MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 23, 2022: THE WOMAN KING

In the African kingdom of Dahomey, now a part of Benin, an elite all-female military regiment of warriors called the Agojie guarded the king and his subjects from the 1600s through the 1800s. By the mid-19th century, they accounted for a third of the entire Dahomey army. That’s history, and the inspiration for director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic The Woman King, starring Viola Davis, one of the few studio films releasing in 2022 directed by a female filmmaker.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 9, 2022: HOLD ME TIGHT

Haunting, engrossing, mysterious — the one thing that director Mathieu Amalric’s melancholy drama Hold Me Tight never is, is predictable. It will keep you guessing and hypothesizing until its final scenes. And thanks to Vicky Krieps’ magnetic performance as Clarisse, a conflicted French wife and mother who abruptly leaves her family early one morning (or does she?), it offers a poignant meditation on the nature of memory and loss, identity and purpose.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK Sept 2, 2022: HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL.

Sharp satire and lived experience come together with style and flair in Adamma Ebo’s Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., which explores the messy truth behind the showy facade of a Southern Baptist megachurch. Starring Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown as Trinitie and Lee-Curtis Childs — the first couple of the fictional Greater Paths church in Atlanta, GA — the movie is a memorable feature debut for talented writer-director Adamma Ebo.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 26, 2022: BREAKING

A U.S. Marine veteran pushed to the limits of his patience after being treated poorly by the Department of Veterans Affairs goes to extreme lengths to make sure his story is heard in Abi Damaris Corbin’s tense drama Breaking. John Boyega gives a riveting performance in the film, which is based on the heartbreaking true story of Lance Corporal Brian Brown-Easley, who threatened to blow up a bank in 2017 unless the V.A. gave him the $892 he was owed.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 12, 2022: EMILY THE CRIMINAL

Aubrey Plaza commands the screen in John Patton Ford’s taut thriller/character study Emily the Criminal, which explores the idea of finding empowerment in operating outside the law. Plaza has always been a charismatic performer, whether she’s angling for laughs or going for menace by leaning into her innate intensity, and she turns the story of a frustrated woman who discovers a talent for credit card fraud into a gripping viewing experience.

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Movie of the Week: FREE PUPPIES!

“Adopt, don’t shop.” It’s a pet-rescue mantra we’ve probably all heard, and it comes to vivid life in Christina Thomas and Samantha Wishman’s poignant, informative documentary (or should that be “dogumentary”?) Free Puppies!. As they follow a group of tireless volunteers who work on many fronts to help control the prolific pet population in largely unregulated Southern states, the co-directors shine an empathetic light on both the animals and those who want to help them find happy forever homes.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 15, 2022: GABBY GIFFORDS WON’T BACK DOWN

In a time when “thoughts and prayers” are all that too many politicians can offer in the face of tragic mass shootings like the ones in Buffalo and Uvalde, Gabby Giffords’ tireless advocacy for smart gun control is more meaningful than ever — especially when you know that every word she says on the subject is a hard-fought victory over the lasting impact of the brain injuries she sustained when she was shot in the head in 2011.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 1, 2022: CLARA SOLA

The powerful need for expression and agency are at the heart of Nathalie Alvarez Mesen’s debut feature Clara Sola. The film centers on a 40-year-old Costa Rican woman named Clara (a mesmerizing Wendy Chinchilla Araya), whose deep connection to nature and animals seems to include the mystical ability to heal — but whose body and soul are constantly repressed, particularly by her devout mother, Fresia (Flor María Vargas Chavez). When Clara dares to test those constraints, the consequences are volatile.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 24, 2022: BITTERBRUSH

A unique coming-of-age story, Emelie Mahdavian’s immersive, observational documentary Bitterbrush takes viewers fully into a world many aren’t likely to have experienced. Following friends Colie Moline and Hollyn Patterson through their final summer herding cattle together on a remote ranch before life takes them in new, separate directions, it conveys emotions that are as big as the Idaho sky while maintaining a tight focus on the two young women and their relationship with each other.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 17, 2022: GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE

“Brave” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to acting, often when a performer — particularly a woman — dares to look unattractive on screen. Think Charlize Theron in Monster, Jennifer Aniston in Cake, and even Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones. Well, those ladies are all cowards compared to Emma Thompson, who boldly bares it all, literally and lovingly, in Sophie Hyde’s intimate drama Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

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