Pick of the week: “Don’t Think Twice” — My full review is here. Comedian Mike Birbiglia’s second film as a writer-director is a painfully funny look at an improv comedy troupe, which for some members is a potentially jumping-off point to fame, and for others is as far as they’re going to go chasing their dreams. The tension between success and failure within the group makes for an engaging, Altman-esque comedy-drama.
“Southside With You” — My full review is here. I gather the “Make American Great Again” crowd wouldn’t be much interested in a romantic drama imagining what the first date between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson was like. But, in the vein of “Before Sunrise,” this walk-and-talk movie is a delightful look at two African-Americans trying to navigate their way in the world, unaware that the way will someday lead to the White House.
“Small Crimes” — My full review is here. Following up his terrifically twisted “Cheap Thrills,” writer-director E.L. Katz delivers a nifty neo-noir about a corrupt cop (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in an impressively scuzzy performance) coming back to his hometown and getting entangled with the bad folks who steered him wrong in the first place. Great supporting work from Robert Forster, Gary Cole and Molly Parker.
“Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution” — My interview with director Stanley Nelson is here. Legendary documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson digs into the Black Power movement of the 1960s, making a timely and lively film about the Panthers that both shows where they made mistakes, and where the movement could serve as an inspiration for today’s Black Lives Matters.
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” — Julian Schnabel seems to have an impossible task, making a movie out of a memoir from a man who was paralyzed by a stroke, able to communicate only through blinking his left eye. But instead of being constraining, the perspective is liberating, making for a film that’s both a stirring tale of survival and a meditation on savoring the beauty in life.