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Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Yeong-ok, Kim Young-ok, Kwak Jae-min, Lee Jae-joon, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Yu-rim, Shin Se-hwi

Director: Lee Chung-hyun

Rating: R

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There’s a cyclical tragedy at the heart of Bad Education, that starts with love, then continues in separation, and ends with hoping to redeem one’s self, and it would have felt repetitive if it wasn’t for the metafictional framing of Pedro Almodóvar. It boldly tackles the sexual abuse occurring in Catholic boarding schools, from which Almodóvar was educated under. It also explores it through a series of brilliant twists, as each reveal essentially repeats again and again, with each remix increasing the stakes, weaving a new layer to the love triangle, and exacerbating the consequences. Bad Education blends Enrique’s, and perhaps Almodóvar’s, life with fiction, with the brilliance and style Almodóvar is best known for.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Alberto Ferreiro, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Fele Martínez, Francisco Boira, Francisco Maestre, Gael García Bernal, Javier Cámara, José María Yázpik, Juan Fernandez, Leonor Watling, Lluís Homar, Nacho Perez, Pau Poch, Petra Martínez, Pol Monen, Raul Garcia Forneiro, Sara Montiel

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: NC-17

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, 2021

Education is a human right, but for many girls around the world, this isn’t necessarily guaranteed– especially if they want to learn past the required years of basic education. Yuni is a coming-of-age drama that depicts a girl in West Java, Indonesia who wants to go to university, but due to the marriage and virginity culture in the area, her main problem isn’t having to pass the entrance exams, or figuring out how to get financial aid. Instead, it’s having to fend off marriage proposals that clearly don’t come from a place of love. Writer-director Kamila Andini depicts the titular protagonist with the freedoms rarely granted to a girl like her, with the happiness and belonging all girls should be able to find solace in, but she also depicts the casual ways oppression lingers in the background, with society just waiting to kill women’s dreams, hopes, and personal goals. Yuni is an honest and powerful portrait of many women around the globe.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yasmine, Arawinda Kirana, Asmara Abigail, Ayu Laksmi, Dimas Aditya, Kevin Ardilova, Marissa Anita, Mian Tiara, Muhammad Khan, Neneng Wulandari, Nova Eliza, Rukman Rosadi, Sekar Sari, Vania Aurellia

Director: Kamila Andini

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Given a budget from Netflix to make a documentary on Korean film, some would have chosen instead to make one for big Korean filmmaking personalities like Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, who is featured here. However, director Lee Hyuk-rae instead creates Yellow Door, a love letter to the ‘90s film club that inspired a generation. The warm way each member tries to remember the club made decades ago, and the handy, almost cheeky, animations makes it feel like we’re there in the club with them, just listening to friends reminisce about the way they obsessed about film, even if it wasn’t the major they were studying in. It’s so nostalgic and sentimental, and in shifting its focus, it celebrates the lovely experience of finding a community of like-minded people that’s just obsessed with film as you are.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Bong Joon-ho, Choi Jong-tae, Ju Sung-chul, Kim Hye-ja, Kim Hyung-oak, Lee Hyuk-rae, Woo Hyeon

Director: Lee Hyuk-rae

Rating: PG-13

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The death of a loved one is always a tragedy, but it’s always different when things have been left unresolved, and so that love lingers, not moving on, perpetually haunting the lover left alive. Undertow takes this ghost story with a gentle, magic realism that doesn’t just bring the tears, but also frees Miguel to experience the hold of Santiago’s hand in public, to experience the moments other lovers share without prejudice. And as Santiago lingers, Miguel is left to reckon with the love that he never was allowed to have, as it’s outside the straight, monogamous dynamic expected of everyone in the small town. Contracorriente beautifully transforms the ghost story with its thoughtful juxtaposition of the latino queer experience.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Attilia Boschetti, Cristian Mercado, Emilram Cossío, José Chacaltana, Manolo Cardona, Tatiana Astengo

Director: Javier Fuentes-León

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Coming-of-age films are usually optimistic, but sometimes, growing up isn’t as rosy as portrayed to be, as kids start to learn the failings of the adults that should know better and the tension that lies between sexes. Typhoon Club is like an anti-Breakfast Club, with the kids stuck in school overnight, not just one morning, due to a natural typhoon instead of randomly assigned detentions, and with the kids returning home traumatized instead of triumphant. Director Shinji Sōmai crafts a raw, turbulent experience, alternating between before, during, and after their stay that steadily heightens the uneasy, sometimes dangerous, experiences where these teenagers directly confront the disappointment that is adulthood. It’s a challenging film to watch, but Typhoon Club’s early exploration of teen ennui made it to be considered one of the best Japanese films ever made.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Kaori Kobayashi, Makoto Satō, Minori Terada, Saburo Date, Tomiko Ishii, Tomokazu Miura, Toshinori Omi, Youki Kudoh, Yuichi Mikami, Yuka Ônishi, Yuriko Fuchizaki

Director: Shinji Sōmai

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Most people aspire to have families, deciding to form their own by marrying, bearing children, and if fertility makes that impossible, adopting one. The Official Story is centered on upper middle class Alicia, who’s already made the idyllic family life, with the last piece completed with her adoption of Gaby, but there are secrets held from her, or rather, there are realities that she chose not to listen to because of the painful implications. Writer-director Luis Puenzo juxtaposes the family secret to the violent ones the Argentine junta government kept from its citizens. It's not a subtle comparison– Puenzo makes it obvious– but it's an effective one, as Alicia has to reckon with the fact that she lies in bed with a stranger, as Argentina has to reckon with the remaining junta members and enablers.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Analia Castro, Andrea Tenuta, Aníbal Morixe, Augusto Larreta, Carlos Weber, Chela Ruíz, Chela Ruiz, Chunchuna Villafañe, Chunchuna Villafane, Fabián Rendo, Guillermo Battaglia, Héctor Alterio, Héctor Alterio, Horacio Erman, Hugo Arana, Jorge Chernov, Jorge Petraglia, Lidia Catalano, María Luisa Robledo, Marcos Woinsky, Maria Luisa Robledo, Norma Aleandro, Oscar Ferrigno Jr., Pablo Rago, Patricio Contreras, Paula Canals, Tony Middleton

Director: Luis Puenzo

Rating: Not Rated, NR

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So far, chemical waste hasn't mutated amphibious creatures enough to create giant monsters large enough to swallow people whole… yet. This sort of monster film premise is familiar, especially for fans of 1950s sci-fi movies, but in the hands of director Bong Joon-ho, The Host transforms what could have been B-movie schlock into a drama examining the ways generations within a family, as well as generations within a country and within the world, have failed each other. As the Park family try to save their own, the actions they take feel all the more important, knowing what’s at stake on multiple levels. While at the time, there were doubts that Bong Joon-ho and the Korean film industry could pull off the monster, The Host proved that there was more to come from the then emerging film giant.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Ah-sung Ko, Bae Doona, Baek Do-bin, Bong Joon-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Choi Dae-sung, Choi Jae-sup, David Anselmo, David Joseph Anselmo, Doona Bae, Go A-sung, Hae-il Park, Hie-bong Byeon, Jeong In-gi, Jeong Kang-hee, Jung Seo-yoon, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bi-bi, Kim Choo-wol, Kim Hak-seon, Kim Jin-seon, Kim Nan-hee, Kim Roi-ha, Ko A-sung, Ko Chang-seok, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Byung-gil, Kwon Hyeok-Pung, Lee Dong-ho, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Eung-jae, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Jong-yoon, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Dal-su, Park Hae-il, Park Jin-woo, Park No-shik, Paul Lazar, Philip Hersh, Pil-sung Yim, Ra Mi-ran, Scott Wilson, Seo Young-ju, Shin Hyeon-jong, Son Jin-ho, Son Young-soon, Song Kang-ho, Yim Pil-sung, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Yeon-soo, Yoon Je Moon

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: R

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We Are the World is a charity single created for African famine relief. It was a smash success– it inspired plenty of other charity singles and already has a TV documentary about it. But The Greatest Night in Pop reveals new behind-the-scenes footage with a home video flair, intercut with interviews from those who were in the booth on that fateful day. The anecdotes about that night might have already been said elsewhere, but director Bao Nguyen manages to capture the energy in the room, peeking into the emotions of the various personalities that helped shape the song. It’s an intriguing, if straightforward documentary, and it’s certainly a treat watching the decade’s best voices collaborate to make this one track.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Al Jarreau, Anita Pointer, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bob Geldof, Bonnie Pointer, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hall, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Harry Belafonte, Huey Lewis, Jackie Jackson, James Ingram, Jeffrey Osborne, Jermaine Jackson, John Oates, Kenny Loggins, Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, La Toya Jackson, Lindsey Buckingham, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, Prince, Quincy Jones, Randy Jackson, Ray Charles, Ruth Pointer, Sheila E., Smokey Robinson, Steve Perry, STEVEN IVORY, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Tito Jackson, Tom Bähler, Tom Myers, Waylon Jennings, Wendy Garfield-Ferris Rees, Willie Nelson

Director: Bao Nguyen

Rating: PG-13

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