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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CLARA SOLA – Review by Pam Grady

At age 40, Clara (beautifully portrayed by Wendy Chinchilla Araya) lives in an almost childlike state, trapped there by her mother, Fresia (Flor Maria Vargas Chavez), who so dominates her daughter’ life that she won’t even allow Clara the spinal surgery that would relieve her of lifelong pain.

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HOLD YOUR FIRE – Review by Pam Grady

Taking place only months after the bank robbery/hostage situation that inspired Dog Day Afternoon, the January 1973 incident at John and Al’s Sporting Goods in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went on far longer – lasting nearly four days – and resulted in the death of a cop. It is also the event credited with ushering in the modern age of hostage negotiation. And it is has been pretty much lost to history – until now with coverage in Stefan Forbes’ Hold Your Fire, a riveting documentary on the subject.

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PAM & TOMMY – Review by Pam Grady

Pam & Tommy is tabloid television given an elegant veneer by its A-list cast and the fig leaf of feminism offered by the women on the production team and women like Lake Bell who direct some of the episodes. But nearly 30 years after all of this first started, this show is really just the latest chapter in the ongoing exploitation of Pamela Anderson, a woman who does not deserve it.

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THE VELVET QUEEN – Review by Pam Grady

“Nature documentary” is a genre unto itself and at first glance, The Velvet Queen might appear to be just that as photographer Vincent Munier and writer Sylvain Tesson hike through Tibet in search of the rare and elusive snow leopard. But this film by Munier and co-director Marie Amiguet is so much more than a mere record of an expedition and the fauna that the travelers encounter on their quest. It is a poem, an ode to nature at its most elemental.

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WEST SIDE STORY – Review by Pam Grady

The most curious alteration director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner make to the American musical classic West Side Story in their hotly anticipated remake is to take away from the central couple Tony and Maria their tragic theme, “Somewhere,” a song of longing for a brighter future when all seems lost. Instead, they give it to Valentina, the elderly owner of the drug store, where Tony’s gang, the Jets, hang out.

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LAST NIGHT IN SOHO – Review by Pam Grady

Joyously dancing around her Cornwall home to Peter and Gordon’s 1964 chart-topper, A World Without Love, clad in a dress fashioned out of newspapers, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is the picture of a happy, effervescent teenager. And this opening scene in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho suggests a lively coming-of-age story is about to unfold. That Edgar, such a tease! No happy-go-lucky tale this as what gradually unfolds, instead, evolves into a chilling, time-traveling blend of Repulsion, The Shining, and Blow-Up.

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NO TIME TO DIE – Review by Pam Grady

Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond that began 15 years ago with the elegant Casino Royale, ushering in a tough, charismatic 007 ends five films later on more of a whimper than a bang. Entertaining, if overlong, a weak villain and a third act that could have used a rewrite that put some thought into where you might go when you’ve written yourself into a corner betrays Craig’s swan song. He deserves better than this; so, does Bond.

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