Tag Archives: columns

HIFF2019: Ben’s Column – Go Back to China (2019)

Go Back to China (2019)

  • Narrative Feature/Official Selection
  • 96 Minutes/2019/USA
  • Comedy/Drama
  • Director: Emily Ting

Premise: When spoiled rich girl Sasha Li blows through most of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business. Continue reading

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HIFF2019: Ben’s Column – International Falls (2019)

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4.5 stars

International Falls

  • Narrative Feature/Official Selection
  • 96 Minutes/2019/USA
  • Comedy/Drama
  • Director: Amber McGinnis

Premise: A woman stuck in a small, snowbound border town has dreams of doing comedy when she meets a washed up, burned out comedian with dreams of doing anything else.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Last Year at the Crossing (2018)

Last Year at the Crossing (2018)

  • Documentary Feature/Indiana Spotlight
  • 75 Minutes/USA/2018
  • Education
  • Director: Kathy Bruner

Premise: An alternative high school in small-town Indiana is the last, best chance for four struggling teens to earn a diploma. Their dedicated school administrator holds out hope that this is the year they can overcome their obstacles. A heartbreaking and hopeful portrait of teens trying to rise above their circumstances.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Man Camp (2019)

Man Camp (2019)

  • Narrative Feature/Official Selection
  • 94 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Comedy/Drama 
  • Director: Nate James Bakke

Premise: It’s Man Camp weekend, the few days every year when brothers Adam, Tim, and Kevin head to the family cabin to memorialize their dad. When they arrive to discover their mom with some new guy she apparently plans on marrying, the trip becomes a wild test to determine his worthiness.

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Ben’s Column: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Movie Review

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4 stars

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Premise: A sequel, of sorts, to Breaking Bad following Jesse Pinkman after the events captured in the finale of Breaking Bad. Jesse is now on the run, as a massive police manhunt for him is in operation.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Whelm (2019)

Whelm (2019)

  • Narrative Feature/Indiana Spotlight
  • 114 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Thriller/History
  • Director: Skyler Lawson

Premise: “Whelm” is a thriller set deep in the Great Depression where two estranged brothers get tangled in a rivalry between a legendary bank robber and an eccentric young criminal. Through a series of bizarre occurrences, they find they are part of a larger historic scheme.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (2019)

3 stars

Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace (2019)

  • Documentary Feature/Official Selection
  • 85 Minutes/USA, Australia/2019
  • History
  • Director: April Wright

Premise: “Going Attractions” celebrates the splendor and grandeur of the great cinemas of the United States, built when movies were the acme of entertainment and the stories were larger than life, as were the venues designed to show them.

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HIFF 2019: Ben’s Column – A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (2019)

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3.5 stars

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (2019)

  • Documentary Feature/Official Selection
  • 81 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Directed by Yu Gu

Premise: Football and feminism collide in this documentary that follows former NFL cheerleaders battling the league to end wage theft and illegal employment practices that have persisted for 50 years. Continue reading

HIFF2019: Movie Review – Rewind (2019)

4.5 stars

Rewind (2019)

  • Documentary Feature/Official Selection
  • 87 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Drama/Social Justice
  • Director: Sasha Joseph Neulinger

Premise: Drawing upon an immense home video archive, Sasha Joseph Neulinger exposes the family secret which destroyed his world. The camera that followed his footsteps from the day he was born also captured the story of an unraveling childhood, a high-stakes court battle, and a generational reckoning.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Safe Spaces (2019)

4 stars

Safe Spaces (2019)

  • Narrative Feature/Official Selection
  • 92 Minutes/USA/2019
  • Comedy/Drama
  • Director: Daniel Schechter

Premise: A comedy about a New York City professor (Justin Long) who spends a week reconnecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.

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HIFF2019: Movie Review – Greener Grass (2019)

3.5 stars

Greener Grass (2019)

Premise: A deliciously twisted comedy set in a demented, timeless suburbia where every adult wears braces on their straight teeth, couples coordinate meticulously pressed outfits, and coveted family members are swapper in more ways than one in this competition for acceptance.

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Ben’s Column: The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Movie Review

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Premise: A young man searches for home in the changing city that seems to have left him behind.

A young black girl stares up at a man in a hazmat suit while a street preacher rants and raves about the contaminated water poisoning the residents. This is the introduction we get to Jimmie (Jimmie Fails) and Monty’s (Jonathan Majors) version of San Francisco in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”; far from the trolleys, five-star restaurants and tech headquarters of the city. The Golden Gate Bridge is off in the distance, but it’s far enough away that you may forget that it exists. Reality is certainly heightened here, but not so much to seem unbelievable. The film is loosely based on the true-life story of Jimmie Fails, who shares a story credit with first-time director and his childhood friend, Joe Talbot. Jimmie and Monty- both young, under-employed black men with dreams of bigger and better things- share a crowded bedroom in Monty’s blind grandfather’s house on the outskirts of the city. At night, when Jimmie isn’t working at a nursing home, the three watch old movies as Monty lovingly describes the action. On occasion, the two skate into the city to look after and fix up an old Victorian home in the Mission district that’s currently owned by an elderly white couple. Why is Jimmie so immersed in the upkeep of the home? He explains early on (to a Segway tour full of white people, of course) that the house was designed and built by his grandfather with his own two hands after World War II. Soon, the couple moves out and the home is abandoned, so Jimmie and Monty take over and renovate as they believe it should be, preserving as many details as Jimmie’s grandfather intended.

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Ben’s Column: Jawline (2019) Movie Review

Jawline (2019)

Premise: The film follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester, a rising star in the live-broadcast ecosystem who built his following on wide-eyed optimism and teen girl lust, as he tries to escape a dead-end life in rural Tennessee.

What is the American dream, if not to get rich and famous? In 2019, the quickest and easiest way to get rich and famous is to make it big on social media. Such is the subject of Liza Mandelup’s newest documentary, “Jawline”. The film splits its time focusing on two groups of influencers at various stages of success. First there’s Austyn Tester, a 16-year old high school dropout from rural Tennessee who wants to use his good looks, sunny disposition, and rabid online fan-base to “get famous, so then I can change the world.” The second half goes to a group of interchangeable teen boys (we’re never given their ages, but at best, they’re fresh out of high school) living together in an LA home under the iron fist of their manager Michael Weist. Theirs is a tightly regulated lifestyle where any time not spent posting, tweeting, live-streaming, etc. any branded content is met with Michael’s scorn. At one point, an argument ensues about whether or not to open a video with “hey guys”, lest they alienate their non-female fans. Even though it’s not as well done as the Tennessee portions, the LA half of the film mostly serves as a distant warning to Austyn: this is the fate that awaits the rich and famous in 2019. Thankfully, the amount of time spent between the two is more heavily weighted to Austyn and his struggles.

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Ben’s Column: Her Smell (2019) Movie Review

Her Smell (2019)

Premise: A self-destructive punk rocker struggles with sobriety while trying to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.

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Movie Review: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2019)

3 stars

Premise: A legendary American war veteran is recruited to hunt a mythical creature.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. I haven’t seen the trailer but the title, premise, and poster all feel like the movie is supposed to be a cheesy, ultra-violent genre movie. What the movie actually is is far from that. Instead, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot is a melancholic study of a man who has closed himself off from the world as he deals with what he did in the war. Continue reading