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ALIEN: COVENANT (2017) review

May 22, 2017



written by: John Logan and Dante Harper (screenplay) & Jack Paglen and Michael Green (story)
produced by: Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Michael Schaefer, David Giler & Walter Hill
directed by: Ridley Scott
rated: R (for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity)
runtime: 122 min.
U.S. release date: May 19, 2017


In the weeks prior to the release of “Alien: Covenant”, which finds Ridley Scott returning to the franchise for the third time after starting it all with the space-horror original “Alien” in 1979 and his ambitious existential space-horror return, “Prometheus” in 2012, there were articles on the internet that had Scott stating this new film was something of an apology, that he had “listened” to the fans and is giving them what they want. That’s the last thing I want to hear from an artist. Imagine Michelangelo or Picasso just falling in line and giving what clients and critics want or expect from them? I shudder to think. The fact that “Prometheus” had the least amount of acid-blood xenomorphs and face huggers than in previous installments were the very least of its problems, so littering “Alien: Covenant” with a greatest hits mashup of the movies that came before it is the last thing this once-bold and creative series needed. Read more…

THE LAST SHAMAN (2015) review

May 20, 2017



written by: Raz Degan
produced by: Danny A. Abeckaser, Raz Degan, Nadav Schirman and Ariel Vromen
directed by: Raz Degan
U.S. release date: May 12, 2017 (New York) & May 19, 2107 (L.A.)


I’ve been getting dizzy with documentaries lately. The sheer number of them released each month week is staggering. It really takes a unique angle or a fascinating subject to pique my interest motivate to let others know that there’s a documentary worth their time. Unfortunately, director Raz Degan’s new film, “The Last Shaman” doesn’t fall in that category. It’s premise definitely caught my interest, but it didn’t take long for that interest to feign and I soon found myself annoyed by the individual Degan follows. The only surprise in this overlong and ultimately boring documentary, is how I found myself more interesting in a healing plant from the Amazon than I was in any humans on screen. Read more…

Interview with A QUIET PASSION writer/director Terence Davies

May 18, 2017


Was it pure coincidence that I sat down with writer/director Terence Davies during National Poetry Month last month? Maybe. Probably not though, considering his latest film “A Quiet Passion” focuses on the life of American poet Emily Dickinson. Very fitting indeed. Equally fitting was the quiet and meditative Chicago location where the interview took place one afternoon, The Poetry Foundation, while Davies was in town for a special screening of the film at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Our brief time together was a delight and I found myself observing and admiring how the English filmmaker’s (known for such work as  “Distant Voices, Still Lives” from 1988 and “The Long Day Closes”, released in 1992, “The House of Mirth” from 2000, as well as 2011’s “The Deep Blue Sea”) exuberance and passion for Dickinson and his film became more and more apparent during our time together.  Read more…

CCFF 2017: The Hero & Dog Years

May 17, 2017



It wasn’t planned in advance and there were no specific goals in mind, but it turns out there are two new films playing at the Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF) that revolve around veteran actors playing veteran actors receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards. One is sincere, looking poignantly at a man in the twilight of his career/life and one is inauthentic, forcing cornball humor and heavy-handed sentimentality onto would could’ve been a nostalgic lament. Both films are from writer/director and both can’t help but play off what the two are already known for, while touching on the regrets and reflection that come with getting older. I always welcome a film that has a senior protagonist to focus on, yet in a little over 24 hours I found myself with two very different responses toward films that had very similar story lines. It’s another reminder that what’s most important is the approach the writer/director is taking.  Read more…

CCFF 2017: The Little Hours, Patti Cake$ & Bitch

May 15, 2017



Opening night of the Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF) at the Music Box Theatre was a bustling, energized event with a sold-out movie to kick off the festival which runs from May 12th through May 17th.  The three films that opened the festival debuted at Sundance this past January and were receiving their Chicago premiere. Writer/director Jeff Baena returned to the festival with “The Little Hours”, after his film “Joshy” was part of the lineup last year. Beana was in attendance to introduce the film, as took part in a Q&A afterwards, along with two actors from the movie, Aubrey Plaza and Kate Micucci. You can tell the packed house thoroughly enjoyed this comedy, which was followed by the touching drama “Patti Cake$” and a midnight screening of a dark family comedy called “Bitch”.  Certainly a trio of films offering some variety, yet quite female-centric which is always welcome. My thoughts on all three below…. Read more…

CCFF 2017: Shorts Programs 1 & 2

May 13, 2017



Each year at the Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF), film critic Collin Souter has compiles a selection of short films and carefully compiles them into two programs. Although it was down to the wire, I can say this is the first year I was able plow through all sixteen shorts (which are split into two programs, screening today and tomorrow), which offer quite a variety of tone and styles – from animation to documentaries to experimental works – some really work and become quite memorable, while others may leave you perplexed. I respect and value Souter’s knowledge of filmmaking and eye for curating what must be a daunting project and appreciate the time and energy he’s put into presenting festival viewers a chance to broaden their cinematic experiences.  Read more…

CCFF 2017 preview

May 11, 2017



Tomorrow, THE CHICAGO CRITICS FILM FESTIVAL celebrates its 5th Anniversary at the beautiful Music Box Theatre, with another great week of local premieres of the best upcoming independent features! This year’s program includes 22 local feature premieres, two full-length programs of short films and a retrospective screening of a cult classic. Some of the talked-about titles in the festival feature stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Alison Brie, David Lynch, Burt Reynolds, Ariel Winter, Michael Cera, Jessica Williams, Adam Pally, Teresa Palmer and Taylor Schilling. A number of filmmakers and actors will be on hand to introduce the screenings and participate in live Q&A sessions afterwards. Read more…