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The performance of a pot-bellied Joaquin Phoenix is nothing short of perfection. He brilliantly portrays a hitman down on his luck who happens to rescue a kidnapped teenage girl. It’s a tight movie, running a short 89 minutes. It makes a point that sticks. Pure entertainment, pure acting, and amazing directing by Lynne Ramsay (who also directed We Need to Talk About Kevin).

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, Christian Reeve, Claire Hsu, Cristina Dohmen, Dante Pereira-Olson, Edward Latham, Ekaterina Samsonov, Frank Pando, Jalina Mercado, Jason Babinsky, Joaquin Phoenix, John Doman, Jonathan Wilde, Judith Roberts, Kate Easton, Larry Canady, Leigh Dunham, Lucy Lan Luo, Madison Arnold, Novella Nelson, Oleg Ossayenko, Ronan Summers, Rose De Vera, Ryan Martin Brown, Scott Price, Sophie Piedras, Vinicius Damasceno

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Rating: R

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Based on the 1962 award winning novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High castle presents a world in which World War II concluded with the victory of the Axis powers, dividing the United States of America into two powers on the verge of conflict, the Greater German Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. The show follows Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) and her boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) as their lives quickly turn into chaos when they come across a film reel that shows a glimpse into the world that could have been, ours, bringing the couple to the restless attention of both governments and of the resistance. The Man in the High Castle will captivate you with excellent writing, a superb cast, and a carefully crafted world that is as believable as it is terrifying.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexa Davalos, Brennan Brown, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Chelah Horsdal, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Luke Kleintank, Rufus Sewell, Rupert Evans

Rating: TV-MA

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam LeFevre, Alan Davidson, Allan Havey, Beeson Carroll, Bill Camp, Brian Anthony Wilson, Charlie Matthes, Chris Messina, David Zayas, Dominic Marcus, Edward Norton, Erik LaRay Harvey, Famke Janssen, Goran Visnjic, Gretchen Mol, Jay Boryea, Joe Zaloom, Joey Vega, John Di Benedetto, John Gallagher Jr., John Malkovich, John Turturro, Johnny Chan, Josh Mostel, Josh Pais, Kerry O'Malley, Kohl Sudduth, Lenny Clarke, Lenny Venito, Lisa Gorlitsky, Mario Mendoza, Martin Landau, Matt Damon, Melina Kanakaredes, Merwin Goldsmith, Michael Arkin, Michael Lombardi, Michael Rispoli, Michael Ryan Segal, Murphy Guyer, Neal Hemphill, Nicole Brier, P.J. Brown, Paul Cicero, Peter Yoshida, Ray Iannicelli, Richard Mawe, Sal Richards, Slava Schoot, Sonny Zito, Tom Aldredge, Tony Hoty

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

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A hilarious comedy about politics in the UK and US. The secretary of State for Internal Development Simon Foster accidentally backs the plans for a war in the Middle East and suddenly finds he has a lot of friends in Washington. What follows is a difficult to follow maneuvering of pro- and antiwar factions in both governments. The harder it gets to follow what's going on in the movie the more it resembles our present day politics and the funnier it becomes.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alex MacQueen, Anna Chlumsky, Chipo Chung, Chris Addison, David Rasche, Del Pentecost, Enzo Cilenti, Eve Matheson, Gina McKee, Harry Hadden-Paton, James Doherty, James Gandolfini, James Smith, Janelle Schmidt, Joanna Brookes, Joanna Scanlan, Johnny Pemberton, Lucinda Raikes, Mimi Kennedy, Natasha Sattler, Olivia Poulet, Paul Higgins, Peter Capaldi, Rita May, Samantha Harrington, Steve Coogan, Tom Hollander, Will Smith, Zach Woods

Director: Armando Iannucci

Rating: Not Rated

Filmmaker Petra Costa tells the story of moving to New York from Brazil to follow her dream, the same one her mother once followed, of becoming an actress.

She carries memories of a third person who made the same move, a sister called Elena. Elena left her when she was seven-years-old, and after intermittent calls and messages, disappeared.

This documentary is a tale of three women: of their feelings separation, longing, and ambition. It’s made to be a visual poem of their story.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Elena Andrade, Li An, Petra Costa

Director: Petra Costa

Rating: N/A

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This is an inexplicably and philosophically dark comedy.

Its protagonist, Larry, is a lackluster professor at a dull university. Then his life starts to unravel: his wife decides to leave him for one of his more successful colleagues; his unemployed brother moves in to stay on his couch.

So Larry ventures on a quest for meaning and clarity within his Jewish community.

All Cohen Brothers fans will appreciate the movie's aesthetics and comedic strength. The protagonist’s struggle will resonate with anyone who has had a religious upbringing: guilt is a big theme here.

I felt like I had to rewatch it to understand it. But I also enjoyed that weird sense of not understanding everything that's going on. Much like life itself.

The film rightfully earned itself two nominations for the Oscars, including Best Picture.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Wolff, Adam Arkin, Alan Mandell, Allen Lewis Rickman, Amanda Day, Amy Landecker, Brent Braunschweig, Claudia Wilkens, Fred Melamed, Fyvush Finkel, George Wyner, James Cada, Jessica McManus, Joel Thingvall, Katherine Borowitz, Landyn Banx, Michael Lerner, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Breitmayer, Punnavith Koy, Raye Birk, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Scott Thompson Baker, Simon Helberg, Stephen Park, Steve Park, Tim Russell, Tyson Bidner, Yelena Shmulenson

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Rating: R

13 Tzameti is a unique suspense movie from Georgia and the debut of director Géla Babluani. This film explores the life of a migrant worker from Georgia working in France, who literally gambles his life in a high stakes game of chance organized by powerful criminals.  13 Tzameti won the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance in 2008, and of course, a not nearly as good American remake. Do yourself a favor and check out the original!

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Augustin Legrand, Aurélien Recoing, Bruno Davézé, Christophe Vandevelde, Fred Ulysse, George Babluani, Jo Prestia, Olga Legrand, Pascal Bongard, Vania Vilers

Director: Géla Babluani

Rating: Not Rated

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Nicole is 22, just out of college, and adrift during her first summer as an “adult.” Tu Dors Nicole (“You’re Sleeping Nicole”) is a French-Canadian take on the late coming-of-age story. Nicole spends most of the summer is her small, sleepy Quebec town lounging around her parents house (they are gone for the summer), occasionally working at the local thrift store, trying to sleep (she’s developed insomnia), and wandering aimlessly around town and the Quebec countryside with her best friend Veronique. The two are joined at the hip (as evidenced by how their bikes are always locked-up together) but the arrival of Nicole’s brother and his bandmates threatens to upend the lifelong relationship between the two; because of this waning friendship Tu Dors has earned comparisons to films like Ghost World and Frances Ha which examine the complexities of young female friendships, particularly when one’s identity is in flux. The film was shot on gorgeous Black & White 35mm film , adding to it’s floating dream-like quality, and boasts a sweet and droll sense of humor. There are occasional touches of the surreal as well — my favorite running gag being the presence of the pre-pubescent Martin, a small boy whose voice has prematurely developed (the voice that comes out of his mouth sounds like that of a world weary 45-year-old) who attempts to woo Nicole with poetic insights such as, “the heart has no age.” This film is a true hidden gem.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Lefebvre, Anne-Renee Duhaime, Catherine St-Laurent, Claude Despins, Fanny Mallette, Francis La Haye, Godefroy Reding, Julianne Côté, Luc Senay, Marc-André Grondin, Pierre-Luc Lafontaine, Simon Larouche

Director: Stéphane Lafleur

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

Warm, enchanting, poetic and delicate, this is an almost silent film about a poor Vietnamese girl who goes to work for a well-off family in Saigon. The film follows her experiences as she grows but is also very focused on the nature around her, and the beautiful little details of this nature, which the young girl seems attuned to and curious about. The feelings in the film come more from the excellent visuals rather than the plot itself.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anh Hoa Nguyen, Hoa Hoi Vuong, Keo Souvannavong, Man San Lu, Ngoc Trung Tran, Thi Loc Truong, Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Vantha Talisman

Director: Anh Hung Tran, Tran Anh Hung

Rating: Not Rated

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Krisha opens with the image you see above, a bright yet stark portrait of the lead of the movie, staring with defiance at the camera. You are invited into the world of an unpredictable 65-year-old who returns home for Thanksgiving after a long disappearance. Her family greets her with mixed emotion, and her nephew (played by the director of the movie), doesn’t even want to be near her. In fact, Krisha is played by the director’s real-life aunt. His mother and grandmother also star in the movie. And the story is inspired by real-life pain: a member of his family who was a recovering addict and who fell back into drugs after a family reunion. This is a low-budget but high-dedication movie. The director, Trey Edward Shults, is a disciple of Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Knight of Cups), whose style will be easily recognizable to those familiar with it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Dobrenko, Atheena Frizzell, Augustine Frizzell, Bill Wise, Billie Fairchild, Bryan Casserly, Chase Joliet, Chris Doubek, Krisha Fairchild, Olivia Grace Applegate, Robyn Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults, Victoria Fairchild

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Rating: R

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The work of two people stand out here: the actor Christian Bale and the cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, Warrior, The Grey, Spotlight, etc.) Bale plays an Army Captain who agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family through treacherous lands. The general and the chief, being old enemies, embark on a journey where their conflict seems the least of their worries. The cinematography is lush and reminiscent of the classics of the Western genre. It is a harshly stunning film you should watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Adam Beach, Austin Rising, Ava Cooper, Ben Foster, Bill Camp, Boots Southerland, Brian Duffy, Christian Bale, Christopher Hagen, David Midthunder, Dicky Eklund Jr., Gray Wolf Herrera, James Cady, Jesse Plemons, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Majors, Luce Rains, Paul Anderson, Peter Mullan, Q'orianka Kilcher, Richard Bucher, Robyn Malcolm, Rod Rondeaux, Rory Cochrane, Rosamund Pike, Ryan Bingham, Scott Cooper, Scott G. Anderson, Scott Shepherd, Scott Wilson, Stafford Douglas, Stella Cooper, Stephen Lang, Tanaya Beatty, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Studi, Xavier Horsechief

Director: Scott Cooper

Rating: R

In a small Italian town, a dog cleaner’s wholesome days dealing with elderly owners and eager children are balanced with a series of messy nights. The small and frail man finds himself targetted by the town’s black-sheep, a strong and fearless ex-convict. Dogman is about the line between being bullied and wanting to be part of something, it’s a beautiful and often thrilling character study from Italian genius filmmaker Matte Garone. Won the Best Actor award at Cannes.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adamo Dionisi, Alida Baldari Calabria, Aniello Arena, Edoardo Pesce, Francesco Acquaroli, Giancarlo Porcacchia, Gianluca Gobbi, Laura Pizzirani, Marcello Fonte, Mirko Frezza, Nunzia Schiano

Director: Matteo Garrone

Rating: Not Rated

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A movie about a 16 year old girl who gets involved with an older more sophisticated man and how the relationship changes her life. Carey Mulligan's performance is nothing short of perfect, inevitably making herself the center of the movie. The coming-of-age story is also quite exceptional, and conveys  impressive load and variety of emotions. An Education is one of those movies that make you live an experience you haven't lived yourself, but because it is so exquisitely and realistically done, the character's problems and joys will feel like your own.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alfred Molina, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Bel Parker, Cara Seymour, Carey Mulligan, Connor Catchpole, Dominic Cooper, Ellie Kendrick, Emma Thompson, James Norton, Kate Duchêne, Matthew Beard, Nick Sampson, Olivia Williams, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike, Sally Hawkins, William Melling

Director: Lone Scherfig

Rating: PG-13

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