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ART AND CRAFT (2014) review

October 14, 2014



produced by: Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman
directed by: Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker
rating: unrated
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: October 10, 2014 (limited)


For almost 30 years, Mark Landis has made a name for himself as one of the most prolific art forgers in the world. He’s replicated a variety of work from famous artists, from Picasso to Charles Schulz and winds up donating his copied art to museums, playing the role of a philanthropist donating the “found” artwork. He’s actually quite a good artist; in fact, he’s really something. With his nebbish demeanor, nearly shorn skull and jug handle ears, Landis is unmistakable and from the start of “Art and Craft”, as he meanders the aisles of Hobby Lobby, gathering supplies, his determined shuffle and mumbling draws us in.

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CIFF 2014 – Interview with Frederik Steiner & Liv Lisa Fries (“Zurich”)

October 12, 2014



On the first Saturday of the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF), I was fortunate enough to meet two kind, generous and talented individuals who were in town from Germany to promote their movie “Zurich”. I met director Frederik Steiner and his lead actor Liv Lisa Fries in the lobby of the JW Marriott and after introductions were made I was immediately struck by their friendliness. They stated how thankful they were for my write-up of their film and I must say – seeing a wonderful film and then a week later being told from the director and actor that they’re grateful for my favorable review of their film was pretty surreal. It doesn’t happen often. It’s actually never happened to me before, but I would wish the experience on any hard-working film critic.

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CIFF 2014 – IN REVIEW, part 1

October 10, 2014





Happy Anniversary to the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF), which turns 50 this year! It is North America’s longest running competitive international film festival. The festival organizers have been celebrating all year, with various screenings and events, but it all comes down to the two weeks in October, from the 9th through the 23rd. This is where the real celebration takes place. While there are special commemorative screenings such as “Breaking the Waves” and “Fanny and Alexander” as well as special guests like directors Taylor Hackford, Oliver Stone, Liv Ullmann and actors Kathleen Turner and Isabelle Hubert, the primary focus of CIFF remains the same as it has been for the past 50 years. That is, to provide an opportunity to discovery new talent from different lands or from right here in Chicago. This is where film enthusiasts in Chicago congregate with anticipation and excitement.

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CIFF 2014: Opening Night – MISS JULIE

October 9, 2014



The Chicago International Film Festival commences tomorrow night with Liv Ullmann’s drama “Miss Julie”, leading to an impressive and exciting number of films from talents both new and old alike. Films begin screening to the public Friday, October 10th, and will continue to the festival’s closing night film, Jean Marc Vallée’s (“Dallas Buyers Club“) latest film “Wild” starring Reese Witherspoon. The fall film festival circuit is a thrilling time of the year, not only because they often yield exciting early-looks at the films destined for Oscar glory (READ: “The Imitation Game”), but because of the magic of discovery. There’s a singular thrill to walking into a film with a name you’ve never heard before, made by unknown artists, and leaving the theater feeling like you struck gold. Witnessing the cinematic eye take form in unknown artists is gratifying, strangely hope-filled and central to what makes the festival experience so special. Enjoy the festival!

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THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) review

October 8, 2014

(With the recent release of David Fincher’s new film, “Gone Girl”, Brendan Hodges went through the director’s filmography….)






written by: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) and Ben Mezrich (story)
produced by: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca & Ceán Chaffin
directed by: David Fincher
rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language)
runtime: 120 min.
U.S. release date: October 1, 2010


At what point do you know you’re watching a masterpiece? Did it hit the 1941 movie-going audience while watching “Citizen Kane” that it was one of the greatest movies ever or after? Was it on the first viewing, the second, or maybe the tenth for the tastemakers to whisper “masterpiece”? Famously, it took “Citizen Kane” a while to be deified as the greatest film of all time, growing in the collective consciousness of, well, just about everyone who saw it. However, some films are so epic in their scope and thematic volume that their greatness is instantly registered, like “Lawrence of Arabia” or “Chinatown”, both of which won rave reviews and plentiful Oscar attention. All three of these films consistently rank highly on best ever lists, and in fall 2010 they greeted a new member: David Fincher’s masterful “The Social Network“.

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October 4, 2014

(In anticipation of David Fincher’s latest film, “Gone Girl”, Brendan Hodges is going through the director’s filmography….)



written by: Eric Roth (screenplay/story) and Robin Swicord (story)
produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin
directed by: David Fincher
rating: PG-13 (for brief war violence, sexual content, language and smoking)
runtime: 166 min.
U.S. release date: December 25, 2008


Few types of stories are more inviting than the coming-of-age tale. They have all the hallmarks of a universal narrative punctuated by moments that are instantly familiar. Titles like The Catcher in the Rye, “Stand by Me”, and “The Breakfast Club” capture the nervous excitement of a first kiss, the pang of heartbreak, and the red-faced embarrassment of making mistakes. Part of their allure is that they beg us to remember and to relate, a handshake with everyday life. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“, the closest thing David Fincher’s made to an Oscar drama, seeks to measure the grip of that handshake.

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ZODIAC (2007) review

October 4, 2014

(In anticipation of David Fincher’s latest film, “Gone Girl”, Brendan Hodges is going through the director’s filmography….)



written by: James Vanderbilt
produced by: Ceán Chaffin, Brad Fisher, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer & James Vanderbilt
directed by: David Fincher
rating: R (for some strong killings, language, drug material and brief sexual images)
runtime: 157 min.
U.S. release date: March 2, 2007


Some films, it is said, have enough depth and dimension to the story and the style that multiple viewings aren’t just possible but required. There are famous examples, like Stanley Kubrick’s cipher-esque puzzles “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “The Shining”, which are teeming with so many symbols and cognitive tricks the full picture is incomprehensible at first. But other than David Fincher’s “Fight Club”, a famous contemporary example for a film where repeating viewings led to a drastic reevaluation of the movie, the complexity of Fincher’s films is not always immediately obvious. One ironic example is his serial-killer saga “Zodiac”, which many critics agree is his best film.

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