Rating system: (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)
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“1st to Die” (R) (2.5) [Violence.] [DVD only] — Twists run amok in this engaging, suspenseful, unpredictable 2003 psychological thriller, which is based on James Patterson’s novel, when a divorced Seattle homicide inspector (Tracy Pollan) with a life-threatening blood disease, a handsome police captain (Gil Bellows), two medical examiners (Pam Grier and Megan Gallagher), and an ambitious reporter (Carly Pope) join forces to investigate a series of gruesome murders of newlyweds and to find the connection to a cocky, world-famous mystery writer (Robert Patrick) and the women (Angie Everhart and Sean Young) in his life.
“Invictus” (PG-13) (3) [Brief strong language.] [DVD only] — A compelling, politically relevant, factually inspired, inspirational Clint Eastwood film, which is based on the book “Playing the Enemy,” in which newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) collaborates in 1995 with rugby team captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) in an attempt to use the popular sport to help end Apartheid in South Africa and to unite a people struggling with economic hardships, insidious racism, and civil unrest.
“Three Monkeys” (NR) (3) [Subtitled][DVD only] — The lives of a middle-class Turkish family, who close their eyes, mute their tongues, and silent their ears, begin to unravel and disconnect in this compelling, well-acted, unpredictable, critically acclaimed 2008 film when a longtime driver (Yavuz Bingol) leaves his wife (Hatice Aslan) and teenage son (Rifat Sungar) to serve a 9-month jail sentence after taking the blame for his politician boss (Ercvan Kesal) who accidentally killed a pedestrian one stormy night during the middle of his reelection campaign.
“The Vast of Night” (PG-13) (3) [Brief strong language.] [Opens May 15 at select drive-in theaters.] — Andrew Patterson’s creepy, creative, well-acted, low-budget, unpredictable, 89-minute sci-fi thriller with a terrific musical score and camera shots and reminiscent of “Twilight Zone” in which a teenage switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick) during one dark night in New Mexico encounters a mysterious, unidentifiable audio frequency coming through the switchboard in 1958 and turns to her radio DJ high school friend (Jake Horowitz) to follow up on clues with a retired military worker (Bruce Davis) and a distraught elderly woman (Gail Cronauer) who believes her son was a victim of an alien abduction years earlier.
The following films play May 15-23 as part of the MSPIFF39 Redefined: A Virtual Film Festival; for more information, log on to mspfilm.org/festivals/mspiff:
“The Barefoot Emperor” (NR) (2) [Subtitled] — When the milquetoast Belgian king (Peter Van den Begin) suffers a head injury after being shot near his ear in Sarajevo on his way home from Istanbul and ends up with his faithful entourage (Bruno Georis, Lucie Debay, Titus de Voogdt, et al.) on a beautiful Croatian island at a sanatorium run by an oddball, manipulative, controlling doctor (Udo Kier) in this bizarre, nonsensical, political, satirical, 99-minute, 2019 comedy sequel to the 2016 “The King of the Belgians” highlighted by striking cinematography and filled with wacky characters (Geraldine Chaplin, Darko Stazi, et al.), he learns that the European union has collapsed, the European parliament has been disbanded, and surprisingly he is then named the new emperor for all of Europe.
“Beyond the Horizon” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] —Delphine Lehericey’s somber, realistic, engaging, coming-of-age, well-acted, 90-minute, 2019 film based on Roland Butic’s novel in which a 13-year-old Swiss boy (Luc Bruchez), who lives on a financially strapped farm in Switzerland with his struggling parents (Thibaut Evrard and Laetitia Casta), violin-playing sister (Lisa Harder), grandfather, and mentally challenged cousin (Fred Hotier), tries to deal with his own sexuality during a drought-stricken summer in 1976 and his attraction to a teenage friend (Sasha Gravat Harsh) while learning that his mother’s divorced friend (Clémence Poésy) is actually her lover.
“Bridge”(NR) (4) [Live Q&A with the filmmaker on May 22 at 7:00 p.m.] — Spencer Patzman's engaging, gut-wrenching, in-depth, informative, retrospective, 80-minute, 2020 documentary that examines the causes of the horrific I-35W bridge collapse on August 1, 2007, that tragically claimed the lives of thirteen victims, its aftermath that directly and indirectly affected hundreds, and consists of insightful interviews with resilient survivors Garrett Ebling, Lindsay Walz, Andy Gannon, Paula Coulters, Bernie Toivenen, Betsy Sathers, and Tina Hickman who are dealing with long-lasting physical and psychological traumas and commentary by paramedics, policemen, civilian responders, police chaplains, civil engineers, the mayor, assistant engineering commissioner, police family liaisons, and attorneys.
“The Dilemma of Desire” (NR) (3) — Maria Finitzoc’s fascinating, educational, candid, thought-provoking, artistic, inspirational, 108-minute documentary that discusses female anatomy and myths and misconceptions surrounding sexuality and the right of everyone to experience sexual pleasure and consists of frank discussions among an eclectic group of women and commentary by conceptual artist Sophia Wallace who wrote “Cliteracy 100 Natural Laws,” psychology and Gender Studies professor Dr. Lisa Diamond, industrial sex toy designer and Crave cofounder Ti Chang, Crave cofounder Michael Topolovac, Dr. Stacey B. Dutton, and marketing consultant Carina.
“The Father” (NR) (3.5) [Subtitled] — When a stubborn, guilt-ridden, traumatized, retired artist (Ivan Savov) in Bulgaria seeks out a well-known psychic upon the death of his beloved wife (Maria Bakalova) to determine the message she wanted to tell him prior to her surgery especially after a hysterical family member (Tanya Shahova) claimed the deceased contacted her by cell phone in Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanovc’s touching, dark, entertaining, critically acclaimed, well-acted, unpredictable, 87-minute, 2019 comedic drama, his concerned and frustrated photographer son (Ivan Barnev) becomes increasingly worried as his father’s behavior becomes more erratic.
“Land of My Father” (NR) (3) [Subtitled][Live Q&A with the filmmaker on May 18 at 7:00 p.m.] — While tenacious South Korean tree farmer and activist Noh Byeong-Man, whose father suffered greatly as a forced laborer by Japan, travels to Tokyo over and over again to protest in front of Japan’s National Assembly Japan’s continual territorial claim to the Korean-controlled island of Dokdo in Minnesota native Matthew Koshmrl’s interesting, informative, inspirational, 76-minute, 2019 documentary punctuated by beautiful seascapes, passionate housewife Choi Gyeong-Suk organizes trips to Dokdo island and founded the Choi Gong-Deok Memorial Foundation to honor the legacy of father who resided on island.
“Medicating Normal” (NR) (3.5) [Live Q&A with the filmmaker on May 21 at 7:00 p.m.] — Lynn Cunningham and Wendy Ractliffe’s eye-opening, educational, highly disturbing, shocking, 75-minute, 2019 documentary that includes testimonials from many people, including a retired naval officer and his wife, a former NYC waitress, an army Sergeant, and a teenage student, who all suffered long-term harm after taking and withdrawing from prescription medications for various psychological reasons, such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, and ADHD, due to misinformed or unethical medical professionals and zealous pharmaceutical companies pushing their products in order to make millions and consists of interview snippets with psychiatrists (such as Allen Frances, Anna Lembke, and Kelly Brogan), UCLA social welfare professor David Cohen, military clinical psychologist Mary Neal Vieten, pharmacist Ivan Jourdain, University of Copenhagen professor Peter Gøtzsche, journalist and author Robert Whitaker, and attorney Kristian Rasmussen.
"Nina of the Woods” (NR) (2.5) [Live Q&A with the filmmaker May 20 at 8:30 p.m.] — When an aspiring actress (Megan Hensley) returns to her rural hometown in Minnesota after the host/producer (Daniel Bielinski) of a supernatural reality show hires her to join a documentary film crew (Ricardo Vázquez, Rachael Davies, and Shawn Patrick Boyd) to search for the illusive and mysterious Bigfoot in Charlie Griak’s intense, eerie, well-acted, unpredictable, 91-minute, 2019 sci-fi thriller, reality gets distorted and time seems to warp as she reminisces growing up as a bullied young girl with her mother (Emily Fradenburgh).
“The Seer & the Unseen” (NR) (3.5) [Partially subtitled] — Unique landscapes and striking photography highlight Sara Dosa’s fascinating, poignant, educational, insightful, spiritual, 85-minute, 2019 documentary in which charming, highly respected Icelandic seer Ragnhildur “Ragga” Jónsdóttir discusses her belief in elves, dwarves, trolls, and spirits as she attempts to be an intermediary between this unseen world and the government that wants to build new roads through lava fields, which threaten an elfin community and a sacred chapel and concerns and angers environmental conservationists.
“Stories I Didn’t Know” (NR) (3) [Plays May 17 at 2 p.m. through May 23 as part of the MSPIFF39 Redefined: A Virtual Film Festival. Live Q&A with the filmmakers on May 17 at 5 p.m.] — Rita Davern and Melody Gilbert’s captivating, eye-opening, informative, 73-minute, 2020, historical documentary that uses archival film footage and photographs and interview snippets with native American historian Ramona Kitto Stately, Irish best friend Anne Hynes, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation president and founder Cris Stainbrook, and musician Rueben Kitto Stately to chronicle Rita Davern’s, who grew up in St. Paul, Minn., search for her Irish roots and after learning more about her connection to Pike Island, which is situated where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers merge and her great grandfather once bought and sold, she struggled with not being able to return ownership of Pike Island to the Dakota Indians.
“A Thief's Daughter” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] — Belén Funes’s gritty, raw, down-to-Earth, well-acted, slice-of-life, 102-minute, 2019 film in which a hardworking, tenacious, partially-deaf, 22-year-old single Spanish mother (Greta Fernández) in Barcelona struggles to care for her six-month-old son while hoping to reunite with her baby’s grape-picking father (Àlex Monner) and petitioning the courts to become the legal guardian of her eight-year-old brother (Tomás Martin ) after her irresponsible, estranged (Eduard Fernández) is released from prison and comes back into her life.
Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident.