Posts tagged Chicago Critics Film Festival
MOVIE REVIEW: Menashe

Weinstein writes and directs what constitutes as a love letter to a culture, a community, and to the essence of fatherhood.  The lead’s personal plight is a compelling one done with grace and admiration for attaching the right layer of empathy.  It’s not overly heavy in any particular way, but Menashe carries enough honesty, enough will, and enough power to break any father’s heart.  There’s strength to be found in that.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Little Hours

The phrase “nuns behaving badly” sounds like a bad porno title or a silly hashtag.  Alas, that’s the low-hanging fruit and chicanery afoot in The Little Hours.  Tracing inspiration to a yarn from one of Giovanni Boccaccio’s collected 14th century novellas in The Decameron, the new ensemble film from Jeff Baena wraps it religious habit up with wit, erotica, and practical jokes from Italian prose translated into a modern vernacular.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Score: A Film Music Documentary

This writer is an unabashed film music lover.  I owned more film score CDs than ones of popular music back in the day and that ratio hasn’t changed with digital media.  Hell, I wrote a long-form editorial three years ago proclaiming film music as an improvement of the Mozart Effect for babies and children which led to a playlist afterwards that I still use to this day.  I am a mark for what Score: A Film Music Documentary was selling and many of the names and talents featured in the film are found on that personal playlist.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Hero

The soon-to-be 73-year-old Sam Elliott is a goddamn national treasure and no one can convince me otherwise.  Most folks go straight for the man’s imposing baritone voice or his sweet ‘stache.  I go for his swagger and resolve.  What makes Sam’s signature timbre memorable is the determination behind it, not its sound.  The purpose makes the presence.  Written especially for him by writer-director Brett Haley, The Hero is a sublime epistle to the silver screen specter cast by Sam Elliott.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 5th Chicago Critics Film Festival

Over 40 feature-length and short films, many of which making their Chicago premieres, graced the main screen of the Music Box Theatre this past week-and-change as part of the fifth annual Chicago Critics Film Festival.  It was an honor and pleasure to be be granted press credentials to cover the event.  Here are my collected capsule reviews of the feature-length films.

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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: In a Valley of Violence

“In a Valley of Violence” lives up to the promised bloodshed suggested by its title and spins its own brand of tension and, best of all, a frank and bone-dry humor that blows into the whole film.  You will either love the comedic edge or find it a distraction from the revenge.  There is an undeniable panache to the absurdity that makes the film an absolute hoot.  This is the giddy Western Quentin Tarantino wishes he could make while he wastes six hours of our time and stretched disbelief.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bete)

All eyes are on the hotly anticipated live-action "re-imagining" of Walt Disney Pictures' enormously successful "Beauty and the Beast" from 1991.  That March 2017 sure-fire blockbuster will garner tremendous attention in its attempt to honor the animated Best Picture Oscar nominee and double Academy Award winner.  In the meantime, the fairy tale's home country of France throws down its own gauntlet to give Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve's 1740 original story and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's abridged 1756 standard the grand, epic big-screen treatment it warrants.  Let's just say the French sure know what they are doing.  

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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: Little Men

Celebrated director Ira Sachs channels a shade of William Shakespeare with his latest film "Little Men."  An often-repeated quote from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" reads "the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children."  Sachs puts a beautiful spin on that notion using modern-day Brooklyn, two struggling families from different backgrounds, and a blossoming friendship characterized by two terrific debuting teen actors.  "Little Men" may be small in scope, but it speaks volumes in repercussions.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Other Half

For better or worse, Nickie and Emily, the two lovers orbiting at the center of "The Other Half," are two volatile human chemicals.  Welshman Tom Cullen's Nickie is a sorrowful, combative man with a hair-trigger temper.  Tatiana Maslany's Emily is a bipolar sprite with an astounding gap between her highs and her lows.  By themselves, each are unstable and damaged.  The question for the film becomes what happens when Nickie and Emily are combined.  Does their pairing tame their respective caustic qualities or does it multiply the damage?  "The Other Half" has the makings of a fascinating relationship piece and off-kilter love story.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Life, Animated

This website has been moralizing for six years now its central message that "every movie has a lesson."  As an educator, it is something that I firmly believe and stand by with every possible film, good or bad.  I don't think, in all of my years of movie-going, I have ever seen a more real, living and breathing example of the power and magic of my website's theme than in the compelling and emotional new documentary "Life, Animated."  A story like this is why I write.  If that message speaks to you, go find "Life, Animated" immediately.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Cinema aficionados will quickly point fingers towards a few familiar comparisons for director Taika Waititi's New Zealand-based festival favorite, "Hunt for the Wilderpeople."  The trouble is they will be shoehorning the film into an unshapely and narrow box where many containers are needed.  "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" is rich and broad film with a charm and a sprawling ambition that will ping more that a few of your favorite film sensibilities.  Broken into ten cheeky episodic chapters and boasting beautiful natural beauty shot by cinematographer Lachlan Milne, you will find a fun experience that may feel familiar, yet is wholly unique.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 4th Chicago Critics Film Festival

The Chicago Critics Film Festival is currently in action at Chicago’s historic Music Box Theatre and runs until May 26th.  The festival offers a selection of films comprised of festival favorites and pre-distribution sneak peeks from around the country and world.  The CCFF is in its fourth year and is programmed by the Chicago Film Critics Association.  I was granted press credentials to cover this year's slate.  With so many pre-release debuts, full reviews for the films often have to be held until their formal release.  In the mean time, check back here to this article for my capsule reviews of what I soak up.  I will update this as I add films this week!

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