Posts tagged 2017
MOVIE REVIEW: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s new film puts prickly in the pastoral glazing its country charm with absolute acid every chance it gets.  Part stern crime drama and part small-town chicanery, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri displays the next level of McDonagh’s talent and potential.  Always the sharp storyteller since his roots on the Irish stage, McDonagh’s writing prowess elevates a premise that would fall flat as pure farce in other hands

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mercury in Retrograde

Michael Glover Smith’s words of mounting depth and weight turn idle chatter into soapboxes that eventually become proverbial fortifications built around questioned principles and shattered wills.  The ensemble of performers delivers on the required heavy lifting from the director to make the multitude of human flaws believable yet still approachable.  Mercury in Retrograde is a hidden gem.

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GUEST CRITICS #27: A Bad Mom's Christmas

In a return engagement for a zany sequel, Every Movie Has a Lesson welcomes back the four fine ladies and working moms of the "TTC" (Terrific Teacher Committee).  Say hello again to Donna Ferretti, Kelly Johnson, Manda Torres, and my own wife, Mrs. Thanh Shanahan, the purveyor of this website's "Pillow Rankings" section.  Sixteen months ago, they reviewed Bad Moms on this website as "Guest Critics."  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder

Wonder’s buoyant messages are the moving jolt of empathy this generation needs.  Even better, its literal and figurative precepts carry an inspiring weight worthy to last many generations more.  Directed by the good hands of Stephen Chbosky, Wonder is an instant classic, sure to become a new favorite, for its target audience and a winning (and rare) example of a film taking great care to do justice by the book it is based on.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Justice League

Justice League comes across like attempted course correction done on that Etch-a-Sketch.  The artist, or artists in this case, are trying to retrace old paths and smooth over past missteps with redrawn swirls, lighter hues, and a fluffy cover-up we call comedy.  That effort on the cinematic Etch-a-Sketch indeed changes the initial picture, but only after unnecessarily tedious effort and some remaining messy results.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lady Bird

In her solo feature directorial debut, Greta Gerwig has stepped in and pushed this cinematic species tremendously forward with the dramedy Lady Bird.  The film destroys any notion of the “manic pixie dream girl” fakery.  Lady Bird is a cornucopia woven with striking candor and filled with delightful oxymorons artfully composed to challenge taboos and stereotypes. Let’s give each oxymoron a life lesson and a paragraph or two along the way.

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GUEST CRITIC #26: Murder on the Orient Express

Fellow Chicago critic Jeff York is a delight to talk to on any and all topics, but our movie chats have become truly special.  Jeff was able to view and review Kenneth Branagh's remake of Murder on the Orient Express. He's a self-professed fan and cover-to-cover expert on the Agatha Christie source novel and the previously celebrated 1974 film adaptation.  His review will do better informative service than mine ever would. 

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INFOGRAPHIC: The Importance of Fog in Film

One of the most dramatic of all meteorological phenomenon is fog. It can be used to ratchet up tension, conceal terrifying creatures, and even provide important characters with a suitably dramatic entrance.  Spanning genres from horror to sci-fi, mist and fog are more versatile than mere set dressing.  This infographic from Vaping Man shares the importance (not forgetting the scare-factor) that fog brings to the silver screen.

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INFOGRAPHIC: The Best Movie Rooftop Confrontations

There are few things more scenic and compelling than a wide-open rooftop overlooking a sprawling urban landscape.  The perception of heigh and depth does it all.  Over the years, some iconic movie scenes have taken place on rooftops. Maybe it’s the risk of falling off, or the build-up to the inevitable showdown at the end. Here is an engaging infographic from Rubber Band on some of the best rooftop confrontations in movie history.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok

Paired perfectly as a double-feature follow-up to this summer’s spacefaring Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok is a raucously rad roller coaster that shoots rainbows out of every digitally-rendered pore.  Blasting with energetic pace in the complete opposite direction from the dreary and grayish Game of Thrones Lite tone of Thor: The Dark World, this new chapter is a cinematic box of Crayola crayons laced with dynamite.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Suburbicon

Suburbicon lazily delivers a caper that lacks cleverness, smarts, and anything edgy other than the spurts of hemoglobin that stain a few starched shirts.  Even if it is pitch black by design, the final ingredient of fake sentimentality glazed over the proceedings is ineffective to add any varnish to the acidic angle of white-collar crime.  Nonsensical twist follows nonsensical twist for an aimless purpose.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival

The 53rd Chicago International FIlm Festival brings over 1,000 films of all genres and sizes to our fair city.  There are premieres aplenty, between those making their world, North American, or Chicago debuts.  Opening with a red carpet premiere of Marshall, peaking with the centerpiece of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, and closing with the Oscar contender The Shape of Water from Guillermo del Toro, the 53rd CIFF fills the AMC River East 21 for two weeks.  For the fourth year in a row, Every Movie Has a Lesson has been granted press credentials to cover the CIFF and here are my capsule reviews.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Liquid Truth

The discolored and dingy tile grout at the bottom of a swimming pool and the imagery effect of rippling water seen under the surface bending the images above perspective starkly symbolize the many warped dimensions of Liquid Truth.  The truth in the title is as slippery as the water in director Caroline Jabor’s simmering social commentary.  The film may be foreign from Brazil, but it typifies all too many social media ills that would explode in a parallel fashion here in this country.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin is a cinematic quilt collecting experiences from many different narrative themes.  A few patches carry the pattern of biographical films, chronicling life’s highlights and lowlights within a well-to-do family and their hired caretaker.  Others carry the created images of a writer’s world-building legend.  The threads binding those quilt pieces are a woven blend of the barbed wire of post-traumatic stress disorder and the smoothly silken cords of childhood whimsy. The experience of snuggling up with the Goodbye Christopher Robin blanket of testimony and memories is as affectingly dramatic as it is comfortably warm.

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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: Loving Vincent

The filmmakers promised Loving Vincent to be nothing you’ve ever seen put to film and they were not lying.  The sheer artistry is miraculous where even folded shirts look as dramatic as emoting faces.  To call the biographical drama a work of art and astonishing technical achievement would be shameless understatements.  The best part of all is the massive wellspring of creativity was thankfully applied to an engaged narrative worthy of the artistry and the legend cast by Vincent Van Gogh

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MOVIE REVIEW: Chasing the Blues

Chasing the Blues is a dark comedy through and through.  Director Scott Smith and his co-writer Kevin Guifoile crafted an engaging yarn of hijinks and hilarity.  Their narrative might feel like something out of a Coen brothers rough draft, but this film sides with a far less gonzo approach that suits its shrewder stature.  Like the musical genre at its core, patient storytelling is at the forefront.  Could it use a stiffer punch or two?  Maybe, but then it wouldn’t be the blue and not everything has to be shock cinema.  Waiting for the payoff in this tidy 77-minute film is an easy and worthwhile short hike to climb.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Florida Project

The crucial emotional response The Florida Project demands of its viewers is empathy.  If you can’t find that, if you turn your nose, close your eyes, and refuse to accept that this kind of American lifestyle exists, you are missing the hard truths, the teachable moments, and the larger points being presented.  onvenient Hollywood endings don’t exist in the real life Baker’s film examines.  Applaud a film that dares to push that stark reality.

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