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Drama

Pain and Glory

(Spanish) Salvador Mallo (played by Antonio Banderas) is an aging film director who is long past the zenith of his career. He suffers from numerous physical and psychological maladies and has turned to using heroin to dull the pain. The film explores Salvador’s life at four key points in time: His early childhood with his mother, a defining romantic relationship in his life, his relationship with his mother at the end of her life, and the present. The way Almodovar weaves the stories together is exquisite. He uses flashbacks but also does something unique in using the stage to tell …

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Parasite

(South Korea): The Kim family lives in a basement apartment and struggles to make ends meet by folding pizza boxes (something so simple that they cannot seem to do right); the family is destitute but otherwise happy. The son Ki-woo lands a job as an English tutor for the daughter in the uber-wealthy Kim family, and through a series of schemes, the entire family is working there. Everything runs smoothly until one of the displaced servants shows up unexpectedly when the Kim family is away on a camping trip. The movie is fantastic; the performances by all are great, but …

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Judy

At the age of 46, and one year before she died, Judy Garland \agrees to do a concert tour in London as a way to raise money to provide a stable home for her children, Lorna and Joey. The film uses the concert tour and flashbacks to tell the story of her last big tour. Renee Zellweger does a fabulous job of capturing the mannerisms of Garland. I am not quite old enough to know Garland well, beyond my memories of seeing her on television and hearing her songs. But Zellweger captures Judy Garland’s essence and mannerisms incredibly well, and …

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The Joker

Gotham City is fracturing; people are overly hypervigilant and suspicious of and violent toward one another. By day, Authur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely clown who has mental illnesses and struggles to get by; at night, he keeps a journal, trying to make it as a stand-up comic, and takes care of his mother. Near the beginning of the film, we see Arthur being beat up by a group of teenage boys. Over time, one setback occurs after the other, and the film takes us through the evolution of the person who will become the Joker. I …

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Hustlers

The story, inspired by true events, concerns Destiny (Constance Wu), a woman who needs money and secures a job dancing in a strip club. There, she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who takes her under her wing and mentors her. They are working in New York City just before the financial markets crashed, when money flowed through Wall Street and into the NYC party scene. After the crash, they parted ways and later reunited, creating a scheme to drug rich men and get them to rack up their credit cards. The premise itself is interesting – it is kind of a …

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Peanut Butter Falcon

Zak is a man with Downs syndrome who is trapped in a retirement home and who dreams of attending wrestling school with his WWF idol, the Salt Water Redneck. One night, Zak escapes, and lands on a boat owned by rugged and rough-edged crab-pot stealing Tyler (Shia LeBeouf), who finds himself on the lam after a particularly nasty run-in with local fisherman. Begrudgingly, Tyler decides to embark with Zak on a road trip to Florida to the wrestling school and to avoid the fishermen who set out to find him. I love this film. It is incredibly quirky and well-acted. …

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Brittany Runs a Marathon

This film is based on a true story of Brittany, a woman in her late 20’s whose life isn’t really going anywhere; she parties her nights away, is perpetually broke, and her closest “friend” is completely self-absorbed. One day she gets a “wake-up call” from her doctor; she has high blood pressure and needs to lose weight. Brittany forces herself into sweats and runs one block, and she decides that she is going to train for the New York marathon. This is a really inspiring story. Jillian Bell, who plays Brittany, is great in her role; she is funny, incredibly …

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Skin

This film is based on the true story of Byron Widner (played fantastically by Jamie Bell), a white supremacist who eventually works with the FBI and leaves the supremacist group he co-founded. Caught between his “parents” who adopted him at a young age and a woman and with three children with whom he falls in love, Widner had to navigate the extreme violence represented by his family and the life he wanted to lead with Julie and her daughters. The film is well-acted, particularly by Jamie Bell, who gives a performance of surprising depth; Danielle MacDonald, who plays Julie, and …

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Honeyland

(Turkish, English Subtitles): This film documents the story of Hatidze who lives high in the mountains with her mother who is growing increasingly frail. Hatidze is a beekeeper; she and her mother appear to be the only two people who live in the area. They live close to nature, and Hatidze walks her honey to town to sell in the local markets. One day, an itinerant family with seven children sets up home next to her. At first, the father seems interested in understanding the art of what Hatidze does, but soon he and his family upset the balance of …

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

In this newest Quentin Tarantino film Leonard DiCaprio place Rick Dalton, who we follow from the height of his career as an actor in action pictures to the status of a Hollywood “has been”. Brad Pitt is Cliff Booth, who is Rick’s long-time friend, stunt double, and who ensures that Rick gets to his rehearsals. The film is set in 1969, at the same time Charles Manson’s followers murdered Sharon Tate and her friends. Tarantino weaves Rick Dalton’s story into the story of Sharon Tate in a very interesting and entertaining blend of fact and fiction. Tarantino is an expert …

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