Posts in 2017
MOVIE REVIEW: Loving Pablo

The overarching challenge remains making romance out of a villain, enough to soften the depravity of the historical truth. Matching Vallejo’s own findings, Loving Pablo defines that Escobar’s darkness cannot be diluted, making much of this film a difficult and treacherous viewing experience. To its great credit, the merciless edge of Loving Pablo rejects forced cinematic sugar-coating overused in other crime films to romanticize its leviathans.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Captain

Writer-director Robert Schwentke has boldly moved away from schlock (R.I.P.D., RED) and softness (The Time Traveler’s Wife) for something visceral and chillingly raw. As Herold shows no quarter, neither does Schwentke and this film’s penchant for discomfort. The events portrayed are so imprudently berserk that it borders on unbelievable farce, despite its cited historical inspiration of the man who performed these acts before he was even 21 years old.

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MOVIE REVIEW: En el Séptimo Día

If you didn’t know it, you would think this film is a slice-of-life documentary, giving the film similar striking authenticity and power as Chloe Zhao’s celebrated spring film The Rider. En el Séptimo Día presents an empathetic and beautifully rendered microcosm of the American Dream. Between the recent World Cup and our country’s ever-present immigration debate, a tender and compassionate allegory such as this could not be more soothing cinematic balm and satisfying experience.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Damsel

Kicking up scratchy dust in the western genre, the Zellner Brothers rousingly debunk and demystify that stereotype to create a dark comedy of their own pitch and prickliness. With humor as dry as the topography, Damsel is the kind of film that sneaks up on you like a snake in the weeds. The brothers and fellow stars Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska dance all over this landscape, but the steps keep dawdling when the music runs out.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Mountain

In contrast to the informational methods of most common documentaries, poetry is the point of view within Mountain. Featuring towering imagery enriched by a sumptuous narration from recent Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe, Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom’s follow-up to Sherpa is a testimony to what draws people to the mental and physical summits they seek to conquer. The size of this film demands the biggest screen you can find.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Last Suit

Making its Chicago premiere this weekend playing for a run at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Pablo Solarz’s film earns every measure of its stirring dedication. The Last Suit has an approachable and undeniable warmth beneath that thorny senior center masterfully played by Miguel Ángel Solá. The writer and director himself will join audience discussion on the Friday and Saturday evening showings. Keen audiences looking for an empathetic elixir would do well to absorb and appreciate this film at the Siskel.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Guardians

There is a different and commendable bravery found in the young and old to carry on the community dream of hearth and home. For the “War to End All Wars” at the beginning of the 20th century, those civilians predominantly included women who were mothers, wives, fiances, and sisters.  Xavier Beauvois’s often lovely foreign film The Guardians from Music Box Films follows the hardscrabble trials and tribulations of one French homestead of ladies during the lean years of World War I

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MOVIE REVIEW: On Chesil Beach

Original On Chesil Beach writer Ian McEwan was able to write his own screenplay and select his own places to deviate and condense.  The denouement in the film is shortened from the deeper explorations made by the novel. It’s a hell of a turn that hits like a ton of brick but feels very rushed.  The additional heft and scope do elevate the film from the comedic beginning into something more poignant, albeit it is a mismatched and difficult experience to approach and accept, much like the maligned central couple.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Island Zero

The bloody swirls of cold ocean water where a cute little terrier wearing a fou-fou life vest for his yachtsman owner used to be represents the first pre-credits victim of Island Zero.  That pooch is the first of a cavalcade of casualties to come.  This indie flick of cheesy gore pierced by a stab at serious science works hard to make the most of is resources to craft an involved little creature feature and paranoid thriller.  The shrewdly cleaver Island Zero arrives nationwide on VOD on May 15th from Freestyle Releasing.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Rider

This man is a cowboy. Normally, that’s all you have to say and the portrait of toughness is painted, but therein lies the mystery within the mundane of The Rider. Populated by untrained actors and inspired by true events of these rookie performers, Chloé Zhao’s sophomore feature film stands on that determination only to slowly reveal the internal aches underneath the grizzled exteriors of hat brims, denim, and vices.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Kings

Take Kings as how a foreigner sees our plights, troubles, and history.  Ergüven has talent but comes across as tone deaf when trying for tribute out of this script that she’s been sitting on since 2011.  What should be a spike through the heart gets washed away by the time a sunny Motown cover song tries to become a palette-cleansing “everything’s fine” coda and exhale moment in the end credits.  Even as pure dramatization, Kings is an irresponsibly aimless one.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Disobedience

The intensity of the torrid on-screen affair in Disobedience is as strong as the rhetoric of oppression that simmers under the surface of the characters and the community they occupy.  Sebastián Lelio’s follow-up to his Academy Award-winning foreign language film A Fantastic Woman teems with deeply stirring passion.  Performed to a level of high commitment by Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, the film repeatedly demonstrates that one of the best ways to build passion in a film is to present the implicit unspoken in a manor to outweigh explicit expression.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ghost Stories

Their expansion plan was very sharp and forgoes the thirst to hack and slay mindlessly like most current horror offerings. The shrewd focus of Ghost Stories is scarce on spectacle and firmly rooted in sinister nuance.  The over-caffeinated and desensitized segment of genre fans might call it boring, while the veterans who remember effective minimalism will be squeezed by the twisted nerve leading to solid suspense.    

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MOVIE REVIEW: Big Fish & Begonia

These narrative and aesthetic combinations make for a dynamic and sincere film from first-time writers and directors Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun.  Big Fish & Begonia is an excellent place for teens to soak in some much-needed empathy against the more mindless American animated offerings.  Give them an experience to absorb resonating truths on the powers of faith and love told from a different yet timeless light.  They might just be better people for it.

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MOVIE REVIEW: You Were Never Really Here

The weapon of choice of Joe, the gruff contract killer of You Were Never Really Here played by Joaquin Phoenix, is an industrial ball peen hammer from his trusty local hardware store in New York.  The film matches the qualities of this repurposed tool as an armament. The instrument and the art prefer the mauling nature of cold steel.  Frozen by disturbing memories, the blunt object that is Lynne Ramsay’s award-winning potboiler is far more hulking than a quick death by bullet.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Krystal

Fashioning itself as a coming-of-age dramedy, Krystal scratches out frank dialogue emoting on behalf of overly honest hearts.  It banks on mixing sentiment built on pleasantries laced with profanity. All kinds of abrupt dysfunction and daffy discombobulation try to be endearing entanglements for entertainment, but the result is a really uneven piece of batty humor and grating romance

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: The Prince

n concisely thematic way, the award-winning short film The Prince, written and directed by Kyra Zagorsky, is a moving artistic interpretation of one of those such moments.  It indeed has a thought-provoking story to tell, and the result creates a resonating effect in short order, the chief goal of a good short film.  The Prince’s key to accomplishing its depth is the twin layers it uses to portray and describe its moment.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Journey's End

Journey’s End recounts the British side of a climactic four-day span from March 18-21, 1918 in the stalemate “No Man’s Land” trenches of Aisne in northern France in the lead-up to Operation Michael.  Every month, each British company is required to serve six days on the front line where casualties are gravely high. Gambling with death sentences, both trooper and officer alike pray that their six days are not the ones where an offensive is being amassed or defended.  

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