THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE — Review by Susan Granger

This inventive, animated spin-off of 2014’s “The LEGO Movie” astutely ridicules the Caped Crusader, beginning with the title sequence, since “All important movies start with a black screen.” In the opening scene, self-centered Batman (Will Arnett) protects Gotham City from a series of desperados, led by the demented Joker (Zach Galifianakis), then regales its citizens about his heroics. When he’s not crime-fighting, narcissistic Bruce Wayne lives in luxurious isolation with his loyal butler, Alfred (Ralph Fiennes). After microwaving leftover lobster, Wayne watches ‘Jerry Maguire” in his Bat Theater – until he’s joined by eager orphan Dick Grayson (Michael Cera). Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Feb 27 to Mar 3: FROM NOWHERE

motw logo 1-35From Nowhere has the peculiar timing of being released in theatres in the midst of the current maelstrom around immigration in the US. The film premiered last year at the SXSW Festival, where it picked up an audience choice award. Back in those innocent and unsuspecting days of yore, the film was relevant and topical, but now it is essential. As the US president threatens to muster the National Guard to round up  the undocumentedFrom Nowhere offers up a portrait of three young lives caught up in this Kafkaesque situation. Read On….

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN News Wrap: EEOC action on Hollywood Studios, plus Burstyn and St. Vincent to Direct — Brandy McDonnell reports

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations initiated in 2015 have been concluded, and the commission has found that all Hollywood studios have systemically discriminated against female directors. The EEOC is reportedly attempting to resolve the charges made against the studios, but if they’re unable to do so, may file a lawsuit. Actress Ellen Burstyn, however, is not waiting to make her directorial debut. At age 84, she’ll helm her first feature, a comedy titled Bathing Flo. And experimental rocker St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) makes her directorial debut as part of XX, an all-female horror anthology that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month and arrived in theaters and on Video on Demand, Amazon Video and iTunes this Friday. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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PATERSON — Review by Susan Granger

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a New Jersey Transit bus driver in Paterson – they share the name. Paterson leads an orderly, routine life. Every day, he gets up early, kisses his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), makes coffee and eats a bowl of Cheerios before walking to the bus depot. As he drives his No. 23 route around the city, he observes his disparate passengers and listens to snippets of their conversation. He comes home at the same time for dinner each night, walks their cranky English bulldog Marvin, and enjoys a beer at a corner bar. But his passion is writing poetry in a small notebook. Read on…

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THE GREAT WALL — Review by Susan Granger

Filmed entirely in China, this epic, $150 million action/adventure/fantasy was designed to stun the Western world like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000). Directed by Zhang Yimou (“Hero,” “House of Flying Daggers”), who orchestrated the opening and concluding ceremonies of Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Summer Games, it relates a 12th century Chinese legend. Riding on horseback through the Gobi desert, European mercenary William Garin (Matt Damon) and his sidekick Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) evade nomads in the rugged steppes while searching for “black powder”(gunpowder) which will change the future of war. Read on...

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 17-21: AMERICAN FABLE

American fable poster 2

Horror and fantasy film have long been a birthplace for emerging talent. Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, and Gareth Edwards – all cut their teeth in genre cinema before moving onto other things. Director Anne Hamilton is in fine company, and her new film American Fable emerges from this august tradition, trailing references aplenty. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ plus Chastain, Bening and Kidman get gigs and Women in Special Effects — Brandy McDonnell reports

Disney has announced that production on “Mary Poppins Returns,” the studio’s sequel to its 1964 “Mary Poppins,” has commenced at Shepperton Studios. The film stars Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt and Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda. Directed by Oscar nominee, Emmy and DGA Awards winner Rob Marshall, the film is scheduled for a Dec. 25, 2018 release. Jessica Chastain is producing a TV series about NASA women. Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films has optioned Janice Y.K Lee’s The Expatriates for a TV series. Annette Bening joins the cast of FX’s Hurricane Katrina anthology series. And, women rule in special effects at Lucas’Industrial Light & Magic. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Anne Hamilton talks Gender Politics, Career Moves and AMERICAN FABLE – Interview by Gill Pringle (Exclusive)

anne hamilton head 1Director Anne Hamilton was on a date with an agent after moving to Los Angeles three years ago, when he casually mentioned how female directors “paint better on small palettes”.

“I wanted to punch him!” recalls Hamilton, 32, whose debut feature film, American Fable is anything but small; a gothic-style suspense story presenting a desperate rural America rarely depicted on screen.

“I have a huge palette which I intend to use, and I want to be another female director who demonstrate that’s not the case,” says this protege of visionary film-maker Terrence Malick. Read on…

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OSCAR Nominated Live Action Shorts — Review by Martha K. Baker

There’s not a bad seed in this barrel of apples. All five, mostly a half-hour each, offer resounding stories, well told and acted and filmed. They come from France, Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark, and Spain. Two of them swirl around the predicament of refugees in Europe.

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TONI ERDMANN — Review by Susan Granger

Going into the Oscar Foreign Language race as an overwhelming favorite, German filmmaker Maren Ade’s poignant comedic-drama revolves around a practical-joking father who tries to reconnect with his uptight daughter by creating an outrageous alter-ego. Within that context, Ade satirically tackles feminism, workplace sexism, international capitalism, and German arrogance within the European Union.
After his beloved dog dies, divorced, middle-aged music teacher Winifred Conradi (Peter Simonischek) feels totally lost. So he tries to reconnect with his only child – daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) – who is obsessive about her executive consulting work in Romania. Read on…

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OSCAR Nominated Animation Shorts — Review by Martha K. Baker

“Short” is right. Most of these films run fewer than 10 minutes with one longer than a half-hour. And “sweet” is right, too, in a way, if “sweet” stretches to mournful. The Oscar-nominated Short films advance the concept of brevity as good and worthy. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 10 – 17: A UNITED KINGDOM

a united kingdom poster

A United Kingdom is director Amma Asante’s earnest, thought-provoking drama about the real-life passion between Botswana’s beloved Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and Englishwoman Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Set in post-WWII England and Africa, the film sheds light on an important, still-relevant slice of history, addressing issues of race, politics, and colonialism while also telling a heartwarming love story. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: The Women of HIDDEN FIGURES — Brandy McDonnell Reports

hidden-figures-5Once the feel-good film of awards season, ‘Hidden Figures’ is now a big winner and a big moneymaker. Throughout this film awards cycle, Hidden Figures has been the crowd-pleasing, uplifting fan favorite. This weekend, the fact-based period drama about the African-American women who worked behind the scenes at NASA during the space race won the top prize at the SAG Awards and crossed the $100 million mark at the domestic box office. Will the film’s success make a difference? The real women whose stories are told in the film hope it will. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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Salma Hayek, Jessica Williams and Jill Soloway Spar at Sundance — Thelma Adams reports

The roots of the women’s brunch brouhaha that emerged between Hayek and Williams and extended out to include those present including Shirley MacLaine and Alfre Woodard were generational, racial and sexual, reflecting the larger critical split in the women’s movement beyond the petri dish of the Sundance Film Festival. Read more>>

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SILENCE — Review by Susan Granger

Filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Kundun, Last Temptation of Christ) is obviously fascinated with the foundations of faith, adapting Shusaku Endo’s 1966 historical novel about two Jesuit priests who travel from Portugal to Japan to find their mentor who is rumored to have renounced his religion under torture. In 17th century Buddhist Japan, Catholicism has been outlawed and its believers persecuted. But fervent Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) are determined to track down Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). As they search, they minister to converted villagers who risk their lives to hide them from the wily Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) and his interpreter (Tadanobu Asano), who give suspected Christians the opportunity to recant by stepping on an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Read on…

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On Making SEEING IS BELIEVING: WOMEN DIRECT – Guest Post by Filmmaker Cady McClain

cady mcclain headshotCady McClain has been speaking to female directors, chronicling their stories for her serialized documentary, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct. Interviewees include Sarah Gavron, Lee Grant, Meera Menon, Betty Thomas and other accomplished directors, as well as next generation women filmmakers just blazing career paths. Not yet ready for release, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct elucidates skills needed to succeed as a woman director; women mentor women by sharing their experiences via filmed interviews. Here, McClain writes about her filmmaking process, why she’s making this documentary and what she’s learning from doing so. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Review by Brandy McDonnell

It may be heartrending and stomach-churning to watch, especially for Oklahoma natives and residents like me, but the new PBS documentary “Oklahoma City” is timely and vital viewing. The harrowing film, which made its world premiere last month at the Sundance Film Festival, does more than just recap the destruction wrought by Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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THE COMEDIAN — Review by Susan Granger

Back in 1983, Robert De Niro played a sociopathic wannabe celebrity in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” starring Jerry Lewis. Obviously, the delusional character intrigued De Niro because in “The Comedian,” he’s a former TV sit-com star, Jackie Burke. Aging Burke has hit hard times, unable to move beyond nostalgic references to “Eddie’s Home.” One night when an obnoxious heckler with a web-cam taunts him at a comedy club in Hicksville, Long Island, he clobbers the guy in a scuffle that winds up on YouTube. Read on…

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AWFJ on KTEP 88.5 FM: Talking EDA Awards, Oscars, and the Status of Women In Film — Jennifer Merin reports

KTEP 88.5 FM’s ON FILM host Charles Horak discusses The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ annual and festival EDA Awards recognizing the work and contributions done by women and about women, both in front and behind the camera, points to the decreased level of opportunity for women behind the camera in 2016, and elicits a list of must-see undervalued 2016 films by and about women. Thank you, Charles Horak for your ongoing support of AWFJ and our goals. Listen to the program on KTEP 88.5 FM.

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EVERLASTING — Review by Susan Granger

Writer/director Anthony Stabley has devised a different twist on the traditional horror film, combining his ominous concept with a murder mystery. “Darkness can take over your life, even when you think you have everything under control,” notes Matt Ortega (Adam David), a high-school filmmaker who receives a mysterious package containing a DV tape depicting the torture and murder of his girlfriend Jessie (Valentina de Angelis). Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: RIP Mary Tyler Moore, plus news on Octavia Spencer, Lily Tomlin, Kristen Chenoweth and more — by Brandy McDonnell

In this THE WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup.we remember the wonderful Mary Tyler Moore, report on honors for Octavia Spencer and Lily Tomlin, follow Kristin Chenoweth’s praise for Lion for its treatment of adoption, and praise Kerry Washington as she urges courage at Sundance. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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GOLD — Review by Susan Granger

As a critic, I’m often asked, “Do you really stay ‘till the end of a movie, even if you know it’s not very good?” The answer is “Yes,” because you never can tell what surprises may surface – and that certainly applies to this twisted tale, chronicling the effects of greed and friendship. In 1988, paunchy, whiskey-guzzling Kenny Wells (almost unrecognizably balding Matthew McConaughey) inherited his family’s once-profitable Washoe Mining Corporation in Reno, Nevada. Read on…

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THE COMEDIAN — Review by Martha K. Baker

In 2000, Robert De Niro proved he could be funny in “Meet the Parents.” Before that, he was a heavy, an ACT-OR in films like “Goodfellas” and “The Godfather.” In “The Comedian” he proves that he can be part comedian/part tragedian. The result, however, is more leaden than light. “The Comedian” kills, but not in a good way. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: 2017 Oscar Nominations — Brandy McDonnell comments

With the 2017 Oscar nominations, the Academy broke or tied multiple records. The movie musical “La La Land” earned a leading 14 nominations, putting it in a tie with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most in Academy Awards history. Its nods include best picture, best director and best original screenplay for writer-director Damien Chazelle, best actress for Emma Stone and best actor for Ryan Gosling. How did they fare on gender parity and diversity? Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: News wrap around Oscars, SAGs, Lily Tomlin Honored and More — Brandy McDonnell reports

lily tomlin headshotThe Academy will forego a live audience for the nomination announcements, instead livestreaming them at Oscars.org, which has caused quite a flap among publicists and members of the press. But everyone’s delighted that Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton will present SAGs Life Achievement Award to brilliant, all-round entertainment maverick Lily Tomlin during the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. And more coursgeous female stars are speaking out to spark change in Hollywood. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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