On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 1, 2021

The amount of stories Hollywood has culled from the Cold War era and the Cuban Missile Crisis feels incalculable at this point and yet - each time a new facet is told or brought into a bigger light it can't help but prove more than worthy of its production. It's hard to believe many of these stories haven't already made their way to the big screen given the sacrifice and urgency that can always be drawn between the past and the present, but of course they have - the names and locations are just different. 

Dominic "On Chesil Beach" Cooke's The Courier is a spy thriller whose beats can be predicted from the instant Benedict Cumberbatch's unsuspecting Greville Wynne is pulled into a world he knows nothing about. Screenwriter Tom O'Connor (The Hitman's Bodyguard) utilizes the tropes of both the espionage thrillers of the time period in which the film is set as well as the fish out of water scenario to make this a genuinely compelling drama. This is important, necessary history, and a story that should be shared to inform as many people as possible about the actions of Merab Ninidze's Oleg Penkovsky. While Cumberbatch is solid as the protagonist of the piece, it is Penkovsky who is the real hero and Ninidze who is the real winner in the film and the reason one should seek it out. B

I don't know that I've ever felt less equipped to review a movie before and by that, I mean I had no idea who Pop Smoke was before last week. That said, I'm more than happy to learn and if nothing else writer/director Eddie Huang's (Fresh Off the Boat) feature directorial debut is happy to enlighten audiences unfamiliar with the perspective of the Asian culture in this country about what's been going on. Huang announces very early in his film that Boogie is a coming of age story, but it’s not really. It’s because our protagonist, Alfred “Boogie” Chin, has already had to grow-up and not only that, but has felt the pressure to carry the weight of his culture with him as far back as he can remember. The central conceit of Huang's film being that outside of cooking, cleaning, and counting Asians are viewed as a joke, but Boogie (and his parents) are dead set on him making it to the NBA. The basketball element could really be any aspiration and the film would still speak to Huang's message about how undervalued Asians are in America and where the country currently stands in that regard, but the fact Huang meshes the Asian culture with that of basketball culture allows for what is an especially fascinating immersion into the genuine melting pot that exposes what the country can be. While Huang might balk at such large implications from his small, independent film it's not hard to see how his ambitions are as big as his titular characters. Further emphasizing the balance of how this is technically a coming-of-age story, but how that classification is in and of itself not completely applicable to the experience of minorities who are burdened with the generational pressures of their culture, Boogie maps its main characters arc by setting the rule as Holden Caulfield and showing how kids like, people like Boogie are the exception to that expectation. How many exceptions must there be until the rules change though? Boogie isn't looking for purpose, he's found one, but the story isn't about the pursuit of a dream it's about the struggle to achieve it. Additionally, while Boogie deals in these big ideas and issues the beauty of Huang's film and writing is that this is just as much a story very specific to this character and his circumstances. Though I'm only a white dude from the south whose closest affiliation to anything that happens in Boogie is that I loved playing basketball growing up I realize the extent that my opinion matters on this film is very little, but that it did still resonate, that it did in fact enlighten, make me aware of, and educate me on an experience I may never have had the opportunity to encounter otherwise says something about the power of the film. Even if I still haven't listened to a Pop Smoke track. Rest in Peace. B-

It's been quite a year for LGBTQ entertainment from the many Netflix-produced projects like A Secret Love, The Boys in the Band, The Half of It, and even The Haunting of Bly Manor along with Hulu's Happiest Season, Amazon's Uncle Frank, as well as studio features like Ammonite, Summerland, and fellow Bleecker Street film, Supernova. In The World to Come Katherine Waterston (the Fantastic Beasts franchise) and Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) star as two women who have each faced different kinds of hardship and isolation - much of which comes from their environment being that of the American frontier in 1856. Mona Fastvold directs her second feature from a script by Jon Hansen and Jim Shepard that follows Waterston's Abigail and her husband, Dyer (Casey Affleck), as they not only come to deal with a landscape that would challenge any farmer, but the pain a parent should never have to face. It is in the aftermath of tragedy that Kirby's Tallie and her husband Finney (Christopher Abbott) move to town and it is in Tallie that Abigail begins to find a renewed sense of purpose if not hope in the world. As the film tracks its way through the calendar year via Abigail's diary entries Fastvold elicits our sympathy for these women given the circumstances of their love for one another. Abigail is completely grief-stricken, and Dyer is unsure what more he can do in order to comfort her as he seems to realize there is nothing that will erase the pain he himself is also still dealing with. In fact, Dyer - while leery of his new neighbors - is almost happy to look past what might be developing between his wife and her new friend given it clearly brings her a certain amount of happiness he hasn't seen in some time, but Tallie's situation is decidedly different. Tallie is very much an early feminist and is in no way inclined to serve simply as a surrogate for Finney's seed or be reduced to a house maid. She is ambitious enough to want to live a life and not simply transfer her services from her parents to her husband. Tallie is angry in many respects and has seemingly been preparing for this moment her entire life while Abigail, though happier than she believed she'd ever be again, must process how to allow herself this happiness by moving past her guilt. Fastvold chronicles these arcs, but Abigail's more specifically, with an eye like Terrence Malick and a tone akin to David Lowery. André Chemetoff's cinematography only emphasizes the beautifully depressing nature of our protagonists and the status of their love at this point in history while Daniel Blumberg's score foreshadows an ominous conclusion that makes Tallie and Abigail's genuine hope for a better world to come even more heartbreaking. C+

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