Ann Hui and OUR TIME WILL COME — Marilyn Ferdinand comments

At a time when the outlook for women working in Hollywood appears just as bleak as ever, it’s wonderful to note that directors like Ann Hui are still working at or near the top of their game. Hui, 70, is a highly acclaimed Chinese filmmaker who is associated with the Hong Kong New Wave that includes Tsui Hark, John Woo, and Wong Kar-wai. Hui has 31 directing credits, including one of the best treatments of aging I have ever seen, A Simple Life (2011). She has told a variety of stories over her career, but her signature strength is the sympathy and meticulous detail she brings to her observations of ordinary people, especially as her desire to work on socially conscious projects has grown. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 28-August 4: STEP

motw logo 1-35An inspiring documentary about a group of African-American teen girls who find success through a mix of hard work, grit, high expectations, and dedicated mentorship, Amanda Lipitz’s Step is both engaging and uplifting. It follows the competitive step-dancing team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school with a very ambitious goal: that all of its graduates attend college. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by Cate Marquis

The inspirational documentary STEP follows a girls’ step dance team at a Baltimore charter high school, both in their quest to win a big step dance competition and to get into college. The story takes place in the shadow of the unrest and protests that gripped Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray. Echoes of Ferguson, Michael Brown and Black Lives Matter are present as well. Continue reading…

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DUNKIRK — Review by Susan Granger

W.W.II’s Miracle of Dunkirk has never been addressed in American cinema. It details the epic rescue of 338,000 Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk, France: the biggest evacuation in military history. From May 27 to June 4, 1940, the Allies were surrounded on all sides by German forces (never named, just referred to as “the enemy”), while the Luftwaffe repeatedly buzzed and bombarded the beaches. Continue reading…

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THE JOURNEY — Review by Martha K. Baker

The Journey negotiates from war to peace. Two men openly said horrible things about each other during a historical period known ominously as The Troubles. The enemy leaders are forced to journey together in 2006 during the Northern Ireland Peace Accords. Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness and Democratic Party pastor, Ian Paisley, are chauffeured to the meeting. Continue reading…

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AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH: TRUTH TO POWER — Review by Susan Granger

Not long after President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, a crack in Antarctica’s ice shelf caused a 1.1-trillion-ton block of ice to calve, forming a colossal iceberg which is already breaking into huge chunks. Couple that with the increasing threat of mega-fires, worsening floods, deeper droughts and worldwide temperatures hitting a record high for the third year in a row. So to call this documentary follow-up to 2006’s Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” timely is an understatement. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 21-28: 500 YEARS

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500 Years is the third film in director Pamela Yates’ trilogy about Guatemala. Expansive in its coverage, and impassioned about its subject, the film is very much a classic social justice documentary, right down to the final scenes of enormous crowds thronging the city streets, demanding change. Continue reading…

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In The Muck of It: The Films of Ann Turner — Profile by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

Ann Turner - Photo by Kristian Gehradte

Ann Turner – Photo by Kristian Gehradte

I’m sitting in a small private booth at the Australian Mediatheque at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image, waiting while an old 16mm film is being set up on a vintage Steenbeck for viewing. It feels like the end of a pilgrimage, the last of Australian author, screenwriter and director Ann Turner’s films I left have to see: this is her 1981 student short, Flesh on Glass, made during her time at the Swinburne Film School (soon to become the Victorian College of the Arts). Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Pamela Yates well-made, affecting 500 YEARS is the third and final film in her documentary series on Guatemala and the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in that country. Although the film is the third in the series, it stands well on its own, recapping critical points from the first two films. Clips from the first two films, WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE and GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, are included in this final one. The first film, in 1983, actually provided evidence in the trial of former military leader and president Montt, that trial being the subject of the second film. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE HOUSE — Review by Susan Granger

A strong contender for the Worst Picture of the Year, this new Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy fails on almost every level. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE MIDWIFE POSTER‘We’ll never understand each other.” Claire (Catherine Frot) stands abruptly, ready to leave the restaurant where she’s just sat down with Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve). A long shot near the start of Martin Provost’s The Midwife (Sage Femme) reveals other diners, oblivious to the drama at center screen. Béatrice gazes up at Claire, surprised at her upset: “We were just starting to be friends again.” Continue reading…

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SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING — Review by Susan Granger

Are you ready for the on-going Spider-Man origin story? This one finds the webslinger joining Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, cavorting with the Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America. Frantic 15 year-old, high-school sophomore Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is frustrated because, although he’s been given an awesome high-tech suit by billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he’s told not use his superpowers except on a local level, reporting to Stark’s flunkie, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). Continue reading…

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DESPICABLE ME 3 — Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Despicable Me 3′ delights with cleverness. A lot of animated films have a sinking spell right about the middle, when the plot has been set up, the characters intro- or re-introduced, and the decibel level established but before the boffo end. “Despicable Me 3″ never sinks, which means: forget about taking a little nappy-wappy about mid-way. Continue reading…

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THE HERO — Review by Susan Granger

Sam Elliott has never stopped working in films, ever since he made his debut with Paul Newman and Robert Redford in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969). And – in real life – it’s Sam Elliott who eventually married their co-star Katharine Ross. Continue reading…

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BABY DRIVER — Review by Susan Granger

British writer/director Edgar Wright puts the pedal to the metal for this propulsive, music-driven crime caper. The titular Baby (Ansel Elgort) is paying off a debt to crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) by working as his rubber-burning getaway driver. Doc is the ruthless, short-tempered mastermind behind a series of robberies in Atlanta. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 14-21: THE MIDWIFE

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Two women, one old wound, and a whole lot of wine. Boiled down to its essential ingredients, Martin Provost’s new film The Midwife is diverting enough, filled with small pleasures, and sometimes that is enough. Especially when the two women are so beautifully portrayed by Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot. Continue reading…

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EYE ON MEDIA: Representing Trump — Martha P. Nochimson comments

nochimson trump 1The recent furor about Oskar Eustis’ open air production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in New York City in which Caesar was dressed up to look like Donald Trump and Calpurnia had a Slavic accent started me thinking about the larger issue of imaginatively representing the current occupant of the White House. There is an obvious desire to reflect on the terrible plight of America under the Trump administration through humor and storytelling, and our friends around the world support that inclination. Continue reading on EYE ON MEDIA.

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THE VILLAINESS — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

the villainess posterThe reputation of South Korean genre film has been growing exponentially as a force to be reckoned with. The Cannes Film Festival has proven a fertile space for the release of the best the country has on offer to Western markets, and following the success of Yeon-Sang-ho’s extraordinary zombie film Train to Busan in 2016, Cannes’ Midnight Screenings this year featured Jung Byung-gil’s high-octane female-centred action movie The Villainess. Starring Kim Ok-bin (most immediately recognisable from her performance in Park Chan-wook’s 2009 film Thirst), The Villainess by some accounts received a four-minute standing ovation when it screened at Cannes, fuelled no doubt as much by admiration for the film itself as it was a sheer biological necessity to release the film’s near-palpable, contagious energy. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Jeanne Wolf

“The Midwife” is worth watching just to see two great actresses share the screen as women with entirely different personalities and views on life. It is funny and touching to see Catherine Deneuve fighting aging and illness – nothing like you’ve ever seen her do on the screen before. I couldn’t stop staring at this beauty with too much and too smeary make-up — too many dress sizes up–too wobbly in her high heels. What kept me riveted was her spirit- the kind of “watch me be naughty and excessive” attitude that only a woman who has been adored by men her whole life can live out. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Director Martin Provost wrote Midwife’s script specifically for his stars, French legends Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve, and he is beautifully attuned to each actor’s strengths. Frot (Marguerite, La Nouvelle Eve) is the titular midwife, Claire, and the most important birthing she needs to attend to at the moment is the next stage of her life. Continue reading…

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OKJA — Review by Susan Granger

Inventive director Bong Joon Ho (“Snowpiercer,” “The Host”) has concocted a satirical action-comedy, blended with a controversial, socially-conscious allegorical fable. The prologue introduces Lucy Mirando (Tilda Switon), the ethically-challenged CEO of a powerful, multi-national, agrochemical corporation. She announces that her company will breed a new pig-like creature, a gigantic mammal, to solve the world’s hunger problem, distributing 26 genetically modified super-piglets to locations around the world to be raised by local farmers within their own “eco-friendly” culture. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED — Review by Susan Granger

Stylish filmmaker Sofia Coppola (“Marie Antoinette,” “Lost in Translation”) has adapted Don Siegel’s lurid 1971 Clint Eastwood western, based on the pulpy 1966 Thomas P. Cullinan novel. Set in war-ravaged Virginia in 1864, it begins as a badly wounded Union solder, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), collapses near Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, where he’s spotted by a youngster, curious Miss Amy (Oona Laurence), who is collecting mushrooms in the moss-draped woods. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 7 – 14: LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD

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The word indefatigable may well have been fashioned for the likes of Gertrude Bell. At a time, when women were largely confined to the domestic sphere, Bell climbed mountains, rode camels, palled about with Lawrence of Arabia, and penned letters, mountains of them, all the while dressed in impeccable fashion.Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT July 2017: Claire McCarthy, Filmmaker, OPHELIA

awfjspotlightsmallsmallclaire mccarthy 2Outside Oz, Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy is known primarily for her 2009 film The Waiting City, starring Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton as a couple in disarray as they travel to India to take delivery of a child they have adopted. But McCarthy’s broader filmography even more forcefully underscores why she is the perfect director for the upcoming Ophelia project, Hamlet retold from the perspective of Shakespeare’s iconically tragic ingenue as played by Daisy Ridley. As Michelle Hannett reported from Cannes in May, the film is one of the most highly anticipated for 2018 release. Continue reading…

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