“The Wonders” probes the fragility of tradition and innocence.
Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

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(WOMENSENEWS)– "The Wonders" is writer-director Alice Rohrwacher’s other-worldly and wonderfully affecting coming-of-age drama. Set in Tuscany, it focuses on a teenager, Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), as she experiences the collision between her traditional, rural family, who run an apiary, and trendy Italian pop culture when a reality TV show "Countryside Wonders" comes to showcase touristic Tuscany. The teen becomes fascinated by the beautiful Fellini-esque hostess (Monica Bellucci) and secretly enters the family’s artisanal honey into the show’s local product competition. That angers her old-fashioned father and introduces distressing family discord that runs deep. Exquisitely shot by cinematographer Hélène Louvart, this mysterious and evocative film encourages us to contemplate whether tradition – and the wonder of innocence – are sustainable in the modern world. A must see. In Italian, French and German with English subtitles.

"The Armor of Light," directed by Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes, is a profoundly mature and effective documentary that elucidates the contradiction between Christian Evangelists’ pro-life crusade and their staunch support of the NRA’s gun-toting advocacy. The film follows the evolving collaboration between Lucy McBath and Rob Schenck. McBath is a Christian woman whose teenage son was shot to death in Florida by a man angered by how loudly he was playing his car radio. Schenck is an influential Evangelical minister who wrestles with the idea that the protection of family and self should come from faith in God. The documentary is smartly impartial in the way it addresses the polarizing issue of gun control. See it. Support it. Send it to your legislators.

In "Making Rounds," seasoned documentary filmmaker Muffie Meyer follows two esteemed and seasoned cardiologists as they instruct interns to diagnose patients by listening to and examining them, rather than relying on computers that diagnose by the input of data. During a month of filming, the two doctors visit several patients and provide a model of considerate bedside manner while discussing patients’ symptoms with younger doctors. It’s astonishing to think that the art of bedside diagnosis is being lost. Meyer provides hope that these two very committed physicians and this documentary might forestall its demise. The film will instruct you, too, about being a good patient by knowing what to ask for and what to expect when and if you’re hospitalized.

"Top Spin" is a sports documentary that follows three young girls who are trying to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic table tennis team. Filmmakers Sara Newens and Mina T. Son profile the girls with on camera interviews, archival footage of their past performances and competitions. The table tennis displays are thrilling. No spoilers. See the film to find out who makes the team.

"Our Brand is Crisis" has garnered headlines because the lead role – a campaign strategist — was originally written as a man and rewritten for Sandra Bullock. This political drama is based on Rachel Boynton’s superb 2005 documentary about campaign machinations. Bullock’s character is a retired campaign manager who re-enters the political fray and heads to Bolivia to work for a candidate where she winds up once again locking horns with her arch rival (Billy Bob Thornton), another American import, who’s managing the opposition. Bullock and Thornton are terrific, but the plot is predictable and the snark doesn’t quite sizzle. The documentary is more compelling. You can find it on DVD. Watch it instead.

In "Bare, " writer-director Natalia Leite presents the coming-of-age story of Sarah (Diana Agron), a girl who’s languishing in rural New Mexico, where she meets and follows Pepper (Paz de la Huerta) a seductive drifter who leads her into a road trip to Reno, complete with drugs, sexual liberation and her own performance in a strip joint. The film’s edgy style is a bit self-conscious and the salacious plot is somewhat implausible. Consider "Bare" a coming of age film that’s still coming of age.

"Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse" is an outrageously silly zombie comedy scripted by Carrie Evans, Lona Williams, Emi Mochizuki and Christopher Landon. Basically, three Boy Scouts try to save their town from a zombie outbreak. It’s a full on gore romp, a really fun watch for Halloween, or any other time when your scouts are at liberty. That’s the tease. Say no more.

Stay tuned for November openers next week.

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