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Ass Backwards, We Are What We Are, Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream

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Ass Backwards (NR)

Gravitas

Acting-writing team June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson have been hot of late, but Ass Backwards was harder-earned than it might seem. Here, Raphael and Wilson play former beauty pageant laughingstocks Kate and Chloe, whose naïve cluelessness shields them from fully comprehending the crushing failures they have become. When they're invited back for a reunion pageant, they hit the road and rock bottom. Think of it as Romy and Michele's High School Reunion meets Wet Hot American Summer. What keeps it from veering into total unlikability is the sympathy shown by Raphael and Wilson, who also wrote Bride Wars, toward their characters. Their love is understandable: Following a disastrous investment default that halted production, the movie only wrapped thanks to a last-minute cash infusion. That it came out at all is a greater victory than any pageant win. — Justin Strout

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We Are What We Are (R)

Entertainment One

An almost immediate, Americanized remake of Jorge Michel Grau's 2010 Mexican film of the same name, We Are What We Are goes for a far more literal angle on the story of a religiously weird family during the weekend of an important ritual, losing all the ambiance and mystery of the original. In that original, the audience never really understood why a sheltered urban family was making these constant preparations, the importance of them or the reasons for them. In the American take, it's more of a Christian fanaticism thing that started with 1700s settlers and just kind of kept going through God-blessed tradition. Everything is telegraphed out in advance, including the needlessly shocking ending. Putting aside the stellar performance by the always amazing Michael Parks, I say stick to the original recipe. It's creepier, it's more confounding, and it's definitely more nerve-wracking. — Louis Fowler

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Forward 13: Waking Up the American Dream (NR)

Cinema Libre

I wish I hadn't watched this sobering documentary. It's opened my eyes to just how the 2008 banking crisis left every single lower-to-middle class American behind in the scariest way possible. Main talking head (and director) Patrick Lovell takes the viewer on a ride from his own American Dream implosion to those of numerous everyday Joes across the country. They all come to one horrific conclusion: It ain't going to get better. Sure, people lob their own makeshift solutions about, but none of these people are truly in power, and as long as there's money to be made in Washington, we'll continue to suffer. It was also quaint to see footage from the first Occupy marches; which feel naïve in light of what we know only a scant few years later. Forward 13, backward America. — Louis Fowler

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