Indie Weekend: ‘Smashed,’ ‘The Sessions,’ ‘Samsara,’ ‘Sister,’ and More

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Smashed' (Sony Pictures Classics)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead in ‘Smashed’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

Awards season is in full bloom, and Dallas is the beneficiary this weekend, with a flurry of independent movies clamoring for attention.

  • Smashed features a noteworthy performance by Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a young woman who recognizes her own symptoms of alcoholism and tries to go sober, without much assistance from husband Aaron Paul. (Landmark Magnolia; Angelika Plano)
  • The Sessions is receiving attention for John C. Hawkes, who plays a not-so-young man confined to an iron lung for much of his life. He yearns to lose his virginity, a difficult proposition for someone with his physical limitations, and so he turns to a sex therapist (Helen Hunt) for assistance. (Landmark Magnolia; Angelika Plano)
  • Samsara is a documentary by Ron Fricke (Baraka); the film “transports us to the varied worlds of sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial complexes, and natural wonders.” (The Texas Theatre)
  • Sister stars Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux in a drama “set at a Swiss ski resort and centered on a boy who supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests.” (Angelika Dallas)
  • The Details is the sophomore feature by Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Kerry Washington, and Ray Liotta; it’s a dark comedy involving sex, extortion, and murder. (Angelika Dallas)
  • The Other Son tells the “switched at birth” story of an Israeli and a Palestinian; no, it’s not a comedy. (Angelika Dallas)
  • Amber Alert is a thriller about two young friends on the trail of a murderous child rapist. (Angelika Dallas)

And of those, I have seen in advance a total of none, unfortunately, but Smashed, The Sessions, and Samsara have all gotten above average critical notice, so I would start with one of those three. Unless you have children and/or love animated films about video games, in which case I recommend Wreck-It Ralph (read my review).

Also opening in wide release:

  • Flight, a drama directed by Robert Zemeckis, with Denzel Washington as an airline pilot struggling with alcoholism.
  • The Man With Iron Fists, martial arts action starring Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe; directed by the RZA, and not screened in advance for local press, which probably tells you all you need to know (i.e. not likely to be a critical fave, but could provide genre kicks). (UPDATE: Sad to say, a mediocre effort; read my review at Twitch.)

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