Rich Hill

Today at the Dallas International Film Festival (4/9/14)

We have reviews of today and yesterday's movies, and let you know the film talent that will be in attendance on the seventh day of the film festival.

And it’s the seventh day of the Dallas International Film Festival. Here is a schedule of what is playing today, and here are our reviews of what’s playing today and what we caught yesterday:

Obvious Child

9:30 p.m. April 7, Angelika 7 | 1:30 p.m. April 9, Angelika 8

Grade: C

This comic portrait of a woman’s early mid-life crisis follows a sarcastic stand-up comedian (Jenny Slate) whose Valentine’s Day trifecta includes getting dumped, fired and pregnant. Her self-deprecation gives way to vulnerability as she tries to move on. While it features some amusing gags and supporting characters, Donna is more off-putting and obnoxious than she is charming and sassy. — Todd Jorgenson


Shorts Program 3

4 p.m. April 9, Angelika 4 | 7 p.m. April 10, Angelika 4

Blur is about a woman is obsessed with working on a painting, while she and her husband are acting out their lives in front of a camera crew, for unexplained reasons. It’s difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t, which seems to be the point. (B-) Easy depicts a boy who’s into gymnastics struggles with idea that he might be gay or that the rest of the world thinks of all male gymnasts as gay, or something. This and Blur are more like impressionistic snapshots than actual stories. (B-) In Lambing Season, under the guise of being National Geographic filmmakers, a pregnant American woman and her husband travel to Ireland to meet the father she never knew. The two eventually share a moment of understanding, thanks to the difficult birth of a sheep. (B+) Three other shorts, not screened, are included in this program: Boy ScoutA Grand Canal, and Molly— Jason Heid


Rich Hill

4:15 p.m. April 9, Angelika 7

Grade: A-

I wanted to call my mother immediately after seeing this documentary — a grand jury prize winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — to thank her for the stable home life she provided for me and my sisters. I couldn’t help but feel blessed for the good fortune of my own life after seeing the film’s heartbreaking portraits of three teenage boys growing up in small-town Missouri. With moments that aspire to the visual richness of a Terrence Malick work, Rich Hill is a moving experience, shining a light on a corner of America rarely depicted on-screen. — Jason Heid


Thank You a Lot

7:45 p.m. April 8, Angelika 8 | 4:30 p.m. April 9, Angelika 6

Grade: B-

A fresh find amid a glut of movies about the Austin music scene, this drama stars Texas country crooner James Hand as himself, surrounded by a fictional story about his talent-manager son (Blake DeLong) trying to reconcile. Despite a lack of acting experience, Hand gives the film a gritty authenticity that the rest of the heartfelt project often lacks.  — Todd Jorgenson


Tomato Republic

7:15 p.m. April 9, Angelika 7 | 5:30 p.m. April 10, Angelika 8

Grade: B+

Be patient with Tomato Republic. It’s a sly little documentary which follows the seemingly innocuous – though hotly contested – mayoral race for the East Texas city of Jacksonville, TX. The three candidates – a good ol’ incumbent, a charismatic (and gay) restaurant owner, and a wet-behind-the-ears college debate champ – fight for the future of a city which has, like much of small town America, seen its city center rotted out by Wal-Mart, disinvestment, and dwindling resources. What emerges is a microcosmic look at the American moment, where the brass tacks of improving our communities runs up against citizen’s presumed political affiliations and cultural sensibilities. — Peter Simek



7:30 p.m. April 9, Angelika 6

Grade: C+

Sharp performances provide a highlight in this otherwise muddled drama of family dysfunction, set in southeast Texas, about Jacob (Josh Wiggins), a brooding teenager still grieving the death of his mother. His alcoholic father (Aaron Paul) has problems of his own, namely trying to hold his fractured family together despite the influence of the rebellious Jacob’s behavior on his younger brother. Director Kat Candler’s expansion of her short film doesn’t have the narrative heft to sustain itself at feature length, although there are some powerful moments. Newcomer Wiggins certainly is a name to watch, even as the film bogs down in some formulaic coming-of-age strife. — Todd Jorgenson



7:45 p.m. April 9, Angelika 8

Grade: B 

Writer-director Tommy Oliver’s maiden effort, 1982, is the gut-wrenching story of a working-class black man in 1980s Philadelphia, whose world spins off its axis when his wife relapses into crack-cocaine addiction. To its benefit, the film is less concerned with black issues (a la Spike Lee) than it is with the emotional upheaval of a particular black family. The result is a deeply intimate and deeply tragic film about black manhood and human endurance. — Farraz Khan


Documentary Shorts

9:15 p.m. April 9, Angelika 7

The three documentaries I saw in the doc shorts program all suffered, rather than benefited, from their curtailed form. 3 Acres in Detroit offers an intriguing look at an effort to farm areas of the bottomed-out inner city, but it plays more like a Kickstarter trailer for a feature length film than a stand-alone movie. In its examination of the cost of higher education,EduCAUTION adopts the familiar pairing of talking heads, engaging graffics, and dramatic music that movies like Inside Job used to make facts and figures engrossing and persuasive. But the movie feels too much like a bullet point of familiar grievances. The Home Team was the worst of the bunch. A story about the passion for Murray State University’s basketball team, it might as well be an undergrad recruiting video – there’s little tension, drama, or conflict to make it a full-fledged story worth telling. Worth noting in this program, though not reviewed, Strike: The Greatest Bowling Story Ever Told, which is based on this D Magazine article by Michael Mooney. — Peter Simek



10:15 p.m. April 9, Angelika 8 | 4:15 p.m. April 10, Angelika 7

Grade: B-

I found myself immediately put off by William (Gethin Anthony), the central character in Mark Raso’s Copenhagen, which seems to be the point. He’s a prickly, self-centered, indulgent prig, who is on a European trip, ostensibly to find his family, but ends up trying to self-destruct his best friend’s relationship. He succeeds, in a way, and ends up alone in the foreign city, meeting the local Effy (Frederikke Dahl Hansen). The two pick up the familial trail, and William learns how to love in the process. Though at times his film is off-tone, stand-offish, and visually forced, Raso has a good grasp on slippery adolescent sensibility, making a film that flashes with moments of sincerity and emotional authenticity. — Peter Simek

Other reviews from yesterday


Grade: C-

Repeats 7:30 p.m. April 11, Angelika 6

Alan Yeun’s Firestorm is a claustrophobic cat-and-mouse police drama that center’s around a police inspector with an obsessive drive to catch the leader of a vicious gang, bringing him close to the heart of evil. Hong Kong has a long tradition as a filmmaking center that pushes the envelope of action aesthetic, but if Firestorm is indicative of a new stylistic wave, then chaos aesthetic of video games have eroded the future’s promise. Firestorm is clogged with visual shrapnel, prizing stimuli over what stimulates, leading to action sequences that are muddled and impenetrable, and failing in its attempts to slide moments of personal tenderness and dramatic pathos into the scattered melee. — Peter Simek


The Congress

Repeats 10:30 p.m. April 13, Angelika 7

Grade: C

Some provocative ideas are left unfulfilled in this visually dazzling indictment of Hollywood and technology, and exploration of the volatile relationship between art and commerce, from director Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir). The film mixes live action and animation in its story of a fledgling middle-aged actress (Robin Wright) who agrees to trade in her career for an ageless, animated lookalike that becomes a major star in the digital realm. The animated sequences feature an eclectic mix of styles, which helps compensate for an ambitious yet uneven screenplay that’s more pretentious than profound. The cast includes Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, and Jon Hamm. — Todd Jorgenson


Cast/crew scheduled to appear at DIFF today, April 9: 

HELLION — Kat Candler (Director), Kelly Williams (Producer) and Josh Wiggins (Talent)

COPENHAGEN — Mauro Mueller (Producer), Rocio Lopez (Costume Designer)

REHEARSAL — Tom Rosenberg (Director, Screenwriter), Catherine Licata (Assistant Producer)

BROTHERS OF THE BLACK LIST — Sean Gallagher (Director, Screenwriter), Justin LaLiberty (Producer)

1982 — Tommy Oliver (Director)

TOMATO REPUBLIC — Jenna Jackson (Director), Rob Gowin (Subject of film)

A GRAND CANAL — Johnny Ma (Director)

MOLLY — Craig Elrod (Director, Screenwriter), Michael Bartnett (Editor, Producer)