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Diane Carson

Friday, 17 July 2015 00:00

'Trainwreck' lurches off the rails

Amy Schumer has nurtured a reputation for irreverently tackling explicit sexual topics. Revealing persistent, pervasive double standards of blatant sexism, Schumer turns the tables on her male partners, rejecting emotional involvement and long-term commitment, confronting sexist insults. How surprising then that her dramatic film "Trainwreck" has a soft romantic core while promoting a traditional endorsement of love triumphant.

Based on the real-life story of writer/director Maya Forbes, "Infinitely Polar Bear" immerses the viewer in the difficult and exasperating world of manic-depressive Cameron "Cam" Stuart. His wife Maggie and two daughters, Amelia and Faith, ten and eight, accept him but alarming dysfunctional behavior gets Cam a month's long commitment to a mental ward and thereafter a halfway house stop.

In the testosterone-driven world of director Antoine Fuqua, light heavyweight boxing champion Billy Hope finds the brutality of the ring doesn't compare to the emotional trauma of losing his wife Maureen and fighting to regain custody of his alienated six-year-old daughter Leila. An amateur boxer himself, Fuqua energizes the melodramatic boxing genre by including a wealth of details.

In 1971 Stanford psychology professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo recruited 18 male Stanford students (and six alternates) for a two-week experiment. After interviews by Zimbardo and his graduate staff, a flip of a coin determined if the participant would be a prisoner or a guard in the mock-up prison constructed in the basement of a Stanford University classroom building.

Director Matthew Heineman's documentary "Cartel Land" follows two vigilante groups, one working in Arizona's Altar Valley and one in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán. Striking similarities and differences emerge as Heineman moves right along with the American Border Recon patrol and the Mexican Autodefensas. Most significantly, both groups' members have dedicated themselves to fight drug trafficking.

Cinema St. Louis' 15th Annual Whitaker Filmmakers Showcase highlights outstanding work "written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis natives or films with strong local ties." The fifteen different programs screening July 19 to July 23 include animation and documentaries, narrative and experimental, short and feature length films. A bonus is that often filmmakers will lead Q&A sessions after their program.

Sherlock Holmes has been an enduring darling of cinema since silent film days, and he continues to fascinate with ever-new interpretations. Now director Bill Condon has the audacity and the imagination to make an increasingly senile, senior Sherlock the entertaining anchor of "Mr. Holmes," starring the always-superb Sir Ian McKellen in a disarming tour de force performance.

Psychologically driven films that burrow deep into damaged characters can be riveting, informative and entertaining. However, the story must carefully and coherently probe the central characters emotional traumas and offer insight into them. This is what director Kim Farrant clearly intended for "Strangerland," though it fails to deliver these essential requirements.

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.

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