COMMON GROUND – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

In the once-barren grasslands of Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, a rancher explains how changing his grazing practices brought the arid land back to life. Cattle’s hooves broke up the soil. Manure fertilized it, returning much-needed microorganisms. Eventually, the ground turned rich again, dark and moist like what one person likened to chocolate cake—and yielding a reward that’s also sweet. Tall grasses. Butterflies and other insects—even rain. “We are the rainmakers of the desert,” he says.

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HAUNTED MANSION – Review by Emma Badame

Disney’s first attempt at turning their popular, gothic Haunted Mansion ride into a film gave them a hit at the box office, but was widely panned by critics. Cut to 20 years later and the House of Mouse has decided to revisit the idea – clearly hoping to recreate that movie-goer mojo but this time, capture the goodwill of the critics, too. It’s truly a delightful surprise that Haunted Mansion is as enjoyable as it is. Particularly in light of its predecessor. It’s truly the perfect summer-movie fare and a great way to spend an overheated afternoon or evening for film fans of all ages. For lovers of the spooky and supernatural, it delivers there, too.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 14, 2022: SELL/BUY/DATE

Like an earnest, feminist, less inflammatory (but just as ready to tackle controversy head on) Sacha Baron Cohen, Tony-winning performer Sarah Jones uses a variety of memorable characters to explore the complex, complicated world of sex work in her feature film directorial debut, Sell/Buy/Date. Executive produced by Meryl Streep and adapted by Jones from her own successful stage play, the film doesn’t have easy answers or neat solutions but does offer plenty of insight — and raises thought-provoking questions.

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SELL/BUY/DATE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The documentary Sell/Buy/Date was inspired by actress, writer and first-time film director Sarah Jones and based on her same-named stage play in which she played three other characters who all have connections to the sex trade. There was some controversy about her topic that made people think that she would show a negative portrait of women who make a living in this way. That was not her intent. However, when a social media backlash occurred when the film was announced, producers Laverne Cox and Rashida Jones left the project. However, Meryl Streep stepped up to be the executive producer.

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Rosario Dawson on DOPESICK, the Opioid Crisis and Representing – Leslie Combemale interviews.

Cast as a crusading DEA Agent in Dopestick, Rosario Dawson comments on the opioid crisis: I think this show, and why we’re in DC pushing it, is about the fact that we are not just trying to entertain people. We want this to be something that profoundly changes the game. You could feel it from every single person in the crew, because I have family and friends who have succumbed to the opioid crisis. 2020 had a record high of overdoses, and 75% of those overdoses were opioids. So we need to do something about it, and hopefully the show motivates people to do just that.

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THE WATER MAN – Review by Susan Granger

When actor-turned-director David Oyelowo was growing up, he missed the sense of magic and wonder that he yearned to experience on-screen and was acutely aware of the lack of mid-budget family films featuring performers of color. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this story revolves around inquisitive 11 year-old Gunnar Boone , whose mother is dying of leukemia and military father, recently returned from Japan, just moved the family to the small logging town of Pine Mills.

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THE WATER MAN (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

There was magic at the Toronto International Film Festival when actor David Oyelowo’s directing debut The Water Man made its world premiere. A family drama with a precocious young boy at its center, this Oprah Winfrey-executive produced film is full of equal parts of wonder, charm, and heart. Oyelowo has a sure touch with his actors, coaxing strong performances from all, but what is most impressive is his handling of The Water Man‘s visual elements.

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