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Striking, epic, and occasionally gruesome, Sword of the Stranger is an excellent film about ronin redemption. From the title alone, the film promises and delivers thrilling sword-fighting sequences from the titular stranger Nanashi (or “no name” in Japanese). His bouts with Ming Chinese warriors, as well as the Caucasian Luo-Lang, are so graceful, yet at times, so brutal that it ends with wrecked buildings, copious bleeding, and (on occasion) amputated limbs. However, the gore isn’t what makes these fight scenes work. Nanashi’s will to preserve his honor and self-determination drives the film. It’s the reason why his fight against these invaders feels so compelling. It’s the reason why he reluctantly guards the orphan Kotaro and his cute shiba inu. And when the film finally reveals the cause of that will, rooting for him is inevitable.

Genre: Action, Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Ai Orikasa, Akio Otsuka, Atsushi Ii, Cho, Fumie Mizusawa, Hirofumi Nojima, Hiroshi Shirokuma, Jun Hazumi, Junko Minagawa, Katsuhisa Hôki, Katsuhisa Houki, Kenichi Mochizuki, Kohei Fukuhara, Koichi Yamadera, Maaya Sakamoto, Makoto Yasumura, Mamoru Miyano, Masaki Aizawa, Miyu Matsuki, Naoto Takenaka, Noboru Yamaguchi, Shinya Fukumatsu, Takurou Kitagawa, Tomoya Nagase, Tomoyuki Shimura, Unsho Ishizuka, Yasuhiko Kawazu, Yuki Masuda, Yuri Chinen

Director: Masahiro Ando

Rating: TV-MA

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One of the most original time-travel thrillers since 12 Monkeys. A brilliant subversion of the Time Paradox trope, with enough plot twists to keep you entertained until well after the movie is finished. Predestination is an amazing movie with great performances from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. It's a movie that will feel like Inception, when it comes to messing with your mind and barely anyone has heard of it. It is highly underrated and unknown, sadly.

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alicia Pavlis, Annabelle Norman, Arielle O'Neill, Ben Prendergast, Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen, Cate Wolfe, Christopher Bunworth, Christopher Kirby, Christopher Sommers, Christopher Stollery, Dennis Coard, Dick York, Elise Jansen, Eliza D'Souza, Eliza Matengu, Ethan Hawke, Felicity Steel, Finegan Sampson, Freya Stafford, Giordano Gangl, Grant Piro, Hayley Butcher, Jim Knobeloch, Katie Avram, Kristie Jandric, Kuni Hashimoto, Lucinda Armstrong Hall, Madeleine West, Maja Sarosiek, Marky Lee Campbell, Milla Simmonds, Monique Heath, Noah Taylor, Noel Herriman, Olivia Sprague, Paul Moder, Raj Sidhu, Rob Jenkins, Sara El-Yafi, Sarah Snook, Sophie Cusworth, Tony Nikolakopoulos, Tyler Coppin, Vanessa Crouch

Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig, The Spierig Brothers

Rating: R

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexa Demie, Ama Elsesser, Aramis Hudson, Chad Muska, Chico Brenes, Donny Barley, Fig Camila Abner, Gio Galicia, Harmony Korine, Jahmin Assa, Jax Malcolm, Jerrod Carmichael, Jonah Hill, Judah Estrella Borunda, Kasey Elise, Katherine Waterston, Kevin White, Liana Perlich, Lucas Hedge, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Ryder McLaughlin, Sunny Suljic, Teren Delvon Jones

Director: Jonah Hill

Rating: R

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Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Shia Laboeuf (the good Shia Laboeuf) all star in this true-story-based gangster tale. As a result, Lawless is cliché-free, fast, and violent - yet it doesn't take itself too seriously. Bootlegging Bondurant brothers live according to different rules, yet run a successful business during the prohibition era. When new authorities try to shut them down violently, each one of them has a way of dealing with it. The story runs very smoothly, and added to the perfect performances and great staging, Lawless becomes very entertaining, and a true pleasure to watch.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Western

Actor: Alex Van, Bill Camp, Bruce McKinnon, Chad Randall, Chris McGarry, Dane DeHaan, Eric Mendenhall, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, John Hillcoat, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester, Mark Ashworth, Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor, Ron Clinton Smith, Shia LaBeouf, Terry Keasler, Tim Tolin, Tom Hardy, Tom Proctor, Tom Turbiville, William J. Harrison

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

I can’t get a song out of my head from this movie: the 1985 UK hit Desire As from Prefab Sprout.

It plays when the two main characters, a sensitive kid who’s bullied by his school for not liking rugby, and the school’s rugby star; talk over the “Berlin Wall” that separates their dorm room.

The song echoes “It's perfect as it stands, so why then crush it in your perfect hands?”. These two seemingly incompatible personalities form a friendship that comes under threat from their school’s traditional authority, especially as one of them is revealed to be gay. 

It might seem like a tough premise, but Handsome Devil is actually a comedy. It’s a sweet and easy coming-of-age comedy.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amy Huberman, Andrew Scott, Ardal O'Hanlon, Ardal O'Hanlon, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Hugh O'Conor, Jamie Hallahan, Jay Duffy, John Butler, Lauterio Zamparelli, Mark Doherty, Mark Lavery, Michael McElhatton, Moe Dunford, Nicholas Galitzine, Norma Sheahan, Patrick McDonnell, Ruairí OConnor, Ruairi O'Connor, Stephen Hogan

Director: John Butler

Rating: N/A

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The question mark in the title represents the central idea of this fascinating documentary: what if worshipping Satan is the only way of ensuring religious freedom for everyone?

That's what a group of young members known as The Satanic Temple believe, led by a determined and well-spoken Harvard graduate. They embark on a journey across the U.S. to challenge corrupt officials and the prevalence of religious biases in government agencies. They always request that their belief system (Satanism) is given the same favorable treatment as Christianity, effectively proving that authorities will really only accept a show of religion if it's one religion: Christianity.

But their intoxicating energy comes with costs: divisions within the organization and growing pains. This documentary perfectly illustrates not only a misunderstood religion (in the documentary it's referred to as "post-religion") but the difficulties of establishing grassroots movements in general.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Anton LaVey, Bill O'Reilly, Billy Graham, Cecil B. DeMille, Chalice Blythe, Charlton Heston, Chris Hayes, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Geraldo Rivera, Greta Van Susteren, Jex Blackmore, Lucien Greaves, Malcolm Jarry, Mamie Eisenhower, Megyn Kelly, Mike Pence, Nicholas Crowe, Penny Lane, Rick Scott, Sal De Ciccio

Director: Penny Lane

Rating: R

Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins star in this well-executed and eye-opening drama based on a true story. Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) is a successful corporate lawyer in New York. He is visited by a distressed farmer from his hometown in Cincinnati whose cows have been developing strange behaviors and diseases. Robert decides to take on this case in what will become one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in the country: the use of cancerous chemicals by the company that commercializes Teflon (the stuff in pans). Excellent acting in an incredibly frustrating but necessary story that will trouble you more than any other legal thriller you have watched in the past: prepare to be outraged (and throw away your pans).

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Abi Van Andel, Aidan Brogan, Amy Morse, Amy Warner, Angel Kerns, Anita Farmer Bergman, Anne Hathaway, Barry G. Bernson, Barry Mulholland, Bill Camp, Bill Pullman, Bret Aaron Knower, Brian Gallagher, Buz Davis, Caleb Dwayne Tucker, Carly Tamborski, Chaney Morrow, Clara Harris, Courtney DeCosky, Daniel R. Hill, David Fultz, David Myers Gregory, Denise Dal Vera, Elizabeth Marvel, Geoff Falk, Glen Yrigoyen, Greg Violand, Jason M. Griggs, Jeffrey Grover, Jim Laprelle, Joanne Popolin, John Newberg, John W. Harden, Jon Osbeck, Karen Koester, Kathleen Ellerman, Keating P. Sharp, Kelly Mengelkoch, Kevin Crowley, Lea Hutton Beasmore, Louisa Krause, Lyman Chen, Marcia Dangerfield, Mare Winningham, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Hudson, Michael Joseph Thomas Ward, Michael King, Mike Seely, Ming Wang, Ramona Schwalbach, Richard Hagerman, Robert Gerding, Scarlett Hicks, Sheryl Annette Colley, Steven Schraub, Teri Clark, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, William "Bucky" Bailey, William Jackson Harper, Wynn Reichert

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: PG-13

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John Carney, who directed the critically and commercially successful Once, may be the world’s best captor of charm. Begin Again tells the story of a broken-hearted singer who gets discovered by a failed showbiz executive. Their ideas and love for music are all they have to face their failures and bring their creativity to life. The original songs are charming and from Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo to Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Adam Levine, and Cee-Lo Green, the cast generate sparkling chemistry and portray the story beautifully. Begin again is a sweet and effortless watch, yet far from being your classic rom-com.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Adam Levine, Andrew Sellon, Aya Cash, Catherine Keener, Cee Lo Green, CeeLo Green, Danielle Brisebois, David Abeles, David Pendleton, Emily Yarbourgh, Eric Burton, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Jen Jacob, Jennifer Li Jackson, Jimmy Palumbo, John Carney, Karen Pittman, Keen Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, Kena Onyenjekwe, Maddie Corman, Madison Love, Marco Assante, Mark Ruffalo, Mary Catherine Garrison, Mos Def, Paul Romero, Rob Morrow, Sama Fernands, Shannon Maree Walsh, Shannon Walsh, Simon Delaney, Stacey Maltin, Terry Lewis, Yasiin Bey

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Between its maximalist production design and increasingly dark comedic set pieces, the most striking thing about Damien Chazelle's critically misunderstood industry satire is how it strikes a tone closer to tabloid gossip than anything else. As opposed to the clockwork precision of Chazelle's Whiplash, or the dreaminess of La La Land, Babylon's restlessness doesn't resemble Hollywood spectacle so much as it begins to feel like an unscratchable itch, desperate to feel anything. The film ends up trying to say so much that it threatens to say nothing at all, but its vision of cinema becoming reality is so potent that just the experience is more than worth getting lost in.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Oltman, Albert Hammond Jr., Alex Reznik, Alexandre Chen, Andrew Hawtrey, Anna Chazelle, Anna Dahl, Anthony Burkhalter, Ariel Flores, Armando Cosio, Benjamin Jacobson, Bob Clendenin, Brad Pitt, Bregje Heinen, Bryan Scott Johnson, Chloe Fineman, Chris Doubek, Christopher Allen, Cici Lau, Circus-Szalewski, Cyrus Hobbi, Danny Jolles, David Abed, David Ury, Dean Anderson, Diego Calva, Dorian Martin, E.E. Bell, Eamon Hunt, Eric Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Evan Greer, Flea, Frederick Koehler, Freya Parker, Hansford Prince, J.C. Currais, James Crittenden, James Vincent, James Wellington, Jean Smart, Jeff Garlin, Jennifer Grant, Jeremy Roberts, Jim O'Brien, Jimmy Ortega, Joe Dallesandro, Joey de Leon, John Kerry, John Macey, John Mariano, John Polite, Johnny Britt, Jonathan Ohye, Jonathan Thomson, Jordan Seigel, Jovan Adepo, Kaia Gerber, Karen Bethzabe, Karina Fontes, Karolina Szymczak, Katherine Waterston, Katia Gomez, Kenajuan Bentley, Kevin Symons, Kevin Toney, Lewis Tan, Li Jun Li, Lukas Haas, Marc Platt, Marcos A. Ferraez, Margot Robbie, Mateo Pollock, Mather Zickel, Max Minghella, Mike C. Manning, Miraj Grbić, Nana Ghana, Olivia Hamilton, Olivia Wilde, P. J. Byrne, Pat Skipper, Patrick Fugit, Pete Ploszek, Phoebe Tonkin, Ric Sarabia, Richard Clarke Larsen, Robert Beitzel, Robert Morgan, Rory Scovel, Ryan Porter, Samara Weaving, Sarah Ramos, Sean O'Bryan, Shane Powers, Sol Landerman, Spike Jonze, Taylor Hill, Taylor Nichols, Telvin Griffin, Terry Walters, Tobey Maguire, Todd Giebenhain, Trisha Simmons, Troy Metcalf, Tyler Seiple, Vanessa Bednar, Walker Hare, William Roper

Director: Damien Chazelle

Rating: R

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A recent holiday classic you likely haven't seen, Arthur Christmas uses its premise of the North Pole as a massive spy organization to touch on how commercialization tears people apart. It's a surprisingly smart film with a fascinating dynamic among its family of Santas, with an incredibly funny script full of dry, British wit. And while the animation may already look dated at first glance, Arthur Christmas more than makes up for its looks with truly imaginative art direction and director Sarah Smith's fast-paced set pieces. This is that rare Chirstmas movie that doesn't just surrender to schmaltz; the lessons learned by the characters here are unique, complex, and timeless.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Kids

Actor: Adam Tandy, Alistair McGowan, Andy Serkis, Ashley Jensen, Bill Nighy, Brian Cummings, Bronagh Gallagher, Clint Dyer, Cody Cameron, Danny John-Jules, David Menkin, David Schneider, Deborah Findlay, Dominic West, Donnie Long, Emma Kennedy, Eva Longoria, Hugh Laurie, Iain McKee, Ian Ashpitel, Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy, Jane Horrocks, Jerry Lambert, Jim Broadbent, Joan Cusack, Julia Davis, Kerry Shale, Kevin Cecil, Kevin Eldon, Kris Pearn, Laura Linney, Marc Wootton, Michael Palin, Peter Baynham, Ramona Marquez, Rhys Darby, Rich Fulcher, Rich Hall, Robbie Coltrane, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Sarah Smith, Seamus Malone, Seeta Indrani, Stewart Lee, Tamsin Greig

Director: Barry Cook, Sarah Smith

Rating: PG

What makes Apollo 11 stand out is its sharp minimalist approach, allowing the archival footage of the mission to the moon to speak for itself. It’s stunning to think that at one point or another we had collectively seen a bulk of the footage in this film, and yet somehow let it lay dormant until the moon landing had been reduced to black and white stills in our collective imaginations. Not only does this film reinvigorate the moon landing with the power that it once held, but it does so in a way that is more thrilling than anything the Marvel CGI wizards could muster. The vibrant score adds a layer of ferocious tension, while the breakneck pace gives the feel of a rollercoaster ride. If there is any fault to find here, it is most definitely with the film’s MAGA style yearning for a time and place that never existed. Spare us the teary-eyed patriotism and the clips of Nixon, a disgraceful criminal, and vile racist, yammering on about the world becoming one. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic example of why most biopics should just be documentaries and why the fanatical fear of spoilers is a tad silly. Spoiler alert: they land on the moon.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Andy Aldrin, Bill Anders, Bruce McCandless II, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Deke Slayton, Gene Kranz, Janet Armstrong, Jim Lovell, John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Patricia Mary Finnegan, Todd Douglas Miller, Walter Cronkite

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Rating: G

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This crazy heist movie is told in a very original way. Because it's based on a true story, the movie (with actors and a story) is sometimes interrupted by the people it's about. The opening scene even reads: "this movie is not based on a true story, it is a true story". Two friends decide to rob their local library from rare books worth millions. They're driven by money but also by wanting something different than their monotonous everyday lives in Kentucky. The need for a change is a big theme in this movie, but the story and the way it's told never cease to be breathtakingly thrilling. American Animals stars amazing actors like Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), Evan Peters (Kick-Ass), and many more; but perhaps equally as notable is the director: Bart Layton, who is fresh from his amazing 2012 sleeper-hit The Imposter.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Al Mitchell, Ann Dowd, Barry Keoghan, Ben McIntire, Blake Jenner, Bobby Akers, Debby Handolescu, Dorothy Reynolds, Drew Starkey, Elijah Everett, Eric Borsuk, Evan Peters, Fedor Steer, Gary Basaraba, Gretchen Koerner, Jack Landry, Jane McNeill, Jared Abrahamson, Jason Caceres, JD Demers, Josh Jordan, Josh Royston, Karen Wheeling Reynolds, Kelly Borgnis, Kevin L. Johnson, Lara Grice, Lauran Foster, Marlo Scheitler, Pamela Bell Mitchell, Pamela Mitchell, Spencer Reinhard, Steven 'Trainset' Curtis, Udo Kier, Warren Lipka, Wayne Duvall, Whitney Goin, William Cowboy Reed

Director: Bart Layton

Rating: R

At once intimate and sweeping, A Thousand and One seamlessly weaves Inez's personal turmoil and familial troubles with the systemic inequality that was rampant in '90s New York. The hideous faces of gentrification, poverty, and police brutality are constantly appearing in the film, not merely because they lend weight to the story, but because they are inevitable for people like Inez. People who, despite their best efforts at achieving upward mobility are continually pushed down by self-serving institutions. 

It's easy for social issue dramas like this to buckle under the weight of their lofty goals, but nothing about A Thousand and One feels forced. Just the opposite, the film has an authentic quality to it—almost documentary-like in its precise depiction of Harlem throughout the years. It's deeply personal and achingly tender, and everything else—the social commentary and the political beats—stems from that specificity. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adriane Lenox, Amelia Workman, Aven Courtney, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Delissa Reynolds, Emmy Harrington, Jennean Farmer, Josiah Cross, Naya Desir-Johnson, Rudolph Giuliani, Terri Abney, Teyana Taylor, William Catlett

Director: A.V. Rockwell

Rating: R

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Based on the book by John Le Carre, this slow-burning thriller tells the story of a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant suspected of terrorism, who is suddenly spotted in a big German city trying to get his hands on money that was left to him. Gunter (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the head of an international counter-terrorism unit created after 9/11 to spot threats like these early on. Whether this man is a terrorist or not, what he is doing in Germany, how he fits in the grand scheme of things, and whether Gunter will succeed in his efforts - all of these are questions you will be begging to find answers for. Witty, supremely acted, and with a very provocative story line, A Most Wanted Man is perfect if you're in the mood for a sharp thriller.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bernhard Schütz, Corinna Kropiunig, Daniel Brühl, Derya Alabora, Franz Hartwig, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Herbert Gronemeyer, Homayoun Ershadi, Imke Büchel, Kostja Ullmann, Martin Wuttke, Max Volkert Martens, Mehdi Dehbi, Neil Malik Abdullah, Nina Hoss, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Rainer Bock, Robin Wright, Tamer Yiğit, Ursina Lardi, Uwe Dag Berlin, Vedat Erincin, Vicky Krieps, Willem Dafoe

Director: Anton Corbijn

Rating: R

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Annie Funke, Ashley Williams, Ben Rosenfield, Bill Walters, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Chester Jones III, Chris Cardona, Christopher Abbott, Daisy Tahan, David Margulies, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Marvel, Elyes Gabel, Giselle Eisenberg, Glenn Fleshler, Jason Ralph, Jerry Adler, Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Palumbo, John Dinello, John Douglas Thompson, John Procaccino, Kathleen Doyle, Linda Marie Larson, Lorna Guity Pruce, Lorna Pruce, Matthew Maher, Myrna Cabello, Nat DeWolf, Nick Bailey, Oscar Isaac, Patrick Breen, Peter Gerety, Pico Alexander, Quinn Meyers, Robert Clohessy, Russell G. Jones, Stephen Reich, Susan Blackwell, Suzanne Cerreta, Taylor Richardson, Teddy Coluca, William Hill

Director: J. C. Chandor

Rating: R

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