Posts in MOVIE REVIEW
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: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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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: 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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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: Outlaw King

Filmmaker David Mackenzie’s strapping Netflix epic Outlaw King starts with prologue notes surrounding the glowing heat of a single candle in close-up. The flickering warmth is inviting and a tone of liberating light coming out of darkness is set to parallel the recreated history that will follow. But how much heat can one candle emit? Try as it may, no matter what measures of warm blood and sweaty brawn is infused into Outlaw King, it is very difficult to find or create sizzle out of something balmy.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody lives and dies through the vitality of its lead performer. Emmy winner Rami Malek gives a smashing performance that should skyrocket him into the Oscar conversation. He and the film thrive when the volume is turned up and the microphones are on. It withers when it stifles that provocative heat. What should and, frankly, deserved to be a line-blurring and envelope-pushing affair of affairs is, to borrow a pair of friends’ terms, “straight-washed” into something “puritanical” instead of free, open, and, most of all, potent. Allowing something this hot to go lukewarm is a cinematic crime.

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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: 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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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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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: Beautiful Boy

This is not your typical feel-good factory product. Beautiful Boy is bracingly honest with its turns and barriers built by emotional whallup. The remarkable performances of Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet deserve the credit for that impact, fashioning a touchingly stout drama that is braver than most films on the subject. One of the best films you will ever see examining the breadth of drug addiction

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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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MOVIE REVIEW: Venom

For the purpose to sell tickets, this proper villain is touted to be an response to the world having enough superheroes. The resulting film debunks its marketing by reducing Venom into a do-gooder and carnival attraction opposite of that claim. Never once does your heart pump a little quicker from tension. Never once do any hairs stand up in fright in the presence of what should be a complete badass. Those deficiencies shouldn’t happen with Venom.

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MOVIE REVIEW: First Man

Unlike the popular space race films that have come before it, not a millisecond of First Man feels like typical hero worship celebrating astronaut and aeronautical engineer Neil Armstrong.  The music or soundtrack doesn't announce his entrances or achievements. The camera doesn't bathe Armstrong in light and genuflect in his presence to make him seem larger than he really is.  What is not trumpeted as heaps of grandiose praise by Academy Award-winning La La Land director Damien Chazelle is instead honed into a poignant and resolute testament of honor.

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