Posts tagged 2016
SHORT FILM REVIEW: Not Yet

For a while now, I have long wondered how someone could bottle that signature Pixar-level lightness for dramatic heft and pour it into a live-action piece with the same welcome whimsy.  Pixar's animated feature films and shorts consistently have a special way with conveying humor within the most difficult emotions  I might have found the closest attempt yet in Chad Hamilton’s lovely short film Not Yet.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Dunning Man

Inspired by true events, which will cause a fun double take as the film transpires, The Dunning Man is adapted from the published short stories of producer Kevin Fortuna.  Precariously, at times, balancing somewhere between an urban drama and paperback crime novel, the film presents a seedy slice of Atlantic City calmed by nostalgic scene transitions of vintage footage of the city in its decadent heyday.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris is an exceedingly charming ditty of a comedy from the writing, directing, and starring duo of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon.  Three overlapping character-coded chapters follow a wayward character’s pratfalls and screwups through the course of their fateful intersections.  Lost in Paris weaves its yarn with clever panache.  It’s a surreal jaunt that juggles the cheekily uncouth with the innocently sweet inside its ever-present sense of whimsy.

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MOVIE REVIEW: I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake is unabashedly a “bleeding heart” film on literal and figurative levels.  If this was a Hollywood film, it would be overrun with shouted speeches and orchestrational swells trying to manufacture emotional peaks.  Fluff like that is unnecessary if you have the right poetic realism,  For Loach, that’s second hand and he picks the right soapbox placement and thickness.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Love, Lies

“Love, Lies” plays upon the decaying dichotomy orbiting the two women as they vie for love and validation against dignity and betrayal.  It’s impossible not to feel the emotions imbued into the punctuating moments of expression through song that fully embody the conflict and romantic encumbrances weighing on the characters.  The music is the vital and resonating fiber that unites the period atmosphere with the stirring portrayals of talent.

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MOVIE REVIEW: My Egg Boy

The trappings of “My Egg Boy” are firmly entrenched in melodrama, yet kissed with delightful fancy.  The strength is in the dynamic writing to weave practical magic with fertile imagination.  The romantic and symbolistic peaks and valleys built by Tien-Yu Fu are endlessly relatable even when characterized.  What begins as whimsy evolves quite affectingly to something rapturously heartfelt.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mine

Isolated survival films have an immense draw.  Our self-preservation instincts kick in and we, as the audience, cannot help but hypothetically put ourselves in the same conundrum as the main character.  Often these films delve into the preciousness of the life and dabble in the “what does it all mean” direction to pull even more thought and emotion.  A few metaphors dipped in symbolism make for nice touches.  Regrettably, the peril grinder of “Mine” pounds its not-so-thinly-veiled metaphors repeatedly and insufferably into the ground.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Incoming Call

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

“Incoming Call” has a dynamite premise that would make for a fascinating nugget of science fiction.  The possible latitude one could take with the idea of warning the past about the future is endless. This film keenly distills and scales that down to microcosm level of a single person and the matter of picking up the phone.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Apparel

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

Director Peter Delaney and writer Daniel Mooney flesh out miniature character study with decent results.  Andrew Bennett gives a very solid performance to construct numerous shades of character within Joe.  He is a man that is losing touch with his comfort zone.  We never fully know his issues and we shouldn’t have to.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Great Wall

"The Great Wall" is an imposing creature feature that stands as a three-headed glamour project.  You have an A-list star venturing overseas for international credibility and a splashy director landing his official English-language debut.  Aiming higher in aspiration is a production company hoping to open a new and profitable pipeline of investment between Hollywood and China.  Visually splendid from top to bottom, this epic adventure squeaks by on its looks and spares no expense to make sure of that.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short

This year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Short are an eclectic bunch.  One of them, “Borrowed Time,” I have previously reviewed in full on this website.  Here are my collected capsule reviews of the slate of five, complete with my signature life lessons.  Look for the theaters this month bundling these nominees together for public viewing and ticket opportunities.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: I Am Not Your Negro

The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” from director Raoul Peck unearths “Remember This House,” an unfinished 1979 manuscript of the James Baldwin’s recollections of Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin.  This outstanding and informative film presents Baldwin’s musings alongside sobering imagery of both the turbulent history of the era and parallel occurrences of modern racial unrest that echo the same violence, inequality, anger, and sorrow.  As an Oscar nominee in a banner year for feature documentaries, “I Am Your Negro” is essential viewing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Julieta

Renowned Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar seizes our attention and lights the fires of intrigue with human simplicity in “Julieta,” his 20th feature film and Spain’s entry this year for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  Concocting a brew of passion coupled with remorse across personal history young and old, Almodovar unspools the tangled threads of a guilt-ridden woman’s heart.  Adapted from three Alice Munro short stories, “Julieta” is a strong return to the female-focused storyscapes that have made him a legend.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Go North

All too often, the recent young adult wave of big studio dystopian fiction films contain three root faults.  First, they shoot off preposterous peril for the sake of peril like a pyromaniac loose in a fireworks warehouse.  Secondly, within the peril is the overused trope of militarizing teens and children.  Finally, the screenwriters feel the need to over-explain every little thing about its created universe as if the audience can’t think for themselves or be challenged to draw an inference or two.  For the most part, the small budget independent film “Go North” successfully and thankfully operates above those three traps.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Barry

Every influential man or woman had a formative period of their life where their impressionable knowledge coalesced into cemented principles that would guide them going forward.  The outgoing 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is no different.  The new Netflix and VOD entry “Barry,” from director Vikram Gandhi, muses on the internal and external catalysts that shaped the then-20-year-old piece of unformed clay into the future leader of the free world.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Trespass Against Us

When it comes to crime families in movies, any contenders and pretenders that want to be taken seriously are kissing the Corleone ring of “The Godfather” trilogy.  That’s not happening with the Cutler clan in Adam Smith’s “Trespass Against Us.”  As a mishmash of trailer park trash puffing their chests to operate with supposed principles, they occupy the polar opposite end of the glamorous spectrum of organized crime.  Call them an “Irish fugazi,” if you will, complete with their own membership rings and cracks in the hierarchy.

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COLUMN: 16 hidden gem films from 2016

Even with my access to more-than-most with festival coverage and press credentials, I can’t see everything.  What I can do is prop up some hidden gems that I was lucky enough to see and review.  Here are 16 under-seen winners from 2016.  The qualifier for the list was title earning less than $1 million at the box office.  They are ranked from highest-scoring review to least.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Monster Calls

J.A. Bayona’s film, based on the 2011 novel of the same name and adapted for the screen by the author himself, Patrick Hess, operates with a similar dichotomy and balancing act with its genre.  “Fantasy” and “genuine” are two words that do not normally mix together.  “A Monster Calls” creates an engrossing tale of allegory and myth and still roots it in a setting of stark reality filled with family and flaws.  

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