Film: Defiance in the Old South

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “Free State of Jones,” directed by Gary Carr. “The Free State of Jones” is based on a true Civil War story, a little known story, because its subject matter is in a controversial gray area. Here we have Newton Knight (a spot-on Matthew McConaughey at his scraggly, unkempt, bearded best), a Confederate…

Eye in the Sky

By JOE AUCIELLO “Eye in the Sky,” (2016), a film directed by Gavin Hood, written by Guy Hibbert, with Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. The arc of the suspense story is familiar enough. Begin the tale in normal times, introduce a disruptive element whose threat deepens until it is ultimately destroyed, and conclude with a…

Film: The Danish Girl

By JOHN WILSON “The Danish Girl,” 1 hr. 59 min., directed by Tom Hooper. “The Danish Girl” is a mesmerizing, moving account of how transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (originally Einar Wegener) came to be one of the first persons known to have gender reassignment surgery. Adapted from David Ebershoff’s fictionalized novel of 2000, it features Eddie…

Trumbo — The Hollywood witch hunt

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH TRUMBO, written by John McNamara, from the book by Bruce Cook. Directed by Jay Roach. With Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, and Diane Lane. Hopefully, word of mouth will encourage the general public to see this engaging film, in part because of the contemporary relevance of its focus on the consequences of not…

Film: Battleground of home foreclosures

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “99 Homes,” a film with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield, and Laura Dern. Written and directed by Rahmin Bahrani. “99 Homes,” set in Florida, is an excellent socio-economic film that could have been a documentary. I’m glad it isn’t. It is a well-acted, powerful drama based on the 2007-9 economic collapse, when banks…

Film: A racist killer on trial

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH  British filmmaker Marc Silver’s documentary, “3 ½ Minutes 10 Bullets,” mainly consists of the trial of Michael Dunn, the killer of Jordan Davis, a Black teen. It plays out like television’s “20/20” or “Dateline” production, with no commercials. Despite the current inflamed debate on racial injustice, director Silver offers us a cool-headed…

Film: Mad Max Fury Road

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH I liked “Mad Max Fury Road” much more than I thought I would. Critics seemed to focus on only the action, of which there was scads—relentless, spectacular, and loud. Cirque du Soleil gone gritty: Men clinging to the tops of swaying poles attached to souped-up speeding cars while blasting with automatic weapons.…

Film: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

By CHRISTINE MARIE  “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” a documentary film directed and produced by Mary Dore, 2014.  When the noted documentary filmmaker Mary Dore set about to tell the story of the beginning of the feminist movement that burst onto the scene in the mid-1960s, she could find no funders. Dore was supported when…

British government betrayed its hero

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH and JOE AUCIELLO The Imitation Game, a film biography directed by Morten Tyldum, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly. Director Morten Tyldum has crafted an excellent fictionalized film biography, “The Imitation Game,” based on the book, ”Alan Turing: The Enigma,” by Andrew Hodges. The film portrays Turing as an intelligent though troubled man,…

Mockingjay: Revolution will be televised

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH Hunger Games, Mockingjay, Part I, directed by Francis Lawrence, with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth. How to build a revolution: Start with a tyrannical, revengeful president with a well-armed military; add a charismatic, self-effacing, yet heroic persona whose homeland was destroyed by his government; enhance with a wise, capable rebel…

Snowden speaks in ‘Citizen Four’

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH It is chilling to know for a fact that since 9/11/2001, the U.S National Security Agency, NSA, has been tracking phone calls from ATT and Verizon, and also bank activity, internet searches, and all social media sites used by every person in America. It also tracks our credit card purchases—on the internet…

‘Vietnam’: Riveting but flawed documentary

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “The Last Days of Vietnam,” a documentary film produced and directed by Rory Kennedy. Director Rory Kennedy, daughter of environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, has created a riveting and heartwarming, yet heartbreaking, full-length documentary film, “The Last Days of Vietnam,” which takes place in South Vietnam from 1973 to 1975, the last…

Film: Elemental

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH The documentary film, “Elemental,” written and directed by Gayatri Roshan, should be seen by every cognizant human being on the planet, not only for its impact on one’s perception of climate change, but also for the realization that one person can make a difference. It focuses on three individuals in disparate parts…

Film: Oblivion

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH   “Oblivion” is an entertaining yet thoughtful film that has us pondering what would happen to humans once we kill Earth and all living things by blanketing the precious planet with deadly CO2. It stars Tom Cruise in yet another space, sci fi thriller, written by Karl Gajusek and Michael Arndt, directed by Joseph…

Film: Baseball legend Jackie Robinson

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “42,” written and directed by Brian Helgeland, starring Chadwick Bosemen, Harrison Ford, and Nicole Beharie. “42” is a fictionalized film biography that covers the years 1945 to 1947 in the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, when he rose from the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team, to play with the…

Inside Israel’s killing machine

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH “The Gatekeepers,” a film directed by Dror Moreh, who also conducted the interviews. “The Gatekeepers” is a riveting documentary film that reveals the behind-the-scenes actions of one of Israel’s key tools for maintaining its repressive rule over the Palestinians—the Shin Bet (appellation for Israel Security Agency or ISA, formerly Mossad). The film…

Django: Pulp Western look at slavery

By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH Django Unchained, a film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. “Django Unchained” takes place in 1858, two years before the Civil War—the year that William Wells Brown published the first Black drama, “Leap to Freedom,” John Brown held an anti-slavery convention, Abraham Lincoln said  “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and…

A musical for rebellion

By TYLER MACKINNON With Oscar night right around the corner, this iconic book-turned-play-turned-film is taking theatres by storm—and for good reason. “Les Miserables” combines superb drama, action, romance and tragedy. Written by French literary giant Victor Hugo over a century and a half ago, it is remarkable, if not a bit depressing, to see how…

Lincoln: Images of History

By DAVID RIEHLE “Remembrance for a great man is this. The newsies are pitching pennies. And on the copper disk is the man’s face. Dead lover of boys, what do you ask for now?” (“In a Back Alley,” Carl Sandburg, ca 1910-12) What was Sandburg getting at here?  The “copper disk,” the ubiquitous Lincoln penny,…