Posts tagged Chicago
DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: 42 Grams

Through 42 Grams, documentary director Jack C. Newell muddles away the self-importance and crafts his own dish laced with affinity and rapport.  Following the trials and tribulations of gifted chef Chicago chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his wife Alexa, Newell’s film looks beyond the culinary decadence to reveal a core essence of ambition as relatable as any other version of the American Dream.  The captive fascination swelling from that gathers attention and an audience where it normally would not.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Mercury in Retrograde

Michael Glover Smith’s words of mounting depth and weight turn idle chatter into soapboxes that eventually become proverbial fortifications built around questioned principles and shattered wills.  The ensemble of performers delivers on the required heavy lifting from the director to make the multitude of human flaws believable yet still approachable.  Mercury in Retrograde is a hidden gem.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Chasing the Blues

Chasing the Blues is a dark comedy through and through.  Director Scott Smith and his co-writer Kevin Guifoile crafted an engaging yarn of hijinks and hilarity.  Their narrative might feel like something out of a Coen brothers rough draft, but this film sides with a far less gonzo approach that suits its shrewder stature.  Like the musical genre at its core, patient storytelling is at the forefront.  Could it use a stiffer punch or two?  Maybe, but then it wouldn’t be the blue and not everything has to be shock cinema.  Waiting for the payoff in this tidy 77-minute film is an easy and worthwhile short hike to climb.

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MOVIE CLASSROOM: The Big Sick

Excellent romantic comedies have been a rare thing for the entire 17 years so far of this century.  For one to arrive and stand above the crowd as one of the best romantic comedies in years and one of the best films of the year, period, is special.  If you haven't already, meet The Big Sick starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano.  Through the ShowMe app on the Every Movie Has a Lesson YouTube channel, hear and see what my review has to say about the film and why it's my #2 film of 2017 so far.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Guest on YPA Reviews' "The Cinephrauds"

Mike Crowley's YPA Reviews was soliciting for participants and topics for a video series of discussions highlighting guest-chosen overrated films, performers, and filmmakers.  I nominated myself and the highly regarded auteur of Terrence Malick and a meeting and a rant on camera was born.  Enjoy both the refined and uncut versions of our enlivened talk below!

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: Jack & Amelia

The key strength of “Jack and Amelia” is the focused narrative that sketches a telling and accurate microcosm example of Chicago.  It blends lifestyles for people feeling the city’s stresses in their own unique ways.  Just when you think you these four central characters are random and will stay random, the short-order shifts and twists of “Jack and Amelia” push their destinies forward in engaging and cunning ways.  This really was a blossoming treat.

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Faith in the Big House

No matter what faith (or absence of faith) you carry into this film’s experience, you will respect the positive efforts of the real-life ministries featured in “Faith in the Big House.”  Lives are changed before your eyes and it’s not all Bible-thumping.  To that end, it is wholly refreshing to observe a Christian point-of-view that holds its peers of different denominations and, more importantly, itself strictly accountable for this kind of communal service.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Win It All

Dare I say it, I think Joe Swanberg has turned a corner with “Win It All,” a new release available on Netflix.  Coherency has been the bane of mumblecore’s existence and, for at least one film, the celebrated Chicago filmmaker has found the right palatable proportions of his craft.  With “Win It All,” Swanberg stays true to the naturalistic everyday settings and improvisational dialogue that he thrives on and thankfully applies them to tighter narrative structure.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Landline

If the Windy City can show us anything, it’s that die-hard Chicago Cub fans come in all shapes, sizes, and ages.  More so, fans come from different walks of life, waving flags of different colors, including, best of all, the rainbow-colored variety.  “Landline,” from local do-it-all filmmaker Matthew Aaron, is a fun-loving LGBTQ+ comedy merging ardent North Siders with snappy musings on our societal obsessions with technology, all in proximity to the heavenly palace that is Wrigley Field.

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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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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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SPECIAL: The Wilmette Theatre hosts the upcoming SCIENCE ON SCREEN series

Partnering with The Field Museum of Chicago, The Wilmette Theatre will present SCIENCE ON SCREEN series, a creative screening program matching classic, cult, and documentary films with scientists from the worlds of science technology and medicine offering related scientific information and leading lively discussion. The theme of the first season will be the study of the environment, evolution and protecting wildlife, particularly endangered species.

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FREE MOVIE: Taraji P. Henson wants Chicago to see "Hidden Figures"

Fellow Chicagoans, “Hidden Figures” has been winning big at the U.S. box office. In a great gesture to her hometown, one of the stars of the film would like you see “Hidden Figures” on her dime. Taraji P. Henson has personally bought out a theater at AMC Ford City Mall on Sunday, January 22nd at 2:00PM for the general public.

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SPECIAL: First annual CIFCC Awards nominations

Capping off their inaugural year, the members of newly-formed Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle, of which I am a director and co-founder, have announced their nominees for their first annual CIFCC Awards.  Their voting membership of 28 members strong completed ballots over the holidays with the goal of three final nominees in 25 categories.  They will commence a final round of voting ending on January 1, 2017 and host an invitation-only awards banquet at Transistor Chicago on January 8, 2017.

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SPECIAL: A message from the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle

The CIFCC was founded on the pillar of diversity.  It is a message that resonates in all that we do, both as a group and as critics.  In our eyes and through our passion as film lovers and creative individuals, diversity means more than just demographics.  Take a watch and a listen to this special trailer and message from the CIFCC, featuring yours truly.

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MEDIA APPEARANCE: Panel participant on the "Kicking the Seat" podcast talking "Doctor Strange"

After an advance screening of "Doctor Strange," I was invited to participate in a post-film round table podcast hosted by Ian Simmons of Kicking the Seat.  After a brief eulogy for deceased comic book artist Steve Dillon, I was one of four Chicago film critics chatting about our feelings, opinions, and reactions to "Doctor Strange" with tangents on other Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, tropes, and tendencies.  

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DOCUMENTARY REVIEW: Resilience: The Biology of Stress and Science of Hope

The light shed by the shared research, connections, and testimonials of James Redford’s documentary “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” opens eyes and stirs immediate personal reflection.  Toward your own self or in the role of a parent, “Resilience” puts the right mirrors in front of faces.  It is a worthy alarm notification that encourages more character building than being told to “pull up your bootstraps.”

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MOVIE REVIEW: Middle Man

52nd Chicago International Film Festival U.S. Indies entry and presentation

“Middle Man” blends an acidic edge with showy panache that bleeds from every character, large and small.  Credit the devious fun of Crowley for the snappy dialogue that pops from each character.  The comedy is clever instead of coarse while maintaining its darkness.  Nearly every speaking part of this colorful cast of funhouse mirrors nails a zinger or two that fits right into that line of taste.

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