FREE STATE OF JONES Review plus 3 More Big Indies

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So many independent films were released this week I can’t begin to review, or even see, them all, but I thought I’d give you a rundown of the films you’ve probably heard the most about.

Free State of Jones ReviewFREE STATE OF JONES Review

Alright alright alright, let’s start out with this Matthew McConaughey vehicle, probably the biggest little indie to premiere this week. If you liked 20 Years a Slave (and I really did), you’ll be into this film, which is also about life in the South during the Civil War. Free State of Jones, however, is based on the true story of defiant Southern farmer Newt Knight and his extraordinary armed rebellion against the Confederacy. It’s a powerful, moving story, but that doesn’t mean it moves quickly. The heat of summer popcorn season is an odd time to release this very serious and often grim film.

Rated R

139 Minutes

Weiner dog reviewWEINER DOG Review

This film should come with a warning: Spoiler Alert! It does not end well. I tell you this because you’ll see the ads, which make it look like a happy little comedy about a Dachshund and its various owners, and, as a dog lover, you’ll probably be inclined see it. But it’s the dog lovers who should stay away, because the ending is shamelessly, excruciatingly unrelenting and disturbing. You’ll wish you’d never sat through bleak filmmaker Todd Solondz’s funeral procession of exceedingly depressed characters, even if they are played by fine actors including Greta Gerwig, Danny DeVito, Julie Delpy, Ellen Burstyn and Zosia Mamet.

Rated R

1 Hour 30 Minutes

he Neon Demon ReviewTHE NEON DEMON Review

Observe the stylish poster depicting a forlorn but heavily made-up Elle Fanning, dripping with paint — or is that blood? Visually stunning but cinematically stultifying, this bizarre, self-consciously independent film tells the tale of a seminally beautiful waif who moves to Los Angeles to model, and is devoured by the cruel and jealous people in the fashion industry. You’ll find lots of blood and fashion here, but no characters who are even remotely likable or relatable. My audience of critics laughed at the most dramatic moments. I can’t imagine how this film ever got funded.

Rated R

110 Minutes

Into the Forest reviewINTO THE FOREST Review

Not to be confused with the musical Into the Woods, this is the best received film of the bunch–last time I checked it had an 80% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating. And I love the fact that you don’t have to go to the theater and spend a fortune to see it, since it’s available On Demand. It stars the wildly talented Ellen Page (Juno) and Evan Rachal Wood as a couple of sisters who are stranded in their remote, Pacific Northwest cabin, when a global power outage signals what could be the apocalypse. It’s well-acted, well-shot, and the score is outstanding, but there’s one major plot point I just can’t get past: They’re saving their last bit of gasoline for a major emergency, and if death or rape aren’t defined as emergencies, I don’t know what is.

Rated R

1 Hour 41 Minutes

FREE STATE OF JONES Review plus Three More Big Name Indies

by Lisa Johnson Mandell

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and seen on Rotten Tomatoes. She recently founded the new lifestyle website, where celebrities and experts share their 5 favorite things in the fields of entertainment, lifestyle, wellness, home and food & drink.

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