SEX TAPE – Review by Susan Granger

In the prologue, Annie (Cameron Diaz) blogs incessantly about the spicy sex life she enjoyed with her husband Jay (Jason Segel) when they met in college, when they first copulated, the second time they copulated and right on up to the time they married and had children (Sebastian Hedges Thomas, Giselle Eisenberg). Then suburban life – and exhaustion – robbed them of carnal pleasure. So she comes up with the idea sending the kids to Grandma (Nancy Lenehan) overnight, during which time they make a three-hour sex tape, depicting all the anatomical positions in “The Joy of Sex.” Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, July 14-20: MOOD INDIGO

Mood IndigoOpening July 11, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Mood Indigo, another unusual romance from director Michel Gondry, who is known for unique interpretations of love stories that incorporate fantastical, surreal elements. This time Gondry creates a stylishly quirky fantasy world that includes a piano that makes cocktails, a dining room on rollerskates and a cloud-shaped vehicle. French novelist Boris Vian’s cult novel provides the inspiration for the film, which stars Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris who embark on a whirlwind romance that is threatened when an unusual illness plagues Tautou’s character; a flower begins to grow in her lungs. It’s the kind of twist that fits perfectly well with Gondry’s inventive imagination. Read on…

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BOYHOOD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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We’ve seen children grow up onscreen before. Ron Howard. Jodie Foster. All the Harry Potter kids. But not like this. Not in a single film. Richard Linklater had the audacious idea to shoot a story about almost the entire span of one boy’s childhood using the same actors over the course of a dozen years. Audacious because such a long production time — probably the longest ever in the history of cinema — comes with unique challenges. Audacious because in retrospect, it seems like such an obvious idea, and yet either no one thought of it before or no one had the nerve to try it. Read more>>

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MOOD INDIGO – Review by Jennifer Merin

hr_Mood_Indigo_2 copyIn Mood Indigo, filmmaker Michel Gondry presents a delightfully stylish and quirky fantasy world in which a lonely Parisian inventor (Romain Duris) creates all sorts if life-enhancing and enchanting machines that turn daily tasks and ordinary endeavors into kinetic art. In the midst of this mechanical paradise, a flourishing love affair is threatened by a flower that takes root in a young woman’s lung. This is Gondry’s auteurship at its best! Read more>>

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SNOWPIERCER – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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There’s a reason why Snowpiercer is getting handled with the timid kid gloves of an arthouse release by the industry, quietly dribbling into a few cinemas here and there instead of getting a big opening-weekend push out onto three thousand screens. It’s a reason that has a lot to do with what the film has to say about human nature, hope, despotism, and a revolutionary spirit that might want to counter that despotism. What Snowpiercer is about offers too harsh a condemnation of the powers that be, of which Hollywood is but one arm. Read more>>

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PALO ALTO – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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I can’t wait for the day when James Franco finally comes out of the performance-art closet and reveals that almost everything he’s done in the past, oh, ten years or so has been part of an intricate ongoing practical joke to yank celebrity culture and our knee-jerk worship of those who are famous. His turn as the charlatan man behind the curtain in Oz the Great and Powerful was a big clue, I think. He’s waiting for someone — anyone — to debunk the smoke and mirrors of the fame that allows him to churn out increasingly ridiculous pontifical junk. And no one does. And so here we have Palo Alto, yet another attempt to get someone — anyone — to say, “You’re not actually serious with this, are you?” Read more>>

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PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE – Review by Susan Granger

Anthropomorphizing automobiles, trains, ships and planes has become a Disney specialty. This time, the comedic adventure is set in a Western wilderness area known as Piston Peak National Park. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, July 7-13: BOYHOOD

BOYHOOD posterOpening July 11, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Boyhood, an audacious film from writer-director Richard Linklater that was filmed over 12 years with the same cast. This groundbreaking film stars newcomer Ellar Coltrane, who literally grows up on screen, and Lorelei Linklater as his sister. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play their parents. The passage of time is captured through snapshots of family life—birthdays, vacations and family dinners—with a soundtrack that spans the recent past with tunes from Coldplay to Arcade Fire. This film offers a unique portrait of growing up that opens a door for personal introspection unlike any film before. Read on…

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LIFE ITSELF – Review by Susan Granger

Film critic Roget Ebert knew he wouldn’t live to see this documentary based on his 2011 memoir of the same name. In a particularly poignant scene, he tells director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) that he knows that his thyroid cancer has metastasized to his spine, saying, “It is likely I will have passed when the film is ready.” Indeed, Ebert died in April, 2013, at age 70. Read on…

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LIFE ITSELF — Review by Kristy Puchko

LifeItselfIt’s unnerving. Sometimes writing a film review can feel like a confession. While some like to believe that critics as a species have some sort of hard-wired criteria for cinema, I believe reviews are inherently subjective. A reviewer’s own life experience, cinematic awareness, and personal biases–for better or worse–inevitably play a part in how we read a film. When watching the Roger Ebert bio-doc Life Itself, my own views on life and death were a massive influence on how I responded to it.
I did not like this movie. And the reason can be boiled down to director Steve James (and perhaps Ebert himself) and I clearly disagree about how the dead should be remembered. Read more>>

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