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MADE IN ENGLAND: THE FILMS OF POWELL AND PRESSBURGER

If you are already a Powell and Pressburger aficionado, this highly personal documentary, hosted and produced by Martin Scorsese, will be catnip. I found it positively thrilling. If you are unfamiliar with their notable work from the 1940s—The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, et al—it will serve as a unique and indelible introduction. Either way, Made in England is a towering achievement that I would call a “must-see.” Whenever he talks about films he cares about, Martin Scorsese is mesmerizing. Here, he not only speaks with conviction but personal experience—from the time he first set eyes on The Thief of Bagdad on local New York television (in black & white) to his later friendship with Michael Powell. He even illustrates how concepts from their…

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THE CONQUEROR: HOLLYWOOD FALLOUT

The backstory of the notorious turkey The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan, has all the ingredients for a stimulating documentary, but Hollywood Fallout puts that story into a larger and more troubling context. Spoiler alert: the U.S. government lied to its citizens about the dangers of long-term radiation emanating from atomic bomb tests in the Nevada desert, and stonewalled the residents of St. George, Utah, where its effects were particularly devastating. That’s where the erratic billionaire Howard Hughes sent director Dick Powell, movie stars John Wayne and Susan Hayward, and a large cast and crew to make this misbegotten film in 1956. A large number of those people died from one form or other of cancer—enough to remove it from the realm of coincidence. Writer/director William…

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DADDIO: AN INTRIGUING CURIO

If you’re going to make a two-character film you’d better have two really interesting people in your script and damned good actors to play them. Daddio has exactly that, and the result is an intriguing curio that serves as a showcase for the talents of Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn. He drives a Yellow Cab and she is his latest passenger at JFK airport, heading for midtown Manhattan. A bad accident has slowed traffic to a dead stop, which he takes as a cue to initiate a conversation with her. Penn is a quintessential New Yorker whose job has made him an amateur psychologist and philosopher. He believes he can size up anybody who climbs into his taxi. In Johnson he senses a vulnerable subject, and she…

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NEW ON 4K/BLU/DVD IN JUNE

The following article was written by my friend and colleague Alonso Duralde. You can learn more about him HERE. NEW ON 4K/BLU/DVD IN JUNE: MONKEY MAN, IMMACULATE, BOUND, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, AND MORE! NEW RELEASE WALL Monkey Man (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Dev Patel’s stunning directorial debut almost didn’t get seen at all by audiences when original distributor Netflix got antsy about some of the action movie’s political themes, but thankfully Jordan Peele and Universal swooped in to bring this exciting saga to theaters and, now, to physical media. Patel stars as an underground fight-club brawler who goes to work in a high-class brothel as part of a long game of revenge, which unfolds thrillingly and brutally. Also available: Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (Warner…

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THE BIKERIDERS: COMPELLING FROM START TO FINISH

Jeff Nichols is one of the most original writer-directors working today. If you haven’t seen Take Shelter, Mud, Loving, or Midnight Special you’re missing out. What’s more, he is utterly unpredictable, tackling a wide variety of subjects that capture his interest. His latest feature (postponed from its planned release last fall) was inspired by a 1967 book of photographs and interviews by Danny Lyon, who chronicled the life and times of a rowdy midwestern motorcycle gang called The Vandals. The story is told in flashback by Kathy (Jodie Comer), an observer and sometime-participant in the gang’s violent misadventures. These guys don’t have a purpose or credo; they just like to hang out together smoking, drinking and riding. They don’t mind bashing heads if the occasion calls for it. And…

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THELMA: JUNE SQUIBB RULES

I don’t like movies that portray senior citizens as cute; that’s a pitfall for any film that depicts older people in a lighthearted vein. Josh Margolin dances around it rather well in Thelma, a film inspired by his real-life grandmother who is now 103. He has had the good fortune to land 93-year-old June Squibb (whom you may remember from Alexander Payne’s Nebraska) to take the leading role in this modest but satisfying movie. Squibb, like the character she plays, is remarkably self-reliant and approaches the role without a trace of sentimentality. That’s one of Thelma’s major virtues. Margolin set out to make a parody of an action film with elderly people in the leading roles. Squibb’s partner in crime, so to speak, is none other than Richard…

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ROBOT DREAMS: THE OTHER NEW ANIMATED FEATURE

Of course moviegoers turned out en masse for Inside Out 2 this weekend. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy more of the experience the original film provided in 2015? My only quibble is that the new release is a sequel and therefore lacks the freshness of the first film, which was a marvel of ingenuity. On the other hand, Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams, loosely based on a graphic novel by Sarah Varon, is a true original—one of a kind. The storyline is deceptively simple: a dog (named Dog) orders a robot (named Robot) after watching a TV commercial and the two become the best of friends…but life doesn’t always go according to plan. That’s all I want to reveal about this sleeper, a Spanish-French co-production that takes place in New…

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