STRONG ISLAND — Review by Cate Marquis

strongislandposterSTRONG ISLAND is a documentary that seems at first to focus on a murder never prosecuted more than two decades later. But as we gradually discover, the documentary is really about the impact of that injustice on family left behind. No reason for the failure to charge the killer with murder is given to the victim’s middle-class, suburban Black parents but the fact that the 19-year-old shooter was White raises questions. Continue reading…

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THE TRIP TO SPAIN — Review by Martha K. Baker

Bottom line: The Trip to Spain is not as good as The Trip or The Trip to Italy, but what do you expect? The comedy team of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon does not appeal to everyone, but under Michael Winterbottom’s direction, The Trip series also offers food and travel for your delectation. Continue reading…

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THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD — Review by Susan Granger

There are no surprises in this buddy action-comedy. Two established American stars (one Caucasian, one African-American), supported by some stalwart, foreign character-actors, engage in lots of violence, peppered with profanity. Continue reading…

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WIND RIVER — Review by Martha K. Baker

The moon is full over snowed upon water. The snow is dirtied by time. Red and bloodied by death. This scene begins the shocking, excellent film “Wind River,” named for Wyoming’s only American Indian reservation. Before that scene settles, a marksman has found a teenager. She is dead on the landscape. Continue Reading…

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LEAP! — Review by Susan Granger

Aimed specifically at pre-teens, this animated feature has a bizarre history. Originally a French/Canada co-production, titled “Ballerina,” it performed well in Europe last year. Unfortunately, the Americanized version lost its magic somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: James Cameron vs. Wonder Woman! — Brandy McDonnell comments

The Terminator 2: Judgment Day director calls Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman movie “a step back,” and confirms Hollywood’s continuing desire to lock women in the “strong” box. In a recent interview centered on the 3-D re-release of his 1991 blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron set off a firestorm on Twitter when he reduced Wonder Woman and her depiction in Patty Jenkins’ record-setting film to “an objectified icon” that he considers “a step backwards” from his female character of Sarah Connor. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Lake Bell talks Casting, Lasting Love and I DO…UNTIL I DON’T — Diana Saenger Interviews (Exclusive)

bell headshotActress Lake Bell has been starring in films and on TV since she graduated from theater school in 2002, but her career took a quantum leap forward when her directorial debut, In A World…, a comedy she also wrote and starred in, opened in 2013. For her sophomore feature, I Do…Until I Don’t, Bell has again done it all — writing, producing, directing and starring in this quirky comedy about couples whose relationships are put to the test by an unscrupulous TV ‘journalist’ (Dolly Wells) who taps them for a show suggesting marriage should be a seven year contract with an option to renew or cancel. The film’s premise, characters and dialogue reflect Bell’s signature style of filmmaking. We wondered where that comes from. So we asked her. Continue reading…

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Elizabeth Whittemore

School Life pulls at the heartstrings of this former substitute teacher and children’s theatre director with its effortless charm. Following a married couple who teach at an Irish boarding school, this doc will bring you back to the days where being away from home can be both all consuming and exciting. Continue reading

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MENASHE — Review by Martha K. Baker

“All beginnings are hard,” it is written in the Tal-mud. And Menashe is finding life hard since he lost his wife Leah a year ago. His son Rieven has gone to, or been sent to, his mother’s brother’s house to live. Menashe, a hapless, portly Jew, wants his son back. The rabbi of his tightly constrained Hasidic com-munity, shown in tight camera shots, grants Menashe a week to earn his son back. It’s the week before Leah’s memorial, which her brother thinks should be held at his house, not in Menashe’s crowded flat. In that week, Menashe does everything wrong. Continue reading…

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WIND RIVER — Review by Susan Granger

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wind River” is a powerful, action-packed 8, concluding with the distressing postscript: “There are no records available for tracking missing and murdered Native American women.” Read full review

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LANDLINE — Review by Martha K. Baker

The title’s reference to a fading form of communication suggests the decade for “Landline,” that is, the Nineties. But it says nothing about the chief literary device, that of irony, which each of the characters has to deal with in the course of this multi-generational look at cheating. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 25 – September 1: POLINA

motw logo 1-35Raw, emotional, and creative, Valerie Muller and Angelin Preljocaj’s Polina is an engaging story about a young Russian dancer who needs to find her inner self before she can truly lose herself in her art. With strong and compelling performances both on and off the dance stage, the film is a powerful look at managing others’ expectations, having the courage to take chances, and believing in yourself. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Latest on Patty Jenkins, Saoirse Ronan, Reese Witherspoon and Annie Clark aka St. Vincent — Brandy McDonnell reports

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, is set to direct a new version of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, starring a woman in the title role. Saoirse Ronan takes on the title role in Mary, Queen of Scots, opposite Margot Robbie as Elizabeth. Reese Witherspoon talks rom com evolution as represented by her latest, Home Again, the directorial debut Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of acclaimed director Nancy Meyers. And, Patty Jenkins is upping the income ante on Wonder Woman II, following the first film’s mega box office success. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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POLINA — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

polina posterIn the film Flashdance, when Jennifer Beals is about to toss away her ambitions to be a ballerina, her boyfriend tells her, “When you give up your dream, you die.” But what if you are fulfilling someone else’s dream? Apparently, you never really live. That is what happens to the title character in Polina, about a young Russian girl who spends her entire youth training for the Bolshoi Ballet while fulfilling her parents’ wish, while her father must resort to shady means to pay her way. Inevitably, Polina rebels as a teen. Continue reading…

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POLINA — Review by Cate Marquis

The French- and Russian-language drama Polina is a coming-of-age story about a promising young Russian ballerina named Polina in search of artistic fulfillment. But Polina‘s real appeal is not its story as much as its many moments of magical dance and fine choreography. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Susan Granger

In this scathing docudrama, Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker’ and “Zero Dark Thirty,” depicts the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the volatile summer of 1967. It begins on the night of July 23 with a violent police raid on “The Blind Pig,” an unlicensed bar and African-American social club located on the second floor of a printing company, inciting what came to be known as the 12th Street Riot. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

STEP POSTERForget those silly Step Up movies. Even though they are set in the world of hip-hop street-dance competitions that are primarily an “urban” — read: black — phenomenon, they manage to focus almost entirely on white characters. Instead, here’s Step, which is literally the real thing. Hugely cheering and cheer-worthy, this documentary look at a high-school girls’ step team covers so much ground that unforgivably goes mostly unexamined onscreen: it couldn’t be fresher or more important. It’s also wildly entertaining while simultaneously enormously enlightening. Continue reading…

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MENASHE — Review by Susan Granger

Set in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood, this is the story of a Jewish widower (Menashe Lustig) who has lost custody of his beloved 10 year-old son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski). According to strict Hasidic custom, the youngster cannot be raised by a single parent. He must live with a father AND mother, so Menache’s married, financially secure, judgmental brother-in-law, Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus), has become Rieven’s condescending guardian. Continue reading…

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VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS — Review by Susan Granger

From Luc Besson, the visionary French director of “Lucy” and “The Fifth Element,” comes this $200 million sci-fi fantasy, consisting of an episodic series of missions originating on Alpha, a space station in the Magellan Current that keeps expanding, adding new entities, becoming an intergalactic, multicultural hub. Continue reading

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 18-25: DETROIT

motw logo 1-35Intense. Infuriating. Immediate. Kathryn Bigelow‘s powerful, often-heartbreaking historical drama Detroit is all of these things and more. Set amid the chaos, violence, and anger of the riots that dominated Motor City during the summer of 1967, the film’s narrative focuses on the police brutality that took place at the Algiers Motel on July 25 and 26 of that year, and the justice system’s subsequent whitewashing of that heinous event. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Gadot Seeks Gold, Chastain Joins X-MEN, Woodard Becomes Lionesque and Lamarr Gets Documentary — Brandy McDonnell reports

Warner Bros. will mount an Oscar campaign for Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins, striving to get first-ever comic book film nominations. Jessica Chastain joins the X-Men: Dark Phoenix cast as Lilandra Neramani, Princess-Majestrix of the Shi’ar Empire, a humanoid species with birdlike attributes. Alfre Woodard will be the voice of Simba’s mom in director Jon Favreau’s remake of Disney’s The Lion King. And, come November, Hedy Lamarr returns to silver screens with the release of Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a documentary directed by Alexandra Dean and distributed by Zeitgeist Films, in association with Kino Lorber. Read more in THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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DETROIT — Review by Pam Grady

detroit posterIn the summer of 1967, while the West Coast grooved to the Summer of Love, Detroit burned in five days of rioting that pitted the African American community against the arrayed forces of the Detroit police department, Michigan state police, and the National Guard. In her most potent film to date, Kathryn Bigelow reteams with screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) to stunningly recreate that time. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Cate Marquis

detroit posterIn Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow spotlights the civil unrest that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, and particularly the infamous events that took place at the Algiers Motel, when police abused a group of mostly black men and killed three. One would have hoped that 50 years on, we would be looking back those events and noting how far we have come. Sadly, that is not the case. Continue reading…

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KIDNAP — Review by Susan Granger

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is devoted to her six year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa). A single mother, she works as a waitress in a New Orleans-area diner and spends all of her free time with her boy. While Frankie’s playing at a nearby amusement park, Karla steps away to take an important phone call from her attorney; apparently, her ex-husband is suing for sole custody. When she looks up, Frankie’s gone. Continue reading…

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Meet Soundarya Rajnikanth, director of VELLAI ILLA PATTADHARI 2 — Interview by Mythily Ramachandran (Exclusive)

Soundarya Rajnikanth headshotA career in films was inevitable for Soundarya Rajnikanth, the youngest daughter of Tamil superstar Rajnijanth. Soundarya stepped out of her father’s shadow in 2014 to direct her first film, Kochadaiiyaan, an animated period film shot with motion-capture technology, a first in the history of Indian cinema. Director Soundarya returns with her second feature, the live action Vella Illa Pattadhari 2 (Unemployed Graduate, in Tamil), a sequel to the eponymous Tamil blockbuster released in 2015. Read Indian film journalist Mythily Ramachandran’s exclusive interview on The Female Gaze.

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