21 Contributions by: Tara Goe

Staff & contributors

Much like Berlin’s infamous nightlife, which serves as the backdrop to the plot, this daring German real-time drama will eat you up and spit you out. After leaving a nightclub at 4am, Victoria, a runaway Spanish girl, befriends a gang of four raucous young men, climbing rooftops and drinking beers among the city’s moon-lit streets. The gang’s light-hearted banter is impressively improvised from a skeleton script, offset by Niels Frahm’s ominous original score.

But what starts out as late-night high jinks swerves into darker territory. Driven by her infatuation with the pack leader Sonne, played by Frederick Lau, Victoria ends up being recruited as a get-away driver for an ill-prepared bank robbery and loses herself in a sinister spiral of events. What sounds like a standard-issue crime drama is, in fact, a staggering cinematic experiment.

Filmed in one take, on location, and in real time, the movie’s production is indeed a gamble, but director Sebastian Schipper more than pulls it off. The claustrophobic camerawork of cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen leaves the viewer feeling like a hapless accomplice to Victoria’s plight. With Laia Costa giving an awe-striking lead performance, the high wire acting of the entire main cast only adds to this effect. Victoria is a stellar directorial debut, heart-stopping drama, and a truly immersive experience.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adolfo Assor, Andre Hennicke, Anna Lena Klenke, Burak Yigit, Daniel Fripan, Eike Frederick Schulz, Eike Frederik Schulz, Franz Rogowski, Frederick Lau, Hans-Ulrich Laux, Laia Costa, Lena Klenke, Martin Goeres, Max Mauff, Philipp Kubitza

Director: Sebastian Schipper

Rating: Not Rated, R

Directed by Taika Waititi, who also gave us Boy (2010) and co-produced What We Do in the Shadows (2014), Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the quirky and magical buddy movie you want if you’re in need of an antidote to a bad day or a steady diet of sad movies.

It tells the off-kilter adventure story of misfit, rap-loving city kid Ricky Baker and his crusty and cantankerous foster parent ‘Uncle’ Hec, played by Sam Neill. ‘Very bad egg’ Ricky has been bounced out of more foster families than he cares to remember and is given one last chance of living with a couple out on a farm in rural New Zealand. After tragedy strikes early in the film, the unlikely pair gets lost in the wilderness and becomes subject to a nationwide manhunt.

Full of dead-pan humor and warm-hearted mockery, this audience favorite fuses visual gags delivered by a charming cast with sweeping shots of spectacular scenery!

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Cohen Holloway, Hamish Parkinson, Julian Dennison, Mabelle Dennison, Mike Minogue, Mike Minouge, Oscar Kightley, Rachel House, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, Sam Neill, Stan Walker, Taika Waititi, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, Troy Kingi

Director: Taika Waititi

Rating: PG-13

Five orphaned sisters are put under house arrest by their uncle and grandmother after they are seen horsing around with local boys from school. While their actions were purely innocent, their behavior is viewed as scandalous and shameful by the conservative elders in their small Turkish village. After this incident, their grandmother turns her attention towards marrying off her granddaughters. Each of the five sisters rebel in their own way, but it is the youngest and rowdiest sister, Lale, who is the central protagonist of the film. She watches helplessly as each of her older sisters is married off with an increasing sense of dread and desperation. While this may sound hopelessly depressing, the movie is equal parts beautiful and tragic and floats across the screen in a dreamlike manner. Not all of the sisters escape their oppressive surroundings or their assigned fate, but the message is clear: it’s crucial to try.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ayberk Pekcan, Bahar Kerimoğlu, Bahar Kerimoğlu, Burak Yiğit, Burak Yigit, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Elit Iscan, Erol Afsin, Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, Günes Sensoy, Ilayda Akdogan, Nihal Koldaş, Nihal Koldaş, Tugba Sunguroglu

Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Rating: PG-13

A delightfully screwy comedy about a guy and his struggling bar (of the title). The film is full of food, music, dancing, romance, and crazy coincidences. Our hero, Zinos, has just be abandoned by his girlfriend. On top of that his bar is struggling, he’s recently thrown his back out, he desperately needs to find a new chef, and his shady brother has just come to the Soul Kitchen looking for a job after being let out of on “partial parole.” Will it all work out in the end? Of course it will! This film is a lot lighter than Akin’s previous features, but maybe after all those challenging pictures he just felt the need to have a good time, which this film definitely delivers.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Bousdoukos, Anna Bederke, Birol Ünel, Birol Ünel, Catrin Striebeck, Cem Akin, Demir Gökgöl, Demir Gökgöl, Dorka Gryllus, Gustav-Peter Wöhler, Hendrik von Bültzingslöwen, Herma Koehn, Jan Fedder, Lars Rudolph, Lucas Gregorowicz, Marc Hosemann, Maria Ketikidou, Markus Imboden, Monica Bleibtreu, Moritz Bleibtreu, Peter Jordan, Peter Lohmeyer, Pheline Roggan, Philipp Baltus, Simon Görts, Till Huster, Udo Kier, Uğur Yücel, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Zarah Jane McKenzie

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: N/A, Unrated

Doris Miller is an unassuming sixty-something office worker whose life takes an unusual turn after her mother passes away. We find out over the course of the film that Doris' life was put on hold early when she had to give up her dreams and ambitions to take care of her mother. Something is awakened in Doris though when she falls head over heels for John, a much younger co-worker, and Doris dives head first into the world of social media, electro-pop, and Brooklyn hipsterdom. Sally Field is an absolute delight here -- her Doris is sweet, lovable, and tragic in equal measures. And the chemistry between her and John is palpable; you can see why they eventually strike up a friendship. In many ways this is a late in life coming-of-age story, and while there are moments of uncomfortable humor, you will find yourself rooting for Doris to come out of her shell and embrace her new life to the fullest.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Abraham Lim, Amy Okuda, Anna Akana, Beth Behrs, Caroline Aaron, Catherine Kresge, Don Stark, Edmund Lupinski, Elizabeth Reaser, Emilie Germain, Eric Pumphrey, Guilherme Scarabelot, Isabella Acres, Jack Antonoff, Kale Clauson, Kate Comer, Kumail Nanjiani, Kyle Mooney, Lee Chen, Max Greenfield, Michael Terra, Natasha Lyonne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Norma Michaels, Peter Gallagher, Rebecca Wisocky, Rich Sommer, Roz Ryan, Sally Field, Sofia Hasmik, Stephen Root, Susan Ziegler, Tyne Daly, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Director: Michael Showalter

Rating: R

This is a very nice movie about a lovely older couple named Tom and Gerri. It follows their lives for an entire year, as they work at their jobs, invite friends over for dinner, and work in their garden. They live modest but fulfilling lives, and they seem mostly happy and very much in love, a rarity in the movies. This probably sounds horribly boring to most people, but since Mike Leigh is the director, the film is instead a touching and realistic portrayal of love and how people spend their time together. We should all be so lucky as to live a life as charmed as the central couple in this film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Badi Uzzaman, Ben Roberts, David Bradley, Edna Doré, Eileen Davies, Gary Powell, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Karina Fernandez, Lesley Manville, Martin Savage, Mary Jo Randle, Meneka Das, Michele Austin, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Ralph Ineson, Ruth Sheen, Stuart McQuarrie

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: PG-13

This is the first film directed by actor Macon Blair (so good in both Blue Ruin and Green Room), and while it is shaggy and tonally all over the place, there is a lot to recommend here. First off, I’m a huge fan of the (underrated) Melanie Lynskey, so I was primed to like this movie from the get-go. After Ruth’s (Lynskey) home is broken into, she seeks revenge against the perpetrators with help from her martial arts obsessed neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood, sporting an impressive rat-tail). What starts out as an empowering journey for Ruth & Tony quickly teeters into dangerous and increasingly violent territory. This movie is probably not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of 90s indie films and don’t mind some violence mixed in with your dark humor, then you will enjoy this small, well-acted film.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Asha Sawyer, Audrey Walker, Chris Doubek, Christine Woods, Dana Millican, David Yow, Derek Mears, Devon Graye, Elijah Wood, Gary Anthony Williams, Jana Lee Hamblin, Jane Levy, Jared Roylance, Jason Manuel Olazabal, Jeb Berrier, Lana Dieterich, Lee Eddy, Macon Blair, Marilyn Faith Hickey, Matt Orduna, Maxwell Hamilton, Melanie Lynskey, Michelle Moreno, Myron Natwick, Ray Buckley, Robert Longstreet, Sharae Foxie, Taylor Tunes, Wrick Jones

Director: Macon Blair

Rating: Not Rated, TV-MA

This is the follow-up film by the director of the (also) excellent and intense Blue Ruin. Like that film, Green Room often subverts genre expectations. The basic premise: a lefty punk band winds up taking a show at a skinhead club because they are desperate for cash. The show goes well, but afterward the band accidentally witnesses something they shouldn’t have and are trapped in the club’s green room. This film is brutal and intense, especially because you actually care about what happens to the characters. Bonus: Sir Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the skinhead organization, and gives a subtle yet effectively sinister performance. While some truly horrific acts of violence occur (especially in the back-half of the film) they really do serve the story. Still, there are a handful of scenes that may require more sensitive viewers to cover their eyes. You have been warned.

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Imogen Poots, Jeremy Saulnier, Joe Cole, Joseph Bertót, Kai Lennox, Lj Klink, Macon Blair, Mark Webber, Mason Knight, Michael Draper, Patrick Stewart, Taylor Tunes

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Rating: R

Nicole is 22, just out of college, and adrift during her first summer as an “adult.” Tu Dors Nicole (“You’re Sleeping Nicole”) is a French-Canadian take on the late coming-of-age story. Nicole spends most of the summer is her small, sleepy Quebec town lounging around her parents house (they are gone for the summer), occasionally working at the local thrift store, trying to sleep (she’s developed insomnia), and wandering aimlessly around town and the Quebec countryside with her best friend Veronique. The two are joined at the hip (as evidenced by how their bikes are always locked-up together) but the arrival of Nicole’s brother and his bandmates threatens to upend the lifelong relationship between the two; because of this waning friendship Tu Dors has earned comparisons to films like Ghost World and Frances Ha which examine the complexities of young female friendships, particularly when one’s identity is in flux. The film was shot on gorgeous Black & White 35mm film , adding to it’s floating dream-like quality, and boasts a sweet and droll sense of humor. There are occasional touches of the surreal as well — my favorite running gag being the presence of the pre-pubescent Martin, a small boy whose voice has prematurely developed (the voice that comes out of his mouth sounds like that of a world weary 45-year-old) who attempts to woo Nicole with poetic insights such as, “the heart has no age.” This film is a true hidden gem.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anne-Renee Duhaime, Catherine St-Laurent, Claude Despins, Fanny Mallette, Francis La Haye, Godefroy Reding, Julianne Côté, Luc Senay, Marc-André Grondin, Pierre-Luc Lafontaine, Simon Larouche

Director: Stéphane Lafleur

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

This is a hard movie to describe, but I’ll do my best without giving too much away. The movie takes place in three separate segments that eventually come together. Half of the story takes place in Germany, half in Turkey, with almost all of the central six characters spending time in both countries while either searching for each other or trying to redeem themselves. Daughters search for their mothers (and vice versa) and one character’s actions will eventually bring everything more-or-less full circle. The film is as much about the characters though as it is about the cultural exchange happening between the two countries. If you have even a passing interest in films from this part of the world, I recommend giving this one a try.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ali Akdeniz, Baki Davrak, Cengiz Daner, Erkan Can, Feridun Koç, Gürsoy Gemec, Güven Kiraç, Hanna Schygulla, İdil Üner, Lars Rudolph, Nejat İşler, Nurgül Yeşilçay, Nursel Köse, Önder Çakar, Öznur Kula, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Tuncel Kurtiz, Turgay Tanülkü, Yelda Reynaud

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: Unrated

Equal parts touching and comical, this portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London features twin daughters who couldn’t be more different—the brainy and good-natured Natalie, and her sneering, layabout sister Nicola. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky) expect the slow, dreamy representation of British society from one of the country's best and most renowned directors.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alison Steadman, Claire Skinner, David Neilson, David Thewlis, Harriet Thorpe, Jane Horrocks, Jim Broadbent, Moya Brady, Paul Trussell, Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

Pedro Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy. Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio de la Torre, Blanca Portillo, Carlos Blanco, Carlos Blanco Vila, Carlos García Cambero, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Concha Galán, Eli Iranzo, Elvira Cuadrupani, Fanny de Castro, Isabel Ayúcar, Leandro Rivera, Lola Dueñas, Magdalena Brotto, María Alfonsa Rosso, María Isabel Díaz Lago, Mila Espiga, Natalia Roig, Neus Sanz, Penélope Cruz, Pepa Aniorte, Valeria Vereau, Yohana Cobo, Yolanda Ramos

Director: Pedro Almodoóvar, Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Pan’s Labyrinth is often considered director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film, and rightfully so. But if you’re looking for a straight-up ghost story, this is the film that gets the job done. Everything about this film is sad and beautiful and unnerving, from the setting (an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War) to the atmospheric visuals.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Lamana, Berta Ojea, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Francisco Maestre, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Javier Bódalo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Juan Carlos Vellido, Junio Valverde, Marisa Paredes, Miguel Ortiz, Víctor Elías

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Rating: R

In my own wished-for parallel universe, French actors Vincent Cassell and Emanuelle Devos are voted the sexiest actors alive. I find them both transfixing and appealing in every role they’ve performed, and they are quite the pair here. Devos plays Carla, a put-upon assistant at a property management company. While good at her job, there is little room for her to advance her career, as she is one of the only women at her company and also has a hearing deficiency. Into her humdrum life walks ex-convict Paul (Cassell), who Carla hires as a personal assistant. It turns out that what Paul lacks in secretarial skills he makes up for in other ways. The first half of the film plays almost like a dark workplace comedy, before taking a dangerous turn towards psychological crime thriller. Overall, it’s a dark and sexy character study of two mismatched outsiders who turn out to complement each other perfectly.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bernard Alane, Bô Gaultier de Kermoal, Celine Samie, Chloé Mons, Christophe Van de Velde, Christophe Vandevelde, David Saracino, Emmanuelle Devos, Francois Loriquet, Nathalie Lacroix, Olivia Bonamy, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Perrier, Pierre Diot, Serge Boutleroff, Serge Onteniente, Vincent Cassel

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Alanoud Sajini, Dana Abdullilah, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Rafa Al Sanea, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Waad Mohammed

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Rating: PG