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Indie Focus: A new star blooms in ‘Wild Rose’

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

The relatively new film series known as Projections continues to host some of the freshest events on the local film calendar. On Sunday, June 23, at the Bootleg Theater, they screen a restored print of Satyajit Ray’s 1964 drama “Charulata” along with Ishu Patel’s 1984 short film “Paradise.”

For anyone wanting to see one more film in LACMA’s Bing Theatre, which is set for demolition as part of the museum’s upcoming remodel, there are a few chances left. The long-running Tuesday matinee series will conclude with Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be” on June 25 and the final film in the recent series of directors’ final films will be Yasujiro Ozu’s “An Autumn Afternoon” on June 27.. A recent note from LACMA also promised one last public screening at the Bing sometime in July.

The weekend of June 29-30 will see a tribute to filmmaker Lynn Shelton at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater, including her films ”Your Sister’s Sister,” “Humpday” and more. I will be moderating a conversation with Shelton after a free screening of her new film “Sword of Trust,” starring Marc Maron.

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We will have some more screening and Q&A events of our own coming up soon. For info and updates, go to events.latimes.com.

TORONTO, ONT., CA -- SEPTEMBER 09, 2018-- Actress Jessie Buckley, from the film “Wild Rose,” photogr
Actress Jessie Buckley, from the film “Wild Rose,” photographed in the L.A. Times Photo and Video Studio at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

‘Wild Rose’

Directed by Tom Harper, “Wild Rose” is the story of a woman in Glasgow named Rose-Lynn, newly released from prison, who wants to renew her dream of being a country music singer and going to Nashville. More than anything, the film is a showcase for lead actress Jessie Buckley, who does her own singing, alongside supporting performances from Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo.

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Reviewing the film for The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “The crowd-pleasing spirit that animates ‘Wild Rose’ is also, happily, a spirit of nuance, and Rose-Lynn’s soul-searching leads her to an honest, hard-earned understanding of who she is and who she is destined to become.”

At Time, Stephanie Zacharek wrote, “Rose-Lynn is neither a wholly selfish character nor a selfless one. ... But when Rose-Lynn opens her mouth to sing — her speaking voice has a Glaswegian burr, but her singing voice is all Tennessee — you’re wheedled into forgetting her flaws and sins and wanting only the best for her and her kids. The sound that pours out of her, in songs of yearning and regret, of wanting to be bad and trying to be good, is a reminder that country music belongs to everyone. No matter where it was born, it’s at home wherever it goes.”

For the Tribune News Service, Katie Walsh wrote, “It’s a tailor-made role for the electrifying Buckley, an actor who communicates pure primal instinct with a startling immediacy. As Rose-Lynn, she communicates every emotion physically, on her face, in her body and her voice.”

At The Atlantic, David Sims noted, “The real delight of ‘Wild Rose,’ though, is how delicately it finds a narrative that rewards Rose-Lynn’s obvious skill without succumbing to easy tropes about how natural talent and fame go hand in hand. That Rose-Lynn is an onstage force is easy to tell from the second she picks up a microphone, but Taylor makes this film less about her gift than about the maturity she needs to take it beyond the local Glasgow pubs.”

Movie review
Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) and Aubrey Plaza in “Child’s Play.”
(Orion Pictures)

‘Child’s Play’

In a new reboot of the horror series that goes all the way back to the 1980s, “Child’s Play,” directed by Lars Klevberg, adds a smartphone-era technological twist to the story of a lifelike doll that takes on a personality of its own. With performances from Aubrey Plaza and Brian Tyree Henry and voice work by Mark Hamill, the new film also ramps up the self-aware satire.

In his review for The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “Beneath all the nasty jolts and vicious bloodlettings in the new ‘Child’s Play’ is almost enough material to furnish a mildly interesting episode of ‘Black Mirror.’ A high-tech, ultra-gory reboot of the 1988 thriller that spawned a still-ongoing horror franchise, this new movie also turns on a creepy red-haired doll named Chucky, only this time he hasn’t been supernaturally possessed by the soul of a serial killer. He’s something altogether more banal, a defective robot manufactured by a powerful tech company, Kaslan, whose sleek Apple-like gadgets have all but overtaken every household.”

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Jen Yamato wrote about the unusual rights situation that has led to two separate strands of “Child’s Play” movies. As for the tech-gone-wrong aspect of this new film, producer Seth Grahame-Smith said, “It seems like we’re always reading about Alexa spying on people, or smart homes being hacked. And it feels inevitable that in the next five years some big tech company, whether it’s Apple or Google, Amazon, Boston Dynamics — is going to create a smart, connected child companion toy.”

At the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw celebrated the film’s satirical bent, noting, “Chucky reminds me of the sinister ventriloquist dummy from ‘Dead of Night’ but without the ventriloquist. Or perhaps the consumer himself is the impotent ventriloquist, the kid who is encouraged to identify utterly with an uncanny anthropomorphic toy whose purpose is to get you to buy more stuff. ‘Child’s Play’ bubbles with entertaining bad taste.”

For Birth.Movies.Death., Britt Hayes wrote that the film’s opening explanation of the doll’s origins set “the tone for the extremely silly horror film that follows. With apologies to Don Mancini (this is the first ‘Child’s Play’ movie made without his involvement), this reboot is actually, oddly enjoyable. Is it good? Not particularly, but it’s a solidly good and gory time with a self-aware streak that pays homage both to the original films and the ’80s genre flicks ‘Child’s Play’ fans know and love.”

Toni Morrison in TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, a Magnolia Pictures release. Credit: Timothy Greenf
Toni Morrison in “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” a Magnolia Pictures release.
(Timothy Greenfield-Sanders/Magnolia Pictures)

‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’

Directed by photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” is a portrait of the acclaimed writer that includes candid interviews not only with Morrison herself but also figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz and Angela Davis.

In his review for The Times, Gary Goldstein wrote, “To have the towering Morrison, now 88, willing to face your cameras — head on, in fact — and tell her story as candidly, heartily and humanely as she does here, is a singular gift that keeps on giving throughout the film’s two captivating hours. She’s a woman as seemingly proud of her carrot cake recipe as she is of her writing.”

For the New York Times, A.O. Scott said, “It’s less a biography than an extended essay, which is entirely a good thing. If you want a thorough documentation of everything Morrison has done and everyone she knows, there’s always Wikipedia. But if you’d prefer an argument for her importance and a sense of her presence, then you won’t be disappointed.”

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Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter: @IndieFocus.

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