MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 24, 2024: QUEEN OF THE DEUCE

If Chelly Wilson were a fictional character, odds are she’d be deemed “hard to believe” or “too over the top.” But the business-savvy, chain-smoking mom and grandma who came to the United States from Greece in 1939 and operated a string of adult movie theaters in some of the seediest parts of New York City in the 1960s and ’70s is 100 percent real. And, as chronicled in Valerie Kontakos’ documentary Queen of the Deuce, her story is fascinating.

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MEAN GIRLS – Review by Leslie Combemale

Remember, humans, it’s our kindness and empathy that matter, not the meager power or pretty meat sacks what leverage in our social interactions. This update, co-directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr, with a book by ’04 screenwriter Tina Fey, drives that message home far better than its predecessor. I’m not sure this Mean Girls update will become a classic, per se, but it’s certainly more than just an entertaining diversion. It’s one hell of a vehicle for the cast, and also a fun message movie about belonging, personal responsibly, sense of self, and the value of friendship. This one just happens to come dressed in pink.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10, 2023: A PLACE IN THE FIELD

As intense international conflict again dominates the headlines with tragic stories of loss and suffering, director Nikki Mejia’s feature debut, A Place in the Field, feels particularly timely. Her contemplative, emotionally resonant drama about Giovanni Scuderi (Don DiPetta, who also co-wrote the film), a former soldier grappling with unresolved feelings of guilt and grief that kick into high gear after the death of his best friend, puts a very human face on the long-lasting trauma of war.

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INVISIBLE BEAUTY – Review by Loren King

Invisible Beauty belongs among the great fashion documentaries of recent years. Like Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel and The Gospel According to André about André Leon Talley, Invisible Beauty profiles a fashion insider who is also an outsider. Trailblazer, innovator, activist and all around legend Bethann Hardison co-directs this look at her life and career with Frédéric Tcheng (Halston, “Dior and I). But it’s no vanity project. Candid, thoughtful and reflective, the film is much like the memoir that Hardison is writing throughout the film.

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EVERYBODY LOVES JEANNE – Review by Nadine Whitney

Céline Devaux has crafted an airy and enjoyable romp which carries with it some very perceptive commentary about how we construct our inner and outer selves. Everybody Loves Jeanne is a delightful peek inside the mind of an over achiever who probably needed to fall down so she could learn who she is. It also understand the complexity of grief – whether that be grief for a parent or grief for a career and smashed dreams. Witty and brilliant, Everybody Loves Jeanne is a gift.

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LOVE BETWEEN FAIRY AND DEVIL – Review by Dana Ziyasheva (Guest Post)

The Chinese show Love Between Fairy and Devil is such a carefully choreographed ballet of emotions and thoughts on the nature of love, power, and society — hammering home its points with an impossibly attractive cast and a highly addictive soundtrack — that I, a bone-weary middle-aged woman with grown-up kids, found myself pledging all my time (and the entirety of my soul) to it.

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REACHER – Review by Susan Granger

Based on Lee Child’s first novel, Killing Floor (1997), this new, eight-episode Amazon series is steered by astute showrunner Nick Santora (The Sopranos, Prison Break, Lie to Me), while charismatic Alan Ritchson cleverly incorporates Reacher’s physical stature with high intelligence and deadpan wit. Jack Reacher is a fascinating character. Living off his military pension, he’s a stealthy loner who relishes his anonymity, traveling around the country with only a folding toothbrush, lapsed passport and the clothes on his back.

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AIR DOLL – Review by Diane Carson

Air Doll watches an inflatable sex doll come to life and reveal Tokyo. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has a well-earned international following as well as numerous awards. The distribution company Dekanalog, dedicated “to the release of the most unique filmmaking voices,” will now provide on-demand access to Kore-eda’s 2009 Air Doll, a provocative look at contemporary Japanese society and the individual need for, as well as the elusiveness of, affection.

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AMERICAN RUST – Review by Susan Granger

Just like the collapse of that corroded bridge in Pittsburgh, the cancellation of American Rust – filmed in and around that same city – demonstrates the ruination or what can happen when a crime drama isn’t properly developed or cared for, making it of little use to anyone. Developed by showrunner Dan Futterman, the TV series is set in a small, fictional Pennsylvania town where the chief of police becomes involved in the murder investigation of a corrupt ex-cop.

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GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a rare example of writing, direction, and performance in perfect balance, that gel together into something even more than the sum of its parts. Though certainly a fun film to experience in the moment, it will be one that many viewers will be appreciated more and more in retrospect. The first half hour feels like the slow escalation of what becomes an emotional rollercoaster, but like Nancy (Emma Thompson) does, it’s best to just put your hands up and enjoy the ride.

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