is Exec Editor of Common Sense, where she also reviews films. Her commentaries are on Reel.com and Hollywood.com. She’s lead writer for AWFJ’s #MOTW

  Female Film Critics 24/365  recent blog posts

FIRST MAN – Review by Diane Carson

A monumental scientific and historical event, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon on July 21, 1969, the first person to do so. Director Damien Chazelle’s First Man puts that phenomenally difficult, dangerous event in the context of the wonder, the terror, the tragedies and the triumph that go along with it. Moreover, we feel Armstrong’s overwhelming physical and emotional struggles.

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PILI – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Pili, the feature debut of British filmmaker Leanne Welham, is remarkable. It was shot in the village where it is set, utilizing mostly nonprofessional actors, telling a story that is only just barely fictionalized from their lives. There hasn’t been a movie like this one before, showcasing the determination, the dignity, and the indomitable spirit of the women of East Africa.

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BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – Review by Martha K Baker

Bad Times is ostensibly a thriller about a hotel, half in Nevada, half in California. At the outset, that’s kinda funny because the thick red line demarcating states runs through the parking lot and the lobby. Guests get to pick which state to stay in, but since most of the rooms have not been serviced and the others run along an observation corridor, it’s not a choice.

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THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN – Review by Diane Carson

Originally a 2003 New Yorker article by David Grann, based on a true story, The Old Man & the Gun follows Forrest Tucker. Seventy-nine years old, having broken out of prison multiple times, Tucker is a confirmed bank robber who loves his work. Amazingly, most of his targets handing over the bank’s cash compliment Tucker on his polite, pleasant manner.

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Melissa McCarthy trades pratfalls and slapstick for wry wit and introspection in Marielle Heller’s keenly observed biopic “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” McCarthy plays biographer Lee Israel, whose brief time in the Manhattan publishing scene’s spotlight has passed, leaving her bitter, lonely, and strapped for cash, which ultimately leads to a life of literary crime. It’s a compelling role for McCarthy, who seems to relish the opportunity to take on more serious material.

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WEEK IN WOMEN: Hollywood Film Awards to Honor Kidman, Weisz and Chalamet – Brandy McDonnell reports

In addition to her chameleonic performances, Kidman is being recognized for her career-long support of independent filmmakers, particularly women. Through her production company, Blossom Films, she has produced many projects, including last year’s “Big Little Lies,” which was a phenomenon that entered not only the cultural, but the social zeitgeist.

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SADIE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Sadie has a disturbing power that sneaks up on you from an unexpected quarter, as a teenaged girl crosses the boundary from childhood to too-early adulthood. This coming-of-age story feels very universal, and would work equally well with a teenaged boy at its center, but which gets extra unnerving power by casting it as a girl’s journey.

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FIRST MAN – Review by Brandy McDonnell

The movie’s pre-release controversy over Chazelle’s decision not to include a scene of Armstrong planting an American flag on the Moon – which in the context of the film would be incredibly out of place – illustrates just how valuable what the filmmaker is doing with “First Man”: allowing us to know one of our most revered American icons as someone who was a man, first.

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