Reliving Childhood


Tribeca Festival


Eternal Playground (2024)

Any movie about a group of friends reuniting after a funeral risks comparisons with “The Big Chill,” but this endearing French movie makes that simile a reach for two reasons: the characters are all in their mid-20s, and the location of their reunion is their old middle school. Literally. It’s where Gaspard (Andranic Manet) teaches music, and where he and his late sister, Louise (voiced in his thoughts by Noée Abita), also studied as kids. It’s in the center of Paris, but so ignored in the early summer holidays that Gaspard can sneak his mates in without anyone in the neighborhood noticing. It’s this combination of memory and invisibility that makes “Eternal Playground” a rewarding watch. It’s also a potent reminder to many American individuals what our me-first society has lost.

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Band of Brothers


Tribeca Festival


Alien Weaponry: Kua Tupu Te Ara (2024)

Any documentary, mock or not, about a band from New Zealand still exists in the shadow of “Flight of the Conchords.” And while it is to be regretted that there are no band meetings in which somebody takes attendance, that’s because “Alien Weaponry: Kua Tupu Te Ara” is telling a very different story to the Tribeca Festival. The duo at the core of the movie, brothers Henry and Lewis De Jong, formed their thrash metal band when they were 10 and 8 years old respectively. Director Kent Belcher’s camera follows them from 2018 to 2023, so when drummer Henry goes from around 18 to 24 and lead singer-guitarist Lewis goes from 16 to his 21st birthday party. What they have achieved at such young ages is astounding, all the more when you learn large portion of their songs are in Māori, the indigenous language of New Zealand. But the global metal scene is large enough to embrace them; and the ways in which they find their place in it are charmingly explored in this surprisingly gentle movie.

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Set for Life


Peter Marley/Cohen Media Group


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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Queen It Over


Courtesy photo


Seize Them! (2024)

This perfectly silly attempt to tell a feminist story set in the Dark Ages is marred by an unusually spiteful attitude to violence. Early on a man is stabbed through the head and delivers a punchline before dropping dead. Later there’s an extended sequence about how difficult it is to throw a body off a cliff in a way which the body’s face is destroyed. It’s this sour tone which lingers despite the cast being a remarkable combination of British comic talent, making “Seize Them!” a misfire.

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Left to His Own Devices


BFI London Film Festival


If Only I Could Hibernate (2024)

This was the first ever Mongolian movie to play in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, but would have been accepted from any nation. It's an assured and reassuring movie about the importance of education, while also being a fresh entry into the genre of movies about children being forced to raise themselves. Normally such movies are incredibly bleak no matter where in the world they're set, but despite the worrisome title this is not the case here. “If Only I Could Hibernate” is a remarkable testament to the power of the human spirit and the dogged ability of children to create a better life for themselves, if only they have a little help.

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Brothers in Arms


Courtesy photo


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

Altered Innocence

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

Courtesy photo

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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Scenes From a Divorce


Our Son (2023)

It’s no one fault, or it’s both their faults, but even with the best will in the world sometimes marriages just can’t be saved. In the case of book publisher Nicky (Luke Evans) and stay-at-home dad Gabriel (Billy Porter) neither of them has been perfect – overwork here, infidelity there – but the main issue is their different parenting styles for their son, Owen (Christopher Woodley), and the resentment which has seeped in until it’s the only thing they can feel. But “Our Son” is not a gay “Marriage Story,” even if that’s the easy marketing tagline which brought it to BFI Flare. Instead it’s about ordinary adult disappointments between an ordinary couple who happen to be gay and the ways in which their homosexuality directs the choices around their completely ordinary divorce.

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Quiet Reflection


Solids By the Seashore (2023)

“Solids By the Seashore” is unusual for a few reasons. Firstly, it equates the changes people undergo in a new relationship with those a beach undergoes through the ebb and flow of the seasons. Secondly, the people in the new relationship are two young Thai women, one a free-wheeling artist and the other a quiet hijabi. And finally, it’s also a movie about art – the people who make it, the people who sell it and the relationship art has with the places where it’s made. It combines its themes for an unusually satisfying resolution that manages to make all its points despite its restraint.

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