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Staff & contributors

, 2023

Just based off its title, Mutt is already a film that tackles a state of in-between, and perhaps what makes it already precious is how honest and personal it can get, while remaining a good fictional story. This striking debut took Chilean-Serbian filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz more than six years to make, at least from the initial stages of the script as he was working through his own transition, how that felt and how he dealt with it in life and art. That said, Mutt is a film that stands on its own feet, without the need for any such context: the script, the performances, the frantic pacing of it, they are all top-level stuff. A generous, open film that has its trans protagonist be who they are, whatever that may be, and gives as much insight as it allows for curiosity and empathy. If Mutt is educational in any way, it is through it's apt storytelling and truthfulness that bleeds through the screen; its significance for trans cinema cannot be overstated, but it is also once of the most accomplished debuts of 2023.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Cole Doman, Jari Jones, Jasai Chase-Owens, Lio Mehiel, MiMi Ryder, Sarah Herrman

Director: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz

Rating: NR

A plot straight out of a horror film: two young, but penniless foreigners find themselves stuck in a town ruled by miners and their drinking habits. This is the real story of Lina and Steph (surnames withheld), twenty-something women who have just been robbed out of their credit cards and cash in Bali. Their around-the-world trip takes them to Australia, by way of an agency that offers seasonal work, room, and board. The cost is small: you have to be "okay with a little male attention" in this particular place. A mining town called Coolgardie becomes synonymous with hell for the two women as seen through Pete Gleeson's camera that's inobtrustive, distant, "a-fly-on-the-wall". Precisely that distance makes exacerbates the ick factor when watching the documentary today, even if its content is not judgemental. Because of how easily the camera blends in to the surroundings, we're left to wonder exactly how deep racism and sexism run in that particular microcosmos. After all, according to the manager, customers “grow a new leg” when “fresh meat” comes to town.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Pete Gleeson

Barbara (Petzold regular Nina Hoss) has fallen from grace, at least by the standards of 1980s Germany. A renowned doctor at a prestigious East Berlin hospital, she has been demoted to a paediatrician at a tiny town on the Baltic coast: a punishment for daring to try and leave the DDR. The Stasi spy on her, threaten her, and on occasion, abuse her. But Barbara does not give up in her attempts to establish a better life for herself, if only she could cross the sea and dock in Denmark. With such a politically-conscious premise, Christian Petzold's sixth film became a hit on the European scene and transformed his relatively modest career into something more transnational. Even if Barbara feels very local—the way in which Germany's divide conditions every movement and gesture of its characters—the tropes of a spy thriller come to the fore and make a legible, rewarding viewing out of something one may deem too particular. The film owes a lot to its lead, Hoss, who has become a staple of Petzold's career, with her stoicism and towering presence as Barbara – a symbol of obstructed mobility.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alicia von Rittberg, Christina Hecke, Christoph Krix, Claudia Geisler-Bading, Irene Rindje, Jannik Schümann, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Jens Okking, Kirsten Block, Mark Waschke, Nina Hoss, Peter Benedict, Rainer Bock, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rosa Enskat, Susanne Bormann, Thomas Bading, Thomas Neumann

Director: Christian Petzold

Set in the small town of Åmål, western Sweden, the debut feature by Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best), is itself a metonymy for the bigger questions of life. It's playful and dead serious at the same time, in the way it portrays teenager Agnes, who, after two years of living in Åmål, still hasn't made any friends that would attend her birthday party. Instead, she spends her time typing away on her computer, poetic diaries and love confessions to a girl from school named Elin. She's the popular one and therefore, out of reach. The amount of tension and escalating ambivalence the film conjures with just a simple narrative decision—a bet, a kiss, an apology—is palpable throughout the 86 minutes of its runtime. A perfect capsule of lesbian desire and first love, Show Me Love is a gem of a movie; one that would make you think Close was a tad overrated. Oh, and don't forget to add the titular song by Swedish pop star Robyn to your Spotify favorites.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Dahlström, Bo Lyckman, Erica Carlson, Jill Ung, Josefine Nyberg, Maria Hedborg, Mathias Rust, Ralph Carlsson, Rebecka Liljeberg, Stefan Horberg

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

From a 1926 play to the iconic 1975 stage musical to Rob Marshall's 2002 extravaganza, Chicag0 has had a strong hold on popular culture. In a way, it's existed almost as long as cinema itself and its transformation across mediums and modes of expression has been well documented. The film carries all the marks of its theatrical predecessors, the expansive sets, the luscious costumes, the sleek characters whose banter and songs alike testify to their great chemistry — there's a lot to admire in such a self-referential spectacle. A black-comedy-fuelled musical about corruption and deceit set during the Jazz Age, Chicago fulfils all its promises. With a stellar ensemble cast featuring Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and John C. Reily, in tandem with dazzling camerawork and most exquisite chiaroscuro lighting, this one brings the stage to the movies. I mean it in the best possible way!

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bill Corsair, Blake McGrath, Brendan Wall, Brittany Gray, Bruce Beaton, Capathia Jenkins, Catherine Chiarelli, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chita Rivera, Christine Baranski, Cliff Saunders, Colm Feore, Conrad Dunn, Cynthia Onrubia, Danielle Rueda-Watts, Darren Lee, Deidre Goodwin, Deirdre Goodwin, Denise Faye, Dominic West, Ekaterina Chtchelkanova, Eve Crawford, Faye Rauw, Gregory Mitchell, Jayne Eastwood, Jeff Clarke, Jeff Pustil, John C. Reilly, Jonathan Whittaker, Joseph Scoren, Karen Holness, Karine Plantadit, Kathryn Zenna, Ken Ard, Laura Dean, Lucy Liu, Marty Moreau, Michelle Johnston, Monique Ganderton, Mya, Nicki Richards, Paul Becker, Queen Latifah, Rebecca Leonard, Renée Zellweger, Rhonda Roberts, Richard Gere, Rick Negron, Rob Smith, Robbie Rox, Robert Montano, Roman Podhora, Roxane Barlow, Sara Ramirez, Sean McCann, Sean Palmer, Sebastian La Cause, Sergio Trujillo, Sheri Godfrey, Steve Behal, Susan Misner, Tara Nicole Hughes, Taye Diggs, Timothy Shew, Vicky Lambert

Director: Rob Marshall

Rating: PG-13

The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Malone, Barbara Lowing, Baykali Ganambarr, Bree Bain, Bruce R. Carter, Daniel Henshall, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Kate Cheel, Patrick Frost, Toby Wallace, Ursula Yovich, Valerie Berry

Director: Kitty Green

Rating: R

There's a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder's main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn't want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of "Forevering," a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It's rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror's final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alicia Silverstone, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach, Kiah McKirnan, Melanie Liburd, Sasha Kuznetsov, Tim Hopper

Director: Jennifer Reeder

, 2022

It's rare to see a prequel surpass its antecedent, but Pearl is that exception. You can watch it before or after X and still get the same satisfaction from piecing together the puzzle of Mia Goth's many roles (three in total across the trilogy). If the first film owed a lot to slasher classics like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the second (surprise!) channels The Wizard of Oz and nods to the splendiferous melodramas of Douglas Sirk. The jarring form-content opposition here makes sense, as we're seeing through the eyes of the main character, who most of all dreams of being in a movie. Because of that very same whimsy, everything has to change: the violence is not as explicit and the role of sex is brought to the forefront. All hail the new kind of final girl: a farm girl-turned-star.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alistair Sewell, Amelia Reid, David Corenswet, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Matthew Sunderland, Mia Goth, Tandi Wright, Todd Rippon

Director: Ti West

Rating: R

, 2014

The award-winning third feature by director Ava DuVernay, Selma, was released around the 50th anniversary of the historically significant marches (Selma to Montgomery) that aided the civil rights movement's efforts to assure African-American citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote, harassment-free. The film has been celebrated not only as an artwork, but also as a historiographically accurate one. While it features the role Martin Luther King Jr. played in the marches, it does not reduce the activists' effort and struggle to make it come to fruition. With her uncompromising directorial approach, DuVernay crafts a thrilling period film that has all the markers of a well-done genre feature, but uses its mechanisms to tell an emotionally potent story about both the peaceful marches and the nation-wide outcry resulting from the violence they were met with.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Andre Holland, Carmen Ejogo, Charity Jordan, Charles Black, Colman Domingo, Common, Corey Reynolds, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Dwyer, David Oyelowo, Dylan Baker, E. Roger Mitchell, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Maness, Harry Belafonte, Haviland Stillwell, Henry G. Sanders, Jeremy Strong, Jim France, Jody Thompson, John Lavelle, Kent Faulcon, Lakeith Stanfield, Ledisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Martin Sheen, Michael Papajohn, Montrel Miller, Niecy Nash, Nigel Thatch, Omar J. Dorsey, Oprah Winfrey, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr., Stan Houston, Stephan James, Stephen Root, Tara Ochs, Tessa Thompson, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Bennett, Trai Byers, Wendell Pierce

Director: Ava DuVernay

Rating: PG-13

, 2022

The film unfolds in the rhythm of a cow’s life: birth, mating, feeding, milking, checkups. Soon, these events become regular occurrences. Instead of showcasing the more ‘spectacular’ parts of these animal lives in order to build a narrative that's engaging in a more conventional sense, British director Andrea Arnold opts for intimacy through banal instances. Even if female cows are symbolic of labour (reared for milk, meat, and reproduction), the actual cows in the documentary are not actors in a traditional sense. Yet, Cow opens up the dialogue about the on-screen role of animals beyond the call for activism. In it, the protagonists dictate the camera movements and positions just as any other human subject would, but since Arnold is an intuitive and sharp filmmaker, she embraces the opportunity to challenge cinema's status quo. A beautiful addition here is the presence of pop music needle drops, through which the film jolts us into being more attentive, helping us to experience everything we consume in everyday life unperturbed (milk, meat, or pop songs) anew.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Lin Gallagher

Director: Andrea Arnold

The Last Duel propped high expectations as the Closing Film at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, but its theatrical release later that year proved to be a flop. Ridley Scott blamed it on millennials, but both critics and streaming audiences have been much more favorable than moviegoers. As a film, it's a rather monumental project: quite a dark period piece set in Medieval France, dealing with harsh and offensive themes. Or better said, it deals with ethics and morality through these harsh and offensive themes. There are many ways where this could have gotten wrong—and it's evident from the labels that have been circulating from the very beginning, that Scott has made his "MeToo" movie—but the truth is much more nuanced. From Eric Jager's 2004 book to a script co-written by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and (most importantly) the astute Nicole Holofcener, The Last Duel is really the best of both worlds: action-packed and devoted to the right side of history.

Genre: Action, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Driver, Adam Nagaitis, Alex Lawther, Ben Affleck, Bosco Hogan, Brian F. Mulvey, Brontis Jodorowsky, Bryony Hannah, Caoimhe O'Malley, Chloe Harris, Christian Erickson, Clare Dunne, Clive Russell, Harriet Walter, Ian Pirie, Jodie Comer, John Kavanagh, Julian Firth, Marton Csokas, Matt Damon, Michael McElhatton, Nathaniel Parker, Oliver Cotton, Paul Bandey, Peter Hudson, Sam Hazeldine, Serena Kennedy, Shane Lynch, Simone Collins, Stephen Brennan, Tallulah Haddon, Thomas Silberstein, Tyrone Kearns, William Houston, Zeljko Ivanek, Zoé Bruneau

Director: Ridley Scott

Rating: R

Artist and filmmaker Clio Barnard put herself on the map of new British talents with her 2010 debut The Arbor, a daring, genre-bending biopic about Bradford-born playwright Andrea Dunbar and her tragic personal and impressive artistic life. Coming from a poor working class family with seven siblings, Dunbar wrote her first play age 15. She died in 1990, aged 29, and left a legacy of three plays in total. Knowing how under-appreciated her work has been, Barnard decided to revive the life that imbued Dunbar's creations. Rather than staging a conventional documentary, the director features interviews with family and friends, performed and lip-synced by actors in front of the camera. She also adds re-enactments of the plays that feature the estate where Dunbar grew up, as well as archival footage of her TV appearances. The Arbor is an experimental documentary, but that doesn't prevent it from being touching, humane, and a special tribute to art flourishing in adverse circumstances.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Christine Bottomley, Danny Webb, Gary Whitaker, George Costigan, Jimi Mistry, Jonathan Jaynes, Josh Brown, Kate Rutter, Kathryn Pogson, Kulvinder Ghir, Lizzie Roper, Manjinder Virk, Matthew McNulty, Moey Hassan, Monica Dolan, Natalie Gavin, Neil Dudgeon, Robert Emms, Robert Haythorne

Director: Clio Barnard

Little England is one of those rare cases in small-nation cinemas, where a film was equally appealing to mainstream and arthouse audiences. Upon its release, it was box office success and 2013's Oscar submission for Best International Feature. Festival darling Pantelis Voulgaris equipped this interwar romantic drama with the attributes of an epic: it's two hours and a half long, spans across decades, and is based on a novel of a notable size. Written by renowned author Ioanna Karystiani, who is also Voulgaris's wife, "Little England" the novel was adapted in a riveting screenplay where love, jealousy, passion, and betrayal sizzle in a dangerous mix. As any good period drama, the emotional range is high, and the beauty in the premise—forbidden love—is a gift that keeps on giving. The film features two stellar lead performances, as Pinelopi Tsilika and Sofia Kokkali make their acting debuts as the two sisters, the latter being the face of a new, even more daring phase of Greek cinema today. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aineias Tsamatis, Andreas Konstantinou, Angeliki Papathemeli, Anneza Papadopoulou, Christos Kalavrouzos, Eirini Inglesi, Eleni Karagiorgi, Evangelia Adreadaki, Maximos Moumouris, Penelope Tsilika, Sofia Kokkali

Director: Pantelis Voulgaris

An arguably tough watch, The Accused fluctuates between crime and courtroom drama, eschewing any kind of sentimentality in its storytelling. No place for pity where trauma reigns: the fact that the film is based on a real case of as gang rape means little in a world were that's still a daily occurrence. The Accused knows it well and invests its two protagonist with all the anger in the world, hoping the justice system will be on the right side of history at once: that of women. Two amazing leads set the bar very high: Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis who plays prosecutor Kathryn Murphy. Together, they make a powerful duo of heated performances that embody the contradictions of being a woman under patriarchy.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Allan Lysell, Andrew Kavadas, Ann Hearn, Antony Holland, Babs Chula, Bernie Coulson, Carmen Argenziano, Christianne Hirt, Dana Still, David Sheridan, Denalda Williams, Deryl Hayes, Frances Flanagan, Freda Perry, Garry Chalk, Garwin Sanford, Jerry Wasserman, Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Kevin McNulty, Kim Kondrashoff, Leo Rossi, Linda Darlow, Marsha Andrews, Michele Goodger, Mike Winlaw, Pamela Martin, Peter Bibby, Peter Van Norden, Rebecca Toolan, Rose Weaver, Scott Paulin, Stephen Dimopoulos, Stephen E. Miller, Steve Antin, Terry David Mulligan, Tom Heaton, Tom McBeath, Tom O'Brien, Veena Sood, Walter Marsh, Woody Brown

Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Rating: R

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Cremona, Alessio Montagnani, Anna Ferrara, Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ermanno De Biagi, Federico Majorana, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Michelangelo Dalisi, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Stella Mastrantonio, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R