INDIEWATCH: ‘Tangerine’ is a sweet and sour must-see

Sex workers, their clients and other Los Angeles subcultures rule the screen in “Tangerine,” a fiercely original comedy from indie director Sean Baker (“Starlet” and “Prince of Broadway”).

It’s Christmas Eve, and besties Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), who are both transgender women, meet at a donut shop. Sin-Dee is fresh off of a 28-day stint in jail and she’s in high spirits until Alexandra spills that Sin-Dee’s boyfriend/pimp Chester has been unfaithful.

Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez star in “Tangerine.”

Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez star in “Tangerine.”

Sin-Dee launches on a vengeful rampage to find Chester and the “fish” (aka nontransgender woman) who stole him. Sin-Dee’s odyssey takes her to a Mexican restaurant, a food line and a motel/brothel. As long as she can take it, Alexandra trails behind, handing out flyers for her musical performance later that night.

Meanwhile, Armenian cabbie Razmik (Karren Karagulian) totes customers ranging from a young Asian hipster to a woman with an imaginary dog to a pair of drunken partiers who “spit up” in the back.

It’s curious what Razmik has to do with the trans dynamic duo, but director Baker juxtaposes this steady storytelling to Sin-Dee’s quick cuts and violent altercations. When their stories do coalesce, it feels like a warm reunion.

Karren Karagulian in "Tangerine."

Karren Karagulian in “Tangerine.”

Alexandra has an unsuccessful “business transaction” and Razmik a failed run-in with a woman who’s literally on the wrong side of the block. There’s a palpable loneliness as the three main characters sift through the big and bright streets of Tinseltown. When Alexandra spots Razmik, it’s the first settling tone for a while, and there’s a relief in their familiarity and mutual respect.

And this tenderness in the urban wild is the lifeblood of “Tangerine.”

In one scene, Sin-Dee’s spent the afternoon tormenting and dragging Chester’s mistress Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) around the city. They’re in the bathroom, and out of nowhere, Sin-Dee gently wipes away Dinah’s runny makeup and applies rouge to her lips.


In another scene, Alexandra talks about giving her Barney doll a bath when she was a kid. “It stopped singing the ‘I Love You’ song,’ and I was so upset. The world can be a cruel place,” she says. Sin-Dee replies: “God gave me a penis. It’s a pretty cruel place.” 

This sets the motivation of these characters and their powerhouse first performances. Rodriguez as Sin-Dee is as fierce as she is tender, a self-described “upper hoe.” Taylor as Alexandra is a homelike heartbeat to Sin-Dee’s roar. And Razmik’s desperation for his “next fix” paints a wary and different picture of the working girls’ clientele.

The music in “Tangerine” offers catchy club mixes by DJ Lightup & DJ Heemie to Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Op. 62. And director Baker is on point with the execution. Also, props for the iPhone 5s-shot cinematography. Each frame overflowed with the rhythm of the streets and its characters.

It's pretty but it's grimy in "Tangerine." And it's worth it.

It’s pretty but it’s grimy in “Tangerine.” And it’s worth it.

And while beautiful, “Tangerine” isn’t for everyone. It’s explicit in its subject matter: sex work. The language is crude, the content is raw, and there are naked people in it. But don’t be deterred. Director Baker captures the pulse of the city’s underrepresented here, and exposes a humor and a heart.

“Tangerine” definitely has a reality TV show vibe in the character’s outbursts, but the moments of juvenile exhibitionism are mixed with poignant and humane stillness that is rarely seen in such a backdrop. This film delicately displays that the white-knuckle brawl is all part of a hunt to be loved. And the last scene is a game-changer in its display of what love looks like.

It’s worth a watch.

Grade: A


Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Time: 1:28

Rating: R for strong and disturbing sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout and drug use

Available: CinemaNow, GooglePlay, iTunes, Netflix Instant, VUDU

More info:

Watch ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’

“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” is a twist on the boy-meets-girl story — and the girl’s a vampire. It’s writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature-length film, and whatta debut.

The Girl (Sheila Vand) stalks and preys upon pimps, junkies and hookers. She’s got a sick music collection and wears a hijab that flies through the air while she skateboards.

In “A Girl Walks Home at Night,” Sheila Vand (The Girl) stalks and preys upon junkies and pimps.

In “A Girl Walks Home at Night,” Sheila Vand (The Girl) stalks and preys upon junkies and pimps.

Enter Arash (Arash Marandi) and his heroin-addicted dad. Arash makes ends meet gardening for a rich family. He’s a good kid with a James Dean flair. Arash crosses paths with The Girl the night he tries to pay off a drug dealer — and some mild sparks fly. But the real connection comes later and includes Ecstasy, a light post and a Dracula cape.

“A Girl Walks Home At Night” plays on light and dark, good and evil through humor, black-and-white cinematography through a cast of misfits.

The Girl is selective in her hunt. She buys makeup to reel in the first kill, she paints on her game face, and her food choice felt justified. In another scene, she toys with an unsuspecting victim, and that throwdown left this reviewer ambivalent.

Director Amirpour paints each character with complexity. After days of stalking prostitute Atti (Mozhan Marnò), Atti asks what The Girl sees.

She replies: “You’re sad. You don’t remember what you want. You don’t remember wanting.” The camera bounces between Atti’s sad reflection in a mirror and The Girl’s longing face. The pro and the vamp connect. This film is full of sparks of humanity in unlikely places — including in the undead.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” parallels Sweden’s “Let the Right One In,” but this is more cast-driven and playful. But like “Let the Right One In,” the director uses the setting to evoke emotion. Here, black-and-white visuals help ham up focused isolation. And the superb music paints this film in color. Props on the camera composition, visual and sound editing — all hinting at David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino inspirations.

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Arash Marandi (left) and Sheila Vand in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.”

Performances are on par. Actress Vand as The Girl is luminous in black and white. She exhibits this character’s greatest depth with her eyes, facial expressions and tones of voice. Arash Marandi’s adorable with wide eyes and a chiseled chin. Though here, he uses his physicality to express innocence and loneliness. In a scene when his father is detoxing, he brings the despair and the conflict.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” touches some tough themes, but director Amirpour dresses it as a comic book-ish spaghetti western that’ll make you laugh, freak out and, above all, empathize with those who feel powerless over their conditions — be that a junkie, a prostitute or a vampire.

This movie’s the anti-blockbuster: It has subtitles, it’s in black and white, and watch it immediately.

Grade: A+

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”

Starring: Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh

Director/screenwriter: Ana Lily Amirpour

Time: 1:40

Rating: NR (minimal language, some adult themes and violence)

Available: Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix Instant, VUDU

INDIEWATCH: ‘Eleanor Rigby’ disappeared with a plot

In a crowded restaurant, Conor says to Eleanor: “Would you still love me if I can’t pay for dinner?” They make a break for it, and land in a “Twilight”-esque meadow except it’s Central Park and it’s night time.

“There’s only one heart in this body,” Conor says. “Have mercy on me.”

Petty theft really turns them on.

Petty theft really turns them on.

In the next scene, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) jumps off of a bridge, cue the aching question: What happened? And “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” attempts to answer.

Soon, it’s revealed that the two are man and wife. When Eleanor is released from the hospital post-suicide attempt, she wants nothing to do with Conor (James McAvoy).
She crashes with her parents, chops off her hair and takes classes at a New York college, where she befriends Professor Friedman (Viola Davis). On their first meeting, they talk her Beatles-inspired namesake. After an anecdote of how Eleanor’s parents met:
“You must detest the Beatles,” says Friedman. And Eleanor: “No, not really.”
That was it, cut and dried.

“The Disappearance” jumps from Eleanor to Conor, whose restaurant — which he runs with his best friend Stu (Bill Hader) — is struggling. In his spare time, Conor calls his wife, visits her parents’ house and mini-stalks her on busy New York streets.

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that's named after a Beatles song.

Conor (James McAvoy) and Stu (Bill Hader) in this movie that’s named after a Beatles song.


Save for one flashback to their high-schoolish automobile coitus, it’s difficult to see what Conor’s fighting for, and this reviewer began to lose interest about halfway through. While this film teeters on the family tragedy that led to Eleanor’s death-dive, there was very little to illustrate the couple’s happiness at any time in the relationship. With barely anything to juxtapose, the plot conflict left much wanting.

This reviewer is a huge fan of both lead actors, but Chastain as Eleanor is emaciated — rightly so for the character — but her performance comes across as emotionally constipated. Chastain does numb and angry — accurate for a depressed character. But with films like “Zero Dark Thirty,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Jolene,” her talents felt wasted here.

McAvoy as Conor effectively plays lovelorn and aimless, enlisting huge empathy and some slight annoyance. Some other heavy hitters in Eleanor’s parents: French actress Isabelle Huppert as Eleanor’s wine-glass touting mother and William Hurt as her stern and authoritative pops. And none really have a place to shine here.

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in "The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them."

LOVE- AND CAR-STRUCK: McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in “The Disappearance of Elearor Rigby: Them.”

“The Disappearance” plays at identity and self just enough to sense an overarching theme. Eleanor takes an Identity Theory course. She refuses intimacy with another man because “he’s a stranger.” Conor’s father says, “Mostly people are just fading away.” At two points, both Conor and Eleanor ask if they seem different to which another responds: “You look the same to me.”

Yes, tragedy is a gaping wound that few can see.

Both Conor and Eleanor’s fathers channel Socrates or Thomas Aquinas, and it doesn’t seem to fit. “Tragedy is a foreign country,” says Eleanor’s father. “We don’t know how to talk to the natives.”

These jabs at something larger also left much wanting.

And the crux: “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them” is one of a three-part film by director Benson. After completing this segment, there’s a large inclination to continue. But on the other hand, tell a complete story in two hours or maybe don’t tell it at all.
It’s a good Beatles song, though.

Grade: C-

“The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them”

Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis

Screenwriter/director: Ned Benson

Time: 2:02

Rating: R for language

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant

INDIEWATCH: ‘Rich Hill’ a poignant, unapologetic look at three teens coming of age

Filmmakers enter into this small Missouri town for their documentary of the same name.

Filmmakers enter into this small Missouri town for their documentary of the same name.

“Rich Hill” follows three adolescent boys in small-town Missouri.

Andrew is a 15-year-old nomad, his family often landing back in Rich Hill. “We’re not trash, we’re good people,” he says.

“My mom, she wants to get out and do things with us, but she can’t because of her problems,” he says, his eyes tightening at the word “problems.”

“I miss her.”

His mother, Elizabeth, looks outward, blankly, perking slightly and saying “that’s sweet.”

Andrew's set on improving himself as his family hops from place to place, and always landing back in Rich Hill.

Andrew’s set on improving himself as his family hops from place to place, and always landing back in Rich Hill.

Appachey rides up on his skateboard, walks into his house and lights a cig on a toaster. He sits in front of a door with a large crack in it, takes a big puff and recites a biography he wrote for class.

The camera scrolls across his home. “This is what happens when mom goes to work,” Delena, Appachey’s mother says. There are piles of clothes on the floor, a tipped-over laundry basket and furniture in disarray.

“ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, ODD —  that’s all of ’em,” Delena says of Appachey’s diagnoses. “I don’t know if medication would help him or not cause he doesn’t take them.”

And there’s Harley. “I’m very easy to make mad,” he says, as he shops for hunting knives.

Harley says he has anger issues, and in "Rich Hill," filmmakers shed light on it.

Harley says he has anger issues, and in “Rich Hill,” filmmakers shed light on it.

Directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos show the grit and the light in their lives, and they make no apologies.

In one scene, Andrew’s father Willie heats water for the bathtub via a coffee pot, a stove and an iron-heated pot. Willie looks through his bills and talks about the struggles of finding odd jobs.

In another scene, Harley preps for Halloween night. En route, he talks of the injustices of the world and how he hates rape.

Appachey and his family are at a laundromat, and he fixates on his straw-less soft drink — an injustice through the eyes of this youngster that clearly foreshadows the defiance that follows.

Technically, Palmermo and Tragos follow the lead of these stories. The filmmaking is frank, without effects or filters — as it should be.

There’s no resolution and there’s no sugar-coating. But one thing this documentary communicates: They’re all doing the best with what they have. These kids and their families have hope and their drive to survive is admirable and bittersweet.

One gaping hole of info left this viewer unsatisfied, but that aside, “Rich Hill” is worth watching.

Grade: B+

“Rich Hill”

Starring: Andrew Jewell, Elizabeth Jewell, Willie Jewell

Directors: Andrew Droz Palermo, Tracy Droz Tragos

Time: 1:32

Rating: NR (swearing, minimal violence, no drug use or sexual content)

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant


INDIEWATCH: Rebel meets her match in horror/comedy ‘Housebound’

In “Housebound,” an ATM break-in goes awry, and Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is sentenced to seven months on house arrest at her parents’ home after a long history of thieving and drugging. When she pulls up to the house with her P.O., the first two thrills are harmless and funny on par with “Shaun of the Dead” and “Tucker and Dale Save the World.”

As Kylie gets settled, her rebellious aggression is on full-force — and it’s effectively annoying. She verbally attacks her counselor, and after kicking her parents out of the living room, her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) grumbles: “She’ll learn. One way or another.”

Kylie's a huge drag on her parents in "Housebound."

Kylie’s a huge drag on her parents in “Housebound.”

That night, Kylie chases the sound of her cellphone into the basement, the lights go out and the horror party begins.

O’Reilly as Kylie is spot on. She subtly uses her facial expressions to ham up the post-modern hilarity in this film.

In one scene, she’s smoking a cig outside. Thick smoke billows behind her, and close-up to a neighbor burning trash. They “face off” in slow-mo: the neighbor grimaces, and O’Reilly defiantly spits smoke at him.

She’s a 14-year-old in a woman’s body, and O’Reilly delivers the evolution of this character — fear, drama, remorse, defiance — well. Wiata as Miriam can force a laugh with her facial expression as the ditzy, harmless mother. But the most impressive of this cast and crew combo is writer/director Gerard Johnstone. He more than capably weaves comedic reprieve with modern horror in dialogue, camera angles and post-production.

They kinda make up to fight the forces of evil.

They kinda make up to fight the forces of evil.

Kylie tells her ankle monitor tech about the house hauntings.

“What’re you gonna do against hostile spirits? You gonna crack jokes?” he says.

“No, I’m gonna smash it in the face.” In another scene, Kylie’s closet door mysteriously opens on its own. And she takes it off its hinges.

Director Johnstone brings believable and holds back on the over-the-top special effects — very refreshing. Homage to Buffy in a fearless heroine with some ass-kicking ability.

Some cons: the horror climax drags on a bit. “Housebound” lost some momentum here, but this paved the way to some surprising elements of this film that’s so much more than a horror movie, and the last frame will leave you loving these characters.

It’s definitely worth a watch.

Grade: B+


Starring: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru

Writer/director: Gerard Johnstone

Time: 1:47

Rating: NR (swearing, violence, no nudity)

Available: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Netflix Instant


INDIEWATCH: ‘Stretch’ a wild limo ride on drugs

Patrick Wilson and Jessica Alba star in “Stretch,” an action-packed comedy about an L.A. failed actor/limo driver, his ex-girlfriend and his insane fares.
Stretch (Wilson) has to come up with the $6,000 he owes his bookie by midnight, and to do it he agrees to be the beck-and-call boy for Roger, an intense “firestarter,” who’s rolling in the dough.
Roger sets the limo on fire, he takes coke nose baths and, before being dropped off at a questionable estate with farm animals, he sends Stretch on a mission to pick up a mysterious suitcase.

Chris Pine and Patrick Wilson in "Stretch."

Chris Pine and Patrick Wilson in “Stretch.”

There are random moments of humor.
Stretch runs into his ex at a club, and he pays a guy to drive him away in his limo, which soon loses power. A stressed-out Stretch barks order at him, and his response: “I’m helping you. I could do without the sarcasm.”
Stretch: “We should hang out some time.”
Guy: “Really, my buddy just got married so…”
The cast is a good fit. Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) is dedicated as Roger.
When he and Stretch meet, a loin-clothed Roger falls out of the sky with a pipe in his mouth. He approaches Stretch slowing, bends down, breathing in deeply and says, “Oh, you’re not Karl.”
Jessica Alba as Charlie, the limo phone operator who keeps Stretch in on the good fares, is toned down on the beauty, in a pony, big glasses and a camo jacket. She’s incredibly charming and likeable, as usual. The bulk of this film is on Wilson.
With movies “The Conjuring,” “Insidious” and “Young Adult” under his belt, he steps out of a comfort zone and delivers on the edginess of this film.
“Stretch” is littered with expletives, raunchy comedy with a couple of cameos from David Hasselhoff and Ray Liotta. Overall, it’s not for everyone.
Grade: C+

Melinda Lavine is features editor at the DNT, reach her at or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at


Starring: Patrick Wilson, Jessica Alba, Ed Helms
Writer/director: Joe Carnahan
Time: 1:34
Rating: R for language, sexual content/nudity, some drug use and brief violence
Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), Netflix Instant

INDIEWATCH: This ‘Gigolo’ is witty, subtle and a bit deflated

In “Fading Gigolo,” Murray (Woody Allen) and Fioravante (John Turturro) close up their indie bookstore. As they pack, Murray mentions he saw his dermatologist — and she’s interested in a threesome. Murray says he instantly thought of Fior.

“Are you on drugs,” he says. And Murray: “Apart from my Zoloft, no.”
“Gigolo” wastes no time, and neither does Murray. He says he’s willing to hook them up, and he’d like a cut of the profit.

Woody Allen as “the pimp” Murray in “Fading Gigolo.

Turturro as Fior is lanky with wiry hair. Allen is showing his age, and he’s got a shaky out-of-his-element facade, and the combination of the two brings the comedy of an aging wannabe pimp and his budding, middle-aged prostitute. The most charming interactions of “Gigolo” are in these moments as Murray tries to make this happen.

The two are at Fior’s part-time job, and Fior says he’s not a beautiful man. Mid-shot to Turturro, and I’m kinda shaking my head. I’ve known him from roles in “O, Brother Where Art Thou,” “Barton Fink” and “Do the Right Thing,” and there’s little to any room in these films to see Turturro as a sex symbol.

Murray rationalizes: a man who works with his hands and the earth is desirable. “You’re disgusting in a very positive way.” With Allen’s delivery, I laughed out loud.
Soon after, Murray gets a call from the dermatologist Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone), and they set up “the meet.” And Sharon Stone is gorgeous, as usual.

I admit, I didn’t know how this would work, but the tables are turned when Fior shows up. They’re in Dr. Parker’s high-rise apartment, and she’s dressed to the nines. Fior has a silent ease about him. Nothing’s changed in his character, but this works for him, and the deception that he’s a high-class escort adds a little humor as Dr. Parker nervously fiddles with glasses.

John Turturro touts the pimp juice with Sofia Vergara in “Fading Gigolo.”

As the gigolo business evolves, things take a strange and kind of boring turn when Murray tries to enlist Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), an Orthodox Jewish woman as a possible customer. This was a turn I didn’t understand, and I was kinda grossed out with Murray for making it.

“Fading Gigolo” does a good job with the wit, music and sets. To be honest, it felt like a Woody Allen movie, but it’s written and directed by John Turturro.

What I liked the most was watching my perception of Turturro change as the movie progressed. What I always considered as his permanent awkwardness shifted into something else. There’s a scene when Fior meets Selima (Sofia Vergara) for their first appointment. Previously, she states the very specific type of man she wants: strong, tall and not too pretty.

When they meet, Fior meets all the requirements of this beauty, and she says “show me what you can do.” They join for a tango. But a literal one — they’re dancing.
Watching Turturro glide around, I saw a certain type of suave air to him. And maybe that was his whole point in making this movie? Or maybe it was a commentary on love? Or Orthodox Judaism?

In any case, I was mostly engaged with in “Fading Gigolo.” I may have ruined it in thinking Turturro as a filmmaker would mirror his co-star.

It’s (kinda) worth a watch, at least for the first half. After that, it’s up to you.

Grade: C

‘Fading Gigolo’
Starring: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Screenwriter/director: John Turturro
Time: 1:30
Rating: R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Available: Amazon Prime and iTunes (to rent), Netflix Instant

Melinda Lavine is features editor at the DNT, reach her at mlavine@duluthnews.
com or (218) 723-5346, read her blog at

INDIEWATCH: Watch ‘Snowpiercer’ — period

In “Snowpiercer,” the lone survivors of a post-apocalyptic world-freeze are confined to one train that circles the globe on a nonstop hell ride, depending on where you’re sitting.

For 17 years, front and rear passengers have been segregated. Folks at the rear are fed maroon-ish, gelatinous protein blocks, they’re crammed into living spaces on par with “Amistad” and they’re brutalized by guards at the tiniest sign of defiance.

Within the first five minutes, an elderly woman eats the butt of a rifle when her hubby refuses to play violinist for front passengers unless she comes with.

Pretty rough to watch, but it set the tone.

Curtis (Chris Evans) plots an uprising with his young No. 2 Edgar (Jamie Bell) and sage old-timer Gilliam (John Hurt), who’s missing a limb or two.

He has an informant who plants tips in protein blocks. He counts the men guarding the train gates and clocks the number of seconds all doors are open at once. And the crux of his plan: Get to the engine and kill Wilford, the train’s “leader,” aka a conductor with a god complex.

“All past revolutions have failed because they couldn’t take the engine,” Curtis says, and I was in.

Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) and star in “Snowpiercer,” a sci-fi thriller available on Amazon Prime, iTunes and Netflix Instant.

Superb pacing as the throwdown clocks in at less than 30 minutes, and I was screaming and cheering from my couch. Curtis and friends battle their way through each train subsection: the kitchen, the water car and beyond. And with each section cleared, Curtis was like Mario to Wilford’s King Koopa.

What hooked me the most was the subtext and mythology of this story.

In one scene, Curtis and gang are in a barbarian-style battle with axes. Blood spatter and slow-mo, then a horn sounds and a strange ceasefire. All look out the window, note the landmark and the guards start counting down from 10 in a weird celebration.

My insides screamed: “Kick some A–!” but nothing.

Through just enough dialogue it’s revealed the landmark notes a full year of survival. And as the train rips through ice caps on the tracks, the good guys and the bad guys are thrown around the same car. A lot different than an LOTR battle royale because regardless the side they’re fighting on, all are on the same playing field. All are apocalypse survivors, and all could die if the train derails.

This moment was like nothing I’d ever seen or read or experienced in pop culture. My mind was blown.

And “Snowpiercer” continued to do this. It’s dense and fully loaded, but that works to its glorious advantage. And screenwriter/director Bong Joo-Ho works the graphic novel this was based off succinctly and expertly. (I’m getting into gush mode.)

And while “Snowpiercer” is harsh at times, Joo-Ho works in just the right amount of comic relief.

Tilda Swinton lends some perfectly timed comic relief in “Snowpiercer.”

The Curtis crew swoons over the smell of second hand smoke, when cigs had been extinct for a decade. Tilda Swinton as a commissioner for the front delivers quirky bits, like removing her dentures during a verbal face-off with Curtis, and grotesque throat-clearing and nose-crinkling as she speaks on soon-to-be unleashed mayhem.

My only hang-up with this is some of the effects were executed a bit poorly.

When we see what the protein blocks are made of, the computerized imagery looks pretty elementary along with outer shots of the train trudging on the tracks. There’s also a slow-mo snowflake moment, but you’ll hafta watch it to see.

But this all didn’t deter. “Snowpiercer” culminates with a jarring convo between Curtis and Wilford, and it ends with the perfect last shot on-screen.

And performances were on.

Chris Evans may be the quintessential superhero, even in ratty garb, and he gets a chance to wax dramatic and broken, and bravo. Jamie Bell is the perfect spunky sidekick with a Scottish (?) accent, and I felt protective over him like a little brother. And the actor who plays Wilford is dashing and wonderfully apathetic and pragmatic. (IMDB it, or better yet, watch it.)

There are cult-like happenings, spot-on suspense and no love triangles like other dystopian movies of today. I was glued to my screen and rewinding parts.

Watch this movie.

Grade: A-

 Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), iTunes (to rent), Netflix Instant.

IN THEATERS: There’s something flat about ‘Rosewater’

In “Rosewater,” Maziar (Gael Garcia Bernal) wakes up to some shadowy figures in his bedroom. They’re Iranian investigators and they sift through his personal items. Soon after, Maziar is hauled away, and director Jon Stewart gives some context.

It’s July 2009, Maziar flies to his home country to cover the Iranian election for Newsweek. As he walks the streets, Stewart uses storefronts and buildings as a palette for images and footage of Maziar’s sister Maryam (Golshifteh Farahani) and his father Akbar (Haluk Bilginer), who both served time in Iranian prisons.

Maziar chases pre-election stories and does an interview with a satirical, political show (in real life, it was “The Daily Show”). He befriends cabbie Davood (Dimitri Leonidas) who shows him the people’s choice for a new leader.

Gael García Bernal as Maziar Bahari in “Rosewater.” (Open Road Films/MCT)

When said choice loses, the people of Iran revolt. Maziar films a shooting by the government’s hand. He sends it to his journalism buds, and we’re up to speed on the shadowy figures and the whole arrest thing.

In prison, specialist Rosewater (Kim Bodnia) spends forever with Maziar, and Stewart shows this in a montage of interrogation. Clips of Rosewater at different locations in the cell, and varied levels of light shining through a window mark the passage of time. I was thankful I didn’t have to sit through the ultra-bad torture, which Stewart shows in quick hits.

“You must not just take his blood. You must take his hope” are Rosewater’s orders, but I never really felt like this film gave me the hard-nosed despair this captive must’ve felt. Think “Shawshank Redemption” or “Hunger,” but I don’t think a heart-rocking jailbird tale was Stewart’s intention with “Rosewater” — a little to its detriment.

I could’ve used a focused look at Maziar’s insanity in solitary confinement. He hallucinates talking to his deceased father. He fantasizes about slitting his wrist, but there was little else to illustrate his hopelessness.

And that’s no fault of Gael Garcia Bernal, who’s starred in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “Amores Perros” and “The Science of Sleep.” He can bring the pain through tears, and oh, what a debonair smile, but I think what was lacking here was the screenplay.

Directorially, Stewart did make some sweet choices. It was like his “Rosewater” aimed to show an Iran that isn’t portrayed in the media, and at that, I think he succeeded.

Stewart’s ‘Rosewater’ catches a real-life war of wills in an Iranian prison. TNS

He shows Iranian men and women out in droves to vote. He zooms in on voters verifying ballots with their fingerprints. In another scene, Davood is praying on his knees, as Maziar sifts through his phone a couple of feet away. Stewart goes from mid-shot to wide to show they’re on the side of the highway.

A couple of technical things this reviewer wasn’t into: shaky, almost-’80s looking shots of the street they’re driving past and a scene flooded with hashtags. He also mixes real footage with his own, and the transition between the two was bumpy.

On the plus side, there’s some perfectly executed humor among the dark. In one scene, Rosewater demands Maziar tell his wife to stop talking to the media. He throws him around the cell. Rosewater’s all up in his face and says “Call and tell her to stop talking sh— …. and you have to dial 9 to get out.”

I can read Maziar’s book “Then They Came for Me” for the despair and suspense. For Stewart’s retelling, he may have been right on the mark making a film with respect, responsibility and grace for this journalist’s story. And it was like he was making an amends for his time anchoring a political satire and, potentially, for any perceived role his show played in Maziar’s arrest.

While “Rosewater” was a bit diluted for my taste, it was sweet seeing Stewart’s debut as a director, but this one may be better suited for the small screen.

Grade: C

Now showing: Zinema 2
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kim Bodnia
Screenwriter/director: Jon Stewart
Based on novel: “Then They Came for Me” by Maziar Bahari
Time: 1:43
Rating: R for language including some crude references and violent content


INDIEWATCH: ‘Never Sleep Again’ a long, long love letter to Freddy fans

Jason, Jaws and Michael Myers. None of them held a candle to the man who made me fear water beds: Freddy Krueger, and “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” digs into the history and fandom through interviews with franchise creator Wes Craven, Freddy’s main adversary, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Freddy himself, Robert Englund, and every. single. extra and B actor involved in the making of all seven Elm Street movies.

Or so it seems.

“Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” traces
the origins of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise.

“Never Sleep Again” begins with a pretty sweet claymation sequence with a lot of “Elm Street” staples: Tina in a body bag, Freddy bursting through a torso, and I admit I was pretty jazzed for what was next.

What struck and hooked me first: Wes Craven’s insights into the creation of the horror rock star of the ’80s and beyond. Craven shares about a sinister man who creeped him out as a kid — who would later inspire Freddy Krueger; how he chose the green and red sweater based on research of a color mix that causes the most visual distress; and the inspiration for the deadly bladed glove.

Background on casting Freddy, how Robert Englund was replaced for a hot second for “Nightmare” 2 and listening to his protectiveness of the character was irresistible. And I gobbled up interviews with special effects guys on each quintessential scene in “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Craven shares that the water bed scene that so traumatized me as a kid, also jacked with the cast and crew.

BEFORE: Johnny doesn’t know what’s gonna happen.

AFTER: The scene from “Nightmare on Elm Street” that kept me off of waterbeds for a good chunk of my life.

They used a rotating room, and they had to do it in one shot. When the blood squirts out of the water bed, sparks literally flew on set, cast and crew members were covered in blood — and they couldn’t stop shooting. Everything was pretty indie, start-up with low funds, so all they had was one take.

Anyone who grew up with “Nightmare” can appreciate the start of “Never Sleep Again,” but there’s sooo much info that it gets a bit exhaustive.

Clocking in at a whopping four hours, this documentary goes through each sequel with interviews with all leading actors from “Nightmares” 1 through 7, and I was really surprised that studio New Line Cinema was built upon the Freddy empire.

If you’re not planning on venturing into this odyssey, here are some high points:

Wes Craven was only involved in bookending the franchise — which will celebrate its 30th birthday Nov. 9 — with “Nightmare” (1984) and “New Nightmare” (1994). New Line commissioned a rag-tag group of newcomer directors and writers — including one director who was basically homeless — to continue the legacy through six more films. While I thought this insane — especially after listening to how meticulous Craven was in every facet of the first film — “Never Sleep Again” shows this tactic worked the franchise for a younger, MTV audience.

Some cons about this: A decent amount of time is spent name-dropping Johnny Depp, Patricia Arquette and “LOTR” director Peter Jackson as having their start in the “Nightmare” franchise, but, their commentary is missing. And I swear directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch just let the camera roll, and I found out what people ate and spilled on their make-up during filming.
Pretty over-the-top.

The man behind the pizza face: Robert Englund donned the Freddy persona for almost 30 years.

While a lot of the details were fascinating, “Never Sleep Again” could’ve easily been edited down to less than two hours, and on a personal note, only included Craven, Heather Langenkamp and Robert Englund.

In the end, “Never Sleep Again” is a very long love letter to Freddy fans, and if you’re one of them, it’s probably worth it.

For this gal, four hours was too much.

Grade: D+

Available: Amazon Prime (to rent), Netflix Instant

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