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Archive for the ‘Movie Of The Month’ Category

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy, Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high”

That’s right, spring is giving way to some and with it the multiplexes are filling with a shit mix of blockbuster sequels and kids movies.  Interesting movies are being released but less and less of them are finding their way to the big cinema chains.  My cinema attendance has already begun to tail off, but don’t worry, there are still one or two gems still coming out:  

Lady MacBeth – Don’t be confused by the title, this isn’t about the wife of the eponymous antihero of the Scottish play.  William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut is based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this in turn was inspired by Shakespeare’s play.  Transposed to nineteenth century England it has been referred to as Victorian noir.  Florence Pugh who impressed a couple of years ago with a supporting  role in the excelled The Falling is front and centre and in just about every scene, she doesn’t disappoint, neither does the film. Gripping and beautiful and directed with as confidence that belies the directors inexperience. Lady MacBeth

Lowriders – A family drama set against a backdrop of street art and the lowrider car culture in East Los Angeles.  Some of the dialogue is a little clunky and the acting a little wooden, but the family drama is compelling and the story is solid.  Lowriders

Sleepless – Scoot McNairy, Michelle Monaghan and Dermot Mulroney are all good in supporting roles.  The normally reliable Jamie Foxx is terrible in the lead, it as if you can see him acting like a poor salesman selling a lie.  The plot is filled with endless twists, turns and reveals, everyone you see coming.  The concept isn’t bad, maybe with a better director it could have been OK. Sleepless

Unlocked – You may as well cut and paste the review above.  Like Sleepless, this movie has a good cast: Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich who are all OK, and a weak link, in this case Orlando Bloom.  Bloom has a London accent to rival  Dick Van Dyke, this is more concerning considering Bloom was born about fifty miles outside London unlike the Missouri born American.  In case you are wondering, there are just as many twists and turns as above, and you will see them coming! Rapace deserves so much more. Unlocked

Miss Sloane – Having seemed to come out of nowhere less than a decade ago, Jessica Chastain has become just about the best actress of her generation.  This criminally overlooked film is one of her best performances.  The direction is taught with the two and bit hour runtime flying by.  The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mark Strong. Miss Sloane

Alien: Covanant – Have you ever seen a great film, where a weaker writer/director has devalued the original art?  There are many examples, Alien: Covanant is something far worse.  Alien director Ridley Scott hasn’t made a pointless pondering mess of a prequel Alien, he has made two.  I am sad to report this is as bad as Prometheus.  One positive, Michael Fassbender is good.Alien Covanant

Colossal – I am not going to say anything about the plot to this movie, just watch it and if you can do so without reading anything about it or seeing the trailer even better.  Not the film I was expecting but excellent none the less.  Anne Hathaway’s best performance since the brilliant Rachel Getting Married. Colossal

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s cockney geezer take on the legend of King Arthur is surprisingly not bad. Charlie Hunnam is pretty good in the leading role, the rest of the cast are also solid.  The modern street dialogue isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, Richie’s style as seen on the Sherlock Homes movies serves the action quite well, the week CGI and ridicules set pieces don’t.  It’s a mess but it has some good moments and it isn’t boring.  King Arthur Legend of the Sword

I have two contenders for Movie of the Month in what is probably the toughest choice I have ever had to make for this segment.  I don’t always pick the best movie, the first movie of the month went to one that presently surpassed me as I liked it after expecting to hate it.  When I can’t make a choice I tend to go with one of, or a combination of two philosophies: which am I most looking forward to seeing again, and which exceeded my expectations the most?  This doesn’t work here: I want to see them both again and they both exceeded my expectations, one had mixed reviews and the other I knew little about.  For that reason, I think for the first time, I am going to drop the Highlander tagline and pick two movies of the month: Lady MacBeth and Miss Sloane. Movie of the month may 2017

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Ten screenings in April resulted in a hugely varied month:

Raw: After her first taste of meat a vegetarian develops an unusual taste for meat.  More visceral than gory, it is one of the most uncomfortable to watch films I have ever seen.   In a strange way I really enjoyed it. Raw

Table 19: A group of interesting characters played by some great actors find themselves on the worst table at a wedding.  Anna Kendrick is always worth watching but the script just isn’t funny enough. table19

Fast and Furious 8: The most bonkers instalment of the franchise to date, very silly but great fun. Jason Statham is brilliant but Charlize Theron is wasted. The-Fate-of-the-Furious

The Handmaiden: Chan-wook Park’s adaptation of Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith.  The setting is moved from Victorian England to occupied Korea.  The film looks amazing and has a plot that twists and turns in a most satisfying way. The Handmaiden

I Am Not Your Negro: Samuel L. Jackson narrates the words on James Baldwin from an unfinished manuscript telling the story of race relations in America.   Particularly focussing on the killing of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, it is powerful, thoughtful and informative movie. Author James Baldwin

The Belko Experiment: The employees of an American company based in Columbia are locked in their office block and told to kill each other.  Sold as social experiment asking the audience how they would react, the film is actually just a bloody horror thriller.    Enjoyable enough but totally disposable entry into the sub-genre, Battle Royale remains the high watermark. The Belko Experiment

Rules Don’t Apply: Warren Beatty’s first film in a very long time is a light comedy drama based on the middle years of Howard Hughes.  Told from the point of view of two of his employees played by Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins.  Charming if a little lightweight. Rules Don't Apply

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: The original Guardians of the Galaxy was the most fun movie in the MCU.  This first sequel has lost none of its fun but it has forgotten to include the simple matter of a plot.   Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Their Finest: based on Lissa Evans novel Their Finest Hour and a Half about a the mating of a fictional British propaganda film during World War II.  The whose who of British talent is led by an excellent  Gemma Arterton. The film finds a perfect balance between comedy and drama and is always just the right side of sentimentality. Their Finest Hour and A Half Directed by Lone Sherfig

Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome:  Having already seen my favourite film of 2105 twice on the big screen, once in IMAX 3D and once in regular 2D. I went back to see it a third time, in black and white.  This monochrome edition is far more than just the regular movie with the colour setting on your TV turned down, this is a real black and white movie.  Is it better in colour or black and white?  I’m not sure, it somehow makes no difference, and is totally different, all at the same time.   It’s a great movie either way!Mad Max Fury Road Black & Chrome

Raw has made my shortlist for the best films of the year to date but misses out on the top spot, movie of the month is: The Handmaiden. The Handmaiden poster

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After a gap in proceedings last month I finally caught up on Moonlight and Fences, the last two Oscar contenders I had missed.  Making up for lost time I also saw another dozen movies: 

Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books.  More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise.  Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual.  Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.

Logan

Trespass Against Us: Family crime drama set within a traveller community.  Michael Fassbender again proves to be one of the best actors working today.  Brendan Gleeson has fun with the more showy role.

Trespass Against Us

Moonlight: Had I seen this before all the hype I would have probably declared it the best small independent film in years.  As good as it is, and although I wouldn’t argue with its Oscar win, I have seen films in the past year that I prefer.

Moonlight

The Great Wall: As stunning to look at as you would expect from Yimou Zhang.  The story is silly beyond belief but is entertaining and fun.

The Great Wall

The LEGO Batman Movie: The follow up to The LEGO movie is essentially a Batman spoof and not a LEGO movie.  Ultimately it is good fun with the jokes coming thick and fast.

The LEGO Batman Movie

Kong: Skull Island: Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War a group of scientists and soldiers go in search of the titular giant ape.  Uneven and disjointed but always fun.  Not a patch on the 1933 original but better than most other attempts to update the story.

Kong Skull Island

Viceroy’s House: Essentially the Cliff Notes of Lord Mountbatten and Britain’s Withdrawal from India.  Entertaining and informative but lacking any great depth.

Viceroy's House

Fences: Denzel Washington’s movie adapted from August Wilson’s play.  Fantastic acting but the film fails to escapes its theatrical origin.

Fences

Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more incoherent time, well not exactly; 1978, an arms deal goes wrong resulting in a violent but often amusing shootout.  Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.

Free Fire

Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previouse film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star.  A haunting film the seeps into your psyche.  Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.

Personal Shopper

Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller.  Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for.  Best of all it is tremendous fun.

Get Out

Life: Is there life on Mars? Scientists on the international space station examine samples from The Red Planet and find that there was Life on Mars.  Engaging, largely thanks to a likeable cast but without the grit or originality of Alien.

2219634 - LIFE

Power Rangers: Surprisingly not terrible.  Most of the film is a teen drama that is clichéd but not dull.  The robots hitting each other ending is as bad as anything Transformers has to offer.

Power Rangers

Ghost in the Shell: Like action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s seminal 1995 cyberpunk manga anime.  It looks amazing and Scarlett Johansson is brilliant perfectly playing a charter who is literally uncomfortable in her own skin.  Unable to transcend its manga and anime origins it is a little cold but texture is added by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s fantastic retro future score.  If that hasn’t sold it to you, to top it all off, it also features Takeshi Kitano.

Ghost in the Shell

Not every film I saw this month where great, but I enjoyed them all in some way, even the weaker ones.  When you strip away the also ran’s we are left with five contenders for movie of the month.  You could argue that Moonlight is the best film this month but it isn’t the movie of the month.  Did I truly love Personal Shopper or did I just love Kristen Stewart’s performance? Get Out is the cleverest and probably most relevant movie of the month and is so close, but not the movie of the month.  Logan was my movie of the month right up until I started writing this last paragraph, I can’t get beyond the simple sublime brilliance of the movie of the month: Free Fire. 

Free Fire movie poster

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Please do not adjust your set, normal service will resume shortly.  For the first time since starting this feature in June 2009, I have failed to post my movie of the month list.  Hit by cold, chest infections and chronic man flue not only have I not being writing about movies, I have not being going to see them.  I had plans to see the last two Best Picture Oscar Nominations Fences  and Moonlight; as well as the one off screening of Foreign Language contender Toni Erdmann.  Sadly none of this happened, I still have a couple of days to catch Moonlight and Fences but have missed my chance to see Toni Erdmann until it crops up on Netflix or similar.  So what did I see?

Hacksaw Ridge: A film of two halves, the war film is brilliant, the build up was to sentimental and preaching. andrew-garfield

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: The final Resident Evil movie until the inevitable reboot.  It is as dumb and convoluted as the previous five films, but it is also good fun and never boring.resident-evil-the-final

Hidden Figures: The true story of Africa American woman working at the heart of NASA at the height of the space race.  A feel good movie without the baggage of sentiment. Octavia Spencer received an Oscar nomination, the other two leads: Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe are just as good as is Kevin Costner in a supporting role. hidden-figures

 Loving: The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving a mixed race couple whose marriage was deemed illegal in 1958 Virginia.  Cleverly concentrating on the couple and  not the legal case, Ruth Negga and  Joel Edgerton are both outstanding. loving

Fifty Shades Darker: It’s easy to poke fun at this film, I would rather look for the positive, sadly there is little positive to say beyond the charisma and comic timing of star Dakota Johnson, she and co star Jamie Dornan deserves so much more. fifty-shades-darker

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: An interesting little film told mainly in flashback.  Surprisingly good largely thanks a great performance from unknown Joe Alwyn.  There are also some great supporting performances especially from Kristen Stewart. 1289347 - BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK

20th Century Women: Back in 2010 writer / director Mike Mills gave us Beginners.  A film about his late father.  Now he is back with one about his mother.  Set in the late 70’s it is a very modern movie with some quirky storytelling.  Annette Bening is sensational, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are also great in supporting roles. 20th-century-women

John Wick: Chapter 2: Three years ago John Wick gave us a bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller. This sequel is basically the same again.  It doesn’t offer anything new but is just as much fun as the original.  john-wick-chapter-2

Lion: True story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta before being adopted by an Australian couple.  25 years later he attempts to track down where he is from with the help of google earth.  Both Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel are excellend as the older and younger versions of Saroo. lion

What a choice, we have the worthy of Loving and Hidden Figures or the fun of John Wick: Chapter 2, which is movie of the month? I could make a case for all three as well as 20th Century Woman.  Close call but movie of the month goes to:hidden-figures-movie-poster

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A busy start to the year with twelve films in three weeks (I was on holiday for the first week).  None of the films I have seen ahave been bad, a couple have stood out as being excellent:

Silence: Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most personal movie for a long time, certainly his most weighty.  While it is brilliantly made and impeccably acted I struggled to connect with it making it a really good film but not a great one.silence

Assassins Creed: The buzz was that this would be the best video game adaptation, it isn’t bad but there are some serious flaws.  The biggest problem, is a total lack of fun.  The 15th century Spain action scenes are brilliant, the present day are terrible and the plot is incoherent at best. assassins-creed

Live By Night: What starts out looking like it is going to be a prohibition era outlaw movie becomes a gangster epic. Ben Affleck’s weakest film as a director but not without merit.   live-by-night

Manchester by the Sea: What is essentially a small family drama is elevated to greatness by great acting and a perfectly structured script.  Casey Affleck is brilliant in the lead, Michelle Williams totally steals the movie in a couple of tiny scenes.MBTS_3869.CR2

Donnie Darko: Back in cinema’s for its 15th anniversary and as good as ever.donnie-darko

Underworld Blood Wars: The fifth installment of the vampires v werewolves franchise.  The plot is paper and silly thin at best but it looks great Kate Beckinsale is excellent as ever. underworld-blood-wars

A Monster Calls: Juan Antonio Bayona tells a story that looks like it’s going to be a family drama, it then develops into what appears to be a monster movie but ends up being so much more. a-monster-calls

La La Land: The musical Oscar favourite is neither the masterpiece that some are claiming or The Emperor’s New Clothes that others suggest. la-la-land

Trainspotting: Re-released in time for the sequel, the cult classic from my student days is, great to see it, it hasn’t lost anything in the 20 years since I first saw it.trainspotting

XXX: Return of Xander Cage: Vin Diesel returns to the franchise.  Poorly made with terrible dialogue but fun and filled with great action. xxx-return-of-xander-cage

Split: M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a director has been hit and miss at best.  This horror/thriller/exploitation movie is something of a return to form.  James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are both excellent. split

Jackie: Technically not a biopic of first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, more precisely a glimpse at a small but significant moment in her life, a significant moment in the 20th century.  A well structured story with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman at its centre. jackie

T2 Trainspotting: The world is a very different place twenty years on, I worried that there wasn’t a place for this sequel, there was no need to worry.  Both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable. t2-trainspotting

Denial: The true story of the court case that followed Holocaust denier David Irving’s attempt to sue historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. The script is a little by the numbers but the acting is brilliant from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.DENIAL

I have excluded the two reissue movies and only considered the ten new releases, the movie of the month is: a-monster-calls-poster

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A notable month not just for the films I have seen that we will be hearing more about in awards season, but for the fact that I saw my hundredth film of the year.

Nocturnal Animals: Fashion designer Tom Ford decided to make a movie, A Single Man; it was amazingly brilliant if a little depressing.  Colin Firth was better than in The King’s Speech where he won an Oscar.  Seven years passed, Ford’s involvement in the film industry didn’t seem to go beyond dressing James Bond so it appeared he had scratched the directing itch and walked away, far from it.  His first film was good, Nocturnal Animals is outstanding.  The story within a story narrative is brilliantly handled but he brilliance lies not in this subtext, but the overriding subtext. As you would expect Amy Adams is the standout, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all provide great support.nocturnal-animals

Arrival: Denis Villeneuve enters the world of Sci-Fi, but there is so much more going on than a simple alien first contact movie.   Amy Adams second Oscar worthy film of the month.  The cinematography is stunning without being showy with resorting to pretty pictures.  It is impossible to say any more without giving away key plot points.arrival

The Light Between Oceans: A childless couple find an seemingly orphaned baby, everything is great, until it gets complicated.  A beautifully shot film with amazing performances from Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz fails to reach the heights it could have because of an overly contrived story and an overwrought score.the-light-between-oceans

The Beatles: Eight Days a  Week – The Touring Years: Brilliant documentary, I don’t need to give a synopsis as the somewhat awkward title says it all.  A mix of archive footage and talking heads that is both fun and informative.the-beatles-eight-days-a-week-the-touring-years

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Cards on the table I am not a big Harry Potter fan, I have seen the films and enjoyed them but was never a massive fan.  The Art Deco New York setting looks great but the direction lacks any flair or originality.  The best characters and performances all come from the supporting players: Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler and Samantha Morton.fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them

A United Kingdom: If like me, your only knowledge of director Amma Asante was from her part in Grange Hill in the 1980’s then Belle (2013) would have come a little out the blue.  But if like me you had seen Belle, you would have been eagerly anticipating her next firm.  A United Kingdom does not disappoint.  Set in the 1940’s, the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana) and his marriage to Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) a white Englishwoman.  At a time when many British people are developing  a rose tinted picture of what the British Empire was, this film comes as a timely reminder of how poorly we behaved as a nation in the past.  The story of tolerance and understanding is very timely.a-united-kingdom

Paterson: Nothing much happens in this movie, but it all happens in a beautiful and poetic way as you would expect from director Jim Jarmusch.  This is somewhat appropriate as the film centres around an armature poet.  There isn’t enough going on for many viewers, but I loved it.  Adam Driver is always interesting and watchable, here he is also really good.paterson

Allied: Given the setting of the first half of the film, comparisons with Casablanca are understandable, the film actually has more in common with The English Patient.  It doesn’t live up to either of these two but is better than many critics will have you believe.  Brad Pitt is good, Marion Cotillard is sensational.allied

Arrival and A United Kingdom were contenders, but movie of the month is:nocturnal-animals-movie-poster

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Another busy month with thirteen movies, but which is the movie of the month? Here are the contenders: 

Swiss Army Man: Marketed as the farting corpse movie, it is actually a very intimate movie about mental illness.  It is a film that has really divided critical opinion receiving both one and five star reviews.  I can appreciate what the film makers were trying to do and through both Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe were excellent but I didn’t enjoy the film.swiss-army-man

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Eva Green was the only good thing about Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (2012), it is therefore good to see he has found a much better vehicle for her.  With a plot reminiscent of so many of his previous movies you would be forgiven for thinking this was a Burton original idea, it is actually based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs.  A fun and charming film with a nicely dark side, what Burton does best and hasn’t done often enough in the past decade and a half.miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children

Blood Farther:  I love trashy B movies and genre films and found this Mel Gibson vehicle a real treat.  Playing a character who has issues and past transgressions that mirror the actor, Gibson is perfect for the part.  Don’t expect anything original or new but take it for what it is and you may just like it, I loved it.blood-farther

The Girl on the Train: It was never going to be possible to do justice to an adaptation of a book that consisted of mainly in inner monologue of an unreliable witness, however The Girl on the Train is as good as it could be.  The change of setting from London to New York has no impact and Emily Blunt excellent.the-girl-on-the-train

War on Everyone:  John Michael McDonagh has set the bar very high for himself with The Gard and Calvary.  War on Everyone doesn’t reach those heights but is still an absolute hoot.  The ever reliable Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña are on top form and their deadpan delivery is often devastatingly funny.war-on-everyone

American Honey: Andrea Arnold has been one of Britain’s most interesting directors in recent years.  For her first American movie she has taken on the most American of genres, the road movie.  A cast of mainly none actors work well alongside Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough who are both on career best form.  The real star of the film is Sasha Lane who is just as impressive as Katie Jarvis was in Arnold’s Fish Tank.  The 2h 43min runtime flies by.american-honey

Deepwater Horizon: The true story of the oil rig disaster in 2010, manages to work as a 70’s style disaster movie while still showing a certain respect and dignity to people who lost their lives just six years ago.deepwater-horizon

Inferno: Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are back bringing us a third instalment of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon.  As with the first two films, the plot consists of equal quantities of running and exposition and is as bad if not worse than the other two instalments.  Further hampered by a plot twist a blind man would see coming, the only novel thing about the film is that it kills the main villain in the prologue, sorry if that is a spoiler, but it is in the trailer.inferno

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: Tom Cruise’s second outing as Lee Child’s phenomenally successful book series.  A bigger and more cinematic, but not as interesting story as the first film.  Cobie Smulders plays well opposite cruise having a much better character than Rosamund Pike did in the first film.  Like the books, fun and enjoyable without offering anything particularly original.jack-reacher-never-go-back

The Accountant: Ben Affleck plays an accountant with a difference.  An interesting and enjoyable thriller that is well structured with flashbacks drip-feeding the characters back story.  There are a few of nice twists and turns in the plot, some more obvious than others.  The always brilliant Anna Kendrick is largely wasted.The Accountant

Train to Busan: How do you do anything original with a zombie movie, it’s all been done, hasn’t it?  The setting on a train offers some really interesting scenarios, but there are a few new characteristics to the zombies that also work to great effect.  To top all this of it is a genuinely good story  with compelling characters.train-to-busan

I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach explores the inequities and bureaucracy of the welfare system from the point of view of a single mother and working man who has recently suffered a heart attack.  A powerful story with all the gusto of Loach’s best work if not it subtlety.i-daniel-blake

Doctor Strange: Marvel have done it again, introducing a ridiculous character and scenario that takes the MCU even further away from reality, but it works.  Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as both the cocky surgeon at the start of the movie, and the hero he becomes.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton are all as good as you would expect but Rachel McAdams is totally wasted.null

I don’t award a Razzie of month, if I did, Inferno would be a clear winner.  But what is the movie of the month?  I loved Blood Farther as perfect example of the genre, and Train to Busan for its originality, but the movie of the month is: American Honeyamerican-honey-poster

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