Director Hal Hartley’s style first came to prominence with 1997’s “Henry Fool,” the tale of a self-involved garbage man-come-novelist (Thomas Jay Ryan) who romances the hapless Fay Grim (Parker Posey). Whereas that movie poked fun at literary aspirations, plot-heavy 2006 sequel “Fay Grim” grappled with a post-9/11 world in which the elusive Henry became a wanted terrorist. Concluding with Fay taking the fall for Henry and winding up behind bars, the story set the stage for a third character to take prominence in this idiosyncratic indie franchise — the couple’s son, Ned (Liam Aiken), whose time has come to wrestle control of the messy situation. With “Ned Rifle,” Hartley brings this eccentric trilogy to a close, centering on Henry and Fay’s forlorn son as yet another template for skewering American sensibilities. The result consolidates the appeal of Hartley’s work into a savvy group of irreverent moments and satiric asides that somehow manage to resonate on an emotional level as well. Hartley’s writing engenders the unique feeling of a familiar touch that still manages to surprise you. “Ned Rifle” excels at that effect. [Read Eric Kohn’s full review here.]
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“Cut Bank (April 3)
“Cut Bank” is Matt Shakman’s first film. He runs the Black Dahlia Theatre in Los Angeles and has a variety of credits for directing television (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia,” “Fargo,” “Mad Men,” “The Good Wife”). Starring Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton and John Malkovich, the noir thriller follows Dwayne Mclaren, a young auto mechanic and former high school football star, who tries to escape his hometown. A son of tiny Cut Bank, Montana, “the coldest spot in the nation,” handsome young Dwayne yearns to escape small town life with his vivacious girlfriend. When he tries abget-rich-quick scheme, Dwayne finds that fate — and a bumbling, unruly accomplice — are working against him. Everything quickly goes from bad to worse to deadly in this one-of-kind all-American thriller.
“Marfa Girl” (April 3)
“I think ‘Marfa Girl’ is my best film or at least as good as any film I’ve made,” said “Marfa Girl” director Larry Clark back in October when the film was acquired by Breaking Glass. “Marfa Girl” follows Clark’s tendency for youthful coming-of-age stories as it focuses on a group of young adults living in the West Texas town of Marfa near the Mexican border. The film stars Adam Mediano, Mercedes Maxwell, Indigo Rael, Lindsay Jones and Drake Burnette. It’s is a web of sex, violence and punk rock.
“5 to 7” (April 10)
There is an entire genre of films about a young man yearning to be a famous writer. “5 to 7” opens with the hero, Brian Bloom (Anton Yeltchin) announcing in a precious voice-over that the best writing can be found on the benches of Central Park. He meets Arielle (Berenice Marlohe), a gorgeous and sophisticated wife of a French diplomat. They soon embark on an affair that challenges Brian’s traditional American ideas of love and relationships. A cosmopolitan comedy of manners told with surprising warmth and lightness, “5 to 7” marks “Mad Men” writer-producer Victor Levin’s directorial debut.
“Lost River” (April 10)
With the eerie, dreamlike noir of David Lynch, poetic visuals of lower class decay a la Harmony Korine’s “Gummo,” and the cartoonish violence found in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive,” Ryan Gosling’s flashy directorial debut “Lost River” is certainly an accomplished collage of familiar ingredients. Struggling single mom Billy (Christina Hendricks) lives a tattered existence with her teen son Bones (Ian De Caestecker) and toddler Franky (Landyn Stewart), desperately attempting to hold onto their home without defaulting on her loans. Pleading for assistance from local banker Dave (a slimy Ben Mendolsohn), she takes his recommendation for a gig at a peculiar local cabaret headlined by eccentric performer Cat (a ghoulish Eva Mendes, holding her own in several fleeting scenes for her outlandish energy).
READ MORE: The 10 Indie Films You Must See This April
“Misery Loves Comedy” (April 14)
From Heretic Films and NewAley Pictures, “Misery Loves Comedy” finds veteran actor Kevin Pollak candidly interviewing dozens of the biggest names in comedy, from Jimmy Fallon and Amy Schumer to Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Lisa Kudrow, Larry David, Steve Coogan, Jim Gaffigan and Whoopi Goldberg. As the subjects share their unique paths to making people laugh with hilarious anecdotes and insights into the underbelly of the comedy world, “Misery Loves Comedy” becomes a master class on the art of humor and its rare ability to help us understand life.
“Just About Famous” (April 21)
The world of the celebrity impersonator is a mysterious, often overlooked one. That ends in the documentary “Just About Famous,” as countless “stars” come together to journey to an artist tribute convention — and it’s all caught on tape. Directed by Matt Mamula and Jason Kovacsev, “Just About Famous” follows a wide range of celebrity impersonators through their every day lives – -from Elvis Presley to Barack Obama to Hugh Hefner — as they journey to an artist tribute convention and live out their wildest dreams.
“Slow West” (DirecTV, April 16)
Anyone walking into “Slow West” expecting all the fixings of a typical western will be in for a curveball. The first feature from Scottish director John Maclean, produced with funding from the British Film Institute and the New Zealand Film Commission, it certainly offers a different perspective on the genre. “Slow West” begins in post-Civil War Colorado, where 17-year-old blueblood Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has arrived from Scotland in search of his sweetheart, Rose, who fled to America with her father after a tragic accident sent them on the run. Much too dainty for the unsympathetic wild west, Jay soon finds himself facing the barrel of an enemy’s gun before he’s rescued by the brutish Silas (Michael Fassbender).
“Alex of Venice” (April 17)
Actor Chris Messina’s directorial debut is a nuanced family drama centering around the titular Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an environmental lawyer whose stay-at-home husband George (Messina, in a small but distinctive performance) takes a leave of absence and in turn leaves her to pick up the pieces. Those pieces include their young son (Skylar Gaertner) in the bloom of his first crush, her former-TV star father (Don Johnson) grappling with aging beyond his mindset, the return of her flakey, newly rehabbed sister (co-screenwriter Katie Nehra), and a promisingly empowering work-related romance (a melt-worthy Derek Luke).
“Below Dreams” (April 21)
There’s something about New Orleans. It’s something gritty, sultry and beautiful and writer/director, Garrett Bradley, delves into it with her film, “Below Dreams.” The film, that world premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, loosely follows the narratives of three very different people — Elliott, newly arrived from New York, single mother Leann, and unemployed father Jamaine — as they negotiate New Orleans’ streets, neighborhoods, and residents in search of an upward path to fulfill their dreams. But as each character experiences the city’s (and life’s) realities, it becomes clear these hopes and dreams are no longer possible, and that with change must also come sacrifice. Bradley’s impressive debut feature is shot verité documentary style to provide an unpolished, affecting realness as we become immersed in the characters’ individual challenges and quests amid the relaxed, yet demanding urban backdrop of the Crescent City.
“Adult Beginners” (April 24)
When a self-centered entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) loses everything on the night of his company’s big launch, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law and 3-year-old nephew in the suburbs, in this comedy about familial struggle that premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and screened last month at the SXSW Film Festival to positive notices. In an attempt to make himself useful as the family’s nanny, he tries to find a way to connect with the people he’s drifted away from.
“In Country” (April 28)
What would compel people to reenact one of the most controversial wars in history? That’s the question asked by “In Country,” directed by Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara, which follows a group of men, from an Iraq veteran to a South Vietnamese Army officer, as they recreate the Vietnam War. For one weekend a year, they put aside everything else to put all their effort into transforming into combatants and bringing to life the infamous war. Why Vietnam? Why at all? What drives their passion? This documentary aims to find out.
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