Rating system:  (4=Don't miss, 3=Good, 2=Worth a look, 1=Forget it)

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“Herself” (R) (3) [language and some domestic violence] [Available Jan. 8 on Amazon Prime Video.] — Superb acting dominates this compelling, dark, tension-filled, realistic, down-to-earth, 97-minute film in which a traumatized, desperate, hardworking, divorced Irish mother (Clare Dunne), who works three jobs to support her two young daughters (Molly McCann and Ruby Rose O’Hara), lives in a government-subsidized hotel room in Dublin after leaving her emotionally and physically abusive husband (Ian Lloyd Anderson) and with the selfless help of her generous and compassionate retired doctor boss (Harriet Walter), a kindhearted building contractor (Conleth Hill) who has a son with Down Syndrome, and the thoughtfulness of strangers she is able not only to build a small home for her family but start to rebuild her life.

“Hillbilly Elegy” (R) (3.5) [Language throughout, drug content, and some violence.] [Netflix Only] — Superb acting dominates Ron Howard’s poignant, engaging, well-written, realistic, touching, 116-minute film based on J. D. Vance’s memoir in which a smart, hardworking Yale Law student (Gabriel Basso), who has a devoted girlfriend (Freida Pinto) doing an internship in Washington, D.C., reminisces about his troubled childhood growing up with his caring older sister (Haley Bennett) as a struggling Appalachian teenager (Owen Asztalos) in Jackson, Kentucky, in the late 1990s and dealing with his drug-addicted mother (Amy Adams), who lost her job as a nurse due to stealing medication and to acting erratic and becomes increasingly unstable after the sudden death of her father (Bo Hopkins), and eventually agrees to move in with his curmudgeonly, cigarette-smoking, widowed grandmother (Glenn Close) who desperately tried to stir him into applying himself in school and staying away from his lowlife buddies so that he can hopefully have a bright, successful future.

“The Human Centipede” (First Sequence) (NR) (.5) [Partially subtitled] [DVD and VOD only] — A stupid, boring, pointless, controversial horror film about two German detectives (Andreas Leupold and Peter Blankenstein) who investigate the disappearance of several people after a hotheaded, crazy scientist (Dieter Laser) in Germany drugs two American tourists (Ashley C. Williams and Ashlynn Yennie) from New York City and a Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura) to turn them into a human centipede.

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (R) (2) [Strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror, and language.] [DVD and VOD only] — When three teenage friends (Katie Cassidy, Kellan Lutz, and Thomas Dekker) are mysteriously and viciously slashed to death in their sleep to the horror of Dallas citizens (Christian Stolte, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton, et al.) in this graphically violent, tension-filled, creepy remake of the 1984 classic horror film, two terrified high school students (Rooney Mara and Kyle Gallner) try to stay awake long enough to figure a way to kill the tenacious, burned, revenge-driven preschool gardener Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley).

“Promising Young Woman” (R) (3.5) [Strong violence, including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material, and drug use.] [Opened Dec. 25 in theaters.] — An enthralling, well-acted, tense, superbly written, bittersweet, unpredictable, star-studded (Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Alfred Molina, Molly Shannon, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sam Richardson, Angela Zhou, Chris Lowell, and Max Greenfield), 113-minute dark thriller in which an intelligent, mentality unstable, cynical, PTSD-afflicted former pre-med student (Carey Mulligan), who works with her coworker (Laverne Cox) at a coffee shop and lives with her parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown) in Ohio, spends her evenings confronting potential rapists after a close friend died when nobody would believe that she was sexually assaulted and begins to concoct her revenge against the men involved, including a pediatric surgeon (Bo Burnham) who witnessed the rape.

The following short films are available through Jan. 31 at twincitiesfilmfest.org/streams as part of TCFF’s encore presentation:

“8 Seasons of Art: A Black Arts Story” (NR) (3.5) [Available also on various VOD platforms.] — Phillip McGraw’s educational, fascinating, vibrant, entertaining, 79-minute documentary that explores the affect and influence of African-American art on the Black community, cultural revolution, and healing in the Twin Cities and consists of interviews with artists, singers, musicians, dancers, rappers, and poets such as Kenneth Caldwell, Joe Davis, Mayyadda, Abdul Sesay, Tish Jones, Jamela Pettiford, Broderick Poole, Jibrell Khumas, professor Mahmoud El-Kati, Jasmin Boudah, Ron Brown, Danielle Daniels, Thandisizwe, and Essence Padillo.

“Dame” (NR) (3) — Foster Wilson’s engaging, well-acted, captivating, 8-minute film that recreates a scene from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in which a depressed and grieving Elizabeth Taylor (Grace Kendall) returns to acting after the death of her beloved husband Mike Todd, but the beautiful actress ends up fainting on set and tries to get herself together in her dressing room in the 1950s.

“Hello” (NR) (3) — Joah Colby’s unusual, wacky, creepy, 10-minute thriller in which a distraught woman (Nicole Goeden) suffers hallucinations when she returns home to attend the funeral of her estranged father (Terry Lee Storhaug) after his mysterious death and things get even stranger when an odd, elderly neighbor (Chari Eckmann) gives her a cherry pie with unappetizing ingredients.

“Hunting Buddies” (NR) (2) [Available on various VOD platforms.] — Great cinematography highlights Bill Cooper’s slow-paced, underwhelming, violent, 76-minute, 2009 thriller in which four longtime friends (Douglas Sidney, Brent Stariha, Brandon Van Vliet, and Pete Duffy) head to a cabin in Minnesota for a three-day weekend, but the leisurely hunting trip quickly derails when one of them mysteriously disappears and the widowed sheriff (KariAnn Christensen) and her deputy (Matt Kowalski) are called in to investigate.

“Lonely Hearts” (NR) (3) — When a depressed and lonely woman (Bethany Watson) goes online in search of love and romance in Dennis Cahlo’s quirky, intriguing, twist-filled, well-acted, unpredictable, 16-minute thriller, she recklessly agrees to meet her date at his home where she follows an ominous trail of roses and ends up having a very unusual and unexpected evening.

“Long Ride Home” (NR) (4) [Netflix Also] — Dame Pierre’s intense, critically acclaimed, realistic, poignant, violent, unpredictable, 7-minute film in which the affluent life of a successful African-American (Charles Andrew Gardner) can suddenly change course when he becomes involved in a drive-by shooting after an ambitious Black Uber driver (Byron Coolie) in Chicago drops him off in his old neighborhood.

“Motorway Macabre” (NR) (3.5) — Matt Eckholm’s creative, dark, unpredictable, 9-minute, 2018 thriller, which combines live action and claymation, in which two goth friends (Eleonore Dendy and Kate Aarness) illegally break in to an isolated racetrack in the desert in the middle of the night to watch an ambitious, talented racecar driver (Scott McClure) compete against four skeleton drivers with dire, unexpected consequences.

“Quiet on Set” (NR) (3) — When a beautiful, novice actress (Claire Autran) is raped by her uncaring, egotistical costar (Max Monnig) while filming a lovemaking scene during a film shoot and the unsympathetic director (Lorraine Wochna) makes light of the sexual assault in this candid, well-acted, down-to-earth, 8-minute film, she must decide whether to press charges or to finish the movie in an attempt to further her career.

“The Wall” (NR) (3.5) — Brandon Ferdig’s powerful, informative, heartbreaking, 73-minute, 2018 documentary that examines the living conditions and struggles of more than 300 homeless people, including Earl, Kat, Pamela, Todd, Fabian, Karen, Audie, Angela, Carol, and Corinna, living at a homeless camp in Minneapolis, Minn., dubbed “The Wall of Forgotten Natives” along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues and highlights volunteers, such as MPD cop Snyder and David Cross with Natives Against Heroin, who help distributing supplies and find shelter.

Wendy Schadewald is a Burnsville resident. 

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