Opening this week on a screen near you:

 

Encounter   (2021) R 

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Encounter

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

A decorated Marine, Malik (Riz Ahmed), takes his two boys (Lucian-River Chauhan, Aditya Geddada) on a journey to escape from an inhuman threat as he believes that an alien invasion is happening. Along the way, they will encounter dangers that will test their faith and their love for each other as they leave their childhood behind.   Encounter Website

What to Watch For: Riz Ahmed was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the drummer going deaf in the 2019 film Sound of Metal.

Word on the Street: The film played to great success on the film festival circuit and is up for four awards at the 2021 British Independent Film Awards, including Best Actor for Riz Ahmed and Best Supporting Actor for Lucian-River Chauhan.

My Take: I loved director Michael Pearce’s 2017 award-winning film Beast.

 

Mixtape   (2021)

Mixtape

Photo courtesy of Netflix

It’s right before the year 2000, and Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) is having to grow up with her grandmother (Julie Bowen), who picks her up from school in her post office mail truck. Beverly finds a mixtape that her late parents made and decides to live her life through those songs. Along the way, she will make new friends, find a way to connect with her grandmother, and find her own identity.   Mixtape Website

What to Watch For: Julie Bowen is best known for her two-time Emmy award-winning role as Claire Dunphy on the long-running comedy TV series Modern Family.

Word on the Street: Director Valerie Weiss is an award-winning filmmaker whose last feature film, The Archer (2016), was nominated for the SXSW Film Festival Gamechanger Award.

My Take: I have been a fan of Julie Bowen since her breakout role as Carol Vessey on the TV series Ed.

 

Flee    (2021) PG-13

Flee

Photo courtesy of Neon

This animated documentary tells the true story of Amin, who is on the verge of marriage, when he reveals his hidden story of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark as a refugee.    Flee Website

What to Watch For: The film is the Danish official submission for the Best International Feature Film category of the 94th Academy Awards in 2022.

Word on the Street: The film has won over 26 major awards and sits at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes with over 65 film critic reviews.

My Take: I can’t wait to see this film that is sure to be nominated for at least one Academy Award and possibly more.

 

Wolf    (2021) R

Wolf

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Jacob (George MacKay) is a teenager who has been taken to a psychiatric hospital by his parents. Jacob believes that he is a wolf, and he has been put into a place where the rest of the patients also think that they are animals. He finds love with a young woman (Lily-Rose Depp) who has lived her whole life in the hospital, and she believes in Jacob because she believes she is a cat.    Wolf Website

What to Watch For: Lily-Rose Depp is the daughter of Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis.

Word on the Street: The film made its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

My Take: I am a big fan of Paddy Considine, who portrays the lead doctor at the psychiatric hospital. I loved his role as Father John Hughes in the TV series Peaky Blinders.

 

The Hand of God    (2021) R

The Hand of God

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Fabietto is an awkward Italian teen growing up in an eccentric family. His life is upended when soccer legend Diego Maradona visits Fabietto’s town and inadvertently saves Fabietto’s life. The Hand of God is a tale of family and fate, loss and love of sports and family.     The Hand of God Website

What to Watch For: The film won three awards at the 2021 Venice Film Festival and is a sure bet to be nominated for Best International Feature at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Word on the Street: The Hand of God is from filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, whose 2013 film The Great Beauty won the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

My Take: I can’t wait to see this film as I thought The Great Beauty was one of the best films of 2013.

 

Benedetta    (2021) R

Benedetta

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

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Benedetta (Virginie Efira) is a nun in the 17th-century whose visions of Jesus become a person of controversy at the convent. When a runaway woman (Daphne Patakia) comes to the convent, Benedetta begins a relationship with her that will bring her passion and trouble.     Benedetta Website

What to Watch For: The film is directed by Paul Verhoeven, whose career is filled with hits, including Robocop (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), and Elle (2016).

Word on the Street: The film was nominated for two awards at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where the movie made its world premiere.

My Take: Verhoeven’s film Elle, starring Isabelle Huppert, was a hit on the Indie circuit and got Huppert an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

 

Try Harder!    (2021)

Try Harder!

Photo courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment

Documentary about a group of seniors at Lowell High School in San Francisco. Lowell is a public high school that draws high-achieving students, and the film follows some seniors on their journey to impress college admissions officers at elite universities in an attempt to get into those places of high education.     Try Harder! Website

What to Watch For: The film is from filmmaker Debbie Lum, whose 2012 documentary Seeking Asian Female was a big success on the film festival circuit, winning Best Documentary Feature at the 2012 San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Word on the Street: Try Harder! was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

My Take: I loved Seeking Asian Female, so I won’t miss this film from Debbie Lum.

 

Adrienne    (2021)

Adrienne

Photo courtesy of HBO Documentary Films

Adrienne Shelly was a beloved actress who starred in the Hal Hartley-directed Indie classics The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990). She had just written and directed the 2007 film Waitress when she was found dead, hanging in the shower of her West Village apartment. Her husband did not believe the conclusion of the police that she had committed suicide, believing Adrienne had everything to live for with a beautiful daughter and a career that was about to take off, and insisted that the police investigate further. Adrienne is a documentary celebrating a life that touched so many people and continues to do so with the Broadway production of Waitress, based on Adrienne’s film.    Adrienne Website

What to Watch For: The film was done with the complete cooperation of Adrienne’s husband and daughter, who are featured in the movie.

Word on the Street: The film includes behind-the-scenes footage of Adrienne’s work on the screen, including scenes of her directing the cast of Waitress, including the star of the film Keri Russell.

My Take: I loved Waitress and am sad that we will never see more from an up-and-coming filmmaker and actress.

 

The Summit of the Gods    (2021) PG

The Summit of the Gods

Photo courtesy of Netflix

In 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine attempted to climb Mount Everest and were never seen again. Seventy years later, Makoto, a young reporter, encounters a climber named Habu, who may have a camera that Mallory and Irvine used in their attempt to be the first to climb Everest. Now Makoto finds himself intertwined with Habu and goes on a quest to record Habu’s own attempt to climb the legendary mountain.    The Summit of the Gods Website

What to Watch For: This animated film is based on the Japanese manga series of the same name by legendary artist Jiro Taniguchi.

Word on the Street: The film is from filmmaker Patrick Imbert, known for his work on the celebrated films The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (2017) and Ernest & Celestine (2021).

My Take: I love films about climbing, so I will be sure to catch this film.

 

The End of Us   (2021)

Leah (Ali Vingiano) and Nick (Ben Coleman) have just had a nasty breakup, but just as they are about to separate, California issues its stay-at-home order for COVID-19, and the two exes must live together. They think it will be just a couple of weeks, but those weeks turn into months, and the two ex-lovers soon learn that it’s hard to move on without moving out.    The End of Us Info

What to Watch For: The film was a big hit at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, where it was up for the Grand Jury Award.

What to Watch For: Ali Vingiano is a writer and story editor on the TV series The Morning Show.

My Take: I am always in the mood for a comedy.

 

Love and Fury    (2021)

Love and Fury

Photo courtesy of ARRAY Releasing

Documentary that chronicles the work of Native artists as they work to amplify indigenous creativity in a colonial world as they push the boundaries of art and creativity.    Love and Fury Website

What to Watch For: The film is directed by Sterlin Harjo, who, along with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi, co-created the acclaimed hit show Reservation Dogs.

Word on the Street; The film made its world premiere at the Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival.

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My Take: I really enjoyed Harjo’s Indie 2009 film Barking Water.