(WOMENSENEWS)– “Big Stone Gap” is a very welcome feel good femme-centric rom com, a first feature written and directed by Adriana Tigliani, based on her eponymous novel. Ashley Judd stars as Ave Maria Mulligan, an Appalachian Mountains spinster who works in a pharmacy dispensing meds to the appealingly quirky residents of a rural mining town, where she also directs the local community theatre. Her comfortable life is full of friendship, but lacking passion — until her shy flirtations with the town hunk (Patrick Wilson) heat up and eventually begin to bubble. Whoopi Goldberg, as Ave Maria’s co-worker, adds just the right measure of acerbic wit. See this one for fun and to support Judd, who’s been speaking out about sexual harassment in Hollywood.
“The Final Girls,” this week’s femme-centric horror thriller-cum-comedy, has an unusual and twisted plot that calls for the complete suspension of disbelief. Max Cartwright (Taissa Farmiga), mourning the accidental death of her scream-queen movie star mom (Malin Ackerman), finds herself suddenly, mysteriously, terrifyingly thrust into the scenario of one of her mom’s movies, where the two women team up to fight off Billy the slasher, who likes to machete whack his victims after they have sex. The film’s anthology of slasher memes will no doubt delight horror fans, but viewers not into the genre may not be so thrilled.
“Knock Knock” presents a story of realistic horror, in which women are clearly the bad guys. Keanu Reeves stars as a family man who’s spending a weekend alone at his rather isolated L.A. home, where he is trapped and tortured by two sex-crazed chicks (Lorenza Izzo and Ana de Armas) who knock knock on the door, claim to be stranded in the storm and gain entry by asking to use the phone. We’ve seen this hellish situation in other films, mostly where men are the terrifying intruders. Horror auteur Eli Roth’s unpersuasive role-reversing script and unconvincing direction bring a particularly campy, trashy texture to the unpleasant scenario. Not my cup of tea.
“Reversion,” this week’s femme-centric futuristic sci-fi thriller, casts Aja Naomi King as Sophie Cie, the head of marketing for the Oubli, a high-tech device that puts its users into their favorite memory as though it were actually happening for the first time. Using the device, Sophie, who’s also the daughter of the Oubli’s inventor (Colm Feore), taps into disturbing memories of her mother’s death, and finds herself at risk in the center of corporate intrigue. Co-scripted by Elissa Matsueda and the film’s director, Jose Nestor Marquez, the film’s scenario is quite engaging from start to finish with a thrillingly intriguing storyline. It fails, however, to consider the social implications of consciousness-altering technology, which would have made it a better film.
“Steve Jobs,” the fictionalized biopic about the man who founded Apple, focuses on the launches of three products — Mac, NeXT and iMac — to profile the persona, career and interpersonal relationships of the iconic entrepreneur who caused a seismic shift in the way humans think and communicate. Replete with sharp quips mixed with moments of personal reckoning, Aaron Sorkin’s smart script is a fascinating character revelation that’s brought to life by Michael Fassbender’s nuanced performance and Danny Boyle’s stylishly brisk direction. Jobs’ trusting and dependent relationship with marketing maven Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslett) and his complex and often tortured dealings with his daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss at age 5, Ripley Sobo at age 9 and Perla Haney-Jardine at 19) and her unlikable mother (Katherine Waterston) are major markers in his character arc. While the women in the film represent their own needs, their presence serves primarily as a reflection of him. For a broader, more balanced impression, you might want to watch one of the excellent Steve Jobs documentaries, as well.
“The Forbidden Room,” which opened Oct. 7, is a mind-bending cinematic creation from the always innovative Canadian screenwriter Guy Maddin, and co-directed by visual effects wiz Evan Johnson. Set in the claustrophobic environment of a submarine trapped in the ocean’s depths with a dangerous volatile cargo on board, the film presents a series of mysterious dreamlike, surreal and haunting vignettes rather than a sequential plot or any sort of linear narrative that can be neatly followed. The brilliant ensemble cast — including Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Mathieu Almaric and Udo Keir, among others — cements the non-story into reality. This is a film for cinema connoisseurs or those ready for artistic stimulation.
“Pan” qualifies for this week’s pan. The appealingly simple and ultra-imaginative fantasy of Peter Pan’s adventures in Neverland are overshadowed by an extravaganza of special effects that bludgeon viewers with legions of manipulated images rather than inviting them to believe in their own dreams. If you want to introduce your kids to Peter Pan and give them the opportunity to experience the legend with as much wonder as you did when you were a kid, read them Sir J.M. Barrie’s book instead, or take them to see another cinematic version. I particularly recommend Herbert Brenon’s charming 1924 rendition, available on DVD.
Stay tuned for more October openers next week.
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