It's difficult to separate the thrill of female writer-director Haifaa Al Mansour's pugnaciously defiant, coming-of-age-in-the-Muslim-world drama and the bravura performance by Waad Mohammed as the titular rebellious schoolgirl whose headscarf just won't stay on, from the additional layer of excitement that comes with this knowledge: Wadjda is the first-ever feature film shot in Saudi Arabia, an oppressively patriarchal world nevertheless brimming with history, culture and that spark of enlightenment in the literal eyes of Wadjda, who longs for the small freedom a bicycle brings. The long-simmering hunger for the medium is as palpable as it is in 2011's Viva Riva, the first feature film produced by the Democratic Republic of Congo in 25 years. As elegantly embodied by 10-year-old Wadjda, change is about opportunity. Wadjda makes the most of its megaphone. — Justin Strout
A Case of You (R)
It's amazing that they still make films like this: typical indie rom-coms that are so by-the-numbers and bland that they feel like they should have been an ignored 1996 Miramax straight-to-video release starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rebecca Gayheart. But, instead, we have their modern-day equivalents, the punchable Justin Long and the wallpaperish Evan Rachel Wood in this thing. Together, they play a pair of quirky Brooklyn special snowflake types that manage to bring a rote Three's Company plot into the Facebook age as Long's novelist-stalker uses Internet info to lie about who he is in order to score with Wood's kooky barista babe, all to a nondescript alt-rock soundtrack. With embarrassing cameos by Sam Rockwell, Vince Vaughn and Peter Dinklage as an offensively broad homosexual stereotype, A Case of You is a total case of finding something else better to watch. — Louis Fowler
Dark Sky Films
The Hangover meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind — by way of trendy found-footage, of course — in the mostly entertaining Unidentified. Four wacky pals head out to Vegas for a weekend of gambling when all that could go wrong does go wrong. First they don't have all the money they need for a buy-in so they hook up with a mob-thug bookie, then the card game is a high-stakes thing run by developmentally disabled peeps and, finally, on their way out of Sin City, they find themselves stranded in the desert after a bolt of red lightning strikes their car and an oozing black oil possesses one of the dudes. Throw in some alien conspiracies, some military cover-up ideas and an entertaining enough group of bickering buds and you have a deft sci-fi flick that, while it takes a long time to get going, is actually pretty rewarding and pretty fun once it does. — Louis Fowler
So proud of you Catherine!!! I knew you could do it!!!
I read an early draft of Ghostland in 2014 that was written by Jon Orr…