PREVIEW: The third annual Irish American Movie Hooley

The Gene Siskel Film Center will host the third annual Irish American Movie Hooley from September 29-October 1st.  This year’s event is comprised of three feature films, two of which are directorial debuts, all of whom are making their Chicago premieres.   All screenings and events are at the Gene Siskel Film Center.  his very writer and website was both lucky and honored to cover this event last year and will again this year.  Stay tuned here for future capsule reviews and full reviews.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Stronger

Diametric to its title, the core of Stronger’s life after trauma chronicles a venerating angle applied to the “Boston Strong” nature with little melodrama.  This is director David Gordon Green’s best film to date, easily surpassing the fad success of Pineapple Express.  Stronger’s touching tone carries unmistakable courage and inspires an unshakeable stir of appreciation.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Battle of the Sexes

Reflecting on the past, Battle of the Sexes recounts a tremendously positive turning point in women’s sports.  Drawing parallels to the present, the film also stands tall as a pertinent message film where one can compare the amount of progress towards gender equality in 44 years.  Injecting earnest drama and profundity into the tried-and-true sports movie formula, directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have crafted a gratifying yarn packed with contagious enthusiasm.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "Underrated Podcast" loving on "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

Two fine gentlemen of strong opinions that I've conversed with and debated often through my participation over at the Feelin' Film Podcast are Gabriel Green and James Hamrick, the creators and hosts of the "Underrated Podcast."  Their aim is field listener and guest selections of films that fit the underrated billing reflected either by low box office results or low critical review aggregate scores.  My pick and our show's topic was Ben Stiller's 2012 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rebel in the Rye

As it has been outlined on this website before on films like Get On Up, biographical films have their formulas and rules.  In addressing the origins and rise to fame of reclusive author J.D. Salinger, Rebel in the Rye faces the familiar dramatization tightrope walk between sugarcoated hero worship and biting character study.  The creative choices made by Danny Strong, in his debut directorial effort, swirl between an engaging warm hug and an indifferent cold shoulder.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Brad's Status

For better or worse, Brad’s Status, speaks from a very insulated and ostentatious point of view, that of the taboo term of “white privilege.”  Even dramatized for soft realistic fiction, Mike White’s feature directorial debut tries to be a wakeup call of sorts.  The dramedy carries a message, a fair and good one mind you, but one that will, unfortunately, fall on multiple deaf ears.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Villainess

The opening number makes the single-take climax fight with Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde look like a box waltz lesson from an elementary school gym class.  The woman is the reckless assassin Sook-hee, played by Ok-bin Kim of Thirst, and the scene ends with a hint of a deranged smile of glee.  The Villainess spins with dynamic energy of wanton mayhem and operatic displays of graphic violence when the talking stops and confrontations begin.

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MOVIE REVIEW: mother!

There is extreme thematic and visceral content in mother! that will rattle even the toughest souls.  Metaphorical imagery and symbolism are everywhere, and the number of literal and figurative interpretations of what is implicitly or explicitly transpiring can kill as many brain cells as it multiplies.  The film begs endless questioning. Surviving and absorbing the film becomes a maddening experience.  In the end, what is evident to celebrate is also categorically impossible to fully condone.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Viceroy's House

The most superlative aspect of Viceroy’s House and its chronicle of national history for the countries of India and Pakistan is the personal passion behind the project.  Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice director Gurinder Chadha is the granddaughter of family displaced by the largest migration of people in recorded human history that occurred during the Partition of India of seventy years ago.  There is an undeniable core of importance and respect present in the film that shows the great care of Chadha and all involved.

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EDITORIAL: Movies and the 9/11 effect

UPDATED:  September 11, 2017 with updated and new movie inclusions (after original post on the 10th anniversary in 2011) and a new section of faded and relaxed sensitivity.  I plan to make this an annual post and study.

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GUEST CRITIC #25: It

Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews is an emerging film critic tackling both written and video reviews.  His YouTube channel is must-watch and automatic-subscribe material.  Emmanuel is one of the co-directors with me of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. Between us two busy Chicago critics and working fathers, Emmanuel and I are orchestrating a trade of "guest reviews" for each other's sites.  Horror is not my cup of tea and he was all over It.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "Page 2 Screen" podcast talking 20 years of "L.A. Confidential"

 I joined Jeff York recently as his guest for a special 20th-anniversary 35mm screening of 1997's Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential at the storied Music Box Theatre as part of the Noir City Chicago Festival.  As an added treat, author James Ellroy was in the house to kick things off with an expletive-laden bang.  After the screening, he and I hunkered down in Frio Gelato near the theatre to share our admiration and examination of Curtis Hanson's masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Crown Heights

Director Matt Ruskin’s Crown Heights presents a true story incarceration as it happened to an innocent man.  Just when you think two undue years awaiting trial are shameful enough, it turns into twenty over the course of four presidencies and 99 tidy minutes.  To tell the story of Colin Warner is to tell a story shared by too many thousands of other wrongfully incarcerated people within the U.S. prison system.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Other Place

Dashes of kink and horror mix within Lee Amir-Cohen to create moments of shock and heat shared with Amanda Maddox in the short film The Other Place.  The star, who also writes and directs this short, has crafted something creepily captivating in front of and behind the camera.  Contracted properly as a short film that leaves you wanting more, this shot glass of venom is a properly measured jolt.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis

In a terse 80 minutes, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis locks its suspenseful build and holds your attention.  Open-ended as it is, the film could have employed additional time to hammer its points home and offer a payoff.  However, it’s minimal surface and suddenness feels intentional to mirror the mysterious fates that befell so many people of this era.  Quietly powerful, the effect and feeling are convincing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Logan Lucky

The buzzing North Carolina public within the film Logan Lucky dub the central robbery a “hillbilly heist” and an “Ocean’s 7-11” perpetrated by “redneck robbers” and “Hee Haw heroes.”  With diegetic puns like those being thrown around, how could you not be entertained by Steven Soderbergh’s first feature film in four years?  It’s almost an invitation to pile on.  How does “clodhopper caper” sound?  What about “Podunk pilfering” or “backwoods buffoonery?”  I’ll settle for “hayseed hijinks.”  

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Glass Castle

Mulling over the many layers and events of Destin Daniel Cretton’s film adaptation of Jeanette Wells’ memoirs The Glass Castle, I keep coming back to the same essential question: "Who am I to judge someone else's life story or life choices?"  If the real Jeanette Wells is able to make peace with the events of her childhood, how can I, or anyone, tell her she's wrong?  The answer is we can’t (and shouldn’t) and that’s a hurdle not everyone has shown to be prepared for or able to separate from critique.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wind River

Through every snowflake and gunshot, Taylor Sheridan cuts to the marrow and keeps Wind River firmly on track with its layered stages of discovery.  Tighter than Hell or High Water and more humane than Sicario, this film creates a tone of toughness balanced adroitly by human realities occurring in a dangerous place with a different set of rules.  The end result is a highly engrossing mystery with the edge we have come to appreciate and admire from Sheridan.

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