Rapid DIFF Review: ‘SING STREET’, ‘HIGH-RISE’, Natalie Portman’s directorial debut and more

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Preston Barta // Editor

We’re at the halfway point for the Dallas International Film Festival, which concludes on Sunday. While there have been plenty of great films that have screened thus far, there is still plenty to discover. However, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the features that screened at the festival over the weekend, ranked from best to worst.

SING STREET
Director: John Carney
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-PeeloLucy Boynton and Jack Reynor

One thing writer-director John Carney (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) has always been great about in his films is exploring music as a means of expression and connection. He carries this sentiment over to the completely lovable SING STREET by winding back the clock to the glamorous ‘80s rock scene.

The film follows a Dublin teenager, Conor (a terrific Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), as he forms a rock ‘n’ roll band to win the heart of an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) and escape his broken home.

With its energetic cast (most notably Jack Reynor as Conor’s brother) and lively tunes (including tracks from The Cure and Duran Duran), SING STREET is a ballad that audiences are sure to jam on repeat.

Rated PG-13, 105 min.

SING STREET opens at the Angelika Dallas and Plano on Friday.


A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
Director: Natalie Portman
Cast: Amir TesslerNatalie Portman and Gilad Kahana

Natalie Portman’s love letter to Israel may be more dark than it is loving, but it’s a visceral experience and an amiable directorial debut for Portman.

Based on the youth of celebrated Israeli writer Amos Oz, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS is an intimate family drama set against the backdrop of a war-torn Jerusalem in post-World War II.

Elevated by the elegant performances from Portman and newcomer Amir Tessler, the film overcomes its flaws and loose areas by honing in on the unbreakable bond between a mother and her child.

Not rated, 95 minutes.

A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS opens in August TBA.


OCCUPY, TEXAS
Director: Jeff Barry
Cast: Gene GalleranoCatherine Elvir and Lorelei Linklater

After a rocky start, this Dallas-set gem collects its footing and races across the finish line with flying colors and big smiles.

The film centers on the story of an Occupier named Beau Baker (Gene Gallerano) who leaves his tent in Zuccotti Park in New York to return to Texas to take care of his sisters (Lorelei Linklater and Catherine ‘Cappy’ Elvir) when he learns of his parents’ untimely death.

The film’s material may sound too emotional for the masses on the surface, but the script penned by Gallerano is one of the more fully-realized and truthful narratives to come out of Dallas film circuit in quite sometime. But what ultimately makes it worthy of note is its strong sense of overcoming family obstacles.

Noted rated, 95 minutes.

OCCUPY, TEXAS’ release is TBA.


DAYLIGHT’S END
Director: William Kaufman
Cast: Johnny Strong, Lance Henriksen and Louis Mandylor

As cool as it is to see a zombie film set in Dallas, DAYLIGHT’S END casts a shadow on its more promising ideas to instead give audiences a movie that’s all click-click without much bang-bang.

What starts as a wicked crossbreed of MAD MAX and DAWN OF THE DEAD – of a rogue drifter (Johnny Strong) who stumbles across a band of survivors – quickly descends into a noise-infected string of sequences without the proper weight of drama to sink our teeth into.

Not rated, 106 minutes.

DAYLIGHT’S END’s release is TBA.


HIGH-RISE
Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Tom HiddlestonLuke Evans and Sienna Miller

One film that is sure to divide audiences is Ben Wheatley’s highly ostentatious HIGH-RISE, starring everyone’s favorite dancing Brit, Tom Hiddleston.

The film takes place in 1975, where a shocking breakdown of class and social structures within a brand new, state of the art apartment building unfolds. After things take a drastic turn due to system malfunctions and otherwise, the inhabitants, including the detached Doctor Robert Laing (Hiddleston), slowly start to give into their animalistic impulses.

HIGH-RISE is a great sensory experience, especially as you follow the characters through each level of the tower block. The visual style that Wheatley illustrates is commendable, whether it’s a slow-motion technique or hypnotizing alcoholic trips. However, after intrigue kicks out after the first half-hour, the film gets repetitive and cashes in too much on its style and concept than providing audiences with something of real substance.

Rated R, 119 minutes.

HIGH-RISE screens at the Angelika Dallas on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and opens in limited release on May 13.

For all information on the Dallas International Film Festival, which ends on Sunday (4/24), visit diff2016.dallasfilm.org

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.