MOVIE REVIEW: Annihilation

Before it even debuted, Annihilation, wunderkind filmmaker Alex Garland’s big studio follow-up to Ex Machina, was labeled “too intellectual” and “too complicated.”  Come what may, the film is quite exactly those two qualities and then some.  However, what might be a smearing hindrance for some is a emblem of brilliancy to others.  Because the film could land either way, the intrigue and anticipation surrounding Annihilation couldn’t be better.  You will undoubtedly get your mind’s worth and your money’s worth stepping up the cerebral challenge of this film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Game Night

In many respects, the degree of difficulty to make the cheesy entertaining is not very high.  Laughs of the low-hanging fruit variety are easy to come by and guilty pleasure films are created all the time.  The real challenge is to make the cheesy, and the laughs that come with it, unexpected and fulfilling.  Flush with snickering hilarity and scoring plenty of points for swerving surprises, Game Night is infectiously entertaining with any cheese it serves.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rogers Park

Constantly bucking stereotypes made about the perceived flaws of the Second City, the progressive and affluent enclave of Rogers Park statistically contains the highest level of racial diversity in Chicago.  It is as great a place as any in the urban metropolis to tell a blended story of the hardened hearts within hard-working people.  A blanketing sunrise over the freshwater surf of that aforementioned Great Lakes welcomes viewers to Rogers Park.

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MOVIE REVIEW: November

Some films that cross our eyes are an exercise of the art form.  They trade tidy entertainment for a celebration of craft.  There are clear pluses and minuses to such an undertaking.  Stripping away conventions left and right to make something wholly unique and downright peculiar, November was Estonia’s 2017 entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  The experimental foreign film brims with allegory and is strikingly shot.  However, the film’s compelling qualities never seem to match its obscene effort towards the art

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: "Connecting With Classics" Episode #2: "Casablanca"

Here in Episode 2 of “Connecting With Classics”, Feelin' Film's Aaron White, guest host Josh Effengee from LSG Media’s Science Fiction Film Podcast, and myself celebrate Valentine’s Day by discussing a film that is considered one of the greatest love stories ever told. Casablanca checks in at #3, NUMBER THREE!, on the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary list. This is definitely a beloved classic, my own #1 all-time favorite movie, and we have a great conversation about its quality as a film and all of the ways it has resonated with us emotionally.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the"Page 2 Screen" podcast reviewing the 2018 Oscar-nominated shorts

Together at The Century Bar of the Landmark Century Centre Cinema, fellow CIFCC critic Jeff York and I critiqued the ten short films nominated for the 90th Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short Film and Best Animated Short on the "Page 2 Screen" bost on the International Screenwriters' Association network.  Both categories of contenders boasted impressive range and buried treasure.  Enjoy our reviews and discussion!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Black Panther

For any MCU film to do this leader and his civilization justice, it has to capture the traits of dominance.  Ryan Coogler’s film accomplished that and then some with a stature and ferocity fitting of the comic book legend.  Pushing aside the proclivity to have a empowered science nerd or a plucky quipster as its heroic lead, a Marvel film hasn’t been this brawny, righteous, and tough since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  Black Panther strides proudly and powerfully with every progressive step as one of the best MCU films we’ve ever seen.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Fantastic Woman

Audiences will need to go beyond “brave” to describe and complement the shattering performance of Daniela Vega starring in A Fantastic Woman.  Searing the screen with moments of serenading song and ever-present fortitude, the openly transgender Chilean actress and model seethes with uncommon determination.  Saying “good for her” is not enough praise.    

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MOVIE REVIEW: The 15:17 to Paris

That crucial third act would make a heck of a short film on its own.  If we could fast-forward to there, we would be in business.  Instead, we get the Eastwood hero worship vanity project parade.  Invisible yet incredibly overt, The 15:17 to Paris freely flies its flags of god-fearing conservative morals, manly superiority, unwavering courage, dreams of glory, and military brotherhood.  The content isn't lowered for Eastwood’s credibility, but the execution is, even if there is an audience for this sort of thing. 

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REVIEW COLLECTION: The Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short Film

Here are my collected reviews for the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short Film.  Listed in order of rating and true to my website’s hook, each review includes a life lesson takeaway.  A collected program of these films is available from various theater chains, including the Landmark Cinemas locations here in Chicago, starting on February 9th.  In 90 minutes-and-change, you get five exceptional works for one ticket.  Calling all Oscar completists!

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EDITORIAL: Post-Super Bowl Challenge

The wild use of the word "expectations" is another soapbox for a different day (and soon), but I long for a day when the repetitive spoiler blathering could go away, allowing patience to create real hype, not the over-marketed variety we have now, to create a higher form of anticipation.  With that hope in mind, I have a challenge for all of you.

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VINTAGE REVIEW: The Astrologer

In a reversal of this practical parable’s usual cadence, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.  This is where the tastes, descriptions, and comparisons begin for 1975’s The Astrologer.   A young man named Craig Denney set out to direct and star is his own feature film to break into stardom.  It was a passion project of sorts derailed by a backstory of avoidable failure.  Along the same lines as trash versus treasure, one filmmaker’s passion project is another man’s vanity film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Some causes and plights are universal to the heroism within the human condition no matter the era or culture.  Comporting itself with admirable respect for the ennobling experience of its chosen history, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero portrays such heroism for film audiences.  This animated feature film presents common themes and intrepid messages within a folklore not often given a Western stage.  Named the “Best Inspiring Film” on Animation Day at last year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero earns a great deal of that praise.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: 42 Grams

Through 42 Grams, documentary director Jack C. Newell muddles away the self-importance and crafts his own dish laced with affinity and rapport.  Following the trials and tribulations of gifted chef Chicago chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his wife Alexa, Newell’s film looks beyond the culinary decadence to reveal a core essence of ambition as relatable as any other version of the American Dream.  The captive fascination swelling from that gathers attention and an audience where it normally would not.

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INFOGRAPHIC: Vaping on Screen

We all know that Vaping is taking over the world, but did you know that due to its popularity, Vaping devices are being introduced into movies, TV shows, and even Video Games? It’s true! This infographic piece from Grey Haze takes a look at where vaping has popped up on the big and little screen and see which Vaping device each character is using and what that tells us about them.  Enjoy!

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COLUMN: Five snubs and five surprises from the 90th Academy Award nominations

As with any year, there are hot topics being debated immediately stemming from snubs and surprises.  Here are my takeaways consisting of five snubs and five surprises, coming out of this morning's nominations for the upcoming 90th Academy Awards happening on March 4th.  Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!  Let the predictions begin!

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