Posts tagged 2015
MOVIE CLASSROOM: Updated archive on YouTube channel

In returning to my "Movie Classroom" series of interactive whiteboard video reviews with new vigor, new skills, and new tools, I wanted to bring back and upload my old video attempts to my Every Movie Has a Lesson YouTube channel.  In a massive file drop, I recently uploaded 29 of my past Movie Classroom videos from 2014, including winners like Whiplash and Birdman.  Head over and reminisce on some fine films and commentary by yours truly.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Jack & Amelia

The key strength of “Jack and Amelia” is the focused narrative that sketches a telling and accurate microcosm example of Chicago.  It blends lifestyles for people feeling the city’s stresses in their own unique ways.  Just when you think you these four central characters are random and will stay random, the short-order shifts and twists of “Jack and Amelia” push their destinies forward in engaging and cunning ways.  This really was a blossoming treat.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Blackcoat's Daughter

Being “in the dark” is a savory place to be for a film like this.  Keenly and decisively, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” carries a nearly strict reliance on suggestion and atmosphere over exploitation.  For that, Perkins and company get it and do not need a “throwback” label to prove it.  They know that our mental guessing is always more frightening than showing every little thing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Worlds Apart

Directed by Christoforos “Christopher” Papakaliatis, “Worlds Apart” presents three narratives and three different flavors of passion.  Each surrounds a Greek native in a burgeoning romantic relationship with an immigrant from another land.  Thematically, all that transpires in the film riffs on recurring imagery and commonality with the mythical story of Eros, the Greek god of love.  Layering a topical worldview tinged with allegory every step of the way, “Worlds Apart” is a mature and beguiling romantic drama.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: The Lark's View

Ireland is a proud country where a pagan history has been blended with Christianity for two millennia.  Mythology has merged with scripture and history has absorbed legend.  “The Lark’s View” is a documentary reflecting the current and lost traditions on the century anniversary of the significant Easter Rising conflict of 1916.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: A Doctor's Sword

A masterfully powerful documentary, “A Doctor’s Sword,” chronicling the reflective and jarring tale of Irish World War II veteran Aidan MacCarthy, recently played as part of the second annual Irish American Movie Hooley at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.  One half of this fine film is an astounding you-wouldn't-believe-it-if-I-told-you true story of World War II survival that would make "Unbroken" look like a nursery rhyme.  Its calmer other half takes place in a present day where two proud families and two proud countries are forever bonded by shared history.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Dressmaker

The quirk of the dark comedy genre comes from embracing absurdity and running with it.  Small wrinkles of character traits and situational story elements get twisted for wry laughs and wicked surprises.  One of Australia’s top films of 2015, “The Dressmaker” mixes high style in a setting of rubbish and romance with a cursed sense of revenge.  Not all of the fits and starts of many, many dalliances of the film end up working, but the presence of Oscar winner Kate Winslet demands attention.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Leave it to renowned filmmaker Werner Herzog to hit you with a buffet's worth of food for thought.  His musings on the origins of the internet and its growing ramifications, both positive and negative, on this modern world are sternly served in his new documentary "Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World."  Scintillating one minute and sobering the next, this film is required viewing for anyone who has seen how far we've come with connectivity and wonders fearfully just how high this Icarus of technology can fly towards the Sun before it melts and crashes back to Earth. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Equals

Young writer-director Drake Doremus has carved out a reputable niche in the romantic drama department.  Many of the Sundance darling's films feature a prominent theme of longing love.  That motif is on full display and meshed with mindful science fiction in his new film "Equals."  Starring Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart and backed by Ridley Scott, the film is making a limited theatrical run alongside a full release on VOD marketplaces.  Mindful doesn’t exactly equal poignancy on the scale of desired response.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Wait (L'attesa)

The award-winning Juliette Binoche is one of those actresses who can captivate an audience in complete silence.  Binoche has long been a reflective master of inflection and nuance.  She doesn’t have to say a word to convey the waterfall of thoughts an end emotions going on within her characters.   She is a true artist for performance and the latest proof of that is her staggering dramatic role in “The Wait,” the directorial debut of Italian filmmaker Piero Messina. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Sunset Song

Beloved in its homeland of Scotland, Lewis Grassic Gibbon's 1932 novel "Sunset Song" is revered for its detailed and poignant tale of peasant life and the place of women during the transitional times of the early 20th century.  The novel has been a long-gestating passion project for highly regarded British filmmaker Terence Davies.  Brought to life with moments of 65mm grandeur, his sumptuously crafted and carefully refined film adaptation is another jewel in the filmmaker's crown, though one not without its source material's difficulties.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Lobster

With intentionally languid brushstrokes, "The Lobster," from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos in his English language debut, creates a challenging moral setting that twists the realities and consequences of two human conundrums and fears: What happens when you are single and what happens when you die.  His muse at the center is Colin Farrell in arguably the most understated performance of his career.  With more talent and a high concept at play, "The Lobster" is missing the charm to tie it all together.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza

"June Bride: Redemption of a Yakuza" presents an international alternative to the Scared Straight programs that have become a fascination here in the United States.  No, not this one (though enjoy a quick laugh), but prison initiatives like those chronicled in A&E's popular "Beyond Scared Straight: Success Stories.  Rather than bombard subjects and audiences with fear, one man in Japan finds faith to be the greater answer.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Family Fang

The core of the dysfunctional family at the center of Jason Bateman's "The Family Fang" invokes a particular curiosity.  Do weird parents raise and make weird children?  Name your odd occupation and examine that question yourself.  For example, what are the kids of two circus clown parents like?  Do they grow up with the same sense of humor or performance?  Do they relish that irregular environment because that was their preeminent example or do they rebel and long for something more typically normal?

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MOVIE REVIEW: High-Rise

"High-Rise," starring Tom Hiddleston, is a strongly constructed blend of experimental science fiction with colossal political and social commentary.  The layers of symbolism, analogy, and allegory are as tall as the building itself.  There is a richly disturbing and dark fascination in observing how all of this frivolity comes crashing down in unpredictable and unlimited disaster. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Dough

If you take one look at the doctored-up theatrical poster for the independent film "Dough," you might get the impression of an absurd weed romp to come.  Very quickly within John Goldschmidt's film, you will see the depth behind the film's comedic costume.  For better or worse, "Dough" is a strong mentor-mentee film that just happens to have a special funny ingredient in its cooking that adds wrinkle and flavor.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Coming Through the Rye

2016 Phoenix Film Festival special presentation

With full disclosure, this very writer is an absolute sucker for a satisfying "coming-of-age" film.  Their youthful themes keep us young and sway our sensibilities to reflect on our own lives, no matter our age.  Admirable coming-of-age films are always welcome, but the exceptional ones deserve to get shouted from the mountaintops.  James Sadwith's "Coming Through the Rye" recently won Best Film and Best Screenplay honors at the 2016 Phoenix Film Festival.  This infatuating dramedy earns that special distinction of exceptionality and warrants all of the volume one can muster.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Invitation

Adorned with the weights of divorce, loss, and tested friendship, “The Invitation” wears those issues like a cloak to hide its real menacing intent and implications underneath.  Karyn Kusama’s film holds a marvelous poker face that siphons your piqued curiosity and unraveling attention.  “The Invitation” might be labeled as a horror film, but it far better fits the prodigious “mindfuck film” subgenre.  Enjoy the steady increased heart rate and spinning cerebrum this film has to offer.

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