Freeze Frame: “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Not rated), “Minari” (PG-13), “The Vigil” (PG-13)

Andra Day makes an auspicious and striking feature film debut in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.” It isn’t so much a biopic about the iconic jazz vocalist as it is about Holiday’s contentious relationship with the FBI which used her drug abuse as an excuse to censor her performance of the classic protest song, “Strange Fruit.” Sadly, the movie doesn’t live up to Day’s performance. As directed by Lee Daniels, it’s disjointed, meandering and lacks the focus necessary for it to work on an emotional level. But “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is worth seeing for Day’s acting as well as her choice renditions of Holiday’s classic songs.


“Minari” is the very definition of a pleasant surprise. This low-key family drama from filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung is a semi-autobiographical story about a Korean American family that tries to start a farm in rural Arkansas in the 1980s. Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri are excellent as the parents of two young kids who face formidable, emotionally wrenching challenges adapting to life in the Ozarks. Most of the story is told through the eyes of David, a seven-year-old boy. “Minari” is a warm and affectionate tale that serves as an apt salute to the fortitude of family.


If the opportunity to be creeped out for a few hours beckons you, then “The Vigil” is right up your alley. A young Jewish man, played by Dave Davis, has distanced himself from his Orthodox culture after experiencing an emotionally wrenching tragedy. He reluctantly agrees to keep vigil over a dead man’s body for a few hours at night, only to be visited and harassed by an evil spirit. This intelligent and unnerving film creates an eerie atmosphere and provides us a final, impressive performance from the late Kansas City native, Lynn Cohen.


Your local art house theaters are offering online viewing options for a number of  intriguing movie titles. More information is available at,, and

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