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Staff & contributors

, 2013

Casting is Joe's strong suit, with the notable case of the character of a homeless alcoholic man played by a real-life homeless alcoholic man, as the abusive father of beyond-his-age, responsible 15-year-old Gary. It doesn't stop there either, because Nicolas Cage's performance is one of his career's best (so you can rest assured as far as that is concerned), and somehow still manages to be matched by Tye Sheridan's (as Gary). This added to the bleak and bold Southern-themed script make for a hard-hitting, moving, and compelling tale of growth, and how father figures fit into it. Joe is a proud entry to the genre of powerful, yet enjoyable father-figure dramas, right next to its equally impressive brother-movie Mud.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Spivey-Sorrells, Adriene Mishler, Brenda Isaacs Booth, Brian Mays, David Gordon Green, Erin Elizabeth Reed, Gary Poulter, Heather Kafka, Jonny Mars, Lazaro Solares, Lico Reyes, Lynette Walden, Nicolas Cage, Robert Johnson, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sue Rock, Tye Sheridan

Director: David Gordon Green

Rating: R

Taking inspiration from neorealist classics, Chop Shop tells a thoroughly modern story about a pair of orphans contending with hard choices and blunt truths as they hustle to survive in New York City. But rather than take place in the concrete jungle, Ramin Bahrani’s third feature is set in an area of the city most of us aren’t familiar with: Queens’ “Iron Triangle,” an industrial zone crammed with scrapyards and car mechanic shops.

It’s in the upstairs room of one such shop that the bright young Ale (Alejandro Polanco) and his teen sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzalez) live, working days and nights downstairs to save up for the food truck that will give them a more stable life. This daily grind drives them into dark corners and onto the paths of unscrupulous adults, forcing the two kids to grow up beyond their years. Despite their plucky resilience, there’s still a childlike sweetness about them, which only further deepens the heartbreak of their situation. Polanco and Gonzalez give such emotionally raw and entirely believable performances that you’d almost think they were real siblings living lives like these. The fact that neither were professional actors before starring here makes their extraordinarily fluid performances all the more impressive, and helps burnish Chop Shop’s golden aura of genuine discovery.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Laura Patalano

Director: Ramin Bahrani