DANNY COLLINS – Review by Susan Granger

“Danny Collins” is an unexpected delight! Al Pacino delivers his best performance in years as an aging rocker whose life is changed when he’s given a letter sent to him – back in 1971 – by John Lennon. Although he hasn’t written anything decent in decades, Danny still tours, captivating senior-citizen audiences with his hits from yesteryear. Disillusioned, he hates the schlocky tunes but he’s got to support his cocaine habit and luxurious lifestyle. Read on…

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WOMAN IN GOLD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Maria Altmann just wants back a portrait of her aunt, the one that used to hang in her family’s home when she was a child. Problem is, that home was in Vienna in the 1930s, and when the Nazis swooped in, they confiscated the painting and all her family’s other belongings. And despite Austria’s new spirit of reconciliation in the late 90s, including efforts toward art restitution, this painting is different. It’s Gustav Klimt’s famous “Woman in Gold” — now known as “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” — and it holds a place of pride in the national Belvedere Gallery in Vienna. It is “the ‘Mona Lisa’ of Austria,” and the country isn’t going to give it up easily. Read more>>

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WHILE WE’RE YOUNG – Review by Susan Granger

I suspect the extravagant praise lavished on Noah Baumbach’s films (“Frances Ha,” “Greenberg”) comes from those who can relate to the misery of snarky, neurotic New Yorkers. This story begins pretentiously with quotations from Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder.” Immediately, it becomes obvious that forty-somethings Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) regret that the fizz has gone out of their marriage. Most of their friends have become child-centric – and they obviously haven’t. Read on…

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Making HISSS: A Silent Watcher – Martha P. Nochimson comments

hisssposter160A SILENT WATCHER is the fifth chapter in an eight part exploration of the failure of the American-East Indian co-production of Hisss (2010), filmmaker Jennifer Lynch’s greatly anticipated third feature film. Despite Lynch’s previous cinematic successes, Hisss, a tale about the Indian snake goddess Nagin, turned into an artistic and box office disaster that derailed its talented director. The making of Hisss and the aftermath for Lynch are the subject of Despite the Gods, an intimate documentary by Penny Vozniak, whose feminist perspective offers rare insight about the troubled production and its outcome. Read more…

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GONE GIRL: Selling Scary in A Digital Age – Liz Whittemore comments

gone girl save amyA film’s ad campaign can make or break its theatrical run. Oftentimes, the entire plot of a film is laid out in its trailer. If the film is a comedy, all the best jokes are already available in a 2:30 minute television spot. Horror trailers, on the other hand, must be carefully edited so as not to give away too much of the story. We hope for a seductive plot twist, but also keep our fingers crossed that the trailer doesn’t reveal all the scares. Ad campaigns are seemingly straight forward with very few exceptions, but the marketers of Gone Girl broke the mold with a campaign that was full of surprises and created a new frontier in the selling of scary. Read more…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, April 6-12: CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

Opening April 10, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Clouds of Sils Maria, the new drama from French writer-director Olivier Assayas (Summer Hours, Paris je t’aime). Taking the lead is the incomparable Juliette Binoche, who stars as successful veteran actress Maria Enders. At the height of her fame, Maria is asked to take part in a revival of the movie that shot her to stardom; not in her original role as ingenue, however, but as the story’s duped matron. Read on…

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SPRING – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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I would love to be able to believe that Spring is a practical joke, filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead attempting to pull our collective leg by extrapolating the subgenre of male ego-stroking wish-fulfillment romantic fantasy to an extreme so ludicrous that we simply have to laugh at it. Unfortunately, I can see no evidence to support such a contention. Spring appears to be offered to us in all sincerity as a genuine romantic drama intended to surprise and move us. And the more I consider this, the angrier it makes me. Read more>>

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WOMAN IN GOLD. EFFIE GRAY and Other Movies Opening April 1 and 3 – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

womaningoldposter160This week’s movie highlights include two stirring biopics about two strong and determined women – a contemporary elder who challenges the government of Austria in Woman In Gold, and a Victorian era teenage bride who escapes an abusive and high profile marriage in Effie Gray, both of whom showed great initiative and courage in their pursuit of what is right. There’s also Bill Plympton’s animated profile of an iconic femme-fatale in action, a stirring documentary about a photographer whose images foster social change and a car crash of a film that should, like any car crash, be avoided. Read on….

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HOME – Review by Susan Granger

homeposter160There’s obviously such a thirst for family-friendly animated films that even this lackluster diversion attracts crowds at the multiplex. When their planet is threatened by the dreaded Gorg, the Boovs decide to move to Earth. In preparation for this diversionary tactic, Earthlings are vacuumed up by giant Boov spaceships and relocated to a candy-colored theme park, dubbed “Happy Humantown,” in the Australian desert. But 13 year-old Gratuity Tucci (Rihanna) – a Bahamian immigrant called “Tip” – and her Calico cat were able to avoid capture. Desperate to find her mother, Lucy (Jennifer Lopez), plucky Tip goes looking for her. Read on…

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GET HARD – Review by Susan Granger

get hard poster160When fabulously wealthy hedge-fund manager, James King (Will Ferrell) faces a 10 year prison term after being convicted on 76 counts of fraud and embezzlement, he hires Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), an African-American car-washer whom he assumes is an ex-con, to toughen him up for what lies ahead. Steadfastly maintaining his innocence, Harvard-educated King has just been made partner at the Los Angeles investment firm run by Martin (Craig T. Nelson), and he’s has a sexy, gold-digging fiancée, Alissa (Alison Brie), who gets John Mayer to serenade him at their engagement party. Read on…

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