Posts in Film Festival
SHORT FILM REVIEW: A Bad Feeling

Star Wars fans will quickly have their sensors triggered when they note the title of this short film from Charlotte Barrett and Sean Fallon. It is a nod to a running gag that is said as often in Star Wars films as the classic line “May the Force be with you.” The phrase alludes to a character’s audible dread and the heebie-jeebies warning of something awful, visible or invisible, on their horizon. The characters in those movie moments say it and mean it. In A Bad Feeling, the husband and wife central figures know their trouble, entirely feel it, but don’t announce their fears when they should.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the first ever Rom Com Fest

Founded by entrepreneur and romantic comedy connoisseur Miraya Berke, the goal is celebrating the joy to be had and the art on display in this undervalued film genre. I think this is a smashing idea for a festival and I jumped at the chance to offer some remote coverage for its five-film competition slate. Compiled below are my capsule reviews for the movies I viewed in order from highest to lowest recommendation:

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival began May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre.  Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival in the country curated by film critics. For the third year in a row, Every Movie Has a Lesson will be credentialed to cover this fine spread of movie offerings.  Ranked in order of recommendation, here are my capsule reviews. Full pieces coming later when the respective films have their proper release:

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SPECIAL: Previewing the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

For the seventh consecutive year, many of the best domestic and international films on the festival circuit come to Chicago thanks to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival opens May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre in the northside Lakeview neighborhood. Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival curated by film critics in the nation. This year, 25 feature films and two short film programs comprise their rich and ambitious offering slate

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MOVIE REVIEW: Vice

With more dismissive scowls than joking winks, thinly veiled outrage outweighs the drink-clinking humor in Adam McKay’s film presenting a biography of one of the least favored men in American political history. Hazy in some moments, hasty in others, and always provocative, Vice is easily the most polarizing film of the year. The movie is not unlike Cheney’s own aim with a shotgun, hitting and missing plenty with occasional collateral damage.

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MOVIE REVIEW: When Jeff Tried to Save the World

Not only has writer-director Kendall Goldberg fleshed out this excellent main character, she guides it through this plot with a matching sense imagination and earnestness. The nuances win in a story where heart and pragmatic approachability outshine any need for shock value and raunch. The smart and spot-on tonal mix of such simplicities deserve to be appreciated.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Roma

That unfortunate fate could not be farther away from a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. For all of those possible extrapolations of commitment and dedication taking place within the craft of filmmaking, you may never, not this year and maybe several more after, see a more intimate artistic expression than this powerful and personal film. To the man making Roma, this film is special. To those viewing it, this film is important. To the art it serves, this film could be a potential masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Guilty

Played in nearly real-time, The Guilty jolts the audience with the fits and spurts of the received and dropped calls. Some are dangled snippets and others linger with impact. Their rising and falling tensions are shrewdly and sharply written by director Gustav Möller and TV writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen. Their unforgiving suspense create an engrossing and choking mood of unknown and mounting dread. The Guilty is as smooth and taut of a 85-minute feature as you’ll see, no matter the language.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Widows

Kicking something flaky and flimsy like Ocean’s 8 to the curb, the Shame and 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner has assembled a dauntless ensemble cast lead by dynamic females. Rooted in the thinly and sinfully fabricated dermal and subcutaneous layers of Chicago, Widows wields an effeminate brawn and sly intelligence working to stoke a masterful slow burn. The film’s bold gravity constricts us wonderfully for one of the most visceral crime films of recent memory and one of the best films of 2018.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Silencio

Within in the 98 minutes of Silencio, this little dual-language flick accomplishes what few high concept indie films have been able to achieve with their wildly audacious ideas. It builds a bridge, not a wide and sturdy one, mind you, but a successful structure nonetheless, from the nonsensical to the profound. That is a normally a huge canyon of belief and consideration to cross.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 54th Chicago International Film Festival

For the fifth year in a row and the fourth with press credentials, I am proud to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com to cover the ambitious slate. No single critic can see it all, but I’ll take my swings to find some buried treasure and films to explore when they come to your city or streaming platforms at home down the road. Here below are my collected capsule reviews from the 54th Chicago International Film Festival, ranked in order of highest to lowest recommendation.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Beautiful Boy

This is not your typical feel-good factory product. Beautiful Boy is bracingly honest with its turns and barriers built by emotional whallup. The remarkable performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet deserve the credit for that impact, fashioning a touchingly stout drama that is braver than most films on the subject. One of the best films you will ever see examining the breadth of drug addiction

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MOVIE REVIEW: Loving Pablo

The overarching challenge remains making romance out of a villain, enough to soften the depravity of the historical truth. Matching Vallejo’s own findings, Loving Pablo defines that Escobar’s darkness cannot be diluted, making much of this film a difficult and treacherous viewing experience. To its great credit, the merciless edge of Loving Pablo rejects forced cinematic sugar-coating overused in other crime films to romanticize its leviathans.

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MOVIE REVIEW: First Man

Unlike the popular space race films that have come before it, not a millisecond of First Man feels like typical hero worship celebrating astronaut and aeronautical engineer Neil Armstrong.  The music or soundtrack doesn't announce his entrances or achievements. The camera doesn't bathe Armstrong in light and genuflect in his presence to make him seem larger than he really is.  What is not trumpeted as heaps of grandiose praise by Academy Award-winning La La Land director Damien Chazelle is instead honed into a poignant and resolute testament of honor.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Star is Born

Cooper simmers with swagger before Gaga’s vocal force boils the cauldron over, taking everything to another level.  Songs emerge and what was cauterized by charged passion is now frozen in alluring amazement of the talent on display.  With this fourth version of A Star is Born, you will find yourself captivated watching the expressive performances, both sung and unsung, no matter if it is for an audience of thousands or just merely one.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Sisters Brothers

From “spaghetti,” “meat pie” and “ostern” to “curry” and “charro,” there are reasons for the good ole’ U.S. of A. to feel jealous and intrigued to realize that some of the best westerns being made today are coming from foreign directors and sources. After The Salvation, look no further than The Sisters Brothers from French director Jacques Audiard. Call it a “baguette,” “crepe,” or “foie gras” western, but the Rust and Bone and Dheepan filmmaker has genuflected to make a proper addition to this movie discipline.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blaze

 Serenading and soul-bearing for two stout hours, Ethan Hawke’s third directorial effort personifies the quintessential plight of the “starving artist.” Whether they carry a paintbrush or a guitar, these will-they-or-won’t-they tales stir hope and anticipation as nearly irresistible cinematic story material. Real or fictitious, we want to see the Vincent van Goghs, Llewyn Davises, and Blaze Foleys find success. Greater than rooting for an ending of stardom, there is whimsical power to be found in simply reaching emotional fulfillment.

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