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A Visitor from Outer Space, Fighting Prejudice, Meditating on Existentialism & A Lonely Boy Crisis

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By Roger Costa

SPUTNIK⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of this year’s most satisfying Sci-fi horror projects, Russian director Egor Abramenko crafted an amusing, scary, creepy and fabulously inventive take on the Alien saga. In early 80’s during the Soviet Cold War, an astronaut is kept under surveillance after he concludes his mission in space and returns to Earth. The reason for his “Quarantine” is due to the Alien residing inside him, leaving his body every night in search of fuel, which the team responsible for the research couldn’t figure out yet. A respected but defiant psychoanalyst is invited to help with the project, forming a special connection to the astronaut, that could lead them to break the Government’s commands and endanger themselves. Mysteriously seductive, well-crafted and intense, the film really builds up suspense, delivering unexpected scary moments, enhanced by the efficient score and visionary cinematography. The haunting atmosphere prevails throughout the entire narrative, incredibly succeeding in its reinvention of the old school horror style. Subtly addressing political interests (so relevant for our COVID times) and the social divisions created among heroic debates, this low-budget gripping thriller is certainly a crowd-pleaser, one of those instantly cult films that will be celebrated for ages at midnight sessions and Drive-In Theaters. Undoubtedly, there should be a Hollywood remake in the works.

(IFC Films. Now Playing in Theaters and VOD.)

VALENTINA⭐⭐⭐⭐

An impressive directorial feature debut, Brazilian emerging director Cássio Pereira dos Santos proves himself to be an efficient, accomplished storyteller. Following the hopeful and tragic life of a Transgender teen girl embracing freedom, but fighting with the system for her right of choice, the film paints an accurate canvas of prejudice and manipulation in South America. Trans actress Thiessa Woinbackk delivers an affecting, courageous breakthrough performance as the title role, a humble, poor girl who just moved with her mom to the countryside of Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, living in someone’s home as a favor, and now runs against time to enroll in her new school using her social name instead of the male one she was born with. She befriends two other outcast in school, an openly gay boy who had never kissed anyone, and a pregnant teen. The trio becomes attached and confidants of each other, forming a special, strong friendship, that will face the inevitable obstacles as a team. In the meantime, her mother starts a new relationship with a local driver, in an attempt to give love another chance. Convincingly dramatic and naturalistic, the film cautiously observes these bonds reflecting on the role of compassion and equality with a vivid, timely look on the issues.

(World Premiere at Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, taking place August 20-30, followed by a screening at OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, on August 29.)

THE AUGUST VIRGIN⭐⭐⭐

Influenced by the romantic, melancholic and erotic compositions of Eric Rohmer, this efficient Spanish rom-com centers on the emotions of a young actress who spends the heat wave season in Madrid, exploring the city, its history and fables, its residents, visitors and the love inspirations she finds in every corner. Through her encounters with ex-lovers, friends, and acquaintances, writer/director Jonás Trueba’s 10th directorial effort creates a beautifully shot and conceived homage to the city, to young love, to Summer and to friendship. In a bright, enlightening atmosphere, filled with enthusiastic, bohemian folks, and landing in street Festivals, museums, cafes, clubs and pubs, Eva discusses philosophies about living, coexisting, motherhood, maturity, and settlement for the future, while the director puts together the pieces of a celebratory ode to Millennials and their expectations. Irresistibly enchanting, intellectual and organic, the result is a melodic and utterly humane tale about fulfillment and soul matching.

(Outsider Pictures. 8/21. Theaters and Virtual Cinemas.)

SUMMER WHITE⭐⭐⭐

One of the most acclaimed films to come out of this year’s Sundance, Mexican filmmaker Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson’s Neo-realism infused drama is an inventive, delicate and observational take on family jealousy and teen rebellion. For a 13 year old boy who has been living divided by his parents, and missing the right tone of affection and care, it’s normal to feel angry, lost and jealous of his mother’s latest boyfriend. Things turns even more complicated when she brings the man home, threatening the idyllical, intimate and co-dependent relationship they share together. Lonely and living on his own world, seeking maturity and independence, the boy becomes increasingly aggressive and out of control, committing interior crimes in order to restore his throne as the center of the attentions. Gorgeously shot with melancholic colors and absorbing angles, the first-time feature length director crafted an extremely observational, sensitive, touching and inclusive family drama, extracting solid performances from the entire cast, especially our young hero. A complex and coherent character study, it’s a thoughtful drama about finding your identity, and leaving the nest. It’s also very easy to relate with it, if one has ever lived in between parents, and never found the right balance of parental love.

(Visit Films. 8/20 at Queens Drive-In event promoted by Rooftop Films and Museum of the Moving Image. Go to http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2020/08/20/detail/summer-white-blanco-de-verano for details.)


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