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The Past

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa


The Past
Memento Films

Acting like an unofficial sequel to A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s The Past picks up where his Oscar winner ended. This time around we follow Marie (Bérénice Béjo) and Ahmad (Ali Mossafa), a couple who are about to finalize their divorce but get tangled in a dramatic postmortem of their relationship which includes secrets being kept by all the parties involved. A tense work from one of cinema’s greatest humanists, Farhadi’s film is an exploration of forgiveness and atonement through both pragmatism and implied spiritualism. Infused with brilliantly subversive touched of melodrama, it might be the finest moment in Farhadi’s already illustrious career. Jose Solis


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Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon, Bonnie Sturdivant


Roadside Attractions

Six years and three films into a remarkable career, writer-director Jeff Nichols has been quietly revealing himself as one of the most consistent and interesting independent American filmmakers currently working. Mud, perhaps his best work to date, is a return to the half-mythic Arkansas of his debut Shotgun Stories: a land both beautiful and foreboding, populated by characters whose hidden secrets, regrets, and desires weigh heavily on them. This time around, Nichols tells a moving coming-of-age story about two young boys tooling around a backwater stretch of the Mississippi in a leaky skiff and the small wonders that they find, including a boat in a tree and a lovelorn outlaw with a loaded pistol and a mischievous grin. Such familiar elements could tip very easily into schmaltzy Tom Sawyer cliche. The fact that Mud doesn’t is both a credit to Nichols’ confident direction and a remarkably mature lead performance by 15-year-old Tye Sheridan (Tree of Life). Pat Kewley


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The Great Gatsby

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Amitabh Bachchan, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki


The Great Gatsby
Warner Bros.

Baz Luhrmann has built a notable career on films that construct a showy, vivid tableau vivant of opulent dissolution and indulgent superficiality, the decadent excess of which he climactically brings crashing down like a shattering palace of glass with a theatrical dose of final-act melodramatic tragedy. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby seems purpose-built for Bazification, and both the sumptuous expressions of Jay Gatsby’s pride and his discomfiting fall are imparted with bold strokes of broad drama and luxurious sheen. DiCaprio takes on a second bloom of youth as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan is a desirable Daisy who doesn’t shy away from her character’s fundamental ephemerality. The absurd hyper-reality of Luhrmann’s sumptuous staging of the great novel simultaneously magnifies and cheapens the narrative’s emotional impact in a way that is consistently irresistible and memorable. Ross Langager


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Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel
Cast: Brian Jannelle, Adrian Guillette, Arthur Smith, Asterias Vulgaris


Cinema Guild

You see water from long distances, stretching across the screen into a disappearing horizon. You see water up close, splashing onto the camera lens, distorting your sight. Or, maybe not distorting so much as refining and reframing. For this is a film that offers a range of perspectives even within a single shot, presenting the sea as simultaneously gorgeous and daunting, thrilling and mundane. That Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s film does all this while granting precious little conventional access to the men who fish the sea and work with the wind is remarkable in its own way. You see men in fishing gear, certainly, in boots and coats and rubber pants, you see their tattoos, their muscled arms handling nets, dumping fish from nets into pens and buckets, slicing fish bodies so their bright red blood combines with the sea water, so that all of it turns shades of red. Cynthia Fuchs


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Pacific Rim

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Rob Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman


Pacific Rim
Warner Bros.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a refreshing and renewing cinematic experience, an imaginative, muscular contemporary take on the monster-centric tokusatsu films produced in Japan in the 1950s and ’60s. Del Toro’s mighty cinematic canvas pits rampaging trans-dimensional monsters against the towering fighting robots constructed to protect civilization from them. The central set-piece battles are pupils-dilated, jaw-to-the-floor spectacle, staged in an awestruck style both magically epic and scrupulously real. Wonder and terror are inextricably mingled. But Del Toro never lets himself forget that below the grand godlike activity is a small, breakable human, cowering in fear, gazing in awe, and conceiving of methods to master even the seemingly unmasterable. Pacific Rim is never not Hollywood product, but if all such product was possessed of such astounding scope and resonant power, the epithet may not be so derogatory. Ross Langager

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