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Review: A Private War

You simply can’t paint all journalists and all of journalism with the same broad brush. A Private War reminds us of that. The film follows the last ten years in the risk-fueled life of the Sunday Times of London foreign affairs correspondent Marie Colvin. The American-born journalist dedicated most of her adult life to exposing the human atrocities of war across the globe, up to the very moment of her untimely death in the besieged city of Homs, Syria on February 12, 2012. She was 56. A Private War pays homage to Colvin’s bravery, tenacity and bravado, while also exposing the physical and psychological trauma that resulted from the choices she made. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Beirut, Hostiles) plays Colvin with admirable precision, nailing her unique voice and mannerisms; and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades, Anthropoid) delivers a strong supporting performance as Colvin’s frequent partner in the conflict zones, British-soldier-turned-photojournalist Paul Conroy.

War Horse

A boy and his horse are at the center of this Steven Spielberg family drama, adapted from the Tony winning stage play, which was an adaptation of a children’s book. It is a typical Spielberg film, tugging on your heartstrings to the emotive strains of John Williams. Set in the beautiful English countryside, a strapping young lad, Albert, witnesses the birth of an amazing horse and watches as he matures into a gorgeous thoroughbred. Then in a stroke of luck, when he comes up for sale, Albert’s father is crazy enough to buy him, instead of a plough horse, which is what they really need. But unfortunately, World War One soon separates the young man from his beloved steed named Joey, and the film follows this incredible animal’s odyssey through the war and finally (and miraculously) back to his favorite human.

Quickie Review: Girls of the Sun

In our #Girlpower era, a film about battalion of Kurdish women fighting ISIS in North Kurdistan should be a slam dunk. But somewhere between idea and execution Girls of the Sun got a bit lost. Part of that may be that it is framed as being about a French war correspondent who embeds herself with this group of women and her story is a distraction. I was never sure why I should care about her. After all, the women she’s with have lived through absolute hell. The more interesting story is that of the female commander Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) who lost her husband and son to ISIS and has a reason to be fighting the fight.

Quickie Reviews: The Isle; Untogether

The Isle is for the horror flick lovers out there. It’s set in 1846 on an island off the coast of Scotland that is shrouded in mist. Three survivors of a shipwreck row ashore to find it nearly abandoned. But then they meet the only four people still living there, a couple of women and a couple of men. And they can tell that things are not normal, and the island folks are not opening up about what happened to all the others who lived there, and the 3 men really want to get off the island, but can’t seem to find a way. Then they start dying. It takes some time for the men to figure what’s happening, and once they do, they’re powerless against it.

Arty Chick’s Best of 2018 list

This was a hard year to choose my favorites. There were great movies in a lot of categories that deserved attention. It was a GREAT year for foreign films and documentaries, as well as some big and small features. I skew to the arty side, so I was not a big fan of most of the blockbusters, but there are a few. Here’s my oh-so-personal, definitely-not-an-Oscar-prediction list.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2018

It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.

Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Quickie Reviews: The Wife; The Happytime Murders; Skate Kitchen; Support the Girls

The Wife is a slow-burn drama with a mystery twist that explores the relationship between Joan and Joe Castleman (Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce), a long-married couple who travel to Sweden to collect his newly-awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. The two seem to complement each other in style and temperament, with Joan playing the doting, charming, graceful and diplomatic wife and mother while Joe oozes vanity, selfishness and a philandering spirit. There does appear to be true love at the core of the relationship, but there’s a simmering resentment that threatens to boil over in Joan as the award ceremony approaches. We learn why through a series of flashbacks to Joan and Joe’s courtship and from their present-day interactions with a writer (Christian Slater) who is trying to convince the Castlemans to let him write Joe’s definitive biography.

Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Director Gus Van Sant has brought us some very powerful films in the past — Milk, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, to name just a few — and he frequently pushed the envelope in the way he tells a tale — To Die For, My Own Private Idaho — but his latest is a pretty straight forward bio of alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan. Played by chameleon Joaquin Phoenix, the arc of the tale is Callahan’s coming to terms with himself after a life-changing accident while getting sober at the same time. There are some funny moments for sure, and an odd romance, and also some insightful AA bits. And it is a pleasant entertainment, though not terribly memorable.

Review: Journey’s End

War is hell. Especially in this World War One drama, where almost the entire film is set in the trenches just yards away from the enemy Germans. It takes place over just four days and is adapted from a well-known play by WWI veteran R.C. Sherriff. What is different in this war movie though is that it isn’t about the derring-do, but is a portrayal of the time between the battles — the anticipation, the camaraderie and the boredom. Only a few of the officers know from very early in the story that they are vastly outnumbered and that there will be no reinforcements. They’re to be sacrificed to slow down the Germans. But stiff upper lip and all that rot, so they soldier on for the cause. And for their leader Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin, Hunger Games), it’s tearing him apart.