THE MISSION – Review by Lois Alter Mark

As someone who immediately gets their back up when people try to force their religious beliefs on others, I was very interested in watching The Mission and learning more about the Mormons – whose main goal seems to be just that. I wanted to understand their values, why missionary work is so important to them, what it adds to their own lives. By the end of the film, though, I was no closer to answering any of those questions. Tania Anderson, in her first feature-length documentary, plays it too safe, keeping everything on a superficial level and never digging for real truths or insights.

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ONLY IN THEATERS – Review by Lois Alter Mark

A love letter to movies, Only in Theaters is a must-see for anyone who has experienced the emotional power of watching a film in a dark room with a group of strangers – in other words, everyone. As much as it’s a celebration of cinema, though, Raphael Sbarge’s surprisingly moving documentary about Laemmle Theaters also serves as a cautionary tale about the future of the industry in this age of streaming.

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LAST FLIGHT HOME – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Last Flight Home is a moving documentary about a family helping their elderly patriarch fulfill his wish to die. It’s so intimate, you’ll feel privileged to have been allowed access to their remarkable journey. 92-year-old Eli Timoner was the founder of Air Florida, whose company slogan was “Fly a little kinder.” A philanthropist and seemingly all-around good guy, he experienced a stroke in 1982 that left one side paralyzed. After 40 years of living that way, he was determined to end his suffering by invoking California’s End of Life Act.

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ON SACRED GROUND – Review by Lois Alter Mark

A fictionalized story about Standing Rock and the 2016 protests to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built on sacred tribal lands, the script is full of cliches and beats viewers over the head with its messages about our country’s treatment of the Indigenous People. There’s no question that there is vital information to be imparted here but the fact that it’s all filtered through the perspective of a white man cancels out so much of its credibility.

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ALICE, DARLING – Review by Lois Alter Mark

Anna Kendrick’s mesmerizing performance as the victim of emotional abuse in Alice, Darling is the stuff of Oscars. In a role unlike any she’s portrayed before, she brings an unexpected fragility to the title character – a young woman terrified of her artist boyfriend. Movies about abuse are often violent and loud but Alice, Darling is quietly horrifying as Alice’s terror is revealed through her compulsions. It is impossible not to feel her fear and pain as she obsessively counts calories and literally pulls out her hair, winding it tightly around her fingers.

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EMILY THE CRIMINAL – Review by Lois Alter Mark

The offhanded title may make you believe Emily the Criminal is a comedy, but there’s nothing funny about this thriller which offers biting social commentary along with action and suspense. Aubrey Plaza Emily, whose paycheck as a food delivery person doesn’t make a dent in her crushing student loan debt. But she can’t pass a background check because of a past assault conviction so she’s trapped in this dead-end job — until a co-worker refers her for a “dummy shopper” position where she can make $200 an hour.

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THE SWIMMERS – Review by Lois Alter Mark

At a time when the governors of Texas and Florida are callously using refugees as political pawns, The Swimmers is a must-watch movie that puts individual human faces to the staggering number of people escaping war-torn countries to find a safe place to live. Almost seven million Syrians have become refugees since 2011 when civil war broke out, and The Swimmers, which is based on a true story, solidly focuses on two of them while never losing sight of the rest.

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STUTZ – Review by Lois Alter Mark

As an actor and comedian, Jonah Hill has taken on a variety of surprising roles over the past 18 years, portraying everything from a sex and booze-obsessed teen in Superbad to Peter Brand, the Oakland A’s assistant general manager, in Moneyball. But his most unexpected role yet just may be as producer, director and co-star of Stutz, a new Netflix documentary about his own psychiatrist, Phil Stutz. By making the world-renowned therapist’s wisdom and tools easily accessible to the world, he’s become a real-life mental health resource himself.

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LIVING – Review by Lois Alter Mark

A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s highly acclaimed To Live, Living is equally powerful, thanks to Bill Nighy’s quietly dignified performance and a beautiful script by Nobel Prize winner, Kazuo Ishiguro. Nighy plays Mr. Williams, a very average British civil servant in postwar London, whose first name we never even get to know because no one is close enough to him to refer to him personally.

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