THE RIOT CLUB and other March 27, 2015 openers – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

the riot club poster 160If the degrading upper-class louts in The Riot Club, Oxford University’s completely elitist (and entirely fictitious) secret society, have anything to do with tomorrow’s real life leaders, we’re in trouble. Lone Scherfig’s well-made cinematic adaptation of Laura Wade’s play will make you wince, as well you should. Also opening, Susanne Bier’s Serena, Amy S. Weber’s A Girl Like Her,” Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, and Dave Boyle’s Man From Reno. And, on March 31, there’s To Write Love On Her Arms, an inspiring biopic about Renee Yohe, a 19-year-old whose struggles to overcome addiction, depression and other life-impairing difficulties lead to the creation of TWLOHA.com, the nonprofit help group. Read my reviews…

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THE FACE OF AN ANGEL – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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Let’s be perfectly clear: The Face of an Angel is most definitely not the story of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, who was killed in Perugia, Italy, in 2007, or the story of her roommate, American student Amanda Knox, who was tried and convicted of the crime. Well, it is that story. But it isn’t, either. It’s both and neither at the same time. Okay, look: British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom is back in the metafictional world he has visited before, and this time he’s struggling to figure out how to tell a story about a real-life crime for which — as his avatar laments here — neither the innocence nor the guilt of the accused makes any sense. Read more>>

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EFFIE GRAY – Review by Susan Granger

effiegraysmallSince proper Victorian society would not tolerate homosexuality or divorce, it was truly scandalous when young Euphemia “Effie” Gray left her husband, influential art critic John Ruskin, after a loveless six-year marriage for Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. Teenage Effie’s (Dakota Fanning) story begins in Scotland in 1848, when she marries Ruskin (John Wise). Arriving in London, Effie discovers to her dismay that they’re to live with his prim, domineering parents (Julie Walters, David Suchet). Worse yet, after viewing lovely Effie’s naked body, Ruskin coldly refuses to consummate their marriage. Read om…

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THE VOICES – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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I’ve said it before, but this has never been more apropos: I am tired of being expected to have a sense of humor about the violent abuse and even the murder of women. Complain about a rape joke or a horror flick in which a sexy half-naked girl is killed in an awesome way, and you’re likely to be told to “lighten up, it’s just a bit of fun.” And now The Voices seems to be a deliberate provocation, designed to dare the likes me: Shall I be the “cool girl,” the one who laughs along as Ryan Reynolds in his snappy pink jumpsuit saws up a woman’s body on his kitchen counter, just so I can be one of the guys? Read more>>

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WHILE WE WERE YOUNG – Review by Erica Abeel

while we were youngIn his delicious new outing, Noah Baumbach expands on the issues that bedeviled Ben Stiller as the eponymous protagonist of Greenberg. Once again he taps Stiller to play a malcontent artist and thwarted achiever who, through bad timing, bad luck, cluelessness—or a combo thereof—has fallen far short of his own expectations. Read more…

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INSURGENT – Review by Susan Granger

This highly-anticipated sequel to last year’s “Divergent” is set in a dystopian futuristic Chicago, where society is rigidly divided into five factions, according to skill and aptitude: Amity (peaceful), Abnegation (selfless), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave) and Erudite (intelligent) – with the dispossessed Outsiders, known as Factionless. They’re supervised by megalomaniacal Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who discovered a mysterious, five-sided box containing information from the founders of the new civilization. She’s sure it’s the answer to what she perceives as the Divergent dilemma. Divergents are considered dangerous because they have attributes of multiple factions. Problem is: she needs a Divergent to open it. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, March 23-29: MAN FROM RENO

Opening March 27, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Man from Reno, the new thriller from filmmaker Dave Boyle (Daylight Savings, Surrogate Valentine). It reunites him with his White on Rice star Pepe Serna, who takes the role of Sheriff Paul Del Moral who, while driving home through fog in a small town south of San Francisco, accidentally hits a Japanese man. Before any investigation can take place, however, the man disappears from hospital without a trace. At the same time, Japanese mystery author Aki Akahori (Akayo Fujitani, Boyle’s Daylight Savings) begins a romantic affair with a Japanese traveller from Reno (Kazuki Kitamura) while visiting San Francisco. Read on…

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BACKCOUNTRY Sells Scary in the Extreme – Liz Whittemore comments

backcountrybearsBackcountry, an adventure thriller based on a true story, explores the terrible things that can happen to a couple on a camping trip. But even before the film opened theatrically, the producers were selling scary in the extreme via a very clever marketing campaign that included graphics showng the frequency of black bear attacks on humans in the wilderness. The marketing strategy may just be a game changer in the adventure thriller genre. Read on…

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HOUSE OF CARDS: Will Frank Underwood be the Next Captain Kirk? – Martha Nochimson comments

beauwillimonI’m aware that this blog might make it seem that I’m out to get Beau Willimon, and for that appearance I apologize in advance. I’m not. My only reason for taking apart House of Cards, Season 3, in such detail is that it has been hyped as a prestige television production and I think that the reality is otherwise. It is a missed opportunity that requires attention from that part of entertainment journalism that seriously delves into what is really going on in the American media, which is such an important part of our culture. That said, read on….

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Filmmaker Lindsay MacKay on Transforming a Short into A Feature – Quendrith Johnson interviews

LindsayMacKayLindsay MacKay, a little known Canadian filmmaker, is escalating successful festival screenings of and awards for her well-crafted live action short, titled Clear Blue, into a full length feature. Riffing off the pool theme of the prize-winning short, her debut feature is called Wet Bum. MacKay speaks candidly with Quendrith Johnson about how she’s working the system. Read on…

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