"Clifford the Big Red Dog"

"Clifford the Big Red Dog" 

Rating system:  (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)

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“Ankle Biters (aka Cherrypickers)” (NR) (1.5) [Available Nov. 16 on DVD and various VOD platforms.] — When a woman (Marianthi Evans) begins dating a popular professional hockey star (Zion Forrest Lee) in Bennet De Brabandere’s dark, poorly written, violent, gruesome, 90-minute comedic horror film, her four worried, precocious, cruel daughters (Lily Gail Reid, Violet Reid, Rosalee Reid, and Dahlia Reid) mistake their mother’s enjoyment of rough sex as abuse by her new lover after seeing a video of their masochistic lovemaking and quickly begin to plan his demise by using unconventional methods.

 “Beans” (NR) (3.5) [Opens Nov. 12 in Virtual Cinema sponsored by MSP Film Society; for more information, log on to info@mspfilm.org or call 612/331-7563 and available on various VOD platforms.] — After a 12-year-old Mohawk student (Kiawentiio Tarbell), who lives on the Kahnawà:ke reserve with her parents (Rainbow Dickerson and Joel Montgrand) and younger sister (Violah Beauvais) in Quebec, gets approval to attend a white high school off the reserve in Tracey Deer’s powerful, factually inspired, award-winning, poignant, coming-of-age, thought-provoking, well-acted, 92-minute, 2020 film, she finds herself growing up quickly and feeling more rage and depression as she experiences more violence and racism, hangs out with a rebellious peer (Paulina Jewel Alexis), and gets involved in the 78-day, armed standoff in 1990 known as the Oka Crisis (July 11-Sept. 26) in which the indigenous Mohawk people go up against the Quebec police, the Royal Mounted Canadian Police, and the Canadian Army as they diligently and courageously try to protect a sacred, ancient burial ground known as “The Pines” from developers attempting to expand a 9-hole golf course into 18 and to erect condominiums.

“Belfast” (PG-13) (3) [Some violence and strong language.] [Opens Nov. 12 in theaters.]  — Sir Kenneth Branagh’s poignant, award-winning, factually inspired, compelling, coming-of-age, well-acted, touching, wit-dotted, primarily monochromatic, 97-minute semi-autobiographical film, which is often difficult to understand because of the heavy dialect, that focuses on a charming Irish boy (Jude Hill), who has a crush on a smart classmate (Olive Tennant) and lives with his protective mother (Catriona Balfe), taxes-owing carpenter father (Jamie Dornan) doing work in England, older brother (Lewis McAskie), and doting grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) in Northern Ireland during the turbulent religious conflict known as The Troubles between the Protestants and the Catholics (Colin Morgan, et al.) in 1969.

“Clifford the Big Red Dog” (PG) (3) [Impolite humor, thematic elements, and mild action.] [Opens Nov. 10 in theaters and available on Paramount+.] — Walt Becker’s entertaining, family-oriented, enjoyable, humorous, star-studded (Tony Hale, David Alan Grier, Rosie Perez, Kenan Thompson, Russell Wong, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Paul Rodriguez, Tovah Feldshuh, Alex Moffat, Sienna Guillory, Horatio Sanz, and Isaac Wang), 97-minute film, which is based Norman Birdwell’s children’s books, in which a bullied, 12-year-old girl (Darby Camp), who is being cared for by her uncle (Jack Whitehall) while her mother (Jessica Keenan Wynn) is out of town on business, adopts an energetic, adorable, ball-chasing, crimson Labrador she got from a mysterious animal rescuer (John Cleese) in Manhattan and soon discovers he has grown to be 10-feet tall and getting into all sorts of mischief.

“CUSP” (NR) (3) [Opens Nov. 12 in theaters, plays Nov. 26 on Showtime, and played as part of the 28th Austin Film Festival that runs Oct. 21-28.] — Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt’s poignant, award-winning, revealing, heartbreaking, coming-of-age, down-to-earth, bittersweet, vérité, 83-minute documentary that focuses on three rebellious, outspoken, pot-smoking, drug-using, free-spirited, 16-year-old high school students, Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn, wiling away the summer in a small town in Texas partying, drinking, vaping, and fornicating while on the verge of adulthood as they struggle with friendships, romantic relationships, and just plain growing up amidst various kinds of violence in a male-dominated society.

“Dark Chronicles” (NR) (3) [Available Nov. 12 on various VOD platforms.] — Steve McKee hosts Dustin Rieffer, and Christopher M. Carter, and Jessica Morgan’s gripping, creepy, bloody, nightmarish, violent, unpredictable, 84-minute horror film that consists of four standalone vignettes: 1) in “Possession,” an alleged bearded Catholic priest (Joe Seibert) performs an exorcism to try and rid a possessed woman (Katy Mahard) of a demonic entity, but he is not whom he claims to be; 2) in “Relic,” after three friends (Daniela Santi, Aeric Azana, and Ashton Jordan Ruiz) go to a strange store run by a mysterious owner (Michaela Ivey) who reads from an ancient book, they end up being terrorized by an evil creature (Rudolph Alvarado); 3) in “What Hides Within,” four trapped people (Brittany Isabell, Adam Mendez Jr., Jesse Pickering, and Christie Newby) try to survive an attack by bloodthirsty people (Kindryn Durantt and John Noble); and 4) in “The Conductor,” a bartender (Avalon Kerr) serves a redheaded patron (Jessica Morgan) and when another duplicitous customer (Jim Cirner) enters the bar, the evening turns deadly.

“Double Walker” (NR) (2.5) [Opens Nov. 12 in theaters and available on various VOD platforms.] — After a young girl (Layla Pritt), who lives with her parents (Quinn Armstrong and Maika Carter), is found murdered during the Christmas holidays in a small Midwestern town and then elects to wander the earth for eternity rather than have one more day on earth in Colin West’s in quirky, bloody, violent, nonlinear, unpredictable, 80-minute supernatural thriller, her mysterious, blonde-haired, revenge-fueled, blood-slurping ghost (Sylvie Mix) tries to understand her death by stalking and killing the men (Justin Rose, Joseph Moreland, et al.) she feels are responsible while she begins an oddball relationship with a kindhearted movie theater manager (Jacob Rice) who befriended her. 

“The End of Blindness” (NR) (3) [Available Nov. 16 on various VOD platforms.] — Adam Behr narrates A. J. Martinson’s inspirational, positive, educational, 55-minute documentary that pays tribute to selfless, caring, compassionate ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel Bora, supported by an understanding wife and three daughters, who with a dedicated staff regularly performs more than 60 free cataract surgeries in a single day for underprivileged patients in rural Ethiopia where he is the only eye doctor for two to three million Africans in a country that has one of the highest rate of blindness on the continent. 

“The Energy War: “Fillibuster” (NR) (2.5) [Plays Nov. 13 and 24 at DOC NYC festival; for more information, log on to https://www.docnyc.net/film/the-energy-war-filibuster/] — D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, and Pat Powell’s educational, frustrating, complicated, behind-the-scenes, groundbreaking, historically-important, 87-minute political documentary, which was first aired on PBS as part 2 of a three-part series, that follows President Jimmy Carter’s early attempts to control the price of natural gas amidst intense battles among regulatory agencies, congressmen (such as Gary Hart and Bennett Johnson), and senators (e.g., Ted Kennedy, Albert Gore, John Chafee, Howard M. Metzenbaum, Russell Long, Henry Jackson, and Pete Domenici), environmentalists, for profit oil and natural gas producers (such as A. V. Jones) and lobbyists (e.g., Chuck Lipsen and David Foster)—all claiming the higher ground, although sometimes caught on camera saying something very different—and the press, including Richard J. Whalen, Pat Grory, and Cokie Roberts, anxious to be the first to report any breaking story and sort through conflicting perspectives and examines the resulting 10-day, double filibuster in September and October 1977

“I Am Love” (R) (1.5) [Sexuality and nudity.] [DVD and VOD only] — When a Milan housewife (Tilda Swinton), who emigrated from Russia, finds herself alone in their family mansion after her children (Flavio Parenti, Alba Rohrwacher, and Mattia Zaccaro) leave the nest and her powerful husband (Pippo Delbono) is continually away on business in this tedious, slow-paced, arty, 2009 film, she begins an affair with a handsome chef (Edoardo Gabbriellini) which leads to a family tragedy.


“Last Train Home” (NR) (2.5) [Subtitled] [DVD and VOD only] — An insightful, intriguing, verité style 2009 documentary by Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan that follows the arduous annual journey of garment factory workers Changhua Zhang and Suqin Chen in the Spring of 2006 as they struggle to acquire train tickets along with another 130 million Chinese to travel by train, boat, and bus during the New Year’s holiday to see their estranged children, unhappy daughter Qin who would rather work than attend school and younger son Yang, who are being dutifully raised by their widowed grandmother.

“Let Me Be Me” (NR) (3) [Plays Nov. 11-18 at DOC NYC festival; for more information, log on to https://www.docnyc.net/film/let-me-be-me/.] — Dan Crane and Katie Taber’s poignant, educational, inspirational, eye-opening, 76-minute documentary that focuses on the Westphal family who worked with numerous autism experts to make a meaningful connection with their talented, blanket-and-fabric-loving, autistic son Kyle from the time he was 6 years old to his twenties where he showed a passion for and was successful in designing clothes and consists of home film clips, creative computer-generated animation, and candid commentary by Son-Rise program volunteers (such as Lindsay Sterious, William Hogan, and Rachel Morin), classmate Alexa Whitehurst, fashion professor emeritus Roberta Gruber, fashion instructor Sally Seligman, Son-Rise teacher Jonathan Levy, autism specialist Andrew Shanhan, Applied Behavioral Analysis ABA O. Ivar Lovaas, fashion design professor emeritus Renee Weiss Chase, and Son-Rise Program & Autism Treatment Center of America co-founder Barry Neil Kaufman.

“Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is the Last Film About You.” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] [Opens Nov. 12 in theaters and available on various VOD platforms.] — Striking cinematography dominates Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s poignant, black-and-white, award-winning, abstract, poetic, artistic, 76-minute, 2019 essay film filled with memories as it follows an African woman who is burdened with grief and carries a heavy wooden cross on her back through the beggar-lined streets of Lesotho filled with curious eyes and symbolizing many things including the director’s self-imposed exile to Berlin, Germany, while an impoverished woman knits furiously in her roofless abode and a lamb leaves the mountains only to be headless and skinned on the shoulder of a butcher.

“My Fiona” (NR) (3) [Opens Nov. 12 in theaters and available Nov. 23 on various VOD platforms.] — After her longtime best friend and co-owner (Sarah Amini) suddenly commits suicide by jumping off a roof in Kelly Walker’s gripping, realistic, moving, well-acted, 87-minute, 2020 film, her shocked, grieving, and ambitious business partner (Jeanette Maus) deals with her loss by seeing a therapist (Ryan W. Garcia), endearing herself with her partner’s widowed wife (Corbin Reid), who immerses herself into her work, which evolves into an emotional and physical connection, and helping to care for her tantrum-prone, seven-year-old son Bailey (Elohim Nycalove) who copes with his loss by acting out at home and at school.

“The Lost Boys” (R) (3) [DVD and VOD only] — A satirical, star-studded (Corey Feldman, Edward Herrmann, Jamie Gertz, and Barnard Hughes), 1987 vampire spoof about two brothers (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) who move to a new town with their widowed mother (Diane Wiest) and wind up getting involved with a gang of vampires (Kiefer Sutherland, et al.). 

“Mayor Pete” (R) (3) [Language.] [Available Nov. 12 on Amazon Prime Video.] — Jesse Moss’s informative, eye-opening, down-to-earth, behind-the-scenes, moving, insightful, inspirational, up-close-and-personal, 96-minute political documentary that focuses on gay, Harvard-educated, military veteran, Democratic politician Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg (aka “Maltese-American-left-handed-Episcopalian-gay-war veteran-mayor Millennial”), who served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from 2012 to 2020, as he goes on the grueling campaign trail with his schoolteacher and writer husband Chasten Glezman to run for the office of president of the United States and is helped along the way by campaign manager Michael Schmuhl and communications director Lis Smith, and he now serves as Secretary of Transportation.

“The Pebble and the Boy” (NR) (2.5) [Available Nov. 16 on various VOD platforms.] — After a grieving 19-year-old Englishman (Patrick McNamee) in Manchester inherits a rearview-mirror-laden Lambretta scooter upon the death of his estranged father in a traffic accident in Chris Green’s engaging, low-budget, heartwarming, slow-paced, star-dotted (Jesse Birdsall, Ricci Harnett, Patsy Kensit, Max Boast, and Mani), 101-minute film, which pays tribute to Mod culture and Paul Weller and The Jam music, he is joined by the free-spirited, feisty daughter (Sacha Parkinson) of a mechanically inclined friend (Stuart Wolfenden) of his father’s who repaired his motorbike when he goes on a road trip to Brighton to scatter his dad’s ashes on the beach.

“Punch 9 for Harold Washington” (NR) (3.5) [Plays Nov. 11-18 at DOC NYC festival; for more information, log on to https://www.docnyc.net/film/punch-9-for-harold-washington/.] — Joe Winston’s engaging, eye-opening, informative, insightful, behind-the-scenes, timely, 105-minute documentary that chronicles the tumultuous campaign of ambitious, progressive African-American Harold Washington in 1983 as he ran to be Chicago’s first Black mayor and his equally turbulent time in office until his unlikely death in 1987 and consists of numerous archival film clips, debate and speech excerpts, and candid commentary by former Chicago mayors Richard J. Daley and Rahm Emmanuel, journalists (such as Laura Washington, Nicholas Lemann, Vernon Jarrett, and David Axelrod), congressmen (such as Jim Houlihan, Gus Savage, and Jesús G. “Chuy” García), Barack Obama, reporters Gary Rivlin and Monroe Anderson, corporation counsel James Montgomery, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago council members (such as Danny Davis, David Orr, and Dick Mell), friend Justice Charles Freeman, fiancée Mary Ella Smith, strategists Jacky Grimshaw and Marilyn Katz, housing commissioner Brenda Gaines, state representative Al Ronan, photographer Michelle Agins, press secretaries Donald Rose and Alton Miller, aldermans (such as Dick Mell, Roderick Sawyer, and Ed Burke), Washington aides William Walls and Kari Moe, Ariel Investment founder John Rogers, pastor B. Herbert Martin, Washington volunteer Valerie Jarrett, Jewish city council member Jane Ramsey, Bernard Epton’s scheduler Bonnie Hickey, activists Timul Black and Joe Gardner, black political empowerment taskforce founder Dr. Robert Starks, and professors Conrad Worrill and Dick Simpson.

“Spencer” (R) (3.5) [Some language.] [Opened Nov. 5 in theaters.] — Stewart’s Oscar-caliber performance, gorgeous costumes, and striking sets highlight Pano Larrain’s captivating, factually inspired, bleak, raw, gritty, insightful, unexpected, star-studded (Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, and Michael Epp), 111-minute biopic film that focuses on an unhappy, suicidal, self-harming Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart) during Christmas time with the cold, condescending royal family (Stella Gonet, Richard Sammel, Elizabeth Berrington, Lore Stefanak, et al.), who stuck with pomp and circumstance even behind closed doors, at Sandringham House in 1991 when she was struggling with depression, rejection, and bulimia and anorexia and finally deciding to leave Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), who is in love with his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowels (Emma Darwall-Smith), and escape with her devoted sons (Jack Nielen and Freddie Spy).

 “A Stalker in the House” (NR) (2) [Available Nov. 9 on various VOD platforms.] — After a beautiful, redheaded, psychology student (Veronika Issa) goes on a date with a charming creep (Jack Pearson) she met on an online dating service and then people close to her, such as her concerned neighbor, a close friend, and her former boyfriend (Michael DeVorzon), are jeopardy in Jared Cohn’s intense, suspenseful, predictable, 84-minute thriller, her exceedingly jealous, psychopathic stalker becomes increasingly obsessed, unhinged, and dangerous.

“That Cold Dead Look in Your Eyes” (NR) (2) [Subtitled] [Available Nov. 9 on various VOD platforms.] — Onur Tukel’s bizarre, wacky, black-and-white, intermittently funny, confusing, 92-minute thriller in which a terrible French chef (Franck Raharinosy) in New York City begins hallucinating after Theta boxes are installed on the streets to improve Internet service and sinks deeper into a nightmare existence when he cannot tell what is real; whether his fed-up girlfriend (Nora Arnezeder) broke up with him and wants him out of their apartment; whether his girlfriend’s gay, curmudgeonly, has-been photographer father (Alan Ceppos) took over the apartment when he visited and photographed nude models (Robert Jeffery, et al.) for a gallery exhibit; whether his frustrated boss (Max Casella) fired him due to unhappy customers; and whether he then retaliated against people who wronged him. 

“Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story” (NR) (4) [DVD and VOD only] — Bob Malos narrates this controversial, educational, eye-opening, discussion-raising, 1-hour documentary that consists of interviews with sea food company owner Dean Blanchard and employee Karen Hopkins, Minnesota corn farmers Jack and Dick Gerhardt and Arlene and Luverne Nelson, ecologists (such as Nancy Robalais, Dave Tilman, Dr. Gene Turner, and Mike Davis), soil consultant Mike Lovelein, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Land and Natural Resources Director Stan Ellison, geologist Dan Engstrom, plant geneticist Wes Jackson, environmental engineer Shawn Shottler, cattle company owner Todd Churchill, chef Scott Pampugh, organic vegetable and fruit farmer Jack Hedin, corn and soybean farmer Tony Thompson, social drainage scientist Jeff Strock, glacial geologist Carrie Jennings, and former Rural Advantage President Linda Meschke to address the effects of agricultural practices, food choices, environmentally negative changes to the Farm Bill, and the impact on urban overfertilization has had on increased phosphorous levels in local waters such as Lake Pepin and dangerous and historic rise in nitrate levels that ultimately has led to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico the size of Massachusetts.

The following films play Nov. 11-16 during the Austin Jewish Film Festival; for information, log on to https://austinjff.org/event-list/:

“40 Nickels” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] — Gorgeous cinematography highlights Yasmin Gorenberg’s poignant, factually inspired, well-written. 27-minute film in which an ice-cream-loving Jewish immigrant boy (Grayson Taylor), who lives with his grocery store owning parents (Te’ena Klien and Leo Grinberg) and grandmother (Carole Forman) in St. Louis in 1935, saves nickels to pay for a 10-minute airplane ride and finally learns that his uncles were brutally killed by the anti-Semitic Cossacks in the a Old Country during the war.

“Beefies” (NR) (3) — When a determined, klutzy Jewish actor (Adam Lebowitz-Lockard) finds his mother’s beef recipe and decides to make it for Passover Seder dinner during the pandemic in Adam Lebowitz-Lockard’s engaging, funny, quirky, well-written, 10-minute film, he quickly realizes that part of the recipe is missing and contacts his estranged, professor brother (Goran Ivanovski), who is upset and angry that he did not attend their mom’s funeral, in the hopes of exchanging his mother's poems for the other half of the beefies recipe.

“The Disappearing Act” (NR) (3) — Billy Kent’s quirky, funny, creative, well-written, unpredictable, 5-minute comedy in which a mediocre Jewish magician (Josh Evans) practices virtually in front of his unfocused mother (Becca Lish) his card and disappearance tricks for an upcoming bar mitzvah party via Zoom and then learns that his mother has an unsettling disappearance act of her own.

“I Got Your Letter, John Bauer” (NR) (3.5)  — When a despondent Jewish television and film producer (Mark Schrier) is interrupted by a salesman (Rodrigo Ternevoy) at his front door while making a video in response to a letter he received from a Neo-Nazi tormentor (voiceover by Joe Farrell) from his past who is asking forgiveness in Noel Brady’s poignant, award-winning, realistic, well-acted, 12-minute film, the kindhearted salesman gives him insight on forgiving the bully who viciously tormented him as a teenager. 

“The Inspection” (NR) (3) [Subtitled] — After numerous angry parents of 12th grade students in France write letters to the school board because they disagree the way in which and for the length of time the passionate, strong-willed Jewish schoolteacher (Florence Janas) is teaching the history of the Holocaust in Caroline Brami and Frédéric Bas’ captivating, intriguing, down-to-earth, thought-provoking, 16-minute film, an hard-nosed, unrelenting educational inspector (Patrick d’Assumçao) confronts the history teacher about the amount of time she spends teaching the Shoah and not strictly adhering to the classroom syllabus.

“Mazel Tov” (NR) (3) — After his cynical, drunk mother (Maayan Selektar) gives a depressing speech at his bar Mitzvah party in Eli Zuzovsky’s realistic, award-winning, well-acted, 25-minute film, an unhappy, talented, 13-year-old Israeli boy (Peter Knoller), who is struggling with his sexuality, trades clothing with a girl and surprises everyone when he goes on stage to sing at his celebration at a banquet hall during an air raid. 

“Miss.” (NR) (3.5) —After a British photographer (Gemma Barnett) takes photos for her new blonde roommate (Bebe Sanders) in England for a beauty pageant in Ella Marks and Yael Roth’s surprising, factually inspired, original, well-acted, unpredictable, 12-minute film, she is shocked and disturbed when she discovers the photographs were for the Miss Hitler beauty contest.

“Tale of Life” (NR) (3) [Brief nudity.] [Subtitled] — When a teenage Jewish girl (Mari Nagy) is stricken with cholera in the early 1900s and a doctor (György Gazsó) says that there is nothing he can do to heal her in David Bodrogi’s somber, dark, well-acted, thought-provoking, 17-minute film, her widowed mother (Kata Kuna) becomes distraught and joins other villagers in prayer with the rabbi (Péter Scherer) at the synagogue and try to bargain with God to give up part of their life in exchange for saving the young girl.

Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident. 

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