Packed with more films than ever, this could be the biggest and most unique Philadelphia Film Festival yet.
Make sure to check out “The Nail: The Story of Joey Nardone,” which features a very meaty starring role for South Philadelphia native Tony Luke Jr. The movie follows boxer Joey Nardone as he faces life post-prison. He meets a young, abused boy and teaches him how to fight. It’s the Karate Kid, South Philly-style. See it for the familiar and for Luke’s performance (it’s pretty good!). The chicken cutlet hoagie at Tony Luke’s is still his most memorable contribution, but the acting comes a close second.
For more sports love, check out another great boxing film, “Phantom Punch,” directed by Robert Townsend (“Meteor Man”). Set in the early 1960’s, “Punch” is the story of Sonny Liston (Ving Rhames), a world heavyweight champion, who was known to have one of most powerful punches in the history of boxing. The film also chronicles his struggles outside the ring with a very racist population that spent most of the time threatened by the champion, viewing him as nothing more than an angry black man. “Phantom Punch” is entertaining and better than the average sports movie. Ving Rhames elicits a very complex and committed performance as the troubled heavyweight crumbling under the burden of society and his past.
The Festival has tons of other highlights, too. “Lymelife,” the closing film, is an “American Beauty” style dark dramedy with Alec Baldwin and Cynthia Nixon. “500 Days of Summer” showcases the ever-quirky Zoey Deschanel (“Elf” and “Yes Man”) and a choreographed musical number by way of Hall and Oates! The hardcore “The Burning Plain,” from the creators of “Babel,” features perhaps the best performance Kim Basinger has given in a film since, well, ever. Sam Rockwell pulls a Tom Hanks a la “Cast Away” in the captivating sci-fi saga “Moon,” another standout. Last but not least, for the gorehounds in the building, check out “20th Century Boy” and “Plaguetown.”
The Philadelphia Film Festival starts today and continues through April 6. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended and same day sales will only be available at the venue. For more information, prices or to purchase tickets visit www.phillycinefest.org. See you at the movies!