Posts in 2016
SHORT FILM REVIEW: Not Yet

For a while now, I have long wondered how someone could bottle that signature Pixar-level lightness for dramatic heft and pour it into a live-action piece with the same welcome whimsy.  Pixar's animated feature films and shorts consistently have a special way with conveying humor within the most difficult emotions  I might have found the closest attempt yet in Chad Hamilton’s lovely short film Not Yet.

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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: Emerald City

I know it’s the clickbait haven of Buzzfeed, but this list of jobs well-known celebrities had before they hit it big is pretty humbling and eye-opening at the same time.  Once the millions roll in and we see the red carpets and flash bulbs, we forget the lucky breaks and hard work it took to get there, and that for every one of those matinee idols a thousand never make it.  Upon seeing Emerald City at the 3rd annual Irish American Movie Hooley, I’ll gladly raise my glass in hopes that Colin Broderick’s minimum wage days are over.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris is an exceedingly charming ditty of a comedy from the writing, directing, and starring duo of Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon.  Three overlapping character-coded chapters follow a wayward character’s pratfalls and screwups through the course of their fateful intersections.  Lost in Paris weaves its yarn with clever panache.  It’s a surreal jaunt that juggles the cheekily uncouth with the innocently sweet inside its ever-present sense of whimsy.

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MOVIE REVIEW: I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake is unabashedly a “bleeding heart” film on literal and figurative levels.  If this was a Hollywood film, it would be overrun with shouted speeches and orchestrational swells trying to manufacture emotional peaks.  Fluff like that is unnecessary if you have the right poetic realism,  For Loach, that’s second hand and he picks the right soapbox placement and thickness.

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MOVIE REVIEW: My Egg Boy

The trappings of “My Egg Boy” are firmly entrenched in melodrama, yet kissed with delightful fancy.  The strength is in the dynamic writing to weave practical magic with fertile imagination.  The romantic and symbolistic peaks and valleys built by Tien-Yu Fu are endlessly relatable even when characterized.  What begins as whimsy evolves quite affectingly to something rapturously heartfelt.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Incoming Call

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

“Incoming Call” has a dynamite premise that would make for a fascinating nugget of science fiction.  The possible latitude one could take with the idea of warning the past about the future is endless. This film keenly distills and scales that down to microcosm level of a single person and the matter of picking up the phone.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Apparel

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

Director Peter Delaney and writer Daniel Mooney flesh out miniature character study with decent results.  Andrew Bennett gives a very solid performance to construct numerous shades of character within Joe.  He is a man that is losing touch with his comfort zone.  We never fully know his issues and we shouldn’t have to.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: First Kiss

2017 Chicago Irish Film Festival: Shorts Program

As it plays out its thirteen minutes, “First Kiss” is hilarious and charming in its tidy simplicity.  Written by Fitzpatrick himself and directed by Patrick O’Shea, the short film generates the right amplitude of sparks cooled by the right temperament of sweetness.

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OSCAR PREDICTIONS: The minor film categories

In this second post, we look at the obscure minor film categories that include foreign films, documentaries, animated films, and short films.  Get the dartboard out, but stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Great Wall

"The Great Wall" is an imposing creature feature that stands as a three-headed glamour project.  You have an A-list star venturing overseas for international credibility and a splashy director landing his official English-language debut.  Aiming higher in aspiration is a production company hoping to open a new and profitable pipeline of investment between Hollywood and China.  Visually splendid from top to bottom, this epic adventure squeaks by on its looks and spares no expense to make sure of that.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short

This year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Animated Short are an eclectic bunch.  One of them, “Borrowed Time,” I have previously reviewed in full on this website.  Here are my collected capsule reviews of the slate of five, complete with my signature life lessons.  Look for the theaters this month bundling these nominees together for public viewing and ticket opportunities.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: I Am Not Your Negro

The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” from director Raoul Peck unearths “Remember This House,” an unfinished 1979 manuscript of the James Baldwin’s recollections of Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin.  This outstanding and informative film presents Baldwin’s musings alongside sobering imagery of both the turbulent history of the era and parallel occurrences of modern racial unrest that echo the same violence, inequality, anger, and sorrow.  As an Oscar nominee in a banner year for feature documentaries, “I Am Your Negro” is essential viewing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Julieta

Renowned Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar seizes our attention and lights the fires of intrigue with human simplicity in “Julieta,” his 20th feature film and Spain’s entry this year for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  Concocting a brew of passion coupled with remorse across personal history young and old, Almodovar unspools the tangled threads of a guilt-ridden woman’s heart.  Adapted from three Alice Munro short stories, “Julieta” is a strong return to the female-focused storyscapes that have made him a legend.  

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MOVIE REVIEW: Go North

All too often, the recent young adult wave of big studio dystopian fiction films contain three root faults.  First, they shoot off preposterous peril for the sake of peril like a pyromaniac loose in a fireworks warehouse.  Secondly, within the peril is the overused trope of militarizing teens and children.  Finally, the screenwriters feel the need to over-explain every little thing about its created universe as if the audience can’t think for themselves or be challenged to draw an inference or two.  For the most part, the small budget independent film “Go North” successfully and thankfully operates above those three traps.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Barry

Every influential man or woman had a formative period of their life where their impressionable knowledge coalesced into cemented principles that would guide them going forward.  The outgoing 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, is no different.  The new Netflix and VOD entry “Barry,” from director Vikram Gandhi, muses on the internal and external catalysts that shaped the then-20-year-old piece of unformed clay into the future leader of the free world.  

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COLUMN: 16 hidden gem films from 2016

Even with my access to more-than-most with festival coverage and press credentials, I can’t see everything.  What I can do is prop up some hidden gems that I was lucky enough to see and review.  Here are 16 under-seen winners from 2016.  The qualifier for the list was title earning less than $1 million at the box office.  They are ranked from highest-scoring review to least.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Monster Calls

J.A. Bayona’s film, based on the 2011 novel of the same name and adapted for the screen by the author himself, Patrick Hess, operates with a similar dichotomy and balancing act with its genre.  “Fantasy” and “genuine” are two words that do not normally mix together.  “A Monster Calls” creates an engrossing tale of allegory and myth and still roots it in a setting of stark reality filled with family and flaws.  

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