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Directed by: James Gray Starring: Brad Pitt, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland Runtime: 122 mins

Fresh off of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt is leaping back into theatres dressed in a spacesuit and with a mellower demeanour than his previous role involved. Like Tarantino, director James Gray boasts a lean filmography, with only a handful of feature films to his name before Ad Astra

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Director: Lorene Scafaria Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart Running Time: 110 minutes

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The strip club is a common port of call in the crime film, but it’s more typically shown as a treat for the men doing the crime. It’s a backdrop for partying during ‘the good times’, a sign of a movie crook’s dollar-raining hubris and sleaze. It’s shown as a place for men to flex their power, exude their control, revel in their success at playing the game. Be they mafia men or white-collar creeps, a movie may tut or titillate with them as they celebrate their ill-gotten gains surrounded by faceless, lifeless dancing girls. Based on the article The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers shifts the focus to the strippers themselves, removing the male gaze and revealing the complex, insightful and engaging characters underneath, while showing up their marks as the “mostly rich, (usually) disgusting, (in their minds) pathetic men” in the process. In the cut-throat world of capitalism, it’s hustlers all the way up, or as Jennifer Lopez bluntly but perfectly puts it; “It’s all a strip club. You have people tossing the money and people doing the dance”.

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Directed by: André Øvredal Starring: Zoe Colletti,Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush,Austin Zajur Runtime: 108 mins

With much of the summer’s horror focus on the highly anticipated It: Chapter 2, it was always going to take something special to divert the audiences’ attention from the second adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller. Despite Guillermo del Toro’s involvement as producer, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark didn’t garner as much buzz as this summer’s other horror blockbusters enjoyed. It wouldn’t be fair to call this a debut from Norwegian director André Øvredal, with the mildly received but competently made The Autopsy of Jane Doe attached to his name in 2016. However, it is fair to say that this is the first time the director has been tested in a way that may definitively shape his future horror filmography.

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Directed by: Gary Dauberman Starring: Mckenna Grace, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson Runtime: 106 minutes

In light of the success achieved by James Wan’s The Conjuring in 2013, something interesting happened in the horror genre. The traditional horror franchise was reinvigorated with a sexy contemporary touch. What became known as The Conjuring universe was formed. Invoking the trend of the Marvel Universe, the deal worked well for all interested parties.  A fresh look on supernatural tales with a sincere effort that went into character development and that tried to find the balance between jump scare cliches and atmospheric horror. While The Conjuring and its 2016 sequel The Conjuring 2 did well to serve up a feast of scares, a distinct compelling feature was that it also had interpersonal depth. Indeed, it was as much character driven as it was driven by a desire to generate buzz around its refreshing demonic spirits. With characters like The Nun spurring justifiable albeit tepid spin-offs, supernatural investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) are the cohesive glue that bind the Conjuring Universe together. The closer they’ve been to the series in the respective films, the better the films have fared, and with such good onscreen chemistry it’s easy to see why.

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Director: Ari Aster Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe Runtime: 147 minutes

Watching Midsommar feels like watching someone boil a frog. And no matter how much pretty lighting and composition you use in the process, you can’t help thinking “Why are we boiling this frog?”

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Director: Olivia Wilde Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein Running Time: 102 minutes

The premise of Booksmart is simple; two bookish besties are about to graduate high school attempt to have a wild night before heading their separate ways. This formula of loser-lets-loose has basically become a subgenre; think I Love You Beth CooperSuperbad, Netflix’ Good Kids even. Booksmart does something a little different in spotlighting a friendship between two teenage girls – there’s a specific undercurrent at play here that feels fresh. But does Booksmart rely too heavily on tropes?

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Director: Rob Letterman Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe Running Time: 104 minutes


It’s 2000 and you’re nine and you’re waiting in line at the cinema for Pokémon: The First Movie. You’re loaded up on sugar and Burger King and immeasurable excitement. Pokémon is a global phenomenon in spite of how it baffles anyone who’s five years older than you or more, you’ve been freebasing a cocktail of video games, toys and cartoons for the last year or so and you think it’s the most amazing thing imaginable. As far as your nine year old understanding of art and culture goes, “: The Movie” of The Thing is the ultimate elevation, the crowning glory of entertainment and so you’re pretty sure this is going to be the biggest and best movie of all time. And imagine. It’s only the first one. You look at the poster and it has, like, every Pokémon on it. Incredible. Mewtwo and Mew square off in the centre and you can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when they finally fight. Your brother looks like you must look, like he’s about to explode from the excitement of it all. Your mother looks like she’d rather be anywhere else. Philistine. And then the screen opens up. And you go in.

And it’s…fine.

It was fine?

…was it even fine?

You’re only nine and you are so ready and willing to love this movie and there were certainly fun bits, certainly moments where it seemed to be giving you exactly what you wanted, but now its over and all that anticipation and excitement has left you and there hasn’t really been anything left in its place. You don’t feel disappointed, exactly, but there is something nagging at you. Surely life isn’t so cynical that it would lure you into a cinema screen, distract you by having your favourite characters bounce around for two hours doing nothing of much importance, stick in a dumb, even contradictory moral at the end and shoo you out until they’re ready to show you The Next Movie? You may not have felt exactly like this in 2000. Or when you were nine. You may have felt like this at some stage though. Maybe even recently. We all get sold on the biggest and the best and the phenomenon and we all end up in that moment when the anticipation has departed. If you take these things too seriously you feel like you have to explain, in so many words, why something nagged at you or not, or your delight when the excitement pays off, or your sense of betrayal when it doesn’t. Before you know it you go into school one day and no one thinks Pokémon is cool anymore. Nobody gave you the heads up about this.

It’s 2019 and you spend your own money on movies that are only fine now so at least your mother is less disappointed. It turns out that life actually is so cynical, sometimes, but mostly you’re still pretty ready and willing to love movies. You’re the one who gets baffled by the weird things they try to sell kids these days, and then you see them announce a pretty baffling thing: a movie where Pikachu is a detective. And he talks. There’s a part of you, somewhere in the place where that anticipation and excitement used to be, that knows that it’s just a regular Pikachu with a stupid, cheap hat. He still embodies all the awful commercialism he did before.

But he’s got a new hat!

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Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo Starring: The Avengers Running Time: 181 minutes


What follows below is a quick-and-clean, spoiler-free review of Avengers: Endgame. If and after you’ve seen the film and want something with more depth and detail to continue the discussion, we’ll be back next week with a second look, which you can read at your own risk.

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Director: Marie Monge Starring: Stacy Martin, Tahar Rahim Running Time: 105 minutes


It’s common practice for films in France to have very different titles in their native tongue than in the translated English. Marie Monge’s Treat Me Like Fire goes by the more straightforward Joueurs (“Players”) when shown at home, as it was during last year’s Cannes Film Festival. They seem like very different names at a glance but both ultimately have the same energy; Treat Me Like Fire a Lana Del Rey-ven cigarette exhale on the film’s story of burning, fleeting, dangerous romance, while “Players” is more Stevie Nicks to the ears, an indication not just of the film’s gambling content but of the general circumstances under which players will love you.

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