MLK/FBI – Review by Martha K Baker

Sam Pollard’s excellent documentary, MLK/FBI,”principally covers the last five years of Martin Luther King’s life. None of its major points is really new: he worked under tremendous pressure, he was hounded by the FBI, he was profligate. What this film does reveal is how those details defined him.

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THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN – Review by Martha K Baker

Simon Winchester published The Surgeon of Crowthorne in 1998. Mel Gibson optioned it. Then, it was published in the United States as The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. After 19 years, including three for legal wrangles, Winchester’s well-written book evolved into a mess of a movie.

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PIECES OF A WOMAN – Review by Martha K Baker

“The first 30 minutes of [‘Pieces of a Woman’] contain some of the most intense footage you will see this year — quite possibly the most bloodcurdling images of [birth], in all its hideous brutality, you have ever seen.” That quote paraphrases the Washington Post’s review of Stephen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan from 1998. But those words apply equally to the first 30 minutes of “Pieces of a Woman

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SOUL – Review by Martha K Baker

One will have to deal with whether Pixar’s animated Soul, is at all appropriate for — or even appealing to — children. But children delight in only what they want in animation, leaving the rest for adults. Soul has a lesson, one children can afford to learn, about our purpose in life, about our spark, about our music. While the film’s concentration on Black artists, on female brass players, and on avoiding Black stereotypes is commendable, its falling into the Great Beyond is questionable.

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WOLFWALKERS – Review by Martha Baker

In a time, not so far from our own, really, wolves were seen as Satanic and, per the Book of Genesis, Mother Nature was to be dominated. In that vein, the wondrous animated film, Wolfwalkers, commingles superstition and magic in an homage to red-haired girls with voice and vote — and moxie.

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THE PROM – Review by Martha K Baker

The operative word is “fun.” F. U. N. fun. From the perspective of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland’s “let’s-put-on-a-show” fun. And where those old teens of the Forties added a skosh of patriotism to their hi- and lo-jinks, “The Prom” promotes sexual politics, for the theme depends from intolerance toward homosexuality.

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MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM – Review by Martha K Baker

Ma Rainey, the Mother of the Blues, stands in the spotlight serenading the Black Bottom, a Twenties’ dance. But August Wilson put her there, and this film version of his play pays homage to him as much as it does to her. A third honor in this fine film goes to Chadwick Boseman in his last remarkable role.

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WILD MOUNTAIN THYME – Review by Martha K Baker

John Patrick Shanley’s Wild Mountain Thyme might have worked better as a play, especially in the intimate, yet opaque dialogues, but as the plot unscrolls, it works as a story, a classic Irish tale of love and land. As a film, it holds Ireland in the camera’s eye.

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