VOICES OF THE SEA – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

In a poor a seaside village in Cuba, a wife and mother dreams of escaping to America to make a better life for her children. British documentarian Kim Hopkins brings a poignant poeticism to this portrait of hard going in a beautiful place, and of the love, laughter, and community that, perhaps, make the struggle just that little bit more tolerable.

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ON THE BASIS OF SEX – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

On the Basis of Sex’s hint-of-racy title fronts a just-pretty-okay cinematic experience that coasts on the awesomeness of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I might wish that Sex was, well, sexier — more adventurous, more meaty, more demanding of the viewer and of its terrific cast — but I’ll take this. Coasting on Notorious RBG is some incredible coasting indeed, and the ride here is of the solidly crowd-pleasing variety, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

You don’t need a degree in British history to appreciate that what looks like pretty thrilling movie-movie internecine spycraft and occasionally outright warfare between the two thrones — Mary’s in Scotland and Elizabeth’s in England — is, in fact, the undermining of two reasonable women trying to unite their nations, their efforts thwarted by very angry, very misogynist men.

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DUMPLIN’ – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Dumplin’ is far from perfect, but it’s lovely — kinda like its heroine! — a movie that warmly embraces a wide(ish) range of girls-and-women-as-people, one that doesn’t reduce its large heroine to nothing more than her size: she’s simply a cool, funny, confused, perplexed, messed-up human being who still has a lot of growing up to do.

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3 DAYS IN QUIBERON – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

In this raw and uneasy film, German writer-director Emily Atef paints of portrait of tortured celebrity — Austrian actress Romy Schneider (a riveting Marie Bäumer), one of the biggest European film stars of the mid 20th century — extrapolating from Schneider’s last interview in 1981, just a year before her apparently unexplained death at age only 43.

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A PRIVATE WAR – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

As someone notes here, “there are no old and bold journalists.” And we don’t get many movies about them… and even fewer about a woman who is this fearless, this badass, this outrageously good at her work. It’s not that these women do not move through the world. They do. We just don’t get the movies celebrating them. We need them.

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WIDOWS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

“This is not your world,” someone — a man — says to Veronica Rawlings in the aftermath of the death of her husband, Harry. The man is talking about the Chicago criminal underworld in which Harry was a very successful mover — until he no longer was — but he might as well be talking about the whole big wide world.

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PROSPECT – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Smart, gritty-stylish indie sci-fi that is actually about ideas, and about building a future world that is authentic and lived-in. It has a really memorable teen-girl protagonist, too, who is badass but still a real kid. Upstart distributor Gunpowder & Sky is debuting its science-fiction label, Dust, with Prospect, and this is how you do it.

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WEED THE PEOPLE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Don’t let the facile title put you off: Weed the People is a smart, vitally important documentary look at medical marijuana, how it is helping real Americans right now, and why Big Pharma has ignored its healing properties. Cannabis treatments are no snake oil: doctors agree here that medical marijuana cannot hurt and really does seem to help.

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WHAT THEY HAD – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Writer-director Elizabeth Chomko’s debut film is a simultaneously sharp and tender portrait of longstanding, interconnected family squabbles and hidden resentments that finally come to a head with a near-tragedy. Achingly affecting performances all around — particularly Blythe Danner’s and Michael Shannon’s — and oh-so-many poignant details ground What They Had in melancholy authenticity.

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