Malick shines a caring, admiring light on ‘A Hidden Life’

“A Hidden Life” – “It seemed no trouble could reach our valley. We lived above the clouds.” – Franziska (Fani) Jagerstatter (Valerie Pachner) Franz and Fani Jagerstatter (August Diehl and Pachner) have a beautiful life. This happily married couple own a farm, have three young daughters and much love is felt within their home and also with their supportive neighbors in the tiny village of St. Radegund, tucked away in an Austrian valley. They live openly in St. Radegund, but this community is generally unseen to the rest of the…

Celebrate ‘I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore Day’ with ‘Falling Down’

Have you ever been slighted at work?  Did you have a year go by without a raise?  Worse yet, have you ever been laid off? Well, if you are frustrated with work, today’s politics or feeling paralyzed with the raging infernos in Australia, January 7 is your day.   It’s ‘I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore Day’!  To help celebrate, here’s a clip from 1993’s “Falling Down”. “Falling Down” (1993) – Let go from his defense contract job and stuck on a Los Angeles roadway, William (Michael Douglas) leaves his…

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ lifts our spirits just enough

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” – When “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) reached theatres two years ago, sharks chewed over the head scratching decisions that found their way on screen.  Well, some sharks anyway, or at a minimum, this one. Director Rian Johnson’s venture into the iconic series took some strange, nonsensical turns. For instance, why did Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) sacrifice herself by ramming her ship into a First Order Star Destroyer, when about 50 droids onboard could have done the job instead? Why did Luke…

Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ vows to leave a mark

“Marriage Story” – “We were perfectly happy until we decided to live happily ever after.” – Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex in the City” “Marriage is compromise and hard work, and then more hard work and communication and compromise.  And then work.  Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” – Gillian Flynn If the weather doesn’t comply with your family’s proposed weekend plans, a most-reliable backup is always at your disposal:  start a pot of coffee, make some sandwiches, open a box of cookies, and reach into the hallway closet and pull…

‘Rojo’ is an unconventional, smoldering slow burn

“Rojo” – It’s 1975 in Argentina.  Looking back at history, but looking forward within writer/director Benjamin Naishtat’s film, a right-wing coup will overthrow Argentina’s President Isabel Peron in a move called the “National Reorganization Process” in March 1976. So, in 1975, the country’s politics are uncertain, but life still goes on.  Adults work.  Kids learn in school.  Families enjoy harmony and also fall into disagreements.  Households pay their mortgages. Couples go out to dinner. It’s a lovely early evening, and Claudio (Dario Grandinetti) – a prominent lawyer who everyone in…

Veterans Day double-feature that faces PTSD in the 21st century

In honor of our veterans, AHFW recommends two sobering films that may have slipped past you in the theatres.  These pictures cope with post-traumatic stress disorder in the 21st century, and they are both available on Amazon Prime. “Thank You for Your Service” (2017) – Three young Iraq War veterans and friends return home to Kansas, but realize that they carried invisible, cerebral scars back from the Middle East.  Director Jason Hall and actors Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, and Joe Cole raise PSTD awareness in 2017 with their grounded, heartbreaking…

‘Jojo Rabbit’ successfully walks a comedic and emotional tightrope

“Jojo Rabbit” –  Taika Waititi is an immensely talented and creative actor, writer and director, but he needs to add tightrope walker to his resume, because he pulls off an impossible balancing act with his new film “Jojo Rabbit”. Set in Germany during the last throes of WWII, Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), 10, is a devoted member of the Hitler Youth, but he discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl in their home, which throws his little fanatical mind for a loop. On the surface,…

‘The Lighthouse’ is a mesmerizing visual feast…and a rudderless waste of time

“The Lighthouse” – Robert Eggers’ follow-up to his eerie, creepy horror film “The Witch” (2015) (4/4 stars) is an equally eerie, creepy drama about two weathered men watching over a lonely lighthouse. There’s little doubt that this visual feast sets a disturbing tone, as “The Lighthouse” has an Ingmar Bergman-“Hour of the Wolf”-thing working greatly in its favor.  Filmed entirely in black and white and almost exclusively with a 1:1 aspect ratio (or very close to it), Eggers delivers a horrible sense of doom on a teeny, tiny island near…

Political Thriller Week: ‘Three Days of the Condor’

“Three Days of the Condor” – Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is a researcher at the American Literary Historical Society, which sounds like the most harmless job on the planet, next to elementary school librarian and feather duster.  Well, on an ordinary day, he leaves for lunch, and when he returns, everyone in the said place of work is dead.  He rightly assumes that he could be next. Oh, Turner, by the way, works for the CIA, and the historical society is simply a cover. Director Sydney Pollack keeps us guessing…

Political Thriller Week: ‘The Lives of Others’

“The Lives of Others” –  Despite popular belief, the U.S.A. does not corner the market on all political thrillers, and a perfect example is Germany’s absorbing and twisty “The Lives of Others”, which won the 2007 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The year is 1984, before the Berlin Wall came down, and not only do East Germans feel generally oppressed, but it’s not safe for them to converse freely in the comfort of their homes either.  The government could be listening. This is exactly what playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch)…