Cinema Clash Podcast: Antebellum; Blackbird; The Way I See It; H is for Happiness; Cobra Kai

Review: The Trial of the Chicago 7

Seems like a ton of movies coming out in the midst of this pandemic are trying very hard to tell us something critically important about our past, present… and future. Count among them: The Trial of the Chicago 7. The film occasionally teeters on a high horse, as each member of the A-list cast gets a turn to shine in the Aaron Sorkin spotlight of zippy dialogue imbued with a mix of cynical and serious political and philosophical debate. But overall, it’s an interesting and important story to revisit, as it is based on true events eerily similar to current ones. And Sorkin does have a knack for transforming a courtroom drama into a crowd-pleasing spectacle.

Review: The Glorias

There is a line near the end of The Glorias about going in circles – as women, as a society, as a nation. A reminder, underscored in recent days by the death of liberal stalwart RBG and the nomination of a conservative to take her place on the Supreme Court. There’s an inherent, bitter irony in Ruth Bader Ginsburg having helped pave the way for an Amy Coney Barrett to take a seat at the Court and potentially unravel much of what RBG stood for. So perhaps the time is ripe for a movie like The Glorias, imperfect as it may be. The film reflects on the journey of journalist, feminist icon and social political activist Gloria Steinem as she helped build and guide the women’s movement from the 1960s until… well, at the age of 86, she is still alive and very much in the game.

Review: Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own

Ursula Von Rydingsvard’s name did not ring a bell when I first heard of this documentary. But after watching it, I realize I’ve actually seen and loved her work in many of the important museums around the world. Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own makes the case that she should be as well know as many of the other female sculptors of the modern age, like Louise Bourgeois or Louise Nevelson. In this short documentary (it’s just 57 minutes) director Daniel Traub deftly mixes the story of her personal life with the making of her amazing art. She’s one of the few women who make monumental sculptures, and just seeing how it’s done is worth the cost of admission.

Review: Waikiki

There aren’t many films directed by indigenous people. Their voices are largely missing from the cinematic world. But still it’s somewhat shocking that Waikiki which is premiering today at the urbanworld Film Festival is the first narrative feature written and directed by a Native Hawaiian filmmaker. Writer/director Christopher Kahunahana’s vision of the Honolulu beach neighborhood is a far cry from the usual fun in the sun take. His central character Kea (Danielle Zalopany) is a young woman struggling to keep her sanity as her world falls apart. She’s in an abusive relationship, living in her van, working three jobs, and her past is haunting her. Then she hits a homeless man with her car.

Review: Enola Holmes

Raise your hand if you knew legendary fictional detective Sherlock Holmes had a sister? I didn’t. But then again, I grew up in the Nancy Drew era. I wasn’t aware of the emergence of the Nancy Springer young adult book series “The Enola Holmes Mysteries,” starting with “The Case of the Missing Marquess” (2006). Those books, and the Enola Holmes movie, honor the Sherlock Holmes canon (launched by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887) while offering up a fresh, female perspective designed to inspire and empower girls and young women. Now let me clue you in:

Quickie Review: Kajillionaire

Kajillionaire is flush with quirk. It’s an odd dramedy about a family of con artists comprised of Theresa (Debra Winger), Robert (Richard Jenkins), and their 26-year-old daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood). All her life, Old Dolio has been taught to swindle, steal and scam at every opportunity. It’s all she knows, because it’s all her parents know. But then, during a hastily-conceived heist, a stranger named Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) enters their midst and turns Old Dolio’s world upside down. Melanie gives Old Dolio a chance to experience normal human interaction and childhood pleasures (pancakes!) for the first time, leaving Old Dolio to question whether her parents truly love her or simply view her as a pawn in their endless game of chicanery.

Cinema Clash Podcast: Antebellum; Blackbird; The Way I See It; H is for Happiness; Cobra Kai

Need a break from reading? Take a listen to the Cinema Clash podcast to hear me (Mainstream Chick) debate and discuss a slew of flicks including Antebellum, Blackbird, The Way I See It; and the Aussie feel-good flick, H is for Happiness. Plus, a shout-out to my latest guilty-pleasure binge watch, “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. And hear my cinema nemesis Charlie give his take on a few things I did not have a chance to watch – The Devil All the Time, I’ve Got Issues, and The Long Way Up. Check it out.

Review: Resisterhood

Resisterhood begins in the aftermath of the 2016 election as women (and men) gather in Washington to march on Day One of the Trump presidency. There we meet the six resisters the documentary follows for the next two years – Psychologist Jean Gearon, 84-year-old Margaret Morrison, Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and his wife Soraida, lesbian soccer star Joanna Lohman, and Muslim grandmother Mimi Hassanein. The film traces each of their political evolutions from the march until the 2018 mid-term elections. While it is a film that will mainly be preaching to the choir, it’s also an inspiring story that may give people on the fence a reason to get out and vote. And for that alone, I hope a lot of people will see it.

Review: Paper Spiders

I’ve always enjoyed the performances of Lili Taylor starting with Mystic Pizza. And reading her bio on IMDB probably explains why. One of her quotes reads, “I guess the characters I play may be at the more destructive edge of the spectrum, more damaged or whatever, but I find a lot of female roles uninteresting. I would rather play someone who’s fucked-up and deep than someone who’s one-dimensional and invisible. I would rather drive something and be crazy than be forgotten and nothing.” And her latest role is totally in that vein. In this mother-daughter, coming-of-age drama she plays Dawn, a woman with delusional disorder who’s convinced that the new next door neighbor is out to get her. Meanwhile her daughter Melanie (Stefania LaVie Owen) with whom she has a close and loving relationship is just trying to get through her senior year so she can head off to college. And as Dawn spirals out of control, Melanie tries to find a way to save her from herself despite her complete denial.

Review: H is for Happiness

Some weeks are more crowded than others with viewing options so H is for Happiness almost escaped my radar. Don’t let that happen to you! The synopsis – and my craving for a feel-good film – reeled me in: “Set in the colourful Australian coastal town of Albany, H IS FOR HAPPINESS is a classic feel-good film for all ages that will make you laugh, cry, and cheer with delight. Based on the award-winning book ‘My Life as an Alphabet’ by Barry Jonsberg, it is the genuinely heart-warming and unflinchingly honest story of one twelve-year-old’s determination to bring her family back from the brink and spark happiness in their lives.”

That pretty much sums it up. H is for Happiness is a delightful movie, starring two kids with extremely bright futures in the acting biz.