When director Patricia Ortega found a revealing picture of her mother as a young woman, scantily clad in an open bathrobe, she didn’t recoil in embarrassment. She made a movie about it. Ortega was surprised by such a blatant display of sexuality from a Catholic woman whom she had only ever known as a mother, and she wanted to explore the role of passion, desire, and sexuality in older women. The main character of her film, Mamacruz, is a 70-something-year-old grandmother who earns a living doing small sewing jobs and taking care of the icons and figurines in the local Catholic Church. Cruz (Kiti Mánver) is also learning how to use a tablet so she can keep in touch with her daughter, who is in a dance company in Vienna. When Cruz accidentally stumbles upon pornography while messing around on the tablet, she begins a journey of self-discovery and seeks to reignite her sense of passion and pleasure. Despite the strictness of her religious community and the societal expectations for women her age, Cruz finds that there’s a lot more she could be getting out of life.
While the real-life work of an investigative journalist might feel like running head-first into a brick wall over and over again, movies and shows usually make it seem like an idealistic, noble, and exciting job that combines the thrill of detective work with the glamorous life of a writer. The 2022 movie She Said, directed by Maria Schrader (I’m Your Man) and written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Small Axe), highlights the work of two real-life investigative journalists, Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan). The movie portrays Kantor and Twohey as confident, career-driven women who balance their roles as journalists and mothers just as skillfully as they balance their morning cups of coffee as they make their ways through the bustling stress of the city into the prestigious New York Times building. But She Said isn’t all #girlbossing and go-getting. It’s bleak, slow, and depressing, trapped under a melancholy gray cloud that sets an appropriate tone for the story. In 2017, Kantor and Twohey published a story in the New York Times that exposed decades of abuse and misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. While the story gave hundreds of women the courage to share their own stories about abuse and survival, it was initially very difficult for Kantor and Twohey to find women who were willing to risk their careers and reputations by going on the record about Weinstein’s misconduct (some of these women also risked legal action since Weinstein silenced several of the women he abused with settlements). She Said recounts Kantor and Twohey’s investigative process and the painstaking steps they took to shed light on systemic abuse in Hollywood.
Witness the Joy and Strength of Sisterhood in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King,” Available on Home Video Now
The title of Gina Prince-Bythewood’s latest film alone is enough to inspire strength, courage, and bravery. The movie itself, The Woman King, lives up to the inspirational connotations of its name. Set in West Africa in 1823, the story focuses on the Agojie, an all-female group of tough and fearless warriors who are dedicated to protecting the kingdom of Dahomey. Filled with beautiful costumes, expansive scenery shot on-location in Africa, powerful dance and fight choreography, and a deep-rooted sense of genuine sisterhood, The Woman King is a joy to watch. The outstanding cast brings lots of passion to the screen, but at times their efforts are undermined by a weak script. The narrative hiccups and uneven tone, however, aren’t enough to rob The Woman King of its power.
Originally posted on Elements of Madness.
We’ve all been to at least one work event that went incredibly sour, but the average person’s worst day at the office has nothing on the nightmare of a client dinner that unfolds in Run Sweetheart Run. When pre-law student and single mom Cherie (Ella Balinska) puts on her best dress to meet one of her boss’s top clients for dinner, she has no idea that she’s about to experience the worst night of her life. The client, Ethan (Pilou Asbæk), is handsome, educated, sweet, charming, and filthy rich. He takes Cherie out to the best sushi spot in LA, followed by an impromptu trip to a skating rink, and the business dinner soon becomes a date. Cherie decides to return home with Ethan for a few drinks, but things take a turn for the worst. After starting the evening with high hopes for both her love life and her career, Cherie finds herself running all night from a crazed, violent, and relentless stalker who’s out for blood. All bets are off in Ethan’s sadistic, devilish game, and Cherie must rely on pure survival instincts and summon her innermost strength in order to have any chance of lasting the night.
If a Custom-Made Dior Dress Is a Bit Out of Your Price Range, Purchase a Copy of “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” on DVD or Blu-ray Instead
There’s no right or wrong way to make a feel-good movie. But there are certain elements that will make one feel-good film much more successful and enjoyable than another. Feel-good films require precise storytelling techniques and a little extra wow-factor in order to make an impact. In the case of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, that wow factor is the contagious optimism that’s reflected in every shot. At first glance, the story of Mrs. Ada Harris, an English house cleaner in the 1950s who dreams of owning her own Dior gown, seems like a predictable and unrealistic feel-good tale. But under the direction of Anthony Fabian (Good Hope), and with captivating performances by Lesley Manville (Let Him Go), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Jason Isaacs (Mass), Lambert Wilson (Benedetta), Alba Baptista (Warrior Nun), Roxane Duran (The Cursed), and Ellen Thomas (Arcane), Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris emerges as a lovely cinematic gem. The movie had a theatrical release earlier this summer and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Dive Into the Special and Practical Effects of “Jurassic World Dominion” With the Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Home Release
In case you missed the theatrical release of Dominion, here’s a spoiler-free rundown: The movie picks up four years after the events of Fallen Kingdom. Isla Nublar, the site of both the original Jurassic Park and the new Jurassic World, has been destroyed. The genetically engineered dinosaurs have been set free to roam the Earth and walk among humans. While ordinary people are trying to figure out how to live their lives with dinosaurs walking around, others have jumped on the opportunity to turn a profit. A dinosaur black market has emerged, and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are working to save as many dinos as possible from the criminal underworld. They’ve set up camp in a remote mountain cabin where they can protect Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), the first human clone, from the clutches of sinister scientists and money-hungry opportunists. Meanwhile, Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) has begun collecting dinos to study at his biotech company, Biosyn. But that’s not all Biosyn is up to. Their latest attempts to disrupt the agricultural industry have attracted the attention of one Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), who turns to her old pals Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) and Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) for help. The paths of the original and new characters eventually collide, bringing everyone together for one last face-off against the ferocious and bloodthirsty dinosaurs.
“Dad, can you tell me a scary story?”
This is not how most children ask to be put to bed, but brave young Anna (Taliyah Blair) isn’t afraid of a few ghosts and goblins. Plus, her dad, Harry (Jonathan Nyati), is a great storyteller. Thus begins Jamie Hooper’s The Creeping, a delightful horror flick that will bring back memories of swapping ghost stories over a bucket of Halloween candy. While The Creeping is undeniably a ghost movie, it’s more likely to make you feel nostalgic than scared. Hooper takes a straightforward scary story and embellishes it with an R. L. Stine-esque style that will make you want to mix in some candy corn with your popcorn.
Director Harry Cleven Achieves Something Truly Remarkable With His Hypnotic Experimental Sci-Fi Film, “Zeria” [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Harry Cleven’s Zeria is a wondrous and enlightening celebration of all the things that make us human. Using a combination of miniature sets, practical effects, and puppet-like masks, Cleven creates a breathtaking and unforgettable world that’s mesmerizing, comforting, and terrifying all at the same time. The film is narrated by the last living man on Earth as he writes a letter to his grandson, Zeria, the first human born on Mars. The narrator (voiced by Merlin Delens) tells his grandson about his full and complicated life, offering insight, wisdom, and heartbreaking truth. He talks about his birth, his troubled childhood, his love life, the sociopolitical changes that happened throughout his lifetime, and his lifelong search for meaning, all while seeking connection with someone who has never experienced life on Earth.
One of the scariest things about cults is that they can form right under our noses. Cult leaders need to psychologically isolate their followers in order to maintain control, but they don’t have to keep everyone on a remote island in order to do so. Still, perhaps the best way to illustrate the intense psychological control that cult leaders achieve is to tell a story about a cult that’s geographically isolated from the real world. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how a deeply disturbed man could earn the trust and respect of a whole community of devout followers is to confine that man and his followers to a remote location that seems to exist in a universe of its own. In Nikias Chryssos’s A Pure Place, a sickeningly imaginative film that he wrote with Lars Henning Jung, the entire population of a remote Greek island is under the spell of a charming and charismatic leader named Fust (Sam Louwyck). This deeply disturbed (but powerful) man is utterly obsessed with cleanliness, and he’s positioned himself as a savior who will lead the people to a pure place that’s free from man’s worst enemy: dirt. In addition to following Fust, the community also worships Hygeia, the Greek goddess of cleanliness. The cult is intense and otherworldly, so separated from the real world that Fust’s twisted desires have become the only law. The one thing connecting this mysterious island to the outside world is the product that Fust’s followers make in his factory: soap.
Part Expressionist Melodrama and Part Campy Horror, “The Attachment Diaries (El Apego)” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma and Mental Health Issues [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Content/trigger warning: The Attachment Diaries deals with sexual assault, self-harm, mental illness, and abortion. These subjects are also briefly discussed in the review below.
The Attachment Diaries is a difficult movie for two reasons. First, it focuses on a handful of difficult topics (including abortion, which has just become more relevant than ever in the United States), and it presents those topics in a blunt and, at times, irreverent way. Second, it’s difficult because it asks us to think about imperfect people in imperfect situations. The film appeals to very raw and carnal emotions, asking viewers to indulge in the thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to think and feel. It’s a good thing that The Attachment Diaries is so masterfully shot, because it may take several viewings to make sense of it.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."