TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

tifers are not afraid posterWith her 2017 feature Tigers are Not Afraid, Mexican filmmaker Issa López became the first woman to ever win the Best Horror Director award at Austin’s Fantastic Fest where it premiered. López’s potent and deeply beautiful film tells the story of a group of children abandoned as a result of the brutal dominance of a powerful drug cartel in their urban Mexican neighbourhood. Centred around an extraordinary performance by young actor Paola Lara in her feature film debut, she plays eleven-year-old Estrella who – like many of the children with whom she unites in an attempt to survive a world of unimaginable violence and pain – while often fearless, must necessarily negotiate her experiences from her youthful perspective. Continue reading…

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BLACKKKLANSMAN — Review by Brandy McDonnell

Based on an outrageous true story, Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” veers wildly between hilarious and harrowing, thrilling and appalling, smart and stylish. Most importantly, the two-time Oscar nominee’s latest “joint,” as Lee calls his films, is undeniably relevant, even though most of the events it chronicles happened 40 years ago. Continue reading…

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THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME — Review by Susan Granger

I really enjoy supporting women writers/directors, which is perhaps why I was a bit disappointed by Susanna Fogel’s buddy-comedy caper which, unfortunately, wastes the prodigious talent of SNL’s Kate McKinnon. In the midst of a shootout at an open air market in Vilnius, Lithuania, halfway across the world in Los Angeles, Audrey (Mila Kunis) is celebrating her 30th birthday, having just been dumped – via text – by one of the gunmen, Drew (Justin Theroux). He’s a C.I.A. agent and he doesn’t want to place Audrey in danger. Continue reading…

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THE MEG — Review by Susan Granger

Lurking in the depths of the Pacific Ocean is something very, very scary – according to former deep-sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who now spends his time in a drunken stupor on Thailand’s waterfront after a questionable decision cost him his career and his marriage. Summoned by billionaire Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) to a deep-sea research facility called Mana One, located 200 miles off the coast of China, Jonas discovers that his ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) is trapped in a tiny submersible 11,000 meters down, beneath a layer of hydrogen sulfide in the Mariana Trench which, apparently, covers an even deeper canyon. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 17, 2018: THE WIFE

motw logo 1-35Glenn Close delivers an award-worthy performance in Bjorn Runge’s The Wife. Based on Meg Wolitzer’s same-named novel about the spouse of a newly minted Nobel Prize-winning writer, this closely observed drama follows Close’s Joan Castleman and her husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), as they travel to Stockholm for his anointing — but will their marriage survive the trip? Continue reading…

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THE WIFE — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

THE WIFE POSTERI was somewhat distracted by a nagging voice in my head as I was savoring the sight of Glenn Close slaying it in The Wife as a devoted yet increasingly fed-up spouse of a self-described “narcissistic bastard” of an acclaimed novelist. “How does she not have an Oscar yet,” it kept saying every time she took her modulated slow-burn performance to the next level of perfectly expressed pique. Yes, it is often annoying when a critic makes awards predictions before the season starts. But with six losses under Close’s belt for career-defining and culturally significant roles – making her the living actress with the most nominations without a win – such speculation is hard to resist. Continue reading…

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BLACKKKLANSMAN — Review by Susan Granger

Opening with a Civil War scene from Gone With the Wind (1939) and closing with footage from the Charlottesville riots (2017), Spike Lee’s “crazy, outrageous, incredible true story” about Ron Stallworth is both historical and relevant. In the early 1970s when Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) became the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he wanted to go undercover. His chance comes when he’s assigned to surreptitiously record a speech by former Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins), a.k.a. African nationalist Kwame Ture. Continue reading…

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EIGHTH GRADE — Review by Susan Granger

eighth gradeposterIf you still had any doubts about how social media has changed suburban adolescence, check out Bo Burnham’s perceptive, R-rated debut dramedy about angst-riddled Kayla’s last week in middle school. Shy, lonely 13 year-old Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) spends most waking hours on her iPhone. She’s either checking out Instagram/Snapchat or making YouTube videos, offering advice to a non-existent audience. “You have to put yourself out there,” she says, “but where is ‘there’?” Although Kayla claims to be “funny and cool and talkative,” her classmates just voted her “most quiet.” Awkwardly vulnerable and painfully insecure, Kayla yearns to be popular and attract the attention of one particular boy (Luke Prael) in her class. Continue reading…

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THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS — Review by Susan Granger

three identical strangers posterWhat if – on your first day as a college freshman – people greeted you as if they knew you, girls kissed you and everyone called you Eddy, even though your name was Bobby? That’s what happened to 19 year-old Robert Shafran in 1980. That’s when he discovered he was one of identical triplets who had been separated at birth and adopted by three different families. His brother Eddy had attended Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York the year before. Continue reading…

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THE WIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce give searing performances in The Wife, a drama about what happens to a long-married couple when the husband is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. The film is an astoundingly good drama, with gripping performances and an engrossing story. Continue reading…

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THE EQUALIZER 2 — Review by Susan Granger

equalizer 2 posterIt’s been more than 20 years since the TV series The Equalizer (1985-1989) made its debut opposite Denzel Washington’s popular St. Elsewhere. Now Denzel has become shadowy Robert McCall, the ex-CIA Black Ops assassin-turned-vigilante. In the 2014 Equalizer, righteous McCall was a grieving widower determined to wreak vengeance for a victimized teenage prostitute (Chloe Grace Moretz). Now he’s back, working in Boston as a laconic Lyft driver who, when his passengers are in danger, comes to their aid. Like when some spoiled, rich kids get their kicks by drugging and raping a defenseless woman. McCall brutally slices one with his own credit cards, muttering, “I expect a five-star rating.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 10, 2018: SKATE KITCHEN

motw logo 1-35Gritty and real, with a strong message about the importance of female friendship, Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen often feels more like a documentary than a scripted drama. That’s not surprising, given Moselle’s experience as a documentarian (The Wolfpack) and the fact that she cast real-life New York skateboarders to play fictionalized versions of themselves. But the film was actually carefully crafted, making its authenticity all the more impressive. Continue reading…

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What’s Up Down Under? LOST GULLY ROAD – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

lost gully roadWomen horror filmmakers in Australia – as in many other countries – are a tight knit community, and an accomplishment for one is seen as an accomplishment for all. Australian filmmaker, artist, and academic Donna McRae’s sophomore feature film Lost Gully Road speaks both to that particular professional network and represents the increasing success of women in the field in Australia over recent years. As if that weren’t enough, it also reaches out through the codes and conventions of the genre itself to address very real, very urgent issues facing women in the country (and around the world) more broadly. Continue reading…

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PUZZLE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

SONY-PZMI-05_8.5x11.inddThe opening scene of Puzzle is a hushed horror, I don’t think it’s too extreme to call it, of domestic servility. Housewife and stay-at-home mom Agnes is so busy hosting a party at her suburban New York home that she cannot participate, much less enjoy it… unlike her husband, who is having a ball and doing not one single damn thing to help. The kicker of the scene is sadly perfect, a plaintive moment of resigned acceptance on Agnes’s face as she acknowledges to herself, for what we may take as the zillionth time, that this is what her life is now and will forever be: small, lonely, and taken for granted. Continue reading…

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Fantasia International Film Festival 2018: Born of Woman Section Dominates — Liz Whittemore Reports

This year’s Fantasia International Film Festival (July 2-August 2) showcased some extraordinary femme-centric thrills and terror in its BORN OF WOMAN section. In the nine selections in the program, stories range from sci-fi to horror, all the way to to the downright strange and unusual. What makes these shorts unique is that fact that they are all directed by women and their stories are all about women. When Fantasia International Film Festival gave birth to BORN OF WOMEN program in 2016 incarnation, it added something that has long been missing in a genre that is known for its predominantly misogynistic overtone. For a rundown of the nine films showcased this year, continue to I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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McQUEEN — Review by Diane Carson

Fashion designers of haute couture possess a formidable drive and a fertile imagination. That certainly describes Lee Alexander McQueen whose name probably registers even with those of us buying off the rack. The documentary simply titled McQueen acquaints viewers in depth with the controversial, troubled man behind various labels for which he designed, including Givenchy, Gucci, and his own. Continue reading…

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SKATE KITCHEN — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

skate kitchen poster 2Director Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen relies on several choice ingredients to elevate her story above the usual urban disaffected-youth drama. That she focuses on a skateboarding crew of real-life girl daredevils who fearlessly fly along the sidewalks and streets of Manhattan like angels on wheels delivers cinematic value as well as irresistible authenticity. That these rough-and-ready stunt artists are naturals onscreen is an added bonus, especially Rachelle Vinberg who stars as Camille. The shy, bespectacled and somewhat naive 18-year-old Long Islander is ready to spread her wings and flee from the smothering clutches of her single mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez from TV’s Orange is the New Black). Continue reading…

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CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — Review by Susan Granger

Clarification: this Christopher Robin bears only a superficial resemblance to Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) about the resentful, real-life son of A.A. Milne. Don’t confuse them. As the live-action story begins, young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) is in the Hundred-Acre Wood, bidding farewell to his friends – Pooh Bear, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Baby Roo – before departing for boarding school, announcing: “I’m not going to do nothing anymore.” Continue reading…

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MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN — Review by Martha K. Baker

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! is more fun than fine. One does not attend a viewing of anything with the words “mamma” or “mia” in the title in order to study psychology or botany. One goes because of the blue, blue sea of Greece. Or the camaraderie of the girls’ band. Or the romance of the young, but especially of the old. One goes for fun in the sun with the music of ABBA accompanying every step. Continue reading…

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SKATE KITCHEN — Review by Cate Marquis

skate kitchen posterWhen we hear someone mention skateboarders, we often picture a group of young guys, trying to top each other with bold new gravity-defying tricks. But writer/director Crystal Moselle shows us a crew of skateboarder girls who are every bit as brash and every bit as good as the guys in Skate Kitchen. Moselle found success at Sundance with her documentary The Wolfpack, but this is her first narrative feature. Continue reading…

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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT — Review by Susan Granger

After 22 years, this sixth installment of the escapist spy fantasy “Mission Impossible” continues to deliver sheer fun, thanks to charming, charismatic Tom Cruise. It begins as IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) receives an assignment to take out the Apostles, an evil syndicate of international anarchists who are determined to terrorize the world, causing chaos by detonating three nuclear bombs in Jerusalem, Mecca and the Vatican. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 3, 1018: NIGHT COMES ON

motw logo 1-35Boasting wholly authentic performances and a poignant, timely story, actress-turned-director Jordana Spiro’s debut feature Night Comes On is a powerful drama about pain, regret, purpose, and sisterhood. With echoes of Moonlight, it follows a young Black woman named Angel Lamere (Dominique Fishback) whose once happy childhood fell victim to drugs and violence, leaving her angry and alone. Continue reading…

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93QUEEN – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

93queen.PBecause it adheres to Hasidic tradition, highly respected EMS service Hatzolah does not accept female paramedics. Women are not supposed to have any physical contact with men other than their husbands, so how can they provide emergency medical assistance? Male EMTs get special exemption from this rule, in order to treat women. Because that’s just fine; the world is always fine with men breaking their own rules for their own benefit. Rachel Freier didn’t think that was just fine, so she headed up a campaign to start an all-female EMS team in Borough Park, Brooklyn — home to the largest ultraorthodox Jewish community in the U.S. — to give Hasidic women the option of being treated by women. Continue reading…

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BLACKKKLANSMAN — Review by Diane Carson

Director Spike Lee is not subtle in his approach to targeted topics, nor should he be when he’s tackling blatant racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism as he does in BlacKkKlansman. Using Ron Stallworth’s real-life experiences, Lee dynamically dramatizes the rise of the Black Power movement crosscut with the angry defensiveness of the local Ku Klux Klan, members call The Organization. Continue reading…

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NIGHT COMES ON — Review by Cate Marquis

Jordana Spiro, star of Netflix’s OZARK and various TV shows, makes a solid feature film directorial debut with NIGHT COMES ON, a drama about two young sisters struggling with life after the murder of their mother by their father. The drama, which premiered at Sundance, is further lifted by remarkable performances by two actresses making their big screen debuts, Dominique Fishback and Tatum Marilyn Hall. Revenge, grief, loss and the bond of sisters are themes of this gritty, unblinking drama, co-written by Spiro and Angelica Nwandu. Continue reading…

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