AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 2-8: MERCHANTS OF DOUBT

Opening March 6, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Merchants of Doubtthe new documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Kenner (Food, Inc). Here, he turns his attention to the shadowy world of pundits-for-hire, shining a light on the infuriating ways in which huge organisations attempt to sway public opinion against those inconvenient truths that may have a negative impact on their popularity and, more importantly, their profits. These often take the form of highly paid, media-savvy individuals who talk a good game to persuade the general public that scientific fact – smoking kills, for example, or climate change is something to worry about – is actually unfounded social hysteria. Read on…

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HOUSE OF CARDS Season 3: Knock it Down – Martha P. Nochimson Comments

housecardsdeckcropped160After watching the second episode of Season 3 of Beau Willimon’s House of Cards, a horrible thought occurred to me. I began to wonder if Willimon was doing to me, that is to say to the audience, what Frank Underwood, played perhaps too well by Kevin Spacey, was doing to his colleagues in Willimon’s fictional Washington, D. C.: hitting me/us with dishonest, manipulative plots, for his own self-promotion. And Spacey, that talented, idealistic actor was LETTING HIS TALENT BE CO-OPTED IN THIS WAY? I’d been having suspicions about this series since Season 2. But Season 3 is starting off in way that more than justifies them, and not only because the first two eps have left me actually feeling queasy. Read on…

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BEYOND THE LIGHTS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

It is a sign of how broken Hollywood is that the smart, stylish and passionate Beyond the Lights didn’t get the studio support it needed to make the kind of splash it deserved at the U.S. box office last fall. It didn’t open very wide, and it disappeared from screens almost instantly afterward. There is no excuse for this. This is mainstream filmmaking at its very best. This is a believable romance between adult characters played by gorgeous actors with palpable onscreen chemistry. This is one of the ultimate Hollywood fantasies. Read more>>

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IT FOLLOWS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Wait. Really? Horror movies are still doing the punishing-girls-for-having-sex thing? Goddammit… Ah, but It Follows is “retro,” so that’s okay then. It’s “80s.” Except for that one cell phone in the opening scene, and the weird little e-reader in a cosmetics case. But listen to the electronica score, clearly meant to evoke John Carpenter! Check out the old gas-guzzling cars and square cathode-ray TVs and the cheesy porn mags! So 80s. Read more>>

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THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Well, what else were they going to call the sequel? At least there is an actual “second best” iteration of Sonny Kapoor’s (Dev Patel) residential hotel in the works: he is ready to expand into a new location in Jaipur, thanks in part to the steady business hand of his partner and one-time first guest (back in the previous film, that is), Muriel (Maggie Smith). There actually isn’t much of the way of story this time around, just some gentle dramedy, as everyone is prodded to settle into the ex-pat retirements they chose in the first film; this is a more subtle film than last time out, with comedy that’s less clunky and characters more nuanced. Read more>>

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb. 23-March 1: MAPS TO THE STARS

Opening Feb. 27, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Maps to the Starsthe new film from director David Cronenberg (Videodrome, Cosmopolis, Maps to the Stars). The screenplay by Bruce Wagner (Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills) takes a deeply satirical look at the inner workings of the LA film industry. Mia Wasikowska takes the role of Agatha, a new arrival in Hollywood, who finds herself working as a personal assistant to the unhinged actress Havana (Julianne Moore), who is haunted by the ghost of her dead mother and never far away from a complete breakdown. Read on…

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Kristen Stewart’s César Reboots Her Career – Quendrith Johnson reports

kstewcesarcroppedsmallKristen Stewart is the first American in 30 years to be nominated, let alone score a César, or “French Oscar,” for Clouds of Sils Maria. But this historic first-ever win for an American, technically in a Supporting Role, merely scratches the surface of how Stewart ascended from the massively popular Twilight franchise to become this year’s actress most beloved by the notoriously insular French Academy. Read on..

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KINGSMEN: THE SECRET SERVICE: Review by Susan Granger

When British director/producer Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) wanted to make a James Bond movie, he was rejected by the Broccoli family that controls the franchise. So he got this idea of spoofing the concept of dapper gentlemen involved in international intrigue. In the prologue, British superspy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) – a.k.a. Galahad – is involved in a botched Middle East mission that costs the life of one of his cohorts. Seventeen years later, Hart comes to the rescue of that cohort’s son, Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin (Taron Egerton), a troubled South London street kid. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb. 16-22: WILD TALES

wildtalesposterOpening Feb. 20, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Wild Tales. This Oscar nominee for best foreign film is interweaves six stand-alone, thematically connected shorts into a compelling feature about venting frustration and exacting revenge. Read on…

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KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Is Kumiko an oddball nonconformist? Is she mentally ill? Or is she suffering from a slow-motion nervous breakdown that is a perfectly reasonable response to the unreasonable pressures she is under? As we ponder, throughout the film, an unanswered question posed in the opening scene, when the solitary Tokyo resident (Rinko Kikuchi) digs up a strange bit of “treasure” from a beachside cave, the mystery of Kumiko only deepens, and in every instance when we think we’ve grasped a clue, it slips away from us. Read more>>

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