Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is an imaginative, thoroughly entertaining film. Who would expect this given its subject: high schooler Rachel has just received a diagnosis of leukemia. The "Me" of the title is Greg Gaines whose mother decides he must befriend Rachel. Earl is Greg's "co-worker" with whom he produces classic film parodies.
The Japanese animation studio Ghibli has an instantly recognizable, distinctive style and an affinity for psychologically complex stories dramatized through imaginative fantasy worlds. Ghibli's characteristic theme and style distinguish "When Marnie Was There." In it, foster parents send twelve-year-old Anna for the summer to her aunt and uncle's home in rural Kushiro hoping to alleviate her asthma.
Some modest films invite you in, ask you to pull up a chair, kick off your shoes and enjoy the fun and fireworks. That's how I felt watching Andrew Bujalski's "Results," a charming romp through three individuals' quirks and collisions, most self-created though all three remain absolutely clueless to their own responsibility. In other words, they're a lot like us.
For children 12 and under, even young teenagers, "Max" delivers some positive messages in a heartwarming story. Max, a Belgian Shepherd, works with U.S. Marine Kyle Wincott in Afghanistan, sniffing out weapons and alerting soldiers to dangerous situations. After quick opening scenes, an ambush ends with Kyle's death, sensitively handled. Back in Texas, the Wincotts reluctantly adopt a distressed Max.
The inaccurately titled documentary "The Wolfpack" would more accurately be called "The Sheep Herd" for it captures a family so intimidated by the abusive father that they lived as virtual prisoners in their Lower East Side Manhattan apartment for 15 years. During that time, six brothers, their mother and a sister had virtually no contact with the outside world.
For years, and even today, in the world of fashion the name Yves Saint Laurent carried a reverential weight, even excitement. Unfortunately, co-writer/director Bertrand Bonello's film "Saint Laurent" fails to capture that magic insight into Laurent's creative process and his staff's execution of novel concepts in the upscale couture industry. An arm's length observation replaces enlightening details.
More people recognize and, react viscerally to, Hans Rudolf "H.R." Giger's work than know much, if anything, about him and the inspirations for his posters, sculptures, and paintings. Writer/director Belinda Sallin's documentary "Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World" will begin to remedy that lack of knowledge, but only partially because of its casual interrogatory approach.
In his charming film "I'll See You in My Dreams," co-writer/director Brett Haley repeatedly shows that the nominal decisions made daily in a person's life have monumental importance and significant drama. A widow for two decades, Carol Petersen's story unfolds slowly through interaction with supportive friends and daughter Leslie.
Director Cédric Jimenez's "The Connection" details the burgeoning international heroin trade channeled through Marseille, France, mid-1970s into the 80s. Those enmeshed in what we call the French Connection, since it stretched to the U.S., consisted of magistrates, prosecutors, judges, and multiple battling criminal factions. Fueled by greed, bribery and murder, corruption and fear ruled the day.
The very title "Good Kill" signals inherent tension, and this film concentrates that tension on Major Tom Egan. An F-16 fighter pilot with six tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Egan now sits in an air-conditioned cubicle on an Air Force base outside Las Vegas where he pilots drones, often at the direction of a disembodied CIA voice from Langley.