Posts tagged Festival coverage
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: Message Received

The character of James in Message Received, played by David Chin, is a married man whose extramarital activities has been discovered by a mystery person.  His actions that follow in the taut 11-minute short demonstrate how desperation can make that downward cycle even more steep and slippery.  Things get worse instead of better and he has no one to blame but himself.

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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 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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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: 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: A Ghost Story

Welcome to the polarizing gamut of engagement, acceptance, and disquiet of A Ghost Story.  This is a wholly original film that takes preparation, patience, absorption, and reflection that some, or even many, may not be ready for.  Presented in the rounded and claustrophobic corners of a centered 1.33:1 aspect ratio, it is safe to say, you will see nothing like this all year and maybe several more.

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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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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Debt

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Short Program II

Kids not only say the darndest things, but do the darndest things too.  “The Debt” is a highly charming short film illustrating a child’s view of courtship and love.  The romantic ways of the world are foreign to the young, so they make up their own ideas.  Engaging and well-acted by youth performers, this short film will charm you to pieces.

 

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lift

Six very different people are stuck in an elevator, or “lift” if you will, as it is called across the Atlantic in Dublin.  One of the occupants just beat lumps into a security guard and the rest are stuck fearing for their safety.  This isn’t the most ideal place to find comedy, yet “Lift” fires a few quips at the expense of this predicament.

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MOVIE REVIEW: La La Land

In front of and behind the camera, you will find creative people that deftly understand and properly tap into the spirit and flavor of the classic genres and eras they are blending.  Breathing jazzy life into a Hollywood musical set in the present day of Priuses and iPhones, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to “Whiplash” is a modern cinematic masterpiece.  It is the kind of film where you will remember where you were when you first saw it.  You will not find a more jubilant, romanticized, or flat-out entertaining film this year.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Jackie

Mesmerizing describes the film as a whole and its incomparable lead performance from Academy Award winner Natalie Portman playing First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the immediate hours and days following her husband's 1963 assassination.  Far from a biopic and more of a psychological examination, Portman and Larrain sear the screen with emotion and imagery that is as captivating as it is difficult.  It is astonishing that it takes a foreign director to create the most empowering portrait of American history put to film in years.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Moonlight

I dare you to look into the painful eyes of the three ages of Chiron and their matching performers and not have your soul triple in weight.  The arc in "Moonlight" from the innocence of the little boy to the uncomfortable vulnerability hiding underneath the muscles and gold fronts of the hardened resulting adult is arduously moving on multiple levels.  Observing his difficulties forces you to absorb the conflict and inescapable trepidation that surrounds the shared character.  Pressing his heart to your own makes for one of the most moving and rewarding film experiences this year.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Middle Man

52nd Chicago International Film Festival U.S. Indies entry and presentation

“Middle Man” blends an acidic edge with showy panache that bleeds from every character, large and small.  Credit the devious fun of Crowley for the snappy dialogue that pops from each character.  The comedy is clever instead of coarse while maintaining its darkness.  Nearly every speaking part of this colorful cast of funhouse mirrors nails a zinger or two that fits right into that line of taste.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 52nd Chicago International Film Festival

For the third year in a row, this website has been granted press credentials to cover the many facets of the 52nd CIFF.  I am targeting the U.S. Indies slate and will add selections from the Special Presentations, Black Perspectives, and World Cinema programs.  Most of these films are appearing either before or without distribution dates, meaning my reviews here will stay brief capsule form.  Come back to this page often and I will add films as I go!

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 2nd Annual Irish American Movie Hooley

The second annual Irish American Movie Hooley at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago.  Presented by 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey and produced by Hibernian Transmedia, the spirited mini-festival has a slate of three films, two making their Chicago premieres between September 30 and October 2.  This very writer and website was privy to viewing and reviewing this year’s Irish American Movie Hooley selections in advance.  Here are my capsule reviews and recommendations.

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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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