BEGIN AGAIN – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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I love this movie so much. Partly for how it demonstrates how little a movie has to deviate from an oh-so-repetitive format to come up with something fresh and exciting but also still comfortable and comforting. And partly for being so radical in a few attitudes while it’s being comfortable and comforting. I mean, writer-director John Carney — who got famous with Once, and this is even better — only has to switch things up a little bit to upend our expectations about a movie. Read more>>

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LUCY – Review by Kristy Puchko

lucyThe first thing you need to know about Lucy is that it’s not the movie its trailers would have you believe. Flaunting Avengers star Scarlett Johansson as a no-nonsense gunslinger, its trailers suggest that Lucy is a wall-to-wall action-thriller with a healthy dose of science fiction. However, the latest from writer-director Luc Besson is far more cerebral than these ads let on. While a non-stop Johansson-fronted action vehicle is something I’d gladly see, what Lucy offers is a bit more rich, though perhaps too rushed to sell its grander premise.

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LUCY – Review by Susan Granger

Starting with the provocative premise – that human beings use only 10% of their brain capacity – this is strictly science fiction. Filmmaker Luc Besson knew that this percentage figure was inaccurate, yet plunged ahead with his inventive adventure, revolving around a naïve young American named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who gets tricked into delivering a mysterious metal briefcase to a Taiwanese crime boss, Mr. Jang (South Korean actor Choi Min Sik), and forced to become one of his drug mules. When she’s repeatedly kicked in the gut, there’s leakage from the bag of blue crystals, a narcotic known as CPH4, that’s been surgically inserted in her abdomen, and a metamorphosis occurs: Lucy becomes superhuman. Determined not only to wreak primal revenge on her captors but also to acquire more and more knowledge, employing her increasing array of powers and skills – she contacts Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist who is lecturing about cerebral capacity at a university in Paris. Read on…

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UNDER THE ELECTRIC SKY – Review by Jennifer Merin

under elec sky poster160For music documentary fans, especially those who are devoted to electronic dance music, Under The Electric Sky is the equivalent of a contemporary Woodstock — with the added attraction of providing a fully immersive and utterly spectacular 3D experience. And then, too, there’s the opportunity for die hard devotees to host their own theatrical screenings through an innovative ‘crowdsourcing’ distribution model. The film is well worth a look. So, too, is the distribution model. Read more>>

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Steve James Talks Empathy in Documentary Making – Jennifer Merin interviews

stevejamessharpenedIn Life Itself, filmmaker Steve James chronicles Roger Ebert’s life, paying tribute to the film critic who defined cinema as “a machine that generates empathy.” While watching Life Itself, and any of James’ documentaries, for that matter, one senses the filmmaker’s great compassion for his subjects. This underlying empathy seems to be an essential characteristic of the Steve James style of documentary filmmaking. When speaking about his approach to his work, James acknowledges that empathy for his characters is one of the qualities he hopes to bring to his films. Read more>>

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, July 21-27: LUCY

lucyOpening July 25, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Lucy, the latest action movie from writer-director Luc Besson, best known for The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita and The Professional. Action It Girl Scarlett Johansson stars as a woman who gains the ability to use one hundred percent of her brain function, turning her into an unstoppable killing machine. Besson has created his share of strong, female action heroes and Johannson is turning into that rare actor who is interesting to watch in both big-budget action movies, like The Avengers, and riskier films, like Under the Skin. It will be fascinating to see what Besson and Johansson have created together in Lucy. Read on…

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Park Chan Wook Discusses Genre Twists in THIRST – Jennifer Merin interviews

park chan wook jerusalem ff cropped160At his Jerusalem Film Festival Masterclass, the Korean master filmmaker talks about how his life in 1980s Korea inspired Thirst, his genre bending vampire movie. This, he says, is his personal favorite among all of his films to date. He comments that he identifies with the film’s central character, a priest-turned-vampire, because he’s always trying to justify his decisions and actions. His revelations about audience manipulation through sound design are particularly fascinating. Read more>>

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FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Part portrait of a reclusive woman built up piece by piece via meticulous detective work, and part scolding of how the art establishment jealously guards its perimeters and only grudgingly bestows its approval, this is an extraordinary examination of a remarkable artist who was difficult, contradictory, and mysterious. It’s the kind of warts-and-all yet nonjudgmental study we’re used to seeing about male artists but hardly ever about women, and it becomes a stunning detonation of our expectations about creative people. Read more>>

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What SEX TAPE Gets Right About Marriage — Kristy Puchko Comments

sextapeRight now the Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel sex-comedy Sex Tape has an embarrassingly low 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Frankly, I was surprised to see the critical consensus was against the latest comedy from director Jake Kasdan. This is in part because the screening I attended was flush with rich laughter throughout. But moreover, it’s because I–as a married woman–was personally elated to see that in the midst of this decidedly daffy comedy, there are some great things that Sex Tape gets right about long-term relationships.

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SEX TAPE – Review by Susan Granger

In the prologue, Annie (Cameron Diaz) blogs incessantly about the spicy sex life she enjoyed with her husband Jay (Jason Segel) when they met in college, when they first copulated, the second time they copulated and right on up to the time they married and had children (Sebastian Hedges Thomas, Giselle Eisenberg). Then suburban life – and exhaustion – robbed them of carnal pleasure. So she comes up with the idea sending the kids to Grandma (Nancy Lenehan) overnight, during which time they make a three-hour sex tape, depicting all the anatomical positions in “The Joy of Sex.” Read on…

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