Posts in Independent Film
MOVIE REVIEW: The Farewell

Even with this divisive indigenous practice happening to challenge the sensitivity of audiences, the universal human condition feels are extremely strong in one of the most entertaining and freeing film experiences of recent memory. The writer and director herself attests there is “not a wrong moment to laugh.” Lulu Wang is right. The catharsis, the grief, or both are intensely relatable. With that humorous dread and paralyzing poise, this distinct film carries poignant spirit. There is room in any season for an unexpected film to surround and heal one’s self in the difficult or awkward stakes of familial love and loss.

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As busy I get from time to time, I find that I can't see every movie under the sun, leaving my friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks for me.  As poetically as I think I wax about movies on this website as a wannabe critic, there are other experts out there.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle's go-to movie guy.  In a new review series, I'm opening my site to friend submissions for guest movie reviews. Today, meet fellow Feelin’ Film contributor Jeremy Calcara!

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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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MOVIE REVIEW: Extra Innings

The expression “heart in the right place” is normally used as a smallish complement to counteract some obvious flaw or as a baseline pleasantry when something does not achieve its goal fully. Albert Dabah’s intensely personal independent film Extra Innings carries that expression with neither of those dismissive caveats. Its heart is indeed in the right place, with that position being right next to its soul. That soul is wearing cleats, a ball cap, a weathered glove, and a stirrup-ed uniform patrolling the grasses of center field on a baseball diamond on a sunny summer day.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on July 8, 2019

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION: What is the best ever horror performance and how did it leverage the genre to accomplish something that might not have been possible in a more grounded type of film?

Horror is not my cup of tea, coffee, cocktail, or even water, and I didn’t see Midsommar which inspired this week’s survey question, but I have dipped my toe in enough good and classic horror to pick out a great performance or two. I’ve seen no one unravel under the fictional stresses better than Mia Farrow in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

The light produced by this documentary matches the inspirational shine of the subject herself. Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable is an admirable and impressive chronicle of its sunlit sporting world of “calculated chaos.” Over and over, with every step she takes forward as a woman and as a competitor, Bethany Hamilton remains undefined by the famous shark attack incident that claimed her left arm. Instead, her actions and stature make her the pillar very worth celebrating.

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Tattooed on the right forearm of Jessie Buckley’s Rose-Lynn Harlan character from Tom Harper’s Wild Rose is the phrase “three chords and the truth.” It is an homage (and clear naming inspiration) to the quintessential description and motto of country music coined by 1950s era songwriter Harlan Howard. In spite of that mainstream majority, we’ve got a girl from Glasgow, Scotland behind bars with those historic words permanently etched into her skin. Foreign soil be damned, the honesty and harmony of hardscrabble is alive and well in Wild Rose. Shouts of anger and tirades of tears fuel the fights and the vocals churning from Jessie Buckley in what will stand as one of the finest performances of the year.

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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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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on June 25, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: With 2019 almost half-over, what is the best movie performance of the year so far?

With June soon swooning to July, critics will start making their halfway and “so far” lists of films and performances. David Ehrlich put performances on the table to measure for this week’s survey and an outstanding list was built. I love the selection of Lupita Nyong’o from Us. She would be my 1A choice, but I was wowed this weekend by Ann Lupo in a little movie call In Reality which just won the top award of the debut Rom Com Fest in Los Angeles. Give this week’s survey a look.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on June 18, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Best animation studio. Ghibli or Pixar. Pick one and only one and why.

Full disclosure: I’ve never seen a Studio Ghibli film, but I know their reputation and impact. I know what they stand for and how much they have inspired other creators, including the fine folks at Pixar. With Pixar settling too often for sequels lately (and this was before Toy Story 4), I feel like a small measure of their quality and importance has faded or shrunk a little. I voted on principle in the blind to what I felt was more important.

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The opening credits of Starfish may drop the “based on a true story” prompt, but every moment of this twisty science fiction slow boiler feels like the filmed account of a racing mind. Rather than dwelling on footholds to societal norms, isolation reigns here, with all of the flutters, visions, shifts, daydreams, and nightmares possible. Dangling the mysteries of the fallout from an off-screen cataclysmic event, the mental maelstrom of Starfish is eerie, imaginative, and highly impactful.

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Here in June, our 2019 calendar has reached the peak of the annual wedding season. Some love it. Some hate it. Some are even participating. No matter where you sit, it’s a roller coaster for all ages. The traditions of nuptials and romantic comedies are keenly and boisterously observed and challenged by Plus One, the feature film debut of the writing and directing team of Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer that premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Every moment to cringe and every moment to cherish swirl together with very appealing zest. Plus One plays locally in the Chicagoland area exclusively at the AMC Barrington 24 location starting on June 14th.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on June 10, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the best movie ever about TV?

This week’s pick for me was an instant no-brainer. Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece satire has evolved from being a sarcastic time capsule to a modern-day cautionary tale we’re nearly living. I do have to love these other picks included this week and I most especially need to clear out that blind spot for Broadcast News. Summer break can’t get her soon enough.

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In the provocative short film How Does it Start, a young teen girl in 1983 named Rain, played by Lola Wayne Villa, has been introduced to topic of sex without such positive elder counsel. The wheels have turned. The curiosities have sparked. The peers have stoked the fire. The triggers have all gone off and this girl wants the mystery of what has been made out to be so taboo and important to growing up as a real woman.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on June 3, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the best movie cameo ever?

Keanu Reeves just got done dropping jaws and metaphysical truths in Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe this past weekend. It got David Ehrlich to wonder was was the best cameo ever. I was heartset on Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross, but he’s technically a billed member of the cast. After that, it came down to Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder or Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction. You can read my pick and criteria below from the survey article. Many great picks from the other critics boost the list!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe

Far rarer than they used to be twenty-plus years ago, easy and breezy flicks like Always Be My Maybe from Netflix remind us the traditional romantic comedy is alive and well. Best of all, the nostalgia present in today’s artists from growing up during that 1990s heyday are now making their own movies with their own lens. Smash hit stand-up comedienne Ali Wong and the ever-affable Randall Park of Fresh Off the Boat fame are clearly two of those people. Affectionately blending their own societal zest from their place in America’s Melting Pot, Wong and Park bring new voices as a genius comic pairing. Much of the method of Always Be My Maybe may be routine, but the resulting charm is unfailingly welcome.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on May 28, 2019

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: What is the worst movie ever and why?

Not too many critics are taking too kindly to Disney re-imagined Aladdin. I see the appeal, but it’s far from a great remake. That said, it’s far from the worst too. By golly, have there been some stinkers. This week’s IndieWire critics survey from David Ehrlich polled for the ugliest of the ugly and got ten selections. For the second survey in a row, I went to the 1990s, this time for Gus Van Sant’’s reviled Psycho remake. Misguided isn’t even the beginning of it. Any other choice here was going to be a distant second for me.

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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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