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American Chaos

A heartfelt but scattershot documentary that tries to get inside the mind of Donald Trump's America, but mainly succeeds as a snapshot of the 2016…

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The Predator

With a fantastic cast and razor-sharp pacing, the fact is that this is what you want from a movie called The Predator.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Contributors

Jana Monji

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, Examiner.com and the Pasadena Weekly. Currently living in LA, she has found her inner Latina dancing Argentine tango. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

A beauty pageant Gloria Steinem would love

May Contain Spoilers
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Women's History month is just the right time to watch, "Miss Navajo," a documentary that premiered at Sundance in 2007 and was broadcast on PBS the same year. The title alone may turn people away if you are, like me, not a big fan of beauty pageants but Miss Navajo is the kind of pageant that perhaps even Gloria Steinem could get behind.

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A little black dress makes the world go round

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With the passing of Andy Williams, I keep imagining his golden tenor singing Henry Mancini's "Moon River." The song talks about crossing life in style. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is all about fashionable cafe society and love; in an adult fairy tale, you can have both even if you are two drifters.

The director Gregory Nava once commented, "Whenever any question of style or taste in dress comes up, I simply ask myself, 'What would Fred Astaire have done?'" Audrey Hepburn is Astaire's female equivalent: sophistication mixed with fizzy fun.

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Nostalgia for the Light

You can watch the full video of "Nostalgia for the Light" (2012) on the PBS POV website until January 23, 2013. Also available to watch instantly on Netflix.

The desert light in the daytime is sharp and destructive, slowly blinding you as you age. I grew up in what had been a desert, and that taught me to love the night, yet I never looked up to contemplate the stars. Perhaps if I had I would have learned to love the desert as Patricio Guzmán.

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Third Star

May Contain Spoilers

I clearly remember the first day of our only family vacation while my father was alive. My father was wearing a dapper boater "Can Can" straw hat, but the window was left too far down and it soon swooshed off my father's head and was gaily rolling down the highway. On that particular day, he knew he was dying and that is the reason for our journey. I thought of my father while watching "Third Star," a touching independent movie about four male friends taking a journey to a remote Welsh beach. The film's narrator, James (Benedict Cumberbatch), has an unnamed terminal cancer. My father didn't die of cancer, but he was bit of a dandy and always wore a hat, usually one more like the fedora Cumberbatch's James sports at times in this movie.

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Hostages to honor

The Kobayashi movie "Harakiri" is available on Hulu and Netflix. Miike's "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai" is available on Amazon.com.

In this remake of the 1962 Masaki Kobayashi movie known as "Harakiri" in America, but "Seppuku" in Japan, Takashi Miike considers the value of one life or "Ichimei." (一命 Ichimei). In the U.S., the film is also re-named "Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai."

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Bachelorette: Invasion of the b-face girls

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"Bachelorette" opens in theaters September 7, and is available on demand via iTunes, Amazon.com, Vudu.com and Google Play.

By Jana Regan Monji

In this reality-TV ruled world, the word bachelorette seems firmly attached to the legacy of Trista Rehn and the female spin-off of a competitive dating game. Yet in writer/director Leslye Headland's dark comedy, "Bachelorette," the subject isn't the tricks and lines men use in the warfare of love but how three women deal with being on the downside of not-married when the least conventionally attractive of their high school clique is preparing to walk down the aisle. This cocaine-fueled cattiness never rises above callow, although the acting talent is deeper than the script.

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With Great Power: Stan Lee, superhero

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"With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story" is available on-demand at Netflix.com, Amazon.com, iTunes, EpixHD.com and Vudu.com. Stan Lee will be attending a special screening of "With Great Power" at the Stan Lee Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles on September 15, 2012.

By Jana Spider-Woman Hulk Daredevil Wonder Woman Beast Monji

The title, "With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story," is a tip off, but if the only Uncle Ben you know is a nattily dressed black gentleman who sells conveniently packaged rice, then Stan Lee wants to invite you to his Marvel universe. This is the world where Uncle Ben adopted his orphaned nephew who would be bitten by a radioactive spider in high school. That sullen, selfish teen would soon find that the bite of karma can be transformational and he becomes a super hero with an attitude: Spider-Man.

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War of the Arrows: Deadly targets

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"War of the Arrows" is currently available on Netflix Instant, Vudu, iTunes and Blu-ray/DVD.

By Jana J. Monji

A sudden crush of movies is bringing the sport of archery back into the limelight, and the timing couldn't be better for the 2011 costume drama "War of the Arrows" from South Korea. This is like a Western movie damsel in distress scenario transported to 17th century Korea with archery instead of gun sharpshooting. The good guys don't wear white hats, but you'll easily be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys in this morality tale.

European tradition has William Tell and Robin Hood to tantalize young boys into archery. In America, if children still play cowboys and injuns, then one supposes that the Native Americans still use bows, but that's usually just the braves according to old stereotypes that places the squaws in the wigwams. More recently, we've had "The Avengers" with Clinton Barton's Hawkeye.

For girls, "The Hunger Games" have given us an alternative reality with arrow-slinging Katniss who like Annie Oakley learned to shoot in order to feed her family. Disney's newest princess, Merida in "Brave," performs archery on horseback. Has there ever been a better time for archery?

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