With the Academy Awards now a distant memory, it's time for film lovers to look at what the new year has in store for them. Thankfully, we here in the Holy City have the Terrace Charleston Film Festival to kick-start our cinematic 2015.
This year's fest includes several cool new Hollywood flicks, like David Croneberg's Map to the Stars (starring Oscar-winner Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson), Escobar: Paradise Lost (featuring Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro), the riveting documentary The Green Prince, and Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu, as well as three local feature-length films: Travis Pearson's America Street, David Weintaub's Call of the Ancient Mariner, and Thibaut Fagonde's Overalls and Aprons. And as in year's past, the TCFF will also show five blocks of short films; three will be of Oscar-nominated shorts, and two feature local ones.
If any of this tickles your fancy, then read on and learn more about a few City Paper festival faves.
Maps to the Stars
Fri. March 13, 7 p.m.; Sat. March 14, 2:30 p.m.; Sun. March 15, 7 p.m.
How you respond to Maps to the Stars will depend a great deal on how you respond to David Cronenberg films altogether. I would place the film pretty firmly in the realm of his 21st century work. In other words, it's not a horror film — at least not in the strict sense. That said, if you know Cronenberg's earlier work, it's hard not to call his horror pictures to mind with this film. There's certainly a measure of (non-fantasticated) "body horror" here, and I found it hard not to see parallels to Dead Ringers (1988). For that matter, Julianne Moore and John Cusack's characters frequently seemed related to Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed in The Brood (1979) — minus Eggar actually giving "birth" to humanoid expressions of her inner rage (it's Cronenberg, so you either grok that or you don't). Whether you can make these connections or not, chances are you're going to end up with a horror-movie vibe from Maps to the Stars, even though this almost clinically detached skewering of Hollywood could best be described as a psychodrama satire that mutates into a psychodrama thriller — with some mystical overtones. —Ken Hanke
The Green Prince
Sat. March 14, 12:30 p.m.
Where would we be without Errol Morris? Were it not for him and his films, most notably his two most popular works The Thin Blue Line and The Fog of War, documentaries might still be viewed by mainstream movie-goers as dry, fact-heavy lectures. For better or worse, Morris' cinematic approach to telling complex stories has paved the way for films such as Nadav Schirman's The Green Prince. Using talking-head narration and superlative reenactments, Schirman takes the tale of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, as he becomes a valued informant for Isreal's internal security service Shin Bet and crafts what is almost a psychological thriller. The espionage that Schirman engages in to supply Shin Bet agent Gonen Ben-Itzhak regarding Hamas' pursuits makes for a tense night at the movies. Elevated by archival footage, Max Richter's constantly mounting score, and staged, green-tinted night-vision scenes, Schirman takes an already white-knuckle tale and makes it more gripping. —Kevin Young
Escobar: Paradise Lost
Fri. March 13, 9:30 p.m.; Sat. March 14, 7 p.m.
Young surfer Nick (Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson) and his brother Dylan (Brady Corbet) head to the Colombian coast to set up a surf school. Once there, Nick goes gaga for one of the locals, Maria (Claudia Traisac). Things are awesome as awesome can get until she brings him to her uncle's birthday party. Turns out the aforementioned uncle is none other than billionaire coke lord Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro). On paper, it reads like a Saturday Night Live sketch, but that's not the case. This is a fictional melodramatic thriller told from Nick's point-of-view as he descends into Escobar's world. While the film itself has some fun and suspenseful moments, Escobar's tale didn't need to be told through the fictionalized eyes of the male tribute from District 12; a true story involving cocaine and gangsters is appealing enough for most movie-goers. The rest of the cast is fine and does the necessary heavy lifting for their roles, but Del Toro is the reason to see this film. His performance evokes some of the naturalistic acting he did as Che Guevara, a nice chunk of his B-movie villainy in Oliver Stone's Savages, and a smidge of his bat-country craziness in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Come for the Escobar, stay for the Del Toro. —Kevin Young