MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 22, 2018: WOMAN WALKS AHEAD

motw logo 1-35History becomes “her”story (with a few factual tweaks) in Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead, which introduces audiences to Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a determined portrait artist who defies convention — and the U.S. government — in the late 1880s to fulfill her dream of painting legendary warrior Sitting Bull and learning about the Lakota people (who are part of the Sioux tribes). Chastain delivers another excellent performance as Weldon, who ultimately finds more than artistic inspiration on the open prairies. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Filmmaker Amy Scott talks HAL and Women in Hollywood — Brandy McDonnell interviews

amy scott hedshotAmy Scott was inspired to helm Hal, her first feature film, after reading Nick Dawson’s Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel. Chronicling the influential insider’s career, Scott’s documentary is an insightful chapter in Hollywood history. “It was a fascinating look at his life and his journey. And I just connected with Hal because he was an editor for a number of years, won an Oscar for editing ‘In the Heat of the Night.’ And he directed his first film when he was 40, and I thought, ‘Hmm, OK, it’s not too late,” Scott said. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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NYWIFT’s AfriAmerican Immigrant Screening: Local Stories, Global Themes – Madeline Johnson reports (Exclusive Guest Post)

nywift logoIn Astoria’s historic Kaufman Studios, filmmakers from the African diaspora shared local stories that reverberated deep into universal themes and questions as part of the fourth annual New York Women in Film & Television’s (NYWIFT) Women Filmmakers: Immigrant Stories screening on May 31, 2018. Highlighting narrative and documentary shorts about the New York immigrant experience, the selected films covered issues ranging from the #MeToo movement to Trump’s travel ban, and from the immigrant experience to what it means to be American. Continue reading on THE FEMALE GAZE

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 15, 2018: WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST

motw logo 1-35Some iconic personalities are so much larger than life that it’s easy to forget that they’re real people who’ve led real lives — which makes it all the more fascinating to learn those details and really get to know the person behind the personality. Such is the promise, and payoff, of Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, Lorna Tucker’s insightful, fascinating documentary about English fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Alfre Woodard Talks Inclusion, ‘Luke Cage’ and What’s Next — Brandy McDonnell interviews

alfre woodardAlfre Woodard, named one of the deadCenter Film Festival’s 2018 Oklahoma Film Icon Award winners, considers herself an “original gangster,” saying that after four decades in show business she has seen plenty of trends come and go. That includes the trend of including women or people of color in movies and television shows just because it happens to be fashionable at the moment, or because someone else had success doing it. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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THE YELLOW BIRDS — Review by Jennifer Merin

yellow birds poster new small>Alexandre Moors’ powerful drama shatters notions that going to war makes heroes of ordinary men. Neither Bartle (Alden Ehrenreich), age 21, nor Murph (Tye Sheridan), who is barely 18, have any idea about what they want to do with their lives, so they join the military. They meet in basic training, and bond as brothers, determined to get through the military drill together. Their conmection is strengthened when Bartle meets Murph’s doting and very anxious mom (Jennifer Aniston), at an on base family dinner before the two deploy to Iraq, where they quickly learn that war is not a video game. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN…

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WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST — Review by Cate Marquis

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, Lorna Tucker’s documentary of British punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, profiles a remarkable woman whose successful career grew out of her roots as a founder of the punk rock movement. Tucker introduces us to a true rebel, whose fashions are infused with both punk style and her own political activism, a woman who is as bold and cutting-edge in her 70s as in her 20s. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT June 2018: Andrea Riseborough, Actress, Director, Producer, Outspoken Activist

andrea riseborough head 3This month’s Alliance of Women Film Journalists SPOTLIGHT is on quadruple talent Andrea Riseborough, who in addition to writing, acting, and producing, has recently added directing to her arsenal of skills and cache of passions. If her name only barely rings a bell, don’t worry. As a performer, Riseborough is a chameleon who prefers to slip herself completely into each acting role. She never looks the same way twice. In fact, even if fans have been following her career since her first appearance, they are still unlikely to know her real hair color. They may not even be able to recognize her on the street. In speaking to Riseborough about her career and latest role as producer and star of the indie release Nancy, she makes it clear she couldn’t care less about celebrity recognition. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Lena Waithe, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Natalie Dormer Making News — Brandy McDonnell reports

Lena Waithe, the first woman of color to win an Emmy for best writing in a comedy series for her work on Master of None will receive MTV’s Trailblazer Award, presented to honor content creators who introduce new and unique voices within the entertainment industry. Waithe, who starred in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, is the creator, writer and producer of Showtime’s The Chi.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, showrunner for BBC America’s new drama Killing Eve is opening opportunity for women on camera by swapping out male characters for compelling and complex female leads. Natalie Dormer is set to star as Vivien Leigh in an upcoming series focusing on the iconic Gone with The Wind star’s personal and professional successes and struggles. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD — Review by Martha K. Baker

In 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first pope to take the name of Francis. He was also the first pope from the Americas, South America to be exact. He faces the camera in a biodoc dedicated to his life. Continue reading…

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ADRIFT — Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

adrift posterShailene Woodley’s breakout role as the spunky oldest daughter of George Clooney in The Descendants (2011) has proven her acting abilities aren’t a one-off—in fact she’s been sailing along quite nicely in Hollywood, with blockbuster films under her belt such as The Fault of Our Stars (2014) and the award-winning TV series Big Little Lies. In the ultra physically challenging role of Adrift her performance now clearly ranks her among her fellow A-list actors. Here she plays Tami Oldham in the harrowing true story of she and her fiancé, Richard Sharp’s (Sam Claflin) journey from Tahiti to San Diego aboard a 44-ft yacht, their dilemma—Hurricane Raymond, which garnered 40-ft. waves and 140 knot winds with only a few weeks into their voyage. The trailers tell us Richard is severely injured with a broken leg and ribs—(I’m not giving out any spoilers here), thus promoting Tami from skipper to captain for their survival—and, to carry the bulk of the film. Continue reading…

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ADRIFT — Review by Susan Granger

Islandic-born filmmaker Baltasar Kornmakur (Everest) cleverly manipulates chronology to twist and turn this true ‘shipwreck’ story into a tension-filled romantic drama. It begins in 1983 in Tahiti, where a 23-year old, free-spirited Californian, Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley), meets Richard Sharp (Sam Clafin), a suave, 33 year-old Brit with a sturdy sailboat that he’s made himself. As footloose adventurers, they’re immediately attracted to one another. Continue reading…

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NANCY — Review by Cate Marquis

nancy posterAndrea Riseborough plays a young woman who lives a life barely connected to reality in director Christina Choe’s Nancy. Nancy is is a lonely person, more connected to her cell phone and her online life than her life of caring for her sickly, complaining mother Betty (Ann Dowd) in the run-down home they share. Mom criticizes and complains to her daughter about being neglected but Nancy can barely break away from the fantasy life she prefers to the grim real one with her mother. 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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WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR — Review by Diane Carson

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? celebrates the amazing Mister Rogers. It is wonderfully uplifting in those increasingly rare instances when we learn that a dear television star is, in fact, the persona he projects. Welcome, Mister Rogers, who, it turns out, not only embodies the amazing person hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood but actually has supreme humility given the literally life-changing work he did. Continue reading…

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ALWAYS AT THE CARLYLE — Review by Susan Granger

always at the carlyle posterAbout 30 million people watched actress Meghan Markle marry Britain’s Prince Harry, topping the 22.8 million who saw his older brother, Prince William, marry Kate Middleton in 2011 – proving, once again, that Americans love to get a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In that vein, writer/director Matthew Miele (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) offers a 90-minute glimpse inside Manhattan’s legendary Upper East Side hotel, where Bobby Short held forth in the Cafe Carlyle for decades and Woody Allen still plays the clarinet. 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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DEADPOOL 2 — Review by Susan Granger

Bottom line: this subversive sequel is long, loud – and very funny! The foul-mouthed, facially disfigured, yet indestructible anti-hero Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is still madly in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they’re thinking of having a baby, when tragedy strikes. Vengeance is inevitable. 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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Women Protest at Cannes, Chastain-led 355 Scores Deal, Witherspoon’s Girls Film Program — Brandy McDonnell reports

Cannes Film Festival 2018 Jury Chair Cate Blanchett and Palme d’Or-winning director Agnes Varda stood among 82 women in film who gathered on the red carpet at the Lumière Theater to protest the 71 year old festival’s exceptionally poor record on inclusion of women in all areas of festival programming, and demand greater equality for women in the film industry. Also at Cannes, the Jessica Chastain-led spy thriller 355 scores a big deal with Universal Pictures. And, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company is joining with AT&T and Fresh Films to create the AT&T Hello Sunshine Filmmaker Lab for teenage girls. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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THE THIRD MURDER — Review by Diane Carson

The Third Murder interrogates the elusiveness of truth. Ever the careful observer of psychological complexities, Japanese writer/director Kore-eda Hirokazu probes nothing less than life’s existential challenges in The Third Murder. Taking an unconventional approach, the exploratory narrative begins in the opening scene with a second, brutal murder. We’ll soon learn that the victim, a dishonest factory owner, was allegedly killed by an ex-worker with a previous, similar conviction. Continue reading…

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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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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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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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