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Staff & contributors

Adventureland is a retro-tinged movie about teens in Pittsburgh working at a run down amusement park during the summer of 1987. It is marketed as similar to Superbad, when in fact the only thing they have in common is the Director. Adventureland is funny, but it is more sweet, tender, and intimate. Touching on themes of unrequited love, returning home, and small-town love, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and the always-delightful-duo of Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. In addition, the film’s soundtrack is a joyous blast from the past, running the gamut of all your favorite 1980’s synth-happy love songs. It is a movie that anyone can really relate to, no matter when they were born, and an amazing watch.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Kroloff, Amy Landis, Ashtin Petrella, Barret Hackney, Bill Hader, Dan Bittner, Declan Baldwin, Eric Schaeffer, Ian Harding, Jack Gilpin, Jesse Eisenberg, Josh Pais, Kelsey Ford, Kevin Breznahan, Kimisha Renee Davis, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Wiig, Lisa Lamendola, Marc Grapey, Margarita Levieva, Martin Starr, Mary Birdsong, Matt Bush, Michael Zegen, Paige Howard, Russell Steinberg, Ryan McFarland, Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Mast, Todd Cioppa, Vanessa Hope, Wendie Malick

Director: Greg Mottola

Rating: R

As biopics go, Cassandro skews towards the conventional. It follows a template familiar to anyone who has seen a life-story movie about the underdog climbing up the ranks thanks to their unmatchable heart and talent. But it’s also a template that’s elevated by Bernal’s wonderful performance and Roger Ross Williams’ careful and naturalistic direction. Save for a few melodramatic moments, many parts of Cassandro feel fresh and authentic, not least of which is Saúl's heartwarming relationship with his mother Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa). It’s unapologetic joy is another element that sets it apart: instead of being punished for his flamboyance and cheer, Saúl is rewarded for it. This seems like a rare triumph in LGBTQ+ stories, and on that merit alone Cassandro deserves to be seen. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bad Bunny, El Hijo del Santo, Gael García Bernal, Joaquín Cosío, Julieta Ortiz, Leonardo Alonso, Mark Vasconcellos, Perla de la Rosa, Raúl Castillo, Roberta Colindrez

Director: Roger Ross Williams

Rating: R

Even with a plot that wholeheartedly embraces the tropes of a fake marriage and of found families, The Wedding Banquet never falls into the trap of histrionic melodrama. There's a calmness to this film that's made all the more poignant by how none of these characters are truly right or wrong, good or bad. Everyone is just trying to stay in their lane while nurturing the little bits of happiness they can find. The Wedding Banquet is a relatively early example of a lighthearted gay romance and an American co-production that's incredibly sensitive about representing Taiwanese culture properly on screen.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ang Lee, Dion Birney, Gua Ah-leh, Jennifer Lin, John Nathan, Mason Lee, May Chin, Michael Gaston, Mitchell Lichtenstein, Neal Huff, Sihung Lung, Winston Chao

Director: Ang Lee

Philipp Seymour Hoffman stars in this family drama next to Laura Linney as siblings. They have to unite to support their father who after the death of his girlfriend finds himself alone. The Savages, after the family name, have dynamics that are all too common and easily recognizable. This is a beautiful and real movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cara Seymour, David Zayas, Debra Monk, Erica Berg, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Guy Boyd, Jennifer Lim, Joan Jaffe, Laura Linney, Maddie Corman, Margo Martindale, Michael Blackson, Peter Frechette, Peter Friedman, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosemary Murphy, Sage Kirkpatrick, Salem Ludwig, Sandra Daley, Sidné Anderson, Tonye Patano, Zoe Kazan

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Rating: R

As Nicole Holofcener's directorial debut, Walking and Talking stands out not only for its honest dialogue and wonderful performance from the young Catherine Keener, but also for its portrayal of female friendship in a genre which too often portrays mindless cliches. The movie focuses on two best friends as one of them gets engaged and the other fears their friendship is getting lost in the middle of the excitement around her friend's marriage. Catherine Keener does a brilliant job as the likable but depressed friend and Anne Heche does an equally as good job playing her sympathetic half. A great movie if you're in the mood for something sweet, honest and sometimes sad.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Drummond, Allison Janney, Amy Braverman, Anne Heche, Bettina Skye, Brenda Denmark, Catherine Keener, Harold Ramis, Heather Gottlieb, Joseph Siravo, Kevin Corrigan, Liev Schreiber, Lynn Cohen, Miranda Rhyne, Rafa Alvarez, Randall Batinkoff, Todd Field, Vincent Pastore

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Rating: R

Happiness is a difficult, disturbing watch. Unlike films that claim to be brave, Happiness actually goes there and shows us just how deep, dark, and perverse our urges can get. But far from being controversial for the sake of it, this fearless film has important things to say about the facade of happiness, the urgency of loneliness, and the futility of feigning ignorance about both. And it does so with an impressively wry humor delivered by a talented cast that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Dylan Baker. They play their complicated characters so well, they'll have you thinking about the strange ways you can, in fact, relate to them on some level, long after the credits roll. 

This isn't a film you'll want to revisit often, but you will have to see it at least once in a lifetime—if anything, for the kind of painful honesty you’ll rarely find anywhere else.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Harada, Anne Bobby, Arthur J. Nascarella, Ben Gazzara, Bina Sharif, Camryn Manheim, Cynthia Stevenson, Dan Moran, Diane Tyler, Douglas McGrath, Dylan Baker, Elizabeth Ashley, Gerry Becker, Jane Adams, Jared Harris, Joe Lisi, Johann Carlo, Jon Lovitz, José Rabelo, Justin Elvin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Lisa Louise Langford, Louise Lasser, Marina Gayzidorskaya, Marla Maples, Matt Malloy, Molly Shannon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rufus Read, Socorro Santiago, Todd Solondz, Wai Ching Ho

Director: Todd Solondz

Rating: NC-17

Set during the swingin' seventies, two small town Connecticut families are the subject of this visually stunning and somewhat disturbing drama. With an all-star cast that includes Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver, an unsatisfied housewife and mother of two and Elijah Wood as her eldest son, there's plenty of star power and drama. In addition, director Ang Lee brings his signature sense of trial and unease while unleashing a quirky and pointed 70's aesthetic.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Hann-Byrd, Allison Janney, Barbara Garrick, Bettina Skye, Byron Jennings, Christina Ricci, Christine Farrell, Colette Kilroy, Colleen Camp, Courtney Peldon, Daniel McDonald, David Krumholtz, Dennis Gagomiros, Donna Mitchell, Elijah Wood, Glenn Fitzgerald, Henry Czerny, Ivan Kronenfeld, Jamey Sheridan, Jessica Stone, Joan Allen, Joe O'Connor, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Freeman, Kate Burton, Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline, Larry Pine, Maia Danziger, Marcell Rosenblatt, Michael Cumpsty, Miles Marek, Nancy Opel, Robert Westenberg, Sarah Thompson, Scott Wentworth, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, William Cain

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: R