FIRST COW – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

It’s a simple story about friendship and hope. It’s a gently revisionist Western that literally pushes the clichés of the genre out the door in favor of reconsidering stereotypes of masculinity and reworking the fables of “frontiers.” It’s a softly savage deconstruction of the violence and the ironies of the American dream — of capitalism itself. It’s one of the most astonishing movies I’ve seen this year.

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THE OLD GUARD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

For the first time this summer, I’m not missing all the big loud comic-book movies we’re being bombarded with in an alt-timeline. I like those movies, but they do tend to dominate the pop-culture conversation. With them off the radar this year, there’s room to breathe for a fantastic little pulp comic-book movie like The Old Guard.

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MISS JUNETEENTH – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Writer-director Channing Godfrey Peoples’s feature debut is a beautiful cinematic experience, bursting with a gorgeous sense of place and character the likes of which are rarer onscreen than they should be. Nicole Beharie brings a strength and a weariness to Turquoise Jones, a former beauty queen and single mom trying to make a better life for her teen daughter.

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SHIRLEY – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Stupendous. A work of domestic gothic grotesquerie of women’s suffocation and sacrifice to the needs of men, always presumed to be more important and more pressing, and of women’s pain and isolation, from the world and from other women who might be their allies, unless we can find a way to overcome the conditioning that tells us that other women are our rivals.

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13TH – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Ava DuVernay’s incisive and shocking documentary 13th hit like a body blow when she first unveiled it in the autumn 2016 film festivals. Donald Trump had not yet been “elected” President of the United States, but already, the shock of him ascending to the status of Republican nominee was unsettling. Fast forward to *checks watch* now, and this is a brutal and necessary watch.

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LUCKY GRANDMA – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Tsai Chin is an absolute hoot as a chain-smoking widow in New York’s Chinatown. After a local fortune teller announces that a certain day will be very auspicious for her, she hops a bus to a casino… the upshot of which is that it turns out that bags of cash will attract the attention of some gangster types once she gets home.

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THE ASSISTANT – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

I want to think that this quietly brutal film might be an eye-opener for those who don’t understand how cruelty, abuse, and discrimination get perpetuated, particularly as experienced by women. But I also have to concede that what this movie lays out in such shockingly simple terms, might not be accepted as realistic by those who would prefer to deny its harsh truths.

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