Posts tagged Festival review
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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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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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: 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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MOVIE REVIEW: The Beguiled

The transitive verb “beguile,” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means “to engage the interest of” or “lead by deception.”  Hoodwink and divert are synonyms.  Director Sofia Coppola’s remake of The Beguiled means to charm our corsets and britches off right in line with its title’s root definition.  Methodically and dastardly, the film wishes to seduce us with a heightened intrigue of challenged sexual repression.

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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: 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: 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: 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: 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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