BIRTH OF A NATION – Review by Susan Granger

I’m incredibly conflicted about this film. Writer/director/actor Nate Parker has created a searing, powerful Civil War drama, revolving around an 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Set on cotton plantations in Southampton County, Virginia, it reveals that, as a child, Nat (Tony Espinosa) was recognized by an African tribal shaman as a potential prophet/leader. And he’s encouraged to read the Bible by his master’s wife (Penelope Ann Miller). Read on…

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AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY — Review by Jennifer Merin

jt-leroy-postetAuthor: The JT LeRoy Story” delves into the curiously confusing story of Laura Albert, the controversial creator of the literary figure known as Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (aka JT LeRoy) and the writer of JT’s novels Sarah (2000) and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2001). The novels, dark expressions of America’s underbelly, were a sensation when they were published. Critics declared JT Leroy to be a literary genius, and JT attracted a cult of devoted fans, including legions of celebrities. The young author, ostensibly a teenage boy, became a regular on the New York underground arts scene, famously hanging out at clubs with the likes of Billy Corben, Asia Argento, Gus Van Sant, Mary Karr and others ans fewquwnting the club scene. Read more>>

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DEEPWATER HORIZON — Review by Susan Granger

When an explosion on April 10, 2010, ignited the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, the blowout lasted 87 days, leaking 4.9 million gallons into the Gulf, resulting in the worst ecological disaster in American history. Told through the perspective of Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), it begins normally, as he bids goodbye to his wife (Kate Hudson) and young daughter, hoping to snag a ‘dinosaur bone’ for her to show to her class in school. Read on…

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THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

girlallgiftsposter The Girl with All the Gifts opens with one of the most intense and disturbing sequences I’ve ever seen onscreen. Children kept in a bare, gray prison like Guantanamo Bay; given disgusting things to eat; shouted at by adult guards with cruelty in their voices; strapped into wheelchairs; pushed with careful, fearful precision to be lined up in a grim classroom for their daily lessons. It’s a nightmare scenario, apparently an institutional abuse of children. But their teacher, Miss Justineau is more than kindly, not at all the despot you might expect in such an environment. Far more bewildering, young Melanie, around 10 years old, seems happy and eager to learn, smiling cheerily from around the headgear that keeps her immobilized. Read more>>

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THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS — Review by Susan Granger

If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned, historical melodrama, this should be your choice. Returning from W.W. I in 1919, embittered Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) takes a job manning a lighthouse on an isolated, windswept island called Janus, off the coast of Western Australia. A taciturn fellow of few words, he wants to escape from the carnage of civilization and be left in solitude. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, September 19 – September 23: Queen of Katwe

queenofkatwe-poster-resizrIn director Mira Nair’s hands Queen of Katwe, the true story of chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi becomes more than a Disneyfied triumph. The film, based on Tim Crothers’s book of the same title, engages squarely with the reality of life in the Ugandan slum. Read On…

In a recent article for the Guardian, Crothers described the place thusly: “Katwe (pronounced kah-tway), in the south of Uganda’s sprawling, smoggy capital city of Kampala, emerged in the mid-20th century as a place for poor artisans, but developed into the city’s most crime-ridden slum. It has scant sanitation and during the rainy season is regularly flooded with raw sewage, with residents sleeping on their roofs to avoid drowning. If you are born in Katwe, the chances are you will die in Katwe.”

All of which makes the story of Phiona Mutesi more extraordinary. Phiona lost her father to AIDS, and her older sister also died. While her mother struggled to support her family, the real reason Phiona came to chess was hunger. Robert Katende, a former soccer coach, who started a chess program in Katwe enticed would-be players with a free cup of porridge. Katende immediately recognized the abilities of this young woman, and coached her to become a champion.

It is tempting to look at the film as a cleaned up version of events. But despite a narrative tendency to flatten out complexities and saturate every moment of triumph with sweeping strings, the very existence of this film represents a significant change for Disney. A film set in Uganda, and starring actors of colour is itself a radical thing. Nair has the considerable talents of cinematographer Sean Bobbitt (12 Years a Slave) and editor Barry Alexander Brown (Spike Lee’s longtime collaborator) who bring their collective skills to bear in crafting the story. But the actors give the project a heft and emotional weight, especially the incandescent Nupita Nyong’o, who is joined by newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panelists Comments:

Leba Hertz: This is a tough one but I’ll go for the inspirational movie, Queen of Katwe. The terrific David Oyelowo and Lupito Nyong’o may have the star power, but watch out for the young woman who plays the chess genius. Step aside gold medalists for this one.

Nell Minow: Queen of Katwe — The true story of talent and triumph

Jennifer Merin: A triumphant film! With great truth-based story in the hands of a brilliant woman director, this film brings women into their rightful place in moviemaking.

Film Details:

Title: Queen of Katwe
Director: Mira Nair
Release Date: September 23, 2016
Running Time: 124 minutes
Principal Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Madina Naiwanga
Screenwriter: William Wheeler

Production Companies: Walt Disney Pictures, ESPN Films, Cine Mosaic, Mirabai Films

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Official Site Link

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Thelma Adams, Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Candice Frederick, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow,

Other Movies Opening the Week of September 19 to September 23, 2016

Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, Associate Editor. Written by Dorothy Woodend


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BRIDGET JONES’ S BABY — Review by Susan Granger

The long-awaited third installment begins as charmingly awkward, accident-prone Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is celebrating her 43rd birthday – alone, once again – with Celine Dion’s “All By Myself.” A funeral flashback reveals that Bridget’s caddish boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), has died and her longtime lover, successful barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), is married to a woman named Camilla. Read on…

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YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED — Movie Review by Jennifer Merin

youve-been-trumped-posterAnthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped serves as a preview of what America’s international profile will be like if Donald Trump wins the White House. The documentary reveals the real Donald Trump. It was relevant when it was released in 2011. It is relevant still. As you may have assumed, You’ve Been Trumped is about the Donald’s manipulations of the law and elected officials — in this case, to have his way with Scotland’s Menie Estate, a the environmentally protected tract of land in Balmedie, just north of Aberdeen. Trump’s projected golf course will destroy the fragile biosphere and wildlife habitat along the scenic coast of Scotland. The effect will be devastating, but Trump is intent on dodging all restrictions and protests, including those whose families have occupied this region for longer than anyone can remember. Watch this film before you vote, and share it with others. Read more>>

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Women Defy Odds and Demand Room at TIFF Table — Thelma Adams comments

Fuck buzz. That’s how I feel addressing Toronto’s female-driven movies, whether directed by women or not. Because buzz reflects the 80 percent male gender bias, writing about film fails to connect meaningfully with the real audience that is—duh, ask your mothers—50 percent female. For me, the greatest metaphor for the plight of women film artists is Aisling Walsh’s Maudie, an intense wee biopic about the outsider artist Maud Lewis with an Oscar-ripe performance from the great empath Sally Hawkins. (“If it weren’t for Hawkins,” condescends Variety’s Peter Debruge, “there would be little to distinguish Maudie from the sort of 16mm filmstrip made for schoolchildren back in the day.” Wrong!) Read more>>

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BRIDGET JONES’S BABY – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

bridgetbabyposter Bridget Jones — the woman who once served blue plastic soup to her friends, isn’t that adorable? — is back. God help us. She is 43 years old, and both unmarried and childless, which many women would consider a blessing. But not Bridget Jones! She continues to fret about being a “spinster” and a “barren husk,” because in her head, the year is 1953, or maybe even 1853, and not 2016. She worries about coming across to men as a “verbally incontinent old maid”; she really does believe that the ideal woman is young, married, and keeps her mouth shut. While it is true that there are people in the world who hold to such nonsense — including, shockingly, some women! — the self-hatred it takes for a woman to apply this to herself is not endearing. Read more>>

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