THAT’S NOT ME – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

One of the most unexpected delights of Australian cinema in 2017 was Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher’s low-budget comedy That’s Not Me, winning audience favourite awards at both Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals this year and garnering strong, vocal support from film critics around the country. The debut feature by husband-and-wife team Erdstein and Foulcher – who met while students at Melbourne’s esteemed Victorian College of the Arts – wrote the screenplay together, with Erdstein taking on directorial duties while Foulcher played not one but both of the starring roles. Continue reading…

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PITCH PERFECT 3 — Review by Martha K. Baker

Pitch Perfect 3 serves a musical mess. Bus, as messes go. the film is a mess o’fun. From start to finish, emphasis on “mess” more than “fun,” however. And, yet, when looking for 93 minutes of brainlessness with a side order of the silly, the skinny, and the singing, you can’t go wrong. Continue reading…

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FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL — Review by Susan Granger

Annette Bening delivers a powerhouse performance as sultry Gloria Grahame. Yet to fully appreciate it, you should know a bit about who this enigmatic actress was. Back in 1940s and ‘50s film noir, Grahame starred in “Crossfire,” “Sudden Fear,” “The Big Heat,” “In a Lonely Place” and “The Bad and the Beautiful,” for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Fans also remember her from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Greatest Show on Earth” and “Oklahoma!” Continue reading…

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CASTING JONBENET — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“I know there was a Santa Claus that was at the party that maybe could have done it.” This idea is offered some 40 minutes into Kitty Greene’s Casting JonBenét. Pondering the possibilities, one of the women looking to be cast as Patsy Ramsey comes on an idea that appeared in tabloids back in the late ’90s, that a local Santa Claus strangled and abused the child, and left her body to be found in her parents’ Boulder, Colorado home. Continue reading…

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THE GREATEST SHOWMAN — Review by Martha K. Baker

The Greatest Showman propels the movie musical. Like its predecessors, from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to Chicago, The Greatest Showman makes a strong case for the movie musical. This one is about grandness grown spectacular, a circus that offers big-tent ideas with down-home family concepts, set to tunes written by Benj Pasek and Austin Paul of Evan Hanson fame. Continue reading…

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI — Review by Sandie Angulo Chen

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is part of the billion-dollar Star Wars saga, continuing the segment of the story that began in The Force Awakens. It takes place right after the events of that movie and is just as violent, with several battles, explosions, space chases, and close-up duels. Directed by Rian Johnson, the movie boasts several strong female characters, including both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Leia (Carrie Fisher, in her final Star Wars performance), as well as diversity within the Resistance and strong messages of courage, teamwork, hope, and loyalty. Continue reading…

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

This is not going to go the way you think,” Luke Skywalker says to… well, someone who needs to hear it. Someone whose arrogance is borne of shortsightedness and narrow expectations. And this is also Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s word of warning to the audience. Continue reading…

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI — Review by Danielle Solzman

Star Wars: The Last Jedi may or may not be the best film in the franchise, but what writer-director Rian Johnson has accomplished in the eighth installment of the Skywalker family saga gives hope to the recent announcement of a planned trilogy to come. It goes without saying that one should enter a Star Wars film knowing as little as possible. There are those people who read everything they can about the films going in and those who decide to enter as blindly as possible. Aim for the latter because these new Star Wars films are a treat and Johnson doesn’t let us down. Continue reading…

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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI — Review by Lauren Veneziani

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Episode Eight, is one of the biggest movies of the year. The Force Awakens, Episode Seven, came out two years ago. This is a continuation of that story. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 22: HO HO HOLIDAY VIEWING

motw logo 1-35This year’s MOTW roster has been dominated by films that present stories about every aspect of women’s struggles for equality and about other serious social issues that demand our attention. But late December is a good time for a bit of seasonal levity. And so we present for your enjoyment Team MOTW’s wonderfully varied list of recommended films for ho ho holiday viewing. The #MOTW roster features romance, comedy, thrills and lots of food. The films are upbeat, inspiring and spirited, although not all directly connected to traditional celebrations. Wonder what’s in store? Continue reading…

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WONDER — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

“Wonder” (rated PG) is a drama and comedy based on R.J. Palacio’s best selling book of the same name. It tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman played by Jacob Tremblay, who is barely recognizable in the film. Remember when he played that darling little boy in the film “Room” in 2015? Auggie’s a good-natured, funny and smart 10-year-old boy, who was born with noticeable facial deformities. Julia Roberts gives an amazing performance as Auggie’s devoted mom, and Owen Wilson stars as a very cool dad. Continue reading…

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THE SHAPE OF WATER — Review by Susan Granger

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has created a poignant, fantastical fable, set in Baltimore, Maryland, at the height of the Cold War era in 1962. A lonely, mute janitor, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), discovers an exotic, aquatic Creature from the Black Lagoon, hidden in a cylindrical tank in a high-security government laboratory, run by sadistic Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who tortures his amphibian captive with an electric cattle prod. Continue reading…

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I AM NOT A WITCH – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

i amnot a witch posterIn a year when Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale returned with force to the public consciousness through the Hulu series of the same name, there’s something of its shared focus on ritual and patriarchal oppression that ripples through I am Not a Witch. But the debut feature by Zambian-Welsh filmmaker Rungano Nyoni is a distinctly unique affair, reflecting the cultural specificity of the African context within which her story is set, and a flair for powerful, political black comedy not wholly unlike that of fellow Brit Chris Morris (a point of comparison a few critics have made). At times sincerely moving, bleakly comic, infuriating and heartbreaking, I am Not a Witch is a shrewd interrogation of exploitation, power, gender and national and personal identity. Continue reading…

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MOLLY’S GAME — Review by Susan Granger

Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Miss Sloane”) is sensational as the Colorado-born skier who became America’s poker princess. After years of training to become world freestyle champion, Continue reading...

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MUDBOUND — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

“Mudbound” is a drama that takes place just after WWII, on a cotton farm in Mississippi. It’s based on the novel written by Hillary Jordan with themes of poverty, racism, violence and a divided America. It stars Jason Clarke as Nate and his wife. Laura, is played by Carey Mulligan. They are landowners. Mary J. Blige stars as Florence their neighbor and sharecropper; she’s married to a sharecropper Hap, played by Rob Morgan. Continue reading…

The sons of both families played by Garret Hedlund and Jason Mitchell served in the war and return only to find bigotry and hatred all enforced by the Ku Klux Klan.

Let’s take a listen: A storekeeper asks, “How long have you been back from overseas? Hedlund replies, “Just a couple of weeks.” (A loud noise causes flashbacks of the war to enter Hedlund’s mind.) Mitchell says, “It’s alright it’s just a car, it must have backfired.”

Here’s Another Clip: Rob Morgan (Hap) says, “This place, this law, we don’t belong to them. Carey Mulligan (Laura) says, “When I think of the farm, I think of mud incrusted in our knees and hair.”

The Bottom-Line: I’m in. Four stars out of Four

This is one of the best films of 2017! I felt like I was watching a literary masterpiece projected on the big screen due to the outstanding script.

It’s based on the history of our country and the cruelties of what people had to endure and shows the bravery of the heroic people that stood up to racism.

Under stellar direction by Dee Rees, we can’t help but empathize with the hardships of the characters.

This is Sarah Knight Adamson signing off for Hollywood 360 Radio Network.

“Mudbound” air date December 2, 2017

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 15: THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR

motw logo 1-35Using the horrific 1944 gang rape of a black woman by white men as a jumping-off point to examine systemic issues of race, class, and power in the United States, Nancy Buirski’s documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is stirring and powerful. Like many other 2017 films, including “Detroit,” “Mudbound,” “Strong Island,” and more, “Recy Taylor” makes it abundantly clear that the complicated history and politics of race and gender are more relevant — and frustrating — than ever. Continue reading…

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THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

I had never heard of Recy Taylor before, and I should have: she is an absolutely badass pioneer of the American civil rights movement, but she’s been all but ignored outside of history that is specifically focused on the black experience in America, which is ridiculous. My first impulse — before I saw The Rape of Recy Taylor — would have been to say that her name should be as well known to white Americans as that of Rosa Parks’s. But as this eye-opening (for white people) documentary demonstrates, even what we white Americans “know” about Rosa Parks has almost entirely erased how absolutely badass she was, too. Continue reading…

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THE SHAPE OF WATER — Review by Beth Accomando

With “The Shape of Water,” Del Toro has returned to the side of the monsters, and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and go back to wholeheartedly embracing his films. With “The Shape of Water,” he returns to fine form by delivering a fairy tale for everyone who thought Fay Wray should have ended up with King Kong, and more specifically that Julie Adams should have paired up with the Gill Man. Continue reading…

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WHAT IF IT WORKS? — Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Australian cinema has a curious relationship with romantic comedies. While international
hits like Strictly Ballroom (1992), Muriel's Wedding (1994), and Love and Other Catastrophes
(1996) found the subgenre hitting a commercial and critical sweet spot in the early-mid
1990s, it isn’t a national trend that has been repeated. Australian cinema has generally
since then leant towards darker or more serious subject matter. Filmmaker Romi Trower’s
What if It Works? may not have gained the same traction as its romcom predecessors, but
it’s certainly the little movie that could, winning awards for Best Australian Independent
Film at the 2017 Gold Coast Film Festival in Australia, Best Debut Feature Film at Canada’s
Female Eye Film Festival, and Cinequest’ New Visions Award in San Jose. Continue reading...

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THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR — Review by Cate Marquis

recy taylor posterNancy Biurski’s timely documentary tells a personal story, of one woman’s brutal rape in 1944 rural Alabama, but then ties her individual experience to the larger themes of history, racism, sexism, white supremacy and patriarchy, in compelling and often surprising ways. Inspired in part by the book “At The Dark End Of The Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by Danielle L. McGuire, director Nancy Biurski skillfully blends the various elements into a documentary that is fascinating, informative and moving. Continue reading…

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CALL ME BY YOUR NAME — Review by Leslie Combemale

Call Me By Your Name, the spellbinding meditation on coming-of-age as a gay young man in 80s rural Italy, is a lyrical, mesmerizing, experience at the cinema that numbers among the best movies of the year. It is also one of the most moving portrayals of gay love ever released on film. Continue reading…

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COCO — Review by Courtney Howard

There have been highly anticipated films before in Pixar’s history, but there probably hasn’t been a more high-profile animated feature than COCO. Throughout its years-long gestation, it’s found itself in both a just and unjust lightning storm of controversy. However, once all that fervor died down, what remained is the final product – and boy howdy is it an enrapturing experience. Brimming with life, rich cultural heritage, dazzling color, beautiful music, and incomparable animation, the team led by director Lee Unkrich and co-director Adrian Molina gift us with a celebratory affair that’s bound to strike the right chord. Continue reading…

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CALL ME BY YOUR NAME — Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Call Me by Your Name’ seduces with academics. The time is 1983, summer. The setting is Italy, warm, open, sexy Italy, with the sous-setting being the groves of academe. A family of academics welcomes a kind of intern to their summer home in northern Italy. Oliver is solidly American to the family’s worldly, multi-lingual context. Continue reading…

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THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES –Review by Cynthia Fuchs

TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES POSTER“When we were kids,” narrates Medina (Maika Monroe), “Jim and I had a treehouse in our backyard. I liked it best when it was just the two of us.” Now, the teenager adds, as you see her and her twin brother Jim (Cody Fern), surfing in the Pacific Ocean. “For the first time in a long time, it felt like we were in our treehouse again.” Continue reading…

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WONDER WHEEL — Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Wonder Wheel’ spins in too many directions. Woody Allen’s latest film joins the other wonders of the season, but “Wonder” is wonder-full, as is “Wonderstruck.” “Wonder Wheel” is not so wonderful as woeful. It refuses to find a focus, almost as if it’s been on its own Ferris wheel and is dizzy with misdirection and indecision. Continue reading…

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