HAPPENING – Review by Martha K Baker

Watch Anamaria Vartolomei’s face. From start to finish of the tense thriller, Happening, Vartolomei portrays the many moods of her character. Anne is a bright student (her mother thinks she’s gifted, of course), who finds herself in what used to be called, “the family way.” The country is France and the decade is the Sixties, and Anne is in deep trouble. Happening is a canny film, written by Marcia Romano and director Audrey Diwan. They based the script on Annie Ernaux’s novel of her experience as a young woman seeking to end her pregnancy at a time when doing so, or helping, or thinking about helping, is criminal.

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OPERATION MINCEMEAT – Review by Martha K Baker

Ian Fleming — yes, that Ian Fleming — narrates Operation Mincemeat: “In any story,” he writes, “there is that which is seen and that which is hidden.” Such is the case with Operation Mincemeat and the fascinating — and flawed — film based on the true event. The time is July 1943 during World War II. The place is England; the target is Sicily.

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HACKS SEASON 2 – Review by Martha K Baker

The writing in Season 2 is just as sharp as in the mother series. When Ava asks Deborah how many stalkers she actually has, Deborah fires back: “Living?” Ava and Deborah develop into characters who mesh more often than they abrade. They talk sex. One sues and one teaches the other to float. They laugh at each other’s lines. Or not. The subplots introduce strong storylines, including Ava’s burden of her father’s ashes and, at the fair, Deborah’s finding a woman she’d betrayed years before.

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HOW THEY GOT OVER – Review by Martha K Baker

This historic documentary describes the indelible link between gospel and rock ‘n’ roll. After gospel’s birth in churches, the Twenties brought the new-fangled radio and the freshly pressed record business to audiences beyond church congregations. The result: keen competition and bold innovations — not always acceptable to the evangelical churches, which thought gospel music was getting too damned secular. Plus, through the years, Clem notes, many gospel singers did not live the life they were singing about.

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NOT SO PRETTY – Review by Martha K Baker

Award winning documentarians Dick Kirby and Amy Ziering instill trust in this educational series Remember that feeling of horror and betrayal while witnessing chief executive officers of major tobacco corporations declare, man for man, that cigarettes are not harmful? Similar scenes are played over and over in Not So Pretty, a series of four half-hour investigative documentaries that tear apart the beauty industry. Not So Pretty moves swiftly and carries a bruising punch.

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MINX – Review by Martha K Baker

Minx, a 1970s magazine, presents gents in the buff in the centerfold. To select the right bulked firefighter or buff athlete, menfolk have to audition. There’s nothing coy about these auditions, and that’s one of the most honest aspects of the 10 episodes. Minx jostles down memory lane, complete with polyester clothes, typewriters, and the rhetoric of the Seventies. However, one grating anachronism is generic use of “guy,” rarely heard in 1971. The music, including, of course, Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman,” signifies throughout, and allusions to Gloria Steinem fit neatly. Minx works on so many levels.

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THE BAD GUYS – Review by Martha K Baker

The plot is tricky and convoluted, and big chunks make no sense. “The Bad Guys” is based on the Scholastic series by Aaron Blabey from a screenplay by Etan Cohen, known for Men in Black 3. The script plays off caper movies, but it does not always play well. Directed by Pierre Perifel, known for Kung Fu Panda 2, it’s too long and loud, including the music, and holds little novelty, but it does offer lessons in distinguishing trust from distrust. But, for all its noise, it has its heart in the right place.

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MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE – Review by Martha K Baker

The plot follows a formula, which director Kate Tsang honors while adding sharp edges — not sharp enough to be inventive, just deckled enough to keep it interesting. The other thing Tsang does is make the audience care about teenage Sammy Ko, played by Miya Cech, and her mentor magician, played by Rhea Perlman. Marvelous and the Black Hole does not carve new pathways, but it satisfies the heart in an hour and 20 minutes.

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THE EARTH IS BLUE AS THE ORANGE – Review by Martha K Baker

Interest in Ukraine has magnified since Russia invaded the country, but a meaningful documentary like The Earth Is as Blue as an Orange opens a curtain on the country’s past five years. The film shows an ordinary family reframing life with attitude. The family that is the subject of the film refuses to fall victim to constant warfare. A shield of love protects these good people, who see art where others see hell.

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MOTHERING SUNDAY – Review by Martha K Baker

What does a filmmaker do with a stunning novel that is more style than plot? If you’re the French director Eva Husson, you make a film that is your own style. She blessed Graham Swift’s brilliant and brief 2016 novel, Mothering Sunday, with her style, thus making the film as transcendent as the novel.

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