Asking a Lot


Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures


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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Fiddling While Rome Burns


Caesar Films


Megalopolis (2024)

The kindest way to describe “Megalopolis,” Francis Ford Coppola’s latest grasp at relevance, is that it is somewhat late-career Felliniesque, with its Art Deco production designs, costumes that range from ancient Greek to prerevolution French and the decadent life-as-circus motif. But let’s face it. Late-career Coppola gonna late-career Coppola. The film is bloated, unfocused and self-indulgent.

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Fury Road to Nowhere


Jasin Boland/Warner Brothers Pictures


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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Night for Day


Diaphana Distribution


The Second Act (2024)

Quentin Dupieux’s “The Second Act,” which opened the 77th Cannes Film Festival, is a somewhat interesting, if half-baked, objet de curiosité about the blurred line between fiction and reality. It’s the classic film-within-a-film, except that realities of the film set and behind-the-scenes drama pretty much hijack and drown the threadbare plot of the fictional project herein.

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Losing My Religion

Sundance Institute

Krazy House (2024)

Many European artists – Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke, to name a couple – have very skewed ideas about what defines Americana, deduced exclusively from our pop culture exports. The Dutch filmmaking duo Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil is yet another example. “Krazy House,” premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, can best be described as “Funny Games” reimagined as a sitcom.

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About Face


A Different Man (2024)

“A Different Man” reunites filmmaker Aaron Schimberg with his “Chained for Life” leading man, Adam Pearson. If you think deeply about it, the new film, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, is actually incredibly sweet in its attempt to normalize the actor’s deformity caused by neurofibromatosis type 1. For the uninitiated, though, it’s more like some mashup of “Face/Off,” “The Elephant Man” and “Beauty and the Beast.” It may look like body horror, but it’s a comedy . . . maybe?

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Attack of the Killer Lesbians

Anna Kooris/A24

Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

“Saint Maud” auteur Rose Glass returns with something more deliberately A24-y, a gonzo pulp fully in the mode of ’70s grindhouse and its ’90s Quentin Tarantino-led renaissance. Ms. Glass disclosed at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of “Love Lies Bleeding” that she originally set it in Scotland, but the story just makes much more sense in the States. She ain’t wrong. This toxic mix of unhinged bloodlust and sleazy softcore is basically cinematic apple pie.

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A Haunted House

Sundance Institute

Presence (2024)

Perhaps the only filmmaker who has successfully bounced between commercial and indie careers, Steven Soderbergh returns to Sundance Film Festival, where his breakout arrived via 1989’s “sex, lies, and videotape,” with another lean and mean production perfectly appropriate for the annual Park City event. You can almost venture to guess that principal photography for “Presence” took something like 11 days; and I don’t mean this in a bad way.

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The Help

Tobin Yelland/Focus Features

The American Society of Magical Negroes (2024)

Spotlighted by Spike Lee in the early aughts, Magical Negro is a well-worn narrative trope involving Black supporting characters whose entire raison d’être is to selflessly serve the white protagonists. We’ve been told this story time and again, in popular movies such as “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Green Book,” to name a few. While now well-known and widely accepted in cinema studies, the academic jargon still makes many a white editor uncomfortable and prone to excise it almost instinctively as if it’s unfit for polite conversation. Unfortunately, this time they won’t be able to cop out and strike it from the title of “The American Society of Magical Negroes.”

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Once Upon a Time in Oakland

Sundance Institute

Freaky Tales (2024)

Named after a Too $hort track from his 1987 album, “Born to Mack,” “Freaky Tales” is a quadriptych chock full of interconnected characters – among them, a fictionalized Too $hort played by the rapper Symba and Too $hort himself narrating and making a cameo as a cop whose yen for rocky road ice cream is unfulfilled. The film, from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden and premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, isn’t Too $hort’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” however.

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