Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

The Great Train Robbery

(review...)

" For your information, my life is a living Hell "
— Elizabeth Hurley (as the devil), Bedazzled

MRQE Top Critic

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The Starz Denver Film Festival kicks off November 6, 2013, and runs for 11 days. Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find something to suit you.

Headliners and Panels

Winslet and Brolin have an unforgettable Labor Day
Winslet and Brolin have an unforgettable Labor Day

The headliner films for the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival have strong pedigrees. Comic director Jason Reitman ( Thank You for Smoking, Up in the Air) turns serious with opening-night film Labor Day, about an escaped convict talking his way into a mother and son’s house. Alexander Payne ( Sideways, About Schmidt) takes a road trip to the Midwest with an aging Bruce Dern and young Will Forte in Nebraska.

Director Adam Rodgers doesn’t have as much of a pedigree, but his feature debut At Middleton is the closing-night film. Andy Garcia ( Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead) and Vera Farmiga ( Up in the Air) give this romance chemistry and charm. Garcia will talk after the film in person, with our own Robert Denerstein.

In fact, Robert will be hard to miss if you attend any of DFF’s Q&As or panel discussions. Robert is not on every panel — there are too many for one man to prepare for, and the topics are quite diverse. Some are aimed at filmmakers ( Kickstart Your Dream, How to Package and Sell Your Film), and others at audiences ( Are Movies Breaking Bad? Medicine and the Movies). There’s also an evening with Gene Kelly’s wife, Patricia Ward Kelly that should prove interesting to fans of his films and his feet.

Numbers and Prices


As always, you can see some local work at the Denver Film Festival. Spotlight on Colorado is a series of 8 films produced or shot locally. The Denver Actor Project features movies with faces you might recognize from your light rail ride downtown.

Denver continues its focus on a national cinema, this year showing 9 feature films from The Netherlands.

Most are shown either at the SIE Film Center on Colfax, the UA Pavilions downtown, or the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Prices range from $10 ($8 if you’re a member of the Denver Film Society) for weekday matinees, to $13 ($11 for DFS members) for screenings and panels, to $115 for a VIP package to the opening night film, dinner, and after-party.

For details on local films, prices, panels, and everything else, see denverfilm.org.

Show Me

Gloria shyly smiles at Rodolfo
Gloria shyly smiles at Rodolfo

Critic Marty Mapes has been watching and writing about movies all fall, doing what some critics all “discovery” — looking for hidden gems among the hundreds of titles. You can find his full-length reviews elsewhere on the site (start by looking in the sidebar). We’ve asked him to categorize and recommend what he’s seen according to audience tastes.

If you say “show me,” he says…

Show me something international

Ilo Ilo is about a Filipina housekeeper who comes to work for a family of three in Singapore at the peak of the Asian economic crisis. The 8-year-old son sees the new housekeeper as his enemy — but as you might predict, not for long.

Show me something from the Netherlands

If you lived in the Netherlands, you might recognize the businessman protagonists from Sex, Drugs, and Taxation. One promoted his travel business by behaving badly like a playboy, his partner made news by not paying any taxes.

Show me something American

The Retrieval is a great idea for a low-budget indie. A few rough costumes, some undeveloped woods and swamps, and you have a convincing Civil-War-era backdrop for you film about slavery, betrayal and necessity. An excellent performance from child actor Ahston Sanders makes this film shine.

I Used to be Darker starts with a Northern Irish girl coming to the United States, but it’s really about her aunt and uncle, a wife and husband — both musicians — in the midst of a divorce. The indie vibe reminded me of Once.

Show me something local

Uranium Drive-In is an unbelievably balanced documentary about environmental activists from Telluride fighting development of a Uranium mine in upstream (and much more blue-collar) Naturita, Colorado.

Show me something different — something anti-Hollywood

Paradise: Hope is a transgressive film, the third in a series of films riffing on three Christian virtues (following Paradise: Love and Paradise: Faith). Though it’s set in a fat camp, “Hope” actually refers to a 13-year-old’s crush on the camp doctor.

The Great Beauty seems to take La Dolce Vita as its progenitor. The team that produced Il Divo show us an upper-class modern Italy inhabited by aging fashionistas. The opening ten minutes are pure cinematic adrenaline.

Show me something that’ll make me mad

Brave Miss World is a documentary about an Israeli beauty pageant winner who was raped not long before she became Miss World. Ten years later, she took up as her cause, speaking about rape to fellow survivors.

The Closed Circuit is a drama based on a true story of brazen corruption in Poland, only a decade ago.

The Armstrong Lie shows that sometimes our heroes turn out to be villains. Lance cheated just like everyone else — but not everyone else ruined lives in the process.

Show me something that’ll make me feel good

If You Build It is a documentary that features two young optimistic design professionals who want to transform “shop class” into something that can revitalize a community.

Don’t show me any bad movies

That’s a dangerous question for a booster like me, but okay, I’ll give you one that didn’t work for me: Morning Star, or L’etoile du Jour promised an interesting cast (Denis Lavant from Holy Motors, along with Iggy Pop and Tcheky Karyo) as a circus troupe. But the film was too experimental to be approachable and not grounded enough to be interesting.

Show me a great performance

Grigris features a performance by an amazing dancer (with one withered leg) from the Republic of Chad, in a crime drama.

Gloria’s lead actress Paulina García won the Best Actress Silver Bear in Berlin for her 50+ romance.