THUNDER FORCE – Review by Martha K Baker

The problem with Thunder Force is that it’s unnecessarily complex. Two fine actors — Melissa McCarthy and Olivia Spencer — expend breathless monologues to explain the plot design, and, still they do not succeed to make it plausible or even fantastic enough for awe. So, bottom line, the problem is Ben Falcone. Falcone, McCarthy’s husband, wrote and directed Thunder Force.

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OUR TOWNS – Review by Martha K Baker

If Our Towns: A Panoramic Yet Intimate Look at Small Towns Throughout America were just a travelogue through America’s small and growing towns, it would be worthy. If it were an argument for rethinking what works to raise declining towns from the economic slough, it would be worth watching. If Our Towns were merely an exercise in beautiful film-making, it would be 97 minutes of loveliness.

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MOFFIE – Review by Martha K Baker

Imagine being forced to defend “apartheid,” your country’s policy of discrimination of blacks. Imagine being a young man inculcated into an army of hatred, where trainers start with cruelty and descend to sadism. Now, add homophobia to those aspects of life in South Africa in 1981. The three ingredients define this fine film. Moffie is derogatory Afrikaans for “effeminate” in the bully jargon of the times. It’s what Nicholas has been called all his adolescence. When he is forced to train for two years for the South African army, he tries desperately to be what others define as masculine, that is, unyielding, mean, craven, unloving.

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OSCAR NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS – Review by Martha Baker

A headline in a recent issue of The New York Times declared “Another War Has Long Ravaged Yemen: Against Hunger.” The article addressed the famine facing Yemen six years into a war. Similarly, “The Hunger Ward,” nominated for an Oscar in the category of documentary short, also seriously covers this travesty.

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SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT – Review by Martha K Baker

Six Minutes to Midnight offers insight if not brilliance. This film tells a little known story with more effort than excellence. First, the title: Six minutes to midnight translates to 11:54 on a clock; 1154 translates to the telephone exchange for the British intelligence bureau charged with finding an agent. He was posing as an English teacher but went missing with his camera.

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WOJNAROWICZ – Review by Martha K Baker

The subtitle to this biopic of the activist/artist David Wojnarowicz drops three F bombs. The blitz that still shocks was an exhortation flung at the multi-media artist by a homophobe, so Wojnarowicz used it as an ironic title for one of his works. It fits this revealing, inventive documentary. Nothing about the film is easy to watch, but it’s a good double-bill with It’s a Sin, a British series of fiction about the Eighties and AIDS in London. The two works bookend a moment in time to act up.

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IT’S A SIN – Review by Martha K Baker

Russell T. Davies recreated a time — the Eighties — and a place — London — for the poignant and marvelous series It’s a Sin. That title emphasizes the status of homosexuality in that time. The decade started with delight and ended in grievous sadness due to AIDS. The five-part series is filled with compassion and pain, eliciting the same from audiences who were there or for whom the time is history.

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MOXIE – Review by Martha K Baker

When the principal of Rockford High describes her student body as having moxie, two juniors roll their eyes and implore, “Is she 100 years old?” Moxie is a soft drink created in in 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson. He designed the prune-based drink to give the drinker gumption, like pep from Pepsi.

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THE WORLD TO COME – Review by Martha K Baker

Abigail’s journal begins on Jan. 1, 1856: “With little pride and less hope, we begin a new year.” Her soft, plain voice, intoning her written words aloud, drives The World to Come as surely as the hand-lettered dates on its pages. The film is beautiful, sad, historical, and hopeful. As the title suggests, Heaven, the world to come, holds hope for women like Abigail. She milks the cows, kneads the biscuits, feeds the chickens, knits. Grieving the loss of her daughter to diphtheria, she withholds herself from her dominant husband’s desires.

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NOMADLAND – Review by Martha K Baker

Anyone who saw director Chloé Zhao’s impressive film, The Rider, expects her imprint to embellish, her choices to be signatory. Zhao’s screenplay, although based on Jessica Bruder’s eye-opening exposé about the lives of older, rootless workers, skews Bruder’s emphasis to Zhao’s. Like The Rider, Nomadland amalgamates documentary with narrative forms of film.

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