MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 26, 2018: MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

motw logo 1-35Take a lonely British child, add an unexpected discovery and a previously unknown world of magic — including a special school run by powerful wizards — and what do you have? Nope, not Harry Potter. It’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s lovely anime take on prolific British author Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick. Continue reading…

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THE INSULT — Review by Susan Granger

Ziad Doueiri’s intriguing political drama is Lebanon’s submission for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and winner of the 2017 Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor Award (Kamel El Basha). In contemporary Beirut, there’s always an undercurrent of tension between Lebanese Christians and Palestinian Muslim refugees. Which is why a casual insult is blown ‘way out of proportion. Continue reading…

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MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER — Review by Cate Marquis

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a gorgeously animated Japanese film about a red-headed English girl named Mary who follows a black cat into the forest behind her great aunt’s country house, and finds herself transported into a magical world of witches. Continue reading…

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PROUD MARY — Review by Susan Granger

Everything old is new again! In the 1970s, the ethnic subgenre of action thrillers, starring black actors, was known as “Blaxpolitation” films. Exemplified by “Shaft,” “Cleopatra Jones” and “Foxy Brown,” they were originally aimed an urban audiences, but their appeal spread. Now – with the rise of fighting female characters – Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures,” TV’s “Empire”) takes the titular role as a ruthless African-American assassin who feels guilty about one particular hit for the Boston Mob. Continue reading…

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THE FINAL YEAR — Review by Martha K. Baker

It’s doubtful that anyone sitting around the fire at Trump Camp will give “The Final Year” a moment’s notice, but those who were warmed by the fires kindled in President Barack Obama’s Administration will be fired up by this well-made documentary of the work that it takes to negotiate with foreign powers. Continue reading…

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PHANTOM THREAD — Review by Susan Granger

Daniel Day-Lewis is one of our finest actors; each performance is precisely researched, resulting in absolute authenticity. Here, he plays eccentric, self-absorbed Reynolds Woodcock, a discerning British fashion designer. In the 1950s, lavish haute couture was revered by rich women and royalty, along with the couturiers. Impeccably groomed, imperious Woodcock demands that his elegant London townhouse home/office revolves around his craftsmanship and whims. Breakfast is silent: no crunching toast or idle chatter. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 19, 2018: THE SHAPE OF WATER

motw logo 1-35As beautiful to look at as it is entertaining to watch, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a rich, textured romance/fairy tale about two misfits who find unexpected kinship in a secret government lab during the Cold War. It’s unlike any other film that hit the big screen in 2017, which is one of the reasons why AWFJ members voted to give it the EDA Award for Best Film of the year. Continue reading….

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2017 AWFJ EDA Awards: The Winners

The women of AWFJ have voted!

shape of water 3The Shape of Water is the big winner in this year’s 1th annual AWFJ EDA Awards, garnering awards for Best Film, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro and Bravest Performance for Sally Hawkins. AWFJ voters show love for Greta Gerwig with EDA’s for Best Female Director and Best Female Screenwriter for Lady Bird, with Laurie Metcalf winning the award for Best Supporting Actress in Lady Bird. EDAs went to a diverse array of talents in 19 additional categories, including Actress Most in Need of a New Agent and the coveted AWFJ Hall of Shame Award. For the full list, Continue reading…

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PADDINGTON 2 — Review by Susan Granger

Set a few years after Paddington sprang onto the silver screen, the red-hatted, blue-raincoated, marmalade-scarfing bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled into a new life in London’s Windsor Gardens with his adoptive parents, the Browns (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins). Continue reading…

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THE SHAPE OF WATER — review by Cate Marquis

Magical, evocative and haunting, THE SHAPE OF WATER blends Cold War thriller, fairy tale and monster movie genres in director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film since PAN’S LABYRINTH, as well as one of the year’s best. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 12, 2018: THE POST

motw logo 1-35It’s hard to think of a movie with a more timely, important message than “The Post.” Steven Spielberg’s drama tells the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the ’70s, but the film’s scenes of journalists passionately advocating for a free, independent press in a democracy could just as easily be set in today’s world of “fake news” conflict between the media and the government. Continue reading….

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THE POST — Review by Dorothy Woodend

The star of Steven Spielberg’s The Post isn’t Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks, although, they’re perfectly serviceable. The real star is the enormous glistening caftan that Streep, as publisher Katharine Graham, wafts about in when the film’s penultimate moment arrives. The decision to bring down the Nixon government is undertaken in a tasseled white gold confection, that is little more than a souped-up nightgown. It is the peignoir that toppled a president. Continue reading…

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THE POST – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Okay. Steven Spielberg has made movies about dinosaurs and sharks and aliens (lost and cute, invading and not cute, and just visiting and enigmatic) and adventurin’ archeologists and war horses and crime-predicting psychics and big friendly giants. It’s probably not difficult to make such things exciting. But this? The Post is a movie in which people sit around arguing about freedom of the press and journalistic ethics and IPOs. Papers are shuffled and xeroxed. Lawyers are consulted, and mostly just frown a lot in reply. The most visually dynamic the movie ever gets involves the setting of hot type — so quaint! — and the rattle of printing presses running off the next morning’s newspaper. And it is all completely riveting. Seriously, I had goosebumps on my arms watching tied-up bundles of newspapers being tossed onto trucks about to bring Truth to the world in time for breakfast. Continue reading…

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JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE — Review by Susan Granger

This re-imagining of Robin Williams’ 1995 action comedy delights in its own right, as four archetypal teenagers, serving detention in the school’s storeroom, discover a vintage video game and decide to play, each assuming an avatar. Brainiac nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff) picks Dr. Smolder Bravestone, football star Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) chooses zoologist Moose Finbar, egocentric Bethany (Madison Iseman) opts for ‘curvy’ cartographer Shelly Oberon, leaving angry, uptight Martha (Morgan Turner) as Ruby Roundhouse. Continue reading…

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ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD — Review by Susan Granger

Perhaps even more fascinating than this fact-based kidnap drama is how 80 year-old director Ridley Scott replaced scandal-riddled Kevin Spacey with 88 year-old Christopher Plummer as billionaire J. Paul Getty. After re-filming 22 scenes, Scott seamlessly edited old reaction shots with the new footage. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 5, 2018 : MOLLY’S GAME

motw logo 1-35In “Molly’s Game,” writer/director Aaron Sorkin introduces us to Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a complicated woman who’s all the more fascinating because she’s real. Smart, resourceful, competitive, driven — Molly succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to. At first, that’s skiing; pushed hard by her demanding father, Larry (Kevin Costner), she becomes an Olympic-level champion who seems destined for gold…until a random accident ends her skiing career for good. continue reading….

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ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD — Review by Martha K. Baker

“All the Money in the World” succeeds fiercely. John Paul Getty was a Scrooge. He figured out not only how to dredge oil from the Arabian desert but also how to haul it across the oceans in a tanker. Thus, he was not just the richest man in the world but the richest man in the history of the world. Continue reading…

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HOSTILES — Review by Susan Granger

Paying homage to classic Westerns like John Ford’s “The Searchers,” writer/director Scott Cooper has created a different kind of frontier saga, one which examines the complexity of the Native American conflict and connects with relevant, contemporary themes, including reconciliation, inclusion and equality. Continue reading…

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MOLLY’S GAME — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

mollys game poster“This woman does not belong in a RICO indictment. She belongs on a box of Wheaties.” Attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) gives a rousing speech near the end of Molly’s Game, one where he defends his client, Molly (Jessica Chastain), against a pair of government prosecutors. They want her to give up information on the men who played in her high stakes poker games. Charlie, it turns out, is borrowing his defense from his daughter Stella (Whitney Peak), who sees in Molly a role model and a hero. Continue reading…

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Eleanor Coppola on PARIS CAN WAIT and Doing Things Her Way –Interview by Jessica Zack

Eleanor Coppola admits she had some fun playing with the line between autobiography and fiction while writing the screenplay for “Paris Can Wait,” her new romantic road-trip movie which is also — remarkably, at age 81 — her narrative feature directorial debut.Continue reading…

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Filmmaker Margaret Betts on NOVITIATE — Interview by Kristen Page-Kirby

Novitiate” is a love story about a girl in a relationship with a guy who just doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to her. It’s a fairly typical tale, except the girl is a 17-year-old nun in training and the guy is God. In the drama, opening Friday, Cathleen (played by Margaret Qualley) enters the (fictional) convent of the Sisters of Blessed Rose in 1964. She begins her journey toward becoming a nun with a one-year stint as a postulant, getting used to the daily routine of the convent. That’s followed by two years as a novitiate, when she is expected to make herself worthy of the habit. Overseeing her journey is the Reverend Mother (Oscar winner Melissa Leo), who rules her convent with a terrifying power — a power she feels is threatened by the ongoing Second Vatican Council, which is making substantial changes regarding the role of nuns in the Roman Catholic Church. Continue reading…

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MOLLY’S GAME – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

I don’t want to jinx it, but is it possible that Hollywood is warming up to the idea of flawed women as appropriate — even riotously entertaining — protagonists of their own stories? There’s been a solid handful of really great examples of movies this year about women as fully human people — which isn’t anywhere near enough, but far more than recent years have given us — and 2017 is going out on a wonderful high note with the bold, tough Molly’s Game. Continue reading…

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BLADE RUNNER 2049 — Review by Courtney Howard

It’s taken 35 years to get a BLADE RUNNER sequel – and thank God the resulting product doesn’t disappoint. From what we’ve seen from other franchises that have experienced similar decades-long gestation periods (films like BLUES BROTHERS 2000, DUMB AND DUMBER TO, and TRON LEGACY), things could’ve gone enormously wrong when it came to BLADE RUNNER 2049. Yet much like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, it never fails us. Director Denis Villeneuve’s entrancing, awe-inducing spectacle not only follows up on some major lingering questions that have haunted cinephiles, launching them into heated debates, but also marinates longer on Ridley Scott’s original heady concepts and gift for striking world-building. Continue reading…

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THE POST — Review by Danielle Solzman

Steven Spielberg’s The Post makes for a timely offering by the way that the film displays just how important it is for America to have a free press. Spielberg’s journalistic thriller takes a screenplay written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer and manages to turn it into a hard-hitting film that ought to make people think twice about what’s going on in America. Continue reading…

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FERDINAND — Review by Danielle Solzman

For the second time in a one-month period, an animated film touches upon Hispanic culture. In this instance, however, Ferdinand tells the story of a bull who doesn’t want to fight. Not only does he not want to fight, but the other bulls tease him for not wanting to take part in the traditional career. Ferdinand would rather be doing other things like playing with flowers. Continue reading…

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