Posts tagged Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle
COLUMN: The 10 Best Films of 2017

The end of the year brings grading and reflection points for both the school teacher in me and the film critic.  Looking at the online Trapper Keeper portfolio called Every Movie has a Lesson, I published 126 full film reviews in 2017, topping last year’s 114 and setting a new high mark.  Here’s my definitive list of the "10 Best" films of 2017.  True to this website’s specialty, each film will be paired with its best life lesson.  Enjoy!

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "E-Man's Movie Reviews" podcast for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

Minutes after stepping out of an advance press screening of the most-anticipated movie of the year, Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man's Movie Reviews summoned his recording equipment and a brake-pumping exhale session for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  The SPOILER ALERT neon light is on for the two of us breaking down our impressions, reservations, likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams for this middle chapter of a new trilogy.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "E-Man's Movie Reviews" podcast for "Justice League"

Emmanuel Noisette of the newly updated E-Man's Movie Reviews called for a wingman on a team-up movie.  He was kind enough to invite me to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson on  a recorded SPOILER-FILLED podcast of our immediate reactions after watching the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon concoction of Justice League.  We sit down and discuss what we saw, what we liked, and didn't like.

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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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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: The Young Offenders

The banter and B.S. traded back and forth between Alex Murphy and Chris Walley is as hysterical as it is pleasurably uncouth.  It’s an absolute wonder to realize that The Young Offenders is mutually their first on-camera film roles.  Alex and Chris’s chemistry through sarcasm and shared shenanigans feels and looks effortless.  Flabbergasted energy blasts out of both of them and it’s a hoot to watch.  Seeing the two young actors operate these over-the-top losers with reckless abandon while still injecting a little coming-of-age heart for good measure, makes the film highly entertaining.

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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: mother!

There is extreme thematic and visceral content in mother! that will rattle even the toughest souls.  Metaphorical imagery and symbolism are everywhere, and the number of literal and figurative interpretations of what is implicitly or explicitly transpiring can kill as many brain cells as it multiplies.  The film begs endless questioning. Surviving and absorbing the film becomes a maddening experience.  In the end, what is evident to celebrate is also categorically impossible to fully condone.

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GUEST CRITIC #25: It

Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews is an emerging film critic tackling both written and video reviews.  His YouTube channel is must-watch and automatic-subscribe material.  Emmanuel is one of the co-directors with me of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. Between us two busy Chicago critics and working fathers, Emmanuel and I are orchestrating a trade of "guest reviews" for each other's sites.  Horror is not my cup of tea and he was all over It.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on the "Page 2 Screen" podcast talking 20 years of "L.A. Confidential"

 I joined Jeff York recently as his guest for a special 20th-anniversary 35mm screening of 1997's Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential at the storied Music Box Theatre as part of the Noir City Chicago Festival.  As an added treat, author James Ellroy was in the house to kick things off with an expletive-laden bang.  After the screening, he and I hunkered down in Frio Gelato near the theatre to share our admiration and examination of Curtis Hanson's masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Crown Heights

Director Matt Ruskin’s Crown Heights presents a true story incarceration as it happened to an innocent man.  Just when you think two undue years awaiting trial are shameful enough, it turns into twenty over the course of four presidencies and 99 tidy minutes.  To tell the story of Colin Warner is to tell a story shared by too many thousands of other wrongfully incarcerated people within the U.S. prison system.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Other Place

Dashes of kink and horror mix within Lee Amir-Cohen to create moments of shock and heat shared with Amanda Maddox in the short film The Other Place.  The star, who also writes and directs this short, has crafted something creepily captivating in front of and behind the camera.  Contracted properly as a short film that leaves you wanting more, this shot glass of venom is a properly measured jolt.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis

In a terse 80 minutes, The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis locks its suspenseful build and holds your attention.  Open-ended as it is, the film could have employed additional time to hammer its points home and offer a payoff.  However, it’s minimal surface and suddenness feels intentional to mirror the mysterious fates that befell so many people of this era.  Quietly powerful, the effect and feeling are convincing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Wind River

Through every snowflake and gunshot, Taylor Sheridan cuts to the marrow and keeps Wind River firmly on track with its layered stages of discovery.  Tighter than Hell or High Water and more humane than Sicario, this film creates a tone of toughness balanced adroitly by human realities occurring in a dangerous place with a different set of rules.  The end result is a highly engrossing mystery with the edge we have come to appreciate and admire from Sheridan.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Asking someone if they subscribe to the science of climate change might as well be as tenuous as asking a person if they believe in God.  Climate change has become a divisive firebrand topic like few others in the decade since the Oscar-winning and punctually motivating documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  In several ways, the topic has come a long way in some places only to slip backward in other measures.  An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a persuasive update on the matter.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Discussing July and the top films of 2017 on the "Reel Talker" podcast

Fellow CIFCC critic and director Jim Alexander of Reel Talker extended the invitation for me to co-host a new episode of his podcast.  On this installment of the Reel Talker podcast, Jim and I discuss the July movie releases and which we consider hits or flops.  Also, he and I disclose our Top 10 movie lists through the halfway point of 2017.  Jim and I had very different picks, chock full of surprises!

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: "Feelin' Film" podcast minisode on "Detroit"

Kathryn Bigelow's new film Detroit deserves the attention and lightning rod attraction it hopes to receive.  Her historical drama is unrelenting in weight and topical in its parallels to similar and remaining mistreatment still happening today.  On the same night as seeing an advance screening, three critics got together to unpack and reaction to Detroit.  Aaron White, one of the hosts of the Feelin' Film Podcast, invited me and fellow Chicago critic Emmanuel Noisette of Eman's Movie Reviews to put our thoughts and feelings into words.

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MOVIE CLASSROOM: Atomic Blonde

There are not enough loud writing colors on the ShowMe app to give the splashy neon of Atomic Blonde the rub it deserves, but, hopefully, my words do the trick.  Come and bow at the altar of Charlize Theron, as I did for this review.  The film may not be anything special in the spy department, but the Monster Oscar winner deserves the fist-pumps for the toughness and guile she put on display.

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