MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 28-August 4: STEP

motw logo 1-35An inspiring documentary about a group of African-American teen girls who find success through a mix of hard work, grit, high expectations, and dedicated mentorship, Amanda Lipitz’s Step is both engaging and uplifting. It follows the competitive step-dancing team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school with a very ambitious goal: that all of its graduates attend college. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Pamela Yates well-made, affecting 500 YEARS is the third and final film in her documentary series on Guatemala and the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in that country. Although the film is the third in the series, it stands well on its own, recapping critical points from the first two films. Clips from the first two films, WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE and GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, are included in this final one. The first film, in 1983, actually provided evidence in the trial of former military leader and president Montt, that trial being the subject of the second film. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE MIDWIFE POSTER‘We’ll never understand each other.” Claire (Catherine Frot) stands abruptly, ready to leave the restaurant where she’s just sat down with Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve). A long shot near the start of Martin Provost’s The Midwife (Sage Femme) reveals other diners, oblivious to the drama at center screen. Béatrice gazes up at Claire, surprised at her upset: “We were just starting to be friends again.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 14-21: THE MIDWIFE

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Two women, one old wound, and a whole lot of wine. Boiled down to its essential ingredients, Martin Provost’s new film The Midwife is diverting enough, filled with small pleasures, and sometimes that is enough. Especially when the two women are so beautifully portrayed by Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

THE MIDWIFE POSTERTwo great Catherines – Deneuve and Frot – star in THE MIDWIFE, a thoughtful French-language tale of family, childhood memories, and changing life in modern France. As the title suggests, one of the central characters is a midwife, a profession with a long and honorable history bringing the next generation into this world. Claire (Catherine Frot) is a really good one, the best at the little clinic near Paris where she works, but the small old-fashioned clinic is closing down, unable to compete with the big modern hospital nearby. Claire resists the idea of going to work for the big hospital, as she resists so many other changes. At home, Claire put aside her own personal life to concentrate on raising her son, now a student in medical school. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Director Martin Provost wrote Midwife’s script specifically for his stars, French legends Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve, and he is beautifully attuned to each actor’s strengths. Frot (Marguerite, La Nouvelle Eve) is the titular midwife, Claire, and the most important birthing she needs to attend to at the moment is the next stage of her life. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 7 – 14: LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD

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The word indefatigable may well have been fashioned for the likes of Gertrude Bell. At a time, when women were largely confined to the domestic sphere, Bell climbed mountains, rode camels, palled about with Lawrence of Arabia, and penned letters, mountains of them, all the while dressed in impeccable fashion.Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 30-July 6: THE BEGUILED

motw logo 1-35With her sixth feature, director Sofia Coppola can no longer be denied the appellation of auteur… if she ever could. The lush visuals, sultry atmosphere, and almost serene sense of the sinister that infuses The Beguiled add intriguing new layers to the distinctive signature approach to cinematic storytelling Coppola has been developing since her debut with 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED – Review by Cate Marquis

Sophia Coppola’s atmospheric period thriller THE BEGUILED is a re-make of a 1971 psycho-sexual thriller starring Clint Eastwood. Coppola re-frames the Civil War story from a woman’s viewpoint, where a wounded Union soldier is taken in by a house full of Southern women and girls at a young ladies’ boarding school in the rural South. What looks like a sexual fantasy come true for the soldier turns out less than dreamy. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Martha Baker

‘Band Aid’ trembles before troubles. They argue. They bicker. They fight and bare their claws. They are a young married couple with issues. Anna’s a writer who feels like a failure because lesser writers she knows have solid careers. Ben feels maligned by life, and he leaves dirty, filthy, crusty dishes overflowing in their sink. Continue reading…

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Zoe Lister-Jones on BAND AID and Her All Female Crew — Nell Minow interviews

“Band Aid” is a quirky indie with a charming premise, endearing performances, and surprising emotional power. Zoe Lister-Jones is the film’s writer, director, producer, lyricist, and star in the story of an estranged married couple who begin to reconnect by turning their arguments into rock songs. She even used some of her own clothes as wardrobe. Lister-Jones talks about being inspired by her artist parents and why it was important to her to have an all-female crew. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Cate Marquis

A young married couple who just can’t stop arguing decide to turn their fights into songs, in the indie comedy BAND AID. Writer/director/producer Zoe Lister-Jones also stars in this film, her directorial debut. BAND AID is lifted by its well-done musical sequences, tuneful and surprisingly enjoyable, but the humor is more uneven. Continue reading…

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MAUDIE — Review by Susan Granger

Sally Hawkins delivers an exquisite performance as eccentric Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Set in the late 1930s in rural Nova Scotia, Maud has been crippled since childhood with rheumatoid arthritis. Cheated out of her parents’ inheritance by her selfish brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), she’s sent to live in Digby with her stern, spinster Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose), who treats her as if she’s feeble-minded. Continue reading…

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MAUDIE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“Slim pickins applied for the job.” Everett (Ethan Hawke) is disappointed. A fishmonger in Nova Scotia, he’s put up an advertisement in search of a live-in housecleaner. Times are hard during the 1930s, and as he insists more than once, Everett doesn’t plan to pay much or change his routine. The one person who does apply is Maud (Sally Hawkins), looking to support herself for the first time, after her brother Charlie (Zachary Bennett) sold their house without consulting her. Neither Everett nor Maud can imagine the future they’re about to share. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 16 – 23: MAUDIE

motw logo 1-35 Director Aisling Walsh’s film Maudie centres around the life and work of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. Lewis is familiar to Canadians and to art lovers around the world from her iconic paintings, made during the latter part of her life, but the film actually begins with the portrait of the artist as a young woman. Continue reading…

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Gabriela Cowperthwaite on MEGAN LEAVEY — Nell Minow interviews

gabriela cowperthwaiteGabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary “Blackfish” showed us that the orcas performing tricks at SeaWorld were in severe distress. Her first narrative feature film, “Megan Leavey,” is another story about the complicated but profound workplace relationship between a human and an animal, based on the true story of a Marine Corporal and a specially trained, very fierce dog named Rex. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

MEGAN LEAVEY POSTER“I left this place a thousand times in my mind, but I never actually went anywhere,” says Megan Leavey (Kate Mara). That place is home, a small town in upstate New York with an unsupportive mother (Edie Falco) and a kindly but mostly absent father (Bradley Whitford). Megan’s sense of confinement shapes the early scenes in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s movie: trucks, railroad tracks, and a hulking factory form internal frames as she looks off-screen. Her escape is the Marines: it’s 2003 and the war in Iraq is underway, a war the movie uses a backdrop for the story of Megan’s coming of age. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Susan Granger

While “Wonder Woman” celebrates a fantasy hero, “Megan Leavey” reveals the true story of a real woman, a Marine in combat, and the bomb-sniffing German Shepherd who becomes her constant companion. Growing up in suburban Valley Cottage, New York, Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), admittedly, doesn’t connect with people very well, nor does Rex, the large, aggressive, allegedly uncontrollable Military Working Dog dog with whom she’s paired in Marine K-9 training at Camp Pendleton. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 9 – 16: MEGAN LEAVEY

motw logo 1-35A film about a woman and a dog already has one at a distinct advantage. Critical faculties are of little avail against the soulful eyes of an adorable canine. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film Megan Leavey (opening June 9, 2017) pulls at the heartstrings with near shameless abandon, and for the most part it works. – Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Cate Marquis

MEGAN LEAVEY is a moving “girl and her dog” story, except the “girl” is actually a troubled young woman Marine struggling to find her footing and the dog is no sweet, friendly pooch but a military dog with talent for detecting explosives but a terrible temperament. Together they discover what neither could find on their own. Continue reading…

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SAMI BLOOD — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

sami blood 4When a film transports you to a society you never knew existed, it can prove magically transcendent while incredibly moving. Add an adolescent female discovering what she is capable of and you have me hooked. That happened last year with The Eagle Huntress, a documentary about a Mongolian girl’s singular feats with her regal bird of prey. And it happens again in a far different arena with the 14-year-old female Laplander who is the focus of Sami Blood, a Swedish coming-of-age drama handled with an impressive delicacy of purpose by first-time filmmaker Amanda Kernell. Continue reading…

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SAMI BLOOD — Review by Jennifer Merin

sami blood posterAmanda Kernell’s beautifully crafted first feature tells the heart-wrenching story of Elle-Marje, a Sami teenager taken her semi-nomadic family of reindeer herders and placed in a boarding school for assimilation into the predominant Swedish society, which considered Sami genetically inferior and capable only of menial jobs. Beautifully crafted with exceptionally skilled storytelling, spectacular cinematography, flawless editing, and stunning lead performances by first-time actresses and real life sisters Lene Cecilia Sparrok as Elle-Marje and Mia Erika Sparrok as her sister, Njenna. Sami Blood is an enlightening narrative. A must see. Read the full review on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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THE WEDDING PLAN — Review by Susan Granger

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy “The Wedding Plan,” but it wouldn’t hurt…. When her evasive fiancé breaks off their engagement a month before their nuptials, 32 year-old Michal (Noa Koler), who was raised non-religious but has devoutly embraced Orthodox Judaism, refuses to cancel the guests’ invitations or relinquish the reception venue and date which, significantly, falls on the last night of Hanukkah. Continue reading…

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SAMI BLOOD — Review by Cate Marquis

In her feature film debut SAMI BLOOD, director/writer Amanda Kernell offers a moving coming-of-age story of two sisters, members of the reindeer-herding indigenous Sami people, in 1930s Sweden. Told from the viewpoint of the older sister, a bright 14-year-old who dreams of becoming a teacher, the films depicts their experiences with the dominate Swedish culture who called her people Lapps, as a time when racial prejudice as well as eugenics, the pseudo-science of race biology which laid the groundwork for the Nazis, was common. Continue reading…

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