AWFJ EDA Award @ DOXA 2017 Filmmaker Interview: Claire Simon on LE CONCOURS

claire simon 275Le Concours, translated as “The Entrance Exam,” is an in-depth and intimate look at the students applying to La Fémis, one of the world’s most famous and prestigious film, where filmmaker Claire Simon was Head of Directing Studies. As the budding cinéastes struggle to find a place, the narrative spends a good deal of time with their interlocutors, pulling back the curtain to reveal the depth of seriousness and care that is extended to the students. Impassioned arguments about merit, and the very nature of cinema are hurled into the air. Read what Claire Simon has to say about her most recent project on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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BORN IN CHINA — Review by Susan Granger

This G-rated Disneynature documentary focuses exclusively on animal species unique to China: pandas, golden snub-nosed monkeys, snow leopards, Chiru antelope and red-crowned cranes, a traditional Chinese symbol of good fortune and longevity. Educational, it’s filled with spectacular landscapes and extraordinary close-ups of animal activity, centering on three specific families over the span of a year, beginning and ending in the spring. Continue reading…

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PARIS CAN WAIT — Review by Jennifer Merin

paris can wait posterParis Can Wait is a rich repast for Francophiles and foodies, and women who are hungry for more romance in their marriages. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola serves up her first feature at age 81 — a remarkable and inspiring achievement, especially since she does it so deliciously. Replete with with elegant character development, a superb cast and stunning cinematography, Paris Can Wait is a delightfully satisfying escape into a lifestyle that is for most of the world’s women pure fantasy. Take time to savor it. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 — Review by Susan Granger

For this action-driven sequel, writer/director James Gunn cleverly revisits the irreverent comic book concept of maverick mercenaries that he created for the 2014 original. In 1981 in Missouri, the prologue shows Peter Quill’s mom (Laura Haddock) and ‘spaceman’ dad (a very youthful Kurt Russell) driving in their 1979 Ford Cobra to a special place in the forest where he plants something bizarre. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 5 – 12: CASTING JONBENET

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At first glance, Kitty Green’s documentary Casting JonBenét seems a rather high concept conceit — a recreation of the infamous child murder that riveted the US, and was the grist for countless tabloid stories, films, books, as well as a few lawsuits. What could possibly be left to say, one might well ask? Continue reading…

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THE CIRCLE — Review by Susan Granger

Tackling the “Me-centric” revelatory culture of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., James Ponsoldt’s timely thriller delves into the ubiquitous perils of contemporary technology. When Mae Holland (Emily Watson) goes to work for The Circle, a massively powerful social media company in the San Francisco Bay Area, she’s thrilled. Beginning as a ‘guppy,’ she’s assigned to a Customer Service desk, where she’s expected not only to excel but also to participate in off-hour and weekend events with her co-workers. Continue reading…

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CASTING JONBENET — Review by Jennifer Merin

casting jonbenet posterCasting JonBenet is a deeply disturbing documentary that delves into the still unsolved murder mystery in the case of JonBenet Ramsey, and how the story of the six-year old beauty pageant queen whose short life was apparently filled with abuse has impacted America’s psyche. Rather than representing the circumstances surrounding the actual murder or attempting to solve the mystery, filmmaker Kitty Green plumbs public opinion and explores the social impact of the case by “auditioning” prospective cast members for a proposed truth-based drama about JonBenet and the infamous murder. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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TRUMAN — Review by Martha K. Baker

Ordinarily, a visit from an old friend calls for drinks and dinner, trips to old haunts, and tête-a-tête, plus reminiscences. But when one of the friends has decided to cease chemotherapy for the cancer he’s fought for a year, the visit becomes something else. It undergirds this moving movie. Continue reading…

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THE LOST CITY OF Z– Review by Susan Granger

Based on David Grann’s 2009 non-fiction best-seller, this saga chronicles the incredible adventures of a status-seeking British soldier, Col. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who explored the Amazon River a full century ago. Dispatched in 1906 by the aristocratic Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett’s mission is to map the dangerous, uncharted realms of eastern Bolivia, where it borders with Brazil. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 28 – May 5: TOMORROW EVER AFTER

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The notion of time travel is almost as old as time itself. Ever since we humans invented the idea, we’ve been struggling against it, wanting to go forwards, and then backwards, anywhere but the oppressive present. Director Ela Thier takes this conceit, and tips it gently on its head in her remarkable new film Tomorrow Ever After. Continue reading…

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TOMORROW EVER AFTER — Review by Cate Marquis

The indie science fiction comedy TOMORROW EVER AFTER offers some telling observations on modern life, through the eyes of a stranded time-traveler from the future. Good science fiction very often is a commentary on present-day life. Science fiction movies about a visitor from another time or place, sometimes as a way to comment on society, are nothing new either – think THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL – but what is a bit different in the case of TOMORROW EVER AFTER is that the visitor is from our own future. And TOMORROW EVER AFTER is nearly a one-woman show, with director/writer/editor Ela Thier also starring in her film. Continue reading…

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THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS — Review by Susan Granger

The numbers tell the tale: the eighth installment of this long-running series revved up an estimated $532.5 million worldwide, setting a new record for an opening weekend. Build around muscle cars, drag racing and the importance of family, this high-speed action thriller brings back Vin Diesel as gruff, monosyllabic Dominic Toretto, and it’s filled with spectacular, globe-spanning vehicular destruction. Continue reading…

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THE PROMISE — Review by Martha K. Baker

The Armenian genocide is said to have started on April 24, 1915, so the April opening of “The Promise” honors that historical event. The Turks still refuse to term the mass killing of Armenians anything but “one Armenian dead for every dead Turk.” “The Promise” successfully presents Armenian history through romance. Continue reading…

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THE PROMISE — Review by Susan Granger

Because of strong ties with the Turkish government, American presidents have never acknowledged the Ottoman Empire’s systematic annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1918 as “genocide.” So this sprawling, historical epic begins in 1914 as Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), an ambitious, young apothecary in Siroun, a small southern Turkish village, is betrothed a local girl so he can use her dowry to attend medical school in Constantinople, promising to marry her once he’s a doctor. Continue reading…

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GIFTED — Review by Martha K. Baker

In ‘Gifted,’grand moments offset sentiment. “Gifted” could have arisen from the sentimental slough of Hollywood films. That it does not, that it has moments of sterling silver among the nods to craven consumerism are testaments to the reins of its writer, Tom Flynn, and director, Marc Webb, who also directed “500 Days of Summer.” “Gifted” is not just the glory story of a child lifted out of the ordinary. It is, instead, a debate over providing a real childhood to a math genius, who, at 7, has a mouth on her as well as a brain. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 21-27, 2017: CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY

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The street fight between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs is the subject of Director Matt Tyrnauer’s new film Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and opened the DOC NYC Festival, is now entering theatres across the country. Despite the fact that the majority of the action took place more than 50 years ago, it could not be more timely. Continue reading…

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THE INVISIBLE WAR (2012) — RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

invisible-war-poster-artConsidering that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this is a good time to take another look at The Invisible War, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s compelling documentary about the rape of soldiers — women and men, but mostly women — in the U.S. military. As the film indicates, some 20 percent of enlistees report an assault, though the actual number is suspected to be almost double that. Additionally, the number of reported incidents is about double the number of reported rapes in the civilian world. There is systematic cover up of incidents, although authorities declare a zero tolerance policy. Nothing much has changed since the film’s 2012 release. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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HEAL THE LIVING — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living opens with the sound of breathing. Seventeen-year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) wakes to see his girlfriend sleeping beside him, as their breathing together creates a soothing, essential rhythm. It’s before dawn, and Simon is soon out of bed and on his way to the beach, where he and his friends will surf: as he rides his bicycle, the camera hovers and follows him, creating another rhythm, swift and lovely, when Simon’s friend — riding a skateboard — comes up beside him on the street. Together, they make their way to a van driven by a third friend, and they’re off, to the deep blue, early morning waves. Continue reading…

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GHOST IN THE SHELL — Review by Susan Granger

If you’re into the latest whiz-bang technology, this dystopian sci-fi thriller is a live-action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cyberpunk anime, based on Masamune Shirow’s popular 1989 manga series. Its publicity campaign has focused on Scarlett Johansson’s appearing to be ‘almost’ naked, dashing around a futuristic cityscape in a flesh-colored, skin-tight casing; she’s a cyborg law-enforcement officer known as the Major. The gimmick is that when she dons this “thermoptic” suit, she is basically invisible. Continue reading

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MR. UNTOUCHABLE (2007) — RetroReview by Jennifer Merin

mr untouchable posterHe was the ultimate Harlem gangster. The New York Times Magazine dubbed Leroy “Nicky” Barnes Mr. Untouchable, and he lived large on the millions of dollars he made as head honcho in Harlem’s heroin trade. It was a business he ran ruthlessly, until 1977, when he was arrested, he turned State’s evidence and disappeared into the witness protection program. In Marc Levin’s fine documentary Barnes emerges from the shadows, sort of. The documentary is emerging from the archives at Harlem’s Maysles Cinema on April 18. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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GIFTED — Review by Susan Granger

If you’re searching for a fascinating, feel-good, family film with a provocative premise, choose “Gifted.” Seven year-old Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace), a child prodigy, lives happily in a coastal Florida trailer park with Uncle Frank (Chris Evans) and her one-eyed cat named Fred. But now it’s time for her to go to a real school and, hopefully, make some friends her own age. Continue reading…

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THE BOSS BABY — Review by Susan Granger

Somewhere in the clouds above, Baby Corp. runs an adorable newborn assembly line, where babies are manufactured and families formed. That’s according to the overactive imagination of seven year-old Tim Templeton (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi), who is totally content as the only child of doting parents (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow) who read him endless bedtime stories and sing the Beatles’ tune “Blackbird” as his lullaby. But then Tim’s perfect little world is disrupted by the arrival of a baby brother named Theodore. In Tim’s mind, the demanding infant is a tiny tyrant, dispatched by Management, arriving in a business suit, wearing a Rolex and carrying a briefcase. And he can talk. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: April 14-21, 2017: HEAL THE LIVING

motw logo 1-35Melancholy and moving, Heal the Living is a quiet, affecting French drama about organ donation. It weaves multiple characters’ stories together as it explores both the heartbreaking loss and the heady promise of renewed life. Continue reading…

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GOING IN STYLE — Review by Susan Granger

Bill Gates once said, “Banking is necessary, banks are not.” Which may be why bankers and banks have become popular cinematic villains. Like the hapless brothers in last year’s “Hell or High Water,” three Brooklyn-based seniors suddenly realize that – because of a nefarious local bank – they’re going to be broke and homeless. Joe (Michael Caine) comes up with the idea of an armed robbery after conferring with a sleazy Williamsburg Savings Bank manager (Josh Pais) about his adjustable mortgage that has suddenly tripled, threatening him, his divorced daughter and beloved granddaughter with foreclosure and eviction. Read on…

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T2: TRAINSPOTTING — Review by Susan Granger

Back in 1996, Scottish filmmaker Danny Boyle celebrated sneering, rebellious, drug-drenched youth in “Trainspotting.” In this sequel, Ewan McGregor and the Leith lads trip into middle-age. Re-visiting the same characters 20 years later, it recalls how Mark Renton (McGregor) ripped off his friends in a lucrative drug deal. Apparently, he took the money and fled to Amsterdam, where he kicked his heroin habit and plunged into respectability, including a failed marriage. Continue reading…

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