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Staff & contributors
Many things clash in this beautifully layered, semi-autobiographical film of American director Lulu Wang: cultures, morals, and emotions. The result is a type of comedy that is complex and bittersweet⁠—and based on a true lie: this is the story of a Chinese grandma whose family won't tell her that she is fatally ill. Instead, they organize a fake wedding in China, where everyone gets together to bid a farewell to the unwitting matriarch (played by Zhao Shuzhen). The fake wedding is, in fact, a premature funeral for a person unaware that she is going to die. Played by rapper and comedian Awkwafina, Billi, a New-York-based Chinese-American with a complicated relationship to China, embodies the cultural and moral question at the heart of this story: is it right or wrong not tell grandma? It is thanks to Wang's deft writing and Awkwafina's outstanding performance that The Farewell homes in on answers without ever being melodramatic. Warm, honest, and beautiful.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aoi Mizuhara, Awkwafina, Chen Han, Diana Lin, Gil Perez-Abraham, Hong Lu, Ines Laimins, Jiang Yongbo, Jim Liu, Lu Hong, Shuzhen Zhao, Tzi Ma, X Mayo, Yang Xuejian, Zhang Jing, Zhao Shuzhen

Director: Lulu Wang

Rating: PG

Journalist LLoyd Vogel (Matthey Rhys) scoffs at the prospect of a profile commission, or a "puff piece", as he calls it. His self-respect and professional ruthlessness has driven people away and this assignment may well be a test from his editor. But it is serendipity that brings Lloyd to American TV host Mister Roger (Tom Hanks) and his child-oriented show, at a time when he, a new father, is confronted with his own paternal trauma. No heavy psychological lifting here, but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood might be one of the most profound films about father-son relationships ever made. Notably, the film is directed by a woman, Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl). In her film as in his show, Mister Roger doesn't have to do much: he listens, he speaks, he suggests, and while his kindness may seem frustrating at times, it is truly radical. Additionally, Lloyd's character is based loosely on writer Tom Junod, whose encounter with Rogers ended up a profile in Esquire magazine.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alex Pérez, Chris Cooper, Christine Lahti, Enrico Colantoni, Fred Rogers, Gavin Borders, Gregory Bromfield, Gretchen Koerner, Jessica Hecht, Joanne Rogers, Joe Fishel, Kelley Davis, Kevin L. Johnson, Khary Payton, Kitty Crystal, Krizia Bajos, Maddie Corman, Maryann Plunkett, Matthew Rhys, Michael Masini, Noah Harpster, Patrick McDade, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tammy Blanchard, Tom Bonello, Tom Hanks, Wendy Makkena

Director: Marielle Heller

Rating: PG

Sunshine Cleaning is a great addition to that unidentified genre of grown-up comedies populated by other great entries like Your Sister's Sister and Enough Said. It is however, less of a comedy than it is a heart-warming emotional tale. Powered by outstanding performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, it ultimately evolves into a character study of failed potential and validation seeking. Sunshine Cleaning is enjoyable, satisfying to a fault, and provides an interesting peak into the lives of its characters.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Arkin, Amber Midthunder, Amy Adams, Amy Redford, Angelique Midthunder, Clifton Collins Jr., Emily Blunt, Eric Christian Olsen, Ivan Brutsche, Jason Spevack, Judith Jones, Kathy Lamkin, Kevin Chapman, Lois Geary, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Paul Dooley, Steve Zahn, Susie Yip, Vic Browder

Director: Christine Jeffs

Rating: R

A quirky little movie about a reporter trying to get a story about a man who posted an ad looking for someone to travel in time with. The movie's main strength is the fantastic casting of talents that usually live in the series world (Jake M. Johnson from New Girl, Aubery Plaza from Parcs and Recreation, Mark Duplass), and although it might seem a little bit slow at the beginning, it is worth every second spent watching it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Aubrey Plaza, Basil Harris, Colin Trevorrow, Eli Borozan, Jake Johnson, Jeff Garlin, Jenica Bergere, Karan Soni, Kristen Bell, Lauren Carlos, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Tony Doupe, William Hall Jr.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Rating: R

, 2023

Jules’ wacky premise — an extra-terrestrial crash-lands in eccentric widower Milton’s (Ben Kingsley) flowerbeds — is a bit of a misdirection. While the movie is technically a sci-fi (featuring, as it does, some very out-there alien engineering), it’s really a charming, mostly-human drama about the isolation and surreality of aging. 

Though the mute presence of the alien (nicknamed Jules and played brilliantly by a totally silent Jade Quon) is a constant reminder of the expansiveness of the universe and strange wonders yet to be discovered, the movie keeps its feet firmly on the ground with a sensitive exploration of just how small the worlds of lonely, dementia-struck Milton and two other isolated elderly townspeople (Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris) are. Rather than expand outwards into a story about the extra-terrestrial itself, Jules focuses on the painful disorientation felt by its lonely trio of protagonists, who all find therapeutic relief and connection by way of the alien and its “understanding eyes.” Though the movie's zany forays into sci-fi territory do sometimes boggle the mind, they never undermine the genuine emotion in Jules’ raw grappling with the experience of aging, as well as give the movie a quirky charm that ensures you won't see anything like this again soon — an increasingly rare experience in itself.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Andy Daly, Anna George, Ben Kingsley, Cody Kostro, Donald Paul, Edward James Hyland, Eric T. Miller, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jade Quon, Jane Curtin, Lee Sellars, Patrick Noonan, Teddy Cañez, Zoe Winters

Director: Marc Turtletaub

Rating: PG-13

Taking inspiration from neorealist classics, Chop Shop tells a thoroughly modern story about a pair of orphans contending with hard choices and blunt truths as they hustle to survive in New York City. But rather than take place in the concrete jungle, Ramin Bahrani’s third feature is set in an area of the city most of us aren’t familiar with: Queens’ “Iron Triangle,” an industrial zone crammed with scrapyards and car mechanic shops.

It’s in the upstairs room of one such shop that the bright young Ale (Alejandro Polanco) and his teen sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzalez) live, working days and nights downstairs to save up for the food truck that will give them a more stable life. This daily grind drives them into dark corners and onto the paths of unscrupulous adults, forcing the two kids to grow up beyond their years. Despite their plucky resilience, there’s still a childlike sweetness about them, which only further deepens the heartbreak of their situation. Polanco and Gonzalez give such emotionally raw and entirely believable performances that you’d almost think they were real siblings living lives like these. The fact that neither were professional actors before starring here makes their extraordinarily fluid performances all the more impressive, and helps burnish Chop Shop’s golden aura of genuine discovery.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Carlos Ayala, Laura Patalano, Nick Jasprizza

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Starring a sad-sack Steve Carrell and an ensemble cast with brilliant timing and real heart, Little Miss Sunshine is a rare understated comedy that brings laughter and tears. As a dysfunctional family's youngest member gets chosen to be in a pageant in California, the family must come together and support her through her journey. Along the path that they take, they learn and cope with each other. A great movie filled with phenomenal acting and writing with a real heart that will leave you breathless.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Beth Grant, Brenda Canela, Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris, Geoff Meed, Gordon Thomson, Greg Kinnear, Jerry Giles, Jill Talley, Joan Scheckel, John Walcutt, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Justin Shilton, Lauren Shiohama, Marc Turtletaub, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matt Winston, Mel Rodriguez, Paul Dano, Paula Newsome, Steve Carell, Steven Christopher Parker, Terry Bolo, Toni Collette, Wallace Langham

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Rating: R

A happy-go-lucky couple who are expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time. Starring Jon Krasiniski and Maya Rudolph, and partially written by Dave Eggers, this film hits all the sentimental buttons without being cloying or trite.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allison Janney, Carmen Ejogo, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Messina, Conor Carroll, Jeff Daniels, Jim Gaffigan, John Krasinski, Josh Hamilton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maya Rudolph, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Schneider

Director: Sam Mendes