GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Review by Susan Granger

guardians of the galaxy Marvel expands its cinematic clout to encompass another colorful franchise, encompassing a rag-tag team of intergalactic adventurers. Headed by Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord (Chris Pratt), the quintet includes the green-skinned warrior Gamora (Zoe Saldana), vengeance-seeking Drax the Destroyer (WWW champ Dave Bautista) and two endearing CG characters: clever, cybernetically-enhanced, gun-slinging Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, and Groot, a humanoid, self-regenerating tree whose one line of dialogue (“I am Groot”) is uttered repeatedly – but with different intonations – by Vin Diesel. Read on…

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Documentaries Opening August 1-12, 2014 – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

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To be seen on big screens from August 1 to 12 are fine non-fic features that explore the lives and hard times faced by troubled youth in small town USA and throughout China, offer up the expressions of Iranian artists in exile, deliver inspiration via the ‘play it forward’ mentorship of a jazz icon and his protege, and reveal discoveries in the ocean’s depths. Check out my reviews of Rich Hill, Web Junkie, Fifi Howls From Happiness, Keeo On Keepin’ On and DeepSea Challenger 3D, and for maximum non-fic cool, see them all! Read more>>

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MOOD INDIGO – Review by MaryAnn Johanson


This is not a thing you ever want to hear: “Michel Gondry’s shorter, preferred cut for American audiences.” That was the proud announcement included in a press release about Mood Indigo from a U.S. publicist for the film, and that 90-odd-minute version is the same one I saw at a press screening here in London. Why does Gondry think we English speakers don’t warrant the two-hour-plus version of his whimsical love story? What doesn’t he want us to see? What does he think we can’t handle? Read more>>

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POINT AND SHOOT – Review by Jennifer Merin


Filmmaker Marshall Curry’s thriller of a documentary has vast social relevance and import. While chronicling the exploits of Matthew VanDyke, an American guy who gained notoriety when he joined rebel forces in Libya and was captured and imprisoned, Curry deftly targets the subject of how movies and the media influence personality, aspirations and social behavior in the children who are exposed to them. VanDyke’s role models are Hollywood action heroes and he has reinvented himself in their image. After premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, the documentary is playing the festival circuit. It is a must see! Read more>>

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, July 28-Aug. 3: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

guardians of the galaxy Opening Aug. 1, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn and co-written with Nicole Perlman. The film has all the spectacle and eye-popping CGI that has come to be expected from the studio behind Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. It was recently announced at Comic-Con that a sequel will be released in 2017. The cast is led by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro, and features the voice talents of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. It’s also got the right mix of action, comedy and heart that has become such a winning formula for successful superhero movies. American pilot Peter Quill (Pratt) finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan (Pace). In order to evade Ronan, Quill must form an uneasy truce with a group of misfits including Gamora (Saldana), Rocket (voiced by Cooper), Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), and Groot (voiced by Diesel). When Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the danger it poses to the cosmos, he must rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand – with the galaxy’s fate in the balance. Read on…

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BEGIN AGAIN – Review by MaryAnn Johanson


I love this movie so much. Partly for how it demonstrates how little a movie has to deviate from an oh-so-repetitive format to come up with something fresh and exciting but also still comfortable and comforting. And partly for being so radical in a few attitudes while it’s being comfortable and comforting. I mean, writer-director John Carney — who got famous with Once, and this is even better — only has to switch things up a little bit to upend our expectations about a movie. Read more>>

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LUCY – Review by Kristy Puchko

lucyThe first thing you need to know about Lucy is that it’s not the movie its trailers would have you believe. Flaunting Avengers star Scarlett Johansson as a no-nonsense gunslinger, its trailers suggest that Lucy is a wall-to-wall action-thriller with a healthy dose of science fiction. However, the latest from writer-director Luc Besson is far more cerebral than these ads let on. While a non-stop Johansson-fronted action vehicle is something I’d gladly see, what Lucy offers is a bit more rich, though perhaps too rushed to sell its grander premise.


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LUCY – Review by Susan Granger

Starting with the provocative premise – that human beings use only 10% of their brain capacity – this is strictly science fiction. Filmmaker Luc Besson knew that this percentage figure was inaccurate, yet plunged ahead with his inventive adventure, revolving around a naïve young American named Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who gets tricked into delivering a mysterious metal briefcase to a Taiwanese crime boss, Mr. Jang (South Korean actor Choi Min Sik), and forced to become one of his drug mules. When she’s repeatedly kicked in the gut, there’s leakage from the bag of blue crystals, a narcotic known as CPH4, that’s been surgically inserted in her abdomen, and a metamorphosis occurs: Lucy becomes superhuman. Determined not only to wreak primal revenge on her captors but also to acquire more and more knowledge, employing her increasing array of powers and skills – she contacts Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman), a neuroscientist who is lecturing about cerebral capacity at a university in Paris. Read on…

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UNDER THE ELECTRIC SKY – Review by Jennifer Merin

under elec sky poster160For music documentary fans, especially those who are devoted to electronic dance music, Under The Electric Sky is the equivalent of a contemporary Woodstock — with the added attraction of providing a fully immersive and utterly spectacular 3D experience. And then, too, there’s the opportunity for die hard devotees to host their own theatrical screenings through an innovative ‘crowdsourcing’ distribution model. The film is well worth a look. So, too, is the distribution model. Read more>>

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Steve James Talks Empathy in Documentary Making – Jennifer Merin interviews

stevejamessharpenedIn Life Itself, filmmaker Steve James chronicles Roger Ebert’s life, paying tribute to the film critic who defined cinema as “a machine that generates empathy.” While watching Life Itself, and any of James’ documentaries, for that matter, one senses the filmmaker’s great compassion for his subjects. This underlying empathy seems to be an essential characteristic of the Steve James style of documentary filmmaking. When speaking about his approach to his work, James acknowledges that empathy for his characters is one of the qualities he hopes to bring to his films. Read more>>

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