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Bull

14-year-old Kris (Amber Havard) is restless. With her mother in jail, she and her sister are spending the summer with their aunt. To impress the local kids, she breaks into the house of neighbor Abe Turner (Rob Morgan), a rodeo clown away at work. Kris hosts a wild party leaving Abe’s home a total disaster. It’s obvious that Kris is going down the same path as her mom, one of crime and recklessness. A deal is made in which Kris will pay for her break-in by cleaning Abe’s house and doing chores for him. Kris is swept up in the world of the rodeo and develops an interest in bull riding. Abe, tortured by old injuries and a penchant for drink, sees his livelihood slipping away from him. Will Kris and Abe be able to help each other before their lives spiral out of control?

Directed and co-written by Annie Silverstein, Bull is a meandering drama that explores the pains of self-destruction. The film takes its time with its characters. There is no rush to get to any big event or final conclusion. This allows viewers to really settle into this world. The film’s major weakness is having a principal character, Kris, with no redeeming qualities. It’s clear that she’s following in her mother’s footsteps and is lacking the guidance to put her on the right path. But there is very little, if anything, to make us empathize with her plight. Abe is a more dynamic and complex character. By the end, the film left me frustrated and ready to move on.

Bull is available on VOD through Samuel Goldwyn Films. You can watch it on Amazon Prime, iTunes and other platforms.

Auggie

How do you go on living your life when you feel useless? Felix Greystone (Richard Kind), a talented architect, has just been forced into early retirement by his firm. At his going away party his coworker Hillary (Larisa Oleynik) gives him a very special present: Auggie. This pair of A/I glasses when worn conjures up the vision of a companion, someone who represents the wearer’s deepest desires and is always available and amenable. Now that Felix’s wife Anne (Susan Blackwell) is busy with her career and his grown up daughter Grace (Simone Policano) is moving in with her boyfriend, Felix is absolutely and positively alone. He puts on the glasses and there is Auggie (Christen Harper) a gorgeous young woman who tells Felix all that he wants to hear. As Anne starts to drift away and contemplates an affair with her coworker Jack (James C. Victor) and Grace is asserting more of her independence, Felix grows more and more reliant on Auggie for companionship. Complications inevitable arise and Auggie takes over Felix’s reality.

Image courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

“Guess you’re retired, life’s over, might as well die? You got a lot more to offer. Life is short. Don’t waste it.”

Auggie

Directed by Matt Kane, Auggie is a quiet, contemplative science fiction movie about what it truly means to feel valued. Not feeling wanted or desired can really strip someone of their quality of life. Through Auggie, Felix taps into an alternate reality where he doesn’t have to suffer the same fate as his fellow retirees. Also it warns us how technology can make us lose grips with reality.

It will be easy to compare this film to Spike Jonze’s Her where Joaquin Phoenix plays a greeting card writer who develops a relationship with the voice of his personal computer. Both are good on their own merits but personally I found Auggie┬áa much more approachable story. I love how the film shows both the projected companion, beautifully played by newcomer Christen Harper, and how strange it seems from the outside looking in as Felix, a wonderfully restrained performance by Richard Best, talks to someone who isn’t there. Weaving in Anne’s story, played by Susan Blackwell, shows how we can be lead astray by real life too.

Auggie is available on VOD from Samuel Goldwyn Films.

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