Review

Merrick Morton / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Kansas City has been blessed with an unseasonably warm fall this year, though you won't be able to tell by stepping outside during the first half of this weekend. While you wait for the return of 50-degree weather — and you won't have to wait long — take in a good indie, foreign or documentary movie. The latest recommendations from Up To Date's Film Critics may not make you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but they will keep you warm and cozy while you avoid the outside.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City's inaugural Jazz and Heritage Festival accomplished something rarely seen in town: A genuinely diverse crowd of people enjoying themselves.

For three days over the Memorial Day weekend, that audience was perhaps most diverse in its musical tastes.

Courtesy Mello Music Group

Stik Figa
Central Standard (Mello Music Group)

Central Standard, the latest release by the Topeka-based rapper Stik Figa, chronicles the struggles of a man begrudgingly beginning to accept that his musical career is unlikely to yield fame and fortune.

Courtesy John Goolsby

John Goolsby
The Midwest

For the past few years, John Goolsby’s performances at places like Knuckleheads' Gospel Lounge have generally been solo — a singer-songwriter with country leanings, carrying shows with his pure-but-burly voice, a guitar, and a growing stack of songs with heartfelt, honest stories behind them.

Strange Music

Big Scoob
H.O.G. (Strange Music)

Years before Tech N9ne became internationally known, before his Strange Music empire dominated Kansas City hip-hop — and the hip-hop label world in general — there were the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villains. Big Scoob was the group's “street-hustler,” his fellow rapper Txx Will told The Pitch in 2002.

Paul Andrews

The Grisly Hand
Hearts & Stars

Since 2009, The Grisly Hand has been a band that’s comfortable in its own skin, equally content and holding its own whether it’s the next band up in a punk rock lineup, showcasing at the Folk Alliance conference, or opening for Lee Ann Womack. It’s not that the band doesn’t fit anywhere: Its musicians keep pushing their own limits, so they fit everywhere.

Courtesy Dino Massa

The Dino Massa Kansas City Quintet
Echoes of Europe (Artists Recording Collective)

Echoes of Europe, a collaboration between the Italian pianist Dino Masso and jazz musicians based in the Kansas City area, is the result of a chance encounter in Naples in 1990.

Courtesy Mbird

Mbird
MercyFlight

Megan Birdsall has long been a Kansas City jazz darling, her slight presence a contradiction to the voice that's filled the corners of almost every jazz club in town. But to peg her in such a niche would be a mistake, as she and her band Mbird prove with their new release, MercyFlight.

Courtesy A La Mode

A La Mode
C’est Si Bon

Gypsy jazz — or, probably more appropriately, Django jazz — is a booming style in Kansas City.

This sub-genre, built around the silky runs and inimitable swing of guitarist Django Reinhardt in the same way bluegrass grew around Bill Monroe’s mandolin, pops up periodically around the world, and now it’s our turn.

Courtesy Berwanger

Berwanger
Exorcism Rock

The cover of Berwanger’s new one, Exorcism Rock, brazenly claims brand new territory for the band, and for Josh Berwanger, the songwriter.

Courtesy Erik Voeks

Erik Voeks
So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away (Hanky Panky Records)

Until now, singer-songwriter Erik Voeks had one album to his name: Sandbox, released in 1993 on Rockville Records, the label that released the first three Uncle Tupelo albums. A pervasively melodic collection of power-pop that holds up well today, Sandbox was long treated as a lost masterpiece by music fans in the know.

Paul Andrews

Adam Lee
Sincerely, Me

From the instant Adam Lee’s voice sneaks up through a happy Ben Folds-style piano vamp and sultry, jazzy horns on “Son of a Gun,” it’s clear his move  to Chicago made some changes. Lee’s rockabilly hairstyle and unmistakably country voice are definitely still there, but Sincerely, Me is a new type of record.

Facebook

Mac Lethal
Congratulations

Over the last decade and a half, the Kansas City rapper Mac Lethal has become a personality locally and beyond. He has a huge YouTube presence. He’s published a novel based on his Tumblr. He’s performed on "Ellen." He hosts an MTV show where he asks trivia questions to drunk people ("Binge Thinking," described in the opening credits as “the best pub crawl game show on TV”).

Courtesy Shapiro Brothers

Shapiro Brothers
Shapiro Brothers

As one of the early acts at Kansas City’s Porchfest this year, the Shapiro Brothers set their latest songs free from the comfort of a Valentine neighborhood porch at high noon on a gorgeous autumn day. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect venue for a new sound from two familiar voices.

Courtesy The Conquerors

The Conquerors
Wyld Time (High Dive Records)

A remastered version of the Beatles’ Live at the Hollywood Bowl was recently released in conjunction with Ron Howard’s new documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week. While the reissue of will satisfy avid fans of the Fab Four, Wyld Time, by Kansas City’s The Conquerors, is a more arresting demonstration of the Beatles’ enduring legacy.

Courtesy The Sexy Accident

The Sexy Accident
Champagne Babycakes

Jesse Kates is a coordinated guy. The front-man and creator of The Sexy Accident has been at it for a decade, dutifully churning out catchy, creative pop records every two years with an ever-changing cast of characters.

Courtesy Lyal Strickland

Lyal Strickland
Preservation

Lyal Strickland’s day job, raising grass-fed beef cattle on 900 acres or so just north of Springfield in Buffalo, Missouri, says as much about his authenticity as his rocky, heart-wrenching songs.

Doane Gregory

Given the titanic success of Kansas City native Gillian Flynn's third novel Gone Girl and the subsequent David Fincher film, it isn't surprising that Flynn's back catalog would look tasty to the entertainment industry. But can lightning strike twice?

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle / IFC Films

Based on its trailer and the reputation of its rowdy star, one might expect the new Jack Black comedy The D Train to be thick with predictable shenanigans involving the pot-bellied man-child at its center. But the writing and directing team of Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul give Black unexpected layers of complex emotion to make a profound statement about contemporary male sexuality.

Jerome Prebois / Courtesy Zeitgeist Films.

Before the end of Volker Schlondorff’s Diplomacy, two men are embedded in a clipped war of words fraught with horror. German General Dietrich von Choltitz (Niels Arestrup) is holed up in a luxurious yet besieged Paris hotel in 1944 as Allied forces close in on recapturing the city. On the day the Germans have scheduled a series of devastating explosions that would leave Paris in ruins, the General has a fortuitous visitor: Consul Raoul Nordling (Andre Dussollier), who has the inside scoop about the planned attacks as well as the kind of negotiating skills that could stop them.

Sony Pictures Classics

What starts as a seemingly benign spat over less than an acre of land turns toxic and deadly in Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev's masterfully crafted Leviathan. A nominee for this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar, it focuses an intense gaze on a civil suit and the discordant parties whose lives are either pointlessly enriched or irrevocably destroyed.

Simon Mein / Sony Pictures Classics

Movies about artists typically stumble toward their most basic goal: to link the paint on the canvas to the psyche of the painter. Ed Harris’s Pollock worked masterfully, as does Mr. Turner, British director Mike Leigh’s complex portrait of the esteemed English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.

Through beautiful cinematography (reflecting the artist's attention to light), Leigh’s learned script, and Timothy Spall’s robust performance, Mr. Turner presents a lush visual biography that’s strikingly relevant considering its subject died in 1851.

Jojo Whilden / Sony Pictures Classics

Dr. Alice Howland is at the top of her game as both a linguistics professor and a smart, sophisticated and sexy New York woman in her fifties, played by Julianne Moore in the wrenching new drama Still Alice.

At the family dinner that opens the movie, she carries herself like a bright and vibrant sunrise — until she has an uncharacteristic memory lapse so slight it goes unnoticed by her husband and adult children. Yet it is the first drop of the downpour about to wash away her faculties.

Fox Searchlight

Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail suggested to more than a million readers that the way to tame inner demons is to redefine what it means to navigate a wild life. Jean-Marc Vallee, the director of last year's Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club, has adapted Strayed's book into a beautiful and gritty film with a transformative performance by Reese Witherspoon at its core.

The Verge

"Science fiction is a laboratory for experimenting with ideas," says Chris McKitterick.

The film Interstellar stretches scientific knowledge to spark our imaginations and address not-so-fictional problems. What were the dynamic take-aways for an astrophysicist, a science fiction expert, and a movie critic?

Courtesy / Tipping Point Productions/Cinedigm.

In Kelly Reichardt’s astonishingly good thriller Night Moves, a trio of environmental activists gets trapped in a political and deadly morass of their own making. Played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard, they demonstrate to a fault what happens when passion for a cause is trumped by human frailty.

courtesy: IFC Films

There's a deliberate seediness to the Texas noir Cold in July that makes it both entertaining and calculating. Directed by Jim Mickle, it stars Michael C. Hall as Richard, an ordinary man around whom extraordinarily violent things happen, all triggered by an act of self-defense that leaves a home intruder dead and his living room splattered with brain matter like a Jackson Pollock.

The Weinstein Company

In Stephen Frears' heartfelt and moving Philomena, the most effective shots are among the simplest a filmmaker can employ: tight close-ups. In this case, the camera’s focus is on the furrowed, and inspiringly lived-in face of the great Judi Dench. Playing a woman who longs to discover the whereabouts of the son taken from her when she was a teenager, Dench gives the title character a strength and resolve that has gotten her through the fifty years since she last saw her son.

For years, it seems like Hollywood has been remaking the same films over and over and over again. Have they run out of original ideas? Or is it the movie theaters and the audiences themselves who keep paying for the same movie every summer?

Our movie critics Russ Simmons, Thom Poe, Loey Lockerby, and special guest Justin Scott, director of marketing for Standees theater, talk about the problem of putting all your eggs in one basket, as well as the new and unique movies that Hollywood is making.

Pages