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BIFF 2018: Tater Tot & Patton and Virginia Minnesota

February 19, 2018




Nestled along the southern border of Wisconsin, Beloit is a town more or less equidistant from Chicago and Milwaukee, but a world away in terms of pace of life. Therefore, you can expect films that mirror that pace of life to appear at the 13th Annual Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF), which runs for ten days, opening this Friday, February 23rd and closing out on Sunday, March 4th. We’re kicking off coverage of some of the films from this year’s festival with a pair of two-handers that couldn’t be more disparate in terms of worldview and execution. Read more…


BLACK PANTHER (2018) review

February 19, 2018




written by: Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole
produced by: Kevin Feige
directed by: Ryan Coogler
rated: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of action violence, and a brief rude gesture)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: February 16, 2018


Last year was a great year for Marvel Studios, with the release of three sequels (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Thor: Ragnarok”) that felt different from its predecessors, offering exciting new takes in their respective franchises. 2018 will be known as a milestone year for the studio, thanks to the release of “Black Panther”,  a bold and visually stunning movie, written and directed by Ryan Coogler (“Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”), that finally brings representation to the superhero genre for a demographic that has too often been relegated to the sidelines. It’s a bold move centering a big-budget blockbuster on a character that may not be as familiar as other Marvel Comics characters, in a movie dominated by rich African characters that give a chance for black men, women and children a chance to finally see themselves in such a movie. It’s a movie that isn’t just a crowd-pleaser, but one that contains important themes and tackles relevant issues.  Read more…

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968) blu-ray review

February 16, 2018



written by: Alan Trustman
produced by: Norman Jewison
directed by: Norman Jewison
rated: R
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: June 19, 1968
blu-ray release date: February 13, 2018


If I could sit the “Fifty Shades” fans down and have them watch Norman Jewison’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” in the hopes of showing them that sexy on the screen can be more than just blindfolds and bondage. Truth be told, it probably wouldn’t help since the numbers show that most moviegoers have lost an appreciation for a ‘less is more’ approach. The heist film, released in the summer of 1968, has its flaws in that much is lacking in Alan Trustman’s thin screenplay, but does this stylish movie look good. To come to an appreciation of this cult film, it’s best not to think too much of the convoluted plot and just take in the sights, from the presence of Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway to the gorgeous photography courtesy of award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler. With Kino Lorber releasing the film on blu-ray for its 50th anniversary with a good deal of bells and whistles, I figured it’s time to strike it off my Blind Spot list.  Read more…

V.I. WARSHAWSKI (1991) blu-ray review

February 14, 2018



written by: Edward Taylor, David Aaron Cohen and Nick Thiel
produced by: Penney Winkelman Cox and Jeffrey Lurie
directed by: Jeff Kanew
rated: R (for language and moments of violence)
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: July 26, 1991
blu-ray release date: February 13, 2018


When it was released in 1991 at the end of July, the crime thriller/action comedy set in Chicago, “V.I. Warshawski”, didn’t have a chance. Earlier that month, the box office exploded with the likes of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “Point Break” and certain movies that were released the month before, such as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “City Slickers”, were still doing well, plus the success of “Hot Shots!” was just around the corner. This was back when movies would stay in the theater longer, providing a better chance for repeat viewings and word-of-mouth to build. I knew of “V.I. Warshawski” back then, but I admittedly was busy watching those movies instead of this attempt at making a franchise out of American author Sara Paretsky’s novels revolving around a hard-boiled female detective. While the other movies released that summer are partly to blame for this movie’s failure, it’s also safe to say that moviegoers weren’t quite ready for a female-led detective series like this on the big-screen, unfortunately. Read more…

2018 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Live Action

February 11, 2018



Many forget or don’t even realize that feature-length filmmakers start out directing short films. Like authors who start out creating short stories, short films provide an opportunity for writers and directors to test their storytelling efficiency, as well as their proficiency.  There are filmmakers I personally know and have interviewed who started out this way, some of which have taken their shorts and expanded them into feature-length films providing them with a chance to expand on their story and character development. The most impressive shorts are the ones that can hook viewers right away in their timeframe (any film with a runtime under 40 minutes is eligible for the Academy Award) and offer a compelling story, captivating performances and impressive photography, leaving viewers content or wanting more, hopefully both.  Read more…

2018 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Animation

February 7, 2018



Each year, I find myself wishing more people could view these Oscar-nominated shorts before they hear them listed off when all the other Oscar nominees are announced. Some of them have been seen in film festivals over the past year, one may have already been seen on the small screen in some areas, while another preceded an animated feature in theaters. The Shorts categories are typically glossed over when the Oscars nominees are announced, since few have heard of or seen them. That’s too bad, considering the winners in the Shorts categories typically deliver some of the more interesting and/or passionate acceptance speeches. Anyway, having viewed all five of the Animated Shorts nominated, I can tell you I was surprised and disappointed that there is one clear winner here. Read more…

PETER RABBIT (2018) review

February 4, 2018



written by: Will Gluck and Rob Lieber
produced by: Will Gluck and Zareh Nalbandian
directed by: Will Gluck
rated: PG (for some rude humor and action)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: February 9, 2018


Originally, this upcoming 3D live-action/CGI animated hybrid adventure comedy from Sony Pictures Animation was set to open around Easter, which is fitting considering its mischievous protagonist, but we all know how well “Hop” did when it was released in April of 2011. Plus, this is one of three animated releases Sony has on their slate for 2018, with another “Hotel Transylvania” this summer and the first “Goosebumps” sequel in the fall, so might as well bump it up a bit to space them out. As it turns out, “Peter Rabbit” is enjoyable and quite funny, which is somewhat of a relief considering its misguided marketing campaign, an over-reliance on physical comedy and, most of all, the movie’s obnoxious trailers leading up to its release.  Read more…