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The title of 1983, a murder mystery turned conspiracy thriller from writer/creator Joshua Long, is more than an oblique reference to George Orwell's 1984. Set in a parallel 2003 where the Berlin Wall never fell and the Communist Party has a chokehold on Poland, this alternate history opens on the 20th anniversary of devastating terrorist attacks. The national myth of martyred victims murdered by resistance groups and the necessary guidance of a benevolent government is trotted out in ceremonies celebrating Polish resilience. Katejan (Maciej Musial), a fresh-faced law student orphaned by the attacks and raised on such propaganda, is jolted from his complacency after his mentor, a beloved judge with deep Party ties, posits an unexpected question in his oral exams: what if the attacks didn't backfire at all? What if they accomplished exactly what they were supposed to? When the professor is murdered by one of his students, Katejan starts to question everything he believes. + READ MORE


The Old Man and The Gun

In Theaters

If The Old Man and the Gun is indeed Robert Redford's final screen appearance, the star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at least went out with a film that fits his "nice guy" image like a well-worn trucker jacket. That makes for a neatly symmetrical filmography, but may give fans of Redford's more adventurous acting vehicles—The Natural or All Is Lost, for instance—the feeling that despite the new movie's title, he's leaving with more of a whimper than a bang. + READ MORE


A Simple Favor


Stephanie Smothers, a suburban overachiever played by Anna Kendrick with spunky energy and self-effacing deflection, is the widowed mother of a son in elementary school. Into her life steps Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), a sleek urban professional with no maternal instincts –– like a high- society shark forcibly moved from her hunting ground to a tranquil aquarium tank. Their odd relationship is the core of A Simple Favor, a neo-noir of suburban pep and middle-class warmth meeting cool sophistication. Playdates, cocktails, and dark secrets are shared. + READ MORE




From its disorienting opening credits, a kaleidoscope of metropolitan Los Angeles to the desiccated cliffs of its more desolate locales, Bosch promises and delivers a procedural showcasing Southern California landmarks brought down to earth with gritty realism.  + READ MORE




"For a better tomorrow," remarks one character in a rare moment of downtime in John Woo's Manhunt, drawing a direct connection to Woo's 1986 break-out hit. Not that he needed to drop so blatant a callback. Released in 2017 across Asian cinemas but debuting on Netflix in the U.S., Manhunt is a self-conscious throwback to the Hong Kong films that made Woo's reputation among action movie fans around the world––a gleefully overstuffed thriller that races through the greatest-hits-of-Woo trademarks, right down to a hardboiled cop who bonds with his nemesis as he pursues him across the city.  + READ MORE



In Theaters

Prognosis: Terminal. The flirty blond waitress (Margot Robbie) at the diner near the railway station is not exactly what she seems, as two hit men (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons) and a dying schoolteacher (Simon Pegg) discover. That's just about all there is to writer-director Vaughn Stein's expensive-looking, cheap-playing mood piece. With a setup like that, a cinematic stylist with flair could have lots of room to explore the characters and the milieu and put an exclamation mark on an open-ended, somewhat clichéd proposition. But none of that especially happens.  + READ MORE


American Animals

In Theaters

Here's a one-sentence headline-style synopsis for Bart Layton's American Animals: Rookies in Over Their Heads in Art Heist. But there's a bit more to writer-director Layton's clever, stylish true-crime yarn about four lads and their grandiose idea to steal a priceless collection of art prints and rare books from a university library—with no previous experience at that kind of work. Layton's ostensibly playful pic, based on an actual 2004 walk-right-in, walk-right-out-with-the-loot daylight robbery, could conceivably fit into the same teenage-prankster-popcorn groove as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, if we were to swap out upper-middle-class schoolboys in the Chicago suburbs in favor of a quartet of goofball college students from Kentucky. + READ MORE




It sounds like a natural: Duncan Jones, director of the ingenious science fiction mystery Moon, goes back to the future with a throwback plot that could have been pilfered from a 1940s B-movie noir.

Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) is the gentle, mute bartender Leo, an innocent in crisp, buttoned-up shirts who works in an upscale bar catering to the rich, corrupt, and criminal. His blue-haired waitress girlfriend Naadirah (Seyneb Saleh) is a born hustler with a shadowy past brewing up some kind of scheme. When she disappears, he hits the mean streets of 2058 Berlin in search of his tarnished angel, who may or may not have played him for a patsy. + READ MORE



In Theaters

Sawyer Valentini seems to be behaving a bit oddly. She makes sour faces at her colleagues in the cubicles at work. She rebuffs her boss' unwanted sexual innuendo with a trace of panic in her manner. And after flirting with a blind date and bringing him back to her apartment, the evening blows up when she recoils from him screaming. Is Sawyer (played by English actor Claire Foy) just another highly strung urbanite? Are people truly picking on her? Or, is she, in fact, Unsane? + READ MORE




Arriving without the noise of prestige series, Counterpart stealthily sidestepped any hype to emerge as one of this season's best new dramas. Part espionage procedural, part speculative fiction, it's neo-noir with overtones of Cold War dread, infused with our own paranoia. + READ MORE



In Theaters

Return with us now to the problem of convincingly writing and/or portraying one-dimensional, dumbed-down characters without being mistaken for dumb oneself. It's a difficult trick to pull off. Case in point: writer-director Aaron Katz's doomed whodunnit Gemini. + READ MORE


You Were Never Really Here

In Theaters

In the cinematic netherworld imagined by Lynne Ramsay, writer-director of You Were Never Really Here, any crime involving children—now or in the dimly remembered past—reverberates through the air to poison all that it touches, infecting everything, including the visual language of the film itself.

The 48-year-old Scotland native's Morvern Callar (2002) related the inner turmoil of a young woman who believes she deserves better than she's getting, with a disturbingly brilliant performance by actor Samantha Morton.  + READ MORE



In Theaters

Destroyer is a bleak, sour, unforgiving story with an attention-grabbing performance by Nicole Kidman as a thoroughly compromised cop who commits crimes in order to cover up other crimes, with herself as the ultimate victim. In the putative debate over whether any movie released in, say, 2018 can qualify as film noir, Destroyer wears its hair shirt proudly. It's a full-fledged noir, completely suffused with gloom, with Kidman's Lt. Erin Bell suffering conspicuously from troubles of her own making for the entire running time. + READ MORE


El Angel

In Theaters

Carlos Robledo Puch, who likes to call himself Charlie Brown, is an impulsive, quick-witted teenager with blond curls and a pouty face that give him a deceptive "pretty boy" appearance. "Deceptive" because Carlitos—one of his other nicknames—is, in fact, a practiced sneak thief and home invader also known as "The Angel of Death." He will not hesitate to kill anyone who stands in his way as he makes the rounds in his hometown of Buenos Aires in the 1970s, the setting for the captivatingly nasty Argentine film El Angel. + READ MORE


The Girl in the Spider's Web

In Theaters

The original Swedish movies that became known as the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (aka the Millennium Trilogy) were the most exciting things to hit North American screens in 2010. Built around the face and the righteous indignation of wronged millennial Lisbeth Salander (indelibly personified by actor Noomi Rapace), the three-part adaptation of author Stieg Larsson's best-selling novels revived a very old cinematic discussion—the one about lithe female warriors emerging from the shadows in search of justice ––with a brash 21st-century European style. + READ MORE


Bad Time at the El Royale

In Theaters

One by one the guests arrive at the empty lodge in Bad Times at the El Royale. Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) is a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman (so he claims) with a corny, motor-mouthed Southern accent. Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges, doing Rooster Cogburn lite), a forgetful Catholic priest, comes in and makes straight for the bar. Cocktail lounge singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) needs a place to stay because her car broke down on the way to Reno. Bad attitude champ Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) has a mean temper and wants to be left alone. Emily's little sister Ruth (Cailee Spaeny) is there against her will. And the hotelkeeper—the only person on staff at the lavishly decorated yet utterly customer-free place—is a nervous drug addict named Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). Other characters are sure to drop in, some quite heavily. + READ MORE




MDMA views the '80s in a gaudy nutshell: lines of coke at a dance club, "outrageous" wardrobe and hair, and nightclub debauchery so strenuous it looks drastically overly-rehearsed. A working class Chinese-American student named Angie Wong (played by TV-and-indie-veteran Annie Q.), from Newark, New Jersey, gets a scholarship at "Crocker University," a prestigious West Coast diploma mill (shot at the Presidio and other San Francisco locations). While there, in addition to binge drinking, getting laid, and studying like everyone else, Angie pulls a Walter White and starts cooking up batches of Ecstasy in the college chemistry lab to sell to partying classmates. Business is good, and before long she's on the slippery slope to dopeyville.  + READ MORE




Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) strolls down a city street, the anonymous faces in the crowds streaming past him instantly tagged with pop-up IDs. Frieland's a cop in a future where every brain is connected to a central server, his hardwired Google Glass eyeballs giving him access not just to individuals' data but everything they've seen and heard, all of it recorded for posterity and occasionally self-incrimination. Then, he's called to a murder scene and finds the mind of the victim has been hacked––the culprit gone without leaving a digital footprint of any kind. Is this ghost in the machine a serial killer, an assassin, or something else?  + READ MORE




First there's that title, which makes the movie sound like an American–International juvenile delinquent film from the 1950s. In the rest of the world, the third feature from Belgium's Michaël R. Roskam (Bullhead, The Drop) is known as Le Fidèle, or The Faithful+ READ MORE

OCCUPIED: Season 2

Occupied, Season 2


The first season of Occupied debuted on Netflix in January 2016 to little notice. Maybe the whole enterprise was too far-fetched. America putting itself first and turning its back on the rest of the world? Russia meddling in the political affairs of other nations? Please. When is 24 coming back? What a difference a presidential election makes. Now Occupied's startling prescience is almost an obstacle; binge-watching season two won't exactly provide a break from the news. + READ MORE


Babylon Berlin


The most expensive German TV series ever produced, Babylon Berlin, is Weimar noir, a detective drama turned conspiracy thriller set against the backdrop of decadence, poverty, and corruption in 1929 Berlin just before the Nazi party rode the swell of nationalism to power. Think Cabaret meets L.A. Confidential as produced by UFA, recreating a cultural moment that is about to implode.+ READ MORE



In Theaters

Heathers meets American Psycho" reads the drop quote on the poster of Thoroughbreds, the debut feature from writer/director Cory Finley. It's a tasty little tag and accurate enough, in its way. There's a wicked satire under the cultivated surfaces and carefully groomed front, but a chilly alienation sets this teen-killer thriller apart from the flamboyant films of the quote. + READ MORE


Dark Crimes

In Theaters

It starts with a naked woman, bound and hanging from her wrists, glimpsed in some sort of concrete storage space/torture chamber. Then, an orgy in full swing. We're apparently in a bunker where nude young women are confined in cells under the domination of men. We sense that all is not well here. + READ MORE


The Alienist: Season 1

streaming from TNT

My primary recollection of Caleb Carr's novel The Alienist, which I read fifteen years ago, is thinking a screen adaptation was inevitable. Set in 1896 New York City, with a team of investigators using pioneering methods to identify and capture a serial killer preying on juvenile male prostitutes, it played with the "birth of criminal profiling" conceit and played upon readers' familiarity with modern forensics as these mavericks work outside a corrupt and hidebound system. The characters were sketched in broad strokes, but the historical backdrop, period detail, and mix of real-life and fictional figures gave the proto-procedural premise a compelling hook. It seemed destined to be a movie. Instead, it was developed by writer/producer Hossein Amini (Drive) as a ten-part cable series for TNT. + READ MORE

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