MEDIA APPEARANCE: "Kids Klassics" series featured in The Wilmette Beacon

On behalf of the Wilmette Theatre, I have to give a big thank you to the media coverage from Alexa Burnell of The Wilmette Beacon for giving some love to our "Kids Klassics" series.  It was a pleasure to talk with her after our opening showing of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  I'll always be that small-town kid who always takes it as a big deal when you get your picture in the paper.  Much appreciated!

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GUEST CRITIC #28: Book Club

In a special edition of my ongoing "Guest Critic" series, meet my own mother, Kathy Shanahan. She was my recent Mother's Day +1 to see an advanced screening of the new summer comedy Book Club. I had my take on the film and she, as a member of the target demographic, certainly had hers. Come hear about our Mother’s Day trip together and for a second take on Book Club.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Succeeding frequently with several exciting and well-conceived action sequences and a bevy of rich supporting characters to enjoy, Solo: A Star Wars Story still has an inescapable ceiling.  Directed by a respected safe veteran in Ron Howard, rescuing this film from loudly reported production woes, this prequel seeks to chronicle a background of how our favorite smuggler, thief, and scoundrel came to be.  On this writer’s ledger, the first two of those three traits register emphatically from the movie.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Island Zero

The bloody swirls of cold ocean water where a cute little terrier wearing a fou-fou life vest for his yachtsman owner used to be represents the first pre-credits victim of Island Zero.  That pooch is the first of a cavalcade of casualties to come.  This indie flick of cheesy gore pierced by a stab at serious science works hard to make the most of is resources to craft an involved little creature feature and paranoid thriller.  The shrewdly cleaver Island Zero arrives nationwide on VOD on May 15th from Freestyle Releasing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Deadpool 2

No matter what, all of Deadpool 2 is nonsensical, of course, and there was no way this movie wasn’t going to be exactly what it is: FUN.  That part doesn't go away.  Folks can try to champion the first film and this one as anti-comic-book-movie movies, but, make no mistake, both of these blockbusters end up becoming comic book movies anyway just with more willingness and success to subvert the formula.  However, that ridiculous energy is precisely the charm people are flocking and paying to see over in this

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "The Cinescope Podcast" reflecting on "E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial"

Every Movie Has a Lesson gives a hearty welcome back to The Cinescope Podcast, hosted by Chad Hopkins, after a brief winter sabbatical.  After seeing me recently come out of hosting a screening of E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial through the "Kids Klassics" series at The Wilmette Theatre, Chad invited me to record a nostalgic retrospective on Spielberg's film as the return episode of The Cinescope Podcast.  E.T. is a cherished favorite film for both of us and it made for lovely discussion.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival

UPDATED: Found within are my capsule reviews of the feature films and documentaries covered by Every Movie Has a Lesson from this year’s 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival.  This post will be updated as new films are reviewed are completed, so be sure to bookmark this and come back each day as new offerings arrive.  Build your 2018 hidden gem list and see you at the Music Box Theatre in Lakeview!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Tully

Academy Award-winning writer Diablo Cody has an unparalleled gift for the sardonic. She knows just the right rhythm of mockery and skepticism to twist mundane circumstances into something both witty and affecting.  When combined with director Jason Reitman (Juno and Young Adult) and his sensibilities wired to much the same wavelength, the results are gleefully glorious. With their latest collaboration Tully, the writer-and-director duo have done it again.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Rider

This man is a cowboy. Normally, that’s all you have to say and the portrait of toughness is painted, but therein lies the mystery within the mundane of The Rider. Populated by untrained actors and inspired by true events of these rookie performers, Chloé Zhao’s sophomore feature film stands on that determination only to slowly reveal the internal aches underneath the grizzled exteriors of hat brims, denim, and vices.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "Kicking the Seat" podcast talking "Avengers: Infinity War"

This week, I was cordially invited to re-team with the mainstays of the Kicking the Seat Podcast hosted by Ian Simmons.  David Fowlie of Keeping it Reel, Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews, Ian, and I consider ourselves Earth's Mightiest Critics to discuss Marvel's summer-movie megalith, Avengers: Infinity War! We decompressed and ranted after an early screening at the MacGuffins bar and lounge of the AMC River East location.  Presented here is an evenly divided round table of opinions.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: "Connecting With Classics" Episode #4: "Shane"

For this departing month of April, Aaron White of the Feelin' Film podcast are pleased to present you a conversation about 1953’s Shane, just in time for its 65th anniversary.  Newer or younger audiences may recognize this film as the allegorical pairing made in James Mangold’s Logan, but this classic western sits at #46 on the AFI Top 100 10th Anniversary list and #3 on the westerns list for good reasons.  

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VINTAGE REVIEW: Shane

Atypical to the big-talking hot heads and inflated anti-hero personalities common of the genre, Alan Ladd’s cowboy and director George Stevens’ Shane operates with a code and a compass that is idyllic and pure.  Ranked the #3 western of all-time by the American Film Institute and their #45 overall American film, Shane is an anointed classic and masterpiece.  Why? It’s because Shane carries itself with equal parts heroic grandeur and hardscrabble ethics that can still resonate and draw audience appreciation today, 65 years later.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Kings

Take Kings as how a foreigner sees our plights, troubles, and history.  Ergüven has talent but comes across as tone deaf when trying for tribute out of this script that she’s been sitting on since 2011.  What should be a spike through the heart gets washed away by the time a sunny Motown cover song tries to become a palette-cleansing “everything’s fine” coda and exhale moment in the end credits.  Even as pure dramatization, Kings is an irresponsibly aimless one.

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DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM REVIEW: Donald in Mathmagic Land

Frees’s voiceover goal is to change Donald’s mind about math, to ruffle his feathers of antiquated ideas, false concepts, superstitions, confusion, and general bungling (all revealed in pseudo-analog-Inside Out fashion).  Whether the knowledge of these “boundless treasures of science” stick in his bird brain remains to be seen.  Spirited and pristinely stylish animation, dancing shapes, and moveable manipulatives fill the screen backed by music from Buddy Baker, a veteran of 26 Disney films of the era.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Infinity War

The post-credits cameo of the big bad Thanos in The Avengers set into motion an even greater arc of ambition that catapulted two more phases, twelve more films, and dozens of new major players since.  Now at the ten-year mark of this endeavor, all of the patience, enthusiasm, and success pays off with Avengers: Infinity War.  Thriving with a symmetry of captivating gravitas and heroic thrill on many levels, this saga’s newest peak is an expanse of scorched earth that stings, shocks, lingers, and satisfies.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Disobedience

The intensity of the torrid on-screen affair in Disobedience is as strong as the rhetoric of oppression that simmers under the surface of the characters and the community they occupy.  Sebastián Lelio’s follow-up to his Academy Award-winning foreign language film A Fantastic Woman teems with deeply stirring passion.  Performed to a level of high commitment by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, the film repeatedly demonstrates that one of the best ways to build passion in a film is to present the implicit unspoken in a manor to outweigh explicit expression.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ghost Stories

Their expansion plan was very sharp and forgoes the thirst to hack and slay mindlessly like most current horror offerings. The shrewd focus of Ghost Stories is scarce on spectacle and firmly rooted in sinister nuance.  The over-caffeinated and desensitized segment of genre fans might call it boring, while the veterans who remember effective minimalism will be squeezed by the twisted nerve leading to solid suspense.    

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