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What's Showing In Independent, Foreign & Documentary Film, September 4

Our critics agree that the mountaineering film 'Meru' is one to see this weekend.

It's that in-between time when the summer blockbusters are winding down, but the holiday movie machine hasn't fired up yet — and that makes the perfect opening for independent, foreign and documentary films to fill the theaters. Up to Date's critics have numerous suggestions from this glut of possibilities to cover your whole holiday weekend.

Meru, R, Glenwood Arts

  • Cynthia Haines: It is visually stunning. It is incredibly intense, suspenseful— it’s got everything going for it. I would put Meru on the top of any list that has to do with mountaineering.
  • Steve Walker: It’s really about these daring men’s fatal attraction— no, I’m not giving anything away— a perilous, complicated relationship they have with this mountain.

Jimmy’s Hall, PG-13, Glenwood Arts

  • Cynthia: One of the most romantic scenes I’ve seen in a movie in a very long time is a moment when his former girlfriend changes into a dress he brought her from the United States, and they dance together in the moonlight. 
  • Bob Butler: For 25 years, British filmmaker Ken Loach has been making films of unbelievable quality. He’s a guy who puts his money where his heart is. 

Phoenix, PG-13, Tivoli

  • Steve: Nina Hoss is a German actress who is incredibly good. She plays a woman who, as she’s freed from a concentration camp, is shot in the face. It’s a strange story but just riveting.
  • Bob: The husband who is probably the one who turned her into the Nazis is basically teaching her to be herself… so it becomes this twisted gnarly situation
  • Cynthia: It’s very Hitchcockian in a way. It reminds me of Vertigo.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, R, Tivoli

  • Cynthia: I think Alex Gibney has been making too many documentaries lately. For me, it ultimately turned into a hatchet job... We know all of these stories. They've all been revealed before. There’s nothing new.
  • Steve: I said, “When are they going to China, at the factories, where they make these products and where they have had to establish netting around the roofs of these building, because so many people were killing themselves and jumping off the building?” 
  • Bob: I’m a big fan of Apple products. It made me question how much I want to support this corporation. There's just enough skullduggery going on that it really got me. 

7 Chinese Brothers, not rated, Alamo Drafthouse

  • Cynthia: You don’t get much. It’s a lightweight movie. Jason Schwartzman has played this kind of role before, and I have to say, he is getting better.
  • Steve: This movie is very unassuming, very low budget but very funny. It’s about him trying to keep his job.
  • Bob: I enjoyed it, but I didn’t think it was a home run.

Zipper, R, Cinetopia

  • Cynthia: I really think this is borderline soft porn. (Patrick Wilson) is one of those nondescript actors sort of like Josh Lucas that all kind of look the same and they’re pretty bland.
  • Steve: Completely forgettable.
  • Bob: I don’t think this is a great movie, but it has some things going for it... You’ve got this guy who falls under the sway of high-priced call girls… later in the film, he sees some of these girls when they’re off the clock... and that right there is sort of a knife in heart of that male fantasy.

Mistress America, R, Tivoli, Glenwood, AMC Barrywoods

  • Cynthia: A lot of it was improvised, because Greta (Gerwig) was given co-writer credit.
  • Steve: (Greta Gerwig) reminded me of CateBlanchett’s character in Blue Jasmine. She's not as crazy, but she's three times as random and scattered. 
  • Bob: This is screwball comedy like we haven’t seen in long time. (Greta Gerwig's character) has all kinds of insane ideas, delusions of grandeur. It’s about how this young, allegedly-innocent woman slowly kind of betrays this madcap lady who has become her mentor.

Do I Sound Gay?,  unrated, Screenland Crossroads

  • Cynthia: It does address stereotypes, but I think it doesn’t get very deep.
  • Steve: I think this movie, on its surface, sounds silly. I think it hits some tough places about self-hate and homophobia turned inward.

Z Is For Zachariah, PG-13, Cinetopia

  • Steve: If you like those kind of end of the world things, then this is your thing.
  • Bob: This is actually an end-of-the-world love triangle. Margot Robbie… is really terrific as this West Virginia girl who lives in this valley that appears to be one of the few places on earth that radiation has not destroyed... It sounds a little silly. It sounds a little clichéed, but the acting carries this.

Diary of a Teenage Girl, R, Glenwood Arts

  • Cynthia: I think this film is salacious. I think it will be a great opportunity for pedophiles to justify what it is they do. I was totally offended by this movie.
  • Steve: Her age is problematic to people... the script is so tight and clever, and it’s really about the boldest treatment of a young teenage girl’s burgeoning sexuality I’ve ever seen.
  • Bob: She basically seduces him... I found it was very uncomfortable, deliberately so. You may regard it as a failed experiment, but I think it is an experiment to see if they can depict a relationship like this in which the characters emerge not devastated.

Digging For Fire, R, Screenland Armour

  • Bob: I really kind of like this movie a lot. This is about a married couple…the reference here is looking for the fire in their relationship, which they’ve kind of lost. It’s about passion.


When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.