after the sun
Paul Mescal and 11-year-old newcomer Frankie Corio star in another winning film from A24 (the indie studio behind The Witch and Midsommar). Set in a Turkish vacation resort, this story of a daughter and her fragile father tinkering with time and space contains a series of poignant pieces, including a seriously bad karaoke performance of R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion. The cool thing about Scottish writer-director Charlotte Wells’ debut: She can do bright happiness, but she’s not afraid of the dark.
Anisherin from Inisherin
Martin McDonagh’s best film to date is an Oscar-winning, timeless Blarney set in rural 1920s Ireland that provides Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan with roles to die for. Farrell is a gentle farmer when sober on the remote island of Inisherin, and their two companions struggle, in different ways, with the question of consent. Doesn’t always mean no? The answers provided by McDonagh and his team will break and break your heart.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Woman of the Hour Letita Wright stars in this stellar smash sequel, as do new characters Riri Williams (the poor teen princess Shuri, played by winner Dominic Thorne) and Namor Tenoch Huerta, fiery leader of the deep-sea dwellers, Talokanil. The whole thing is an emotional rollercoaster and Chadwick Boseman fans wouldn’t want it any other way.
do not worry my love
Far from being a superficial rehash of The Stepford Wives, Olivia Wilde’s dystopian satire is brutally original. Florence Pugh housewife Alice has a problem husband, but smitten Jack isn’t your typical bot-hearted wreck. Played by Harry Styles, he’s a pitiful idiot. Wilde’s class-conscious vision allows Pugh and Styles to let it all out. Critics mocked the hell out of Harry, but don’t worry, his playful performance will have the last laugh.
Lithe Austin Butler dominates every frame of Baz Luhrmann’s provocative tribute to the King. The 31-year-old American is convincing as a young, R&B-obsessed Elvis guy, and it’s even better when our hero reaches his late 30s. Luhrmann contextualizes the icon’s greatest and saddest moments, making Elvis’ case shocked by systemic racism in America. The movie may occasionally whitewash its hero, but the end result moves so fast you can’t help but swoon.
Everything everywhere at once
This low-budget multiverse (about a crocheted, middle-aged mother and her suicidal daughter) deserves to win every award, in one go. Just thinking about the trip that Michelle Yeoh’s Chinese-American immigrant Evelyn Kwan Wang took (which includes bagels, butt plugs, martial arts, a leering IRS agent, and a brawl between two adjacent pieces of rock) transports me to a happy place.
At no point in Jafra Panahi’s riveting meta-comedy, defiant protesters invoke the memory of Mahsa Amini or shout “Zan, Zindegi, Azadi (Woman, Life, Freedom)”. However, the film cannot be in sync with the popular revolution taking place in Iran. Panahi plays a version of himself, a banned but still working manager, living the twilight life of a small frontier village, witnessing (both directly and by proxy) the choices available to women and men under the current system. Basic viewing.
Do Jordan Peele’s sci-fi westerns feature cute kids or sexy lovers? of course not! Our heroes are depressed, volatile, adult siblings OJ and Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, at high), trying not to scare horses as prey to the voracious “beast” of the sky on their California ranch. Meanwhile, clinically terrifying flashbacks show the chimp heading towards the top. Stark visuals amplify a script that touches on oppression, acting, and the near-toxic dream of going where no one has gone before. Essentially, Peele, just like in Get Out and Us, has a bunch of ideas and comes out with guns blazing.
The quiet girl
Ireland’s entry for the 2023 Oscars took a lot of people by surprise, and I mean a lot of people myself (I didn’t review and watch it until after hearing from friends and family that the Gaelic-language drama was amazing). In 1981, 10-year-old Kate (Catherine Clinch), all at sea in her oversized family, finds her footing while staying with her mother’s shy, childless relatives. Colm Bairead’s first film appearance looks simple, but the acting and dialogue have a cumulative effect. You won’t notice how sad The Quiet Girl is until mid-howl.
Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise is at his best in a sequel that surpasses the 1986 original in every way. Miles Teller plays Rooster (Goose’s son), a troubled young man whom Marine Captain Pete Mitchell vows to protect. The chemistry between Cruise and Teller is great, perhaps because they’re both natural comics buffs, and the third act is insanely impressive. You don’t need to be able to tell an F/A-18E from an F-14 to get ahead of this mission. Go home!
Bringing down vomit for the rich and powerful from Robin Ostlund, the flamboyant Swede who gave us Power Majeure and The Square. Although the bulk of the movie is set on a luxury cruise ship, some of the most memorable scenes take place on a tropical island. The end result is a churning cross between Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lord of the Flies and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Harris Dickinson is delightful as a male model, and Dolly De Leon shines as an enterprising service worker. When this worm spins, it glows.
The King’s Woman
Set in 19th-century West Africa and loosely based on facts, this gloriously animated, feminist, action-packed epic stars some of the most charismatic actors on the planet. Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atem, and Thuso Mbido are members of an elite female warrior group. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther may have paved the way for The Woman King, but director Gina Prince-Bythewood offers her own take on the awesome force.
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