Posts in MOVIE REVIEW
REWIND REVIEW: The Lion King

Anyone who seeks to own this version of The Lion King is doing so with a “how did they do that?” curiosity. The technical brilliance is its biggest selling point. That interest is answered very well by this disc release. Unlike its Pixar and Marvel offerings, Disney compiled a legitimate look into this re-imaginings wholly revolutionary bells and whistles. This movie will look gorgeous on your high-end television at home.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Lighthouse

Nothing about this place, its natural topography or its man-made constructs, looks, sounds, or feels comely. The disquiet is palpable. All the atmosphere is there in Robert Egger’s torturous and pin-pricking thriller. The unfortunate struggle is that the suspense ends there. There is not enough compelling story, mystery, or perversion to fill or overwhelm this eerie environment. All of the portending, however attuned it is to its sense of art, registers as pretentious.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Loyalty

As a school teacher by day beyond this role as a film critic, let me say that there can never be enough messages sent about the troubling epidemic of bullying. All are necessary. All are helpful. We need every personal testimonial. We need every pamphlet. We need every artistic measure of expression that can gather attention, provoke thoughts, and change a few hearts. The Chicago-made short film Loyalty from filmmaker Ira Childs is one of those necessary contributions. The short recently played at the 25th Black Harvest Film Festival at the Siskel Center.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Gemini Man

Ang Lee’s new actioner Gemini Man is the cinematic embodiment of the figure of speech “chasing your tail.” A reminder from The Free Dictionary, defines that idiom as “to take action that is ineffectual and does not lead to progress” and “refers to how a dog can exhaust itself by chasing its own tail.” Boy, is that ever this movie. You have a multiple Academy Award-winning filmmaker chasing a technological benchmark that the industry cannot match. And you have a lead actor exhausting himself (and us) literally, instead of just figuratively, chasing his own tail.

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REWIND REVIEW: Toy Story 4

I should rename this section from “Late Homework Excuse” to “Inciting a School Riot” for my participation with the June release of Toy Story 4. I saw the film early for press, covered a fun family event at Navy Pier, and was very unimpressed by the final product. My review was one of the initial wave of four that broke the Rotten Tomatoes perfect 100% Tomatometer score for the movie. The trolling comments and death threats followed and I wrote about that experience. I didn’t want to be that guy, but I just couldn’t call this sequel worthwhile trying to follow the near-perfection of Toy Story 3.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Joker

A pungent plethora of hot-button words are being branded into the film flesh of Todd Phillips’ Joker. Be them complementary or damning, they seemingly cannot be rubbed away. An interesting debate to have is classifying which of those fiery adjectives actually talk about the film and not some external controversy, projection, trigger, or angle being spun before Joker even hits public screens. Not to be undone, this writer offers a self-appointed definitive word centered on the movie itself, one that he’s never used in a review in nine years and change. The word is gall.

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VINTAGE REVIEW: The Untouchables

History and popularity have been kind to Brian De Palma’s crime movie achievement. The American Film Institute nominated the movie in five categories (Movies, Thrills, Hero, Villain, Film Score, and Gangster Film) during its “100 Years” series last decade. Then and now, The Untouchables earned a city’s pride and spurred new popularity to the Capone legend. Its success also fueled a star’s rise (Costner), secured another’s lasting legacy (Connery), and reminded audiences just how sharply talented its steward was. Once the end credits hit and Morricone plays us all out, you can also feel Brian De Palma channeling tough-guy Jimmy Malone with a “here endeth the lesson.”  The hitmaker never lost his edge.

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VINTAGE REVIEW: Simply Irresistible

The raunch-less love scenes of cooking, kissing, and dancing can initially seem to come from a different movie than a ’90s-era romantic comedy in the same year as American Pie. But then, with the dedication for the glossy showmanship never shrinking, you realize you’re exactly in a throwback. With a tweak of two of period adjustment and pacing, Simply Irresistible would fit either in the Pillow Talk genre of farces or the It Happened One Night-level screwball comedies.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ad Astra

That throbbing level of staggering aura occurring parallel to poignant familial intimacy in Ad Astra is remarkably captivating. This is an accomplishment of contemplative science fiction that is felt in your core as much as it pours wonderment in your eyes. The high concept space opera vibes and the melancholic musings have been stretched and exploited further in other cinematic offerings within this fictional discipline. Nevertheless, the sharpness of execution here is something to behold with plenty of profundity to absorb and impress.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Goldfinch

Normally, the book vs. movie argument centers around missed opportunities. The majority lament becomes about the necessary condensing and trimming executed by writers and filmmakers that shaves too much of the nuanced essence from the sprawling story of the written page. With The Goldfinch, a different effect occurs. Given a longer running time than most movies already and all the patience in the world, any additions of extra depth and detail to the film adaptation would not help. What is already present is bloated, sluggish, and ineffectual. That’s an odd circumstance to say the least. Talk about a movie that should have stayed a book.

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REWIND REVIEW: Aladdin

All the desired diversity in the world paled to who could possibly follow the late Robin Williams? The Genie is the ticket to more than just wishes when it comes to this reboot’s success. That laborious task was given to Will Smith. Folks, he is a hot, baking sun of swagger! Will has not been this loose and free since Men in Black 3 seven years ago. Aladdin reminds us how much of a consummate showman the 50-year-old is and always has been. Will has a style, energy, and stage presence all his own, and he saves this entire movie from sandy ruin.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Official Secrets

Most cinematic eras have their overuse of dramatic varnish in historical retellings as a means of painted shine for grabbing attention and producing supposedly heightened value. This writer will always contend that if a chosen story needs too much of that glitz, where it cannot compel or entertain with its own facts, it should not be made into a movie in the first place. Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets gives righteous treatment to such a worthy story and builds a stoic thriller by layering its merits with an eye for accuracy.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: A Sisterhood of Signatures

One does not need millions of dollars to create an expression of personal passion. They need patience to see their vision through, a dedication to the project shared all involved, and the courage to put their work and themselves out there. Filmmaker Okema “Seven” Gunn harnessed all three of those values to make her short film A Sisterhood of Signatures and put them right back into the finished piece. She will proudly display her effort alongside the works of her inspirations and contemporaries as part of Chicago’s 25th Black Harvest Film Festival hosted by the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Neurotically charming, yet misshapen in many ways, Where’d You Go, Bernadette is wholly unique from the Texan and Hollywood outsider. The movie has the equal ability to disarm and disgust depending on your perspective or experience with the Maria Semple source material. Non-readers will float with the staccato blustering and the Antarctic kayak currents of fancy. Ardent fans will wonder where all the scintillating mystery went that gave merit to all the haphazard happenings.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon doesn’t just tell a good story. It tells a great one worthy of attention, praise, and undying appreciation. The purifying freedom that churns throughout this movie could cultivate even the most barren heart. This little lovable film, winner of the Narrative Spotlight Audience Award from the SXSW Film Festival, is the kind of experience that makes one rethink how their own story is going. That is a mighty, motivating accomplishment for something that couldn’t stand out more from the usual summer blockbuster fare.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blinded by the Light

Hell no, you don’t have to be a superfan of Springsteen to enjoy Blinded by the Light, but it sure helps. Even if The Boss is not your ideal vibe, the sprightly emotions on-screen cannot help but target and trigger your own matching passionate feelings for whatever you revere that answers the questions of Lesson #1. Following the affable and lovingly-composed musical worship recently achieved by Yesterday earlier this summer, welcome to your next toe-tapping crowd pleaser to close the summer of 2019.

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REWIND REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

Arriving on home media this week from Disney and Marvel Studios is their colossal blockbuster coda Avengers: Endgame starring everyone who’s everyone from the collective Marvel Cinematic Universe that has been built with tidy and patient blueprints since 2008. Time travel tropes aside, you couldn’t have asked for a better swan song of satisfaction than this big finish. Watch for it arriving in physical media form on store shelves Tuesday, August 13th after an extremely successful theatrical run. This is a pretty customary disc release, and one has to think Disney has something more complete, expansive, and expensive planned someday.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Luce

The enigmas revealed by the spiraling escalation of manipulative confrontations are incredible in Luce. Through the masterful mystery of folding facades written by director Julius Onah and playwright/writer J.C. Lee of How to Get Away With Murder, there is a feverish anticipation of who’s going to turn, who’s going to crack, who’s going to fall, and who’s going to rise. The tension present is unpredictable and captivating.

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