When You Finish Saving the World

Posted on January 19, 2023 at 6:00 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Wine, teenage drug use
Violence/ Scariness: References to domestic abuse
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: January 20, 2023

Credit: Beth Garrabrant Copyright 2022 !24
Jesse Eisenberg’s first feature film as writer and director is reminiscent of his breakthrough performance in Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale.” They are both stories of teenagers beginning to understand themselves and their parents a little better through some of the inevitable painful discoveries of adolescence.

“Stranger Things'” Finn Wolfhard plays Ziggy, a high school student who is very proud of the 20 thousand fans worldwide who tune in to hear his weekly live streaming performances. He sings original songs he describes as “folk rock with alternative influences” and thanks them for their comments and tips in their native languages.

Ziggy lives with his parents, the reserved, bookish Roger (Jay O. Sanders) and the slightly formal and sardonic Grace (Julianne Moore), director of a shelter for women and children who are survivors of domestic abuse.

Both Ziggy and Grace make efforts to connect to new people. Abused wife Angie (Eleonore Hendricks, creating a character of great specificity and depth in her brief scenes) and her teenage son Kyle (Billy Bryk) arrive at the shelter after police intervention, and Grace is touched by Kyle’s empathy and support for his mother. She becomes over-involved in trying to help him, perhaps displacing her feelings out of frustration with Ziggy. When she brings him on errands and sees him warmly speaking Spanish with one of the shelter’s former residents, she abruptly insists on leaving. She encourages Kyle to apply to college, which makes Angie feel threatened.

And Ziggy is drawn to a girl at school. Her name is Lila (a wonderfully charismatic Alisha Boe). He awkwardly tries to impress her with his live streaming success, but sees that what she cares about is activism on behalf of social justice and the environment. He has no idea how to approach her, and his awkward attempts will be painfully familiar to anyone who has survived adolescence.

There are three kind of music in the film, perhaps three and a half. The first is the light, electronic tune played for us in the audience to establish the tone. The rest are diegetic, the music played and listened to by the characters. Grace favors classical music which she plays in the car. She listens to Bizet’s “Carmen” when she drives Ziggy to school, refusing when he asks her to play anything else. Ziggy plays his original songs on an acoustic guitar, at first about his feelings but then, as he using Lila’s poem about colonialism and exploitation of the Marshall Islands for lyrics.

Eisenberg’s screenplay, based on his Audible book, is thoughtful with an actor’s sensitivity to tone and character, with impeccable casting choices. He knows that he can tell us as much by having Ziggy and Kyle pass each other at school or by the Ziggy he walks down the same sidewalk at different times in the story as he does with Ziggy’s painfully awkward attempts to tell Lila how “lit” and “terra” she is. Moore, as Grace finally watching Ziggy’s songs on YouTube, gives another of her gorgeous performances, with so much going on underneath Grace’s air of righteousness, a sense of loss of the closeness she had to Ziggy as a child, exhaustion over the overwhelming difficulties of the people at the shelter. Some parts of the story do not quite work, but the details are thoroughly imagined and the performances are thoughtful and involving.

Parents should know that this film includes very strong language, wine, and teen drug use, with references to domestic abuse.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Grace want to listen to Ziggy’s music and what changed her mind? Why didn’t Grace tell the truth about helping Kyle? Why did Ziggy go to the shelter? What should he have said to Lila?

If you like this, try: “The Squid and the Whale” and “The Edge of Seventeen”

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Posted on January 19, 2023 at 4:31 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for teen drinking, some strong violence, language, and thematic material
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teen drinking and drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Intense peril and violence, domestic abuse, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: January 20, 2023

Copyright 2023 Sony
I promise, the only spoiler in this review is an answer to the question: Was the very clever 2018 missing girl mystery “Searching,” almost entirely told on the computer screen of a father trying to find his teenage daughter, just a stunt, or does it open up a new kind of storytelling? We’re told that “Missing” is from the “minds behind ‘Searching,'” meaning that Aneesh Chaganty, who directed the original and co-wrote the screenplay with Sev Ohanian, provided the story for this one, and they share producer Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch”). “Missing” co-directors and screenwriter Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick edited “Searching,” and the new film feels very much part of the same world but refreshingly up-to-date. It builds lightly on the original but is very much its own treat of a twisty thriller. If any part of it is less choice, it is the generic title itself, without the original’s double meaning linking the mystery in real life to the way we get information online.

Once again, a frantic family member is searching for someone who has gone out of contact, and the contrast between the omnipresent information available online and the unsolvable absence is immediately absorbing. And as in the first one, we are dealing with a single parent and a child who is still mourning the one who has died. June (an excellent Storm Reid) is 18, and perhaps a bit too eager to get her mother, Grace (Mia Long) out of town, though she is not a fan of Kevin (Ken Leung), the man who is taking Grace on a vacation trip to Colombia.

As she is getting ready to leave, we see Grace on FaceTime, trying to give her daughter some vital information — who will be checking in on her, where the emergency money is, when to pick them up on their return. We can see that June is feeling smothered via the avatar she has for her mother’s profile and via the nonsense, with a few OMGs, she types after Grace tells her to take notes.

And then, amusingly, we see June getting that emergency money and doing searches for things like cheap ways to get drunk, to put on a party for her friends. It is such a success that she almost misses that pick-up at the airport. But Grace and Kevin are not there. And June has to figure out how to search for her mother 3500 miles away.

As promised, I am not going to spoil the deliciously surprising twists and turns of the storyline. I’ll just say that they are very clever, and the filmmakers made the most of the technology’s ability to show us what June is thinking as she starts to type something and then backtracks and changes her mind, whether it is finding a Taskrabbit who fits her budget (a terrific Joaquim de Almeida), filling out a State Department missing person report, or hacking someone’s accounts. This film proves that the screen-told story is not just a gimmick but an intiguing new tool that opens up many new opportunities for imaginative story-telling.

Parents should know that this movie includes criminal activity, peril and violence with characters injured and killed, drug use, strong language, and teen drinking.

Family discussion: What clues did you pick up from June’s screen before she did? Who did you suspect? Will this movie make you think about online access differently?

If you like this, try: “Searching” and “Modern Family’s” “Connection Lost” episode, also all on computer screens.

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Posted on January 11, 2023 at 3:21 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R language and violence
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Constant, intense peril and violence, knives, sledgehammer, military guns and bazookas, fistfights,
Copyright Lionsgate 2023

When an action movie is simply called “Plane,” you know they’re going to get right to it and keep going. Stepping into the spot usually reserved for Liam Neeson each January, with a tiny touch of Stephen Segal in “Under Siege” and Nicolas Cage in “Con Air.” Gerard Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a Scottish commercial pilot whose New Year’s Eve flight from Singapore to Tokyo runs into trouble when the plane is hit by lightning. He has to make an emergency landing on island of the Philippines that is ruled by murderous outlaws. One of the passengers (Mike Colter as Louis) is in handcuffs because he is being extradited to be tried for murder.

If this sounds a bit like a video game, where our hero(es) have to navigate one dire threat after another, you’ve got that right. There is a quick and efficient introduction to let us know that Brodie is a loving and devoted but not always present father of a beautiful college student daughter he hopes to be with to see in the new year. We see him courteous and professional as he meets his flight crew and talks to the airport official who assures him the storm ahead will not be a problem. We also get to see the prisoner, escorted by a law enforcement officer. It won’t take long (per “Con Air”) for Brodie and Louis, the two people on the island with military training, to team up. Colter is terrific as a guy who has nothing to prove to anyone but knows when it is time to deliver.

And then things start to go wrong. It gets very bumpy. The radar, the altimeter, and the navigation system go out. We know things are pretty bad when they pull out a paper map to try to figure out where they are. We’re vividly reminded that it’s just a tin can in the sky and let’s just say you will not be seeing this movie as an option when you scroll past the offerings on your next plane ride. Or if by some mistake you do, wait to see it until you are on solid ground again.

The relief of landing is short-lived. They have no way of letting anyone know where they are. And they are soon to discover that the occupants of the island are ruthless murderers who may keep them alive for ransom, but only briefly.

The film zips and occasionally lurches from one action scene to another, all capably staged if not especially memorable. The bad guys are one-dimensional, but no one really wants or expects them to be more than a believably threatening menace. Occasionally, per “Under Seige,” we see what is going on at the corporate headquarters, as the CEO (Joey Slotnick) and his whatever-it-takes “crises manager” (a savvy Tony Goldwyn) make whatever decisions they can.

Butler, who also produced, knows what we’re looking for in an action movie, not just the punches and explosions, but the ingenuity and the satisfaction of seeing how and by whom the bad guys get dispatched. This many not show us anything new, but it shows us that what isn’t new can still be reliably entertaining.

Parents should know that this movie has non-stop action, some with graphic visuals, with many characters injured and killed. There are knives, military-style weapons, and fistfights. There is also non-stop use of the f-word.

Family discussion: What made Brodie decide to trust Louis? If you were Sinclair, would you have hired Brodie? What will the airline do differently?

If you like this, try: “Olympus Has Fallen,” “Angel Has Fallen,” and the “Taken” movies, and, to see Butler in a non-action role in a lovely drama, “Dear Frankie” or as voice talent in the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies

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Alliance of Women Film Journalists EDA Awards: Banshees of Inishirin, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Posted on January 5, 2023 at 6:21 pm

As a long-time member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, I am proud to announce this year’s awards.

AWFJ Best Of Awards
(These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration.)

Best Film

Copyright 2022 Searchlight

“The Banshees of Inisherin”

Best Director

Sarah Polley – “Women Talking

Best Screenplay, Original

“The Banshees of Inisherin”– Martin McDonagh

Best Screenplay, Adapted

“Women Talking– Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews

Best Documentary

“All the Beauty and Bloodshed” – Laura Poitras

Best Animated Film

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” – Guiilermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson

Best Actress

Copyright A24 2022
Michelle Yeoh – “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best Actress in a Supporting Role (tie)

Kerry Condon – “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Jamie Lee Curtis – “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best Actor

Colin Farrell – “The Banshees of Inisherin”

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Ke Huy Quan – “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

“Women Talking” – John Buchan and Jason Knight

Best Cinematography (tie)

Copyright 2022 Paramount

“Top Gun: Maverick” – Claudio Miranda
“The Woman King” – Polly Morgan

Best Editing

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” – Paul Rogers

Best Non-English-Language Film (tie)

“Decision to Leave”

(These awards honor women only).

Best Woman Director

Gina Prince-Bythewood – “The Woman King”

Best Woman Screenwriter

Sarah Polley and Miriam Toews – “Women Talking”

Best Animated Female

Connie – Isabella Rossellni “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”

Best Woman’s Breakthrough Performance

Copyright 2022 Orion Pictures

Danielle Deadwyler – “Till”

Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry

Viola Davis – For getting “The Woman King” made as her lifetime passion project and creating opportunities for other women creatives.


Grand Dame Award for defying ageism

Emma Thompson

Most Egregious Lovers’ Age Difference Award

“Crimes of the Future”– Viggo Mortensen born 1958 and Lea Sedoux born 1985

She Deserves A New Agent Award (NOTE: This is not a put down. On the contrary, it suggests that the actor is better than the role she’s been given.)

Ana de Armas for “Blonde”

Most Daring Performance

Emma Thompson – “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande”

Time Waster Remake or Sequel Award

“Jurassic World: Dominion”

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award (Women and men are eligible)

Harvey Weinstein for everything and forever

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