Posts in Foreign Film
MOVIE REVIEW: Roma

That unfortunate fate could not be farther away from a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. For all of those possible extrapolations of commitment and dedication taking place within the craft of filmmaking, you may never, not this year and maybe several more after, see a more intimate artistic expression than this powerful and personal film. To the man making Roma, this film is special. To those viewing it, this film is important. To the art it serves, this film could be a potential masterpiece.

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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: Silencio

Within in the 98 minutes of Silencio, this little dual-language flick accomplishes what few high concept indie films have been able to achieve with their wildly audacious ideas. It builds a bridge, not a wide and sturdy one, mind you, but a successful structure nonetheless, from the nonsensical to the profound. That is a normally a huge canyon of belief and consideration to cross.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 54th Chicago International Film Festival

For the fifth year in a row and the fourth with press credentials, I am proud to represent Every Movie Has a Lesson and Medium.com to cover the ambitious slate. No single critic can see it all, but I’ll take my swings to find some buried treasure and films to explore when they come to your city or streaming platforms at home down the road. Here below are my collected capsule reviews from the 54th Chicago International Film Festival, ranked in order of highest to lowest recommendation.

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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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CAPSULE REVIEWS: The 4th Irish American Movie Hooley

For the fourth year, the proud national and international efforts of Irish flair and flavor grace the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. With sponsorship led by Slane Irish Whiskey, the Irish American Movie Hooley is a three-night trio of films gracing Chicago screens as a special program. The “party” translation of its title at the forefront. Here are my capsule reviews!

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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: 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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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on "You'll Probably Agree" to recap the 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival

In the third and final part of a busy May collaboration, Mike Crowley of "You'll Probably Agree" leads a full-bodied recap of what he and I covered from the prestigious and successful 6th Chicago Critics Film Festival.  We rundown a collection of 10 reviews that included The Guilty, First Reformed, On Chesil Beach, Eighth Grade, Bodied, Support The Girls, Revenge, We The Animals, and Abducted in Plain Sight.  Enjoy this uncut back-and-forth shared discussion!

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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: 1945

The end of a large war is always a turning point that trickles down from the front lines and the soldiers at arms to the home front with those that maintained their respective communities when their fighters were away.  Wars benefit some community members while tragically redefining others. 1945 is a small and intense microcosm of that dichotomy demonstrated over the course of one fateful day in the aftermath of World War II.  Shot in bracing black-and-white, this film exudes strong themes of guilt across several points of view.

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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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MOVIE REVIEW: The Death of Stalin

Hot damn, you know your satire is magma-level hot when you offend the powers-that-be of a country enough to ban your film from playing on their soil.  Labeled as “extremist” and a “provocation” enough to spark tabloid headlines like “the film Hitler could have made,” Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin wears a giant badge of pride next to a tiny medallion of shame on its cinematic uniform on being banned in four nations: Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Colors of the Wind

The melodramatic preposterousness of Colors of the Wind is two-fold.  The first layer is good old-fashioned stage magic, everything from card tricks to disappearing acts.  The second comes from the notion of doppelgangers, the fanciful term for doubles, ghostly counterparts, and alter egos that have been a storytelling trope before in film.  Both elements create spirited and soapy intrigue in the film when combined with the romantic destiny of star-crossed lovers.

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EDITORIAL: 19 films to watch for the 2019 Oscars

In what has become an annual day-after-hangover and post-Oscars tradition, I have this editorial that closes the book on one awards season and declares the next one open for competition.  Each year, I pull out the crystal ball and look into the murky future to prognosticate which films coming in 2018 will we be applauding for at this time next year for the 91st Academy Awards.  Here are 19 films to watch for the 2019 Oscars.

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MOVIE REVIEW: November

Some films that cross our eyes are an exercise of the art form.  They trade tidy entertainment for a celebration of craft.  There are clear pluses and minuses to such an undertaking.  Stripping away conventions left and right to make something wholly unique and downright peculiar, November was Estonia’s 2017 entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.  The experimental foreign film brims with allegory and is strikingly shot.  However, the film’s compelling qualities never seem to match its obscene effort towards the art

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MOVIE REVIEW: A Fantastic Woman

Audiences will need to go beyond “brave” to describe and complement the shattering performance of Daniela Vega starring in A Fantastic Woman.  Searing the screen with moments of serenading song and ever-present fortitude, the openly transgender Chilean actress and model seethes with uncommon determination.  Saying “good for her” is not enough praise.    

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