Tag: USA-xumoplay

Staff & contributors

Danish writer-director Lars von Trier concludes his so-called Depression trilogy with the two parts of Nymphomaniac, an elaborate retelling of the life of a young woman (played by Stacy Martin and then, by Charlotte Gainsbourg) lived from one libidinous pleasure to another. The film's elaborate subplots have a life of their own and flashbacks often take center stage in Joe's auto-narration. Nymphomaniac I introduces the audience to adolescence and early adulthood, through disappointments, adultery, death drive, and extreme ambivalence. Joe's process of self-actualization seems contested and inspiring at the same time, and Gainsbourg is really given the screen time to shine; even more so than in Trier's previous psycho-social drama, Antichrist. Typically for the rich treasury of cultural references, Bach, Edgar Allan Poe, and Fibonacci play crucial parts in reconstructing the symbolic planes in Joe's story. Oh, and Part One opens with Rammstein's "Führe mich", which in itself is an perfectly valid reason to give it a go.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ananya Berg, Anders Hove, Andreas Grötzinger, Charlie Hawkins, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Slater, Christoph Jöde, Christoph Schechinger, Clayton Nemrow, Connie Nielsen, Cyron Melville, David Halina, George Dawson, Hugo Speer, James Northcote, Jamie Bell, Jeff Burrell, Jens Albinus, Jesper Christensen, Jesse Inman, Johannes Kienast, Jonas Baeck, Maja Arsovic, Markus Tomczyk, Mia Goth, Michael Pas, Nicolas Bro, Peter Gilbert Cotton, Saskia Reeves, Shia LaBeouf, Simon Böer, Sofie Kasten, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Stacy Martin, Stellan Skarsgård, Tomas Spencer, Uma Thurman, Willem Dafoe

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: Not Rated, NR

Remarkably for a movie about women being shunned and exploited by those more powerful than them, I Am Not A Witch is often wryly funny. That’s because this satire about Zambia’s labor camps for "witches" is told with a matter-of-fact-ness that brings out both the heartbreak and absurdity of the film’s events. The bitter gravity of the predicament nine-year-old Shula (Maggie Mulubwa) finds herself in — she’s been accused of witchcraft on the back of some very flimsy evidence — is never glossed over, but neither is its farcicality. Appropriately for its subject, there are also touches of magical realism here, notes that elevate the film into something even more complex than a wry commentary on this morbidly fascinating form of misogyny. This hybrid tonal approach is executed with the kind of fluidity filmmakers might hope to one day master late on in their career — which makes the fact that this is director Rungano Nyoni’s debut all the more extraordinary.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Dyna Mufuni, Gloria Huwiler, Henry B.J. Phiri, Maggie Mulubwa, Nancy Murilo, Nellie Munamonga, Ritah Mubanga, Travers Merrill

Director: Rungano Nyoni

There’s more than a touch of Louis Theroux to this engrossing documentary — fronted by New Zealander pop-culture journalist David Farrier — about an innocuous-seeming Internet phenomenon: the actually-sinister subculture of “competitive endurance tickling”, in which young men undergo “tickle torture” for money on camera. When Farrier unassumingly requests an interview with an American producer of tickle content, it kickstarts a bizarre campaign of harassment and opens up a rabbit hole of unbelievable twists and turns. The wild places this documentary goes are best left as unspoiled as possible, but it’s no spoiler to say this emerges from its seemingly lighthearted premise as a deeply unnerving story about money, power, sex, and shame in the Internet age.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: David Farrier

Director: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Cremona, Alessio Montagnani, Anna Ferrara, Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ermanno De Biagi, Federico Majorana, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Michelangelo Dalisi, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Stella Mastrantonio, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R

So far, chemical waste hasn't mutated amphibious creatures enough to create giant monsters large enough to swallow people whole… yet. This sort of monster film premise is familiar, especially for fans of 1950s sci-fi movies, but in the hands of director Bong Joon-ho, The Host transforms what could have been B-movie schlock into a drama examining the ways generations within a family, as well as generations within a country and within the world, have failed each other. As the Park family try to save their own, the actions they take feel all the more important, knowing what’s at stake on multiple levels. While at the time, there were doubts that Bong Joon-ho and the Korean film industry could pull off the monster, The Host proved that there was more to come from the then emerging film giant.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Ah-sung Ko, Bae Doona, Baek Do-bin, Bong Joon-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Choi Dae-sung, Choi Jae-sup, David Anselmo, David Joseph Anselmo, Doona Bae, Go A-sung, Hae-il Park, Hie-bong Byeon, Jeong In-gi, Jeong Kang-hee, Jung Seo-yoon, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bi-bi, Kim Choo-wol, Kim Hak-seon, Kim Jin-seon, Kim Nan-hee, Kim Roi-ha, Ko A-sung, Ko Chang-seok, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Byung-gil, Kwon Hyeok-Pung, Lee Dong-ho, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Eung-jae, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Jong-yoon, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Dal-su, Park Hae-il, Park Jin-woo, Park No-shik, Paul Lazar, Philip Hersh, Pil-sung Yim, Ra Mi-ran, Scott Wilson, Seo Young-ju, Shin Hyeon-jong, Son Jin-ho, Son Young-soon, Song Kang-ho, Yim Pil-sung, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Yeon-soo, Yoon Je Moon

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: R

Before her triumphant Oscar win for her role in Minari, Youn Yuh-jung starred in The Bacchus Lady as So-young, an aging sex worker strugglin to make ends meet. Youn brings a certain dignity to the role that’s rarely seen in typical depictions of sex work around the world. Her work isn't framed as something disgusting or immoral, but as something that's natural and normal. Writer-director E J-yong clearly sides with and respects the people that you don't normally see in K-dramas—characters that have been pushed aside in favor of the stereotypical “ideal” Korean. While meandering at times, the film's warm and bittersweet approach to these characters acts as a reprimand to Korean society on how they fail those at the margins.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Chon Moo-song, Hyun-jun Choi, Jeon Moo-song, Jo Sang-gun, Joo In-young, Jung Jae-woong, Kim Han-na, Kim Hye-yoon, Moon-Song Chon, Park Gyu-chae, Seo Hyun-woo, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeo-jeong Yoon, Yoon Kye-sang, Youn Yuh-jung

Director: E J-yong, Je-yong Lee, Lee Je-Yong

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

Midnight Runners is a hilarious and action-packed buddy comedy that delivers both laughs and thrills in equal measure. The film follows two police cadets who find themselves embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy after witnessing a kidnapping. The chemistry between the two leads is electric, and their banter and antics provide some of the film's funniest moments. However, it also has its share of intense and suspenseful scenes, as the cadets race against time to save the victim and uncover the truth. Midnight Runners is a highly entertaining and enjoyable film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bae Yoo-ram, Byeon Woo-seok, Cha Si-won, Cho Joon, Dong-il Sung, Go Joon, Ha-Neul Kang, Ha-seon Park, Ha-sun Park, Hwang Chan-seong, Hwang Chan-sung, Jeong Da-eun, Jung Won-joong, Kang Ha-neul, Kim Gyu-baek, Kim Kyu-baek, Ko Jun, Lee Eun-saem, Lee Ho-jung, Lee Jun-hyeok, Lee Seung-hee, Oh Yu-jin, Park Ha-seon, Park Seo-joon, Park Seo-jun, Seo-Joon Park, Suh Jung-yeon, Sung Dong-il

Director: Joo-hwan Kim, Kim Joo-hwan, Kim Ju-hwan

Rating: Not Rated

When categorizing Lars von Trier's oeuvre, critics speak of a "Depression Trilogy" bookended by Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, but Melancholia is the one that really embodies the concepts and worries nested at the heart of this project. The Danish director may be known for his provocative approach to filmmaking and disregard of taboos, but with this film, he makes room for vulnerability. On the character of Justine (Dunst) he places the weight of the world, only after allowing her to be weak, small, and socially unacceptable at her own wedding celebration. A rather subversive decision, but vesting these expectations in someone as wide-ranging as Kirsten Dunst assures an absolute win, even if there remain some questionable characteristics that align too well with abstract male fantasies of what a woman in distress would look like.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Christian Geisnæs, Jesper Christensen, John Hurt, Katrine A. Sahlstrøm, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

There are moments in cinema when the character and actor are irrevocably linked– to think of one is to think of the other, to the point that the line is blurred between both. One such pair is Spock and Leonard Nimoy, and, after his death, it was inevitable that the documentary about Nimoy would also be a documentary about Spock. For the Love of Spock is the first of two Nimoy documentaries, made by his son Adam, and it’s a lovely tribute to the iconic sci-fi legend that shifted the entire genre and the fan culture that emerged, but it was also a personal film where the family reckons with the fame that occurred as a result. Superfans might not learn that much about Spock (some of them are interviewed in the film), but For the Love of Spock is an excellent profile, even if it’s not as objective and logical as the character itself.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Adam Nimoy, Avery Brooks, Barry Newman, Bill Prady, Bobak Ferdowsi, Brooke Adams, Catherine Hicks, Chris Pine, Christopher Lloyd, D.C. Fontana, Diana Ewing, Donald Sutherland, George Takei, J.J. Abrams, James Arness, James Doohan, James Duff, Jason Alexander, Jeanne Bal, Jeffrey Hunter, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jill Ireland, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Karl Urban, Leonard Nimoy, Liam Neeson, Majel Barrett, Mayim Bialik, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nichelle Nichols, Nicholas Meyer, Peter Duryea, Simon Pegg, Ted Danson, Terry Farrell, Tom Selleck, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, William Windom, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

Director: Adam Nimoy

, 2020

Frank Zappa's creative scope could barely be defined -  a mix of rock, composition, design, and in his early days even filmmaking.  This documentary does its best to summarize the un-summarizable, starting with Zappa's last time playing guitar and going back to early details like an infatuation with explosives as a kid. 

Zappa's overwhelmingly full life is focused on the documentary in the study of his incredible work ethic and unique creative philosophy. Far from the drugged hippie perception he was often met with, Zappa was hard-working, business-aware, and didn't take drugs.

The manifestations of his exceptional intellect and unique character are abundant in a film that will please his fans and send anyone new to him into a deep Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Adam Curry, Adrian Belew, Ahmet Zappa, Al Gore, Alice Cooper, Arsenio Hall, Arthur Barrow, Aynsley Dunbar, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Bruce Bickford, Bruce Fowler, Bunk Gardner, Charles Manson, Chester Thompson, David Bowie, David Dondorf, David Harrington, David Letterman, David Raksin, Diva Zappa, Don Van Vliet, Dweezil Zappa, Edgard Varèse, Euclid James 'Motorhead' Sherwood, Frank Zappa, Gail Zappa, George Duke, Howard Kaylan, Ian Underwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jerry D. Good, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Carl Black, Joe Travers, John Belushi, John Lennon, Kathleen Sullivan, Kent Nagano, Lonnie Lardner, Mark Volman, Mick Jagger, Mike Keneally, Miss Mercy, Moon Unit Zappa, Nancy Davis Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Pamela Des Barres, Patrice Zappa, Patrick O'Hearn, Peter Wolf, Pierre Boulez, Ralph Humphrey, Ray White, Ringo Starr, Ronald Reagan, Rose Zappa, Ruth Underwood, Scott Thunes, Steve Vai, Ted Koppel, Terry Bozzio, Tipper Gore, Tom Fowler, Tommy Mars, Václav Havel, Vinnie Colaiuta, Yoko Ono

Director: Alex Winter

Rating: Not Rated

The Two of Us could have been a sweet romantic drama all about lifelong devotion regardless of the circumstances, but instead, first time director Filippo Meneghetti makes it feel more like an unsettling thriller that captures the paranoia and near insanity it feels to be closeted– with Nina having to beg Mado to tell her family, having to hide in what has become her own home, and having to bargain and manipulate her way to Madeleine’s side. Two of Us is quite a stunning debut with such a unique depiction of a lesbian relationship.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aude-Laurence Clermont Biver, Barbara Sukowa, Denis Jousselin, Eugenie Anselin, Jérôme Varanfrain, Léa Drucker, Martine Chevallier, Muriel Bénazéraf

Director: Filippo Meneghetti

Rating: NR

By all outward appearances, The Villages—a massive and manicured retirement community in Florida—looks like it does offer paradise to its aging residents, as promised. The list of activities is endless, the seniors are all partnered up. “It’s like going back to college,” as one of them puts it, where people from all over the country come together to create a new life with each other. 

But of course, nothing comes that easy, not even death. Some Kind of Heaven follows certain residents (and one committed trespasser) as they grapple with the slipperiness of fulfillment in their later years. It gets very eerie when the film's bleak messages are contrasted with the home's vibrant Floridian colors and the residents' plastered smiles. But the eeriness adds to the overall intrigue and pull of the documentary. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) co-produces this fascinating film.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Lance Oppenheim

Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior is, at first glance, an action-only movie that hopes to emulate something like Bruce Lee in Thailand. The Muay Thai choreography is memorable, the chase scenes are iconic, and the plot is scant in order to fit more fight scenes in it. However, the film feels electric precisely because it strikes at the fear of how local culture is erased, snatched, and forgotten for a more urban and globalized city lifestyle. With Tony Jaa’s amazing physicality, and the film introducing him and the art of Muay Thai to international audiences, Ong-Bak literally knocks out that fear, proving that local culture can survive, and maybe even thrive, on the world stage.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Boonsri Yindee, Cheathavuth Watcharakhun, Choomporn Theppitak, Dan Chupong, Patrarin Punyanutatam, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pumwaree Yodkamol, Rungrawee Barijindakul, Suchao Pongwilai, Tony Jaa, Wannakit Sirioput

Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Rating: R

, 2007

Some bigots like to equate genitals to one’s gender and sexual orientation, but in practice, it’s not always a straightforward equation, especially for the rare, but natural, occasion when people are born with both male and female sex organs. XXY isn’t the first film to discuss the intersex experience, but it’s one of the first features that managed to be critically acclaimed. Unlike some of its predecessors, XXY is much more grounded, taking place in the modern era, and is mostly centered on Alex’s gender and sexual exploration. The film isn’t a perfect depiction– at the time, intersex wasn’t even the most common term, and sex-reassignment surgery was often the default action– but there is a lot in the film that dared to question certain ideas, such as having to choose only between a binary. Not many intersex films were created after this, in part due to how rare intersex is, and how broad the term encompasses multiple conditions, but XXY stands out all the more because of it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ailín Salas, Carolina Peleritti, Carolina Pelleritti, César Troncoso, Germán Palacios, Guillermo Angelelli, Inés Efron, Lucía Puenzo, Lucas Escariz, Lucía Puenzo, Luciano Nóbile, Martín Piroyansky, Ricardo Darín, Valeria Bertuccelli

Director: Lucía Puenzo

Rating: Not Rated

While the police haven't been getting a good rep in recent years, there were times when cops actually got the job done, and went after the gangs that we individuals can’t. Kang Yun-seong’s narrative feature debut is based on the real-life Yanbian Heuksapa Incident, and what’s interesting is that along with having Ma Dong-seok deliver some of the finest and most entertaining fight scenes, there’s a sense that these cops actually care about people, like when Seok-do urges his boss to be gentle towards their team after having to stay in the office longer, or when he reaches out and works directly with the community. The Outlaws doesn’t transform the genre, but it’s well-written, well-choreographed, and held together through the strength of Ma Dong-seok’s charisma (and arms). It’s no wonder director Kang and Don Lee managed to transform this into a sprawling franchise, something to be akin to Korea’s Fast & Furious.

Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Bae Jin-ah, Cho Jin-woong, Choi Gwi-hwa, Geum Gwang-san, Ha Jun, Heo Dong-won, Heo Sung-tae, Hong Gi-jun, Jeong In-gi, Jeong In-kyeom, Jin Sun-kyu, Jo Jae-yun, Kim Koo-taek, Kim Sung-kyu, Lee Kyu-ho, Lim Hyung-jun, Ma Dong-seok, Min Kyung-jin, Min Moo-je, Park Ji-hwan, Uhm Ji-sung, Ye Jung-hwa, Yoo Ji-yeon, Yoon Byung-hee, Yoon Joo, Yoon Kye-sang

Director: Kang Yun-sung