Pipelines, Resistance Fighters, and Coming-of-Age | Fast Scans

This month’s can't-miss top indie and foreign films include a timely adaptation of a Judy Blume classic, danger in Augusto Pinochet’s repressive regime, and Sting in a semi-classic neo-noir. 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 106 min. Lionsgate. 2023. DVD UPC 031398340201. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 031398340232. $39.99. Rated: PG-13. DRAMEDY

Eleven-year-old Margaret Simon (Abby Ryder Fortson) has to deal with the onset of puberty as she makes new friends when her parents (Rachel McAdams, Bennie Safdie) move from the Big Apple to suburban New Jersey. Taking her concerns to God while exploring formal religion with her Jewish grandmother (Kathy Bates), Margaret is in the anxious process of becoming her true self. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig offers a smart, funny, and touching adaptation of Judy Blume’s oft-challenged book. VERDICT A most timely film version, endorsed by the novelist.

Chile ’76 (a.k.a. “1976”). 95 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Kino Lorber. 2022. DVD UPC 738329263249. $19.99. DRAMA

Due to her medical knowledge, upper-middle-class Carmen (Aline Küppenheim) is asked by the village priest where her family’s summer home is located to care for a young man’s bullet wound. Helping a sheltered resistance fighter under the thumb of Augusto Pinochet’s repressive post-democratic regime comes with considerable risk. But it’s a danger that Carmen navigates with poise, even as her motivation remains rather enigmatic in cowriter-director Manuela Martelli’s restrained character piece. VERDICT Erring on the side of subtlety makes the film more suited for art-house fans.

How To Blow Up a Pipeline. 104 min. Decal-Neon. 2022. DVD UPC 843501041048. $18.99. THRILLER

A diverse group of eight individuals turn eco-terrorists by sabotaging a Texas oil pipeline. Played by a mostly unknown but talented cast, these disaffected activists have their individual reasons for resorting to violence, as revealed via judiciously doled out flashbacks. In a propulsive drama that plays more like a thriller, writer-director Daniel Goldhaber doesn’t morally judge his characters but rather offers a conflicted dilemma that may serve as food for thought. VERDICT For audiences willing to confront the age-old question of whether the ends ever justify the means.

L’immensità. 98 min. In Italian w/English subtitles. Music Box Films. 2022. DVD UPC 751778951918. $29.99; Blu-ray UPC 751778951925. $34.99. DRAMA

In 1970s Rome, Clara (Penélope Cruz) and her philandering husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) are raising three kids. Their eldest, 12-year-old Adriana (Luana Giuliani), says at one point, “You and dad made me wrong.” Now identifying as a boy, androgynous Adri hangs out with a girl from the neighborhood and escapes into black-and-white musical fantasies where he stars as a singer. VERDICT Cowriter-director Emanuele Crialese makes the most of two terrific lead performers in this sensitive coming-of-age story. A film for all audiences.

Stormy Monday. 93 min. Allied Vaughn. 1988. Blu-ray UPC 760137030980. $19.99. Rated: R. FILM NOIR

As part of a land-development deal, the squeeze to sell his valued property is put on a Newcastle jazz club owner (Sting) by a coercive businessman (Tommy Lee Jones) whose ex-girlfriend (Melanie Griffith) teams up with the bar flunky (Sean Bean) to thwart the scheme. Director Mike Figgis (Internal AffairsLeaving Las Vegas) brings a bluesy romanticism to his promising debut—an atmospheric film noir steeped in crime-genre tropes, starring up-and-coming actors inhabiting well-realized characters. VERDICT Fatalists will rejoice in this semi-classic neo-noir.

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