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Collective

(Romania, English subtitles): This fascinating documentary follows a sharp investigative journalism team that began by investigating a fire at a nightclub in Romania that killed about two dozen young people but went on to claim nearly 40 additional lives. This movie reminded me of the wonderful film Spotlight several years ago based on the team who cracked the story about one of the cardinals accused of sexually abusing boys. While that was a reenactment of the story, Collective is a documentary that follows the team as piece together several seemingly unrelated events – the nightclub fire, the resignation of the …

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Memories of Murder

(Korea, English Subtitles). One of Bong Joon-Ho’s first big hits is now available for rent on Amazon Prime! The film, based on a true crime story that was not solved at the time of the film’s original release, is about the efforts of some local detectives to find a serial killer. Two detectives from a local police department, one of who has anger control issues, and the other who seems to have gotten his training from crime detective television shows, are joined by an educated detective from Seoul. The first half of the film is very funny watching Detective Park …

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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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Wild Goose Lake

(Chinese): Zhou is part of a rival gang of motorcycle stealers. At the beginning of the film, we meet Liu, who is there “in place of Zhou’s wife”; the reason for this becomes apparent as the film progresses. He tells Liu that he has upset a rival gang, who is after him, and inadvertently shot a police officer, and the police force is after him as well. The film, told in flashbacks, build Liu and Zhou’s stories. The film is like a film noir; it is mostly set at night in Wuhan, and the lights and neon of the city …

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Holiday

(Danish): Sascha is a young woman whose older boyfriend is a drug dealer – and is also very controlling. The film seems to be an examination of her life with her boyfriend over several days. There were a couple of aspects of the film I liked. The lead actress who played Sascha is very good, and I liked how the cameral focused much of the film on her. The director captured the nuances of her character very well. Otherwise, I found the film rather boring. There is a story, but the story itself did not make a lot of sense …

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Ash is the Purest White

(China). Story of Qiao, a young woman whose boyfriend Bin is a gangster (well, I am not sure of the exact translation – he kind of runs an underworld gambling operation and seems to perform “dirty work” for his boss). One day, Bin is viciously attacked by a pack of young men, and Qiao fires warning shots in the air to scare them off. She is arrested and spends the next 5 years in prison. The story is told in three parts: The first, as Bin’s girlfriend before she is arrested; 5 years later, her release and post-arrest life; and …

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Unbelievable

This Netflix miniseries that begins with a young woman living in the Seattle area, Marie (Kaitlyn Dever) who was raped, reports it and then, under pressure from the local police, withdraws her allegation. This further alienates this young woman, who spent many of her childhood years moving from one foster home to another. Meanwhile, about 5 years in the future, two detectives (played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) are investigating a series of sexual assaults that appear to be connected. The film moves back and forth across the 8 episodes between the two stories. Overall, I liked the film. …

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The Irishman

Martin Scorcese’s latest film, based (probably loosely) on the life of Frank Sheehan (played by Robert DeNiro), an associate of the mob and of Jimmy Hoffa, is very impressive. There are two narrative strands that weave to form the overall story and narrated by Frank Sheehan in the present from his nursing home: The road trip that was taken by him and his mob boss Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci) to attend a wedding and meet with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and the story of how Sheehan rose in the ranks as he did. The acting overall is great, but the …

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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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The Guilty

(Denmark):  Asgar has been assigned from patrol to a desk job answering 911 calls. He clearly doesn’t want to be there, has a chip on his shoulder, and doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the callers. Then a woman named Iben calls and claims she has been abducted. The entire film is shot in the police station where he takes the calls, and for almost the entire movie, Asgar is the only one you see. This is an amazing piece of film crafting. The film most closely resembles Locke, shot entirely in the car as Locke is driving; …

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