LITTLE WOMEN (2019) – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Did we need another film version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel? Turns out the answer is a resounding “Hell, yes!” Writer-director Greta Gerwig has given us an absolute treasure of a movie, one that is, for a wonder, hugely faithful to the book in the broad sweep yet also skeptical of it in just the right way.

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WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

I don’t know whether to be heartened or depressed by What She Said, a terrific documentary about the life and work of legendary film critic Pauline Kael. We hear how challenging it was to make a living as a critic, the abuse she took from readers, and just the general awfulness of men, in her personal life as well as professionally.

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THE CAVE and FOR SAMA – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Two intimate documentaries from inside the Syrian civil war, diaries of women who stayed to fight for their nation and help their people, pay tribute to human perseverance and chide Western apathy. In The Cave, we meet Syrian doctor Amani Ballour, a hero(ine) for our times. For Sama is a heartbreaking testimony of a patriot defending her nation.

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A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

I started sobbing from the opening moments of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and I didn’t stop crying for two hours. This film wrecked me. Utterly wrecked me. In the best possible way. It was speaking to me in that same way that Mister Rogers always magically seemed to be doing from out of the TV when I was little kid.

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THE GOOD LIAR – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Helen Mirren as a meek, naive widow simply ripe for the picking by Ian McKellen’s silver-fox dating-app con artist? That… seems unlikely. “Sometimes casting alone gives a movie’s game away right from the get-go, doesn’t it?” is the inevitable default position anyone with even a modicum of movie knowledge takes into The Good Liar.

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HARRIET – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

We’re so used to our historical figures, our Great Men, requiring a bit of grading-on-a-curve. “Oh, we must forgive So-and-So for that aspect of his life and work, times were different then.” Meanwhile, one of our great true heroes — someone who needs no justifying or qualifying — has been all but left out of the collective American imagination.

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BETHANY HAMILTON: UNSTOPPABLE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

There aren’t anywhere near enough movies about thrill-seeking women, which makes this documentary about professional surfer Bethany Hamilton very welcome. Aggressive, competitive, and driven, Hamilton has been a powerful role model for girls and women — and for boys and grown men, too — not least because she bounced back from a horrific injury that should have ended her career before it even started.

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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

It’s been five years since Disney’s revisionist Maleficent set the story straight on the (we’re told) unfairly maligned “wicked witch” of the Sleeping Beauty legend… which, of course, *checks notes* Disney itself helped to perpetuate, the monsters. So how is that Disney is now doubling down on her terribleness, what with all this Mistress of Evil nonsense for the sequel?

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HUSTLERS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

It’s GoodFellas, except they’re gals. This based-on-fact drama about New York City strippers who conned their clients is wonderfully redolent of Scorsese’s mafia masterpiece in both style and substance: the seductiveness of easy money, the giddiness of getting away with a perfect crime. It’s a cinematic bonbon of delinquent deliciousness.

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