THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD — Review by Susan Granger

There are no surprises in this buddy action-comedy. Two established American stars (one Caucasian, one African-American), supported by some stalwart, foreign character-actors, engage in lots of violence, peppered with profanity. Continue reading…

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WIND RIVER — Review by Martha K. Baker

The moon is full over snowed upon water. The snow is dirtied by time. Red and bloodied by death. This scene begins the shocking, excellent film “Wind River,” named for Wyoming’s only American Indian reservation. Before that scene settles, a marksman has found a teenager. She is dead on the landscape. Continue Reading…

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LEAP! — Review by Susan Granger

Aimed specifically at pre-teens, this animated feature has a bizarre history. Originally a French/Canada co-production, titled “Ballerina,” it performed well in Europe last year. Unfortunately, the Americanized version lost its magic somewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 1- 8: SCHOOL LIFE

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School Life, director Neasa Ní Chianáin’s sweetly pellucid portrait of Headfort School in County Kells, Ireland feels like a sojourn in another simpler age. Inside the school’s rambling hallways and comfortably shambolic classrooms, a proper education, in all senses of the term, is unfolding. Continue reading…

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Elizabeth Whittemore

School Life pulls at the heartstrings of this former substitute teacher and children’s theatre director with its effortless charm. Following a married couple who teach at an Irish boarding school, this doc will bring you back to the days where being away from home can be both all consuming and exciting. Continue reading

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MENASHE — Review by Martha K. Baker

“All beginnings are hard,” it is written in the Tal-mud. And Menashe is finding life hard since he lost his wife Leah a year ago. His son Rieven has gone to, or been sent to, his mother’s brother’s house to live. Menashe, a hapless, portly Jew, wants his son back. The rabbi of his tightly constrained Hasidic com-munity, shown in tight camera shots, grants Menashe a week to earn his son back. It’s the week before Leah’s memorial, which her brother thinks should be held at his house, not in Menashe’s crowded flat. In that week, Menashe does everything wrong. Continue reading…

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WIND RIVER — Review by Susan Granger

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Wind River” is a powerful, action-packed 8, concluding with the distressing postscript: “There are no records available for tracking missing and murdered Native American women.” Read full review

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LANDLINE — Review by Martha K. Baker

The title’s reference to a fading form of communication suggests the decade for “Landline,” that is, the Nineties. But it says nothing about the chief literary device, that of irony, which each of the characters has to deal with in the course of this multi-generational look at cheating. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 25 – September 1: POLINA

motw logo 1-35Raw, emotional, and creative, Valerie Muller and Angelin Preljocaj’s Polina is an engaging story about a young Russian dancer who needs to find her inner self before she can truly lose herself in her art. With strong and compelling performances both on and off the dance stage, the film is a powerful look at managing others’ expectations, having the courage to take chances, and believing in yourself. Continue reading…

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POLINA — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

polina posterIn the film Flashdance, when Jennifer Beals is about to toss away her ambitions to be a ballerina, her boyfriend tells her, “When you give up your dream, you die.” But what if you are fulfilling someone else’s dream? Apparently, you never really live. That is what happens to the title character in Polina, about a young Russian girl who spends her entire youth training for the Bolshoi Ballet while fulfilling her parents’ wish, while her father must resort to shady means to pay her way. Inevitably, Polina rebels as a teen. Continue reading…

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POLINA — Review by Cate Marquis

The French- and Russian-language drama Polina is a coming-of-age story about a promising young Russian ballerina named Polina in search of artistic fulfillment. But Polina‘s real appeal is not its story as much as its many moments of magical dance and fine choreography. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Susan Granger

In this scathing docudrama, Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker’ and “Zero Dark Thirty,” depicts the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the volatile summer of 1967. It begins on the night of July 23 with a violent police raid on “The Blind Pig,” an unlicensed bar and African-American social club located on the second floor of a printing company, inciting what came to be known as the 12th Street Riot. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

STEP POSTERForget those silly Step Up movies. Even though they are set in the world of hip-hop street-dance competitions that are primarily an “urban” — read: black — phenomenon, they manage to focus almost entirely on white characters. Instead, here’s Step, which is literally the real thing. Hugely cheering and cheer-worthy, this documentary look at a high-school girls’ step team covers so much ground that unforgivably goes mostly unexamined onscreen: it couldn’t be fresher or more important. It’s also wildly entertaining while simultaneously enormously enlightening. Continue reading…

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MENASHE — Review by Susan Granger

Set in Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Borough Park neighborhood, this is the story of a Jewish widower (Menashe Lustig) who has lost custody of his beloved 10 year-old son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski). According to strict Hasidic custom, the youngster cannot be raised by a single parent. He must live with a father AND mother, so Menache’s married, financially secure, judgmental brother-in-law, Eizik (Yoel Weisshaus), has become Rieven’s condescending guardian. Continue reading…

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VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS — Review by Susan Granger

From Luc Besson, the visionary French director of “Lucy” and “The Fifth Element,” comes this $200 million sci-fi fantasy, consisting of an episodic series of missions originating on Alpha, a space station in the Magellan Current that keeps expanding, adding new entities, becoming an intergalactic, multicultural hub. Continue reading

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 18-25: DETROIT

motw logo 1-35Intense. Infuriating. Immediate. Kathryn Bigelow‘s powerful, often-heartbreaking historical drama Detroit is all of these things and more. Set amid the chaos, violence, and anger of the riots that dominated Motor City during the summer of 1967, the film’s narrative focuses on the police brutality that took place at the Algiers Motel on July 25 and 26 of that year, and the justice system’s subsequent whitewashing of that heinous event. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Pam Grady

detroit posterIn the summer of 1967, while the West Coast grooved to the Summer of Love, Detroit burned in five days of rioting that pitted the African American community against the arrayed forces of the Detroit police department, Michigan state police, and the National Guard. In her most potent film to date, Kathryn Bigelow reteams with screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) to stunningly recreate that time. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Cate Marquis

detroit posterIn Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow spotlights the civil unrest that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, and particularly the infamous events that took place at the Algiers Motel, when police abused a group of mostly black men and killed three. One would have hoped that 50 years on, we would be looking back those events and noting how far we have come. Sadly, that is not the case. Continue reading…

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KIDNAP — Review by Susan Granger

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) is devoted to her six year-old son Frankie (Sage Correa). A single mother, she works as a waitress in a New Orleans-area diner and spends all of her free time with her boy. While Frankie’s playing at a nearby amusement park, Karla steps away to take an important phone call from her attorney; apparently, her ex-husband is suing for sole custody. When she looks up, Frankie’s gone. Continue reading…

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THE EMOJI MOVIE — Review by Susan Granger

For technology luddites and those who have never encountered a smartphone, Emoji are pictographs and ideograms that are used to convey electronic messages via texts. Originating on Japanese mobile phones in the late 1990s, Emojis were popularized by Apple’s iPhone and soon adopted by Android and other mobile operating systems. Their addictive popularity led to inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster. While their meanings can be culture-specific, their use is now almost universal. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 11 to 18, 2017: PATTI CAKE$

motw logo 1-35Opening August 18, Patti Cake$ tells the story of aspiring New Jersey rapper Patricia “Killa P” Dombrowski, portrayed by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald in a breakout perfomance. Patti lives with her single mom, Barb (Bridget Everett), and grandmother, Nana (Cathy Moriarty), in near squalor in urban New Jersey. Barb spends her evenings getting drunk and bitterly reveling in memories of her youthful days of near-stardom as a pop singer — a dream that fell by the wayside when she got pregnant with Patti. Patti, without outbursts of rebellion or resentment, sustains the family with menial jobs, while literally dreaming every night of stardom, as over-the-top visions of famous rapper O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) float through her sleeping mind. Continue reading…

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ATOMIC BLONDE — Review by Susan Granger

As the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989, a behind-the-scenes spy thriller was unfolding, revolving around undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who was dispatched to retrieve information vital to the safety of Western intelligence. As she’s being debriefed by her handlers (Toby Jones, John Goodman), it’s revealed that another MI6 agent, James Gascoigne, had a list of every espionage officer in the city on both sides of the Cold War conflict. Comtonue reading…

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PATTI CAKE$ — Review by Cate Marquis

PATTI CAKE$ is a winning underdog tale, about an overweight 23-year-old white woman whose youthful dreams of being a rapper are fading while she struggling to get by in lower working class New Jersey. Patti (Australian actress Danielle Macdonald) lives with, and takes care of, her hard-drinking, sometimes abusive mother (Bridget Everett) and wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty) in a cramped, squalid apartment. Patti supports them all working as bartender in a local dive bar. and her only escape is rapping and hanging-out with her only friend, fellow rapper Raneesh (Siddharth Dhananjay). She calls him Jheri and he calls her Killa P., but daily Patti stoically endures the neighborhood bullies who call her Dumbo. Together with a shy, angry black punk rocker (Mamoudou Athie ), Patti takes a last shot at her dream. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

detroit posterDetroit‘s focus on the 11 hours at the Algiers doesn’t expose racism as deviance as much as it displays its patterns. Like the other two movies in Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s war film trilogy, Detroit lurches occasionally, from journalism to sensationalism, from personal experiences to cultural critique. Less invested in any particular character than The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty, the new film poses a compelling challenge to that framework as a way to interrogate systems. Its focus on racism, the driving force of this war (as it is of most wars) presents it as a pathology and a system, alive in a past that is hardly over. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Diana Saenger

Detroit is about the riots that took place in Motor City in 1967. Kathryn Bigelow directs, Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) wrote the screenplay. These multitalented filmmakers have taken a true life drama and produced a film that should be shown on every TV in every home in America. Continue reading…

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