Browsing: Film Reviews

very year, summer gives way to fall, and in movie theaters, blockbusters give way to awards contenders. On this week’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, film critic Bob Mondello of All Things Considered and I spoke with Tasha Robinson of The Verge and film writer Bilal Qureshi about some of what we all saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, which kicks off the fall movie season. But if you need a list to carry in your pocket, Bob and I put together this rundown of some of the best, buzziest and otherwise noteworthy films coming to you over the next few months. (Keep in mind that release dates are…

Most Palestinian films focus on the impact of politics and how the fraught relations with the Israeli state affect the lives of Palestinians. This delightful feature from Maysaloun Hamoud takes a seemingly more apolitical approach. And yet there’s a palpable subtext at play here about the oppressive treatment of women from the territory by their own people, affecting those leading secular lives as well as the religiously observant, Muslims and Christians alike. https://youtu.be/GpUVQMDoewU In a Tel Aviv apartment, Muslim lawyer and chain-smoking party girl Layla (Mouna Hawa) and her friend Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a lesbian from a Christian family who…

It all began when French cinema’s golden boy Guillaume Canet was knocked down a few pegs by a tactless journalist, who all but called him past it. In a flash, the actor-director dreamt up the plot for his anarchic mockumentary Rock’n Roll. Turning the camera on (a heightened version of) himself, he charts his ‘own’ acute spiral into mid-life crisis. At 40-something his youthful looks are waning and, last nail in the coffin, he has just been cast in his first ‘father role’. Meanwhile, his real-life partner Marion Cotillard’s career is soaring, overshadowing his own – his greengrocer nicknames him…

very now and then, I like to highlight noteworthy films that aren’t, or are hardly, available to the public, both because they should be and because their unavailability, due to the vagaries of the marketplace and the milieu, is a kind of news in itself. So it is with a new film, “Gavagai,” by a sharply original and deeply accomplished filmmaker, Rob Tregenza, which screened in July, at the Maine International Film Festival, in Waterville, Maine; it will be playing this weekend at the local art-house theatre, the Reel Pizza Cinerama, in Bar Harbor, Maine; and it won’t, as of…

Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin spurs a question that applies to many countries through history, but might echo most pertinently with baffled observers of Trumpland: how much of what is happening in a government is venal, craven self-interest, and how much sheer incompetent bumbling? The political satire is not directed at the US president or any specific leader, though. It extends the world view that Iannucci has applied to British and American political manoeuvres in In the Loop, a black comedy about stumbling toward war, and the series Veep, one of the most poisonously truthful satires ever made. He…

Angelina Jolie’s celebrity makes her artistic ambitions easy to mock, but with “First They Killed My Father,” opening Friday at the same time that it begins streaming on Netflix, she proves she’s worth reckoning with as a director — for reasons good and bad. She has made an engrossing, dynamically shot movie that moves with real fluidity and complexity. Yet she also succumbs to familiar ideological pitfalls. The standard complaints about cultural appropriation, point of view and the ethics of aestheticizing war all apply. The movie’s source is Loung Ung’s 2000 memoir of her childhood under the Khmer Rouge, which…

Making its way to this year’s TIFF following an award-winning debut at the Venice Film Festival, French director Xavier Legrand’s Custody is a powerful domestic drama of a toxic father who continues to terrorize his family following an unsavory marital separation. The minute we meet Antoine (Denis Ménochet), there’s a sense of menace. He sits beside his lawyer as he and his soon to be ex-wife Miriam (Léa Drucker) seek arbitration on the custody of their youngest son following their split-up. The judge twice has to tell him to be quiet as he mutters to his lawyer. A statement is…

The habitual calm and gentleness of Mahamat Saleh Haroun’s film-making here has a sharp edge and an overtly political point – as well as a flourish of violent destruction and despair that blindsided me. This Chadian director, who lives in France, brings the African experience to Europe in a deeply felt, compassionate film about refugees who find that one of their bitterest abasements is the loss of dignity and status. These are proud people, who left behind prestigious jobs in their homeland, now forced to take on low-paid work or ask for handouts while their various appeals and applications grind…

The filmmaking duo Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani have gone about in some kind of relative obscurity since their first feature Amer in 2009. While that striking debut perhaps should’ve garnered them more attention, as well as the subsequent The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, it feels safe to say they’re not out to get that crossover hit. If anything, they seem content kind of just doing the same thing over and over again. To those not in the know, their whole deal is doing riffs on genre that cut out virtually all the connective tissue, leaving simply a…

Blending elements of magical realism, political strife and Kafkaesque ennui to partially satisfying effect, Oblivion Verses (Los Versos del Olvido) marks an intriguing if rather elusive feature debut for Iranian writer-director Alireza Khatami. Set in an unknown Latin American state (the film was presumably shot in Chile), there are moments that recall Pablo Lorrain’s second feature, Post Mortem, which also dealt with morgues, death squads and the trauma of unclaimed corpses in a corrupted land. But here, the narrative is much more opaque, pushing viewers to clutch at straws in order to follow Khatami’s different plot strands, which shuttle between reality and fantasy…

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