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LION Review

May none of us ever know the pain and hopelessness that comes from becoming forever separated from our family. Losing a child, or becoming a lost child, seems to be one of the most unimaginably horrible things that could happen – but happen it did to Saroo Brierley and to his family.

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MOANA Review

Unless your heart is made of stone or you simply hate music, it’s more likely than not that you will leave the theater humming at least one of the unbelievably catchy tunes from Disney’s Moana, courtesy of Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina, Somoan artist Opetaia Foa’i and the great Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame.

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THE SHELTER Review

“You used to have it all,” a character tells Thomas (Michael Paré), early on in John Fallon’s The Shelter. We come to realize quite early on that whatever he had, he certainly doesn’t have it anymore. He’s disheveled and homeless, an alcoholic who mugs passers-by so he can afford more booze. His life has plunged to the deepest depths and he doesn’t see a way up from rock bottom. Sooner or later, Fallon fills in the loose ends and shows us what happened to our protagonist – a number of years ago, his pregnant wife Maryam (Gayle James) committed suicide, and Thomas has felt immensely guilty, believing he was largely responsible for her depression and death. The ghosts of his past have never left him.

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ARRIVAL Review

Arrival is sci-fi that thrills on an intimate level while exploring basic fundamental questions of humanity, language, and communication on a grand scale. And there are aliens. Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) is typically deliberate, bringing together immaculately composed visuals with bubbling anxiety. Where it goes and how it gets there is mesmerizing, even through some expositional redundancies and a few lulls in the extra-terrestrial conversation.

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HACKSAW RIDGE Review

Hacksaw Ridge, a true story about a pacifist who served in World War II, opens with a slow-motion montage of somersaulting bodies on fire. The juxtaposition of content is made all the more incongruent with a righteous voiceover. The intro helps set up the stark differences between the film’s maudlin first half and brutal second half in which director Mel Gibson depicts graphic battle scenes, his first opportunity to do so since 2006’s vastly superior Apocalypto. The clashing contexts fail to connect. Medal of Honor recipient Desmond T. Doss is unquestionably a hero; unfortunately, this dramatization of his heroism feels a little too sanitized despite all of the battlefield viscera.

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DOCTOR STRANGE Review

Marvel goes mystical in Doctor Strange and the addition of superhero sorcery provides a welcome change of pace in a cinematic universe that’s become much too uniform. Reality, along with architecture, is bent and folded Inception-style, with director Scott Derrickson and his effects team providing singular landscapes for comic book clashes. That said, the trippy visuals and thrilling wizardry can’t completely mask the all-too-familiar Marvel staples, including the hero’s arc and a villain who wishes to destroy the world as we know it because…well, because he’s got reasons.

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PRIVATE PROPERTY Blu-ray Review

The good folks over at Cinelicious Pics and the UCLA Film and Television Archive have unearthed Leslie Stevens’ controversial thriller Private Property, lost to the world for half a century, and have released a new 4K restoration of the film for our viewing pleasure.

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THE EXECUTIONER Blu-ray Review

For most audiences outside of Spain, the name Jose Luis Berlanga remains relatively unknown as do his films. That is until now, thanks to the Criterion Collection, because October 25th marked the first time a Berlanga film has been made available, on Blu-ray, in the US. Long considered one of (if not) Spain’s greatest directors, the Criterion Collection is hoping to transfer that reverence and popularity stateside with the release of his seventh film, The Executioner.

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FEAR, INC. Review

Reading the synopsis of Vincent Masciale’s feature debut, Fear, Inc., it sounded like a horror-themed version of David Fincher’s The Game, a film I’m a huge fan of, so my interest was instantly piqued. While it does indeed draw heavily from Fincher’s film and it in no way eclipses it, Masciale seemingly knew this going into it and instead of attempting to sneakily bite off Fincher, he revels in this emulation, creating a surprisingly funny, albeit flawed, horror-comedy.

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SUNDAY Review

An expired visa begets an uncertain future in Iva Gocheva’s Sunday, an exploration of the principles that constitute ‘home’ for our Bulgarian visitor, Eleonora Ivanova. What makes it so and why? Probing questions asked in interview, the recorded audio of which is detached from the visual aspect of the event, transposed to the activities of the interviewee basking in the possibly dying days of American residence.

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LITTLE SISTER Review

Nothing like the dynamics of a dysfunctional family to provide for a plethora of opportunities regarding drama and/or comedy (or, more so, some combination of the two that usually runs in the vein of dark humor) in cinema; a familiar setting, due to its universality and its possibilities, and also the topic of writer/director Zach Clark’s Little Sister (co-written with frequent collaborator, Melodie Sisk), which provides itself plenty of chances to plumb the depths of familial dysfunction for drama and the personality quirks for comedy. However, the inclusion of an in-training nun as the protagonist skewers that familiarity and the expectations that come along with it.

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THE ACCOUNTANT Review

The Accountant has a lot of ideas without a lot of thought to back them up. There’s a ton of information provided in Bill Dubuque’s script, so much so that the film becomes a muddled mix of several different stories. All of the threads are presented as deeply meaningful by director Gavin O’Connor, but the various story elements cannibalize from each other instead of coalescing, messages and thrills lost in the over-serious jumble.

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COMING THROUGH THE RYE Review

The Catcher in the Rye has ascended to the upper echelons of American literature throughout its six decades of existence, yet J. D. Salinger, the book’s author, has been notorious for his reclusivity – he ceased writing for publishers in the 1960s and held steadfastly to his self-imposed retirement.

He would never grant an interview, respond to a query or consider licensing one of his works to be made into a play, a movie or anything else. Salinger never stopped writing altogether, but it seems that not even death itself has allowed his later works to see the light of day.

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THE ALCHEMIST COOKBOOK Review

Sporting a stylish new jacket with the word Dancers emblazoned on the back, Cortez visits his buddy Sean in a remote trailer in the middle of a lonely forest. He’s not there to stay; he’s just there for a supply drop that will help his friend in his alchemical pursuits. After a few fleeting moments of companionship, he leaves and Sean returns to his quest of creating gold. This is the basis of Joel Potrykus’s latest film, The Alchemist Cookbook.

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SILK TATTERS,”NEC SPE NEC METU”: BRIGADOON Review

It is remarkable, given the duration of Silk Tatters,“NEC SPE NEC METU”: Brigadoon (14 minutes), the sensory density Telaroli is able to achieve by layering sequence upon sequence from films previous on top of each other while their disembodied audios make entrances languidly and random. It can a bit overwhelming at times yet continuously mesmerizing, but even in the distorted imagery downpours there does appear to be some semblance of order operating underneath.