Vague statement alert: Burning is not a movie that you “get”; it’s a movie you experience. Based on a short story by Murakami, it’s dark and bleak in a way that comes out more in the atmosphere of the movie rather than what happens in the story. Working in the capital Seoul, a young guy from a poor town near the North Korean border runs into a girl from his village. As he starts falling for her, she makes an unlikely acquaintance with one of Seoul’s wealthy youth (played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, pictured above.) This new character is mysterious in a way that’s all-too-common in South Korea: young people who have access to money no one knows where it came from, and who are difficult to predict or go against. Two worlds clash, poor and rich, in a movie that’s really three movies combined into one - a character-study, a romance, and a revenge thriller.
The body of a footballer from Togo is found in a small Belgian village. Suicide is suspected, but things don’t quite add up. Recordings of Skype sessions with his family show him happy, excited and looking forward to sending money back to them. The seemingly quaint town where the incident takes places sees its secrets uncovered by a detective from Brussels. The farm where the body was found harbors Nazi symbols, 100-year-old weapons, and um.. a dominatrix. If you liked Broadchurch or Happy Valley, you will love The Break. It’s a true hidden gem that sports a production value rivaling the biggest U.S. hits. A good reward for anyone willing to turn on the subtitles (or the dub).
Finnish director and megastar Aki Kaurismäki hits with yet another absurd but poignant movie. The Other Side of Hope is about a Syrian refugee and his journey across Finland, both the country and the culture, in hopes for a fresh start. It's a genuine and simple movie, played masterfully by a cast of newcomers. But in its simplicity, it elicits empathy on a subject that most of us choose not to dwell on nowadays. Aki Kaurismäki has the unbelievable skill of distilling tragic events into their humane component. A movie to give credit to, and to watch without any prior expectations - unless you're familiar with Aki Kaurismäki's previous work.
A wonderful homage to the woman, actress, and mother based largely on her own archives and interviews with her four children. Bergman was an avid photographer, filmographer and letter writer. What emerges is a loving portrait of an adventurous, driven, complex, and loving woman. Not to be missed.
There is footage and coverage to prove that the pizza bomber story actually happened but watching Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist everything is so intriguing it is almost impossible to believe. A pizza-delivery guy shows up to rob a bank with what he says is a bomb secured around his neck, something that he claims is part of a treasure hunt. By robing the bank, he will unlock the next set of clues that will allow him to defuse the bomb. Bank tellers comply but on the way out he is suddenly arrested by the police, who doubt his claims, handcuff him and keep him at a distance. The device he has around his neck then starts beeping. What follows is one of the most unusual investigations ever led by security forces, brilliantly framed by executive producers Duplass brothers. A perfect follow-up to their other amazing True-crime Netflix collaboration, Wild Wild Country, it’s a tight 4-episodes that is equally terrifying and intriguing.
Man, don't watch this show hungry. Chef David Chang has both the genius and humility to make whatever food he touches both fascinating and insanely appealing. Each episode follows a particular dish in the places where it’s made best, but also in the places that’s it’s known for. So for example the first episode about pizza goes to Japan to investigate a new pizza in a Michelin-star restaurant, but also goes to Domino’s. Chang has almost a f*ck it attitude towards the food industry that’s not only refreshing to watch on him, but also disarms his guests and sparks interesting conversation. One of the best food shows you can watch today.
A Ken Loach type of vibe drives The Selfish Giant to be an interesting mix between anger, desperation, and the beauty and humor often found in tough circumstances (think I, Daniel Blake but with kids as main characters). This sort of contemporary fable tells the story of two friends who skip school and hustle for work from a local scrap-dealer. As they get more and more involved with him and his entourage, the grim realities of what once seemed a way out start to cast a shadow over their lives. The script is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, it's a beautiful, ultimately sad portrayal of the British underclass.
Think of The Honourable Woman as Homeland on steroids. In Homeland, the question was whether the main character was good or bad, in The Honourable Woman, the question is whether anybody is good or bad. The characters are all so well-crafted that it's difficult to ever feel comfortable with any one of them. This Netflix/BBC mini-series is set around Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a heiress to a large arms company involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When her father is assassinated, her willingness to keep the business alive by diversifying it away from the war business is met with strong economic and political opposition. Easily one of the best political thrillers ever made. Won Gyllenhaal the Golden Globe for Best Actress.
A Netflix documentary mini-series that follows the relocation of a cult from India to a small town in Oregon and the ensuing events. It's a completely true story, but the events it portrays are so bizarre and unexpected that they have to be seen to be believed. The cult, led by a controversial Indian guru, drew worldwide attention to its beginnings in India and then to its conflict with the locals once it relocated to the United States. If you were a contemporary, you must know that the town is Antelope and the guru is Bhagwan or Osho, but if you were not, it is very unlikely you've even heard of it. What was a very significant moment in American media and history has been long forgotten, and is retold here in a captivating way. An extremely well-executed and a powerful account of a very unlikely story.