6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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This week in films, we are still reading about the fallout over a lot of the scandals that have snowballed from the Weinstein allegations. There have been rumblings for the past few years surrounding the nature of the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards and the members who choose the nominees. The small number of female directors, the female leads in film and the roles that they are offered, particularly for women who are over forty, are all controversial topics that we have covered in Six Degrees.

So the continuing saga and fallout is something that we will continue to watch. We celebrate some of the success in past years, notably the first female director, Kathryn Bigelow, to win an Academy Award. Also the first female African-American President of AMPAS, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science is Cheryl Boone Isaacs. And Meryl Streep announced a Screenwriters Lab for Women writers over 40. All of these things mark progress, but the numbers show that it’s a long, slow uphill slog.

6 Degrees Magazine: Some of the noted articles this week feature two very strong and talented women in Hollywood, one living and one long dead. The first is Frances McDormand, and the second is the legendary Katherine Hepburn.

Articles from this past week: Frances McDormand talks in the Daily Actor about her Academy Award winning role in Fargo as well as the new movie,  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film is reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine from SF Gate. Another actor interviewed in The Daily Actor is Idris Elba, who is riding a wave and stars in the successful The Mountains Between Us.

 

Film Book Recommended: The book is called: Seduced by Mrs Robinson; How the Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation by Beverly Gray. Few born in the later decades can understand how ground-breaking films like The Graduate really were. This was a film with an anti-hero, outside of the norm of the stereotypical tall, dark and handsome leading man.  And the film dealt with an anti-establishment period in history where young people protested the Vietnam War and questioned their parents’ values and traditional culture. Another recommended article this week is: “6 Books to read before the 2018 Movie Adaptations”

There’s a review of The Pink Panther, where the critic can’t quite understand the appeal of this 1963 hit. I am one of those firmly in the category that everything Peter Sellers did was funny, so this is just another of his ground-breaking films. Although it was a traditionally directed comedy from Blake Edwards, Sellers had a unique style that lent itself to absurd moments in comedy. That appeal may have come through loudest in my favorite Sellers performance(s) in Dr. Strangelove. But clearly it’s on display in this film.

Thor: Ragnorak won the box office this past week, and the new Justice League has received some mixed reviews. Although I’m not known to be a fan of the superhero genre, there is definitely a double tier for the better films that have been made, and those that we can easily forget.

The American Film Institute is 50 years old, and celebrates in Hollywood this weekend with their annual AFI Film Fest. The American Film Institute educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. There is an AFI Catalog of Feature films that catalogs the first 100 years of this art form (I am so hopeful when I see films classified as an “art form”. Read my book to hear more on this!) The good news is the AFI Catalog is accessible online and it’s free of charge.

Recommended: Some Holiday movies are suggested in this  week’s article of films to watch on Netflix. I always recommend kicking off the season with the original black & white Miracle on 34th Street. Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation has become a staple in our household. Some also love Will Ferrell’s Elf, as well as A Christmas Story, and the constant appeal of It’s a Wonderful Life and the very corny White Christmas, all of which are Holiday staples.

The Nativity Story is very appealing, and is especially powerful to watch during the Christmas season. And George C Scott remains my favorite Scrooge, but there are now so many versions that you can judge for yourself, But A Christmas Carol should be part of your schedule of Holiday viewing. Jim Carrey joins the pantheon with his take on The Grinch in the live-action The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Opening at Christmas: In past weeks, we have run a list of films opening, from the Fall Film Newsletter as well as in Friday Flix. But Star Wars, as usual, will suck much of the oxygen out of the room for all the December debuts. One of the more intriguing aspects of the newest Star Wars entry is the introduction of a mysterious character played by Benicio del Toro. Anything that may actually shake up the predictable nature of the Star Wars saga will be welcome! For my personal pick, The Shape of Water looks intriguing, and it opens in December.

For Children: Disney’s Pixar’s Coco has become the highest grossing animated film in Mexico’s history. Although The Star is also opening, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of an animated retelling of the Christmas story. For that, I’d recommend that families watch the afore-mentioned The Nativity Story and speak to children about the actual historical times that surrounded the Birth of Christ. However, there’s a host of talent poured into this lavish animated retelling of the story with the cute Shrek-like characters that somehow converge on Bethlehem and work themselves into the story of Jesus’ birth.

Recommended from the Vaults: To rent or record, find a time to watch The Philadelphia Story, directed by George Cukor and starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. This has been remade several times, with the latest version being the musical version with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. But the Cukor film is definitely the one to watch, with the oft-seen vignette where Cary Grant pushed Hepburn down by simply shoving her in her elegant face! In today’s climate of misogyny and allegations of abuse, this may not be Politically Correct. But if anyone ever has seen Hepburn in action on film, then there’s no contest. She is one of the strongest female role models who ever worked in Hollywood. BTW, she is starring in Adam’s Rib on TCM this month, and it’s required viewing for all women everywhere. Take notes!

Recommended on 6 Degrees: Murder on the Orient Express has had mixed reviews, but the latest critique from SF Gate is a favorable one. There’s a couple of interesting articles in the magazine, one is in NPR that reviews a documentary made about Jim Carrey’s extraordinary journey into darkness when he played Andy Kaufman in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.

At the Movies: Lady Bird has been getting great reviews, a coming-of-age piece directed by Greta Gerwig. And Denzel Washington’s Roman J Israel, Esq. is another film that has gotten a lot of good buzz. There’s a review in Forbes of this one.

Coming Next: The Holiday Film Newsletter is coming next. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday, one and all, and remember this is a good time to catch a flick, so I hope to see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello to all film fans! This week we begin with the scandals that are rocking Hollywood.

Hollywood Buzz: On the Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse; the dominoes are cascading, and women are not tolerating this anymore. From the Roger Ebert site we feature in 6 Degrees magazine the piece: Why I stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies…. I have written about Allen in the past. His films are considered classics, especially many of his earlier ones. And I have a particular fondness for films like Hannah and her Sisters, which is showing on TCM this month. But over time, Woody Allen’s past behavior and the current climate have made his work toxic and his “brand” as they say, is as unpalatable as Bill Cosby’s and his ilk. So it’s not surprising to see more and more women particularly, coming out with this opinion about Woody Allen. Going forward, I don’t see anything that would turn this around. He is another sad commentary on a time long past where this behavior can just be overlooked with a wink and a nod. As Dylan told us, The Times They are a Changin.’ We have to get on board.
Casablanca Returns to theaters for the 75th Anniversary of the release of this classic. (Here is the 6 Degrees review.)
Recommended: The Florida Project has seen excellent reviews. Thor: Ragnorak has been well reviewed if you are a comic book movie fan, and for the small screen, they are screening some classic Hitchcock films on TCM this week, including Vertigo and Rear Window. At the movies, Captain Underpants is playing for kids, and The Mountain Between us with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba is recommended if you haven’t seen this one yet.

It’s time for my I’ll be the judge of that skepticism: Some of the articles on film have such overblown claims in their titles. The reason I can actually affirm this is that, unlike many who just glance at the headlines, I actually READ many of these lists that people put out as containing the best movies, the best genres, the most under-rated or over-rated films of ALL time! And I never agree with the entire list, but at times, there are some films that I do agree about when I think they’ve hit the right note. That’s why I groan at the end of the year “Best of” lists and the upcoming awards season where films are placed into categories. Rarely does any one year contain several masterpieces. And as those of us who love films agree, as time goes by, the works of many great filmmakers come to be appreciated more and more.
I believe that the film, Her is a great barometer for our times. And some of the greatest actors probably haven’t been acknowledged for their best work, which is found in films that most people have never seen! Tom Hardy is one actor I would recommend and should be on the list to binge watch his past films. Clive Owen and Russell Crowe are also great actors with filmographies containing many under-appreciated gems. (Try to rent Bent, The Sum of Us, Proof, and  I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead)
6 Degrees upcoming Holiday Films Newsletter: On the subject of lists, there are some of the children’s Christmas movies to watch with your kids recommended this week: They include: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas from 1999; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from 1998, The Santa Clause from 1994; the Remake of Miracle on 34th street from 1994 and Home alone from 1990. These are a few that are fairly good, as well as Elf and the original Miracle on 34th Street, which is a true classic.
Coming Soon: Stay tuned for the HUGE avalanche of Star Wars marketing and film reviews for the December release of the next entry in the saga… Also, The Post is coming soon, directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film is about the newspaper business and the history of the journalism done in the wake of the Vietnam War and the release of the Pentagon Papers.

That’s it for this week. There are some great films coming soon that we are excited about, as well as the Holiday Film Newsletter to watch for…Till then, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Welcome Film Fans! Check out the 6 Degrees of Film Magazine to read:
The Review round up of: Featured reviews this week include the Murder on the Orient Express review from Variety; Goodbye Christopher Robin is reviewed on SF Gate and The Florida Project has seen excellent reviews
There are two actor Profiles in Film Inquiry; one for Brad Pitt and one for Tom Hardy. Willem Dafoe of The Florida Project is interviewed at the Daily Actor site.
Classic reviews: If you are a fan of Jack Nicholson, there are two of his greatest films reviewed here: The Shining and The Two Jakes. And for Kubrick fans, there’s a review of 2001: A Space Odyssey along with The Shining piece.
A look at the blog posts weekly: After reading through some of the film blogs and looking for interesting items, I can’t help but notice the ads and the distractions on the pages that prevent a “clean read” for the review or the article. That’s why some of these pieces aren’t included. The film sites that are interesting and recommended include: Film Inquiry, Roger Ebert and Film Comment, Indiewire and The MacGuffin; She Blogged by Night and Immortal Ephemera, David Bordwell’s site and Film School Rejects site (great name!). I like the site, A Potpourri of Vestiges written by my friend, Murtaza Khan, but as stated, there are some distracting ads that prevent the site from giving you what I consider a “clean read.” Oh, and of course, 6 Degrees of Film will give you Quarterly Newsletters, weekly readouts for the best film blogs and articles, and coming soon, excerpts from the 2013 book, “Six Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village.”
Coming Soon: The dreaded end of year “Best of” lists for awards, for the best films of the year, the decade, etc…Some of these are helpful and interesting, and as I go through them, some of them are fairly worthless. So we’ll try and cull out some of the best of the best of lists! Stay tuned for the Holiday Film News coming soon from 6 Degrees. Till then, stay classy film fans, and see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Friday Flix: Welcome, film fans, to the last Friday in October. It’s traditionally the time when many of the best classic horror movies are shown on TV and debuted at the movies. The horror movies that have been touted as “classics” in so many cases in the articles collected in 6 Degrees magazine are simply not as powerful as many of the originals. The degrees are less than six that lead us to similarities, in many cases direct reboots and other films that pale next to the originals using some of the techniques borrowed from Hitchcock and other masters of the genre.
On TCM this weekend: We’ve featured a Repulsion Review in the magazine…The review finds a “Deeply disturbing psychological thriller…one of Roman Polanski’s most brilliant films.” Also on TCM: The Lost Weekend: An excerpt from the review: Popular Cinema has found drunkenness amusing. Only occasionally has Hollywood tried to wipe the indulgent smiles off the audience’s faces…” The Lost Weekend is the original “Portrait of a Drunk” which was re-worked for Nicolas Cage’s Oscar-winning film, Leaving Las Vegas.
Current Film Reviews are featured in 6 Degrees magazine of the original Blade Runner and the current The Florida Project. And about the Blade Runner remake, a look at the “The Tears of a Machine: The Humanity of Luv in Blade Runner 2049.” Also featured is in-depth look at the Colin Farrell/Nicole Kidman film The Killing of a Sacred Deer from Film Comment and Rogerebert.com; also reviewed: Thank You for your Service, the Miles Teller film.
After Weinstein: The Fall of Toxic Masculinity and the Rise of Feminine Consciousness is an article from Rogerebert.com that takes a look at the evolving scene not only in Hollywood, but nationwide as we continue to out some of the worst offenders.
Cinema in 67: Camelot Revisited talks about the beautifully made, but in some parts lacking musical version of Camelot with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris. The theme of Camelot was one that was carried through not only in the metaphor presented in the tragedy of the Kennedy Assassination, but also the evolving culture of the sixties. This film was a kind of ode to a dying era.
Losers besides Weinstein: Geostorm could lose $100 Million dollars. An Understatement from 6 Degrees magazine: This has not been a great year at the movies for Hollywood…
Halloween Horror Movies: Featuring a questionable list of top grossing horror movies (Ghostbusters is not a horror movie!) The list includes Halloween; The Sixth Sense..(Not a Halloween pick!) and other likely suspects; The list is terrible from TheStreet.com. site. So…
Here’s A better list of Horror films: The Amityville Horror; Sleepy Hollow; Annabelle; Paranormal Activity; The Conjuring; The Blair Witch Project; Get Out; It; The Exorcist; And here’s some older “Classics” that fit the bill for classic horror: The Changeling; 13 Ghosts; Frankenstein; Halloween; Carnival of Souls (1962); The Haunting (1963); The Portrait of Dorian Gray; The Tingler (1959) and The Thriller Video with Michael Jackson and Vincent Price
Finally, Cosmopolitan has a list of some of the releases to watch for in 2018. This is an edited version of film picks that seem to range from fairly interesting looking to mildly entertaining!

Movies for 2018:

Black Panther: It’s a superhero film that actually looks a little different! Releases in February.

A Wrinkle in Time: From Disney and highly-anticipated, with Reese Witherspoon and Oprah! Opens in March.
Tomb Raider: Alicia Vikander in the remake of Angelina Jolie’s signature role. Debuts in March
Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs: Not too much information on this, other than the fact that it’s from quirky Indie director Wes Anderson. Opens in March
Overboard remake with Anna Faris: This one opens in April, and is a remake of the smallball comedy with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
Avengers: Infinity War: Also: in April, another entry in the Marvel series.
A Star is Born: Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga star in this remake of the Judy Garland hit (which was also remade with Barbra Streisand and Kurt Kristofferson in 1976) This one opens in May
Solo: A Star Wars Story: This film is a Prequel about Hans Solo’s life before he joined the Rebellion. Opens in May.
Ocean’s Eight: The Female Reboot with the obligatory “all-star” cast line up including Kate Blanchett, Rihanna, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway. Opening in June.
Mamma Mia: Here we go again: July release set with some of the original cast and Cher joining the line-up for this, also a pre-quel.
Barbie Movie: An August release for this kids film starring Anne Hathaway as the world’s most famous doll.
Mary Poppins Returns: Set for December of 2018, Emily Blunt will star in this reboot.
Aquaman: Also set for December of 2018, Jason Momoa will star as the super-hero of the sea.

 

 
I notice in this batch not a lot of original thought went into these releases. They are all reboots or sequels/prequels to an existing series…Surprise! Surprise! There still may be an interesting list coming our way when we see the Indies and some of the smaller films that don’t get as much press. That’s always the way of things: good word of mouth and great storytelling wins the race every time. Until next week, see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello film fans! Welcome to Friday Flix. This week the films that debut are not the heavy hitters, many of those are coming out during the Holidays. But there are some good ones vying for the top box office spots.
In 6 Degrees Magazine, there’s a piece from Director David Fincher on Modern Cinema that’s worth a look. And the film reviews featured include reviews for Marshall, the courtroom drama surrounding one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s early civil-rights cases; and the LA Times gives The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe rave reviews: “probably the best movie you’ll see this year”….can’t get much better than that!
Blade Runner 2049 is reviewed in Movie Waffler. I reviewed it in 6 Degrees of Film and wasn’t impressed. For one thing, the movie was over-hyped. It wasn’t nearly as good as it was promoted as being, which was this game-changing thematic experience. In addition, it was overly long for the material that was explored.
It was reminiscent of the follow up sequel to Chinatown in several ways. Both revolve around a quest or a search that moves the action along, but in the case of The Two Jakes, Jack Nicholson was the big draw that the sequel used to carry the weight of a weaker plot. It’s hard to compete with classic films that introduce new and innovative techniques and original thought. Chinatown and Blade Runner were two such films.
Harrison Ford doesn’t carry this film. This film is almost exclusively Ryan Gosling’s vehicle, and he is not up to snuff. There isn’t one interesting element or nuance of character that is memorable in this version (The review is on 6 Degrees).
The film has been characterized as a dud or a bomb. It’s not terrible, but I can’t recommend it to see at the theatres. It’s for the small screen. There’s another article that makes the case that the soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049 is the star. I can’t agree with that either, especially in the wake of listening to the music of Vangelis and that masterly score for the original. Director Ridley Scott put so much attention to detail into the 1982 film, showing us a glimpse of a futuristic, yet dark and decidedly dystopian landscape that matched the theme from which the material sprang: the dark visions of writer Philip K Dick. This film just isn’t capable of continuing the thread needed to pull us into that same future void where we found ourselves at the end of BladeRunner.

There are lots of Oscar contenders opening in November. After seeing a trailer for the Benedict Cumberbatch film, The Current War, made by the Weinstein Group, I noticed they’ve pulled it from the schedule. It’s unfortunate that the politics must interfere with the artistic merit of a film, but that’s the way of the world. Weinstein has infected the conversation in Hollywood, as well as throughout the country. And women should be silent no more.
Some of the other films opening in November (see the Fall Newsletter link); are: Murder on the Orient Express & The Florida Project. The latter is about a six year old girl who lives with her mother in a motel in the Sunshine State. Willem Dafoe also stars in this Indie film, and as mentioned above, it’s been getting lots of good advance press.
There’s also a  listing this week of actor Gary Oldman’s best performances (Oldman is starring as Churchill currently in Darkest Hour.) Can’t say that I agree with the list. Here’s mine: True Romance; Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy. Harry Potter films; Child 44; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead are some of Oldman’s best films, and I’d recommend any of those to fans who would like to see more of Gary Oldman in action.
There’s also an article about Films that may be contenders for Oscars including Dunkirk; The Post and The Shape of Water. Haven’t seen the latter two, but I would agree there is great interest and buzz with these films, particularly surrounding The Shape of Water.
That’s a wrap for this week. Stay tuned in coming weeks for the Holiday Films Newsletter and other 6 Degrees offers for you. Till then, hope you find some movies that you not just like but love, and see you at the movies!

 

 

 

 

Blade Runner 2049-Nothing to see here

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The best place to start to review this film would be to recommend another viewing of Blade Runner, the vastly superior original from 1982. That film had the aura of a mystery. The Ridley Scott film had so many small details, the film noir elements as well as the sci-fi ones, that it kept you thinking and wondering as you watched it unfold. Ironically, at the time, it wasn’t considered a ‘hit’. Based on the Philip K Dick short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the central question that permeated the film’s progression was the nature of what it means to be human.
It dealt with the issues surrounding what it means to have a soul, and how we know what the nature of our humanity is. It was a subtle message that was interspersed with a foreshadowing of doom and an apocalyptic pall that worked as a thread pulling us through each scene.
In this film, the dull and plodding nature of the plot line, where we find not an interesting protagonist, but a rather dull hero in Ryan Gosling, who is a pale stand-in for Harrison Ford, leaves us yearning for more in the end. The film clobbers the audience at times, hitting us over the head with the blare of the theme that is begging us to ask what it takes to be human, and what constitutes a soul.
The mystery of the film, the search for the mysterious child that is the central figure looming over the plot plods slowly along, It is a point that is neither cunning or strange. The story is one where we have an expectation of waiting for Godot, with the audience expecting something to happen, and the film always ends up holding back any type of cathartic release.
The villain, or villainess in this case, is about as interesting and predictable as a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. She is much less interesting than the girlfriend of Ryan Gosling, who turns out to be a hologram, and the hologram is the only one who is multi-layered in this dull affair. And even that sub-plot is done with much more subtlety and charm in the superior “Her” which this film emulates in some manner.

 

 

 
The futuristic nature of the landscape, and the apocalyptic message for the audience is pretty much wasted in this version. Harrison Ford’s entrance, late in the action, is anti-climactic and even he looks bored and really past the point of even trying to make sense of the plot. There is little humor in this film, and although Gosling is competent in his execution, his character has strict limits as to how far you might want to go to be able to emote with the nature of the beast that is his straight-jacket of a role.
Robin Wright also looks slightly bored, as she valiantly tries to bring some interest to this slow moving affair. This film didn’t need to be almost three hours. It needed editing, as mentioned a few weeks back by a noted director who seemed to be itching to cut about one half hour or more from most of the feature films that boast the need to tell the story for almost three hours.
The story here is not a mystic tale or a fantasy romp, there is no CGI miracle or even a continuation of the Ridley Scott attention to detail which made the 80’s film so relevant and cutting-edge. The music was a large part of the allure in the original, and this one has almost no soundtrack other than a running commentary of rain and smoggy mist. In short, this one is only for die-hard Blade Runner devotees, of which I am one. No one is going to appreciate the origami figures, the memory implants, the futuristic ads and landscape of CGI unless they have specific memories of the superior version.

I would recommend waiting for the small screen to watch this film. It’s not unwatchable, and there are certainly good actors and a continuation of the themes that were explored in the original film. But there’s no need to rush to the theatres to see this film. And in some ways, that’s a shame. Bladerunner was worth the trip to see it on the big screen. If you get a chance, go see the original. Leave this one for home viewing.

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello Film Fans! Some recommended reviews for the week include reviews from the Ebert.com site: Marshall; the film bio that is ostensibly about Thurgood Marshall, but is a courtroom drama from a particular time period in Marshall’s life in 1940’s America. One of the critiques I’ve heard raised is that the movie is good, but it’s not really a bio-pic of Marshall’s life. So there’s that…

Other film reviews on Ebert: The Mountain Between Us, which has received generally good reviews; Blade Runner 2049 is reviewed-my review is going to be published next week, and generally, I’ll just say that I would only recommend this film to those who are fans of the first film and sci-fi buffs. It runs a bit too long, but there are some other problems I’ve got with this one. The Ebert site didn’t really trash this film, and most critics seem to be kinder to this film than it probably warrants.

The Indie film, the Florida Project, with Willem Dafoe has generated lots of good buzz. It is reviewed favorably on the Ebert site as well. Also featured in 6 Degrees Magazine are a run-down of the best films of Willem Dafoe, as well as an article with the top Harrison Ford films. The Chicago International Film Festival is also featured on the Ebert site, along with an interview with the star of Marshall, Chadwick Boseman.

Finally, some of the classic films shown on Turner Classic this week are reviewed in 6 Degrees. Gaslight, which has become synonymous with the newly coined term, to “Gaslight’ someone, or to try and drive them insane…. The film from 1944 starred Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman as the wife who was “gaslighted.” Another film from TCM that is recommended if you have never seen it is  Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1974. Ellen Burstyn won an Oscar for her lead in this great little gem of a film that really was a pioneering story centering around the trials of a woman who finds herself widowed and if follows her struggles for independence in a man’s world. This film, along with Judy Davis’ groundbreaking My Brilliant Career in 1979 really opened up the idea that women could carry a film about what it means to be an independent and single woman living in a world basically ordered by men!

Those are just a few of the recommended films for October. Lots of good films are opening soon, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for upcoming reviews in the magazine, including my reviews of Bladerunner 2049 and Victoria and Abdul. Till then, see you at the movies!-ML