BLOW THE MAN DOWN – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Set in the isolated fishing town of Easter Cove, Maine, during a frosty winter, Blow the Man Down is a neo-noir in the vein of the Coen brothers classic Fargo. Initially, it may seem like a bucolic burg populated with brawny men and salt of the earth females who start downing whiskey early and often each day. But just as there was something rotten in Minnesota, there is a seamy underbelly to the goings-on, one that involves in the battle of the sexes, including the fact that the local bed and breakfast is actually a not-too-well-disguised long-running brothel.

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LOST GIRLS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The heart of Lost Girls is the connection forged by the survivors – the sorrowful sisters and guilt-ridden mothers who bond over the similar fates of their daughters. Amy Ryan is the hard-bitten engine driving this charge against simply shrugging off the disappearance of women, prostitutes or not. But the most soulful performance is given by Thomasin McKenzie as a daughter who supports her crusading mom even though her own needs are pushed aside.

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SWALLOW – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

With its echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and a bewitching leading lady who checks off many of the qualifications of being a Hitchcock blonde, Swallow is a somewhat uneasy watch that tip-toes close to a body-horror thriller. Writer-director Carlo Mirabella-Davis’ haunting film doesn’t always go down smoothly but it does expose how marriage can be a trap, family skeletons continue to rattle and freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.

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THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The Kindness of Strangers‘ capable cast of actors is topped by Zoe Kazan as Clara, a young mother who runs away from Buffalo to New York City to save her sons from their father, an abusive cop who gets off on violence. With little means to support herself and no safe haven that she can afford for her kids save for libraries, she does what the title says – she reaches out to average citizens who just happen to be do-gooders.

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THE ASSISTANT – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Unlike the overtly melodramatic Bombshell, director and writer Kitty Green’s The Assistant instead offers a more everyday slow-burn alternative to a drama inspired by the #MeToo era. Its greatest asset is a subtle yet deeply felt performance by Julia Garner of Ozark and Grandma fame as a witness to the evil that the Harvey Weinstein monsters of the world do to the women who are under their sway. In contrast to the depiction of the Fox News sex-abuse scandal, this scenario could happen in almost any workplace and is far more relatable.

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CHICHINETTE: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

During this chaotic time of near-constant political upheaval, we need all the heroes we can get. Thanks to documentary filmmaker Nicola Alice Hens, we meet one in the unlikely form of a tiny yet feisty 96-year-old German-born Jewish woman named Marthe Cohn who managed to change the course of World War II by working for the French Resistance and saving the lives of countless Allied soldiers as the conflict came to a close.

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THE WOMAN WHO LOVES GIRAFFES – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

Lions and tigers seem like big house cats, at least at a distance. Elephants are portrayed as majestic beasts. And apes, well, they are our evolutionary cousins. But with their high-rise stature, fashionably patterned fur and head horns, giraffes have been perhaps a less relatable creature to the human race. But as the title of Alison Reid’s enlightening documentary reveals, there indeed was The Woman Who Loved Giraffes.

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WHAT SHE SAID: THE ART OF PAULINE KAEL – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

There are snippets of Kael’s own voice in archival footage although first-time director Rob Garver fills in the blanks by employing actress Sarah Jessica Parker to read sections of her writing while the critic’s daughter Gina James and other associates provide commentary. Kael, who had a way of picking just the right searing or celebratory word, rattled the intellectual crowd while pooh-poohing the backers of critic Andrew Sarris’s auteur theory.

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HONEY BOY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

In Honey Boy, Shia LeBeouf takes ownership of his own screwed-up childhood back when he starred on a Disney Channel series and splashes it on the big screen in a form of performance therapy. This biographical shrink session, based on a script he wrote as part of his rehab, is a far cry from his Transformers sci-fi blockbusters that get a skewering in the opening moments. On top of that, he makes matters even more interesting by playing his own shiftless, unstable and self-absorbed abusive father – probably the most honest acting he will ever achieve as he attempts to shoo away the demons that haunt him.

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