PINOCCHIO – Review by Susan Granger

If you have young children, they’ll probably enjoy Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animation reboot of Pinocchio, starring Tom Hanks and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This timeless tale opens with Jiminy Cricket (Gordon-Levitt) singing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which was first introduced in the 1940 cartoon. After fashioning a boy marionette made of pine, the lonely, widowed woodcarver Geppetto (Tom Hanks) makes a heartfelt wish for a ‘real’ son.

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THE WOMAN KING – Review by Susan Granger

One of the many benefits of inclusion is the ability to learn about historical events that have never before been chronicled on the big screen. Set in 1823, this story follows Nawi (Thuso Mbebu), a rebellious Dahomey teenager who refuses an arranged marriage; infuriated, her father forces her to join warrior force known as the Agojie, commanded by General Nanisca (Viola Davis). Working from a jumbled, often overly melodramatic script by Maria Bello and Dana Stevens, director Gina Prince-Blythewood delivers a rousing, action-packed adventure.

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GUTSY – Review by Susan Granger

If you’re a devoted Hillary Clinton fan, curious about how her daughter Chelsea grew up and/or a diehard feminist, perhaps this breezy docuseries if for you. As for me, I wanted it to be so much more…for them to delve much deeper into the inspiring issues…and to not to be so superficial.

Based on the Clintons’ best-selling 2019 The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, each of the eight 40-minutes episodes involves a series of interviews centered on a specific theme: Gutsy Women Have Rebel Hearts, Gutsy Women are Forces of Nature, Gutsy Women Refuse Hate, Gutsy Women Seek Justice, etc.

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THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER – Review by Susan Granger

While America’s involvement in the Vietnam War remains controversial, films like The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and Ken Burns’ documentary, have reflected on the conflict’s psychological aspects. So The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a refreshingly entertaining comedic drama, focusing on a crowd-pleasing, behind-the-scenes glimpse of a globe-spanning beer run.

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SAMARITAN – Review by Susan Granger

Samaritan opens with an animated, comic-book-inspired segment detailing the legend of how superhero twins – mortal enemies – fought for domination. Samaritan was the good guy, while Nemesis embodied evil. Both are believed to have died in a fiery warehouse showdown. Switch to fictional Granite City, an urban wasteland that resembles Detroit, where 13 year-old Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton) harbors growing suspicions that his mysterious, reclusive neighbor, sanitation worker Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone), is really the immortal vigilante Samaritan.

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BARBARIAN – Review by Susan Granger

This year’s spooky season starts with Barbarian. It’s a dark and stormy night when documentary researcher Tess Marshall (Georgina Campbell) arrives in Detroit for an important job interview. Finding the Airbnb accommodation she’s rented, she realizes it’s ominously situated in a rundown neighborhood that’s filled with abandoned houses. When the key is missing from the lockbox, Tess discovers that that the dingy, dimly lit place is already occupied. Not to reveal too much, let’s just say there are malevolent twists and turns.

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DON’T WORRY DARLING – Review by Susan Granger

If there’s truth in the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, Don’t Worry Darling should blast off at the box-office. After its Venice Film Festival premiere, salacious buzz about the psychological thriller centered on rumors about tension between director Olivia Wilde and star Florence Pugh. This is Wilde’s second directorial effort. Problem is: there are too many intriguing yet meaningless distractions that dilute what should have been a provocative payoff.

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HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL – Review by Susan Granger

In this satire of Southern megachurch culture and its prosperity gospel, Regina Hall is the pragmatically loyal wife of an egomaniacal, philandering pastor, played by Sterling K. Brown. Atlanta’s Wander for Greater Paths Baptist megachurch lost all but faithful five of its 25,000 followers after Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) was exposed in a sexual misconduct scandal. So now he and his chagrined First Lady wife Trinitie (Hall) have embarked on a miscalculated comeback strategy, relying more on publicity than prayer.

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THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING – Review by Susan Granger

George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing delves into the thought-provoking power of fantasy and storytelling. Adapted from The Djinn and the Nightingale’s Eye, it’s scripted as a cautionary tale by director George Miller and his daughter, Augusta Gore, with exquisite vignettes, exploring themes of fate, loneliness and the universal desire for connection. With superb comedic timing, Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba play off each other perfectly.

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BEAST – Review by Susan Granger

If you’ve ever been on an African safari or dreamed about going on one, the thriller Beast should hit home.
A recent widower, Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba), is taking his two teenage daughters – sullen Meredith (Iyana Halley) and her younger sister Norah (Leah Jeffries) – on a healing journey to the South African savannah where their late mother, a photographer, spent her childhood. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur works with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot and the digital team to create savage terror as the canny, vengeful beast repeatedly stalks them.

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