THE FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE – Review by Diane Carson

There’s good and bad news about Canadian director Denys Arcand’s The Fall of the American Empire. First, the positive. The opening scene establishes Montreal deliveryman Pierre-Paul’s impressive philosophical and literary knowledge, rare content for a plot-driven theft film. Despite Pierre-Paul’s self-congratulatory pronouncements, it’s fun to hear Pierre-Paul and his soon to be ex-girlfriend bank teller summarize their life’s expectations.

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TOY STORY 4 – Review by Diane Carson

Given sophisticated CGI work on recent animation, it is marvelous to watch the emotions these toys convey just by the arching of an eyebrow or the up or down movement of lips. Perhaps most astonishing is the personality the new character Forky communicates with two googly eyes and a couple pipe cleaners tacked on to a spoon. Kudos to the animation department for imagination and creativity. Toy Story 4 is absolutely delightful for adults and children. Stay for the extra scenes that run as the credits roll.

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WILD ROSE – Review by Diane Carson

Wild Rose is, in some ways, better because it indulges and then rises above the conventional arc of aspiring artist stories. Director Tom Harper has demonstrated his affection for the daring and atypical with, for example, his work on one of my favorite British television series, Peaky Blinders. Wild Rose delivers energy, thoughtful evaluation of dreams, and assertion of real values.

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THE SOUVENIR – Review by Diane Carson

Some stories are important to tell but boring in their unfolding. That’s how I felt watching Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir. In it, part-time photographer and aspiring filmmaker Julie falls under the spell of ne’er-do-well, heroin addict Anthony. She’s from wealth, lives in posh Knightsbridge, London; he’s a leech who says he works for the Foreign Office.

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BLACK MOTHER – Review by Diane Carson

Experimental and impressionistic, director Khalik Allah’s documentary Black Mother ricochets from street walkers negotiating with Johns to lush, beautiful jungles and inviting streams and waterfalls. His own cinematographer and editor, Allah juxtaposes color with black and footage, including some he shot as a teenager in Jamaica where all this film is set, a tribute to his mother and maternal grandfather.

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THE RUSSIAN FIVE – Review by Diane Carson

With the Stanley Cup fever in the air, director Joshua Riehl’s documentary The Russian Five comes at just the right time, reminding us hockey fans of important NHL history: the Detroit Red Wings’ quest for the Cup in the 1990s. Their fight, reminiscent of that by our own St. Louis Blues, involved determination and talent through crushing defeats.

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THE WILD PEAR TREE – Review by Diane Carson

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Treeis a character immersion study over three full hours. The man under scrutiny is twenty-something Sinan Karasu who has returned to his small Turkish hometown Çan after completing college. The self-satisfied, calmly egotistical Sinan engages in extended exchanges with his father, his mother, grandmother, grandfather, a previous girlfriend, a local author, a government official, and an imam—all expressing striking observations.

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THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM – Review by Diane Carson

As the documentary The Biggest Little Farm begins, Molly and John Chester get evicted from their LA apartment because of Todd’s behavior. Todd, the sweet, sad-eyed dog they rescued from a hoarder, barks incessantly when the couple leave, hence the crisis. So Molly and John do the only sensible thing they can, given their promise to care for Todd.

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WHITE CROW – Review by Diane Carson

Tackling an iconic artist for a fictionalized biography would prove daunting under any circumstances. Choose Rudolf Nureyev, insist on casting a dancer who has not acted previously in film, shoot scenes in Russian, and the challenges are Herculean. Director/actor Ralph Fiennes embraces just such an incredibly difficult project in White Crow, the title taken from Nureyev’s nickname.

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