Review: Trash (UK/Brazil: 2014): The proletarian adventure movie comes to Brazil.

Trash (2014)

Trash (2014)

While Stephen Daldry’s action/adventure film set in the the poverty stricken slums captures the energetic spirit of Andy Mulligan’s young adult novel, adults may be less than thrilled by the story while its content may lead it to be rated outside the reach of its intended audience. Still, the performances of the novice lead actors make it worth seeking out even if it never gets a US release.

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Review: Dope (USA: 2015): Finding One’s Voice on a Deadline

Dope (2014)

Dope (2014)

Rick Famuyiwa’s high school comedy about avoiding gang trouble while finding one’s voice hits its stride early and doesn’t let up until the final credits roll. Shameik Moore as Malcolm gives a performance strong enough to keep us concerned with his high school trials: can he get his Harvard entrance essay completed and unload a few kilos of molly he’s found in his backpack?

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Review: The A-List (USA: 2015): In the End, We Find Popularity Doesn’t Matter So Much (Shocker)

The A-List (USA: 2015)

kkadfkdfasdf The A-List (USA: 2015)

Sometimes we look through the overlooked movies and find hidden gems, but Will Bigham’s debut, The A-List, isn’t one of those. As a comedy about the downside to popularity in high-school, it is too predictable with too few memorable moments to recommend to any but the most die-hard fans of teen movies.

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Review: Still the Water (Japan: 2014): A teenage love story for adults

Still the Water (2014)

Still the Water (2014)

Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water accomplishes something rare: a romance about young people that is clearly targeted to a more sophisticated adult audience that doesn’t rely on melodramatic tropes.  The nuanced characters, verdant natural scenery and rich themes could make this a film worth watching, but it is marred by pacing issues. I wouldn’t blame you if you checked your watch now and again. 

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Suicide Room (Poland: 2011): Run! It’s the Internet!

Suicide Room (2011)

While the premise is interesting and the performances by the leads are strong, it is just too difficult to empathize with the characters in Suicide Room, Jan Komasa’s film about a troubled teen who withdraws to his room. Hikikomori isn’t actually a social problem in Poland that I’m aware of, and I think the director passed over several more interesting stories to theorize on what it would be like if it were. A wealthy, good looking teen throwing it all away might be arresting to watch, if only the protagonist’s most dramatic act for most of the film wasn’t to hide out at home.
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Web Junkie (USA/Israel: 2013): Social disease or phenomena

Web Junkie (2013)

Web Junkie (2013)

More thoughtful than I anticipated, Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam’s documentary takes us inside a gaming addiction treatment facility in China. While it never digs sufficiently into details to be an exposé of a potential sham, the human story is compelling enough to draw one in. The audience is left uncertain whether or not the boys and their families suffer from a real clinical addiction or from social overreaction to contemporary teenage behavior, but it is difficult not to feel a sense that something is wrong with a world that creates compelling virtual universes for people to escape into and then unfairly institutionalizes those who try to escape there too often.

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Futureless Things (Korea: 2014): one never knows what’s in store next

Kyung-mook Kim’s off-beat third feature focuses on the everyday and sometimes surreal interactions in a convenience store. Futureless Things is more a series of comedy sketches than a unified narrative, but since everyone eventually needs a Coke, the setting is a good one to explore the many layers of contemporary society and the dreamers who find themselves stuck behind counters for a moment.

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