BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY — Review by Nikki Baughan

BOMBSHELL POSTERHedy Lamarr, the inventor… who knew?! What’s clear from Alexandra Dean’s engaging and eye-opening documentary is that everyone should be aware that the stunning actress from Hollywood’s golden age was also a keen scientist, responsible for the discovery of frequency hopping that first assisted military radiographers and is now a key component in everything from smartphones to WiFi. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24: BOMBSHELL – THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

motw logo 1-35“Bombshell” is the perfect title for a documentary about Hedy Lamarr. Not only was Lamarr a renowned Hollywood screen siren (aka a “bombshell”), but she also helped invent signal-hopping radio-based technology that was used to guide Allied torpedoes (literal bombshells) during World War II, a system whose DNA can be seen in the Bluetooth and WiFi systems we all rely on today. Continue reading…

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BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY –Review by Cate Marquis

If you use WiFi or GPS, you owe something to Hedy Lamarr. BOMBSHELL: HEDY LAMARR tells the astonishing story of Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s who also invented frequency hopping, the idea behind the technology used GPS and Bluetooth. Filled with fascinating details about the life of this most unusual person, gifted with both good looks and brains, yet struggled to find recognition for the latter. Throughout the film, one is struck by how different her life might have been in another era, when she could have more easily pursued her real dream, of being an inventor. One is also struck by how her beauty was sometimes a barrier to her real ambitions. Continue reading…

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MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE — Review by Susan Granger

The takeaway thought from this less-than-memorable biopic is that one highly-principled person can make a big difference…and many Americans are hoping that another steps forth soon. The whistleblower is Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), who for many years was a trusted confidante and second-in-line to the F.B.I.’s Director J. Edgar Hoover. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17: THE BREADWINNER

motw logo 1-35The Breadwinner is a powerful, gorgeously animated film about Parvana, a remarkable little girl caught in untenable circumstances in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan. From the studio and filmmakers who previously gave us The Secret of Kells and other animated gems, “The Breadwinner” isn’t your typical mainstream “cartoon” fare. Based on the same-named novel by Deborah Ellis (who has co-screenwriting credit with Anita Doron), director Nora Twomey’s remarkable film tells a deep, thoughtful story replete with elements of both pain and joy, despair and hope. Continue reading…

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THE BREADWINNER — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

breadwinner poster“Stay inside where you belong.” Again and again in The Breadwinner, 11-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is reminded of her place. A girl in 2001 Kabul, she’s surrounded by war and threatened by the Taliban. She’s not supposed to read, think for herself, or go outside without a man, she’s not supposed to show her face and she’s certainly not supposed to work a job. A the same time, however, her father Nurullah (Ali Badshah), a teacher, encourages her to explore the world around her, to feel confident and to tell and listen to stories, because, he says, “Stories remain in our hearts even when all else is gone.” Continue reading…

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MUDBOUND — Review by Esther Iverem

The human, under surveillance and under American Southern totalitarianism, is the recurrent theme in the new, compelling Netflix feature “Mudbound.” Director-producer Dee Rees adapts Hillary Jordan’s World War II-era novel with the appropriate amount of claustrophobia and stricture befitting Jim Crow Mississippi. Continue reading…

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THOR: RAGNAROK — Review by Susan Granger

For comic-book fans, Marvel’s hammer-throwing hero is back – in the BEST Thor movie yet! ince “Ragnarok” means apocalypse, the story picks up where the last one left off: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder, is trying to save Asgard, his home planet, only to discover that he and his treacherous brother Loki (Tim Hiddleston) have a power-hungry older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), Goddess of Death. Continue reading…

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MUDBOUND — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

rees mudbound posterMudbound begins with digging. The screen is black, the sound unmistakable. The scene that emerges takes place at night: two brothers are digging a grave for their father. A storm is coming, so Henry (Jason Clarke) and Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) are in a hurry. “We ain’t gonna make it,” mutters Jamie. Henry insists that they will, that they have to. “That was my brother Henry,” narrates Jamie. “Absolutely certain whatever he wanted to happen would. Certain his little brother would never betray him.” Continue reading…

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MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS — Review by Martha K. Baker

Seeing the magnificent cast list may draw you in. Enjoying a classic mystery, even when you know who dun it, may draw you in. But after watching “Murder on the Orient Express,” you may feel discounted, for the Kenneth Branagh production has all the oomph of an airless whoopee cushion. But ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ gives new depth to ‘meh!’ Continue reading…

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WALKING OUT — Review by Susan Granger

Montana-born filmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith craft this father/son saga as a tense survival story, reminiscent of “The Revenant” and “Mountain Men.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10: MUDBOUND

motw logo 1-35Telling the intertwining stories of two families — one white, one black — living on the same piece of rural Mississippi farmland in the 1940s, Dee ReesMudbound blends strong performances, notable cinematography, and heartbreaking human drama. It’s clear things are going to get grim from the opening sequence, in which adult brothers Henry and Jamie McAllan (played by Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund, respectively) try to bury their father despite the onslaught of a torrential downpour, which leaves both men shaken and covered in mud. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Jolie and Loung Ung Honored, WONDER WOMAN Top Grosser, The Guardian’s Women’s Cinema Canon

Filmmaker, actor and activist Angelina Jolie and author-activist Loung Ung will receive the Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award at the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards for their critically-acclaimed film “First They Killed My Father,” which is also Cambodia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. ‘Wonder Woman’ sill soars at the box office to become the top-grossing superhero origin film. Writer-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s “Loving Vincent” sets new standards in animation art. The Guardian proposes a new cinematic canon chosen by women. Note that the members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalist created a Top 100 Films list a decade ago in response to AFI’s heavily male dominated Top 100 Films List. And the beat goes on. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN...

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS –Review by Martha K. Baker

What made “Bad Moms” delightful was the attention to truth: those moms weren’t bad so much as they were exhausted. The moms in the sequel are shown to be exhausted, too, but by trying to make Christmas perfect — the perfect tree, perfect gifts, perfect parties. They are their mothers’ daughters. Continue reading…

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ALL I SEE IS YOU — Review by Susan Granger

The concept of blindness has resulted in some fascinating films, starting with Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” in 1931, followed by “A Patch of Blue,” “The Miracle Worker,” “Wait Until Dark” and “Scent of a Woman” and “Ray” – to name a few. Unfortunately, “All I See Is You” isn’t one of them. Continue reading…

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11/8/16 — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

11-8-16 posterOn the morning of the 2016 US presidential election, national polls gave Donald Trump a 7 to 29% chance of winning. So begins 11/8/16, a documentary that compiles stories of that day, 16 subjects filmed by 16 artists. The first noise you hear is ticking, over a wide view of the Empire State Building in the early, still-dark hours. The sound suggests a countdown, bridging to a closeup of taxi driver Amrit at morning prayer. Afterwards, he speaks with fellow Sikhs, noting that they have been able to “have some identity” in America. “Otherwise,” he adds, “we don’t have an identity anywhere else in the world.” Continue reading…

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SUBURBICON — Review by Susan Granger

One of the great disappointments of the Fall season is this collaboration between George Clooney and the Coen brothers, revolving around skullduggery in the suburbs in the summer of 1959. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT November 2017: Dee Rees, Independently Epic Filmmaker, Director MUDBOUND

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With just a few films to her credit, director Dee Rees is already making an assured and unique mark on American cinema. She brings mature talent, technical skill, and creative vision, all while being true to herself as a gay African-American woman. Available November 17, her latest film Mudbound vividly demonstrates she can extend her intimately emotional filmmaking to an epic scale. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 3, 2017: 11/8/16

motw logo 1-35Anticipation. Excitement. Hope. Worry. Fear. Anger. Despair. On November 8, 2016 — election day — tens of millions of Americans felt one, many, or all of those emotions, no matter who they voted for. And the wide-ranging, collaborative documentary “11/8/16″ brings all of those big feelings right back to the forefront as it chronicles a day that many of us wish we could forget (or at least do over) but that history will always remember. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Films of 2017, November Update

motw logo 1-35Focusing specifically on films directed by women as well as those featuring strong female lead characters and female-centric stories, AWFJ’s Team #MOTW has endorsed more than 40 exceptional films during 2017, to date. Because we pick only one film per week for #MOTW endorsement, we’ve had to pass up a good number of superb films that qualified, but were not our collective top choice. In August we paused to list the Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Film of 2017, to Date, including #MOTW selections and others we’d particularly liked. Now that awards season is beginning, we’re updating that list to include films released from August through the end of October. Continue reading…

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11/8/16 — Review by Nikki Baughan

11-8-16 posterA fascinating and well-crafted portrait of grass-roots democracy in action, 11/8/16 also offers a vibrant snapshot of a country defined by both its divided national politics and its unified local communities. On election day 2016, cameras travel the length and breadth of the United States, following voters, campaigners, commentators and activists from across the political spectrum as they gear up to find out whether Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump will be their next president. Continue reading…

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SUBURBICON — Review by Martha K. Baker

The Coen Brothers’ latest offering is complicated to say the least, unsubtle to say the most. “Suburbicon” floods blood. It pounds with violence. It exploits mid-century modern — and a child actor. It disregards its effects, which may or may not have been the ones the bros had in mind. Continue reading…

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THE SNOWMAN — Review by Susan Granger

When the director of a bizarre murder mystery admits that something went wrong, it’s worth noting. Here’s what Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation: “We didn’t get the whole story, and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing, so you don’t see the whole picture.” Alfredson added that the greenlight to shoot came “very abruptly,” and about 10-15% of the screenplay wasn’t even filmed. Which makes for a lot of plot holes. Continue reading…

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New York Film Festival 2017: Top Female Performances — Liz Whittemore reports

NYFF55-posterThis year’s festival was not lacking in gorgeously acted roles. Here is a list of 10 notable performances that I believe deserve attention. I will preface this list by saying I was unable to see Wonderstruck and Lady Bird. I am hearing nothing but praise for Julianne Moore‘s dual roles, newcomer Millicent Simmonds, and Saoirse Ronan. Of the 10 performances, only 7 films are represented. In no particular order, here are some ladies to be on the lookout for come awards season and beyond. Continue reading…

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CHAVALA — Review by Martha K. Baker

It is entirely possible that you’ve never heard of Chavela Vargas, but the excellent documentary, “Chavela” will introduce you to this remarkable woman. She sang, not like a bird but like the earth. She sang ranchera, literally “a farmer’s song,” but figuratively, songs of love and loss, lots of loss. Continue reading

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