A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, MAD, IXCANUL, COLLIDE and more August 19 Openers — Reviews by Jennifer Merin

tale of love and darkness posterNatalie Portman’s directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness is a stunning tale of a mother who brightens trying times for her son by telling parable-like stories that counter the hardships surrounding them during turbulent times in Israel. Mad, Robert Putka’s first feature, is a mother-daughter tragicomedy with superb performances by Maryann Plunkett. Jennifer Lafleur and Ellis Cahill. In Ixcanul, a teenage girl in remote Guatemala wants more than a prearranged marriage. Collide is a non-stop action thriller with Sirs Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins as rival bad guys. When Two Worlds Collide is a compelling advocacy documentary about indigenous peoples’ fight to curtail Amazonian deforestation. Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” is Werner Herzog’s latest documentary essay about human interaction and the evolution of human society in our increasingly computer-dependent and driven universe. Read the reviews>>

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HELL OR HIGH WATER — Review by Susan Granger

Reminiscent of “Unforgiven” and “No Country For Old Men,” this gritty, contemporary Western, set in West Texas, focuses on the Howard brothers, who concoct a plan to wreak revenge on the greedy bank that swindled their dying mother out of her land. Brooding divorced dad Toby (Chris Pine) is determined that his two sons inherit the oil-rich family acreage which is under threat of foreclosure. So he turns to his sociopathic, ex-con brother Tanner (Ben Foster) for help. Read on…

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BLAIR WITCH Sequel — Preview by Liz Whittemore

blair witchThere was one movie responsible for starting the “found footage” phenomenon. Since then we’ve seen films like REC, Quarantine, V/H/S, and the Paranormal Activity franchise explode. Can anything live up the original? In high anticipation, we take a peek at a trailer that promises to be a sequel of scary. Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy a brief view of the new Blair Witch, due for release in September. Read more>>

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BEN HUR — Review by Susan Granger

Why remake “Ben Hur” (1959), the epic sword-and-sandals adventure that set an Oscar record, sweeping 11 out of the 12 categories in which it was nominated, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler) and Best Actor (Charlton Heston)? This new version, produced by Mark Burnett (TV’s “Survivor,” “The Voice”) and Roma Downey (TV’s “Touched By an Angel”), the husband-and-wife team behind the 10-hour TV miniseries “The Bible,” returns Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel “Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ” to its devoutly religious roots. Read on…

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ANTHROPOID — Review by Susan Granger

Based on the true story behind two Czechoslovakian operatives’ mission to assassinate S.S. General Reinhard Heydrich, this wannabe WW II thriller should be more suspenseful than it is. In December, 1941, when Czechoslovakian loyalists Josef Gabcik (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) parachute from London into their Nazi-occupied homeland, they must devise a way to implement “Operation Anthropoid.” Read on…

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AWFJ Wonder Women Countdown – Characters 33 through 23

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact and social influence since the earliest days of cinema.
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This week, our Wonder Women include a pair of princesses who find adventure outside of their courtly isolation, ordinary women who face some difficult times with bravery and persistence, women who are dedicated to their various missions in life while finding—and sometimes losing—love, and girls who nurture their inborn talents to secure their place in the world. Please meet our next group of Wonder Women, numbers 33 through 23:

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, August 15 – August 19: BEN-HUR

BEN HUR POSTEROne’s first thought on the remake of Ben-Hur might be “Why, exactly?” The era of sword and sandals epics may have reached a fever pitch in 1959, with Chuck Heston traipsing about in a metal skirt and breastplates, but even in the early days, the camp factor was high. To wit: Tony Curtis and his liquid eyes getting Laurence Olivier into hot water in Spartacus (1960). The genre seems to be periodically rediscovered every few years, with the likes of Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Gerard Butler (The 300) donning the iron miniskirt for a bit of manly action. Read On…

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FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, DISORDER, MY KING, PETE’S DRAGON and other August 12 Openers – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

florence_foster_jenkins_posterTop pick for this week is Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep as the self-styled diva whose voice could shatter glass. Alice Winocour’s Disorder is a disturbingly violent thriller that taps into present day paranoia. Maiwenn’s My King is a roller coaster ride of a romance that tracks the dysfunctional relationship of Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) and Georgio (Vincent Cassel). Pete’s Dragon is a sweet remake of Disney’s 1977 animation about the bond between boy and beast. In Blood Father, a badass absentee dad (Mel Gibson) scrambles to rescue his badass drug dealing daughter (Erin Moriarty) from criminals and the cops. Plus three watch-worthy documentaries: Abortion: Stories Women Tell, When Elephants Were Young and An Art That Nature Makes: The Work of Rosamond Purcell. Read the reviews>>

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INDIGNATION — Review by Susan Granger

Retaining authenticity in adapting Philip Roth novels has often been a problem, as evidenced in “The Human Stain,” “Elegy” and “The Humbling.” So “Indignation” at least has veracity going for it. Set in 1951, this coming-of-age story revolves around industrious Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a working-class Jewish teenager from Newark, New Jersey, who earns a scholarship to a small, Christian college in Ohio, primarily to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in the Korean War. Read om…

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Maiwenn on MY KING and Bringing the Female Gaze to the Director’s Chair – Thelma Adams interviews

maiwennFrench filmmaker Maiwenn, 40, set me straight: it’s no easier being a female director in France than in America. The toothy Parisienne beauty in the polka-dot blouse and jeans explained: “As much as I can say I’m a victim of misogyny I don’t want to be a spokesperson, I don’t want to be a militant, I don’t want to make documentaries.” Read more>>

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