3 Movies Like Cashback (2007)

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The self destructive, substance abusing history teacher Dan (Ryan Gosling) works in a Brooklyn middle-school and is constantly at odds with the curriculum, preferring to teach 13 year old kids Marxist theory in class. Meanwhile, his student Drey (Shareeka Epps) has to go through struggles of her own, her brother being in jail on drug charges and her single mother having to work long hours to make ends meet. Slowly, an unlikely and tender friendship between teacher and student evolves, in which it becomes less and less clear who of them is the adult part. Steering away from cliches, Half Neslon is not your typical social drama. Its intelligent plot twists, great cast (with outstanding performances by both Gossling and Epps) and slow, non dramatic storytelling makes this a highly underestimated movie that, although treating depressive topics without any easy relief for the viewer, will leave with an inner smile, albeit a sad one.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adepero Oduye, Anthony Mackie, Collins Pennie, Deborah Rush, Deidre Goodwin, Denis O'Hare, Eleanor Hutchins, Jay O. Sanders, Jeff Lima, Karen Chilton, Katie Nehra, Leslie Eva Glaser, Matt Kerr, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Nathan Corbett, Nicole Vicius, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Ron Cephas Jones, Ryan Gosling, Sebastian Sozzi, Shareeka Epps, Sharon Washington, Starla Benford, Stephanie Bast, Thaddeus Daniels, Tina Holmes, Tristan Mack Wilds

Director: Ryan Fleck

Rating: R

As the third instalment in Paul Schrader's "man in a room" trilogy after First Reformed (2017) and The Card Counter (2021), Master Gardner rounds up the issues at stake in a most profound way. For anyone who's seen a film either scripted by Schrader (such as Taxi Driver) or directed by him, there will be no surprises here: lost men, despairing men, men who are desperate to believe in something. But the salvation of love lurks around the corner and the new film makes no exception. An unconventional couple, Joel Edgerton and Quintessa Swindell (as Maya) make up the beating heart of this suspenseful drama with an emotional push and pull delivered in small doses. What could have been a kitschy, insensitive work blossoms into a treatise on how gentle the harshness of life can be. 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Amy Le, Eduardo Losan, Esai Morales, Ja'Quan Monroe-Henderson, Jared Bankens, Joel Edgerton, Matt Mercurio, Quintessa Swindell, Rick Cosnett, Sean Richmond, Sigourney Weaver, Suzette Lange, Timothy McKinney, Victoria Hill

Director: Paul Schrader

Rating: R

With its release coming so close to that of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster treatment of the same subject, To End All War has clearly been designed as a companion piece for that fictional film. Though it mostly performs its function in a by-the-numbers fashion, this rather unexceptional adaptation of Oppenheimer’s Wikipedia page is somewhat livened up by fascinating archival footage and a few compelling talking heads. Among these is Nolan himself, whose contributions provide interesting insight into the structure of his own Oppenheimer movie. 

As its title suggests, To End All War hinges on Oppenheimer’s rationalization for developing the atomic bomb — namely, that, by creating such a catastrophically destructive weapon, he was, in effect, helping to deter future aggression. The film provides a counterpoint by suggesting that the scientists may have been somewhat swept up in egotistical fervor, though this is only gently touched on so as not to require the film to grapple too seriously with the ethics of its subject. This combination of ultimately non-threatening treatment with some genuinely compelling nuggets of perspective makes To End All War a quick, largely un-challenging way to brush up on history before or after tackling fictional exploration of its subject.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Adolf Hitler, Alan B. Carr, Albert Einstein, Bill Nye, Charles Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan, David Eisenbach, Edward Teller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ellen Bradbury Reid, Hideko Tamura, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Jon Else, Judy Woodruff, Kai Bird, Leslie Groves, Martin J. Sherwin, Michio Kaku, Richard Rhodes, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping

Director: Christopher Cassel