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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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You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix is Joe, an emotionally and physically scarred man who makes his living finding missing girls. His latest assignment involves the teenage daughter of an elected official who has been seen in a prostitution house.  The film is a technical marvel. The director expertly moves from inside of Joe’s head, and his memories, to the present day and back; the flashback scenes are jarring and add to the depth of the damage done to Joe as a kid and as a war veteran. The script is 89 minutes, and there is not a single …

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Wind River

This film by Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter for Sicario and Hell or High Water as well as Wind River, is inspired by true events and tells the story of the murder of a young Native American woman on the Wind River Indian reservation in Wyoming. Cory (Jeremy Renner), a troubled expert hunter who is in the back woods on a job, discovers the body of a young woman frozen in the snow.  FBI Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called, and the two team up to solve the case. The directing is remarkable. The various plot details reveal themselves slowly …

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The Nice Guys

In what is a combination of a “buddy-cop” movie and film noir (like Chinatown), Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play two detectives, Jackson and Holland, who team up to solve a murder after their paths cross while looking for the same woman. Holland is a kind of a “hit man” who gets slipped some bucks from people to threaten their adversaries (brass knuckles figure a lot into his daily work). Jackson is an alcoholic private eye with daughter who is 13. The movie works for a couple of key reasons. The dialog is taut and really, really funny – there …

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Embrace of the Serpent

(Spanish with English subtitles): The film takes place during two time periods woven together through the continuity of an Amazonian guide named Karamakate. He guides two white explorers looking for a particular plant that has sacred and psychedelic properties. The film is quite stunning; it is shot in black and white, which has the interesting effect of making the jungle and the stories it contains feel much more real. It is also a great historical story about colonialism, missionary work, and the effects the intrusion of white men had on native culture. There is one story line in particular that …

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Sicario

Emily Blunt plays Kate, a young, idealistic, and talented FBI agent whose specialty is hostage situations. She is recruited by Matt (Josh Brolin), a government agent who offers her an assignment that will get her at the heart of the drug trade to really make a difference in the war on drugs. A mysterious man, Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), is quiet but seems to have a key role on Matt’s team. The movie is about the execution of a mission to find a specific drug lord. The film is excellent; it is intense but very skillfully written and directed, and …

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Black Mass

Johnny Depp plays Jim “Whitey” Bulger, head of the Irish Mafia who became an informant for the FBI through the plans of his childhood friend and FBI agent John (played by Joel Edgerton). The film starts just before Bulger becomes an informant, and the story of that collaboration is the focus of the movie. I thought the film overall was a bit of a miss. I thought Johnny Depp gave a tremendous and really creepy (especially in the latter half of the movie) performance, and his was really the strongest of the movie. I enjoyed the story – I knew …

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Run All Night

Liam Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, a rather washed-up gangster who finds himself suddenly working against the family lead by Shawn Maguire (played by Ed Harris), who had employed Jimmy for many years as his hitman, “Jimmy the Gravedigger”, when Jimmy kills Shawn’s son Danny to protect his own son Michael. The movie is the sequence of events that happens over the course of the night involving both of the families. There was a decent story here that kept me interested – it is a story about the friendship between Shawn and Jimmy and about the relationship the two men had …

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Fast & Furious 7

The next in the Fast and Furious series finds the remaining team mobilizing once again. The new bad guy is Deckard Shaw, a ruthless man who at the beginning of the film is met downloading all information on the Fast and Furious team; this forces Brian’s (Paul Walker’s character) family into hiding and him out of family life to join Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, and the others to find Deckard Shaw and God’s Eye, a device that can use technology to track your every move. The stunts are over-the-top, and we expect they will outdo …

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Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a slick thief who is looking for a job and seems to manage to make money (mostly illegally) as he needs it. One night, he happens on the scene of an accident and learns that people make good money by being first at crime and accident scenes to film them and then sell the footage to the news stations (nightcrawlers). The rest of the movie is about Lou Bloom’s journey as a nightcrawler. The movie struck me as a contemporary cross between the films Network (and its depiction of the supreme focus on news ratings …

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