IndieStream: 'About Alex' is 'Big Chill' for the Selfie Set

About Alex

Opening today in theaters and on VOD is writer/director Jesse Zwick’s feature debut, About Alex.

The film is about a group of 20-something college friends who reunite at a country house in upstate New York after Alex (Jason Ritter) attempts to kill himself. Alex has been called an update on The Big Chill for the millennial generation by nearly every review and by the self-referential film itself. Whereas the gathered friends in Chill wonder if they’ve lost their 1960s idealism in the materialism of the ‘80s, Alex is a meditation on the nature of maintaining friendships in the age of Facebook and Instragram.

The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore’s mixed review called it “unambitious, but amiable," which captures the general critical reaction of "watchable, but not great."

The film benefits from an ensemble cast that clicks and assuredly handles Zwick’s not-overly-sentimental and at-times humorous script. As DeFore points out the presence of familiar TV talents -- Ritter (Parenthood), Max Greenfield (New Girl), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Jane Levy (Suburgatory) -- may give the film enough name-recognition to reach a non-fest audience.

We Could Be King

In 2013, Philadelphia's infamous “doomsday” budget resulted in the closing of 24 schools. One of the closed schools was Germantown, whose students were shipped down the block to arch-rival Martin Luther King High School. The hatred between the two schools runs so deep it creates a powder keg that leaves educators and police worried the merger won’t survive the first day of classes.

The frontlines of the merger and the focus of this gripping doc is King’s football team. In what could easily be the story line for a sixth Season of Friday Night Lights, the team is led by a volunteer, 27-year-old first-time head coach, who lost his teaching job at the recently shuttered Germantown.

Rounding out the cast of characters are two star athletes; one a brash safety who gets in trouble with the law, the other a gentle giant whose dreams of playing for the University of Florida are threatened by his academics. But the heart of the film is the story of an unpaid coach and a new principal fighting to inspire teenagers to overcome the circumstances of their underfunded, crime-riddled neighborhood and unite.

The film is directed by two-time Emmy nominated director Judd Ehrlich, whose access to the students, school and practice field is at the heart of the film’s success.

‘We Could Be King’ premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and will be released on VOD Tuesday, Aug 12. 

 

LAST WEEK

The One I Love and Frontera were released on VOD weeks before they hit theaters and both did well on iTunes Top Indies chart, with Love climbing to No. 7 and Frontera currently at No. 17. They were joined in the Top 20 by Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Rich Hill (No. 13), which has just started its theatrical tour of U.S. cities and has been getting a avalanche of positive press.

Doing by far the best on the iTunes chart was Gia Coppola's Palo Alto (No. 2), jumping ahead of bigger indies like Bad Words, Snowpiercer and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Palo Alto’s iTunes success should not be too big of a surprise: The film was Tribeca Films' most successful theatrical release ever and in its first week on VOD it was only made available on iTunes, which started taking pre-orders all the way back in April when the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

NEXT WEEK

We’re looking forward to the VOD release of The Dog (opens theatrically today in LA and NYC), a doc exploring the stranger-than-fiction story of the man who was the inspiration for Al Pacino’s character in Dog Day Afternoon. Also up: director Terry Gilliam’s latest The Zero Theorem.

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