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The Mustang

The Mustang tells a story of Roman, an incredibly angry man who has served a very long time in prison, and what happens to him when he participates in a prison program to break wild mustangs. In the beginning, we are told that there are about 100,000 mustangs roaming in the wild, and the Bureau of Land Management periodically rounds them up and sends them to prisons. Ultimately, they are auctioned off.  The story is one that has been told in a number of different ways, but this one works really well. The acting by Matthias Schoenaerts (Roman) and Bruce …

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Burning

(Korean): Burning tells the story of three people. Lee, an unemployed writer, and recent college graduate, accidentally meets up with Shin, a young woman who is working at a department store. Shin claims she knows Lee, but Lee seems rather disinterested, yet he agrees to have dinner with her. They have sex, and she soon goes away on a trip to Africa; she asks Lee to watch her cat. Shin comes back with Ben, a guy who seems to come from a lot of money and who she met while stranded in an airport. The film is about the odd …

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Never Look Away

(German) This film is described as being loosely based on the life of abstract artist Gerhard Richter. It tells the story of Kurt Barnert’s life over about 30 years, beginning when he was a little boy just as the Nazis were coming to power and his beloved Aunt Ellie was taken away, through the beginnings of adult life in communist East Germany as a painter of propaganda murals, his falling in love with and marriage to Ellie, and his later years once his art career began to take off. I loved the film. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the score …

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What Will People Say?

(Norwegian) Nisha is a Pakistani teenager growing up with her family in Norway. At home, she conforms very closely to what is expected of her by her family and culture; away from home, she is the typical, westernized teenager. One night, her father discovers that she has her boyfriend in her room, and the price for this is that she is shipped off to Pakistan to live with her distant relatives. This is a really fine film with wonderful acting, especially by the actress who plays Nisha (this appears to be her first acting role) and the actor who plays …

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Everybody Knows

(Spanish) In this new film by two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation; The Salesman), Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her two children travel to Spain to attend the wedding of her sister. At the wedding, her daughter goes is kidnapped with only a note that no one should go to the police or her daughter will be killed. An old family friend Paco (Javier Bardem) becomes deeply involved in trying to find Laura’s daughter as well. While they search frantically for Laura’s daughter, personal secrets and family dynamics unfold. I really enjoyed the film. For the most part, the story …

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MId90’s

In Jonah Hill’s first hand at directing and screenwriting is the story of Stevie (“Sunburn”), played by Sunny Suljic, who lives in Los Angeles and is frequently beaten up by his older brother. Stevie finds a new set of older role models in a skater group. The boys of mixed ages introduce him to skating and usher him into adulthood in a way that his family can’t. Overall, I liked the film. The writing and the directing reminded me of Richard Linklater’s earliest films like Slacker; the camera works to merely observe without complicated plot and without judgment. I was …

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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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Madeline’s Madeline

Madeline (Helena Howard, in her first appearance) has joined an experimental theater group. Still in high school, she lives with her mom (Miranda July), and their relationship is strained; they do not get along, and Madeline feels that her mom doesn’t understand her. She takes to the director of the theater group Evangeline (Molly Parker), who seems to be a “surrogate mother” to Madeline as she exploits Madeline for her own interests. I really enjoyed the film; it is intriguing to see an experimental theater setting embedded in a rather experimental film. During the film, the lines between what is …

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The House that Jack Built

This is the latest film from Lars von Trier, the controversial (and very creative) film director who managed (surprise) to create another like film. The film tells the story of the serial killer Mr. Sophistication, played by Matt Dillon, in five incidents, starting with his first killing and following his career through more gruesome murders. It is difficult to describe the film. It functions as a basic horror film, with some incidents creepier than others. Through a continuing (and sometimes fascinating) conversation with Verge (we find out about halfway through who Verge is and his purpose), the film attempts to …

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If Beale Street Could Talk

The story is based on the book by James Baldwin of the same name, and concerns two young people, Tish (played by KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), an aspiring artist. Both grew up together and are in love. Just as they were ready to start their lives together, Fonny is arrested and sent to jail for the rape of a woman on the other side of town. This is a wonderful film and enhances Barry Jenkin’s (director of last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight) reputation as a beautiful storyteller and someone who extracts great performances from his actors. …

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