First They Killed My Father

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Release Date: September 15, 2017
Screened: September 11, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 136 minutes
Rating: NR – equivalent to a strong PG-13
Studio: Netflix
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Sareum Srey Moch; Phoeung Kompheak; Sveng Socheata; Mun Kimhak; Heng Dara; Khoun Sothea; Sarun Nika; Run Malyna; Oun Srey Neang

Angelina Jolie directs the adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” and the results are a film that is experienced rather than enjoyed. Continue reading

mother!

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Release Date: September 15, 2017
Screened: September 11, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence; Javier Bardem; Ed Harris; Michelle Pfeiffer; Brian Gleeson; Domhnall Gleeson; Kristen Wiig

I can’t think of a contemporary director who brings the “WTF?!?!” better than Darren Aronofsky, and he proves as much with his latest: the maternal insanity that is mother! Continue reading

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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Release Date: August 23, 2017 (France); October 20, 2017 (USA – limited)
Screened: September 10, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 140 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet (it’ll be R)
Studio: Memento Films
Director: Robin Campillo
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart; Arnaud Valois; Adèle Haenel; Antoine Reinartz; Théophile Ray; Catherine Vinatier

**Minor Spoilers**

Director Robin Campillo affectionately explores the early years of the AIDS crisis through the lens of the Paris outfit of AIDS activist group, ACT UP. Continue reading

Valley of Shadows

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Release Date: October 20, 2017 (Norway)
Screened: September 10, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet
Studio: Film Farms; Them Girls Film; Anna Kron Film
Director: Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen
Cast: Adam Ekeli; Kathrine Fagerland

While there is stuff to admire in Valley of Shadows, this Norwegian import really wasn’t my cup of tea. This is one of those movies that is long on atmosphere, but short on action or dialogue. A very European movie in style and nature, Valley of Shadows will only appeal to filmgoers who are into minimalist exercises in style. Continue reading

I Love You, Daddy

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Release Date: September 9, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Screened: September 9, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 123 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet (it will be R for language, I’m willing to bet)
Studio: None (self-financed by Louis C.K.)
Director: Louis C.K.
Cast: Louis C.K.; Chloë Grace Moretz; Charlie Day; John Malkovich; Rose Byrne; Edie Falco; Pamela Adlon; Helen Hunt; Ebonee Noel

Louis C.K. produces and films a movie under the cloak of secrecy from Hollywood and it proves to be a big, fun, surprisingly poignant treatise on the modern relationship between parent and child. Continue reading

I, Tonya

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Release Date: September 8, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Screened: September 9, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 119 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet
Studio: Miramax 
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie; Sebastian Stan; Allison Janney; Julianne Nicholson; Bobby Cannavale; Caitlin Carver; Mckenna Grace; Paul Walter Hauser

Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya takes a ripped-from-the-headlines true story and infuses it with unexpected empathy. Invaluable assistance is provided from star Margot Robbie, whose performance here is even more star making than her showy breakout turn in Wolf of Wall Street. Her work, as well as that of co-stars Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney (not to mention director Gillespie and cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis) should garner plenty of attention come awards time. Continue reading

A Simple Plan

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Release Date: January 22, 1999
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bill Paxton; Billy Bob Thornton; Bridget Fonda; Brent Briscoe; Gary Cole; Chelcie Ross; Becky Ann Baker; Jack Walsh

This is one of those “What would you do?” movies (another example would be Indecent Proposal, though this one is vastly superior). You know the setup: a group of seemingly simple and moral individuals are confronted with a pot of gold/pile of money/Pandora’s Box…choose your temptation, and must make a fateful decision that will test their characters. Of course, things do not go as planned, as they tend not to do in movies like this. Continue reading

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

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Release Date: August 27, 1971
Runtime: 89 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: John Hancock
Cast: Zohra Lampert; Barton Heyman; Kevin O’Connor; Gretchen Corbett; Alan Manson; Mariclare Costello

This low-key quickie hearkens back to a sort of golden age for low-budget chillers. While not as gruesome as some of its contemporaries (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes), this film makes tremendous use of its spooky old house and outdoor locations. Despite a horrendous title, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is an effective little creeper: high on atmosphere and long on style. Continue reading

Wonder Woman

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Release Date: June 2, 2017
Runtime: 141 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot; Chris Pine; Connie Nielsen; Robin Wright; Danny Huston; David Thewlis; Saïd Taghmaoui; Ewen Bremner

All hail Wonder Woman!! After decades of development hell, the grand dame of DC Comics finally gets her own standalone movie…and what a movie it is! Easily taking her rightful place alongside (and surpassing, some would argue) the big screen treatments of her Justice League comrades, “Wonder Woman” is a knockout of an action movie, an origin story, and plain, old big budget popcorn entertainment. Continue reading

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

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Release Date: April 21, 2017 – Tribeca Film Festival
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Public Square Films
Director: David France
Cast: Victoria Cruz; Marsha P. Johnson; Sylvia Rivera

Here is a documentary that should be required viewing in high schools, in gender studies classes, and in history classes from now on. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is an important and indispensable piece of work about one of the foremost founders of the modern LGBT movement. Continue reading