MOVIE REVIEW: The Circle

100% of you right now are reading this review via the internet on either a computer or a mobile device.  Like it or not, you and I leave digital footprints everywhere we go.  The new pseudo-dystopian thriller “The Circle” incites the over-obvious social media and data-mining fears of our present surveillance society of sharing and shines them up into a shiny and engrossing yarn of mainstream entertainment.  Fiction or not, it’s the kind of film that may or may not irk you enough to take that Facebook sabbatical you keep saying you’ll do.

MOVIE REVIEW: Sand Castle

Wars transform the soldiers that participate in them.  Men and women in combat can be broken down, built up, or both in positive and negative ways.  Because the young tend to serve, their stories, and the films that tell them, can mirror a late-term version of the “coming-of-age” archetype.  The fingerprints of forced maturity appear all over the likes of “The Deer Hunter,” “Platoon,” “Jarhead,” and dozens of other films.  In all honesty, the trope is overused and over-familiar and that’s the first mistake of “Sand Castle.”

MOVIE REVIEW: The Sex Addict

“The Sex Addict” is tailor-made to serve comedy fans that soak up humor akin to “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”  The humor is naturally vulgar and dark, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  The crowd that will be repulsed can be replaced by those rolling on the floor laughing.  “The Sex Addict” is a ways away from the supreme mockumentary exemplars of Christopher Guest, but that’s the perfect plane for Amir Mo and company to aspire to.

DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Faith in the Big House

No matter what faith (or absence of faith) you carry into this film’s experience, you will respect the positive efforts of the real-life ministries featured in “Faith in the Big House.”  Lives are changed before your eyes and it’s not all Bible-thumping.  To that end, it is wholly refreshing to observe a Christian point-of-view that holds its peers of different denominations and, more importantly, itself strictly accountable for this kind of communal service.

MEDIA APPEARANCE: "Feelin' Film" Summer Movie Challenge

Aaron White and Patrick Hicks, the podcasters of Feelin' Film, have invited me to join a box office throwdown.  As the eventual winner, they don't know what hit them.  Joined by fellow Feelin' Film contributor, Steve Clifton of Popcorn Confessional, the four of us are aiming to predict which summer movies will rake at the box office in the second annual Feelin' Film Summer Movie Challenge.  

MOVIE REVIEW: The Lost City of Z

The most crucial dramatic trait for films about exploration is a drawing a strong reaction to the unknown from the audience.  Whether it’s a historical story or a fantastical one of fiction, the film has to evoke awe, be that stirring swells of inspiration or jarring feelings of danger.  It has to move you, not bore you.  If a film can’t achieve that quickened pulse or heavy heart, it’s little better than a travelogue on cable television or a curriculum video they show soon-to-be-bored high school students in Social Studies class.

MOVIE REVIEW: Free Fire

I don't know about you, but I get a kick out of bad gunshot wound acting in all ages of films.  It’s either hilariously drawn out with overacting or it’s unrealistically rapid in fatality.  The brutal facts of getting shot enough to cause death rarely check out in the movies.  That never stops filmmakers from trying new and creative ways to shoot people with varying degrees of entertainment success.  “Free Fire” is one such film daring to blast anything and everything with ammunition encased with twisted zeal.

GUEST CRITIC #22: The Fate of the Furious

Between us two busy Chicago film critics and working fathers, Emmanuel and I are orchestrating a trade of "guest reviews" for each other's sites.  I was swamped last week and I was unable to see "The Fate of the Furious."  He missed Chris Evans' vehicle "Gifted."  My review of that will go on his site and his review of vehicular mayhem arrives right here:

MEDIA APPEARANCE: Minisode #18 on "Feelin' Film"

"Colossal" is every bit a monster movie, but it’s not the monster movie you expect. Yours truly joins Feelin' Film host Aaron White to discuss the various genres that this film creatively blends together and to talk through some of its deeper themes.

MOVIE REVIEW: Mine

Isolated survival films have an immense draw.  Our self-preservation instincts kick in and we, as the audience, cannot help but hypothetically put ourselves in the same conundrum as the main character.  Often these films delve into the preciousness of the life and dabble in the “what does it all mean” direction to pull even more thought and emotion.  A few metaphors dipped in symbolism make for nice touches.  Regrettably, the peril grinder of “Mine” pounds its not-so-thinly-veiled metaphors repeatedly and insufferably into the ground.

MOVIE REVIEW: Colossal

To come right out and say it, this is more than a monster movie, and you will relish seeing why.  To that degree, so little about “Colossal” is conventional, an appealing and commendable trait in today’s movie landscape.  Satire and dark comedy do more damage than any kaiju stomping cities.  Vigalondo and company are aiming for creative perversion and subversion of multiple genres.  Peculiarity rules over spectacle with minimal loss of entertainment.

MOVIE REVIEW: Win It All

Dare I say it, I think Joe Swanberg has turned a corner with “Win It All,” a new release available on Netflix.  Coherency has been the bane of mumblecore’s existence and, for at least one film, the celebrated Chicago filmmaker has found the right palatable proportions of his craft.  With “Win It All,” Swanberg stays true to the naturalistic everyday settings and improvisational dialogue that he thrives on and thankfully applies them to tighter narrative structure.

MOVIE REVIEW: Gifted

Aside from any cinematic cliches present, there is an exemplary central message the new film “Gifted” gets utterly and perfectly right in both its actions and its words.  As an elementary school educator, it is one I equally and personally champion every single day.  The notion is worth leading with one of this website’s signature life lessons: LET KIDS BE KIDS

MOVIE REVIEW: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Being “in the dark” is a savory place to be for a film like this.  Keenly and decisively, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” carries a nearly strict reliance on suggestion and atmosphere over exploitation.  For that, Perkins and company get it and do not need a “throwback” label to prove it.  They know that our mental guessing is always more frightening than showing every little thing.

MOVIE REVIEW: Landline

If the Windy City can show us anything, it’s that die-hard Chicago Cub fans come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.  More so, fans come from different walks of life, waving flags of different colors, including, best of all, the rainbow-colored variety.  “Landline,” from local do-it-all filmmaker Matthew Aaron, is a fun-loving LGBTQ+ comedy merging ardent North Siders with snappy musings on our societal obsessions with technology, all in proximity to the heavenly palace that is Wrigley Field.

MOVIE REVIEW: Life

You’ve seen bits and pieces of this human buffet and interstellar peril before in the likes of superior films like “Alien,” “Gravity,” and more.  To its credit, the dour tone frames “Life” as a straight-shooting creature feature trading camp for tension and thrills, plenty of which elicit sly pleasures.  Nonetheless, what separates the spectacular from the mediocre in this science fiction subgenre is the monster and the creative uses by which it is employed.  This one goes derivative.

MOVIE REVIEW: T2 Trainspotting

To everyone who has seen “Trainspotting,” let’s ask the most obvious question right up front.  How are these characters still alive?!  One drub rehab website tells me rampant heroin addicts like “Rent Boy,” “Spud,” “Sick Boy,” and “Franco” should be dead by now.  Not a chance of that in “T2 Trainspotting” with those tough bastards.  Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle brings us back to our favorite non-gentrified parts of Edinburgh for a spirited sequel to his landmark sophomore feature.

SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Debt

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Short Program II

Kids not only say the darndest things, but do the darndest things too.  “The Debt” is a highly charming short film illustrating a child’s view of courtship and love.  The romantic ways of the world are foreign to the young, so they make up their own ideas.  Engaging and well-acted by youth performers, this short film will charm you to pieces.