QUEEN OF THE DEUCE – Review by Leslie Combemale

There’s nothing like discovering that a place I deemed a dangerous dumpster fire of humanity at one time, actually represented resistance, resilience, and survival. The first time I walked down 42nd street was in the 80s, when it had become, as someone put it, “more dangerous than being a soldier in Vietnam”. I should have known there was a whole lot more to the history of The Deuce, as 42nd street is called, than the drug addicts, sex workers, peep shows, and violence in the streets that plagued it by that time. In the documentary Queen of the Deuce, director/writer/producer Valerie Kontakos reveals the importance of one trailblazing woman, Greek immigrant and badass Chelly Wilson, to its development as a porn mecca. She also puts into perspective how Wilson’s success represented so much more than just making heaps of money in a business seen as immoral or unsavory by the average American.

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BACK TO BLACK – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Amy Winehouse’s music was raw and real, full of pain and rage. She was as wild and as wise as her music; she exuded a feral sexual energy and embodied all the anger of smart, ambitious, talented women in a world that wants only to corral and commodify them. The tepid, perfunctory Back to Black fails to capture her unclassifiable, irrepressible messiness.

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MOTHER OF THE BRIDE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

It’s fitting that the new Netflix romantic comedy Mother of the Bride revolves around an influencer’s wedding full of pretty images and sponsorships. The film looks like a travelogue for Thailand, with stunning skylines, sunsets, and loads of tropical beaches and cocktails. That’s fine if you’re in the mood to coast on the company of stars Brooke Shields and Benjamin Bratt, but it’s meh if you want more substance.

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BACK TO BLACK – Review by T. J. Callahan

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and star Marisa Abela try their best to help us smile for Amy Winehouse. And it works, in the new musical, drama biopic Back to Black. While the 2015 Oscar winning documentary, Amy, was raw and revealing,Back to Black, named after Winehouse’s last album, is a sympathetic view of the tortured torch singer. The film follows Amy from 18 years old and dreaming of a career as a singer like her beloved grandmother to just before her death from alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27 and on the verge of superstardom.

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KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – Review by Susan Granger

Opening with a brief funereal prologue, mourning the death of the peaceful prophet known as Caesar (Andy Serkis), this sci-fi fantasy skips ahead to “many generations later” – as primates rose to power after a virus deprived humans of their intellect and ability to speak. Deep in the jungle, Noa (Owen Teague) is coming of age. His chimpanzee clan breeds eagles and is renowned for their falconry expertise. One day – as he and his friends are climbing steep cliffs, searching for coveted eagle eggs – his peaceful village is invaded by armored ape horsemen who capture his family and friends.

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TAKING VENICE – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Pitched as part heist film, part dissection of the machinations behind the year that an American painter won the top award at the world’s most influential art exhibition, the documentary Taking Venice proves most fascinating when it reveals how the U.S. government wanted to use art as Cold War propaganda. As someone notes here, art is not just about art but politics, reverberating throughout history. An epicenter for one such shock wave was 1964’s Venice Biennale, the year American Robert Rauschenberg won the top honor for painting to the surprise of and some disgust from the traditional art world. With previous winners including Henri Matisse, the accolades signified that the world’s arts center had shifted from Paris to New York City.

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FORCE OF NATURE: THE DRY 2 – Review by T. J. Callahan

Force of Nature: The Dry 2 is a sequel, in name only, to 2020’s The Dry where we first met the brooding Eric Bana as Detective Falk, who was set on solving the case of a missing teenager in his drought-stricken home town. While still based on the Jane Harper thriller novels, this film and its title really have nothing to do with the previous picture or the current movie’s plot. Falk has moved on to a rainforest region, his laconic nature lacks muscle and the only thing dry is Bana’s delivery.

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L’AMOUR FOU – Review by Diane Carson

In 1969, celebrated French New Wave director and co-writer Jacques Rivette created an engrossing, yet demanding film, L’Amour Fou. Translated as “mad love” or “obsessive passion,” the title accurately signals the tortuous, convoluted love between actress Claire and husband, theater director Sébastien. In the throes of rehearsing Racine’s Andromache for television broadcast, Claire unexpectedly quits her lead role. Surprised and a bit desperate, Sébastien replaces her with his ex-wife Marta as a fraught, three week rehearsal process ensues. Complicating the tension, a documentary film crew, led by actual tv director André S. Labarthe, is on hand recording events and interviewing actors. He works in 16 millimeter while Rivette’s cinematographers shoot 35 millimeter, thereby separating two similar worlds of conflicting demands.

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CONTEMPT (LE MEPRIS) – Review by Diane Carson

Iconic French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard needs no introduction, but reminders of his cinematic genius are delightful and welcome. Such is the case with the 4K restoration of his 1963 Contempt/Le Mépris, charting the unraveling of an already fragile marriage as screenwriter Paul and wife Camille circle each other guardedly, engaging and retreating. Now accessible in it’s new 4K restoration, this is a good to become reacquainted with Godard in this legendary film that he described as “about a woman, a man, Italy, and cinema.”

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FRANKLIN – Review by Susan Granger

Set in 1776, when the American Colonies were losing more battles than they won in their armed rebellion, this eight-part series chronicles how Benjamin Franklin, as one of the new nation’s Founding Fathers, traveled to France to try to secure that country’s support and financial aid in their fight for Independence from England. While his tactics were unconventional, charismatic Franklin was eventually able to forge the Franco-American alliance of 1778, which led to a peace treaty with England in 1778 and Independence.

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