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The Western had its heyday in the 60s, but the decades have proven that there’s still stories from the deserts that we haven’t heard yet, and gems that twist the genre on its head. The Proposition is a unique Western, being from the East, in Australia where the Brits have started to form colonies. As the British Empire builds society, and the police start to enforce the King’s justice, writer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat crafts a bloody tale, where promises between men are betrayed for the State, where vengeance can only be met through brutality, and where the line between civility and savagery is drawn and moved by the will of an angry majority. The Proposition is quite violent, but it’s performed well, scored by a moody, moving soundtrack, and it surprisingly contemplates Australia’s bloody past.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Bogdan Koca, Boris Brkic, Bryan Probets, Danny Huston, David Gulpilil, David Vallon, David Wenham, Emily Watson, Gary Waddell, Guy Pearce, Iain Gardiner, Jeremy Madrona, John Hurt, Leah Purcell, Mick Roughan, Noah Taylor, Oliver Ackland, Ralph Cotterill, Ray Winstone, Richard Wilson, Robert Morgan, Tom Budge, Tom E. Lewis

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

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At first glance, The Madness of King George seemed like a history lesson about King George III. Like plenty of British royalty dramas, the film has all the opulent trappings in its sets and costumes, as well as some of the best actors from the British isles. However, unlike other depictions of the monarchy, the film depicts the king not as a benevolent ruler or oppressive tyrant– instead, King George III is terribly human, with his memory failing, being unsettled by loss, and concern over his health, which involves having to look at his urine. But the historical satire, based on the 1991 stage play, still manages to have the same mockery towards the opportunistic court, while still retaining sympathy for the very nobility it mocks, through original playwright Alan Bennett’s adept writing, as well as the excellent performance of the stacked ensemble cast.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bennett, Amanda Donohoe, Anthony Calf, Barry Stanton, Caroline Harker, Charlotte Curley, Clive Brunt, Colin McPhillamy, Cyril Shaps, David Leon, Dermot Keaney, Geoffrey Palmer, Helen Mirren, Iain Mitchell, Ian Holm, Janine Duvitski, Jeremy Child, Jim Carter, Joanna Hall, John Wood, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Julian Wadham, Michael Grandage, Nicholas Irons, Nicholas Selby, Nick Sampson, Nigel Hawthorne, Paul Corrigan, Peter Woodthorpe, Robert Swann, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Roger Hammond, Rupert Everett, Rupert Graves, Selina Cadell, Struan Rodger

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Rating: PG-13

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Vivid, sweeping landscapes surround the simple beauty of a Mongolian family navigating the pressures of globalization while still practicing their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Ostensibly it's about the charming, captivating relationship that forms between a young girl, Nansal, and a dog that she finds. However, the magic of this slow, enthralling film is that it captures the brilliance of familial relationships and power of culture and stories through this simple backdrop. And it is a simple film; everything you can learn from this film comes through its gentle storytelling that invites you to recognize the beauty and profundity that exists in everyday lives.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Babbayar Batchuluun, Batchuluun Urjindorj, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Nansal Batchuluun, Nansalmaa Batchuluun

Director: Byambasuren Davaa

Rating: G

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Classroom chatter and inside jokes; the rhythmic routine of class, band practice, and communal mealtime; colorful paints and a keen Shakespeare play; paperback books, pages bookmarked with dogears. These are the precious, ordinary wonders of Headfort, a preparatory boarding school in Ireland. 

School Life observes Amanda and John Leyden, who have each taught at Headfort for over four decades. As they both near retirement, so too looms the promise of a tranquil retreat into the countryside—and questions of what they leave behind in their school, their classrooms, and their students. Idyllic and gentle, this documentary offers a brief but meaningful look into the school lives of bright children indelibly influenced by their earliest mentors.

Genre: Documentary

Director: David Rane, Neasa Ní Chianáin

Rating: PG-13

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As a comedy made in the 80’s all about a gay couple, viewers not familiar with this indie film might expect something tragic, raunchy, or insensitive, but Parting Glances is surprisingly understated. The main relationship is refreshingly treated with the same domesticity as a straight couple would, and the main conflict isn’t concerned with acceptance– after all, Michael and Robert were already accepted by their urban Manhattan community. In writing this, first-time director Bill Sherwood is able to focus on the upcoming long-distance relationship, Michael realizing Robert wants the distance, while Robert feels uncertain over Michael’s feelings for his ex dying from AIDS. The film doesn’t shy away from the touching, but even with the difficult pain of losing parts of the community, it’s still straightforward, unsentimental, and so funny with the witty repartee between the well-written characters. Parting Glances is a true gem.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Nathan, Bob Koherr, Cam Brainard, John Bolger, Kathy Kinney, Michael Medeiros, Nicholas Hill, Patrick Tull, Richard Ganoung, Steve Buscemi, Victor Rivers, Yolande Bavan

Director: Bill Sherwood

Rating: NR

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The title says it all: this is a story of love and basketball, one where the two intertwine and excitedly inform one another. Two childhood friends with a passion for ball develop deep feelings for one another. They have ambitions to go pro, but as Monica discovers how uneven the playing field really is for female athletes, and as Quincy grapples with his own needs and career, they reconsider their relationship both to each other and to the game they so love. 

Love & Basketball is a beautiful and sensitive movie that breaks stereotypes about Black love, which exists here as soft and nuanced as any other expertly drawn pairings in movies, and about Black women; Monica gets angry, but also vulnerable, hardworking, and loving. The sports component of the movie is just as finely detailed, with the energy of the matches bouncing off the screen walls. Clearly ahead of its time, Love & Basketball gets at the core of the game without losing sight of its talented players. 

 

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Al Foster, Alfre Woodard, Boris Kodjoe, Chick Hearn, Chris Warren, Christine Dunford, Debbi Morgan, Dennis Haysbert, Erika Ringor, Gabrielle Union, Glenndon Chatman, Harry Lennix, Kyla Pratt, Monica Calhoun, Naykia Harris, Omar Epps, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Tyra Banks

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Rating: PG-13

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Kilo Two Bravo (Originally named Kajaki) is a must-watch for anyone who likes war dramas. It tells the true story of British soldiers in the Afghanistan war who find themselves trapped in a minefield during a mission, with their rescue team coming in a helicopter that might set off mines if it lands. It's a slow, dialogue driven film that is interested in taking you to the war zone more than it cares about entertaining you. Ultimately, it becomes an essay on the horrors of war, and an anti-war war film. Because of this and given the blood and gore, this movie is definitely not for those who would feel nauseated at sight of blood. Great setting, good cinematography, realistic acting and script all do justice to the true story. It's a film that will grip your senses and keep you at the edge of the seat throughout.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ali Cook, Andy Gibbins, Benjamin O'Mahony, Bryan Parry, David Elliot, Grant Kilburn, Joe Corrigall, John Doughty, Jon-Paul Bell, Liam Ainsworth, Malachi Kirby, Mark Stanley, Paul Katis, Paul Luebke, Robert Mitchell, Scott Kyle, Thomas Davison

Director: Paul Katis

Rating: R

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This movie is pretty much in every regard a Norwegian Kill Bill. It’s a dark gory comedy where, naturally, the substitute for Uma Thurman doing damage is an emotionless Stellan Skarsgård. After his son is killed by a drug gang, Skarsgård’s character, fresh off a win of a “citizen of the year” award, embarks on a ruthless journey to track and kill the murderers. This takes place in one of the most remote areas in Norway, where the main character works as a snowplow driver. You guessed it, some people will get snowplowed. Seems familiar? That’s because this year it was turned into a horribly sub-par American movie called Cold Pursuit, with, ugh, Liam Neeson.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Arben Bala, Arthur Berning, Atle Antonsen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Bjørn Moan, Bruno Ganz, David Sakurai, Espen Reboli Bjerke, Gard B. Eidsvold, Goran Navojec, Hildegun Riise, Jack Moland, Jakob Oftebro, Jan Gunnar Røise, Jon Øigarden, Jon Øigarden, Julia Bache-Wiig, Kåre Conradi, Kristofer Hivju, Leo Ajkic, Martin Furulund, Miodrag 'Miki' Krstović, Miodrag Krstović, Ola G. Furuseth, Pål Sverre Hagen, Peter Andersson, Sergej Trifunović, Stellan Skarsgård, Stig Henrik Hoff, Thomas Hildebrand, Tobias Santelmann

Director: Hans Petter Moland

Rating: R

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Tied together by a song that seems to drive people to end their own lives, Gloomy Sunday's tale of polyamorous love torn apart by the advent of the Second World War is one that doesn't operate according to your usual narrative structure. Its stranger elements might not always work with the very real horrors of the Nazis' invasion of Hungary, but the film still expresses this horror in a unique way. Even long before the war begins, this song that joins our three lovers together seems to touch on a sense of doom everybody is feeling—warning signs of Hitler's rise to power that ordinary people seem to have been powerless to stop in time. It's certainly unique for a non-action-driven war film, bathed in tragedy and bitter irony.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Actor: András Bálint, Anna Ráckevei, Áron Sipos, Ben Becker, Denis Moschitto, Dorka Gryllus, Erika Marozsán, Ernst Kahl, Ferenc Bács, Ferenc Némethy, Ilse Zielstorff, István Kanizsay, István Mikó, Joachim Krol, Jörg Gillner, Karl Fischer, László I. Kish, Markus Hering, Márta Bakó, Michael Gampe, Rolf Becker, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Weinert, Stefano Dionisi, Tibor Kenderesi, Ulrike Grote, Veit Stübner, Wanja Mues, Zsuzsa Mányai

Director: Rolf Schübel

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A seemingly well-adjusted Scandinavian Family vacationing in the French Alps experiences a frightening avalanche scare near the beginning of Force Majeure, thereby unleashing a cacophony of mistrust and anxiety as their dynamic is shaken to the core. This pitch black comedy from Sweden charts the steady disintegration of the family unit and the father’s psyche in particular, as his reaction to impending death leaves his family deeply questioning his masculinity and prioritization of their well-being. The stages of blame and negotiation play out with painful honesty, holding back very little in a manner that leaves the viewer supremely uncomfortable, as if eavesdropping on a neighbor's personal affairs. The effect is unsettling yet stunningly honest and often laugh-quietly-on-the-inside worthy in its depiction of human vulnerability. Unlike many narrative films, the “climax” comes at the beginning of Force Majeure, with the remainder of the film acting as an extended denouement in the form of a measured, Kubrickian character study.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Brady Corbet, Clara Wettergren, Fanni Metelius, Johannes Kuhnke, Karin Myrenberg, Kristofer Hivju, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Vincent Wettergren

Director: Ruben Östlund

Rating: R

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Though it's still very much a product of a time of certain jokes that haven't aged well, it's still remarkable how the humor and the satirical edge of this mockumentary has remained so current. As a very-low budget mockumentary of a still-young American hip hop scene, there's so much more effort that goes into these fake songs and music videos than you'd expect. But the film doesn't stop at simply poking fun at the rappers and hip hop artists of the era; the jokes always circle back around to the racism of the time and the self-seriousness of the culture in the music industry. It's a hilarious time capsule with some brutally incisive lines in practically every scene.

Genre: Comedy, Mockumentary, Music

Actor: Barry Shabaka Henley, Deezer D, Devin Kamin, Don Reed, Faizon Love, G. Smokey Campbell, Homeselle Joy, Kasi Lemmons, Larry B. Scott, LaVerne Anderson, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Monique Gabrielle, Penny Johnson Jerald, Rose Jackson, Rusty Cundieff

Director: Rusty Cundieff

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John Boyega, Algee Smith, and John Krasinski star in this difficult portrayal of the Detroit 1967 riots, the biggest civil unrest in American history before the 92 L.A. protests. A murderous cop, a band on the verge of breaking big, and a hard-working security guard find their fates intertwined by the events that took place that summer. Detroit blends real-life images with its storytelling. It would be a perfect movie if it wasn't for a scene in which the police brutalize young Black men for finding them in a hotel with two White girls. This scene, while a necessary part of the story, is overstretched and feels almost sadistic, more so because the film was made by a White director, Kathryn Bigelow.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Cook, Algee Smith, Andrea Eversley, Anthony Mackie, Ato Blankson-Wood, Austin Hebert, Ben O'Toole, Bennett Deady, Chris Chalk, Chris Coy, Darren Goldstein, Dennis Staroselsky, Ephraim Sykes, Frank Wood, Gary Wilmes, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Glenn Fitzgerald, Hannah Murray, Henry Frost III, Jack Reynor, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Strong, John Boyega, John Krasinski, Joseph David-Jones, Kaitlyn Dever, Karen Pittman, Khris Davis, Laz Alonso, Leon G. Thomas III, Lizan Mitchell, Malcolm David Kelley, Mason Alban, Michael Jibrin, Miguel, Nathan Davis Jr., Peyton Alex Smith, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, Samira Wiley, Timothy John Smith, Tokunbo Joshua Olumide, Tyler James Williams, Will Bouvier, Will Poulter, Zurin Villanueva

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rating: R

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Jia Zhangke (who NPR critic John Powers once called “perhaps the most important filmmaker working in the world today"), directed this movie based on the story of a gangster he knew while growing up.

And he is far from being the only noticeable talent here. Actress Tao Zhao shines as a character called Qiao, a dancer who infiltrates the crime scene in Northern China by way of her boyfriend (the gangster). When a boss leader is assassinated, Qiao finds herself in jail after she refuses to incriminate her boyfriend. 

This is a gangster movie but it’s also about how Qiao processes her time in jail and what she does once she gets out. It serves more as a character study and a picture of modern-day China.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Casper Liang, Diao Yi'nan, Ding Jiali, Dong Zijian, Fan Liao, Feng Xiaogang, Jiamei Feng, Kang Kang, Liao Fan, Tao Zhao, Xu Zheng, Yi'nan Diao, Zhang Yi, Zhang Yibai, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke, Zhangke Jia

Rating: Not Rated

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