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Tag Archives: 5 Stars

Queen’s Gambit

I don’t typically write reviews on limited series, but this one is so good that I couldn’t help myself.  Most everyone has seen it by now: A young girl who ends up in an orphanage when her mother dies in a car accident discovers that she has a proclivity toward chess. The series, based on a novel by the same name that I understand is quite good, follows her rise over 7 episodes in the chess world as she simultaneously battles various addictions. Every now and then a limited series comes along that is really special; last year, it was …

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Winter Sleep

(Turkey, English subtitles). Ayden a former stage star who is wealthy and owns a hotel in Anatolia. He lives there with his sister Necla, who is divorced and has regrets about the dissolution of their marriage, and with his much younger wife Nihal. As winter approaches, the hotel customers become much sparser and the tensions among the three find new life. This is an amazing film. It is over 3 ½ hours in length, but it never feels that long, and it felt like it could have gone on longer. This is a dialog film, and patience is rewarded as …

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Crip Camp

Beginning in the early 1950s, Camp Jened, in upstate New York, was a place where teenagers with disabilities could go and experience, many for the first time, a place where they could be teenagers and live freely with people like them with disabilities. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, the camp was run by hippies, so there were a lot of freedoms provided that the kids did not get elsewhere. Many of these summer campers ended up migrating to the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, an innovative center focused on providing services to the disabled. It was here …

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First Cow

Kelly Reichardt’s new film is set in the Oregon territory in the middle 19th century as Americans are beginning to trek westward for a better life. Cookie (John Magaro) has done exactly this and is serving as a cook for a small group of trappers. One day, he meets a Chinese immigrant (Orion Lee) who is naked and evading a group of Russians who are looking for him. The two strike up a friendship that ultimately leads to a business venture that involves the cow of a wealthy businessman in the area. This is a very typical Reichardt film with …

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Hamilton

The Disney Channel brings Hamilton to the big screen! Having seen this on stage, but not with the original cast, I was eager to see the movie version that captured one of the early performances. I was not disappointed; in fact, I was surprised at how well the film captured the energy and excitement of the stage play. The editing work is exceptional –different angles of the stage are captured with all of its intense motion and energy, with lots of close-up shots – it is like you are sitting in orchestra and your eyes move to where they want …

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LA92

This documentary chronicles the events that let up to the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 as a result of the exoneration of 4 LAPD officers who beat a Black man after a traffic stop. I watched this film right after Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, and the difference is that LA92 focuses much more on the days during which the riots occurred. It is a powerful and sobering look at the simmering pot of race relations in the United States. There is so much footage available here; the way it is cut, you actually feel like you are …

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Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992

This documentary examines the decade prior to the riots that resulted from the exoneration of 4 Los Angeles Police Department officers who were involved with the brutal beating of Rodney King. The film starts off right away with the message that for those who lived in LA, during the decade before, they knew that something was going to happen at some point. The film provides, through interviews and archival footage, a detailed context of what life in Los Angeles was like during that decade: A police department that was at times out of control in its dealings with gang-related activities; …

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The Innocence Files

This Netflix limited series features several stories of cases of men who were convicted and sent to prison for extended sentences, nearly 30 years in some cases, for crimes that they did not commit. The Innocence Project is a non-profit that is dedicated to investigating wrongful convictions and helping get cases overturned. The stories of these men tell are powerful. Through a combination of current interviews and archival photo and video footage, the directors take us through what happened. These stories also highlight the ways in which the justice system has failed these people and others, through over-aggressive prosecuting attorneys; …

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Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s latest film is about the crumbling of a marriage and the pains of divorce. I was completely blown away by the film. First, it portrays equally both sides of the divorce, which you don’t see too often; both husband and wife are treated sympathetically with all of their strengths and faults. It also digs into its messiness and how all of the things that didn’t work in the marriage come to the surface in unexpected ways. The screenplay is amazing. Adam Driver (Charlie) and Scarlett Johansson (Nicole) give the very best performances of their careers and probably the …

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Maiden

This documentary is the story of the first-ever all-female crew to sail the Whitbread Round the World race in 1989. The film uses a combination of archival video footage montaged with the crew members, members of the press, and skippers of other boats in the race in the present day reflecting on their experience during that race. This is a fascinating and inspiring film of Tracy Edwards, who was in her 20’s at the time. She was a problem teenager who ran away from home at 16 and “never did finish anything she started”. She happened to get a job …

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