Starring: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell
Stop me if you’ve seen this one before: a hollow shell of a man, sitting alone in a mostly empty room, writing in a journal, accompanied by a voiceover narration. Yes, you’re watching a Paul Schrader film – more specifically, you’re watching Master Gardener, the third film in Schrader’s unofficial “man in a room” trilogy. The first was the excellent First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawks and dealing with a man’s crisis of faith in a doomed world. The second was 2021’s The Card Counter with Oscar Isaac as a gambler hiding from the world and his past. Now, with Master Gardener, Joel Edgerton stars as a man caught between his regretful past and his future.
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson, Rich Sommer, Cary Elwes, Michael Ironside, SungWon Cho, Michelle Giroux
Director, co-writer, and star Matt Johnson does something simple but effective in the early-goings of his newest film BlackBerry: he shows the titular device’s first prototype being put together. With most films in its genre, the product is shown as almost perfect from the beginning, as if it was destined to be great from the beginning. Johnson portrays the painstaking and frantic process of its creator Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) Frankenstein-ing the BlackBerry prototype together from various electronics in the waning hours before its first pitch. The rest of the film doesn’t necessarily revolutionize similar films based on fictionalized retellings of corporate disruption, but it’s a small indication that Johnson is dedicated to what really matters within the story.
Starring: Jude Law, Ever Anderson, Alexander Molony, Yara Shahidi, Joshua Pickering, Jim Gaffigan
Disney’s live-action remakes of their classic films have largely been an exercise in futility. From the forgettably bland (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) to the simply forgettable (Mulan, Aladdin) to the creatively bankrupt (Pinocchio), the projects mostly fail to justify their own existence. They almost exclusively copy the plot of the original films beat for beat, with maybe an extra song thrown in, and utilize shoddy visual effects for the more fantastical elements. So why remake Peter Pan, when countless iterations already exist? Perhaps it was always meant to happen – I imagine that somewhere in the Disney offices lies a deck of cards, and Peter Pan’s was the next one drawn – but there’s an outside chance it’s because director and co-writer David Lowery had something unique to bring to the material.
Starring: Michelle Williams, Hong Chau, Andre Benjamin, John Magaro, Judd Hirsch
Kelly Reichardt has amassed a loyal following of arthouse cinema nerds over the course of her almost 30 year career, and she’s done so without repeating herself in each of her films. Though the subjects of her films are often vastly different, she’s shown a keen sense of understanding her characters, and the specific places they inhabit. With her latest film Showing Up, she utilizes this ability through the micro lens of the Portland art scene.
Starring: Jorma Tommila, Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo
You’ll see a lot of comparisons to John Wick in the reviews and promotional material for Sisu. These days, you see a lot of similar comparisons when virtually any non-superhero action film is released. More often than not, this can be decoded as an action film with impressive physical stunts, but the similarities generally end there. Just as Taken spawned a multitude of imitators in the wake of its success, the same can be said for the John Wick films. But what makes John Wick special isn’t just its commitment to doing the craziest stunts possible at any given moment; it’s the world-building, and the way Chad Stahelski stacks the rules within that universe against John Wick.
Starring: Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jack Black, Keegan Michael-Key, Seth Rogen, Fred Armisen
Mario has traveled to all sorts of worlds since his introduction in 1985; from the Mushroom Kingdom to the race track to the tennis courts to the Olympic Games, he’s as malleable as any pop culture protagonist. Then again, when your original adventure consists of little more than a side-scrolling series of jumps and sewer pipes, your storytelling options are basically limitless.
Starring: Taron Edgerton, Nikita Efremov, Sofia Lebedeva, Anthony Boyle, Toby Jones
“A movie about Tetris” feels a bit like an indication of the empty-headed nature of the Hollywood ecosystem. What could possibly be compelling about a bunch of colorful falling blocks, a game defined by how much of a waste of time it was? Lest we forget, six Transformers movies and The Emoji Movie exist.
French absurdist filmmaker Quentin Dupieux knows how to craft a bizarre story with utmost sincerity. His 2020 film Deerskin was the tale of a man going through the most extreme midlife crisis ever by murdering everyone at the command of a jacket. 2021’s Mandibles was about two lovable dopes trying to find fame and fortune by training a dog-sized fly. His latest, Smoking Causes Coughing – which he wrote, directed, shot, and edited himself – sees him essentially throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, for better and worse.
Starring: Park Ji-Min , Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han, Kim Sun-Young
Where are you from?
It’s an innocent, innocuous question most of the time, but in Return to Seoul, it contains layers of complicated emotions. The film deals with issues of identity (both personal and national) and self-acceptance, and it’s buoyed by a magnificent performance from Ji-Min Park in her first on-screen role. It’s also a kind of cinematic memoir (don’t roll your eyes yet) for writer and director Davy Chou, who gives the film a nuanced look at dual citizenship from the perspective of someone that’s actually experienced the unique phenomenon firsthand.
Starring: Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Alden Ehrenreich, Brooklynn Prince, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Margo Martindale, Ray Liotta
Movie titles can be deceptive. Sometimes the title has nothing to do with the content of the film or can only tangentially relate to its themes. That’s not the case with Cocaine Bear, the latest big studio horror comedy that’s designed for a quick cinematic high in the first quarter of the year.