Rating system: (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“Dead Pigs” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [Opens June 4 in Virtual Cinema sponsored by MSP Film Society; for more information, log on to mspfilm.org.] — While a desperate, down-on-his-luck pig farmer (Haoyu Yang) loses all of his swine to disease in Shanghai and owes money to a bunch of ruthless gangsters and then tries to get his eccentric, pigeon-loving salon owner sister (Vivian Wu) to sell their rundown house to developers so that an American architect (David Rysdahl) from Missouri can build a replica of a Spanish cathedral in Cathy Yan’s poignant, factually inspired, dark, 121-minute, 2018 comedic satire with striking cinematography, his busboy son (Mason Lee) pretends he is a successful businessman to impress his father and becomes smitten with an unhappy, spoiled, cynical daughter (Meng Li) of a wealthy Chinese businessman.
“Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust” (NR) (3) [Available on various VOD platforms and played May 28 as part of AARP’s Movies for Grownups.] — Wonderful cinematography highlights Ann Kaneko’s educational, enlightening, eye-opening, disturbing, 85-minute documentary that examines the indigenous communities and ranchers in Manzanar, Calif., who are fighting for their water rights in Payahuunadü, explores the history of the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the Owens Valley during WWII, and describes the fight by environmentalists, Manzanar site advocates, and local residents to prevent the Los Angeles Water and Power Department from erecting large-scale solar facilities in Owens Valley and consists of insightful commentary by Paiute-Shoshone Indian Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Manzanar committee members Sue Embrey and Warren Furutani, Sue Embrey’s son Bruce and granddaughter Monica Mariko, Manzanar National Historical Site park ranger Rose Masters, incarcerated Japanese American Henry Nishi, Owens Valley committee members (such as Mary Roper, Nancy Masters, and Mark Lacey), Kathy Jefferson Bancroft’s aunt Beverly Newell, and TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis.
“The Shipping News” (R) (3) [Some language, sexuality, and disturbing images.] [DVD and VOD only]— After his rowdy, adulterous wife (Cate Blanchett) dies in a car accident in this compelling, heartwarming, star-dotted (Julianne Moore, Pete Postlewaite, Rhys Ifans, and Scott Glenn), 2001 film, a grieving father (Kevin Spacey) moves with his daughter and aunt (Judi Dench) to their ancestral home in Newfoundland and begins a new life as a reporter for the local newspaper.
“Spring Blossom” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [Opens June 4 in Virtual Cinema sponsored by MSP Film Society; for more information, log on to mspfilm.org.] — Suzanne Lindon’s engaging, realistic, low-key, romantic, 73-minute film in which a shy, bored 16-year-old French student (Suzanne Lindon), who lives with her parents (Florence Viala and Frédéric Pierrot) and sister (Rebecca Marder) in an apartment in Paris, experiences her first feelings of love and lust when she falls head-over-heels in love with a handsome, cigarette-smoking, 35-year-old theater actor (Arnaud Valois).
“The Stranger” (R) (2.5) [Violence and some language.] [DVD and VOD only]— After a widowed, rogue, Seattle FBI agent (Steve ‘Stone Cold’ Austin) goes deep undercover and intertwines himself in the Tijuana drug cartel and ends up with retrograde amnesia coupled with a dissociative disorder in this action-packed, fast-paced, violent, 2010 film, he tries to determine whom he can trust when FBI agents (Adam Beach, Ron Lea, Jason Schombing, Geoff Gustafson, Viv Leacock, et al.), his therapist (Erica Cerra), Mexican drug lords and police, and the Russian Mafia are hot on his tail.
“Super Frenchie” (NR) (3.5) [Available June 4 in theaters and on various VOD platforms, and it played March 19 as part of AARP’s Movies for Grownups.] — Spectacular scenery and cinematography dominate Chase Ogden’s captivating, thrilling, awe-inspiring, well-paced, 77-minute documentary that follows 38-year-old, adrenaline-seeking, risk-taking, daredevil, passionate, French professional skier and BASE (i.e., building, antenna, span, and earth) jumper Matthias Giraud, who lives in Oregon with his supportive wife Joann and a young son, as he combines his love of skiing and BASE jumping in Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Italy, France, Iceland, and Switzerland and consists of clips from films “Steep” and “Pushing the Limits” and insightful commentary by parents Josephina and Robert, skiers and BASE jumpers (such as Jesse Hall, Erik Roner, J. T. Holmes, and Suzanne Montgomery), TV host Todd Davis, team manager Chad Labass, skier Julian Carr, and cinematographer Stefan Laude.
“Tadpole” (PG-13) (3) [Sexual content, mature thematic elements, and language.] [DVD and VOD only]— When a compassionate, French-speaking New York professor (John Ritter) remarries in this well-acted, unpredictable, 2002 film, his bright, articulate 15-year-old son (Aaron Stanford) develops a serious crush on his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver).
“Undercover Punch & Gun” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [Available June 8 on DVD and VOD platforms.] — Awesome martial-arts choreography dominates this entertaining, wacky, fast-paced, action-packed, violent, bullet-riddled, humor-dotted, 90-minute, 2019 comedic thriller in which a tenacious, skilled undercover Chinese cop (Philip Ng), who is dating the tattoo artist daughter (Aka Zhao Hui-Shan) of a drug-dealing, meth-sampling gangster (Lam Suet), works with an undercover sidekick (Vanness Wu) and two Special Forces maritime law agents (Chui Shuai and Joyce Feng) to take down an elite cop (Andy On) turned smuggler engaged in human and drug trafficking on a container ship in the Pacific.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.