MOVIE REVIEW: Paddington 2

Brimming with cinematic and family-themed amusement and timeless with the effectiveness of that lead lesson no matter the audience, Paddington 2 is an genuine delight on multiple levels.  With the origin story out of the way, the sequel expands and improves on the cheeky magic of its 2014 predecessor to dive into greater merriment, adventure, and emotional satisfaction.  Add this on the short list of sequels that are better than their predecessors.  

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SPECIAL: Winners of the second annual CIFCC Awards!

The 26 film critics, myself included, and voting members of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle completed their final ballots in 21 categories for their second annual CIFCC Awards. Leading all films with four awards is Get Out from Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions, including three awards for Jordan Peele and his many hats.  A24 and Focus Feature’s Lady Bird from director Greta Gerwig follows with three wins, including Best Independent Film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Hostiles

Scoot Cooper’s grizzled western Hostiles opens with a quote from novelist D.H. Lawrence that reads: "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.  It has never yet melted.” Those four adjectives and labels assigned by the English writer ring true for the late 19th century historical era he observed and also for the film itself you will watch.  Each of those traits are embedded within Cooper’s difficult and impressive film.

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COLUMN: New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry in 2018

Plenty of regular everyday people make New Year's Resolutions, but I think bigger entities, namely movie makers and movie moguls, need to make them too.  Annually, including this seventh edition, this is my absolute favorite editorial to write every year.  I have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change.  You would hope Hollywood would learn from those lessons going forward.  Alas, here we go again!  Enjoy!

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COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2017

The end of the year brings grading and reflection points for both the school teacher in me and the film critic.  Looking at the online Trapper Keeper portfolio called Every Movie has a Lesson, I published 126 full film reviews in 2017, topping last year’s 114 and setting a new high mark.  Here’s my definitive list of the "10 Best" films of 2017.  True to this website’s specialty, each film will be paired with its best life lesson.  Enjoy!

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MOVIE REVIEW: I, Tonya

For anyone who thinks Suicide Squad star and The Wolf of Wall Street vamp Margot Robbie is just a hot bod and a pretty face, watch I, Tonya.  The 27-year-old Aussie’s ferocious and zealous performance riding the peaks and valleys of disgraced former champion figure skater Tonya Harding will erase those old notions centered solely on attractiveness.  Brimming with depravity and teaming with talent, I, Tonya may be the brashest film you will see seen this year

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MOVIE REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name

No matter the charm and beauty, what can be questioned is the connection.  Circle all of the emotionality back to the opening essential questions.  Your tolerance is the key to connecting to Call Me By Your Name.  Your comfort level for the homoerotic summer romance being woven and your acceptance of the controversial age difference within this narrative are everything.  Either of those two qualities could be easily ignored obstacles for some or a no-go hang-ups for others

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MOVIE REVIEW: Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is a exquisite film of elevated aesthetics that drape over a scintillating story of tumultuous potential discord.  There is infinite richness within the despair, spun by Daniel Day-Lewis re-teaming with his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson, as the fictional 1950s tailor of status.  Mundane in some moments and mysterious in others, the sum of the literal and figurative details within the stitches and seams of this film make it one of the year’s best.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Downsizing

The pairing of Matt Damon and writer/director Alexander Payne should have been a match made in heaven on paper to bring out the comedy side of Damon we seem to only see in snippets anymore or late night comedy bits.  Crumble up that paper, dip it in gasoline, and light it on fire.  By golly, if Matt Damon wasn’t Matt Damon Downsizing would be bad enough to sink a lesser star’s career.  It is the worst film of his disastrous 2017 trio.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: All the Money in the World

Director Ridley Scott borrowed a torn recipe page from headline history with the intention of presenting a five-course narrative meal.  The executive chef had to change out a key dish at the last minute before plating only to arrive at an even better cinematic dining experience than one thought possible.  All the Money in the World delivers on the promise of scintillating and satisfying tension in every bite and one of the most delicious portions of big-screen villainy this year.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Playing catch-up on December awards contenders

Though the day job work was no longer in the way, good times with family and friends was the better thing to do than lock myself in a room on a laptop and write.  Three of these films are cracking my Top 20 of 2017 and possibly even my final “10 Best” list.  A year-end bang like that deserves to be talked about, and I couldn’t keep sitting on them without getting something out to you.  To get the good word out there, here are some quick hot take capsules of the films with full reviews in the works.

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COLUMN: The 10 best sports betting films

For an elevated feeling, combine the buzz of a gambling win with the real-life thrill of victory that comes from spectator sports.  Betting on sports is like double the juice when you combine fandom with fun.  Over in the arena of movies, my specialty, sports betting has been a popular plot point within the genre of gambling movies.  Here’s my list of the top ten best sports betting films, peppered with little salutes and recommendations.

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SPECIAL: Fan ballot for the second annual CIFCC Awards

The ballot nominations have been tallied and here are the finalists in every category.  Our 25 critics will be voting on these awards between December 24-30.  If you were in our shoes, who would you pick? The Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle has opened up a FAN BALLOT on Google Forms found here in this post.

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SPECIAL: Second annual CIFCC Awards nominations

Capping off their second year as a recognized awards-voting body, the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, a group which I helped found and participate as a proud member, has announced their nominees for the second annual CIFCC Awards.  The 26 voting members completed ballots with the goal of three final nominees in 21 categories.  They will commence a final round of voting ending on December 29, 2017 with winners announced on December 30, 2017.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Post

The Post feels like Spielberg painting by numbers, continuing a bit of a downward trend for the filmmaker.  This was accomplished because it was easy, didn’t require a rush, and still cost a sizable $50 million, not because a director was shedding trappings to do a rough and raw film.  The Post is a highly polished quality story gift-wrapped to Spielberg and completed with a precision that is pleasing and purposeful.  It is effective, but not affecting or truly but not truly demanding for a director, ensemble, and creative team of this caliber.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "E-Man's Movie Reviews" podcast for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Minutes after stepping out of an advance press screening of the most-anticipated movie of the year, Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man's Movie Reviews summoned his recording equipment and a brake-pumping exhale session for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  The SPOILER ALERT neon light is on for the two of us breaking down our impressions, reservations, likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams for this middle chapter of a new trilogy.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the 100th "Kicking the Seat" podcast of 2017 talking "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

For the second time in a month, the hard-working host of the "Kicking the Seat" podcast, Ian Simmons, invited Every Movie Has a Lesson to join the barstool daius for his 100th show of 2017.  Fitting for the milestone century number is the central film of the discussion: Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Ian was joined by his regular partner-in-crime David J. Fowlie of Keeping it Reel and Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man's Movie Reviews.  The four us go deeply into SPOILERS, so buyer beware. 

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INFOGRAPHIC: Updated cinematic rights to Marvel Comic characters

The brand new Disney/Fox merger looms large in the business of Hollywood.  There's a great deal of big ugly implications, but there are some nice developments that come out of it as well.  One of those is more Marvel Comics characters coming under the Marvel Studios umbrella at Disney.  Suitably, they belong together and the new possibilities of team-ups and crossovers are mouth-watering and eye-popping.

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