DESTROYER – Review by Diane Carson

Director Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer can sound, in summary, like a familiar, even trite, thriller. A slightly unhinged L.A. undercover police detective gets obsessed with an ugly vengeance crusade. But, as with Kusama’s debut feature Girlfight (2000), there the expected trajectory ends as a traumatized Erin Bell, played with ferocious fury by an almost unrecognizable Nicole Kidman, pursues her target.

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BURNING – Review by Diane Carson

Happily for my taste, many films don’t rely on multi-million dollar budgets, flashy computer graphics, rapid-fire edits, loud explosions, and heart-stopping car chases in the service of superheroes. In alternative works, thought-provoking, carefully observed characters invite us into another person’s realm, often an individual so normal as to be unexamined and all but invisible in our own daily lives.

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HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING -Review by Diane Carson

Hale County This Morning, This Evening follows two young African-American men in rural Alabama over nine years. Director RaMell Ross began shooting the documentary in 2009, focusing on the diverse experiences of Quincy Bryant and Daniel Collins, two African American young men. Ross immerses the viewer in these subjects’ rural Alabama lives. Following noted documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s style, no analytical commentary intrudes at any time.

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BEN IS BACK – Review by Diane Carson

With the tragic opioid epidemic, the topic of rehabilitation and a family’s dealing with a struggling member certainly merits cinematic attention. But dramatizing the issue with sensitivity, insight, and honesty presents unique challenges. All the more credit, then, to writer/director Peter Hedges for what he achieves in Ben Is Back, starring his Oscar-nominated, real-life son Lucas as recovering addict Ben.

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AT ETERNITY’S GATE – Review by Diane Carson

At Eternity’s Gate offers Julian Schnabel’s response to van Gogh’s art. When he died in 1890 at 37 years of age, Vincent van Gogh left behind a collection of magnificent paintings and the chronicle of an enigmatic life still captivating and puzzling. Director and painter Julian Schnabel is one such person who tackles the elusive legend of van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, Schnabel’s subjective response to van Gogh’s paintings.

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VICE – Review by Diane Carson

Vice presents a wild, irreverent ride through Dick Cheney’s life. Writer/director Adam McKay tackles Dick Cheney’s public and private life head on in Vice, a title with provocative insinuations far beyond Cheney’s years 2001 to 2009 as President’s George W. Bush’s Vice President. After introductory, amusing text on screen, the story proper begins in Caspar, Wyoming, in 1963 with a speedy, loud opening scene of Dick stopped for drunk driving.

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MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – Review by Diane Carson

Mary Queen of Scots makes palace conflict and betrayal captivating. Mary Queen of Scots unfolds like an engrossing chess match between the determined, Catholic Mary Stuart of Scotland and her indomitable cousin, Protestant Elizabeth I of England. Wise and wily, both queens know the personal and political hazards and sacrifices that come with being women sovereigns in a world of palace intrigue and, occasionally, murder.

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ROMA – Review by Diane Carson

Director Alfonso Cuarón has an impressive filmography, including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity, all masterfully executed. However, Cuarón’s autobiographical new work Roma is his masterpiece for its authoritative presentation of his upper-middle class Mexican upbringing and, especially, his enduring affection for his nanny Libo, called Cleo in the film, from whose perspective his family’s life unfolds.

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MOWGLI – Review by Diane Carson

Mowgli reinterprets The Jungle Book for today’s world. Since 1942, there have been numerous film and television adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s beloved 1894 magazine stories collected as The Jungle Book, including translation into over thirty-six languages. It’s no wonder since the array of imaginative, appealing and frightening animals offers a rich metaphor for human behavior, with man-cub Mowgli our surrogate in this lawful but unforgiving world.

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