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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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Scenes From a Divorce

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Vertical

MOVIE REVIEW
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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Spider Sense: Far From Home

Spaceman-movie-review-adam-sandler
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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The Long Goodbye

Suncoast-movie-review-laura-linney-woody-harrelson
Eric Zachanowich/Searchlight Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Suncoast (2024)

End-of-life care becomes an issue on almost everyone's plate one way or another. The dilemma faced by the family in "Suncoast" as they place Max (Cree Kawa), a young man dying of brain cancer, into a hospice will resonate a little or a lot with most people; for this is the art and craft of the medical drama, to which few are fully immune. In this one premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Laura Chinn gives the mother of the patient, Kristine (Laura Linney), and her other child, Doris (Nico Parker, daughter of Thandiwe Newton and with some of her mother's wary watchfulness), equal focus in their shared but different grief. So the film is about one parent's agonies and one young woman's coming-of-age at the same time, two films for the price of one. And there's a political dimension, since Ms. Chinn sets her story in 2005 at the same hospice where Terri Schiavo is receiving care, the real-life right-to-die case playing out in the background on all news channels. The tact and delicacy of the film will have much to do with all this being based on experience: the film maker has fictionalized things for narrative purposes, but Ms. Chinn's brother did die in that hospice; it was at that time; and she was that sister.

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Bad Moon Uprising

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Clay Enos/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

Is there anything more terrifying in a film’s title than the words “Part One?” Here it’s a serious threat. “A Child of Fire” is so bad it’s created a new level of awfulness. Thanks to some excellent C.G.I. it’s gorgeous to look at, but so empty of interest that the false beauty is meaningless. In the opening-night public screening this critic attended the only time the audience reacted to anything – anything – was Charlie Hunnam’s appalling Northern Irish accent. It is difficult to understand how a movie so carefully and expertly made could be so devoid of feeling. It’s like 134 minutes of trying to touch a fish by putting your hand to the aquarium glass, only not nearly as much fun.

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Moonlighting

Hit-man-movie-review-glen-powell
Brian Roedel/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Hit Man (2024)

In all my years of moviegoing I have never seen anything like “Hit Man.” I remember the choked surprise echoing around the cinema on sight of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s arse in “Entrapment.” Once a douche-bro military guy reduced himself to tears describing Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves” to me. I’ve seen people hump publicity photos torn from magazines or write love notes to themselves from an actor to hang on their walls. The only other time I’ve experienced a cinema audience clapping a movie scene was for Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls,” but even that was nothing like this. Within “Hit Man” there’s a sequence where Glen Powell is so hot that the audience spontaneously burst into applause. We actually clapped because of how sexually attractive this man is. And we clapped after a scene – keeping in mind Mr. Powell cowrote and coproduced “Hit Man” with director Richard Linklater – in which two of his colleagues (Sanjay Rao and Retta) discussed how badly they want to fuck him. And – I cannot believe I am saying this because of how inappropriate it makes this review sound, but I also cannot tell a lie – even that fails to convey just how unbelievably attractive Mr. Powell is in this movie.

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Moving Target

The-killer-movie-review-michael-fassbender
Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
The Killer (2023)

The through line of David Fincher’s work is contempt. His characters display their contempt for the world around them through elaborately staged revenge plots of various kinds, usually murder. “Gone Girl” was an outlier in his oeuvre in that it was a woman expressing her contempt for her husband, her family and society at large. But with “The Killer” Mr. Fincher is back on home territory with this story of an assassin (Michael Fassbender) who is better than the world and everything in it. Except, of course, this is not true, but Mr. Fincher and his movie only understand one of the reasons why.

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Swim Against the Current

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Liz Parkinson/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Nyad (2023)

“Nyad” is a movie about the body that has almost nothing to do with sex, so of course it’s about lesbians of a certain age; but the lesbianism at the core of this story is both utterly essential and completely irrelevant. Diana Nyad’s (Annette Bening) sexuality is very much a part of her, but it comes second to her frankly irritating self-belief; and she doesn’t worry about that because she has delegated her interpersonal skills to her best friend, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). The closeness of Bonnie and Diana is beyond sex, and almost beyond friendship, in that it’s two people who love and need each other without their bodies coming into it. But Diana’s body is at the core of the story – will she, a woman now in her 60s, be able to complete a 105-mile swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without dying? – and the way in which the movie asks these questions without being weird about the body at its core is remarkable.

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The Firewall

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Robert Viglasky/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Heart of Stone (2023)

Finally, movies are getting back to what they are supposed to be good at: putting pretty people into mild peril in visually interesting places. Who wouldn’t fly direct from the Senegalese desert to downtown Reykjavik if they could? “Heart of Stone” is a supremely silly action movie that does a fine job of passing the time. And that’s cinema.

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The Home Front

Fear-the-night-movie-review-maggie-q
Quiver Distribution

MOVIE REVIEW
Fear the Night (2023)

Plenty of people watching Neil LaBute's "In the Company of Men" 26 years ago, and then "Your Friends & Neighbors" and "The Shape of Things" not long afterward, thought that the movie business had kept up its end of the deal. The first two had male characters showing no empathy for anyone but themselves and who liked hurting other people, and if the third film swapped the genders around it still put a male under the microscope until a viewer in the same category asked a few sobering queries of himself. Neither Mr. LaBute nor these films are in the cultural conversation much now, even though how males are internally wired is discussed everywhere, urgently, all the time. The feeling that art should speak in answers rather than questions seems to have left Mr. LaBute and his inquiries stuck on the bench.

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