I always like it when the holds queue runs out on good, recently released movies. What Maisie Knew might be one of the better ones I've seen so far this year. The story concerns a child who is shuttled between caregivers as her parents pay more attention to their careers and bitter custody battle than their own daughter. Based on the 1897 novel by Henry James, the film has been updated to present-day New York City (with a few other things changed as well, but it retains the core of the story). The movie is shown mostly from the little girl Maisie's perspective. Though, since she is a young child, the film centers itself around what we as the audience perceive as so-called mature viewers and what she innocently "knows". We don't really know anything about these people outside of what is shown to us, but we come to make judgments about their actions because of how they effect the child. It is an emotional film, constructed in a way to make you feel angry, sad, and hopeful toward the situations the child is put in. Read more about What Maisie Knew
The Way We Get By is a documentary that starts out focusing on the work of the “troop greeters” in Bangor, Maine. This group of senior citizens goes to the Bangor International Airport at any hour of the day or night to greet outgoing and incoming US troops. Oddly enough, Bangor is the main departure and return point for those serving overseas . The greeters, some retired military themselves, offer service men and women a warm welcome, snacks and free cell phones to call their loved ones. Those arriving at 3 am receive the same enthusiastic greeting as those coming at 11 am, rain, sleet or snow. This seemingly small gesture has a big impact on those returning from overseas, many unsure of how they would be received or concerned about returning to life in the US.
But there’s another layer to the story, one that’s possibly even more touching- that of the lives of the greeters themselves. Focusing on three of the senior citizens the film becomes a study of aging, loneliness, and the universal search for a sense of purpose in our lives. Read more about The Way We Get By
It’s the collective sigh huffed by every adult generation in history: our youth have no respect, no direction, no values. Fortunately examples like Only the Young (Oscilloscope Laboratories), the debut feature-length documentary from Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims, remind us that today’s teenagers are more than pop-cultured iPhone zombies—that perhaps they’re even human, and not so hopeless, considering the world they’re growing up in.
Only the Young follows skateboarders Garrison and Kevin as they navigate their high school years in a small town outside of Los Angeles. Thanks to the rapport the filmmakers earn with the boys, we’re able to roll right along with them—to an abandoned house, to the skatepark, and into their homes and their social circle. We meet Skye, who as the boys’ cohort, confidante, and sometimes-girlfriend becomes an integral character in the film herself. Read more about Only the Young
Let me first say that I am a Wizard of Oz nut. No, I'm not talking about the 1939 MGM Judy Garland film, which don't get me wrong, is a great film. I'm talking the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and those by Ruth Plumly Thompson and others who wrote about the traditional Land of Oz. However, I am not a purist. I enjoy movies and stories about Oz that are non-traditional. Phillip Jose Farmer's Barnstormer in Oz comes to mind. The miniseries Tin Man falls into this category. Imagine a Land of Oz that, while still filled with magic, lacks the Munchkins, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion. Instead you have The OZ (The Outer Zone) which was once ruled over by a beloved queen and her advisors. The marshals became known as Tin Men because of the tin stars they wore; their appearance is much like that of the modern western lawman with long brown trench coats wearing their guns at their sides.
Tin Man stars Zooey Deschanel as DG, the daughter of the beloved queen of The OZ sent to Kansas as a child to escape the clutches of the wicked queen who has taken over her kingdom. DG is raised on a farm by her aunt and uncle and she has no memory of The OZ. The wicked queen played by Kathleen Robertson has punished and/or exiled all who remained loyal to the former queen. She has removed half of the brain of the queen's main advisor, Glitch (Alan Cumming), leaving him an apparent idiot with a zipper down the center of his skull. DG is forced to return to The OZ and, in a journey that mirrors that of the traditional OZ stories, accumulate an entourage to help her defeat the wicked queen. One of these, of course, is a former marshal or Tin Man (Neil McDonough) of the title who has his own score to settle with the wicked queen.
Tin Man moves quickly with a number of twists and turns, some of them unexpected others telegraphed so you know they are coming. Those familiar with the Wizard of Oz will have no trouble figuring out which of the characters of The OZ correspond to those in the original Oz stories. Tin Man is a more adult story than the Oz books and movies, but still likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. If I had a complaint about the series it is that it is too short by about 45 seconds. It isn't that the ending was unsatisfactory, but I was expecting at least one more line. Everyone I've talked with who has watched this film mentally filled in this line or one like it and it really isn't needed to finish the series, but it would have been nice. (Sorry, you'll just have to figure out what the line is yourself as it would be a definite spoiler.)