Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
RELEASE DATE: June 23 DIRECTOR: Brian Knappenberger CAST: Documentary
The salacious aspects of the Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan case — and there were plenty of them — had an unfortunate tendency to overshadow the real issues that were at stake in that case. Director Brian Knappenberger (The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz) works through those issues, clearly and carefully, before expanding the scope of that case to the man who funded it, his association with Donald Trump, and that man’s open hostilities towards the free press. By the time the whole story has been told, we’re looking at a pretty chilling portrait of where we’re at and where we’re going — and a loud call to arms to prevent it. Riveting, powerful, and frankly essential viewing.
The Big Sick
RELEASE DATE: June 23 DIRECTOR: Michael Showalter CAST: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Aidy Bryant
Stand-up comic/actor Kumail Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon co-write this somewhat fictionalized account of how they met, fell in love, broke up, and then went through a terrifying medical ordeal before they could get back together. Director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) adroitly juggles the comic and serious tones, and plenty of subject matter as well: it’s about people who are struggling not just with health and love, but with family, faith, and tradition. Funny from end to end and frequently heartbreaking as well, this is a rich film, filled with the kind of details and texture most mainstream comedies don’t even bother with.
RELEASE DATE: June 28 DIRECTOR: Bong Joon Ho CAST: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Seo-Hyun Ahn, Jake Gyllenhaal
Director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) crafts an absolutely bonkers mash-up of social treatise, sci-fi monster movie, and elegant action picture – the kind of thing that could’ve been an utter train wreck of disparate narratives and tones in the wrong hands. These, to put it mildly, are the right ones. Joon-ho beautifully orchestrates pathos, satire, and action set pieces (including one with incongruent John Denver accompaniment – so sorry, another miss, Alien: Covenant), coaxing an easy, natural, and determined performance out of Ahn to complement the (wonderfully) cartoonish work of Swinton and Gyllnhaal, and a turn that nicely subverts Dano’s (often grating) earnestness. It’s hard to know exactly how to sell this, or even encapsulate its wonders in a single paragraph. But it’s magnificently entertaining and wildly unpredictable, and there are alarmingly few movies these days that fit both descriptions.
The Little Hours
RELEASE DATE: June 30 DIRECTOR: Jeff Baena CAST: Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Kate Micucci, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Nick Offerman
Writer/director Jeff Baena uses Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” as the starting point for this modern, absurd comedy in period dress, concerning a trio of nuns and the various sexual awakenings. Baena has fun with the incongruity between the medieval trappings and the college-dorm-movie shenanigans of his protagonists, though he struggles to maintain a consistent tone when elements of sex, witchcraft, and jealousy are introduced. It works best in its early passages, when we can just enjoy the pleasures of Aubrey Plaza in a nun’s habit, screaming profanities. The entire, enviable cast shines, but Nick Offerman steals the show in a brief role as an oaf of epic proportions.
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography
RELEASE DATE: June 30 DIRECTOR: Errol Morris CAST: Documentary
For over 30 years, Cambridge photographer Elsa Dorfman took photographs of celebrities, family, and everyday folks with a large-format Polaroid camera, creating 20″ x 24″ portraits of striking beauty and rich boldness. For much of that time, Morris has been a friend and occasional client (and it’s not hard to see the influence of her aesthetic on those crisp, white-background interviews in his commercials and short films), and after her retirement, he spent some time hanging out with her, looking at her photos, and listening to her stories. The result is a looser Morris movie than we’re accustomed to (The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War aren’t exactly “hang-out movies”), and if, early on, he seems to subscribe to the theory that her photos have “no narrative,” he eventually finds one in how her art has documented her friendships, and her search for self. A modest, intimate, lovely movie, and proof that Mr. Morris still has new tricks up his sleeve.
The Reagan Show
RELEASE DATE: June 30 DIRECTORS: Sierra Pettengill, Pacho Velez CAST: Documentary
In his farewell interview with David Brinkely in December of 1988, Ronald Reagan admitted, of the training he brought to the job, “There have been times in this office where I have wondered how you could do the job if you hadn’t been an actor.” Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez’s bold and witty documentary takes that notion and runs with it, using miles of archival footage and internal video (this was a VHS-age president, and his White House taped everything) to create a multi-media mosaic – less, even, about the Reagan presidency than about how it was presented (or, to put it more accurately, stage managed). Those looking for a traditional, chronological bio-doc will be sorely disappointed, but to hell with them, there are plenty of those. The Reagan Show does something much more interesting – and, frankly, timely.