21 Contributions by: Tara Goe (Page 2)

Staff & contributors

A crazy, high-speed movie about double-dealing crooks and thieves living along the Danube River in Serbia. Such a description probably makes this movie sound dark and menacing, trust me it is anything but. It is filled to the brim with delightful music, slapstick humor, bizarre contraptions, shotgun weddings -- with a sweet romantic caper at its center. If winter weather is getting you down, consider watching this film as a fun & sunny antidote.

Robyn Davidson decided to cross 1,700 miles in the Australian desert with four camels and her trusty dog, and this film recounts her real-life journey. In many ways this is a companion piece to Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, also released in theaters in 2014. While I enjoyed Wild, it went out of its way to make the protagonist’s journey understood to audiences. Tracks gives Robyn some light shading and backstory, but unlike Wild it almost focuses solely on her journey across the desert. And what a desert it is! The scenery is shot beautifully and we feel as though we are truly on this daring journey with her, traveling alien landscapes with little to depend on beyond our animal companions and our wits. We know the outcome (since this is a true story) but we are still thrilled to see how it unfolds. What does it all mean, and what was the journey’s purpose? Thankfully, in the end, the answer is left as enigmatic as the heroine herself.

This documentary is about a unique program in Chicago called CeaseFire whose sole aim is to stop violent deaths in poor urban areas. CeaseFire is staffed by ex-gang members and ex-convicts who try to intervene in conflicts in their community, particularly those that may escalate into extreme violence or death. In these neighborhoods though, violent conflict can result from something as minor as someone making a funky comment about someone else’s shoes. This makes total success for a project like CeaseFire nearly impossible. It is not a totally depressing film though as the program and its practitioners are all pretty amazing, and director Steve James (who made Hoop Dreams) has unparalleled access to these struggling communities.

This is a fun genre mashup B-movie, in the vein of old John Carpenter films or those movies you used to run across on late-night cable in the 80s and early 90s. Dan Stevens (that handsome chap from Downton Abbey) gives a knock-out performance as the titular guest (David), who in the movie’s beginning has just shown up on the doorstep of the Peterson family. He says he’s there to pay his respects to the family -- he served with their son, who died in action -- but there is something just a little bit off about him. Everyone in the family is charmed by David except for daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), who approaches him with extreme caution even though she’s clearly impressed by his six-pack abs. The films starts at a slow burn before devolving into nutty, violent chaos, but maintains a dark cheeky sense of humor throughout. The goth pop soundtrack is also killer.

One of the best, twistiest con movies in recent memory. Seasoned con artist Marcos takes young Juan under his wing after witnessing him pull a bill-switching scam in a deli. Soon Juan is learning the game and the two are roped into trying to pull off the largest scam in Marcos’ storied career, the selling of a set of incredibly rare stamps (the “nine queens” of the title). Along the way they will have to deal with a rotating cast of schemers, thieves, crooks -- and Marcos’ estranged sister. A superior little crime thriller, this one will have you guessing right up until the end.

Notorious comic artist Robert (R.) Crumb is definitely the most well-adjusted member of his immediate family. Fairly early in this documentary we are introduced to his two sibling brothers (mom is briefly viewed as well) and it becomes apparent that his childhood was less than rosy. Crumb and his brothers drew mind-blowing comics as an escape from their chaotic childhood, but it was only R. who would turn his talents into a means of permanent escape, while his oldest brother remains at home with his mom and never leaves the house, and his youngest brother is holed up in a seedy residence hotel and spends his days sitting on a bed of nails (I kid you not.) Whether or not you’re a fan of Crumb’s work, this is an amazing documentary about an eccentric individual and the world of underground comics.