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.

 

SHORT FILM REVIEW: More Than a Barbershop

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program II

In the world of poker, they say all you need is a chip and a chair to play and be a factor.  For a musician, all you need is a time and a place.  Your voice and instruments can do the rest.  Not every concert needs to be in front of hundreds or thousands of adoring fans powered by a stadium’s worth of light and speakers.  A singer and a microphone can fit just about anywhere.  Well, how about a barbershop, and not the quartet variety?

 

SHORT FILM REVIEW: Blackbird

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program I

Diverting from the other short films in this program at the Chicago Irish Film Festival, “Blackbird” leans to the existential and experimental.  The abstract feel and weighty themes are in place to knock one’s socks off.  However, in an ironic fashion, this is a short film that feels too short.

MOVIE REVIEW: Lift

Six very different people are stuck in an elevator, or “lift” if you will, as it is called across the Atlantic in Dublin.  One of the occupants just beat lumps into a security guard and the rest are stuck fearing for their safety.  This isn’t the most ideal place to find comedy, yet “Lift” fires a few quips at the expense of this predicament.

EDITORIAL: The 10 best Italian-themed films

As an equal opportunity movie writer and fan, I would be negligent and remissed if I didn't show my friends of Italian ancestry the same love I did just week for my fellow Irish-Americans.  For those who don't know, today, just two days after St. Patrick's Day, is the Feast of St. Joseph, or St. Joseph's Day.  This list is a refresh of an editorial list I made five years ago.  To my Italian-American readers and friends, take in this list of muddled stereotypes and relish in what the American audience thinks of you and your heritage.

EDITORIAL: The 10 best Irish-themed films

I felt obligated to update an editorial list I made five years ago in 2012 of the best Irish-themed movies in time for celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  It was due for a dusting with two new additions.  For this list, I opened the field to either movies set in Ireland or those that feature notable Irish characters or stories outside of the Emerald Isle.  That possibilities spanned movies both foreign and domestic.  Pour the Guinness, heat the corned beef, and enjoy my list of the 10 best Irish-themed movies!

MOVIE REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast

Bill Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast” stands firmly on its own merit.  True to Disney’s recent trajectory, its goal is to “reimagine” a previous animated classic into the live-action medium for a new era and audience.  Unlike the recent treatments of "Cinderella" and "Malificent," this "Beauty and the Beast" stays a full-blown musical.  Imitation, emulation, and homage are all part of that process, but so is reappraisal and reinterpretation.  Those later two actions are what drive this new fantasy film to soaring and successful heights.

MEDIA APPEARANCE: Minisode #16 on "Feelin' Film"

This week, I joined host Aaron White on the "Feelin' Film" podcast channel for a Minisode on "Kong: Skull Island."  Mr. White was just pimped with full press credentials this past week in the Seattle market and we were both lucky to see "Kong: Skull Island" early.  Listen for a lively and free discussion about the return of Kong to the big screen.

MOVIE REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island

“Kong: Skull Island” taps into the same definition of “spectacle” that applies to “Jurassic World” nearly two years ago.  This ain’t your old “King Kong.”  This is “go big or go home.”  If you’re looking for the version steeped in awe and wonder, go watch the 1933 original.  To expand the original’s wonderment with the best of today’s special effects, go watch Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake.  If you want a rip-roaring roller coaster with no strings, rules, or heavy gravitas attached, you’ve come to the right place in 2017.

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out

To come right to the point, “Get Out” is an 104-minute living embodiment of a slow-burning WTF moment that just keeps growing with every new detail.  And it’s glorious for being that very thing.  More psychological thriller than the spattered horror it’s being billed to be, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is subversively edgy and devilishly clever.

MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "CinemaJaw" podcast

This past week, I was honored to be a guest on the CinemaJaw podcast, hosted by Matt K. and "Ry the Movie Guy" and ran by the "Best in the Biz."  Since 2009, the Chicago-based trio of Matt Kubinski, Ryan Jagiello, and engineer Eliaz Gonzalez have put together one of the best and entertaining movie podcasts in this or any city.  I'm a big fan of their work and you should be too.  

SHORT FILM REVIEW: Incoming Call

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

“Incoming Call” has a dynamite premise that would make for a fascinating nugget of science fiction.  The possible latitude one could take with the idea of warning the past about the future is endless. This film keenly distills and scales that down to microcosm level of a single person and the matter of picking up the phone.

SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Apparel

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

Director Peter Delaney and writer Daniel Mooney flesh out miniature character study with decent results.  Andrew Bennett gives a very solid performance to construct numerous shades of character within Joe.  He is a man that is losing touch with his comfort zone.  We never fully know his issues and we shouldn’t have to.

SHORT FILM REVIEW: First Kiss

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

As it plays out its thirteen minutes, “First Kiss” is hilarious and charming in its tidy simplicity.  Written by Fitzpatrick himself and directed by Patrick O’Shea, the short film generates the right amplitude of sparks cooled by the right temperament of sweetness.

MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "Feelin' Film" post-Oscars podcast

One of the perks of becoming a regular blogging contributor on a podcast site is getting the occasional chance to appear on the actual podcast.  Aaron White, one of the hosts of "Feelin' Film," connected time zones to bring myself and Popcorn Confessional critic Steve Clifton together for an extended post-Oscar wrap-up show.  Listen to our reactions, rants, loves, and heartbreaks to both the 89th Academy Awards and the website's first annual "Feeler's Choice Awards."

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