Posts in 2018
MOVIE REVIEW: Starfish

The opening credits of Starfish may drop the “based on a true story” prompt, but every moment of this twisty science fiction slow boiler feels like the filmed account of a racing mind. Rather than dwelling on footholds to societal norms, isolation reigns here, with all of the flutters, visions, shifts, daydreams, and nightmares possible. Dangling the mysteries of the fallout from an off-screen cataclysmic event, the mental maelstrom of Starfish is eerie, imaginative, and highly impactful.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Participant in "World of Reel" Critics Poll for Best Films of the 2010s

As I grow with press credentials and professional affiliation locally and nationally, I find myself more and more landing and conversing in circles with other film critics of various levels. Much like the David Ehrlich survey I participate in, I answered an open social media call from Jordan Ruimy of World of Reel. He is a fellow Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic who also has contributed to The Young Folks, The Playlist, We Got This Covered, and The Film Stage. His poll was to collect the Top 5 films of the 2010s from critics and other industry folk. I was honored to chime in with my quintet.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Still Human

Those lines are a screenwriter’s dream of created sentiment. As doubtlessly as it could sting a nose on its directness, the moment squeezes tear ducts easily too. In this case, the sincerity is earned by Still Human’s meaningful journey and the dedicated performances of the leads. Director Oliver Siu Kuen Chan’s debut feature is the epitome of the genuinely genteel washing crassness away. The spirit-affirming foreign entry debuts locally in Chicago for a run at the Gene Siskel Film Center starting on May 13th.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Clara

Citing genuine and actionable science, Clara builds heady inquiry for the voluminous and important research of its depicted discipline. Its sense of intelligence intertwines with the unpredictability found in the amorous reverberations of the human heart. This combination creates an intimate and daring film experience that enraptures as easily and as powerfully as it fascinates.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mary Magdalene

This film’s slightness is meant to simplify proceedings to their truest essence. Mary Magdalene contains the bare minimum of theatrics. The result may be painstakingly slow at times, but its grounded firmness is precisely its beauty. There is a calmly effective empathetic power to that method and approach. The specifying or sermonizing is scant and still stoic. The poignancy is pitched and still powerful. The grace is consoling and still genuine. All of that is mightily impressive.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Storm Boy

Ten life lessons than pet ownership can teach children include responsibility, trust, bereavement, respect, self-esteem, physical activity, loyalty, patience, and social skills. Now, for most of us stateside, our preferred companions are often dogs and cats. The canines and felines get movies for days from Old Yeller to The Secret Life of Pets. In South Australia’s coastlands, the prevailing animal neighbors are birds. So, how well do you know a pelican? Come to Storm Boy and find yourself newly enamored.

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OVERDUE REVIEW: Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns is the cinematic equivalent of a very pleasant British greeting. The film is completely courteous and undoubtedly well-meaning. It presents itself with manicured poise and a dress-to-impress sense of style. It aims to please and presents the proper success. The movie makes kind contact and bows nicely before you. Mary Poppins Returns is the nicest hat-tip possible, but then is gone as soon as it arrived. It’s merely a grand gesture and not more than that.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Perfect Strangers (Perfectos Desconocidos)

The poster for the Mexican remake Perfectos Desconocidos glows with affluence.  We see a richly appointed dinner party scene flush with refinement from edge to edge across fashions, place settings, and the flowing wine.  What intentionally glows the brightest on the poster is the statement “We all have a secret life.” It symbolically shows materialistic beauty undone by the blunt intrusion of technology. Thematically, that tagline statement is the lightning bolt of tension that charges this entire film.

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SPECIAL: Third annual CIFCC Award nominations

On Saturday, January 26th, the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle announced the nominees for the their third annual CIFCC Awards. 37 different films were nominated between 21 categories. As one of the founders and directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, I’m honored to be among such fine peers. These are solid picks our group can be proud to support. Here’s a special slideshow presenting each category. The CIFCC will present their winners on February 2nd.

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COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2018

If this teacher/critic learned anything himself this year it’s to more consistently define the difference between “favorite” and “best.” Often they are different measures, yet it is a special distinction when some films can be both. That’s a whole bunch of those of this definitive 2018 list. All ten and a few extra were no-doubt five-star films for me. True to this website’s specialty, each film will be paired with its best life lesson. Enjoy!

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: David Ehrlich's IndieWire Critics Survey on January 7, 2019

Notable and notorious IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich recently put out a social media call for film critic peers to join a weekly survey to discuss movie topics, answer questions, and highlight their work.  Representing Every Movie Has a Lesson, I, along with over 50 other emerging and established film critics including some of my fellow Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle members, accepted the invitation to participate.  I'm honored by the opportunity, and I hope my responses are chosen each week.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Stan & Ollie

Steven Coogan and John C. Reilly offer meticulous and mirror-like stage perfection. Their movements, cadences, and pliable statures stir light shenanigans and incalculable charm, just the like the genial historical figures. The winsome and touching delights spreading from the remembrances and respect found here in Stan & Ollie make for amiable and meaningful engagement. This one is a true treat.

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COLUMN: Who should win/will win the 2019 Golden Globe film awards?

The 76th annual Golden Globe Awards are this Sunday. This film critic has shuffled the cards and read the tea leaves to lay down some confident (or maybe sure-to-go-wrong) picks of who should win the movie award categories and who will actually be hearing their name and walking to the stage as the true winners. Enjoy and come back Sunday to keep score!

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COLUMN: New Year's Resolutions for the Movie Industry for 2019

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 eighth edition, have fun taking the movie industry to task for things they need to change. As always, some resolutions come true while others get mentioned and reiterated every year. Enjoy this year’s hopes and dreams.

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20 YEAR RETROSPECTIVE: The best of the rest of 1998

Alright, I’ve spelled out my absolute “10 best” from 1998 in the previous post.  It’s time to take the press badge off and get casual.  Here are more categories of distinction and remembrance from 1998. Guess what? You still don’t see The Thin Red Line.  That’s too bad.  In the completely opposite direction, I was so very close to putting Wild Things in my Top 10 for 1998. Read on for more!

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: They Shall Not Grow Old

Free of labels and talking heads and clean in ambiguous anonymity, They Shall Not Grow Old is entirely composed of footage and voiceovers restored and transformed by current production technology. The documentary takes viewers through the enlisted man’s journey through the Great War from sign-up to homecoming in vibrant color and 3D, a theatrical event (presented by good people at Fathom Events) like no other you will find this year.

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GUEST CRITIC #29: Leon: The Professional

As busy I get from time to time, I find that I can't see every movie under the sun, leaving my friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks for me.  As poetically as I think I wax about movies on this website as a wannabe critic, there are other experts out there.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle's go-to movie guy.  In a new review series, I'm opening my site to friend submissions for guest movie reviews. Today, meet fan and follower of the page Farnaz Nazari

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