Historically, this is the time of year when local cinephiles are gorging on film festival offerings. But with TLA’s CineFest canceled this year—thanks again, economy—they’ll have to make do with this consolation prize from the Philadelpha Film Society, which will ressurect the Philadelphia Film Festival in the fall. Unfolding over the weekend, the Spring Preview presents 11 festival players for free. Here are PW’s picks for what to watch.
The idea of Ken Loach, one of the great cine-poets of the working class, doing a Play It Again, Sam-style crowdpleaser sounds like a drunken bar bet and, unsurprisingly, Looking For Eric (Fri., April 9, 7:30 p.m.) is an odd fit. Steve Evets plays a down-on-his-luck postal worker who finds an imaginary friend in retired Manchester U. footballer Eric Cantona. Thing is, Cantona can’t act and Loach—with regular screenwriter Paul Laverty—can’t help but throw in grim hyper-realism. Once a gun-toting psychopath enters the picture, this alleged trifle threatens to become as serious as Loach’s IRA saga The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Sun., April 11, 5 p.m.) is South Korea’s most expensive film and, coincidentally (or not!), one of its most fun. The freakily talented Kim Ji-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) reimagines 1930s Manchuria as a gleefully time-warpy paean to Sergio Leone, with horse chases meeting ’80s hairdos, old-timey sea helmets and still more evidence that The Host’s Song Kang-ho (as The Weird, natch) is the most entertaining actor currently working in movies.
Made for ESPN, No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (Sun., April 11, 7:45 p.m.), by Hoop Dreams’ Steve James, doesn’t feature contributions from the ex-Sixer, who understandably doesn’t like to discuss the doc’s subject: the 1993 brawl at a bowling alley for which Iverson, whose participation is hotly contested, served time. Instead, James uses Iverson and the incident as a springboard for a restless cine-essay on race, visiting the player’s hometown of Hampton, Va., and discovering, among other insights, how little has changed in 20 years.
With the plot laid, Mid-August Lunch proceeds to offer ... not much, really. The ladies chatter with each other. Gianni makes them dishes, eventually adjusting for their dietary and medical conditions.
The horror in The Eclipse feels like either an element that wound up dialed down during the writing process or, more cynically, was a late addition to give it some shape or marketability.
What I learned from The Greatest, Shane Feste’s extremely misleadingly titled debut, is that Pierce Brosnan cries about as well as he sings.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely