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Asking a Lot

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Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW

Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the few European directors from non-English-speaking countries (in his case, Greece) in recent years to successfully pivot to full-time filmmaking in America. Unlike, say, Lars von Trier or Nicolas Winding Refn, Mr. Lanthimos has been recognized by the Academy with multiple nominations. He’s also lucky that he’s never had to placate Harvey Weinstein.

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Fury Road to Nowhere

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Jasin Boland/Warner Brothers Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024)

Reviving the “Mad Max” franchise in 2015 after a three-decade gap turned out to be a very good idea for George Miller. So instead of another “Babe” or even “Happy Feet,” we’re getting a Furiosa origin story. Well, there’s apparently a sequel planned for “Mad Max: Fury Road” as well, but that’s a whole other conversation for another time.

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Set for Life

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Peter Marley/Cohen Media Group

MOVIE REVIEW

Nowhere Special (2021)

It’s always a little sad when a child is given up for adoption, because it means that something, somehow, has gone wrong. But to acknowledge that you’ll be unable to raise your child and choose a better family for them is an extraordinary act of love. It’s the quiet sadness of “Nowhere Special” that gives that exceptional love its full power, especially as, for a movie about death and dying, it makes the unusual choice to be utterly focused on the future.

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Brothers in Arms

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Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW

Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (2024)

The first half of “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” is a jolly action buddy comedy which includes our heroes, Freddie (Akshay Kumar) and Rocky (Tiger Shroff), beginning a hostage rescue by riding some horses off the back of a helicopter. The second half of “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan” is a fantasy war thriller based on the password to the scientific shield keeping India safe from missile attack. In both halves the evil villain, Kabir (Prithviraj Sukumaran), strides around in a bedazzled MF Doom mask, a large selection of stylish full-length black coats, and enough evil plans to justify the Indian army going rogue, not that his evil results are terribly impressive. But this is not one of those movies a person is meant to take seriously. We're meant to admire the pretty stars and have a great time knowing the nation is safe in their hands. It's a delight.

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Folie à une

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Altered Innocence

MOVIE REVIEW
The People's Joker (2024)

The sole showing of “The People’s Joker” at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022 was hugely important in film history. When legal threats cause any film to be pulled from a festival that means that something important has gone wrong, and of course nothing is more interesting that something that’s officially been pulled. But this is no “Sita Sings the Blues,” a highly personal animated story of one woman’s very bad breakup which never got a mainstream release thanks to music licensing rights. Instead, “The People’s Joker” uses characters from the DC Universe to discuss the brandification of our imaginations, the difficulties in maintaining an artistic career, the after-effect of abusive relationships and how all of these things are heightened when you’re trans. To say it is one of the most important recent American movies is an understatement. It’s entirely fresh, extremely funny and with a talent for meeting the zeitgeist that can’t be bought. It never should have been threatened, as the backlash has only brought more publicity, especially since the use of the “Batman” characters is done in an exceptionally personally (and parodic) way. It’s an extraordinary film.

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A Slap in the Face

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Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Family Star (2024)

He hits her in the face in what is meant to be a sweet love story. He hits her in the face and we're meant to think she owes him an apology for driving him to it. He hits her in the face and it's supposed to show just how committed he is to the welfare of his family that he would protect them at any cost. He hits her in the face in what’s supposed to be a romantic comedy. Better by far to die alone.

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Bite Club

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Shanna Besson/Apollo Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Dogman (2024)

Many an underdog ultimately has their day – often it's her day – in Luc Besson films, and in "Dogman" some actual canines ride the roller-coaster of abuse and transcendence that the director likes to think about. So too does their male human ally, Douglas (Caleb Landry Jones), whose childhood of relentless suffering culminates when his own Neanderthal father blasts him with a shotgun for the crime of caring about some helpless and photogenic puppies. Now largely confined to a wheelchair, an adult Douglas lives in a dilapidated old school with a pack of equally world-weary dogs, liberated from a pound. After what must have been some formidable training, which the film declines to show, he and the dogs happily cohabit in mutual respect and support. They fetch Douglas the correct ingredients from the kitchen for his cooking, and listen raptly while he reads Shakespeare to them. Retreating from society but still helping those who come to him with problems, Douglas sends his canine colleagues out on coordinated missions of justice, like Nick Fury dispatching the Avengers. The dogs evade capture and squeeze past obstacles and scamper between legs and through closing doors in order to locate exactly the right Latino gangster, and then clamp their jaws on his nuts.

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Danger Zone

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Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Operation Valentine (2024)

“Fighter” was the Hindi-language response of “Top Gun: Maverick;” and now we have “Operation Valentine,” the Telugu-language equivalent. It's about the same real-life incidents from 2019 also referenced in “Fighter,” but “Operation Valentine” is much the worse movie for two reasons. Firstly, director Shakti Pratap Singh chose to use footage of the real-life funerals which followed the 2019 attacks, which is desperately inappropriate. Secondly, it reduces the entire history of hostilities between two nations into one man's struggle with himself. It's a breathtaking achievement but perhaps not the intended one.

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Spider Sense: Far From Home

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Larry Horricks/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Spaceman (2024)

After “Gravity” came out, Tina Fey famously quipped that it’s about how George Clooney would rather die in the blackness of space than spend time with a woman his own age. Along those lines, “Spaceman” is about how Adam Sandler would rather die in the blackness of space than spend time with his pregnant wife. Deep space is a long way to go to learn that your wife’s feelings are just as valid as your career; and a talking space spider is one hell of a therapist, but hey, whatever works.

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Air Show

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Courtesy photo

MOVIE REVIEW
Fighter (2024)

“Fighter” is much, much more interesting than its topline, a.k.a. the Indian answer to “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Born to Fly.” The influence of American war movies and all their cheery flyboys is strong, but “Fighter” is much more pointed than either of the American and Chinese celebration of their armed forces in that it has a clear conflict and enemy: Kashmir, and terrorists who commit crimes against Indian citizens while finding shelter in Pakistan. This specificity is very unusual in recent worldwide blockbusters and means that the relentless patriotism, such as a poem about how no coffin is more beautiful than one draped with an Indian flag, is way more meaningful.

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