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The Forty-Year-Old Version

Radha Blank wrote, directed, and stars in a film about a 40-year-old woman who was once on a list of “30 playwrights under 30 to watch” and is now teaching acting in a high school. She decides to reinvent herself as a rapper who creates songs about women who are entering their 40’s. This is a really wonderful film. It is shot in black and white, which seems fitting for the material. Blank captures the scenes and eclectic people from her neighborhood in New York City; some of those encounters are as hilarious as they are insightful into city life. …

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River of Grass

This is Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut. The more recent films that I have seen are incredible, so I wanted to go back and try to look at her earlier filmography. River of Grass tells the story of Cozy, a bored housewife trapped inside of her own head and who fantasizes about a more exciting kind of life. One night she leaves her kids and walks toward somewhere; when she reaches the road, she is nearly run over by Lee Roy. A bit later, they meet up in a bar, and Cozy’s world seems to perk up; she sees a man …

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Bad Education

This film is based on the true story of Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) and Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) who were convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from a school district in Long Island that Dr. Tassone had helped build into one with a high reputation for getting seniors admitted to prestigious colleges. There is not a very deep examination of the years of scheming that led to this happening; the film starts off when Gluckin is caught embezzling money to finance home remodeling and is really about the downfall of both. The film is smartly made. Janney and Jackman …

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Emma

In this newest adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma (Anna Taylor Joy) lives in a ridiculously rich world in which she does not want for anything. She has shunned the institution of marriage, yet Emma feels the need to serve as a matchmaker (or match breaker) for those around her, especially her friend Harriet (Mia Goth). She is young and inexperienced but perceives herself to be more worldly than she really is, and in her stubbornness is blind to her own feelings, in this case for George (Johnny Flynn). I was rather surprised that I enjoyed the film as much …

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The Truth (La Verite)

(French): Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke star in the latest film by Hirokazu Koreeda, who has given us some brilliant films like The Shoplifters, Like Father, Like Son, and After the Storm. I think that this is his first French-language film. Fabienne is a strong if self-centered actress who has published her memories. Her daughter Lumir comes to France with her husband and daughter. When Lumir reads the book, she realized that many of the things her mother wrote are not factual. This sets off a sometimes-humorous war of wits between mother and daughter. I liked the film …

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Boy

This is an early film by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople; What we Do in the Shadows; JoJo Rabbit) centers Boy, a young boy of about 12 or 13 years. He lives with his younger brother Rocky and a variety of young cousins. He serves as the male caretaker of his bother and cousins while their nan is away. Boy idolizes his father, who he hasn’t seen in 7 years since his father went to prison, and Michael Jackson. When his father suddenly shows up, he is forced to reconcile his worship of an idealized father with the one …

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The Gentlemen

In this new Guy Ritchie film, Michael (Matthew McConaughey) has created a multimillion-pound marijuana growing and selling operation in London. When he decides to sell the business, there are several characters who try to figure out ways to take the business from him. This is a weird movie. The dialogue is for the most part really corny and bad; I am not quite sure if it was intended that way (I think it was), but in many cases,  it isn’t funny. To Ritchie’s credit, when his brand of craziness works, it is really funny. The only saving grace for me …

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Saint Frances

Bridget is a 30-something whose life seems headed to nowhere: she went to college but is employed as a food service worker and is in a relationship with a sensitive guy but with whom she is unsatisfied. She lands a job as a nanny for 6-year-old Frances, the daughter of two moms, and one of the moms has just had another baby. The film is about the relationship that develops between Bridget and Frances and Bridget’s journey of self-discovery. I liked the film, particularly the actress who played Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan, who also wrote the screenplay). The screenplay for the …

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Well, I seem to have a bit more time in the evenings these days to catch up on some movies! I loved the first Zombieland, so I thought I would check out the sequel. All of the leads – Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Abigail Breslin (Little Rock), Emma Stone (Wichita), and Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus) – are back, now battling new variants of zombies that get harder and harder to kill. When Little Rock runs off with a new age stoner (Berkeley), the three of them hit the road for what turns out to be a sometimes-hilarious road trip. Two of the …

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Super Deluxe

(India). The film comprises four intersecting stories. An unhappy woman has a sexual encounter with a former lover who dies during the act; a father, who left home suddenly 7 years prior, returns as a transgender woman; four boys are watching a porno when one of them discovers his mother is the star, and a man who believes he is the sole survivor of a tsunami believes he has the power to heal people. I loved this film. It reminded me a lot of two other films I really liked: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. In …

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