The Lost City of Z
★★★1/2 out of 4 stars
7 and 7:20 p.m. April 13 at St. Anthony Main

It’s said more than once in this true-life adventure that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. The motto applies to the heroic lead character, Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam of TV’s “Sons of Anarchy”). As an explorer of the remarkably perilous jungles of early-20th-century South America, home to snakes, cannibals and headhunters, and as a British Army officer on the front lines in France in World War I, Fawcett was a learned gentleman and a fearless daredevil. The reach-exceeding-grasp maxim also relates to the creativity captured by writer/director James Gray, who shows he can create a world that looks old-school yet feels relevant. For someone whose films to date have been emotional rather than epic, this is one heck of a stretch. And a successful one. The film balances insights into Victorian standards of honor and duty with a grip on contemporary attitudes about the era’s assertive colonialism. It also digs into the troubled relationships that Fawcett’s relentless exploration created with his wife (Sienna Miller) and eldest son, played by Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man. (140 min., USA)
COLIN COVERT

 

The Truth Beneath
★★★★
7 p.m. April 14 at St. Anthony Main; 4 p.m. April 15 at Uptown Theatre

Love disturbing mysteries? Loathe clichés? Check out Korean cinema. They do berserk suspense films — like this relentlessly entertaining nightmare — better than anyone. The female screenwriter/director and largely female acting company create a densely layered, wildly visualized kidnapping thriller/melodrama/revenge/black comedy. Son Ye-jin is electrifying as the deferential wife of a novice politician running in a nasty election. When their tween daughter vanishes, and he snags the sympathy vote, she digs into the investigation personally. The plot, weird and underhanded far beyond normal parameters, held me in hypnotized fascination start to finish. Strongly recommended, doubly so because writer/director Lee Kyoung-mi will attend. (103 min., South Korea)
COLIN COVERT

 

The Fury of a Patient Man
★★★1/2
10 p.m. April 15 at Uptown Theatre; 9:30 p.m. April 22 and 9:55 p.m. April 28 at St. Anthony Main

A character-driven crime story with a classic look of grimy 1970s realism. After serving eight years for a jewelry heist gone disastrously wrong, the getaway driver is released to rejoin his girlfriend. But amid her conjugal visits to the prison, she has also hooked up with a meek, prosperous lightweight, and a wonderful sense of everyday-life anxiety begins to build and build. This Spanish treasure is the kind of sharply structured film noir that nearly bursts with unexpected twists of fate. The beautifully crafted three-act structure reveals that violent payback is around the corner, but never shows its cards until we’re biting our fingernails to the nubs. (92 min., Spain)
COLIN COVERT

 

Window Horses
★★★
11:30 a.m. April 15 at Uptown Theatre; 4:05 p.m. April 28 and 11:45 a.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main

Rosie Ming wears a pink beret and yearns to travel to Paris. Instead, the twentysomething flips burgers at a restaurant in Vancouver, self- publishing a book of her poetry, “My Eye Full: Poems by a Person Who Has Never Been to France.” In this animated film, that slim volume changes everything — earning Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh) an invitation to a poetry convention in Shiraz, Iran. Writer/director/animator Ann Marie Fleming’s sweet, smart coming-of-age story portrays Ming as a simple stick figure. But at its best, “Window Horses” uses sophisticated, dynamic animation to illustrate what cannot be seen — the sound of the morning call to prayer, the feeling created by a poem. (88 min., Canada)
JENNA ROSS

 

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
★★★
7:10 p.m. April 16 and 9:40 p.m. April 19 at St. Anthony Main; 2:50 p.m. April 22 at Rochester Galaxy

Thomas Sung and his daughters ran Abacus, a bank in New York’s Chinatown, and were beloved in the Chinese community, so it was a shock when they were accused of mortgage fraud. They were also the only U.S. bankers to face criminal charges from the 2008 financial crisis. How in fact did they get caught and why was their bank the only one to face such scrutiny? Documentarian Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) delves into the Sungs’ five-year trial with an inexplicable and surprising answer to how money can become the root of all evil. (88 min., USA)
JIM BRUNZELL III

 

Memories of Summer
★★★1/2
9:25 p.m. April 17 and 11:35 a.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

Packs more of a punch than the usual coming-of-age story. Brooding ’70s tween Piotrek is spending a rural summer vacation with his hot mom, as their relationship straddles the line between a single-parent dynamic and an almost romantic love. Piotrek undergoes various sweet and traumatic experiences as Mom begins mysteriously stepping out and he replaces her with an older neighbor girl. This kind of low-budget naturalism is why we need an international film fest; a simple scene on a chair carousel is a beautiful visual metaphor. (87 min., Poland)
SIMON PETER GROEBNER

 

Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry
★★★
7:15 p.m. April 17 and 9:30 a.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

The title is a misnomer. This is less a portrait of writer/farmer/activist Berry than a treatise on society’s move away from a life on the land. To be sure, Berry is a passionate advocate for farmers and conservation, and it’s a worthwhile subject, sensitively tackled. But the hypnotic visual montage that opens the movie, accompanied by Berry’s voiceover of his poem “The Objective,” and the closing recitation of the elegiac “Work Song: Part 2” whet the appetite for more on the man and his work. Guess we’ll just have to revisit his prolific writings. (80 min., USA)
CYNTHIA DICKISON

 

Dean
★★★
7:20 p.m. April 17 and 7:15 p.m. April 26 at St. Anthony Main

In his directing/writing/starring debut, comedian Demetri Martin knocks a tender little charmer out of the park. He plays the title character, a Brooklyn illustrator emotionally wobbly after the passing of his wonderful mother. His father (Kevin Kline) has more maturity, but no magic spell to soothe his own loss. The film pendulums between Dean, as he finds a potential soulmate in a L.A. business trip, and his dad, who’s selling off the family house and encountering a possible significant other on the East Coast. This is very much the comedy of ordinary life, with perfectly observed moments of awkwardness and embarrassment among delightful, endearing characters. (87 min., USA)
COLIN COVERT

 

Daguerreotype
★★★
7 p.m. April 18 at Uptown Theatre; 4:25 p.m. April 23 at Rochester Galaxy; 9:40 p.m. April 27 at St. Anthony Main

Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa leaves his native Japan for this French-set modern ghost story. Everything else is pretty much as expected from the man behind “Pulse” and “Cure.” Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”) plays a man just looking for a gig, who strangely lands a good one working for a troubled photographer steeped in the titular outdated style. There are a few genuine creeps that will unsettle, but never outright terrify. When things get twisty in the third act, you’ll either go for it or the film will lose you completely. (131 min., France/Belgium/Japan)
ERIK McCLANAHAN

 

Voice From the Stone
★★★1/2
7 p.m. April 20 at Uptown Theatre; 7:10 p.m. April 28 at St. Anthony Main

“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke plays a nurse in 1950s Italy caring for children who have become deeply emotionally withdrawn. Her newest charge, living in a huge palazzo with his recently widowed father (Marton Csokas), has willfully gone silent. The film draws eerie puzzlement over whether the voices he hears in the castle’s massive masonry walls are truly coming from his deceased opera star mother. Clarke provides the love and compassion the boy needs; could the brooding Csokas take the same interest in her? Moving between supernatural and rational tones, Twin Cities director Eric Howell’s feature-film debut is magnetically moody, creating the spirit of a Hitchcock version of “Jane Eyre.” Howell and cast members will attend Thursday’s screening. (94 min., USA/Italy)
COLIN COVERT

 

The Darkness
★★★
7:05 p.m. April 20 and 7:10 p.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

The best fright films trigger our terrors by making us fill in important blank spaces in the story and visuals. This Mexican minimalist chiller makes us full partners in the creative process, giving us loads of human-scale horror to worry about. In a claustrophobic old cabin in the foggiest possible woods live an aging father and his three children. There seems to be some sort of big bad wolf outside the door. But is the real danger in its jaws or the possibility that a nearby hatchet, shotgun and rock might go into the wrong hands? Long, unbroken cuts enable the pressure to build to almost suffocating tautness, withholding clarity until the final harrowing moments. (92 min., Mexico)
COLIN COVERT

 

Whose Streets?
★★★★
7 p.m. April 21 and 4:15 p.m. April 22 at St. Anthony Main

In August 2014, locals in Ferguson, Mo., took to the streets in protest after the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. When local and state law enforcement amped up artillery and security, especially after Wilson was not indicted, the tension amongst neighbors, civilians and police sparked rioting and vandalism, leaving a city left picking up the pieces and asking: Who is policing the police? Co-directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis did a masterful and heroic job capturing the scene with hand-held cameras. Their raw, unapologetic, “the truth hurts” filmmaking style yields a disturbing and eye-opening experience. (103 min., USA)
JIM BRUNZELL III

Chavela
★★★1/2
5 p.m. April 23 and 9:20 a.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main

This highly entertaining documentary on lesbian Mexican ranchera singer Isabel “Chavela” Vargas has its shares of struggles and defeat too. Growing up in Costa Rica in a very religious and prejudiced time, Chavela relocated to Mexico, where she dressed like a man and became the first woman to sing about another woman. She became a superstar before alcoholism derailed her career for more than a decade. Co-directed by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi, this expertly detailed film features bountiful live performances, candid interviews (including director Pedro Almodovar) and musicians telling stories about the hard-boozing singer in glorious detail. (90 min., USA/Mexico)
JIM BRUNZELL III

 

The Ornithologist
★★★1/2
4:45 p.m. April 24 and 9:55 p.m. April 29 at St. Anthony Main

Bird expert Fernando (Paul Hamy) is searching the forests of Portugal for species on the verge of extinction. When he is swept away in a river torrent, he is awakened by two Chinese hikers, only to be tied up and left for dead. Once he frees himself, he must find his way back to civilization in what becomes a mysterious path of self-discovery filled with religious undertones, Lynchian characters, and beautiful scenery. The slow-burn narrative by writer/director João Pedro Rodrigues (who makes a cameo) takes us on a stylish and wickedly funny adventure deep into the strangest unknown. (117 min., Portugal)
JIM BRUNZELL III

 

Step
★★★
7:20 p.m. April 25 at St. Anthony Main; 5 p.m. April 28 at Capri Theater

This documentary chronicles the senior year at an all-female high school in Baltimore that hopes its entire graduating class will be accepted to college. The film focuses on a group of students who started a “step” dance team when they were 12, and hope to finally take home a title this year. Director Amanda Lipitz’ irresistible crowd-pleaser deftly balances the juggling act of the heartaches at home and in school, the dedication on the dance floor and the determination to achieve success. (83 min., USA)
JIM BRUNZELL III