Just Booked @ The Nightlight // It Comes at Night // Opens 6/9/17

A visceral assault on every level; there’s a claustrophobic, atmospheric dread that tests your nerves, and there’s a heartbreaking, emotional center that adds a thought-provoking level of devastation in It Comes at Night.

It Comes at Night (2017), Opens June 9th

By definition, horror is an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. It’s subjective; therefore, not boxed in by limitations. Fear comes in a variety of ways, and it’s not one size fits all. All of this to serve as a reminder that even the atypical can bring an overwhelming amount of terror, as is the case in writer/director Trey Edward Shults sophomore feature. The very title of the film invokes thoughts of creatures or vampires, but Shults takes an unexpected approach far more grounded in realism. It’s downright petrifying.

We’re introduced to a man’s family; a small trio that lives in a remote home nestled deep in the woods. It’s a brutal introduction to a world where a Bubonic plague inspired pandemic long since ravaged the population; forcing survivors into desperate isolation. This isn’t horror in the traditional sense, but make no mistake; it’s a horror film.

Written by Shults while he was in Texas, in a bad state of mind while dealing with his father’s cancer, the underlying theme is about how people respond to fear, especially when confronted with death. It’s not pretty. While the film doesn’t contain any familiar elements of horror on paper, it’s one of the most nerve-shredding experiences on film. Shults makes every emotion on screen tangible; desperation, fear, anger, and melancholy are palpable.

~~ Meagan Navarro, Modern Horrors

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Obit. // Opens 5/19/17

At The New York Times, a particular team of writers is entrusted with reflecting upon the luminaries, icons, and world leaders of our day. Here, we are introduced to those responsible for crafting these unequaled obituaries. As we are taken through their painstaking process, we learn about the pressures accompanying a career spent shaping the story of a life.

Obit. (2016), Opens May 19th

Vanessa Gould’s smart, fast-paced documentary is a vivid but never ostentatious flipbook through the job’s glories and trials: regular access to the Times’ morgue for fraying, unpublicized records; scandalous factual mistakes; zero-hour assignments on prematurely departed giants (Michael Jackson, for one). It will kill the longstanding notion that these wry researchers and history buffs are morbid bores.

~~ David Fear, Rolling Stone

What Scheinfeld does especially right in his film is to play Coltrane’s music through virtually every frame. Scheinfeld relies on Denzel Washington to voice him, mostly by reading short, austere snippets of a written memoir. This might be some of Washington’s best work.

~~ Sam Weissburg, The Village Voice

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Chasing Trane // Opens 5/19/17

The global power and impact of jazz musician John Coltrane is explored in Chasing Trane, revealing the passions, experiences and forces that shaped his life and revolutionary sounds. Commentaries come from Denzel Washington, Carlos Santana, Common, Cornell West, Bill Clinton, and others.

Chasing Trane (2016), Opens May 19th

…documentarian John Scheinfeld (The U.S. vs. John Lennon) digs in deep to get the stories behind the stories, unearthing rare footage of the Love Supreme innovator in action and getting everyone from Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins to Cornel West to weigh in on the man behind the horn.

~~ David Fear, Rolling Stone

What Scheinfeld does especially right in his film is to play Coltrane’s music through virtually every frame. Scheinfeld relies on Denzel Washington to voice him, mostly by reading short, austere snippets of a written memoir. This might be some of Washington’s best work.

~~ Michael Cieply, Deadline.com

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Sleight // Opens 5/12/17

Some new directors announce themselves with a splashy opening scene, but J.D. Dillard prefers to wow you with an unforgettable finale.

Sleight (2017), Opens May 12th

In his feature debut Sleight, with only minutes left on the clock, he delivers a climactic action scene that’s elegant and immensely satisfying — and also nothing like anything in the 80-some minutes that came before it. It’s also not 100 percent new; Dillard has taken elements from many familiar forebears (most notably Iron Man and X-Men) and filtered them through his own moody sensibility. But in the moment, it feels miraculously fresh. In fact, the same could be said of the rest of the movie…

Sleight is also a superhero origin story, and like any origin story it knows it has to take its time setting up everything about the superhero that isn’t super. The film lives and dies by Latimore’s performance, which is quiet and ever-shifting. There’s a vulnerability to him, and an easygoing charm seemingly perfect for driving around all night interacting with strangers while they buy their molly. There are volumes to this kid, and a deep loneliness that he never quite allows himself to dwell on. When he begins formulating his big plan to defeat Angelo and get his sister back, you sit up, and start rooting for him in a way that feels emotionally rooted.

…when the fireworks begin, you can feel Dillard flex, and the fun of it all dwarfs the rest of the film. What are films besides magic tricks — especially films at this budget level? There are multiple sequences in Sleight where we see Bo’s sidewalk audience in a series of close-ups, reacting in OMG slow motion to his tricks: slack-jawed, jumping out of their skin, palms slapped to foreheads in bewilderment. Sometimes we don’t even see the trick they’re reacting to. The important thing is the belief suspended, even for a moment — a fleeting instance where the audience forgets themselves. It takes a little while to get there, but Dillard ultimately pulls it off. And he’s smart enough to not show us Bo’s final creation, only the incredulous, enchanted look on his girlfriend’s face.

~~ Emily Yoshida, Vulture

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Their Finest // Opens 5/5/17

You’d need a heart of stone and a funny bone of porridge not to enjoy this sweet-natured and eminently lovable British film…

Their Finest (2017), Opens May 5th

[Their Finest is] a 1940s adventure, with moments of brashness and poignancy. It’s all about the love that flowers in the ruins of blitz-hit London and in the dusty offices of the Ministry of Information’s film unit as various high-minded creative types use the magic of cinema to keep the nation’s pecker up. [(Pecker‘s a Britishism for courage, by the way.)]

… It’s a film unashamedly and cheerfully in love with the conjuring tricks and artifice of cinema. There’s a showstopping matte shot of massed troops on the Dunkirk beach, painted on to glass, and a demonstration of how dubbing and editing can create an illusion of physical presence. Truffaut talked about la nuit americaine – here’s a film about la nuit britannique, a very British kind of film magic.

~~ Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea // Opens 4/28/17

The title tells the tale in this inventive, beautiful and bizarre animated feature from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw, featuring the voices of Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon and Reggie Watts.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (2016), Opens April 28th

This animated feature debut from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw is surely the most delightful disaster movie in cinema history. To say that My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is like John Hughes fused with The Poseidon Adventure makes for a snappy pitch — and it’s true — but it doesn’t prepare you for the sheer originality of Dash’s vision… [in] this story about what it takes to survive adolescence. Literally.

Best friends Dash (Schwartzman) and Assaf (Watts) are sophomores at Tides High, where they author the entire school newspaper. When their editor (Rudolph) starts offering Assaf solo assignments, Dash’s jealousy prompts him to publish fictitious reportage about Assaf having erectile dysfunction. Later, while rummaging through the school archives, Dash discovers records indicating that the building isn’t up to code. He tries to warn his schoolmates, but after his slanderous attacks on Assaf, nobody believes him. Then it happens: an earthquake sends the school toppling into the Pacific. Everyone inside is trapped. A girl is ripped to shreds by baby sharks. Dash is bitten by jellyfish. Sundry students are electrocuted. Will anyone survive the sinking of Tides High? Can Lorraine the Lunch Lady (Sarandon) lead the kids to safety?

Whether it’s autumn leaves tumbling in the wind or bodies toppling to their deaths, Dash’s imagery, with its hand-drawn figures and gouache-painted celluloid, is awash in wacky wondrousness. Body count aside, My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is a very sweet film about the importance of friendship — and about knowing when it’s all right to fudge facts for the sake of a good story.

~~ Jane Schoettle, TIFF

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Drowning // Single Screening // 5/21/17

We may hunt for explanations, but this unnerving thriller forces us to remember: Evil actually exists.

Join Film Critic Shawn Levy for an advanced, pre-release screening of The Drowning with a Q&A following the screening with director Bette Gordon and stars, Josh Charles and Julia Styles.

The Drowning (2016), Opens May 21st

The Drowning is the story of a forensic psychologist who is haunted by his expert witness testimony that sent a young boy to prison for a chilling murder.  When the boy later reappears in his life, he is drawn into a destructive, soul-searching reinvestigation of the case. An erotic thriller with no let up in tension, The Drowning celebrates the genre with electrifying performances. Complex, riveting and unafraid to tread deep, murky psychological waters, this is a story of shifting identities that will keep you guessing until the very end.

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 @ The Nightlight // Colossal // Opens 4/21/17

A woman finding her inner strength is inspiring. But a woman finding her inner giant monster who kicks butt — that’s just so cool.

~~ David Edelstein, Vulture

Colossal (2016), Opens April 21st

Initially, everything about Colossal seems inexplicably, gratuitously absurd. Dancing kaiju, for example. Or drunks controlling city-crushing monsters via psychic link. Or inexplicable portals between Seoul and a small American town. Or Anne Hathaway being involved with any of the above. Yet, after nearly two hours, the movie manages to sweep you up in its world, and it starts to make a weird kind of sense. And eventually, all the things that seemed unfathomable at first become exactly what makes its message so clear…

The plea is this: Go see this movie… Yes, it’s pretty weird, but you’ll get used to it. Do it because the world needs the weird genius of Nacho Vigalondo (also, he’s probably got a few lawyer fees to pay off after settling that lawsuit with Toho brought on by calling his movie “the cheapest Godzilla movie ever”). Do it because Hathaway is finally letting her freak flag fly, and it’s high time more women carried genre movies. But mostly, do it because it’s the good kind of oddball movie—and those kind of things deserve to crush a city near you.

~~ Angela Watercutter, Colossal

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // T2: Trainspotting // Opens 4/14/17

“Danny Boyle continues to be our most dazzling shallow director, and his brilliance is undimmed in the sequel to his 1996 breakthrough, Trainspotting.

~~ David Edelstein, Vulture

T2: Trainspotting (2016), Opens April 14th

The new film is called T2: Trainspotting — not to be confused with the Schwarzenegger T2 — and it’s more fun than a barrel of junkies. It doesn’t have the youthful kick of its predecessor, but given the pervasiveness of addiction and suicidal ideation and despair it’s amazingly buoyant. Boyle makes movies about downer subjects — the downers in this case are literal — but his style and temperament seem more like the product of too many uppers. The man never sits still. He’s the only director who could make a film about a guy stuck in a crevice and forced to saw off his own arm and put in more whooshy tracking shots than in any five race car movies.

~~ David Edelstein, Vulture

First there was an opportunity… then there was a betrayal. Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Alive and Kicking // Opens 4/7/17


Alive and Kicking (2016), Opens April 7the

You know there’s been another resurgence, to put it mildly, in swing dancing, right? You know that the Lindy Hop – and all the regional and stylistic variations that manner of social hoofing generated – lives on, in spectacular kinesis all over the globe? If you didn’t know that, Susan Glatzer’s directorial debut will fill you in on the thriving scene. Like, we daresay, gangbusters.

Get a load of Alive and Kicking and you’ll be schooled in the whys and wherefores, the history and the hullaballoo, of what kind of glorious frenzy started in the Roaring Twenties, flourished during WWII, and – until the dance’s resurgence(s) – bit the dust when Johnny came marching home again.

You’ll be schooled, but you’ll also be 1) vastly entertained, and 2) impressed by the way this documentary focuses on several current stars of the swing circuit and features inspirational bits on the style’s originators – some of whom are still, indeed, alive and kicking – and provides both a sweet gloss of the subject and a few deeper explorations of the diverse people involved.

The music, the interviews, the interleaving of stock footage, the way the various modern narratives and backgrounding histories are fitted together: All of this works toward a successful expression of what means a thing because it does have that swing. Read the project’s press releases and you’ll see that Glatzer’s previous experience is pretty substantial, but exclusively in the role of “film executive;” and you’ll be damned if you know what that means, precisely, but that, if all such executives could create a movie as engaging and informative as this one, then they need to get the hell out from behind a desk and get into some hands-on production, because wowza.

~~ Wanye Allen Brenner, Austin Chronicle