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Staff & contributors

Legend has it that director Derek Cianfrance had the co-stars and co-executive producers Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling live together in the same house for a month in preparation of their roles. The fictional couple they play in Blue Valentine lived in the same house. True or not, this created the harsh proximity, intensity, and claustrophobia that is a hallmark of this production. Blue Valentine brings us painfully close to the couple's attraction as well as their agony.

In this way, Blue Valentine is a heart-breaking examination of the decaying shell of a once-bright marriage. As sad as it is sexy, it mixes intense flashbacks of past desire with the grim reality of married life's monotony. It boasts an electrifying performance from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, who seamlessly combine tenderness and lust, rage and sadness. This is a guaranteed tear-jerker, so make sure you've brought your Kleenexes!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alan Malkin, Ashley Gurnari, Barbara Troy, Ben Shenkman, Carey Westbrook, Enid Graham, Faith Wladyka, Ian Bonner, James Benatti, Jen Jones, John Doman, Joseph Basile, Mark Benginia, Marshall Johnson, Maryann Plunkett, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, Robert Russell, Ryan Gosling, Tamara Torres

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Rating: R

The movie starts with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a stunt driver who learns he has a newborn child. Luke wants to properly provide for him, so he turns to robbing banks. That causes conflict with the mother (Eva Mendes) and a police officer (Bradley Cooper), which ends up spanning two generations. The Place Beyond the Pines is gritty and emotional, and at the heart of it, a good take on father-son relationships and long-term consequences.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Angelo Anthony Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bradley Cooper, Brian Smyj, Bruce Greenwood, Craig Van Hook, Dane DeHaan, Derek Cianfrance, Emory Cohen, Ephraim Benton, Eva Mendes, Gabe Fazio, Greta Seacat, Harris Yulin, Jennifer Sober, Luca Pierucci, Lynette Howell Taylor, Mahershala Ali, Mark McCracken, Michael Cullen, Olga Merediz, Patrick Husted, Ray Liotta, Robert Clohessy, Rose Byrne, Ryan Gosling, Shannon Plumb

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Rating: R

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Annie Funke, Ashley Williams, Ben Rosenfield, Bill Walters, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Chester Jones III, Chris Cardona, Christopher Abbott, Daisy Tahan, David Margulies, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Marvel, Elyes Gabel, Giselle Eisenberg, Glenn Fleshler, Jason Ralph, Jerry Adler, Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Palumbo, John Dinello, John Douglas Thompson, John Procaccino, Kathleen Doyle, Linda Marie Larson, Lorna Guity Pruce, Lorna Pruce, Matthew Maher, Myrna Cabello, Nat DeWolf, Nick Bailey, Oscar Isaac, Patrick Breen, Peter Gerety, Pico Alexander, Quinn Meyers, Robert Clohessy, Russell G. Jones, Stephen Reich, Susan Blackwell, Suzanne Cerreta, Taylor Richardson, Teddy Coluca, William Hill

Director: J. C. Chandor

Rating: R

, 2022

Till is a very political film. It’s charged with the kind of rage and electricity that enables thousands to mobilize for a cause. But before it explodes into something grand, it begins with the small details of everyday life. A mother admires her son as he dances to his favorite song. She buys him a new wallet and goes over the things they’ll do over the summer. These things seem trivial, but they reveal the humanity that sometimes goes overlooked in telling epic stories such as these.

To be sure, Till is a necessarily brutal film about grief and justice, but it’s also about how political movements are borne out of small and personal devastation. This nuance, along with a jaw-dropping performance by Danielle Deadwyler, makes Till a standout: a powerful entry in a long line of social-issue dramas.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Al Mitchell, Bradley King, Brandon P. Bell, Brendan Patrick Connor, Carol J. Mckenith, Danielle Deadwyler, David Caprita, Ed Amatrudo, Elizabeth Youman, Eric Whitten, Euseph Messiah, Frankie Faison, Haley Bennett, J.P. Edwards, Jackson Beals, Jalyn Hall, Jamie Renell, Jaylin Webb, Jayme Lawson, John Douglas Thompson, Jonathan D. Williams, Josh Ventura, Keisha Tillis, Kevin Carroll, Lee Spencer, Maurice Johnson, Mike Dolphy, Njema Williams, Phil Biedron, Princess Elmore, Richard Nash, Roger Guenveur Smith, Sean Michael Weber, Sean Patrick Thomas, Summer Rain Menkee, Tim Ware, Torey Adkins, Tosin Cole, Whoopi Goldberg

Director: Chinonye Chukwu

Rating: PG-13

Surrounded has the bones of a revenge-style Western. It turns the table on the white cowboy hero and gives us (on paper, at least) complex leads in Mo and Tommy. Mo is a young Black woman whose experience as a Buffalo Solider lends her not only the skills of an expert gunslinger but also the anger and motivation to push through any obstacle, while Tommy is the enigmatic thief who Mo reluctantly relies on in her quest for freedom. With all this pent-up tension, the film should work, and it does occasionally thanks to Wright and Bell’s deft performances (Bell is especially exceptional), the stunning mountainous terrains, and the worthy attempts at race and class commentary. But for the most part, the film's ambitions fall flat. The monologues are overlong and too evocative of modern speech to be historically believable. The action scenes, while exciting, only sputter here and there and never gain the momentum the film needs to genuinely thrill. And the thin backstories of Mo and Tommy raise more questions than answers. More often than not, Surrounded looks like a couple of good scenes strewn together on a lousy string; the foundations are off but there’s some enjoyment to be found.

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

Actor: Austin Rising, Brett Gelman, David Manzanares, Jamie Bell, Jeffrey Donovan, Keith Jardine, Kevin Wiggins, Letitia Wright, Luce Rains, Lyle Sandoval, Mark Dalton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nathaniel Augustson, Peter Diseth, Tatanka Means

Director: Anthony Mandler

Rating: R