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June 2021

Benefits With Friends

Maria Rusche

Dating & New York (2021)

Romantic comedies are such an endangered species who cares if “Dating & New York” lives up to its generic title. The fact an adorable movie concerned only with the happiness of pretty young people has been made these days is automatically worthy of high praise.

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Almost Infamous

Logan Floyd

Poser (2021)

“Poser” should have been about how a young woman finds her voice through the words of others, but sadly it doesn’t quite come together. Lennon (Sylvie Mix) is in that liminal time where she’s an adult but doesn’t feel like one. While she’s old enough to drink, she still lives like a student in an efficiency apartment in Columbus, Ohio. She is desperate to be part of the city’s artistic community while not quite yet comfortable sharing her own art, so she starts a podcast in order to explore the scene and carve herself a place in it. Since the scene is small and young, the participants pay each other courteous attention, and welcome Lennon’s interest.

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When Worlds Collide

Adrian M. Pruett

Venus as a Boy (2021)

Ty Hodges wrote, directed and starred in this as a present to himself; and right up until the final shot that choice makes beautiful sense. The point of the movie is how black artists tend to be pigeonholed due to their race, and are not allowed to explore themes or interests beyond “the black experience.” Well, of course they are allowed. There’s just no money in it.

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Street Scene

Tribeca Film Festival

Roaring 20's (2021)

Richard Linklater is the first person director Elisabeth Vogler thanks in the credits, and quite right too – “Slacker’s” influence on “Roaring 20’s” is inescapable. In a single, unbroken shot which Ms. Vogler filmed herself, we are given a slice of hipster Parisian life on midsummer’s night 2020. The exact evening matters because traditionally the city celebrates the longest day of the year with street music on every corner; and the lively street life the actors must navigate was clearly shot in real time. The action begins outside the Pyramid of the Louvre and ends in Buttes-Charmont, a hillside park on Paris’s western side with spectacular views of the city.

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Searching for the Real Love

Amazon Studios

Mary J. Blige’s My Life (2021)

The first two credits that appear in the “Mary J. Blige’s My Life” documentary belong to the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul herself and producer Sean “Diddy” Combs, one of the masterminds behind the seminal album referenced in the title. Those are a bit concerning given how Prime Video’s other recent music documentary “Pink: All I Know So Far” has turned out. Thankfully, Ms. Blige isn’t interested in a glowing profile of herself. During the film, she revisits an old TV interview during which she appeared evasive and seemed to be lashing out. This movie affords an opportunity to set the record straight and finally answer those invasive and uncomfortable questions with her guard down and the wisdom and introspection that only come with age and experience.

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Casual Encounters

Brett Jutkiewicz

Italian Studies (2021)

Vanessa Kirby is a mesmerizing screen presence and “Italian Studies” is designed to exploit that to the maximum – but exploitation is all this film does. Writer-director Adam Leon has wasted everyone’s talents on a juvenile fantasy about a woman in distress.

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Stir Crazy

Jamal Solomon

as of yet (2021)

As a masterclass in how to make the best of what you’ve got, “as of yet” is well worth seeing, both for its subject and its circumstances. This is a movie set in 2020 New York City so therefore of the pandemic, but it is not about the pandemic. Writer-co-director-star Taylor Garron threads a very difficult line there, but manages to pull it off. The restrictions of living at a distance from other people become the point, and it’s clever how this is managed.

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Reel From the Estate

Anthony Thompson

Queen of Glory (2021)

King of Glory is the name of the bookstore Sarah Obeng (Nana Mensah, also the writer-director) unexpectedly inherits when her mother suddenly dies. It’s a Christian bookstore in the Bronx, staffed by Pitt (Meeko Gattuso), a gentle ex-con with such alarming face tattoos everyone new he meets instantly recoils. While Sarah grew up in the store, her adulthood has been spent as a molecular neuro-oncologist, although she’s still a grad student with a heavy academic caseload. But she also has a boyfriend, fellow scientist Lyle (Adam Leon), with whom she plans to relocate to the Midwest, leaving his inconvenient wife and children behind. But the complications of the funeral rites Ghanaian culture requires means Sarah’s new life might have to start moving in another direction.

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Ted Talks

Karina Silva

No Man of God (2021)

It’s awful that a movie about a serial killer can be kind of boring. Set almost entirely inside the Florida prison where Ted Bundy (in an absolute perfect piece of casting, Luke Kirby) spends his final years, it’s about the relationship F.B.I. mindhunter Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) builds with him. And while text at the start of the movie claims this is based on Mr. Hagmaier’s notes and memories, it’s fairly clear from the title there’s another agenda here.

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Giving Pregnant Pause


False Positive (2021)

“False Positive” is not body horror in the conventional sense, as the terrors visited on our protagonist, Lucy (Ilana Glazer), are from clinical procedures performed by fertility specialist Dr. Hindle (Pierce Brosnan) with a hospital gown obscuring her view. Much like “Here Before,” “False Positive” casts its protagonist as an unreliable narrator suffering mental breakdown, only to reveal its own plot twist as she’s gaslit the whole time.

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