Just Booked at The Nightlight: The People Garden (2016), Opens 9/12

The People Garden, written and directed by Nadia Litz, follows Sweetpea on her quixotic journey filled with first curiosities and absurdities, and later unnerving revelations and chilling realities. That she wants to end a relationship in person instead of say, over phone, text, or simple 21st century ghosting, is just one of the ways Litz comments on social interaction.

The People Garden (2016), Opens September 12th

It seems Jamie has wandered off on his own volition, leaving behind a crew waiting his return, including a former sex symbol now in her later years (Pamela Anderson), who is starring alongside Jaimi in this video. The crew includes a group of men who speak calmly about otherwise troublesome incidents, and often huddle and whisper when Sweetpea is away.

Litz has a knack for turning seemingly innocuous shots into something unsettling, and there is a patience to the pacing and storytelling that is simultaneously calming. One of the first shots has Sweetpea standing on front of a customs agent in Japan, who is wearing a white mask over his mouth, asking a question in the most robotic of voices. Litz, whose previous works include Hotel Congress and Big Muddy, also has a tendency to wonderfully break free of the stereotypical confines and notions of low-budget Canadian films.

We know something in this world is off, we know it’s probably nothing especially pleasant, but The People Garden has a clarion voice and focused idea.

~~ Anthony Marcusa, intheseats.ca

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Don’t Think Twice (2016), Opens 8/19

Don’t Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia’s wonderful new film, is so spot-on in its evocation of that whole “scene,” onstage and off—its intimacy, competition, struggles and rhythms—that at times it feels like a documentary.

Don’t Think Twice (2016), Opens August 19th

The movie has the patience and intelligence to approach extremely esoteric concepts: improv’s “group mind,” the generosity of good performers, the specific rules of improv and how they impact the group outside the theatre. Birbiglia is a stand-up comedian and director (Sleepwalk With Me is his first film), with a background in improv. Not only does he know that world so well, he also knows how to communicate it to an audience. Don’t Think Twice is hilarious, yes, but it’s also thoughtful and sad and sweet. Birbiglia knows how to communicate those things, too.

Don’t Think Twice follows a New York-based improv group called, appropriately, “The Commune” through a year in their lives. The Brooklyn theatre where they’ve been doing improv has been sold, and homelessness approaches. It’s a very New York problem, as small black-box theaters disappear one by one, gleaming condos and Starbucks rising in their place, a situation that strands the non-Union theatre scene in a desert. The Commune casts around desperately for an affordable space, and along with that are the trials and tribulations of each group member. It sounds like Don’t Think Twice is your run-of-the-mill, 20-something ensemble comedy, but it’s not. Grounded in a very specific scene, it understands the world in which these characters operate, and what happens when a close group like that faces fracturing change.

~~ Sheila O’Malley, rogerebert.com

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Café Society (2016), Opens 7/29

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and the protean Steve Carell, Cafe Society is of course funny, but it also ends up, almost without our realizing it, trafficking in memory, regret and the fate of relationships in a world of romantic melancholy where, as someone says, “in matters of the heart, people do foolish things.”

Café Society (2016), Opens July 29th

There is…a feeling throughout Cafe Society of Allen pleasantly indulging himself, doing things he enjoys like coming up with mini-bios of nightclub patrons we barely meet that the director conveys with relish in the voice-over he reads himself.

Also, and again in the best sense, Cafe Society presents itself as an older director’s film, dealing as it does with the difference between dreams and reality and the presence and persistence of regret.

Yes, someone says, though the unexamined life may not be worth living, “the examined one is no bargain either.” Unless it’s Woody Allen doing the examining.

~~ Kenneth Turan, LA Times

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Akron (2015), Opens 9/11

The long-awaited movie that packed the houses during CIFF, finally comes home – Akron: The Movie hits The Nightlight Cinema’s screen on September 11th and 12th featuring a live Q&A with director, Brian O’Donnell both dates!

Akron (2015), Opens September 11th

Benny and Christopher, college freshmen, meet playing football and begin a relationship. They fall in love supported by their family and friends. As their love for each other grows, a past tragic event involving their mothers comes to light. This revelation tests their own love and Benny’s close-knit family.

Throughout this reflective love story, with the beauty of rural Ohio as its backdrop, Benny travels an emotional journey that examines both his own feelings and his family’s ability to come to terms with the past. Akron is a sensitive and unique independent film that puts a progressive, Midwestern spin on a classic family drama from an original screenplay by Brian O’Donnell, who was inspired by the notion that the love between family members trumps all.

In conversations O’Donnell had with friends, gay and straight, it became obvious that people are ready to hear stories that include gay characters but are not primarily concerned with the characters’ sexuality. As people are accepting themselves and others at younger ages it’s important to show that, like Benny and Christopher in Akron, gay men and lesbians are a natural and essential part of the fabric of society, part of the family. Akron shows what it is like when gay men don’t have to leave their families for acceptance, where people are not so different after all. Where people can love each other for who they are.

~~ Akronthefilm.com

Just Booked at The Nightlight: The NYFCS Presents: Five Nights in Maine (2016), Opens 8/7

Join Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers for an advanced, pre-release screening of Five Nights in Maine. He’ll join in conversation with guests David Oyelowo , Rosie Perez and Director Maris Curran.

Five Nights in Maine (2016), Opens August 7th

Exploring the difficult and complex elements that come with the death of a loved one, Maris Curran’s Five Nights in Maine bravely swims in a lake of raw emotions. One of the memorable things about Curran’s direction is her ability to let the mood linger. Her measured pacing allows the character’s grief to drive the narrative forward. Sherwin and Lucinda have lost the knot that once unified their two ropes. Now they are force to figure out how, and more important if they want to, unite those same threads again.

Curran strips her characters emotionally bare to emphasize not only the unpredictable nature of life, but also the importance of the connections, whether good or bad, that one makes with those who enter their lives. While Lucinda and Sherwin may argue who deserves to wallow more, the grieving mother or the grieving husband, the fact does not change that they have both lost someone who impacted their individual lives greatly.

Showing a gift for character-driven story telling, Maris Curran’s debut marks the arrival of an artist who will be commanding the audience’s attention with each new project. Curran’s direction extracts some strong performances from her talented cast. David Oyelowo does a great job in his portrayal of the wry Sherwin, a man who cannot seem to find his way out of a grief filled fog. His scenes with Diane Wiest, who is equally strong as the controlling matriarch, crackle with the level of awkwardness and emotion one would expect from a situation such as they are in. Intimate, moving, and honest, Five Nights in Maine is a film that is not afraid to dig deep into the pool of emotions that make makes life both rich and complex.

~~ Cortney Small, cinemaaxis.com

About the NY Film Critics Film Series: A regular series of ongoing preview screenings is established in approximately 50 selected major markets. Audiences experience all of the excitement of live Q&A sessions held in New York City, hosted by Peter Travers. The big screen events deliver 9-13 curated pre-release films per year to discerning audiences on a monthly basis. Each movie in the Screening Series is introduced live by Peter Travers. Audiences then see award contenders prior to their release followed by live, HD Q&A between Travers, audiences and talent from the films. Each piece brings the energy and VIP nature of prestigious, NYC screenings for nationwide audiences to interact with stars and directors via two way simulcast.

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Zero Days (2016), Opens 7/22

Alex Gibney’s Zero Days is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar. For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target.

Zero Days (2016), Opens July 22nd

Zero Days is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, Zero Days reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyberweapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.

~~ Magnolia Pictures

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Level Up (2016), Opens 8/26

FilmBuff presents the taut thriller, Level Up starring Josh Bowman for an exclusive limited theatrical engagement!

Level Up (2016), Opens August 26th

Matt is working to create a new tech company with a friend, but what they’re actually mostly doing is playing video games and watching videos on Youtube, much to the dismay of Matt’s girlfriend, Anna. One morning Anna is kidnapped, and Matt is presented with an ultimatum by the kidnappers: Deliver a package, or Anna will be killed in this fast paced thriller!

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Summer of 8 (2016), Opens 9/1

FilmBuff presents Ryan Schwartz’s new romantic comedy for an exclusive limited theatrical engagement!

Summer of 8 (2016), Opens September 1st

Eight close friends soak up their last day of summer together on the beach before parting ways for college in this funny, heartfelt coming of age tale!

Just Booked at The Nightlight: Spaceman (2016), Opens 8/18

FilmBuff presents the true story of Bill “Spaceman” Lee for an exclusive limited theatrical engagement!

Spaceman (2016), Opens August 18th

From the producers of Bull Durham and White Men Can’t Jump comes Spaceman, the story of infamous Major League baseball wild man Bill Lee (Josh Duhamel). Famed for his outspoken politics, enthusiastic drug use, and wily left-handed pitching, when Lee finds himself cut from the Montreal Expos, he refuses to quit the game. As of 2016, he still hasn’t.

Just Booked at The Nightlight: The Birth of a Nation (2016), Opens 10/7

With all of the subtlety of a buckshot blast, first time director, Nate Parker’s unflinching and unapologetic retelling of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, The Birth of a Nation is a cinematic game-changer; a once in a generation story that is the perfect film for its time.

The Birth of a Nation (2016), Opens October 7th

Unlike the entertainment value that director Quentin Tarantino prioritized in his more stylized, Django Unchained, Parker’s film is a visceral gut-punch that roots the story in not just the man but his righteous cause. His Turner is strength personified in a way that no Black character has ever been portrayed on film. Even under the vicious lash, Turner refuses to live on his knees or show any weakness to his oppressors. This powerful trait earns him the undying loyalty of his followers and the white-hot hate of his oppressors.

Under the leadership of Parker, The Birth of a Nation is unprecedented, and simply the most dynamic debut film by a black director since John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood, 25 years ago. Parker’s vision serves as a clarion call to his peers as he joins the ranks as a vital and much-needed voice for the next generation of Black cinematic rebels.

~~ The Film Gordon