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The supernatural takes the stage in October

All of the films this month have science fiction plots; three of the four are sequels, and the fourth depends for its plot devices on earlier science fiction films. Alien: Covenant The latest film in the “Alien” franchise most closely resembles the first two films in the series. It brings back Ridley Scott as the […]

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Suspense, horror films examine race in September picks

By Leonard Heldreth This month we examine the eccentricities of European businessmen, cringe in two suspenseful films about people trapped, and explore the Amazon basin in the early 20th century. Is Toni Erdmann the best 162-minute German comedy you are likely to see? Is it even a comedy, although it has several hilarious scenes? Certainly, […]

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Hot summer, cool movies

By Leonard Heldreth This month we look at an award-winning Iranian film, a film about black women mathematicians, two documentaries, and Hugh Jackman’s last Wolverine film. What do you get when you insert an Iranian production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman into a film about a husband and wife trying to keep their […]

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Monsters, a Pulitzer-winning play, a musical round out July’s picks

By Leonard Heldreth A monster movie involving a child, a filmed prize-winning play from the ’80s, a retro musical—quite a cross-section for July. Do not be deceived. A Monster Calls is not a typical genre horror film, despite the fact that it contains a fiery 40-foot tall creature who can knock over a building with […]

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Award-winning, high art and strange films

Moonlight Barry Jenkins’s second feature, Moonlight, describes a boy’s coming of age in a tough Miami neighborhood, but it is one of the quietist, most delicate, and most nuanced films ever made about becoming a man. Based on MacArthur-Award-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s short play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, the film presents a […]

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Variety highlights April’s picks

The films this month are two Oscar winners, a Sundance independent film, a variation on the western formula, and the recreated version of a news event. Arrival Although no conclusive evidence exists, so far, that the earth has been visited by aliens, the effects of such encounters have been favorite subjects for books, movies, and […]

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Home Cinema

by Leonard G. Heldreth The films this month come from three different countries and illustrate dramatically how world cinema differs from that of the English-speaking world. Under the Shadow Iranian director Babak Anvari sets his debut film, Under the Shadow, in Tehran, the city in which he was born. The time is 1988, the final […]

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Strong women give strong performances

by Leonard G. Heldreth The terms “middle age crisis,” “seven-year-itch,” and other phrases referring to a personal restlessness at a certain age are usually applied to men, but the films this month examine what happens to four women of a certain age as they review their situations, revamp their outlooks, and turn their lives in […]

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Ringing in 2017 with animations and westerns

by Leonard G. Heldreth The films this month include two radically different animation films and a neo-western. Kubo and the Two Strings Whatever the Oscars may indicate, Kubo and the Two Strings is the best animated film of the year. Travis Knight, first-time director and CEO of Oregon-based Laika films, continues the tradition created by […]

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Variety of genres offers something for everyone in November’s picks

The Nice Guys The Nice Guys of the title are Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a private detective with a drinking problem, and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), an operative hired by those who want to send a message delivered with brass knuckles. His speciality is taking such communications to stalkers, especially those who harass underage or […]

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Oscar nominations highlight September’s picks

Although Midnight Special is only his fourth film, following Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011) and Mud (2012), Jeff Nichols knows better than most directors how to tell a story visually. That quality makes writing about Midnight Special difficult because most of the information given the audience is indirect and uncertain, even to the people […]

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Films raise questions about life, war and morality

Our films this month include an excellent drama about how the past is seldom escaped, a thriller illustrating some of the questions about drone warfare, and two examples of animation films that are extremely different from each other. 45 Years For the screenplay of 45 Years, director Andrew Haigh adapted and expanded a short story, […]

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Hail, Caesar

Hail, Caesar In 1991 Joel and Ethan Coen created Barton Fink, a film about what happened when a successful but innocent American playwright let himself be seduced into going to Hollywood and writing screenplays for Capitol Pictures. The result was madness, murder and destruction, with John Goodman as a demon calling up flames with a […]

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Leading ladies rule the silver screen

by Leonard G. Heldreth The films this month deal with a range of problems faced by women, whether in the United States today or during the recent past, or in the aftermath of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The Room Based on a novel by Irish-Canadian author Emma Donoghue, who drew her inspiration from several actual events, […]

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Biopics, horrors and comedies, oh my

by Leonard G. Heldreth Two biographical films, two horror films and two comedies make up our list for this month. Before responding critically to the movie Steve Jobs, a viewer has to be aware of two pre-requisites. First, the film does not attempt to present an accurate, factual account of Jobs’ life, not even as accurate […]

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