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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 31, 2024: THE COMMANDANT’S SHADOW

At a time when some U.S. public schools are shutting down lesson plans that run the risk of making White American children feel bad about the country’s history of enslavement and oppression, The Commandant’s Shadow is an especially timely reminder of the dangers of willfully turning a blind eye to history. Daniela Volker’s documentary about coming to terms with both personal and societal legacies is a compelling addition to the catalog of films about World War II and the Holocaust.

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Opening May 27 – June 2, 2024 – Margaret Barton-Fumo reports

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists highlights movies made by and about women. With a vigilant eye toward current releases, we maintain an interactive record of films that are pertinent to our interests. Be they female-made or female-centric productions, they are films that represent a wide range of women’s stories and present complex female characters. As such, they are movies that will most likely be reviewed on AWFJ.org and will qualify for consideration for our annual EDA Awards, celebrating exceptional women working in film behind and in front of the camera.

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FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Eight years after Mad Max: Fury Road introduced one of the most electrifying female action heroes in decades with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, the character returns in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. While this prequel and origin story is quieter in some respects than the pedal-to-the-metal feel of Fury Road, it’s still an arresting post-apocalyptic adventure with a satisfying backstory that actually enriches the earlier film. From setups that pay off in Fury Road to echoes in visuals, sound, and theme, it’s a marvelous bit of filmmaking.

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RE:UNITING – Review by Cortland Jacoby

Movies about old-school friends coming together after decades apart have long been an indie film tradition. First-time filmmaker Laura Adkin adds to the canon with Re:Uniting, a melodrama about six college friends coming together for a long weekend after 25 years. Re:Uniting hits all the beats: People make jokes while crying. Characters pair off to reveal some inner truth while still being vague for the sake of the story. Someone screams out in the open air by a body of water. The entire group reconnects. There are some wonderful and thoughtful moments in Re:Uniting, but we’ve seen many of them in other films.

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ATLAS – Review by Nadine Whitney

Whatever Jennifer Lopez is doing in Atlas is enough to make you doubt she’s ever been in a movie before. Lopez isn’t given a stellar script to work with but that doesn’t excuse her abominable performance. Simu Liu is easy to believe as an AI synthetic because he has precisely one emotional state. Sterling K. Brown is solid as the heroic ranger who probably should have listened to Atlas, but he isn’t in the film enough to make enough of an impact. The fact that the most relatable character is the AI running the ARC is more than likely deliberate but speaks to how badly written and acted Atlas Shepard is.

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EZRA – Review by T. J. Callahan

When a 15 year old boy on the autism spectrum, acting in his first movie, outshines his heavy hitting Hollywood co-stars, you know he’s something special. If only his film, Ezra, was just as exceptional. William A. Fitzgerald is Ezra. The teen was a mild mannered New Jersey school boy who liked acting when, on a whim, he auditioned for the film and won the part. He makes the movie watchable, stealing every scene he is in, which fortunately is a lot.

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW – Review by Susan Granger

Count Rostov’s saga begins in 1921, after he’s caught in the Russian Revolution which designated former nobility as enemies of the state. A Bolshevik tribunal sentences him to spend the rest of his life within the confines of Moscow’s Hotel Metropol – not in the elegant suite he’d previously occupied but in a drafty attic, formerly used as servants’ quarters. Should he ever leave, he will be shot on sight. Haunted by memories of his bucolic past and taunted by Osip (Johnny Harris) from the Russian Secret Police, Count Rostov is soon befriended by precocious nine year-old Nina Kulikova (Alexa Goodall), who has explored every nook and cranny of the hotel, showing him secret passageways and locked rooms filled with confiscated treasures.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Devery Jacobs to receive Breakthrough Award at AXT TV Fest – Brandy McDonnell reports

Devery Jacobs will be honored at the 2024 ATX TV Festival, taking place in Austin, Texas from May 30-June 2. Jacobs, who is Mohawk, will receive the festival’s annual Breakthrough Award, which recognizes an individual whose creative voice has made a substantial and unique impact on the current moment in TV and whose work exemplifies the emotional, entertaining, and artistic possibilities of the medium.

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MANHUNT – Review by Susan Granger

The most compelling theme of Manhunt – which focuses on the pursuit of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, actor John Wilkes Booth – is what it takes to maintain and defend the democracy that we currently enjoy: i.e. the political cost of freedom. This new historical miniseries from Apple TV+ begins on April 14, 1865, the day that Booth (Anthony Boyle) shot President Lincoln (Hamish Linklater) during a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater.

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ROWDY GIRL – Review by April Neale

Blame Michael Pollan. Blame Eric Schlosser! Our sensibilities are heightened thanks to these two men of recent note, and our views toward food and animals—and how the two interact— are changing. A story about that change is beautifully rendered in the new doc, Rowdy Girl, a wonderfully concise look at one woman’s change of heart and diet after the dime dropped that she was hurting animals in a way she could not square anymore. She reads the Bible, believes in God, and has interpreted the text to support her newfound epiphany that Black Angus—especially one she named Rowdy Girl—and their place in this world as it relates to us has profoundly changed her life.

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