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Cake

(Pakistan): This film is about three siblings who return home to Kabul after their father suffers from congestive heart failure. The return home surfaces a number of interpersonal struggles and family secrets that risk fracturing the family. At first glance, it seems like a standard “dysfunctional family dynamics” film. However, the film is really well constructing. The ensemble acting is great. The screenplay is very well crafted, frequently very funny, and keeps coming up with more surprises; I didn’t find it at all predictable. I am impressed with the music; I don’t know anything about Pakistani pop music, but it …

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Paddleton

Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are two best friends who live next to each other. Michael is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, and he asks Andy to help him to end his life early before the worst of the illness sets in. The film follows their story after Michael’s decision. I really loved this film. It isn’t perfect – there is one part in particular that seemed not necessary to the overall story – but the film reminded me of Sean Baker films that focus more on character development than plot. Duplass and Romano are excellent and have …

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Jallikattu

(India): I watched this film with no expectations, and I have to say it was one of the most thought-provoking, interesting, and surprising (in a great way) films I have seen this year. It is the kind of film I am attracted to – creative and unique in its vision and storytelling and one whose premise initially seems like it cannot work but executes brilliantly. It opens with a montage of men who live in the village; we are introduced to some of the key characters, quick glimpses of their faces and activities during a typical day. After a brief …

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Kumbalangi Nights

(India) This film was interesting for me to watch. This is probably the first film out of India I have seen that doesn’t look like it was made for an international audience. Four brothers live together in an old house in a poor part of town. The brothers don’t all get along well together, and it is clear from the beginning that there is a history that we will discover as the film progresses. I was fascinated watching this, as it is a very different film than the kind that are typically produced in the United States. I will claim …

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In Fabric

In this British thriller, a woman who is recently separated, lonely, and struggling to raise a rebellious teenage boy, wanders into a dress shop and purchases a striking red dress for a date with someone she has met through a local newspaper singles site. After she buys the dress, a number of strange things begin to happen to her; it is clear that her purchase unleashes some kind of evil force that affects her and others who come into possession of the dress. This is a rather interesting film. It is kind of a horror film but without a lot …

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Queen & Slim

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith, in what I think is a first motion picture performance) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya, star of Get Out) are on a date that seems to be going badly; you get the sense that they will never see each other again after this night. On the way home, they get pulled over for failing to use their turn signal. What happens during that encounter makes them fugitives and sends them on a road trip across the country while they rapidly become social media icons. I loved the film; I loved that I quickly become so connected to the …

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Kingsmen: The Golden Circle

After his mansion is blown into smithereens and several Kingsmen are lost, Eggsy and Merlin end up in Kentucky to try to uncover who was responsible for the destruction. The film descends into goofy mayhem as they find themselves in the middle of whiskey country and confront a global threat instituted by Poppy, who has created a virus that leaves people paralyzed. The film seems to be a parody of itself; whereas the original Kingsman was fresh and moderately innovative, this one veers into silly comedy involving meat grinders and – yes, Elton John, who seems to be at Poppy’s …

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Little Women

This is Greta Gerwig’s latest film about 4 young women coming of age and living in pre-Civil War Massachusetts. I have not read the original novel, nor have I seen any of the previous versions of this, so I watched the film with no preconceptions. When I watch a Gerwig film I feel like I am being guided into a special place, and this film is no exception. She is a brilliant director who gets the most from her actors in this film about these 4 women finding their voices in the 19th century but feels relevant. Jo March (Saoirse …

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Dolemite is My Name

Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a struggling comedian who has an ear for the kind of comedy Black America wants to hear (definitely a counter to Bill Cosby) and turns that into a moderately successful comedy album career. Rudy then decides to make a Shaft-like movie that has women, fighting, and sex. The film is about how he cobbles together the resources to put together a film that would go on to gross 10 million dollars and the box office and establish the “blaxploitation film” era. The movie is very funny; Eddie Murphy is great in the lead role. …

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Knives Out

In this murder mystery film, the Thrombey family is a bunch of rich, whining, selfish brats headed by their matriarch Harlan (played by Christopher Plummer). His nurse, who has become his friend, helps him with his medications. One night, Harlan is found dead on his couch. Famed detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is on-scene with two local detectives to try to uncover what happened. The film is Murder on the Orient Express, updated to a conventional setting and context. I enjoyed the film for its blend of humor and mystery. The cast, including people like Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, …

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