By Amy Nicholson
By Chris Packham
By David Kipen
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Caira LaVelle
By Zachary Wigon
By Scott Foundas
Ride Rise Roar
Directed by Hillman Curtis
8:45 p.m. Sunday, November 14 at the Tivoli
In October 2008, ex-Talking Heads leader David Byrne brought his Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno tour to St. Louis' Fox Theatre. A seven-piece band and three dancers — all clad in crisp white outfits — interpreted TH classics and songs from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his 2008 collaboration LP with Eno. The playful spirit and musical achievements of that wonderful show permeate Ride Rise Roar, a concert film based on this tour. Performance clips alternate with behind-the-scenes practice footage, interviews with the tour's choreographers, musicians, dancers and collaborators, and even insights into Today from Byrne himself. These black-and-white interludes help the audience understand how the well-choreographed tour came together but don't detract from the wonder of Rise's live-performance clips. New tunes such as "Life Is Long," where Byrne and his trio of dancers use office chairs for a symbolic dance, and the somber "My Big Nurse" possess depth that only comes with age. But Byrne's Talking Heads-era tunes sound just as fresh and vital; highlights include the rhythmic explosion "I Zimbra," deep-funk "Houses in Motion" and new-wave classics "Life During Wartime" and "Burning Down the House."
— Annie Zaleski
Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread
Directed by Raphael Erichsen
9 p.m. Wednesday, November 17, Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
This brief documentary on DJ/filmmaker/radio host Don Letts — a '70s UK punk-scene denizen who directed the Grammy Award-winning documentary The Clash: Westway to the World — begins with a bold claim: The first-generation Brit, whose parents were Jamaican immigrants, is "credited with introducing punk to the reggae bass line." Letts later downplays his legacy using historical precedent; in part, the "tradition of young white kids looking to black music for their rebellious fix" spurred the genre pollination just as much as his DJ nights at punk club the Roxy. Such insightful observations about music, politics and culture dominate this film, although Letts' humble perspective makes any discussion refreshingly free of preachiness. Accordingly, director Erichsen doesn't just focus on his erudite protagonist. Instead, Letts' story unfolds in tandem with that of his son Jet, an ambitious dubstep producer/DJ. The contrast between the father's successes — cofounding Big Audio Dynamite with ex-Clash guitarist Mick Jones, becoming a successful filmmaker and radio host — and his son's burgeoning career is a boon for character development; facets of Letts' personality and philosophy emerge in organic, revealing ways. Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread covers an era that's been documented ad nauseam, but the film's methodology and Letts' affable demeanor give the film grace and depth.
— Annie Zaleski
Waiting for Forever
Directed by James Keach
7 p.m. Saturday, November 13, at Webster University's Winifred Moore Auditorium
It's the romantic comedy formula we've seen so many times: Boy and girl are childhood best friends; one of them moves away; they meet again as adults after many years apart, and rekindle their flame. Except Waiting for Forever knocks the usual script a little off-kilter: The boy isn't usually a transient street performer who exclusively wears pajamas and secretly stalks the girl from afar for years, like Will (Tom Sturridge). And the girl isn't usually a B-list television actress with a dying father and violent boyfriend, like Emma (Rachel Bilson). When Emma goes back to her childhood home to be with her ailing father (the excellently caustic Richard Jenkins), Will follows her, determined to confess his love after following her from town to town for years (though, as he says, he's not following her, he just "goes where you are"). Director James Keach has made a film full of charming characters that manages to shake off its rom-com shackles every once in a while and acknowledge that the whole unrequited love/ mooning-in-the-distance thing is, well, pretty creepy and not so plausible in the real world. Though the movie ends firmly in genre territory, it's an enjoyable ride on its way there.
— Kase Wickman
Directed by Debra Granik
7 p.m. Sunday, November 14 at Washington University's Brown Hall
"Never ask for what ought to be offered," 17-year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) tells her brother in Winter's Bone, Debra Granik's dark and flinty Ozark fairy tale. Those are words to live by for Ree and her people, scattered across the hardscrabble southern Missouri woods. But in Winter's Bone, a tough-minded girl is forced by circumstance to demand exactly what no one wants to offer: the truth. Ree lives in a small house with her siblings and their mentally ill mother. When the sheriff brings news that Ree's father put the family's house up as bond after an arrest for cooking meth — and that he has subsequently gone on the run — Ree goes looking for Dad to convince him to turn himself in. Met at every turn by narrowed eyes and tight lips, Ree soon gets the picture that asking questions is, as one neighbor puts it, "a real good way to end up et by hogs." But while the first half of Winter's Bone is essentially a slow-paced procedural with a pint-size detective, Ree is no Nancy Drew. She gets by on instinct and determination rather than wit, and we come out the other end of Ree's quest impressed, but also disquieted, by her strength. It's uncertain to what end that strength might be used. Ree is tough enough, and mean enough, to rule those woods in a few short years if she sets her mind to it.
— Dan Kois
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