MOVIE REVIEW: Marshall

Can you learn about a popular band by listening to their B-sides instead of their greatest hits?  Can you get a sense of the brilliance within a writer from their early drafts and not their published masterpieces?  Can you spot the traits of a future Hall of Fame sports legend solely by their work in college or the minor leagues before the professional ranks?  The answer to each is quite likely the same: sometimes, but not always.  Tally one in the sometimes column for  Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall and its biographical podium choice.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Florida Project

The crucial emotional response The Florida Project demands of its viewers is empathy.  If you can’t find that, if you turn your nose, close your eyes, and refuse to accept that this kind of American lifestyle exists, you are missing the hard truths, the teachable moments, and the larger points being presented.  onvenient Hollywood endings don’t exist in the real life Baker’s film examines.  Applaud a film that dares to push that stark reality.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Our Souls at Night

Even from a different generation than the present day, you can’t get more Hollywood than Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.  Both are emeritus stars of Tinseltown royalty on multiple levels, respected and celebrated as award-winning performers, icons of style, sex symbols, and vigilant political personas off-screen.  To see the two of them together again, for the fifth time and the first time in 38 years in Our Souls at Night, is a revitalizing treat unto itself, but to see their shared film be staunchly non-Hollywood in stature is even more refreshing.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Loyalty or Betrayal

By design and in the name of essential effectiveness, a good short film has to cut to the chase.  Their tricks of cinematic shorthand in the exposition department are what make them entertaining.  When the micro-budgeted Loyalty and Betrayal opens on the imagery of a man on his bedroom floor putting a gun to his forehead, a chase has certainly been cut.  Writer/director Jonathan Vargas grabs us right there and locks our gaze.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lucky

In each winsome second, Lucky continuously unearths affecting ways of making cantankerous endearing.  With grizzled resolve and humor as dry as the desert he walks in, the late Harry Dean Stanton personifies the charm culled from the crotchety put on display in John Carroll Lynch’s straight-shooting film.  Far from any Grumpy Old Men folly and possessing a hidden heart twice the size of Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, meet a lovable unlovable asshole that flourishes to galvanize unexpected wholesomeness from the prickliest of cacti.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049

To get people talking about a film, or better yet keep them talking about it, storytellers and filmmakers can choose one of two extremes to ensure conversation. The film can have everything to say, or it can have nothing to say. Either route creates captivating and immeasurable levels of ambiguity that are irresistible for near-infinite discourse. The vagueness, obscurity, and uncertainty were driving forces that made 1982’s Blade Runner an initially maligned vision that grew to become a revered science fiction classic. The power of ambiguity strikes again with its long-distance sequel.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Te Ata

Not all actors and actresses are motivated by fame and profit.  Some are in it for the performance and chance to share culture through an artistic medium.  Before the hey-day of cinema, one such actress captured the fascination of an audience higher than any Hollywood premiere and did so as an ostracized minority.  Better yourself with a slice of history to learn about Mary Frances Thompson, or, as she was called on stage, Te Ata.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Young Offenders

The banter and B.S. traded back and forth between Alex Murphy and Chris Walley is as hysterical as it is pleasurably uncouth.  It’s an absolute wonder to realize that The Young Offenders is mutually their first on-camera film roles.  Alex and Chris’s chemistry through sarcasm and shared shenanigans feels and looks effortless.  Flabbergasted energy blasts out of both of them and it’s a hoot to watch.  Seeing the two young actors operate these over-the-top losers with reckless abandon while still injecting a little coming-of-age heart for good measure, makes the film highly entertaining.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Emerald City

I know it’s the clickbait haven of Buzzfeed, but this list of jobs well-known celebrities had before they hit it big is pretty humbling and eye-opening at the same time.  Once the millions roll in and we see the red carpets and flash bulbs, we forget the lucky breaks and hard work it took to get there, and that for every one of those matinee idols a thousand never make it.  Upon seeing Emerald City at the 3rd annual Irish American Movie Hooley, I’ll gladly raise my glass in hopes that Colin Broderick’s minimum wage days are over.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Dunning Man

Inspired by true events, which will cause a fun double take as the film transpires, The Dunning Man is adapted from the published short stories of producer Kevin Fortuna.  Precariously, at times, balancing somewhere between an urban drama and paperback crime novel, the film presents a seedy slice of Atlantic City calmed by nostalgic scene transitions of vintage footage of the city in its decadent heyday.

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MOVIE REVIEW: American Made

You know the drill of the typical “so unbelievable it has to be true” cinematic crime biography of a roguish anti-hero.  The self-narrated humble beginnings give way to the zeal of daring accomplishment leading to wealthy illegal success, a rise to power, a peak of over-inflation, and the long arm of the law catching up to cause a fall from grace and comeuppance.  However, the propeller that makes this jet-set ride swoop with showmanship is the dashing presence of Tom Cruise.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The third annual Irish American Movie Hooley

The third annual Irish American Movie Hooley is happening this weekend at the Gene Siskel Film Center from September 29-October 1st.  This very writer and website was both lucky and honored to cover this event last year and has again been granted coverage access this year.  The event is comprised of three feature films, two of which are directorial debuts, all of whom are making their Chicago premieres.  Here are my capsule reviews of the three films.  Get your Irish on at the Siskel Film Center this weekend!

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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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