Posts in Chicago Film Festival
CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival began May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre.  Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival in the country curated by film critics. For the third year in a row, Every Movie Has a Lesson will be credentialed to cover this fine spread of movie offerings.  Ranked in order of recommendation, here are my capsule reviews. Full pieces coming later when the respective films have their proper release:

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SPECIAL: Previewing the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

For the seventh consecutive year, many of the best domestic and international films on the festival circuit come to Chicago thanks to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival opens May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre in the northside Lakeview neighborhood. Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival curated by film critics in the nation. This year, 25 feature films and two short film programs comprise their rich and ambitious offering slate

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SPECIAL: See “Roma” in 70mm this week at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre

Chicago’s 90-year-old premiere arthouse venue will be exclusively presenting Alfonso Cuaron’s highly regarded Oscar contender Roma in widescreen 70mm. The Spanish-language film from Mexico will play on their main screen over the course of five days and fifteen showings between Wednesday, January 9th and Sunday the 13th. Tickets for Roma are $15 ($12 for Music Box members) and available now at their box office or online.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Roma

That unfortunate fate could not be farther away from a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. For all of those possible extrapolations of commitment and dedication taking place within the craft of filmmaking, you may never, not this year and maybe several more after, see a more intimate artistic expression than this powerful and personal film. To the man making Roma, this film is special. To those viewing it, this film is important. To the art it serves, this film could be a potential masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rendezvous in Chicago

Michael Glover Smith’s third feature film channels Éric Rohmer to present three collisions of love occurring in the writer-director’s own beloved Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Smith’s canny talent to pen and juggle a triptych is not what impresses the most. Rather, what is greater, quite simply, is his sense of feel as a storyteller and filmmaker.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Widows

Kicking something flaky and flimsy like Ocean’s 8 to the curb, the Shame and 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner has assembled a dauntless ensemble cast lead by dynamic females. Rooted in the thinly and sinfully fabricated dermal and subcutaneous layers of Chicago, Widows wields an effeminate brawn and sly intelligence working to stoke a masterful slow burn. The film’s bold gravity constricts us wonderfully for one of the most visceral crime films of recent memory and one of the best films of 2018.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Private War

The biographical film A Private War is a collection of those slivers, each with increasing sharpness to cut to the core of our moral constitution. Like each year taking its toll on Colvin, A Private War is the kind of movie that wears you down with increasing tension and toll in the effort to move and reforge your empathetic spirit. This is a phenomenal and ferocious lead performance from Rosamund Pike, who deserves the second Oscar nomination of her career for this combination tenacity and honesty.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 54th Chicago International Film Festival

For the fifth year in a row and the fourth with press credentials, I am proud to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com to cover the ambitious slate. No single critic can see it all, but I’ll take my swings to find some buried treasure and films to explore when they come to your city or streaming platforms at home down the road. Here below are my collected capsule reviews from the 54th Chicago International Film Festival, ranked in order of highest to lowest recommendation.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Beautiful Boy

This is not your typical feel-good factory product. Beautiful Boy is bracingly honest with its turns and barriers built by emotional whallup. The remarkable performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet deserve the credit for that impact, fashioning a touchingly stout drama that is braver than most films on the subject. One of the best films you will ever see examining the breadth of drug addiction

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 4th Irish American Movie Hooley

For the fourth year, the proud national and international efforts of Irish flair and flavor grace the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. With sponsorship led by Slane Irish Whiskey, the Irish American Movie Hooley is a three-night trio of films gracing Chicago screens as a special program. The “party” translation of its title at the forefront. Here are my capsule reviews!

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MOVIE REVIEW: We the Animals

The phrase “they’re just kids” shouldn’t be the verbalization of a dismissal. Rather, it should be spoken as a moment of pause to reflect on what future positive or negative impact could come from the lifestyle choice being observed. We the Animals, the feature debut of short film director Jeremiah Zagar, lives for those errors and pauses as one of the best independent films of the year.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Searching

The entirety of this daring film is presented through the layers of screens across computer desktops, video streams, and a mouse pointer that moves like a scalpel over those pixelated surfaces. The effect is addictively scintillating to create harrowing emotional triggers. Call it a gimmick all you want, but be prepared to be dazzled and proven wrong by the astonishing narrative construction and visual storytelling conduits. True to both the lurid intensity and exceeding excellence of the dictionary definition, Searching is downright sensational

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MOVIE REVIEW: Eighth Grade

Dropped jaws, bashfulness, winces, worries, and all, this dynamite film needs to be required viewing for the teens out there, especially girls, of these complicated and confusing present times. And the people that should be joining them in the next closest seats are their parents who need their eyes and hearts opened as well. Adults, this Eighth Grade may not be your plight or a mirror to your own middle school experience, but you can engage and empathize easily with its challenges.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Damsel

Kicking up scratchy dust in the western genre, the Zellner Brothers rousingly debunk and demystify that stereotype to create a dark comedy of their own pitch and prickliness. With humor as dry as the topography, Damsel is the kind of film that sneaks up on you like a snake in the weeds. The brothers and fellow stars Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska dance all over this landscape, but the steps keep dawdling when the music runs out.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "You'll Probably Agree" to recap the 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival

In the third and final part of a busy May collaboration, Mike Crowley of "You'll Probably Agree" leads a full-bodied recap of what he and I covered from the prestigious and successful 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival.  We rundown a collection of 10 reviews that included The Guilty, First Reformed, On Chesil Beach, Eighth Grade, Bodied, Support The Girls, Revenge, We The Animals, and Abducted in Plain Sight.  Enjoy this uncut back-and-forth shared discussion!

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MOVIE REVIEW: On Chesil Beach

Original On Chesil Beach writer Ian McEwan was able to write his own screenplay and select his own places to deviate and condense.  The denouement in the film is shortened from the deeper explorations made by the novel. It’s a hell of a turn that hits like a ton of brick but feels very rushed.  The additional heft and scope do elevate the film from the comedic beginning into something more poignant, albeit it is a mismatched and difficult experience to approach and accept, much like the maligned central couple.

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MOVIE REVIEW: First Reformed

With First Reformed from A24, veteran writer-director Paul Schrader has crafted another startling and fascinating cinematic gem on his favored topic of self-destruction.  The escalating tension is phenomenal, guiding heavy lessons and postures, all led by quite possibly the best performance to date from Ethan Hawke.  Discerning audiences will find much to dissect and discuss as they process First Reformed.  

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