Crystal Fairy
IFC Films
In Theaters: 07.13
Jamie (Michael Cera), an American living in Chile, and his Chilean friend Champa (Juan Andrés Silva) have made plans to go on a road trip into the desert and ingest the psychedelic San Pedro cactus with Champa’s younger brothers (Agustín and José Miguel Silva). While at a house party the night before the trip, Jamie smokes weed, snorts coke and accidentally invites the hippie girl he just met to go on the trip with him. By morning, Jamie has forgotten about the previous night and the boys hit the road. But the girl (Gaby Hoffmann), an American who calls herself Crystal Fairy, hasn’t forgotten—she’s on a bus to the desert and calls Jamie, asking to be picked up. Through the rest of the drive and into the night, Crystal Fairy irritates Jamie and baffles the three brothers with her new age ramblings and unabashed nudity—the latter of which earns her the name “Crystal Hairy.” The Silva brothers, all amateur actors, have a natural on-screen dynamic that, combined with the language barrier and culture clash of Cera and Hoffmann’s characters, makes for some genuine laughs. With a tiny budget, improvised dialogue and a cast made up largely of his brothers, writer and director Silva tells a true story from his past with believability, comedy and skill. –Cody Kirkland
Cutie and the Boxer
In Select Theaters: 08.16
One of my favorite films of Sundance 2013, Cutie and the Boxer, more than anything, is a beautiful love story. In this fantastic directorial debut, Zachary Heinzerling captures the tumultuous and oftentimes dissatisfying relationship between Japanese artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. Meeting in New York in the early ‘70s, Ushio and Noriko have been together for over 40 years, enduring the typical struggles that come with being artists in NYC: financial stress, wavering success and (Ushio’s) ego. The story focuses on Noriko’s disappointment in, but unrelenting love for Ushio (who is known for his “boxing” painting and is now 80 years old), and her gradual freedom from the weight of his artistic condescension. Heinzerling melts into their present lives inconspicuously, including Noriko’s comic-style watercolor paintings as animations along with vintage video footage to narrate the couple’s past, combining all mediums seamlessly into a narrative film that is fresh and bright, and always engaging. –Esther Meroño
Fruitvale Station
The Weinstein Company
In Theaters: 07.12
Directed by Ryan Coogler, a 27-year-old, first-time feature filmmaker, Fruitvale Station is a near-perfect, emotionally driven drama with a strong-hitting political agenda. Based on true events, the film attempts to recreate the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life before he was executed by a police officer at a BART station in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009. Grant, played by the talented Michael B. Jordan, is characterized as a down-on-his-luck young father, who can’t get out of the habit of “fucking up,” though he’s trying to turn his life around and has all the best intentions. The day leading up to Grant’s death is marked by heartfelt confessions to his girlfriend, life-changing career decisions, affectionate moments with his family and juvenile fun with his friends, which sympathizes the audience with his character from the get-go. This is where Fruitvale Station starts to get shaky. There are two sides to every story, and then a hell of a lot of gray in between. The film claims to reside in this liminal space, but it becomes a little unrealistic in its commiserating depiction of Grant, which makes his character unbelievable at times. Regardless, this film will spark action and emotion, and I sincerely hope to see more from Coogler. –Esther Meroño
Only God Forgives
In Theaters: 07.19
Two years ago, I was the biggest advocate for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive—so much so that I was one of the lobbyists to help it win the Utah Film Critics Association’s Best Picture Award. With that said, you can imagine my excitement to witness Refn’s next project that once again partners him with Ryan Gosling. In this tale, Gosling stars as Julian, a drug-dealer in Thailand who seeks revenge for the murder of his violent, sex-crazed brother. With the pressure of his commanding mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) breathing down his neck and his affection for a local prostitute (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam), Julian spirals deeper and deeper into the madness of Bangkok’s underground crime world. First off, Refn’s reunion with his Bronson cinematographer Larry Smith brings some of the most gorgeously captured imagery in years, but that’s where the positive elements of this project begin and end. As simple as this tale should be, Refn convolutes it with filmmaking styles made notable by David Lynch, which only forces one to immediately think of unoriginality. Let’s hope that this was only a passion project for the gifted director and that the next adventure will emulate his earlier works. –Jimmy Martin
Pacific Rim
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 07.12
While the majority of the world may not know the term “kaiju” yet (a Japanese word meaning “strange creature”), fans of franchises like Godzilla and Gamera are quite familiar to the destructive beasts’ nature. Now, director Guillermo del Toro has brought the creatures to a new level of annihilation in his sci-fi epic that revolves around a portal in the Pacific Ocean that has brought these ungodly beings to our doorstep. Set in the not-too-distant future, the human race has built an army of 20-story tall fighting robots manned by pilots’ movements called jaegers, but the fight is not going in our favor. With only four machines left, we find our way of life staring directly into the eyes of the apocalypse. Del Toro captures the ridiculousness and amusement of this beloved cult genre and amplifies the entertainment level tenfold with rich visual effects and dazzling fight sequences. While this year’s Man of Steel leveled one city, Pacific Rim brings them all to their knees. It’s quite the accomplishment. Del Toro commendably speaks to the childlike innocence in every adult who grew up watching these monster movies, and will be attracting many more fans with fighting moves like “rocket elbow” and using a cargo ship as a baseball bat. Prepare to squeal like an 8-year-old. –Jimmy Martin