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Learning the Rules of Teamwork & Dismantling a Crime Mystery

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By Roger Costa

HEART OF CHAMPIONS

One of the most versatile actors working today, two-time Oscar nominated Michael Shannon gives another top-notch performance in this sports drama directed by Michael Mailer. He plays the major key role in the narrative, a war veteran who is assigned as the rowing coach for a promising, Olympic-skilled but troubled College team, aiming to conquer the National championship. His biggest challenge is to redefine the players’ methods of commanding their boat, but to get them in shape he needs to understand their feelings, differences and troubles first. His involvement with some of the players, including the narcissist Captain, and the two other lonesome, heartbroken leaders, turns the atmosphere into a family-in-crisis like, constantly struggling to make the boys settle peace. His goal is to teach them the rules of the game, most essentially the importance of teamwork, loyalty and comradeship. A coherent, efficient and intensely executed coming of age sports tale, director Mailer extracts solid performances from the rest of the cast as well, creating a convincingly absorbing and relatable, modest production. Shannon, of course, is the main attribute in the film, a naturally aggressive and determined force, who takes total control of the situation once he’s in scene. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he scores another Academy nomination for this inspiring indie production. A highly entertaining and compelling narrative, it is a triumphant and inspiring look at the power of the athletic eagerness.

(Vertical Entertainment. 10/29. AMC Empire 25 NYC.)

ONLY THE ANIMALS

Seductive, mysterious and bizarre, Award-winning filmmaker Dominik Moll’s latest film is an enigmatic crime thriller about the investigation of a glamorous woman’s disappearance during a snowstorm. Inventively edited and structured as a magnificent multi-character study, the director deeply and intimately introduces the complicated lives of five different people as they become suspects of the murder: a lonesome farmer, a husband and a wife both engaged in adultery, an attractive and ambiguous waitress, and an African cyber scam con. As the film unveils a net of coincidence connecting them, it displays important topics of betrayal, lust, greed and manipulation, all set to a lush cinematography, illuminated by its setting, the French Mountain villages. An acclaimed selection at Venice and winner of the Best Feature Prize at both Munich and Tokyo Film Festivals, Moll scores an impressive and irresistibly mischievous erotic murder mystery.

(Cohen Media Group. 10/29. Quad Cinema NYC.)


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