THE IRON CLAW – Review by Pam Grady

As a title, The Iron Claw is both literal and a metaphor. It is the signature move of wrestler Fritz Von Erich when he is about to decimate an opponent in the ring. It also symbolizes the tight grip he holds on the sons who have no real choice except to follow him as the next generation of battling Von Erichs. Writer/director Sean Durkin’s first film since 2020’s The Nest is all at once a sports drama, a family’s biopic, and one of the best depictions of the effects of toxic masculinity ever committed to the screen and a haunting evocation of family dysfunction.

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SUBJECT – Review by Pam Grady

There is a built-in irony in this provocative documentary. Its subject, as the title so baldly states, is the subjects of documentaries and how these films continue to impact their lives long after the circus of filmmaking has moved on and a curious public has had an intimate glimpse into their lives. The doc is a fascinating film, creating more questions about the ethics of documentary filmmaking even as it attempts to find answers to one of documentary makers’ most basic quandaries and becoming part of that ethical argument itself.

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ORCA – Review by Pam Grady

Just like any typical sports movie, Orca is an uplifting story of an athlete striving for excellence. But there is nothing typical about Elham Asghari’s (Taraneh Alidoosti) journey as an endurance swimmer in Iran that is typical. A domestic abuse survivor, she recovers her sense of self in the water. But when she reaches out to Iran’s sports federation for its blessing in a swimming competition, the organization denies her. (This is, after all, a government body that won’t allow women to participate in kickboxing or Muay Thai because it might damage their reproductive organs – say what?)

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BARBENHEIMER Rules: Conflating BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER – Pam Grady Comments

There are places where the two films intersect, making Barbenheimer less ridiculous than the memes suggest: Both Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and Barbie (Margot Robbie) are midcentury icons, Oppenheimer as the father of the atomic bomb that forever changed the way humans live in the world, and Barbie as the doll that broke the mold, freeing little girls from the tyranny of baby dolls and forever changing the way children play with dolls.

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BARBIE – Review by Pam Grady

It’s not easy being a stereotypical doll. At least, if your name is Barbie and you find yourself unexpectedly facing an existential crisis. Hype for this rendering of the life of Mattel’s classic toy had so many photos of Margot Robbie and a bleached blonde Ryan Gosling, as Barbie and her boytoy Ken spread across so many websites, that the production became a candy-colored mystery but with Greta Gerwig at the helm and a script by her and husband Noah Baumbach,) it seemed likely Barbie would not be a feature-length kiddie toy commercial. And it isn’t. This is, to borrow a phrase from the Eurythmics, sisters doing it for themselves. With dolls.

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AWFJ Presents: WHITE RIOT – Review by Pam Grady

Punk rock met political activism when Rock Against Racism rose up in Britain, pushing back at the rise of racism, xenophobia, and the far-right National Front movement in the 1970s. It might seem like ancient history but in Rubika Shah’s electrifying 2019 documentary, an organization defunct since the early 1980s feels more vital than ever. In our own age of creeping fascism, it imparts lessons about pushing back against the darkness. History is not dead in Shah’s telling, but part of a continuum and what transpired four decades ago impacts our lives even now.

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BABYLON – Review by Pam Grady

You have to hand it to Damian Chazelle, who should win all the awards for forewarning the audience of the three-hour-long punishment-to-come when one of his opening images is of an elephant in closeup. From the rear. Defecating straight into the camera lens. Well, shit…This is not a love letter to cinema, more like hate mail, odd coming from a director who has been treated well and lauded by his industry. And good grief, don’t summon the ghost of Singin’ in the Rain if it only serves to remind people that, yes, there are far better movies about moviemaking out there than Babylon.

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SUMMERING – Review by Pam Grady

A quartet of pre-teen girls while away the dwindling days of summer before they start middle school when they make a shocking discovery in the woods. If that sounds a little bit like Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic drama Stand By Me, the bones of that Stephen King adaptation are definitely in this film’s DNA. But director James Ponsoldt and his co-writer Benjamin Percy take that outline in entirely different directions in this warm, thoroughly enjoyable story of kids on the cusp of big life changes going all in on one last grand adventure.

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AWFJ Presents: WHITE RIOT – Review by Pam Grady

Punk rock met political activism when Rock Against Racism rose up in Britain, pushing back at the rise of racism, xenophobia, and the far-right National Front movement in the 1970s. It might seem like ancient history but in Rubika Shah’s electrifying 2019 documentary, an organization defunct since the early 1980s feels more vital than ever. In our own age of creeping fascism, it imparts lessons about pushing back against the darkness. History is not dead in Shah’s telling, but part of a continuum and what transpired four decades ago impacts our lives even now.

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GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN – Review by Pam Grady

Julie Cohen and Betsy West have made a resonant documentary, one the reflects its subject’s optimism, which remains firm despite everything that’s happened to her. It is also a film that champions the cause that no doubt will command her attention for the rest of Gifford’s life: the fight for sane gun laws to ratchet down the violence that infects the United States. Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down is essential viewing.

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