of the Koch brothers to be specific, and others in their ultra-conservative sphere– is successful in manipulating American politics, buying politicians and controlling public policy to meet its own greedy agenda. The film follows the election of right wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and shows how it came about that Tea Party and other PAC funding can be put into play without its source being revealed. See this film. Be shocked. And be spurred to take action.
“The Case Against 8” is a great companion documentary that shows how civil rights activists from both sides of the aisle – George W. Bush backer Ted Olson and Al Gore backer David Boies, to be specific – joined forces and turned to the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage – and won. The film is a fascinating behind-the-scenes real-life court drama that cuts to the core of what happened when California’s same-sex marriage laws were banned, and how they were reclaimed at the end of a five-year fight for civil rights.
“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” co-directed by Beth Aala and Mike Myers (his directorial debut), chronicles the life, work and times of the legendary celebrity manager who guided the careers of some of the biggest celebrities in movie land and music land. The film is studded with stars, including Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Michael Douglas, Sly Stallone, Willie Nelson, Derek Shook and Emeril Legasse, among others, all of whom appear in the documentary braising the virtues of their beloved friend and manager.
“Burt’s Buzz” is another character-driven documentary. This one’s about the retiring man who founded Burt’s Bees, the multibillion dollar company that manufactures and distributes skincare and other products derived from beekeeping, and became a somewhat reluctant celebrity. But not reluctant enough to stop him from participating in this film, of course. Burt Shavitz’s folksy demeanor and unique perspective on heath, business and the meaning of life give this breezy biodoc an entertaining buzz.

June 13 Openers 

Oh lucky day for moviegoers who fancy nubile bikini-clad cheerleaders who team up in “All Cheerleaders Die” to take revenge on those who’ve spurned them, and get embroiled with supernatural forces that want to foil them. The femme-centric horror film is also a comedy. Ha. Ha. Ha. Or not.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is, of course, a sequel that carries the original Cressida Cowell-based fantasy animation to new heights of CGI spectacle. The nonstop visual effects trump the rather predicable and surprisingly sluggish story about saving soaring dragons from a mean dragon slayer. Okay for kids, of all ages, I suppose.

Opening June 20 

“Venus in Fur,” Roman Polanski’s latest erotic drama, is likely to stir controversy not only because of its subject, but because of the ongoing scrutiny that surrounds the director’s life. The film is gripping, the self-referential structure and cinematography are stunning. Based on David Ives’ play, which was hewn from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s cult 1870 novel, the plot twists itself tightly around two characters – an ambitious and voracious actress (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s real life wife) and a control freak theater director (Mathieu Amalric, who strongly resembles Polanski when he was a young man) – who vie for domination in the confined space of a theater set. Polanski is a master filmmaker. See the film and join in the debate about his work.

June 25 Films

“Yves Saint Laurent” is a biopic about the designer (played by Pierre Niney) whose personal and unique sense of style — in fashion and in life –served as a primer for several generations of dedicated clothes horses and wannabes. That influence is reflected in this truth-based narrative that focuses on the relationship between YSL and Pierre Bergé (Guillaume Gallienne), the fashion icon’s partner in business and in bed, and how the bond between them guided YSL through bouts of serious depression that frequently impaired his creative spirit. The film is a moving projection of love and loyalty, but pales in comparison to “L’Amour Fou,” the 2008 documentary that features YSL and Bergé playing themselves.

Opening June 27

The documentary “La Bare” takes you behind the scenes at the world’s most famous male strip joint, the eponymous Dallas club that served as the model for “Magic Mike,” the 2013 movie starring Channing Tatum. Directed by Joe Manganiello, a cast member of “Magic Mike,” this film injects some hardcore horror into the raucous glam world of nearly nude male dancers; the murder of the club’s favorite stripper.
In addition to Women’s eNews,writes about documentaries for 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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