Posts tagged 2015 Holiday Movie Preview
MOVIE REVIEW: Sisters

The newest collaboration of former "Saturday Night Live" BFFs Amy Poehler and Tina Fey proves that smart people cannot always escape cliche.  "Sisters" has an implausible, though energetic concept for the comedy-hungry forty-something crowd.  Unfortunately, "Sisters" has no ability to buck predictable formula.  Even a go-for-broke, R-rated potty-mouthed jolt from two of our favorite, and normally buttoned-up, comediennes can save this film.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Big Short

Closing out 2015, you will find the most argumentative and ballsiest movie of the year hitting wide theatrical release over the Christmas holiday.  The real film in question to bear those bold superlatives is "The Big Short."  Headlined by a star-studded cast and directed by one of the most unlikely of sources, this legitimate must-see film tip-toes audaciously between biting satire and topical cautionary tale.  You won't know whether to be pissed or be entertained and that's a powerful quality to pull off.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Joy

The problematic factor for this David O. Russell and his acting muses is the diminishing returns of their final products.  Showing a case of beginner's luck, "Silver Linings Playbook" was a crowd-pleasing quirky romance that netted Lawrence an Oscar.  Full of promise, "American Hustle" was an overrated and misguided attempt at Scorsese Lite.  "Joy" now arrives with a random mix of events that may begin insinuate the 14th century expression of "going to the well once too often" for this group.  Like the idiom's definition, Russell and company have taken repeated risks and have now pushed their luck too far.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Hateful Eight

It is time to go on record and add another label to the colorful list to describe filmmaker Quentin Tarantino: "acquired taste."  Even with his recent success, the auteur's excessive and aestheticized indulgences are catching up to him.  Each subsequent film of his may be getting more popular, but they are not getting better and "The Hateful Eight" hammers that point home.  Swelled to either a 167-minute straight cut or a 187-minute opus complete with overture and intermission, Tarantino's newest film doesn't know when to quit.  It just goes and dies, literally and figuratively.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No matter where today's "Star Wars" fans come from, all of them want the same thing out of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  Everyone wants an inspired, entertaining, and compelling fantasy adventure.  They want a return of the emotions, wonder, and heartstrings that stirred and inspired their souls when they first encountered these science fiction fantasies.  With great pleasure and a nearly pitch perfect blend of innovation and reminiscence, J.J. Abrams promised, and now has delivered, all that anyone could hope for with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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ADVANCE MOVIE REVIEW: The Revenant

Following his three-trophy Oscar haul for "Birdman" last year, filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu returns with an even more expansive cinematic challenge.  Inspired by a wild true story, "The Revenant" is an unrelenting survival drama that makes "Cast Away" look like a cute day at the beach.  Powered by raw natural beauty and a constant nerve of savage peril, Inarritu's film succeeds with striking artistry and superior craftsmanship in polishing a harsh and rough-hewn legend.  Four-time Academy Award nominee Leonardo DiCaprio pushes himself and you over edge after edge in the most challenging performance of his career.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Chi-Raq

In Spike Lee's film, the symbolism is thick and the underlying truths are even thicker.  "Chi-Raq" is fiercely intelligent with its farcical parable and fearless in its vicious social commentary.  Both exhibit equal power.  That balanced ability is tremendously difficult to pull off with honesty and Lee has done it.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Macbeth

51st Chicago International Film Festival Highlight special presentation

When you have a film adaptation of a William Shakespeare play as arresting, brawny, and commanding as Justin Kurzel's "Macbeth," one has to throw the theater snob rant out the window.  They are exactly like the "book is better than the movie crowd" only more under-served.   We get it.  No cinematic adaptation is ever going to satisfy everyone.  My advice is get over the nit-picking and soak in a movie and treat it as a different medium entirely than the static stage.  This new "Macbeth" is an event, not a play, and a darn good one.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Youth

Directed by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, “Youth” is a cornucopia of quirk colliding with decadence.  We get to see how the other half lives through messy characters making sense of their lives while soaking in a lavish vacation.  Thanks to a stellar cast and brilliant performances, “Youth” surprises us to show how much interest and intrigue can be found in foppish people we normally wouldn’t closely identify with as an audience.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Good Dinosaur

As familiar and predictable as it turns out, by golly, "The Good Dinosaur" will still get you to smile greatly and tear up uncontrollably.  Pixar consistently gets its emotion and resonance exactly right.  This film achieves that signature Pixar punch effectively enough to be fitting holiday entertainment.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Danish Girl

Tom Hooper's new film, "The Danish Girl" based on the fictionalized account of Lili Elbe, spearheads what has been a banner 2015 year for LGBT film subjects.  This a film not about a character looking for love.  All that person wants is to be the truest version of themselves on the inside in a time where what that means on the outside would not be accepted publicly.  The philosophy of it all brings us back to Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said, "What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."  "The Danish Girl" delivers a story that matches the matter of Emerson's thoughts on the past, future, and inside.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Carol

51st Chicago International Film Festival OUT-Look Special Presentation

"Carol," among many other superlatives, is a film completely driven by the weight of reason and accountability within its female lead characters.  Played by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar nominee Rooney Mara, we witness two women formulating the capacity to reason with the undeniable truths they find in their hearts while understanding the ramifications and accountability acting on those feelings would result in as women of the pre-feminist 1950s.  "Carol" is a fascinating and empowering love story, no matter what label you associate for your identity or disposition.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2

With all honesty, this writer has never been a fan of "The Hunger Games."   Dystopian worlds and brassy films about them are always fascinating, but kids-killing-kids-for-sport isn't a cup of tea fitting of endorsement.  It is easy to be intrigued but admittedly hard to be entertained by such a thing.  With the profit-milking complete from "Part 1" last November, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2" ties together its loose ends with reasonable quality.  To this critic, the series has always come down to your tolerance of overwrought melodrama, your acceptance of illogical hang-ups, and your stomach for grim fictionalized massacre with a high body count being pushed on kids.  It's hard to be a fan of that bleakness.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: James White

51st Chicago International Film Festival U.S. Indies special presentation

Much of the resisted maturation journey playing out for the title character in Josh Mond's "James White" feels petulant and half-hearted, much like the character himself.  We learn that effort is by design because he is a character that needs fixing.  The only way James White can mature is through bottoming out and finding emotion in places other than himself.  "James White" is a difficult and unflinching look at both terminal illness and wasting one's life on selfish excesses. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: The 33

51st Chicago International Film Festival Highlight special presentation

In the hands of someone more bombastic, the finished product of "The 33" would be far more cliche and erroneously over-dramatized.  Director Patricia Riggen certainly still employs a plentiful creative license to dramatize and compress this trauma into two hours, but the lionizing on one end and the vilifying on the other is remarkably low.  "The 33" is a winning survival film where the people come before the stereotypes and theatrics.

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GUEST CRITIC #13: The Peanuts Movie

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, sometimes a simple sentence or two from a friend says it all.  Sometimes, it inspires me to see the movie too and get back to being my circle's go-to movie guy.  Sometimes, they save me $9 and you 800+ words of blathering.  In a new review series, I'm opening my site to friend submissions for quick-hit movie reviews.  Here is the Stark family with "The Peanuts Movie."

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ADVANCE MOVIE REVIEW: Brooklyn

"Brooklyn" is an forthright, approachable, and esteemed historical drama where the dignity and honesty soar to heavenly heights to shine on the plights of love and independence.  This tremendous film nestles a powerful love triangle within a touching immigrant and independent woman's saga from the 1950s.  More than just being some high-end chick flick, "Brooklyn" stands as one of the finest films of the year and an immediate Oscar contender.

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CHECKLIST: 2015 Holiday Movie Calendar

Here is your lineup of upcoming films for the peak Oscar season months of November and December.  Add these to your calendar or print and slip this list on the fridge.  As always, release dates shift all of the time, so be aware.  My full seasonal preview will be coming soon!  Enjoy!

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