24 Movies Like Muzzle (2023)

Staff & contributors

It's difficult not to compare Of an Age to other beautifully shot and tenderly told queer love stories like Call Me By Your Name and Weekend. Like them, Of an Age gives its young lovers ample time and space for their relationship to blossom over a short while. And like them still, it's made of intimate moments that will haunt the lovers long after their first meet, crystallized as they are with affection, longing, and the knowledge that they might not feel as deeply about anyone ever again.

But if Call Me By Your Name is awash with Italy's grandeur and Weekend is snugged in Britain's cold embrace, then Of an Age is distinctly Australian, all humid suburbia and sunbaked roads. The film hones in on emotional and cultural specifics alike, and by doing so, it successfully captures the immaculate and unforgettable heartache of first love.

 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Elias Anton, Grace Graznak, Hattie Hook, Jack Kenny, Jessica Lu, Julia Harari, Thom Green, Toby Derrick, Verity Higgins

Director: Goran Stolevski

Rating: R

Being an awkward comic is a very difficult trick to pull off; even self-deprecating humor and long, quiet beats in between jokes can't just be used over and over. But while Ralph Barbosa's incredibly chilled-out personality might not be for people who like their comedians loud and animated, his matter-of-fact punchlines and willingness to make himself sound like a bit of a wimp work like a charm. Cowabunga doesn't touch on any hot-button topics, but it doesn't have to. Throughout this hour-long special, Barbosa gives us a strong, frequently very funny view from the point of view of a guy who doesn't want any trouble, but feels no pressure just being himself—a relatable dude if ever there was one.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Ralph Barbosa

Director: Eric Adams

Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine lies a shelter for kids coming from unstable homes. Their parents, either alcoholics or abusers, have nine months to prove that they’re fit to look after their children; otherwise, the kids are sent straight to the orphanage, with no chance of a goodbye. A House Made of Splinters is a documentary that quietly and closely follows the shelter’s occupants amid growing joys and pains, not to mention the ever-present danger of war.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about A House Made of Splinters is how attuned it is to the kids. It serves as a reminder of their immense sensitivity and observational skills (more than once, you’ll hear a child assess their home situation in the calmest of manners), as well as their clever ingenuity (there’s a lot of playing going on despite everything, which is heartwarming to watch.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont

Many people lament the decline of the mid-budget drama with Hollywood A-listers in the lead roles, and for good reason: when the charms of an inspirational, feel-good true story work, they really work. The Burial seems to have been made with this same, unabashedly sentimental attitude, and it makes for an endlessly watchable courtroom underdog tale. The film moves with real energy between its more comedic asides and its more urgent themes of underprivileged people being taken advantage of by wealthy companies. And while it still would've probably been effective as just a straightforward legal drama, the movie makes the effort to seek out a bigger picture—deepening its own title by grounding all its characters against complicated race relations in Mississippi.

Director and co-writer Maggie Betts doesn't stray too far from the template that these kinds of films operate with (perhaps to a fault, especially during its climactic moments), but the cast she's assembled is unimpeachable. Jamie Foxx turns in the kind of funny, energetic, deeply felt star performance that earned him an Oscar almost 20 years ago, while Tommy Lee Jones brings a powerful sense of modesty and centeredness to a role that could've easily taken a back seat to his flashier co-lead. Supporting turns from Jurnee Smollett and Alan Ruck round out a uniformly great ensemble that gives this small movie a commanding air of prestige.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Alan Ruck, Amanda Warren, Andrea Frankle, B.J. Clinkscales, Bill Camp, Billy Slaughter, Christopher Winchester, David Alexander, David Maldonado, David Shae, Donna DuPlantier, Dorian Missick, Doug Spearman, Eric Mendenhall, Erika Robel, Evan Brinkman, Fracaswell Hyman, George Ketsios, Gralen Bryant Banks, Jalene Mack, Jamie Foxx, Jason Bayle, Jim Klock, Jurnee Smollett, Keith Jefferson, Lance E. Nichols, Logan Macrae, Lorna Street Dopson, Mamoudou Athie, Mike Harkins, Olivia Brody, Pamela Reed, Sam Malone, Summer Selby, Teisha Speight, Tommy Lee Jones, Tywayne Wheatt, Vince Pisani

Director: Margaret Betts

Rating: R

, 2024

Frida Kahlo is an iconic Mexican painter, not just because of her outstanding art, but also because of her outlook in life, despite her ill health and tragic accident. Because of this, she has been talked about in multiple books, movies, and exhibitions, but a new documentary has popped up, this time from her own words. Carla Gutierrez’s directorial debut is a revelation, voiced primarily in Frida’s native Spanish and paired with key archival footage, vivid animations of her paintings, and an excellent acoustic score plucked from classical guitar. Being a biographical documentary, fans of the artist would, of course, be familiar with her life events, but Gutierrez’s approach is still worth watching, mostly because it’s Frida’s own words driving the film.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fernanda Echevarría del Rivero, Frida Kahlo

Director: Carla Gutierrez

Rating: R

A portrait of an Alabama high school wrestling team springboards from a sports documentary into an encompassing exploration of the American working class and institutional racism. The film operates on both levels as it zooms in on the lives of four students and their friendly yet overbearing coach. From the opening moments, Coach Sribner makes it clear that the State Championship is about much more than sport. A failing and underfunded school system all but ensures that a sports scholarship is one of the few chances for these youth to have access to higher education and a path out of poverty. 

This is further exacerbated by the racial dynamics at play, as we watch these mostly Black youth experience casual racism as well as institutional harassment from the police. Even their well-meaning coach is not exempt, he at once can acknowledge his white privilege but is not above baselessly accusing one of the boys of stealing his sunglasses. Herbert’s up close and personal style is immersive and passionate and builds to an exciting sports film climax while maintaining a piercing awareness of the severe economic realities that hollow out any victory on the mat.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Chris Scribner, Jailen Young, Jaquan Rhodes, Teague Berres

Director: Suzannah Herbert

Many films that deal with the advent of some sort of apocalypse usually hit the ground running, but When Evil Lurks also keeps its sense of panic and paranoia right up to its bitter end. Even during moments of downtime—as this small group of "survivors" tries to keep moving—there is an overwhelming sense that they're only delaying their inevitable suffering, or that evil has existed long before  any of them. There are passing mentions of this demonic presence having originated in the city, and how it manages to infiltrate the lives of those on the outskirts through modern things like electricity and gunfire. It's an intriguing angle that gives possession a new texture: these demons aren't just randomly manifesting, but invading and occupying.

And when the violence kicks in, When Evil Lurks really doesn't spare its characters, as shown by some pretty gnarly practical effects and vicious sound design. The constant escalation of the demonic threat can feel contrived at times—as the rules of how things operate in this world keep on being added or modified, at a rate that can be hard to process—but the anguish it leaves its characters in is suffocating all the same. There may not appear to be a moral at the end of all this, but it evokes a sense of hopelessness better than many other films.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Demián Salomón, Emilio Vodanovich, Ezequiel Rodríguez, Federico Liss, Isabel Quinteros, Jorge Prado, Luis Ziembrowski, Sebastián Muñiz, Silvina Sabater, Virginia Garófalo

Director: Demián Rugna

Rating: NR

When it comes to ghosts, plenty of films are centered around personal, unresolved business in the living world, but rarely do films examine how the spirit world would be, unless it’s for fantastical fights or horrific terror. The Parades instead focuses on a world of lost, but ordinary, and thankfully kind, souls. And as the film builds its calm world, Minako (and the viewers) get to meet the people who would form her eventual found family, whose various lives uncover the intimate and personal hopes of ordinary people, shaped by the events of their respective times. While the film doesn’t fully resolve all their stories, The Parades celebrates life, in all forms, and the powerful ways storytelling and community helps us go through it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Akari Takaishi, Ayumu Nakajima, Azuki Terada, Daiken Okudaira, Denden, Go Ayano, Hana Kino, Hiroshi Tachi, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kotone Hanase, Lily Franky, Mai Fukagawa, Masami Nagasawa, Nana Mori, Ron Mizuma, Ryusei Yokohama, Shinobu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Suon Kan, Takuya Wakabayashi, Tetsushi Tanaka, Yuina Kuroshima, Yukiya Kitamura

Director: Michihito Fujii

Rating: PG-13

In Suncoast, writer-director Laura Chinn takes the personal tragedy of losing her brother to cancer and weaves it into something meaningful. The film is a sensitive meditation on death and grief, but it isn’t all grim. It’s also a coming-of-age story, one that focuses on Doris (Nico Parker), a version of Chinn’s younger self aching for normal teen experiences. The film is at its best when it zeroes in on Doris’ interiority and examines the duality of having to deal with so much death while still wanting to live a vibrant life. The surprising friendship that blooms between her and the popular kids as she chases after this life is one of the best depictions of authentic teen dynamics in recent memory. But the film is at its weakest when it tries to be something it’s not—that is, your usual tear-jerker indie fare that’s rife with lessons from a magical stranger (in this case played genially, but unnecessarily, by Woody Harrelson) and grievances from a grief-stricken mother (played powerfully by Laura Linney). To be sure, Harrelson and Linney (especially) deliver top-notch performances, but they feel shoehorned in an otherwise pitch-perfect film about a girl finding her place in the real world.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amarr M. Wooten, Andrea Powell, Andrew Dicostanzo, Ariel Martin, Cree Kawa, Daniella Taylor, Ella Anderson, Elliott Sancrant, Jason Burkey, Karen Ceesay, Keyla Monterroso Mejia, Laura Linney, Matt Walsh, Nico Parker, Orelon Sidney, Pam Dougherty, Parker Sack, Scott MacArthur, Woody Harrelson

Director: Laura Chinn

Rating: R

For better or for worse, we have no choice in the country we’re born in, the citizenship we first attain, and sometimes we’re forced to leave that country for our own safety. My Name is Loh Kiwan depicts a North Korean defector seeking refugee status in Belgium, but while the government deliberates, it’s a hard life he has to face, one that changes when he meets a fellow Korean who may not be an immigrant, but who’s just as lost as he is. While there are some subplots that falter halfway, My Name is Loh Kiwan still manages to stick the landing of being both a moving romance and an empathetic survival drama that highlights the struggles of refugees.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Choi Sung-eun, Heo Seon-haeng, Jo Han-chul, Kang Gil-woo, Kim Sung-ryung, Lee Il-hwa, Lee Sang-hee, Seo Hyun-woo, Song Joong-ki, Waël Sersoub

Director: Kim Hee-jin

Rating: R

So much of Puppy Love is adorable. The title alone promises that, and to be fair, it actually delivers. The movie is filled with romance, pooches, and hijinks that circle back to those two core aspects. I couldn’t be giddier watching this, as a dog lover and romantic comedy aficionado myself, but it’s frustrating how the movie doesn’t go above and beyond its basic premise, even if it easily could’ve done so. It has strong leads in Hale and Gustin, whose chemistry may be lacking but who individually perform well. It has a decent script, “reasonably funny” as it calls itself in the film, delivering amusing and touching lines in equal measure. It even manages to flesh out Nicole and Max with backstories; Max, in particular, gets an interesting characterization as an anxious germaphobe who refuses to go to the office for work. But for whatever reason, every exciting thorn in this premise gets smoothed out by the end. The tension is never realized and loose ends are tied up neatly in a conclusion that feels too simplified for its own good. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Al Miro, Christine Lee, Corey Woods, Grant Gustin, Jane Seymour, Lucy Hale, Michael Hitchcock, Nore Davis, Rachel Risen, Sarah Almonte Peguero

Director: Nicholas Fabiano, Richard Alan Reid

One day, Filipino romances will wean themselves away from the tropes that keep their stories circling back to the same conclusions, undermining the bold narrative ideas on which that they establish themselves. Nothing Like Paris still doesn't break free, but its commitment to a more serious, modern view of romance set against the loneliness of migration is surprising given director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo's previous collaboration with her lead actors (the inadvertently creepy I See You, set in Japan). Here, the possibility of romance built on little more than one's shared nationality and language is explored with real maturity, through two performers who prove that subtlety will always leave more room for complex emotion than ugly crying and cutesy, empty gestures.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alessandra de Rossi, Dolly de Leon, Empoy Marquez, Jean-Marc Noirot-Cosson

Director: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo

The main subject that Hold Your Fire promises to be about—negotiation tactics first used in resolving a New York City standoff at a sporting goods store—is ultimately its most least interesting aspect. These supposed tactics aren't too well, and they end up putting a damper on all the human drama that comes before it, which proves strikingly three-dimensional. As the film revisits the details of the hostage situation from the perspective of those who were actually there, it also complicates the situation by compelling us to think of it in a dense, sociopolitical sense rather than a reductive lens of crime and punishment. It's this build-up to the actual negotiation that may actually hold more insight into these kinds of crises.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Stefan Forbes

Pushing an already extreme activity even further beyond its limits, Ueli Steck and Dani Arnold have became the world champions of speed climbing—a variation of the sport that places much greater importance on direct competition over communing with nature. It's fascinating to hear what drives Steck and Arnold to courting death like this, and to see how their vastly different backgrounds and processes have still made them equals in the field. The documentary eventually runs out of ideas, however, as it clumsily shifts tones leading into its last third, and concludes abruptly without much synthesis of everything that had come before. It's still a worthwhile adventure whether or not one is into climbing; it's just disappointing that this story of such a unique rivalry settles into a more generic rhythm by the end.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Documentary

Actor: Dani Arnold, Ueli Steck

Director: Götz Werner, Nicholas de Taranto

Rating: PG-13

Producer-turned director Sean King O'Grady has some fresh ideas about what can shake up the dystopia genre, but The Mill needs more than a corporate critique to lift it off the ground. Even with Lil Rel Howery's apt acting skills (you'll probably remember him from Get Out), the film falls flat in its second half, losing the momentum built up by the original idea of the gristmill as an exteriorization of the corporate grind and its meaningless nature. The issue is that, aside from this smart use of symbolism, The Mill plays it rather safe by relating dystopia to capitalism. It's almost like O'Grady hasn't the slightest clue that capitalism and dystopia have been one and the same thing for decades now; if only he would have taken the equation to much, much darker places...

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Allya F. Robinson, Blair Wilson, Getchie Argetsinger, Jaiden K. Brown, Karen Obilom, Lil Rel Howery, Pat Healy, Patrick Fischler

Director: Sean King O'Grady

Rating: R