INDIE FLICKS: CHRISTINE
In 1974, Christine Chubbuck was reading the news on Sarasota's WXLT-TV (now WWSB) when she announced her suicide, live and in color, protesting the station's "blood and guts" policy of news gathering. Chubbuck raised a pistol to her head and fired. She later died at a local hospital.
Chubbuck's suicide is the inevitable destination of Christine (R) yet isn't sensationalized, thanks to Rebecca Hall's riveting portrayal of a disintegrating soul. Her performance isn't built on emotional outbursts but quietly internalized depression, an unreachable spirit. Chubbuck's personal and professional life offer Hall multiple shades of darkness to explore.
There's Christine's perfectionism, a woman of the '70s wanting it all, from camera skills obsessively honed to a marriage and children she's socially incapable of having. Her mother (J. Smith-Cameron) is busy finding new love. A co-worker and anchorman (Michael C. Hall, no relation) is just another unrequited crush. Her station manager (Tracy Letts) wants juicier stories than Christine's community reporting — fatal car accidents, a serial killer in Gainesville — for better ratings. "If it bleeds, it leads," he bellows, and Christine blanches.
Antonio Campos' movie is one of two movies that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to explore Chubbuck's final days. Kate Plays Christine takes a meta-documentary approach, following actor Kate Lyn Sheil as she researches Chubbuck's life and death in order to portray her. That film played at the Sarasota Film Festival in April and is currently in limited release with no local date so far.
Christine is a movie as bleak and withdrawn as its protagonist, with Hall making the most of her best role in years, a slow death spiral that's hard to look away from. B (Tampa Theatre)
OPENING THURSDAY: Almost Christmas
Thanksgiving is weeks away and St. Petersburg native turned Hollywood producer Will Packer is telling moviegoers it's Almost Christmas (PG-13). Come on, man, the holidays sneak up fast enough already.
Almost Christmas follows the recipe of Packer's modest 2007 hit This Christmas: a charming cast, a dysfunctional family holiday with old grudges and new romances between the jokes.
Danny Glover plays Walter, a widower preparing for his first holiday season without his late wife. Walter has one Christmas wish, to have his family happily together for five days. Good luck with that when Aunt May is played by Oscar winner Mo'Nique, and J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) loves getting under her skin. Romany Malco, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps and Kimberly Elise bring the heat, while D.C. Young Fly and Jessie Usher play cool.
MILES, AHEAD: MILES TELLER
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Bleed for This, starring Lecanto High School graduate Miles Teller as boxer Vinny Pazienza, doesn't debut until next week, but you can train for it now.
Teller, 29, is getting high marks for playing Pazienza, whose world championship career and party boy image survived a broken neck suffered in a car accident.
"First of all, you're playing someone with so much pride," Teller said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "He sent me a picture saying 'Miles, don't mess up my reputation. Put a banana in your pants if you have to. I'm kidding but seriously, don't (mess) it up.' "
In theaters: our Top 5
Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:
1 Arrival: A unique science fiction movie experience, with Amy Adams, above, in superb form. Review, Page 12
2 Doctor Strange: Benedict Cumberbatch brings class to Marvel's comic book movie universe.
3 Hacksaw Ridge: Mel Gibson's jarring tale of a pacifist hero during World War II.
4 Christine: True story of a Sarasota newscaster committing suicide on the air. (Tampa Theatre)
5 Times Festival of Reading: Get out of the theater; pick up a book.
(Dates subject to change)
Nov. 18: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; Moonlight; Bleed for This; Loving; Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk; The Edge of Seventeen
Nov. 23: Nocturnal Animals; Moana; Bad Santa 2; Allied; Rules Don't Apply
Dec. 2: Manchester by the Sea; Kidnap
Dec. 9: Miss Sloane; Office Christmas Party
Dec. 21: Lion