Posts in 4 STARS
MOVIE REVIEW: When Jeff Tried to Save the World

Not only has writer-director Kendall Goldberg fleshed out this excellent main character, she guides it through this plot with a matching sense imagination and earnestness. The nuances win in a story where heart and pragmatic approachability outshine any need for shock value and raunch. The smart and spot-on tonal mix of such simplicities deserve to be appreciated.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Rendezvous in Chicago

Michael Glover Smith’s third feature film channels Éric Rohmer to present three collisions of love occurring in the writer-director’s own beloved Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Smith’s canny talent to pen and juggle a triptych is not what impresses the most. Rather, what is greater, quite simply, is his sense of feel as a storyteller and filmmaker.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Guilty

Played in nearly real-time, The Guilty jolts the audience with the fits and spurts of the received and dropped calls. Some are dangled snippets and others linger with impact. Their rising and falling tensions are shrewdly and sharply written by director Gustav Möller and TV writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen. Their unforgiving suspense create an engrossing and choking mood of unknown and mounting dread. The Guilty is as smooth and taut of a 85-minute feature as you’ll see, no matter the language.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Creed II

Sylvester Stallone and debuting co-writer Juel Taylor have fleshed out more layers of storytelling sinew than most Rocky movies deserve. Beyond the ropes of the squared circle is where Creed II softens us up as armchair and popcorn ring partners. The heart may do the talking, but the fists still say plenty and find themselves pumped into the air with cheers just fine.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Widows

Kicking something flaky and flimsy like Ocean’s 8 to the curb, the Shame and 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner has assembled a dauntless ensemble cast lead by dynamic females. Rooted in the thinly and sinfully fabricated dermal and subcutaneous layers of Chicago, Widows wields an effeminate brawn and sly intelligence working to stoke a masterful slow burn. The film’s bold gravity constricts us wonderfully for one of the most visceral crime films of recent memory and one of the best films of 2018.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Minisode #55 Minisode podcast guest for "Feelin' Film" to review "A Private War"

A Private War takes Colvin’s words off the page and lets us experience just why her work was so important, making this one of 2018’s most essential films. In this special minisode, Feelin’ Film Aaron White interviews Oscar-nominated and Emmy Award winning director Matthew Heineman about his first narrative feature film, followed by a discussion with yours truly from Every Movie Has a Lesson.

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Private War

The biographical film A Private War is a collection of those slivers, each with increasing sharpness to cut to the core of our moral constitution. Like each year taking its toll on Colvin, A Private War is the kind of movie that wears you down with increasing tension and toll in the effort to move and reforge your empathetic spirit. This is a phenomenal and ferocious lead performance from Rosamund Pike, who deserves the second Oscar nomination of her career for this combination tenacity and honesty.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a new cornerstone for Melissa McCarthy. If she can continue this maturation and start trading one or two raunchy romps for introspection and challenge like this, she could become the one of the best American actresses of her generation. Watch out. This might just be the second coming of Robin Williams. Add a “yet” in there somewhere if you must, but the potential is real.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Oath

Spinning out of a ridiculous-yet-just-plausible-enough premise, Ike Barinholtz and his fellow comedians light a ticking clock fuse towards a powder keg of social commentary dipped in the incendiary gasoline of partisan politics.The result is an entertaining explosion where every tame “bless your heart” or “agree to disagree” pleasantry shared through gritted teeth becomes replaced with “shut the f — k up” shouts and punches to the face. No matter how wrong all of this is, The Oath is a finger-pointing wake-up we could all use.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blaze

 Serenading and soul-bearing for two stout hours, Ethan Hawke’s third directorial effort personifies the quintessential plight of the “starving artist.” Whether they carry a paintbrush or a guitar, these will-they-or-won’t-they tales stir hope and anticipation as nearly irresistible cinematic story material. Real or fictitious, we want to see the Vincent van Goghs, Llewyn Davises, and Blaze Foleys find success. Greater than rooting for an ending of stardom, there is whimsical power to be found in simply reaching emotional fulfillment.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mandy

The zany bi-product of Cage’s addictive self-indulgence is that we get to see a committed and endowed artist apply his craft in nontraditional places, which is a nice way of saying lesser and lower-budgeted films. The challenge then isn’t on Cage, who is often better than the material he’s given. It’s whether the film can rise to meet his fury and tenacity as a performer. He brings it. Can the film do the same?

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MOVIE REVIEW: We the Animals

The phrase “they’re just kids” shouldn’t be the verbalization of a dismissal. Rather, it should be spoken as a moment of pause to reflect on what future positive or negative impact could come from the lifestyle choice being observed. We the Animals, the feature debut of short film director Jeremiah Zagar, lives for those errors and pauses as one of the best independent films of the year.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Pickings

Watching the death-dealing retribution and grudge-settling on display definitely shows the dishonesty part, but you will find nothing easy enough to be called “pickings.” Oozing all kinds of artistic flamboyance and crimson damage, this film is a straight punch to the face that has to swing hard to to knock you out. Like any punch, the hand delivering it stings as much as the cheek that receiving it. Sure enough, Pickings is a punch you’ll take and ask for another.

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MOVIE REVIEW: BlacKkKlansman

The slogan of Spike Lee’s long-time production company 40 Acres and a Mule Filmwork is “by any means necessary,” a tagline that could not be more fitting of the urgency and purpose of Spike’s works. Nothing he puts his effort into ends up empty or meaningless. His lightning rod flair singes silver screens again with Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix prize winner BlacKkKlansman, stoking a p

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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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FANTASIA 2018 REVIEW: The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot

You will color yourself impressed by the unexpected power of this independent to subvert expectations with such cunning dexterity. No matter if it’s zero budget devil-may-care freedom or a nine-figure open blockbuster checkbook, few movies on any level could ever dream a way this damn good to marry and blend stoic manliness and a whimsical romance on top of the lurid exploits its title advertises. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot punches with pulp and grinds gravitas rather than gore.

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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: The Equalizer 2

Turning 64 this year, Denzel Washington’s eyes may be heavier and his body might be softer than before, but it’s what’s between his ears and trumpeting out of his mouth that are truly ageless. For The Equalizer 2, all four years has done is make this man-of-action more methodical and calculating with this ass-kicking punishment and sin-correcting righteousness. This twisty sequel takes the temperature and weight of the cold lead hammer that is Denzel and heats it with anger and stakes to match the hot lead being shot around him.

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