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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 26, 2024: IRENA’S VOW

There’s no denying the fact that humans are capable of terrible cruelty; everything from the history books to the headlines of today’s newspapers makes that sadly, abundantly clear. But people are also capable of acts of tremendous courage and character. Such is the case in director Louise Archambault’s moving drama Irena’s Vow, which tells the story of Irena Gut Opdyke, a Catholic Polish woman who risked herself repeatedly to hide a group of Jews during the Holocaust.

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Opening April 22 to 28, 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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EARTH DAYS – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Why, if we were nearing environmental sustainability thirty years ago, do we now find ourselves on the brink of ecological disaster? This compelling documentary is a chronicle of the environmental movement in the US.
To explore the fundamental premises and chronicle the advent of Earth Days, our annual celebration of Gaia and whatever ecological awareness we can muster, documentary director Robert Stone assembled and interviewed a special tribe of the environmental movement’s elders — Stuart Udall, Denis Hayes, Paul Ehrlich, Pete McCloskey and Rusty Schweickart among other activists, politicians and forecasters — who give testimony about advances made by conservationists during the 1960s and 70s, and lead us to an understanding of what happened beginning with the Nixon administration to bring us to our current situation — on the brink of environmental disaster.

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RIPLEY – Review by Diane Carson

Steven Zaillian, responsible for directing and writing the screenplay for all eight episodes in the new Netflix series Ripley, resists exploiting sensationalism or indulging melodrama, Zaillian denies Tom Ripley an appealing, charismatic personality, even to his victims. It’s just that Ripley’s manipulative strategies, combined with his indifference to shame or humane behavior, facilitate his perverted ways. Devoid of any social graces, con man Ripley relies on the goodness of others and their inability to imagine his depravity, even when details don’t add up.

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ABIGAIL – Review by Susan Kamyab

It’s rare these days to not be able to predict the end of a movie, especially one that appears to be formulaic, but I can assure you, you won’t know what to expect from Universal Pictures’ new, surprisingly funny thriller, Abigail. After a group of criminals kidnap the ballerina daughter of a powerful, wealthy man, they must wait 24 hours in an isolated mansion to collect their 50-million-dollar ransom, but things quickly go awry when the group discovers they are locked inside with no normal little girl. What proceeds to happen is an entertaining, creatively shot blood bath that will shock and humor audiences.

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RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: OPUS – Review by Diane Carson

The iconic Japanese composer, pianist, and actor Ryuichi Sakamoto comes to vivid life in an exquisite documentary Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus. Directed by Sakamoto’s son, Neo Sora, Ryuichi plays twenty of his compositions, including the title Opus plus Lack of Love, Solitude, The Sheltering Sky, and a new arrangement of Tong Poo. That’s it: minimalist and extraordinary.

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THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE – Review by T.J.Callahan

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is based on Winston Churchill’s recently declassified confidential files on WWII. Inspired by true events, this swashbuckling saga of sociopaths with shotguns who are licensed to kill plays like Inglorious Basterds with the McGuyver skills of Ocean’s Eleven. Filmgoers have a love-hate relationship with director Guy Ritchie, but with Ungentlemanly Warfare he’s really in his element allowing history to be told in such an out of the box way that we all may actually learn something. Despite the crass killing, Ministry is the most lighthearted, sure of itself, twinkle in the eye Nazi movie I’ve ever seen.

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CIVIL WAR – Review by Susan Granger

Deliberately pushing all your ‘fear’ buttons, Alex Garland’s Civil War is obviously intended to be a cautionary tale but it falls short in so many ways. The dystopian story begins sometime in the near-immediate future in war-torn New York City, where water is rationed and residents are battling the police. Several military-embedded journalists are preparing to undertake the precarious drive to Washington, D.C. hoping to interview the divisive President, who has disbanded the FBI and ordered air strikes on civilians.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Nancy Savoca’s DOGFIGHT releases on Criterion Collection – Brandy McDonnell reports

Nancy Savoca’s 1991 coming-of-age drama Dogfight, starring Lili Taylor and the late River Phoenix (1970-1993), will be released on April 30 through The Criterion Collection. Written by Bob Comfort (1940-2010), the film is set in 1963 and stars Phoenix as Eddie, a hotheaded young Marine on his way to fight in the war in Vietnam. On leave for 24 hours in San Francisco before shipping out, he and three of his buddies plan on attending a “dogfight,” a cruelly misogynistic party where Marines compete to bring the ugliest date, unbeknownst to the girls.

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RIPLEY – Review by Susan Granger

The idiom “Everything old is new again…” can be applied to writer/director Steven Zaillian’s sensational new noir Netflix series Ripley, based on Patricia Highsmith’s pulpy, best-selling novels. Sociopathic antihero Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott) is a down-on-his-luck grifter in 1961 New York who is hired by wealthy shipping magnate to travel to Italy to try to convince his prodigal son Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn) to return home. Tom’s acceptance of this lucrative job opens the door to a labyrinthine life of crime. As soon as he arrives in the picturesque coastal village of Atrani, he begins to ingratiate himself with entitled Dickie, much to the annoyance of his resentful girl-friend Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning), who is suspicious from the getgo. “I’m not someone who takes advantage of people,” Tom claims when, in fact, that’s exactly who he is.

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