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Foreign

Night of the Kings

(Ivory Coast; French with English Subtitles): A young man, a small-time thief is sent to MACA, a prison in the Ivory Coast that is essentially run by the inmates. The leader of the inmates is close to death, and as part of the legend, he must surrender his rule, and his life, during the red moon. He chooses an inmate (who he calls “the Roman” to tell a story, and as the film progresses, we get a sense of how important that story is to the Roman in order to stay alive. This film is very beautifully shot and also …

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Minari

(Much of the film is Korean with English subtitles): Jacob, Monica, are Korean – American immigrants and move from California to Arkansas with their two young children. They arrive at the property that has several acres with no irrigation, and an old trailer. Jacob is looking to find success in creating a niche farming Korean vegetables and not have to make money in the chicken houses “looking at chicken butts”. There is something very special about this film that is based on the experiences of the director as a child. While the film is from an immigrant point of view, …

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The White Tiger

The movie is about the rise of Balram from growing up in a poor neighborhood to becoming a successful entrepreneur in Delhi. As a teenager, he manages to land a job working as a driver for Ashok and his wife Pinky, both of whom have returned from America to expand their business. I didn’t think the film is terrible, but when I think that it was an adaptation of a book that won the Booker Prize, the story had to have been told MUCH better there than in the film. I found it mostly a tedious exercise that required significant …

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Funny Boy

(Sri Lanka, some parts in English and English subtitles): This film is a coming-of-age story of a boy, Arjie, growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups. We see him first probably around 8 years old, in a mock wedding in which he is dressed up as the bride and another girl from the neighborhood is the groom. While his father is concerned about him being a “funny boy”, his Aunt Radha encourages his differentness. The film then jumps to Arjie as a teenager attending a preparatory school, where the tension …

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Druk (Another Round)

(Denmark, English subtitles). Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) is a high school teacher who has hit a bit of a mid-life crisis. His classes are boring, his family life is boring, with a wife who works nights and is becoming more estranged, and two teenage sons who are off doing their own thing. He and three other teachers decide to test a theory that blood alcohol content should always be at least .05 with no drinking after 8 pm or on the weekends. Their goal is to see if it improves their professional and social lives. The test starts off well enough, …

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Small Axe

Steve McQueen III, who is probably best known for his film, 12 Years a Slave, brings a new concept, a collection of 5 feature films that stand on their own but are being packaged as a Limited Series on Amazon Prime. The subject is the experience of West Indian immigrants in London between 1960 and the early 1980s. While each film stands on its own, I find it much easier to think about all of them together. This is an excellent collection of stories that are immersed in their particular eras. The first, Mangrove, is based on the true story …

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The Host

(Korea, English subtitles): I know that a lot of people have probably already seen this one, but I missed it, and I have been doing a Bong Joon-Ho movie-watching binge, and here we are. Kang-du is a single father of Hyun-seo; both live with his father. Kang-du appears to be narcoleptic, falling asleep at the window of the little store his father owns. One day, as he is delivering food to a customer outside, a slimy fish-lizard like creature arises from the river and creates mayhem and, at the same time, takes Hyun-seo. The remainder of the film is about …

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Okja

(Korea, subtitled, with some parts in English): Mija, a young girl living with her grandfather in Korea, has been raising a gigantic pig, Okja. The pig is one of 26 “non-genetically modified” super pigs that were spread around the world to be raised by a very bizarre corporation out to create the best sausages by pigs that grown very large and poop economically – all under the guise of being environmentally friendly. Okja has been designated as the prize pig, and Mija finds herself in the intersection between corporate and animal rights activists. The film is a rather interesting collection …

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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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I’m No Longer Here

(Mexico, English Subtitles). Ulises is the leader of a small “gang”, Los Terkos, who dance cumbia, a musical style that emerged in Colombia during the slave trade. Ulises is forced to flee from his city of Monterrey to New York City, where he tries to establish a new life. The film hops back and forth between the story of why he had to leave Mexico and his various experiences trying to make it as an undocumented resident of the city. There is a kind of poetry here in the movie that I really liked, and how the dancing connects his …

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