By Steve Greene | Indiewire March 28, 2014 at 12:05PM
These days, the number of indies premiering on a weekly basis can be both thrilling and intimidating. To help sift through the number of new releases (independent or otherwise), we've created a weekend film guide. Below you'll find basic plot, personnel and cinema information for today's fresh offerings.
Here are the films opening theatrically in the U.S. today, Friday, March 28th. Synopses provided by distributor unless listed otherwise.
Director: Seth Fisher
Cast: Seth Fisher, Laila Robins, Mark Blum, Fred Melamed, Brian Cox, Mei Melancon, Nicole Ansari-Cox
Synopsis: "Celebrated playwright, Harold Blumenthal, has passed away after succumbing to cardiac arrest while laughing at his own joke. Now, Harold’s estranged and jealous brother, Saul, must confront his personal hang-ups in order to deliver himself from an epic bout of constipation. Meanwhile, Saul’s wife and son must each grapple with their own personal obstacles through a set of circumstances so improbably ironic they might as well have been lifted from one of Harold’s plays."
Theatrical Release Cities: New York
Get to Know the Filmmaker: You can read a conversation between Fisher and The Playlist's Katie Walsh from last year's Santa Barbara International Film Festival here.
Boys of Abu Ghraib
Director: Luke Moran
Cast: Sara Paxton, Sean Astin, Michael Welch, John Heard, Elijah Kelley, John Robinson, Kristen Rakes, Omid Abtahi, Jermaine Williams, Rick Vargas
Synopsis: "An American soldier deployed at Abu Ghraib finds himself behind the walls of the infamous Hard Site, where he develops a secret friendship with an Iraqi detainee."
Theatrical Release Cities: Los Angeles
Director: Drake Doremus
Cast: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis, Kyle MacLachlan, Alexandra Wentworth, Lucy Davenport, Hugo Becker, Ben Shenkman, Brendan Dooling, Nicole Patrick, Elise Eberle
Synopsis: "As summer turns to fall, music teacher Keith Reynolds privately reminisces about his days as a starving artist in the city. While his wife, Megan, and daughter, Lauren, look forward to Lauren’s final year of high school, Keith clings to those evenings he’s asked to sub as a cellist with a prestigious Manhattan symphony. When Megan decides the family should host foreign exchange student Sophie, the British high school senior soon rekindles an impetuous aspect of Keith’s personality. [Sundance Film Festival]"
Criticwire Grade Average: B (19 reviews)
When It Premiered: A Sundance 2013 selection, Felicity Jones cracked the top 15 in the Best Lead Performance category of our festival critics poll.
Take ToH's Word For It: "It’s fairly telegraphed from the film’s opening minutes that Sophie’s presence will disrupt life around the sleepy New York suburb where she’s transplanted. And the film boasts a solid visual style and strong performances to at first ignore the inevitable -- and boring -- other plot contrivances clearly at work." - Beth Hanna
Theatrical Release Cities: New York, Chicago, Detroit, East Hanover, Monclair, Kew Gardens, Malverne, Roslyn, Stony Brook, Dallas, Plano (opens in Los Angeles April 4)
Director: Diego Luna
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Gabriel Mann, America Ferrera, Michael Peña, Jacob Vargas, Lisa Brenner, Yancey Arias, Wes Bentley, John Ortiz, John Malkovich
Synopsis: "Cesar Chavez chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer. Torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to bringing dignity and justice to others, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle for the rights of farm workers. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual's ability to change the system."
Criticwire Grade Average: B- (9 reviews)
Take The Playlist's Word For It: "An intermittently compelling overview of a movement, but only a cursory portrait of a man, 'Cesar Chavez'...is a well-intentioned, respectable and respectful biopic. But the conservative format of the film never goes beyond the kind of paint-by-numbers approach that stultifies so many entries in this genre." - Jessica Kiang
Theatrical Release Cities: Wide.
Finding Vivian Maier
Director: John Maloof & Charlie Siskel
Synopsis: "John Maloof loves forced sales where he can acquire items from an individual’s private estate. One day he makes the astonishing discovery of a box of undeveloped films and negatives that were found in an attic. The material reveals moving moments of ordinary life in America which are reminiscent of the street photography of major artists such as Helen Levitt or Robert Frank. There are a particularly large number of photographs of children, absorbed in play, or staring confidently into the lens. But who was behind the camera? And why were the photographs of Vivian Maier, who died alone at the age of 83, never discovered?" [Berlin International Film Festival]
Criticwire Grade Average: A- (8 reviews)
Theatrical Release Cities: New York and Los Angeles (coming to Chicago on April 4th)