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DON’T BREATHE (2016) review

August 30, 2016



written by: Rodo Sayagues and Fede Alvarez
produced by: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert & Fede Alvarez
directed by: Fede Alvarez
rated: R (for terror, violence, disturbing content, and language including sexual references)
runtime: 88 min.
U.S. release date: August 26, 2016


I know this is gonna sound hokey, but “Don’t Breathe” left me breathless. Horror aficionados or those more accustomed to shocks and twists that edge into the perverse, may find this film from Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez (whose commanded legitimate scares in 2013’s “Evil Dead” a remake of a Sam Raimi classic and proved himself an atmospheric filmmaker to keep tabs on) to be something of a lightweight, but that’s on them. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a horror flick, “Don’t Breathe” is more of a chiller or a home invasion thriller (a sub genre that’s grown over the years), but you’re better off trying not to genre-label this one. It’s a suspenseful nail-biter of a movie that surprised and impressed me, delivering fine performances, smooth cinematography and a tight screenplay, evoking something from Rami himself, Wes Craven or even Alfred Hitchcock. Read more…


August 28, 2016



produced by: Ram Bergman, David Mandil, Natalie Portman
written by: Natalie Portman (screenplay), Amos Oz (memoir)
directed by: Natalie Portman
rated: PG-13 (for thematic content and some disturbing violent images)
runtime: 95 min.
U.S. release date: August 19, 2016 (limited release)


“Jerusalem is a black widow, who devours her lovers while they are still inside her.”


Few phrases in the film world can turn heads quicker than “famous actor’s directorial debut.” After all, what could be more fascinating than seeing what an actor was so passionate about, they just had to tell the story themselves? For her feature directorial debut, Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman has selected an adaptation of Amos Oz’s poetic memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, about the Israeli author’s relationship with his mother. In addition to writing the screenplay and directing, Portman takes a page out of her “Garden State” co-star Zach Braff’s book and takes on the lead role herself. Read more…

CIFF 2016: an A to Z preview

August 26, 2016



Just as I was starting to wonder when we’d begin to hear what films will be coming to town for the Chicago International Film Festival, I received a notification that lists the first film selections to be announced. The 52nd edition will run from October 13-27 at AMC River East, where it’s been for years now and is the place to see a variety of films from different countries and from right here in Chicago. Additionally announced is director Peter Bogdanovich who will appear as a recipient of the Festival’s Gold Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award and A Tribute to Steve McQueen (also in attendance) in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the Festival’s Black Perspectives program. There will be more films announced soon, but right now there are twenty-five feature films listed alphabetically below…. Read more…


August 25, 2016



produced by: Micharel Fiore
directed by: Micharel Fiore and Erik Sharkey
rated: unrated
runtime: 94 min.
U.S. release date: August 26, 2016 (NY/LA/SF/Orlando/, iTunes, Google/VUDU & XBox – coming soon to Amazon)


Floyd Norman is a guy I could easily sit down and talk to for hours. He’s a veteran animator, writer, and comic book artist who worked on such Disney classics as “Sleeping Beauty”, “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”, “The Sword in the Stone” and “The Jungle Book” as well as Pixar greats like “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc” – which something very few can include on their resume. He’s called “the Forrest Gump of animation”, since people don’t realize all that he’s done professionally, but he’s mostly known for being the first African-American animator hired by Disney back in 1956. That alone is reason enough for directors, Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey, to make a documentary about this humble legend. Read more…

Interview with FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE directors Michael Fiore & Erik Sharkey

August 25, 2016



With the release of their new documentary “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” on August 26th, I recently had the opportunity to speak with directors Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey over the phone. These guys had the pleasure of getting to know legendary Disney artist and all-around nice guy, Floyd Norman, with the intent of introducing him to viewers and confirming just how important and influential he is to filmmaking, especially animation. Their film recently screened at San Diego Comic-Con, where it won a Best Documentary Award and is now seeing a limited theatrical release as well as digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon and VOD.  Read more…

MON ROI (2015) review

August 22, 2016



written by: Etienne Comar and Maïwenn
produced by: Alain Attal
directed by: Maïwenn
rated: unrated
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: August 19-24, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)


Broken, abusive and volatile relationships have been a cinematic tradition for many years, especially in French cinema. That’s not to say that French relationships are more problematic, just that they are more interested in delving into the details and nuances of a dissolving union, more than any other culture. “Mon Roi”, released in the U.S. as “My King”, reflects on one such toxic relationship that should’ve never started, which is easy to see from the outside. Directed by French actress Maïwenn, the film is less erotic drama (despite being marketed as such) than it is an unsettling and confounding portrait of a woman who can’t seem to escape a tumultuous relationship that anyone but her can see she needs to quit.  Read more…


August 19, 2016




written by: Marc Haines and Chris Butler
produced by: Travis Knight and Arianne Sutner
directed by: Travis Knight
rated: PG (for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril)
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: August 19, 2016


Of the many animation studios releasing features throughout each year, Laika Entertainment is the studio that has my utmost respect. The Portland, Oregon-based studio, specializing in 3D stop-motion animation, has continuously delivering beautiful, inventive and kind of creepy stories that consistently entertain and impress me. All of their films have been great and now their fourth feature,”Kubo and the Two Strings”, directed by the company’s CEO Travis Knight, may just be their greatest yet. Like the studio’s previous films, “Coraline”, “Paranorman” and “The Boxtrolls”, here is a visually striking film that displays wonderful artistry in a story that follows a young protagonist on a unique journey that touches on themes such as tragedy, loss and destiny. Read more…


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