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After working on Prime's TV series Verdict, Argentinian director Anahí Berneri has now made her Netflix debut with Elena Knows, a mother-daughter drama based on the book of the same name by famous novelist Claudia Piñeiro (International Booker Prize Shortlist). Berneri has not lost her arthouse touch, on the contrary, Elena Knows looks lush and minimal at the same time. With the use of shallow focus, the cinematography presents the world as an inhospitable place to the protagonist, Elena (Mercedes Morán, recently in Netflix's The Kingdom), whose advanced Parkinson's robs her of her agency, day after day. Very early on in the film, she loses her daughter and carer, Rita (Erica Rivas you might know from Wild Tales), and her absence leaves a gaping hole in the life of the grubby elderly woman. Berneri's newest film owns up to its investigative thriller elements as Elena insists her daughter has been murdered, but at its heart, it holds a paradox: that of maternal love and parental hatred. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agustina Muñoz, Erica Rivas, Marcos Montes, Mercedes Moran, Mercedes Scápola, Miranda de la Serna, Mónica Gonzaga, Susana Pampín

Director: Anahí Berneri

Sophie Compton and Reubyn Hamlyn's British-American documentary about the harm of deepfakes won the SXSW Special Jury Award for its innovative storytelling and deservingly so. The two filmmakers use a clever and considerate way to let a young woman fictitiously named Taylor share her story of how she found deepfake pornography of herself online. With testaments, desktop form reconstructions, and lots of deepfakes, Compton and Hamlyn alert the audience to how terrifyingly widespread this kind of abuse is, and even more: how unregulated it is. Across the globe and 48 US states deepfake pornography is legal to make and spread, while victims remain helpless and unprotected. More than 90% of them are women. These chilling statistics are only part of the reason this documentary takes an activist stance and wants to raise awareness against the uncontrolled spread of face-swapping algorhythms amidst heated discussions around AI and ethics.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Reuben Hamlyn, Sophie Compton

Rating: NR

"Imagine a nightmare when you had to relive your adolescence," says Cecilia Aldarondo at the beginning of her third film, You Were My First Boyfriend. Indeed, the scene recalls a teen prom that could easily be yours (if you were one of the unpopular girls): neon lights, prettier dresses that are never yours, disapproving looks, and the impression that everyone around you is having the time of their lives, while you sit awkwardly in a corner. This image sets the tone for a self-exploration in documentary form that relies on a simple, yet imaginative premise, what if you could re-enact the formative events from back then, but do so today, by directing actors to step in for your past selves. Aldarondo approaches the topic sincerely and with curiosity. Not a pang of nostalgia there, but the heartfelt doc manages to reflect on the pasts that shape us in a witty way to promote self-acceptance and, ultimately, healing.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Cecilia Aldarondo, Gabriel Kristal, Laura Gallegos, Melissa Baker, Sarah Baker Butterfield

Director: Cecilia Aldarondo

Rating: PG

Amongst the google searches for this one you'll find "Is Slotherhouse a real film?" and that says a lot. When the first poster and trailer dropped, I suspected it the work of AI, but now that the film is out on streaming, we should be glad it exists. A ludicrous horror-comedy that hits all the right notes in gore, cringe, and puns, Slotherhouse is quintessential fun cinema. It may be set in a college where internalized misogyny is completely off the charts as young women bruise and batter each other's egos in service of the queen bee Brianna (Sydney Craven) and may attempt just a tiny bit of character development to keep the ball rolling, but honestly, who cares? It's a film that completely leans into the absurd, the over the top, the ridiculous, and it does it surprisingly well.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Horton, Annamaria Serda, Bianca Beckles-Rose, Bradley Fowler, Cady Lanigan, Grace Patterson, Jelena Rakočević, Juliana Sada, Kelly Lynn Reiter, Lisa Ambalavanar, Milica Vrzić, Olivia Rouyre, Stefan Kapičić, Sydney Craven, Tiana Upcheva, Tiff Stevenson

Director: Matthew Goodhue

Rating: PG-13

Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe gave us the free-flowing fandom doc The People vs. George Lucas in 2010 and hasn't stopped obsessing over his favorite filmmakers ever since. Can you blame him? Dedicating years of your life to research of the the weird Lynch-verse is a mammoth task, especially since the kernel of his new doc can be found in a single line uttered by the director. At a Q&A in 2001, he said:"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about The Wizard of Oz," and that was reason enough to conceive of the 1939 Technicolor film as a lens to read Lynch's whole filmography through. Philippe is dedicated beyond measure, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage for the whimsical exploration of such a fascinating body of work deserves complete devotion. Perhaps even bordering on obsession. A wildcard documentary for the Lynchheads, Lynch/Oz includes not only excerpts from shorts, features, and TV he made, but also clips from various appearances. Plus, the six chapters feature different filmmakers and critics who imbue the film with their own interpretation of the enigma that Lynchian cinema is.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aaron Moorhead, Amy Nicholson, David Lowery, David Lynch, Jack Paar, Jay Leno, John Waters, Judy Garland, Justin Benson, Karyn Kusama, Rodney Ascher

Director: Alexandre O. Philippe

American cyclist Greg LeMond, who in 1986 won the Tour de France has been a legend in the sports world, but filmmaker Alex Holmes presents him to the wider audience with a brand-new inspirational documentary. The Last Rider is everything this kind of film can be—its hook is courage and hard work that pays off, its mode of storytelling is personal, intimate interviews, and its framework is a "modern hero" kind of narrative. By stringing together conversations with LeMond himself, his friends, family, and colleagues, Holmes tells a chronologically-sound, emotional version of a landmark career. For many, the 1986 or 1989 win wouldn't mean much (unless you're a sports fan or French), but the educational bits of The Last Rider make for good trivia material. If you need a courage boost, here's the story of a professional cyclist, injuries, perseverance, and fame, to cheer you up.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Cyrille Guimard, Greg LeMond, Kathy LeMond, Pedro Delgado, Perico Delgado

Director: Alex Holmes

Rating: PG-13

Freediving is a particularly cinematic sport because it taps into something beyond what the human body is capable of. Skilled divers hold their breath for long enough to reach more than 100 meters deep, and watching footage of that incredible feat is exhilarating, to say the least. The Deepest Breath capitalizes on that very spectacle—being exposed to death and conquering it—and banks on using archival footage of world records and training. It's a smart move, as it keeps the spectator on edge, but it can also be a cruel way to put thrills over ethics. The editing is kept suggestive, but sometimes, shamefully, at the cost of misrepresenting Alessia Zecchini and toying with the viewer's expectations to the point of callousness.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alessia Zecchini, David Attenborough, Natalya Molchanova, Stephen Keenan

Director: Laura McGann

Rating: PG

, 2023

Golda Meir was Israel's only female Prime Minister and that's already reason enough a biopic celebrating her historical importance would be made. Oscar-winning Israeli director Guy Nattiv rose to the task and Meir's own grandson requested British actress Helen Mirren to play the role of his grandmother (a decision that was not left undisputed). However, Miren is a virtuoso of stoic, physically confined acting and delivers a strong performance as the elderly Golda in the wake of a militarized attack on Israel coming from Egypt and Syria. Instead of being caught in the web of global politics between the Arab world, Russia, and the United States, she navigates the terrain with sustained empathy, although not without failings. The film itself describes Golda as a hero outside of Israel and controversial in her own land, and it does well enough in embodying that very same controversy.

 

 

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller, War

Actor: Ben Caplan, Camille Cottin, Daniel Ben Zenou, Dominic Mafham, Dvir Benedek, Ed Stoppard, Ellie Piercy, Emma Davies, Helen Mirren, Henry Goodman, Jaime Ray Newman, Jonathan Tafler, Kit Rakusen, Liev Schreiber, Lior Ashkenazi, Mark Fleischmann, Muneesh Sharma, Ohad Knoller, Olivia Brody, Rami Heuberger, Rotem Keinan, Sam Shoubber, Sumit Chakravarti, Zed Josef

Director: Guy Nattiv

Rating: PG-13

The humor, oh the humor! It's a breath of fresh air to be laughing with a Woody Allen film and not at it. He is so good at capturing the cheekiness in meet-cutes, secrecies, and lies, all powdered with exaggerated Frenchness. Forgive my surprised tone, but Coup de Chance surpasses all expectations in the way it turns a rather banal plot into an entertaining game of cat and mouse, without overstepping the boundaries of good taste. In developing a story about female infidelity (or all infidelity, for that matter), one can be overly moralistic just to squeeze out laughs and empathy from the viewer, but Allen refrains from all those cheap tricks. His script is tight and at times ridiculously funny. Whether or not you get behind Fanny and her convoluted ways of seeking happiness, Coup de Chance will offer you plenty of instances to better understand the character in a constellation of other people, who are equally affected by her decisions. In a way, the film is a comedy of ethics as well — something the American director hasn't successfully done in a long, long while.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Anne Loiret, Arnaud Viard, Benoît Forgeard, Bruno Gouery, Christophe Kourotchkine, Constance Dollé, Elsa Zylberstein, Éric Frey, Grégory Gadebois, Guillaume de Tonquédec, Isabelle De Hertogh, Jamel Elgharbi, Jeanne Bournaud, Juliette Plumecocq-Mech, Lou de Laâge, Melvil Poupaud, Naidra Ayadi, Niels Schneider, Philippe Uchan, Sâm Mirhosseini, Samantha Fuller, Sara Martins, Valérie Lemercier, William Nadylam

Director: Woody Allen

Sophia Castuera's first feature after two indie shorts seems like a low-key affair, but it fits neatly into a canon of post-mumblecore, or a Gen Z mumblecore. It features a fumbling protagonist named Cal and played by Ali Edwards (who also wrote the script), a wanna-be actress fresh out of college who finds herself stuck between two people. Not just any people, but her childhood best friend Jay and his long-term girlfriend Emily. August at Twenty Two queers the love triangle trope and makes the most of the characters' anxieties, their hopes, and awkward daily sacrifices to climb up into each other's good books. Appearances are key, of course, since everyone's delightfully immature. The good thing is that the film knows all this very well and even sneaks a post-ironic hint or two. That said, its self-assurance is also its Achilles heel: you cannot convince me that twenty two year olds would call each other often enough to have voicemail. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Burke, Ali Edwards, Clay Singer, Jorge Felipe Guevara, Lilli Kay, Mia Rose Kavensky

Director: Sophia Castuera

The Cabin in the Woods came to be as Buffy The Vampire Slayer writers Drew Goddard and and Joss Whedon set themselves on a mission to upgrade the slasher genre. With this film, they wanted to satirize the way it slips into torture porn. In other words, they aspired to make a clever, punchy new classic. Amassing a 30 million dollar budget attests to their hopes: a massive backend of VFX work provided an elaborate film world, where different levels of 'reality' are at play. As six college students head into the woods to spend a debaucherous weekend undisturbed, a whole underground laboratory monitors their every move. It appears that a big operation is underway to trap the unsuspecting crowd into a curated murder scenario, straight out of a horror movie. Among the victims, we see Chris Hemsworth at the time his career was just taking off, so that's history in the making for you.

Unfortunately, in its devotion to provocatively render some horror tropes irrelevant, The Cabin in the Woods cannot help but reinforce others. It still carries the whiff of the late 2000s' misogyny in the way it portrays women and it certainly doesn't try hard enough to disrupt the genre's opposition to female sexuality. The characters of Dana (the virgin) and Jules (the experienced one) are sure to make you wince, as they're written as flat as a piece of paper. So you say no to torture porn, but embrace misogyny...?

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Holmes, Amy Acker, Anna Hutchison, Aya Furukawa, Brad Dryborough, Bradley Whitford, Brian J. White, Chelah Horsdal, Chris Hemsworth, Dan Payne, Dan Shea, Ellie Harvie, Fran Kranz, Greg Zach, Heather Doerksen, Jesse Williams, Jodelle Ferland, Kristen Connolly, Lori Stewart, Matt Drake, Matt Phillips, Maya Massar, Nels Lennarson, Patrick Gilmore, Patrick Sabongui, Peter Kelamis, Phillip Mitchell, Richard Cetrone, Richard Jenkins, Rukiya Bernard, Sigourney Weaver, Terry Chen, Terry Notary, Tim DeZarn, Tom Lenk

Director: Drew Goddard

Rating: R

One wouldn't expect to see Count Dracula's youthful-looking helper at your local 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships, but Renfield holds more than one surprise up its sleeve. By translating the working relationship (or master-slave, since the latter doesn't get any pay) into the vocabulary of common relationship counselling parlance, the film actually elevates its symbolic status. Even more, I'd dare call it a hoot. Not that many vampire films have managed to make a proper comedy out of the figure in question, and Renfield with its simplistic appeal puts to shame even the artsy Netflix production El Conde, which also came out earlier this year. With Awkwafina in the mix and iconic lines such as "I don't want your murder cookies", how can you resist?

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Anil Bajaj, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Bess Rous, Betsy Borrego, Brandon Scott Jones, Brian Egland, Camille Chen, Caroline Williams, Chloe Adona, Christopher Winchester, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, James Moses Black, Jenna Kanell, Joshua Mikel, Keith Brooks, Lacey Dover, Lena Clark, Lucy Faust, Marcus Lewis |, Marvin Ross, Mike Harkins, Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Stephen Louis Grush, Susan McPhail, T.C. Matherne, William Ragsdale

Director: Chris McKay

Rating: R

Irish director Lorcan Finnegan's follow-up to the social dystopia Vivarium, too, centers around the trials and tribulations of a nuclear family. Overwhelmed by work and struck by an inexplicable disease, Christine (played by Eva Green) seems to have forgotten she employed a caretaker for her daughter Bobs. The plot thickens when a Filipino woman named Diana rings the door bell: what kind of mother forgets something like that? What follows is as nightmarish as it sounds, the film's visual potency summoning one's deepest fears and anxieties about reality slipping away. Green and Chai Fonacier (Diana) play an exquisite game of cat and mouse, but even the psychological thrill of that chase is not significant enough to overthrow the dubious racial politics at play. By the end, Nocebo makes an effort to position itself on the right side of history, but the power of its political critique wanes and wanes.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Falcon, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton, Chai Fonacier, Eva Green, Mark Strong

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Alexandra, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, has been working as an documentary filmmaker for HBO for more than 20 years now and the theme of her newest work does not surprise. Turning the camera on several Jan Sixers, she asks them about that day, and whether their belief in Trump and the conservatives has changed following their jail time. Her way of being in the film, though, is very present: physically and with her voice. Pelosi places herself not just as an interviewer, but as an interlocutor, probing their statements and more often than not exclaiming "You still believe in X?!" in one way or another. The Insurrectionist Next Door is colloquial, it's comedic tragedy with a hope to bridge the gap between two opposing political beliefs: a synecdoche for America as a whole.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Alexandra Pelosi

Rating: PG-13