Posts tagged Chicago Film Festival
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: 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: 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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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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MOVIE REVIEW: The Assassin

"The Assassin," directed by Taiwan New Wave director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, is the latest and brightest wuxia film looking to make an international splash.  The film was an official Main Competition selection of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the awards for Best Director and the Soundtrack Award.  It is making the rounds of the international film festival circuit, including a recent Highlight selection bow at the 51st Chicago International Film Festival, and will represent Taiwan's entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards this coming February. 

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CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: 10 must-see films of the 51st CIFF

Annually, the Chicago International Film Festival houses some of the first opportunities to Oscar contenders and world-class films.  With so many choices, what are the high-profile or can’t-miss films appearing at the year’s festival?  Here are this website’s picks for the top 10 must-see films of the 51st Chicago International Film Festival.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Clouds of Sils Maria

The new foreign-backed "Clouds of Sils Maria" is the latest film to challenge the parallels of a performer channeling what may or not be a version of themselves.  Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, "Clouds of Sils Maria" premiered in competition at last year's Cannes Film Festival and worked the film festival circuit last winter, including stops in Toronto, New York, and the 50th Chicago International Film Festival.  The film finally makes its limited U.S. theatrical release on April 10th.  Honed down to a serious scale far smaller and more intimate than the likes of "Notting Hill," the cinematic star in the center of this solar system microcosm is Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche.  As a gracefully aging actress of peripheral prominence playing a fictional one of the same sort in a different situation, we are taken inside a phenomenal character study.  "Clouds of Sils Maria" is a fascinating actor's showcase that deserves and earns your attention for the behind-the-scenes tribulations of acting and the livelihood attached to that career. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Salvation

American Westerns have become a lost art and a dying breed.  So much has been done that it's hard to find a fresh take.  If you have felt that loss and need a jolt, an extremely taut and good homage to the American Western has emerged in "The Salvation," playing now in limited release and Video on Demand, from Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring.  Headlined by Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Jonathan Pryce, the film moved the needle a bit during the 2014 film festival circuit, including a pair of screenings at the 50th Chicago International Film Festival last October (where yours truly caught the ride).

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Last Five Years

When a strikingly and surprisingly good movie musical does comes around and impress, the only thing to do is shout and sing its praises from the proverbial mountaintops, just as the main characters would have the proclivity to do.  Well, we've got one right here, so cover your ears, and hear me roar!  "The Last Five Years," the adaptation of Jason Robert Brown's Off-Broadway hit, is a new movie musical that makes this website's handful list of true gems and delightful keepers.  This is the real film the date movie crowd should be seeking out this Valentine's Day weekend instead of the whips-and-chains-handcuffs of some certain monochromatic thriller.  This film simply soars in every way!

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MOVIE REVIEW: Two Days, One Night

With Cotillard commanding the screen and using none of her looks and star power, the Dardennes have created an intentionally minimalistic film that packs a punch without the need for gaudy theatrics.  If this was a Hollywood film, this storyline of encounters would be backed by over-acted reactions, flashy star cameos, unrealistic results, a ticking clock like a "24" episode, and a heaping pile "Norma Rae"-level workplace politics and finger-pointing backed by some sweeping musical score that crescendos to a predictable and manufactured happy ending.  A Hollywood film would beat those themes of confidence, sympathy, and pity to death with syrup and imposed drama.  What started as realistic and approachable would be rendered melodramatic and fake.  Because of the focused simplicity and plainness of this story and the artistic intent of the Dardenne brothers, none of those mistakes of over-indulgence occur. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wild

When I call "Wild" a "chick flick" of the highest order, I don't mean the tropes, cliches, and stereotypes. I mean the label from the empowerment and importance standpoint.  "Wild" is the positive kind of "chick flick" that isn't made enough and is drowned out by other crappier efforts targeted at women.  With its true story tale, "Wild" is a strong and substantial film for female audiences.  I do not say this next statement lightly.  "Wild" is truly a film that every woman should see and one they should put on a more preferred pedestal for ideals compared to the "chick flicks" that ruin women's good sense.   Better yet, it's an accessible film for all movie-going clientele, not just the ladies. 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Birdman

When Keaton's perfection is combined with the film's bracing, topical, and strong social commentary on Hollywood, Broadway, acting, fame, and celebrity for this different modern world, "Birdman" becomes even larger of an achievement for Mexican director and Academy Award nominee Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  Subtitled "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance," this new film will earn a high place on many year-end lists for one of the year's best.

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MOVIE REVIEW: St. Vincent

 Bill Murray, at his age and at this end of his career reinvention as a serious actor over the last two decades, has reached the point where he is unarguably great in everything he touches, right down to silly cameos and web videos.  In his new film, “St. Vincent” his powers of talent and charm have merged and reached a new peak.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: My slate from the 50th Chicago International Film Festival

In accordance with the rules placed on me with my press credentials, I am not allowed to publish and post full reviews of the films I saw until their official U.S. distribution and release date.  For some movies, that's happening now with the festival itself and for others that holding stretches into 2015.  I would love to lay out everything, but I can't and you have to be patient.  What I am allowed put out are capsule reviews: brief takes and short critiques that offer a taste of the full meal.  Here are capsules for all of the films I attended from the 50th anniversary schedule.  Each are listed with their anticipatory U.S. release dates for when you will find my review.

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COLUMN: Award recipients named for the 50th Chicago International Film Festival

In its banner 50th anniversary year, the Chicago International Film Festival welcomed another deep field of cinematic competition spanning feature films, local works, animated efforts, international selections, numerous documentary films, and vast number of short films.  On Friday, October 17th, the festival held its annual awards banquet.  The ceremony and festivities were hosted by Fox News Chicago entertainment reporter and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker.  Awards were given out in the following categories: International Feature Film Competition, New Directors Competition, Roger Ebert Award, Chicago Award, Q-Hugo Award, DocuFest and Shorts

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COLUMN: 50th Chicago International Film Festival special events

Since starting in 1965, the Chicago International Film Festival has operated as the country's oldest competitive international film festival.  Following "Miss Julie" and the Opening Night Gala, two films will be featured as the Festival Centerpieces.  Both films will screened on Wednesday, October 15th. Over the course of the two and a half weeks that follow, over 300 more films and events will take place primarily at the AMC River East 21 theater on 322 East Illinois Street.  Best of all, this whole extravaganza is open to the public.  For this watershed anniversary, several special presentations are planned.

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