RACE, NEERJA, THE WITCH and other Feb 19 Openers — Reviews by Jennifer Merin

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raceposterExcellent biopics top this week’s list of openers. Race, releasing timely as Hollywood faces diversity issues, is the long overdue story of how Jesse Owens, the legendary track star, challenged America’s segregated playing fields and won gold at the 1936 Olympics, staged in Hitler’s Berlin. Neerja is about Neerja Bhanot, the truly heroic 22-year-old Indian flight attendant who saved the lives of 359 passengers aboard hijacked Pan Am 93 in Karachi in 1086, and was killed by the terrorists who took the plane. The Witch, set in colonial Massachusetts 30 years before the Salem Witch Trials, mixes superstition with the supernatural to brew a truly terrifying tale. Rolling Papers is an entertaining and educational documentary that tracks the Denver Post journalist assigned to the pot beat following legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Crazy About Tiffany’s is a documentary tribute to one of America’s top temples of conspicuous consumption, replete with historical details and celebrity cameos. Read the reviews.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).