ZOO — Review by Susan Granger

If you’re searching for a feel-good, family film, I recommend Colin McIvor’s “Zoo,” a crowd favorite on the festival circuit. Based on a true story, it’s about how rebellious 12 year-old Tom Hall (Art Parkinson) and his friends save Buster, a baby elephant, during 1941 air raids on Northern Ireland. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 1, 2018: SOCIAL ANIMALS

motw logo 1-35There’s no question about it — adulting is hard. But sometimes, as the characters in writer/director Theresa Bennett’s debut comedy Social Animals learn, you have to step up and be the grown-up in the room. Especially if that also means you get to be a bit happier and more fulfilled than you were before. Social Animals follows a group of quirky, young, mostly female Austinites as they grapple with careers (or lack thereof), relationships (ditto), and friendship. Continue reading…

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BOOK CLUB — Review by Martha K. Baker

Fears that Book Club would make mock of women over 65 fade to boredom. Book Club is not so embarrassing in making eldresses look like banshees without brains as it is banal. Wine will be swilled and truths will be flayed as viewers check their watches like a conductor at a royal wedding. Continue reading…

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SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY — Review by Diane Carson

Many have been Star Wars fans from its 1977 debut, have faithfully followed subsequent episodes, and have forgiven occasional missteps. But with the latest chapter, Solo: A Star Wars Story, profound disappointment will overtake us with the direction of the franchise, that is, more the video game route instead of ideas steeped in mythology and archetypal themes, what we loved. Continue reading…

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SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY — Review by Susan Granger

If you’ve ever wondered who Han Solo was and where he came from before joining Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance on Tatooine, this adventurous prequel supplies the answers. Since Harrison Ford cannot go back to his youth, his sassy, sardonic scoundrel role is played by Alden Ehrenreich (Tetro, Hail, Caesar!), which may or may not have been a mistake. You’ll have to judge. Continue reading…

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ON CHESIL BEACH — Review by Martha K. Baker

Ian McEwan is known for turning over rocks. Under them, he finds secrets, lies, sex, and truth. In On Chesil Beach, he finds all of those plus music. He centered his novel and screenplay on the wedding night of two innocent virgins, Florence and Edward. The year is 1962. These two youths wanted to be wed even though she is a classical violin player and he’s a rock ‘n’ roll fan. The only musician they agree on is St. Louis’ Chuck Berry, who in Florence’s estimation is “bouncy and merry.” Continue reading…

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DISOBEDIENCE — Review by Susan Granger

Chilean director Sebastian Lelio, who won this year’s Foreign Language Oscar for the transgender drama A Fantastic Woman, has adapted Naomi Alderman’s novel as his first English-language film, co-writing with playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida). Set in Hendon, the north London suburb where the Alderman, a former Orthodox Jew, grew up, it begins as elderly, revered Rav Krushka (Anton Lesser) is giving what will be his last sermon – on the nature of free will, a divine gift bestowed only on humans. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 25, 2018: MARY SHELLEY

motw logo 1-35Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour‘s biopic about Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s passionate romance with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley — and Godwin/Shelley’s struggle to be recognized as a female author — is a compelling, atmospheric drama with strong performances by a talented cast. It is the truth-based tale of a truly gifted woman who courageously rebelled against the repressive customs of her day. Continue reading…

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A LEAF OF FAITH — Review by Jennifer Merin

a leaf of faith posterIn A Leaf of Faith, filmmaker Chris Bell, best known for Bigger Stronger Faster about steroid ‘doping,’ pursues his ongoing concerns about drug issues by focusing on crippling, death dealing addiction to opioid painkillers. Having reached epidemic proportions, opioid dependecy — ranging from heroin addiction and overdose to synthetic opioid abuse while withdrawing from heroin and the prescription of opoids to relieve chronic pain — is currently among the top causes of death in the U.S. The stats are staggering. In his compelling investigation, Bell introduces and advocates for a possible solution — the use of Kratom as an alternative.
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BIG SONIA — Review by Diane Carson

Big Sonia captures the love and beauty of Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski. There are those who endure inconceivable challenges: refuges to the U.S. who arrive as survivors of nightmare wartime experiences, including loss of family members. The resiliency of these individuals is both admirable and astonishing. But few have Holocaust survivor Sonia Warshawski’s ability to communicate her astonishing life and fewer still her grace to inspire listeners to defy hate. Continue reading…

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LET THE SUNSHINE IN — Review by Diane Carson

letsunshinein.PLet the Sunshine In charts Isabella’s mid-life attempts at romance. French cinema specializes in narratives mining the infinitely intricate and often exasperating difficulties of modern relationships among family members, friends and lovers. French writer/director Claire Denis is no stranger to such subjects, probably still best known here for Chocolat (1988) and perhaps 35 Shots of Rum (2008). Now her Let the Sunshine In tackles the daunting challenges of middle-aged romance. Continue reading…

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BOOK CLUB — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

For those of us that are currently in a ‘book club’ or those of us who’ve been in one in the past, we are undeniably privy to the fact that the book is never the star of ‘book club’ it’s the wine and the sisterhood. I’m pleased to say; in the film, Book Club director/writer Bill Holderman and writer Erin Simms got this right for their debut rom/com. Continue reading…

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BOOK CLUB — Review by Susan Granger

Because advertising and trailers can be deceptive, part of a movie critic’s job is to steer audiences to films they may enjoy. This poignant rom-com is directly aimed at older adults – and the matinee audience with whom I viewed it burst into spontaneous applause at the conclusion. In suburban Santa Monica, four lifelong friends meet regularly to sip wine, nibble canapes and discuss their lives as they relate to the chosen book they’re all reading. Years ago, they began with Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying,” and now they’re into the purple prose of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Continue reading…

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RBG — Review by Diane Carson

RBG celebrates Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s amazing career and life. Twice in the documentary, Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragette Sarah Grimké, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” RBG’s decades of legal work is testament to her lifetime commitment to human dignity and equality. Continue reading…

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MARY SHELLEY — Review by Cate Marquis

It is a bit surprising that no one else has made a movie about English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the writing of her book Frankenstein, arguably the first science fiction novel. Interestingly, it is Haifaa Al-Mansour, a ground-breaking woman who directs Mary Shelley. Al-Mansour is the first Saudi woman director, and the film’s script is by another woman, Emma Jensen. Elle Fanning plays Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the teen girl who falls for poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, an admirer of her radical philosopher father William Godwin. Continue reading...

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LIFE OF THE PARTY — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

Undeniably, Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest women working in Hollywood to date. After her break-out role in Bridesmaids (2011), the female version of The Hangover, McCarthy continues to cross over into typical guy-dominated roles: buddy cops in The Heat, world reconnaissance in Spy, and exterminating ghosts in Ghostbusters. Here she’s reinventing the manboy character as in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School and Will Ferrell’s Old School in creating a sweet, unassuming mom role in Life of the Party. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 18, 2018: SUMMER 1993

motw logo 1-35Unhurried, poignant, and extremely naturalistic, Catalan filmmaker Carla Simon’s debut feature “Summer 1993″ tells the story of 6-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas), whose world is turned upside down after her mother’s death. She leaves their home in Barcelona to go live with her uncle, aunt, and young cousin in the countryside; they welcome her with love, but the transition period isn’t easy for any of them. Continue reading…

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LIFE OF THE PARTY — Review by Susan Granger

Actress/producer/co-writer Melissa McCarthy collaborated with her husband/director Ben Falcone on this flaccid, cliché-riddled mom-com, set at (fictional) Decatur University. It begins as Deanna (McCarthy) and her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), drop off their daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at her sorority house for her senior year. Leaving the campus, Dan tells her he wants a divorce; he’s having an affair with a real-estate agent (Julie Bowen) who has already put their house on the market. Continue reading…

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HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Review by Jennifer Merin

hitler's hollywood posterFilmmaker Rudiger Suchsland’s Hitler’s Hollywood is a compilation documentary that uses clips from films produced during the Nazi regime to show how the movies were used to indoctrinate the masses and influence their behavior. Subtitled German Cinema in the Age of Propaganda: 1933-45, the film is more analysis than homage, presenting a fascinating profile of how Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels used cinema to creates positive stereotypes and present mythic illusions about current and historic events that influenced the zeitgeist. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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DEAR DICTATOR — Review by Susan Granger

Westport native Lisa Addario and her husband/screenwriting-directing partner Joe Syracuse came up with a crazy idea: What if a rebellious teenager became the pen-pal of a notorious, Castro-like tyrant of a small Caribbean island nation – and he suddenly arrived on her doorstep? That’s what happens when sullen 16 year-old Tatiana (Odeya Rush) satisfies her Social Studies teacher’s (Jason Biggs) assignment to “write to a famous person” by choosing Gen. Anton Vincent (Michael Caine), who responds, and a cordial correspondence ensues. Continue reading…

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DISOBEDIENCE — Review by Martha K. Baker

Disobedience deals with a vow to obey. Sebastián Lelio has made a name for himself as a director not just of films about women but of films about women on the edge. In Gloria, Lelio looked at a woman d’un certain age, flirting with a younger man; in A Fantastic Woman, he looked at a woman, who was once a man. In Disobedience, he looks at two women, former lovers. They meet again when Ronit Krushka returns to her orthodox Jewish community for the funeral of her much revered father, a rabbi of rectitude. He acted as bailiff of his bailiwick when he kicked her out, and he continued to ostracize her after his death by not mentioning her in his obituary and in not leaving her his home in his will. Continue reading…

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BEAST — Review by Diane Carson

Beast presents an unnerving psychological immersion. Throughout writer/director Michael Pearce’s feature film debut, Moll struggles with violent behavior visited upon others and herself as an eruption of her internal rage. Upstaged at her twenty-something birthday party by her newly pregnant sister, Moll reveals the depths of her troubled psyche as she crushes shards of the glass she accidentally breaks into her hand. Continue reading…

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OVERBOARD — Review by Susan Granger

Question: Why remake Garry Marshall’s screwball comedy starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell? Answer: Hollywood’s push for diversity now focuses on Latin American superstar Eugenio Derbetz. In the original, Hawn played a snobbish, spoiled heiress who hires carpenter/widower Russell to remodel a closet on her yacht. Then she rudely refuses to pay his bill. Later that night, when she falls overboard and develops amnesia, Russell claims she’s his wife, the mother of his four boys. Continue reading…

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LITTLE PINK HOUSE – Review by Martha K. Baker

little pink house posterLittle Pink House is a subdued look at a hated judicial ruling. This is one for the Supreme Court: in a 5-4 decision, Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.) judges gave officials of the city government the right, the power, to raze a neighborhood so a corporation, not a hospital or a library but a multi-million-dollar corporation, could benefit. That neighborhood happens to be where Susette Kelo bought a ramshackle house in 2000 and painted it pink. She had no idea that her property would interest the fine folks at the Pfizer Corp. Its officers came to New London, enticed by the mayor and by a public relations agent, to develop on waterfront property. Continue reading…

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BAD SAMARITAN — Review by Susan Granger

I suspect most people are interested in this psychological thriller because it stars Scottish actor David Tennant, best known as a former “Doctor Who.” Tennant plays wealthy, psychopathic Cale Erendreich who gets his jollies by kidnapping and torturing women. In a flashback sequence, viewers witness a childhood trauma with a wild horse which, supposedly, serves to explain his sadistic fetish for bridles and bondage. Continue reading…

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