PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

If you are in need of inspiration of the fierce, feisty and fearless female kind, you can’t do better than this semi-deep dive into the life of Valerie May Taylor as revealed in the documentary Playing With Sharks. This world-renowned marine conservationist and deep-sea diver is basically in the same league as gorilla protector Dian Fossey and chimp savior Jane Goodall. Only her realm is truly many leagues below the Earth’s surface where her fishy playmates lurk in the form of sharks.

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MAMA WEED – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

It’s a true cinematic sin that for a career that spans five decades and with more than 120 films on her resume, French film legend Isabelle Huppert finally earned her first lead actress Oscar nomination for her darkly clever performance in Paul Verhoven’s 2016 thriller Elle. While her widow and mother of two grown daughters in her latest film Mama Weed doesn’t quite compare with her most audacious roles, at age 68, the sight of the still-glorious Huppert onscreen being as intriguing as ever will give you a contact high that lasts a good long time.

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JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

A funny thing happened when Susan Sandler, the Golden Globe nominated screenwriter behind the 1988 film Crossing Delancey, went to a comedy club in 2015. She witnessed a set performed by a 60-something older trans-woman whose stand-up persona has been described as a cross between a shouty, profane Sam Kinison and huggable Mrs. Doubtfire. She and Scotti hit it off at the bar, so much so that Sandler was inspired to become a first-time director so she could share this ex-Jersey boy’s endearingly poignant journey that allowed this funny lady to embrace her own inner female self.

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THE SPARKS BROTHERS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

For someone who is incredibly fond of clever puns, there was no way I could keep from buying the album Kimono My House in 1974. That was my initial introduction to the cultish art-pop group Sparks. The bombastic hit single from that LP was This Town Isn’t Big Enough for the Both of Us but my fave cut was Hasta Manana, Monsieur, which featured the kimono wordplay in its lyrics.

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LUCA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Luca, the latest under-the-sea Disney-produced animated adventure, might be a few leagues below such House of Mouse ‘toon classics as The Little Mermaid with its show tunes and Finding Nemo with its tale of fatherly love. But this buoyantly engaging Pixar tale directed by Enrico Casarosa, the maker of the Oscar-nominated 2011 short La Luna, provides enough catchy hooks to please most family viewers.

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REBEL HEARTS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Watching the documentary Rebel Hearts, I have seen how the rigid and outwardly sexist patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic church took advantage of nuns at a time when women in general were fighting for their rights, both in their workplaces and in their homes. The film starts off with former nun Helen Kelley attending the Woman’s March in 2018 while another sister brings up the 2017 Charlottesville rally as an example of how the times haven’t changed as much as we think they have.

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HOLLER – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Holler is a portrait of a community with diminishing opportunities for its citizenry. But, what sets this coming-of-age tale apart isn’t that it takes place in a dreary, down-beaten town in Southern Ohio. Instead, it’s the central character of Ruth, a whip-smart high-school senior who has managed to be accepted to a college.

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CRUELLA – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

What’s black, white and wittily wicked fun all over? Disney’s Cruella, an origin story of the puppy-snatching villainess from the studio’s 101 Dalmatians franchise that was launched 50 years ago with the much-beloved original animated canine classic In that version, the pelt-wearing, skunk-haired crone with jutting cheekbones swanned about as she waved her cigarette holder while plotting to make a black and white fur coat from puppies.

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TOVE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Biopics are a dime a dozen these days with many often featuring the usual cliched rise- and-fall scenario. But with Tove, director Zaida Bergoth is lucky enough to focus on a uniquely alluring Finnish sketcher, painter and author best known for her Moomins, hippo-like creatures with puffy snouts that were featured in comic-strips and books. From the start, she was able to pick herself up and dust herself whenever the chips were down. That includes the opening scenes as she and her family head back to a rubble-filled Helsinki at the end of World War II.

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