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Interview with MAN & THREE WORLDS actor/writer/director Amir Motlagh

April 18, 2018

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Two films from Los Angeles-based filmmaker, musician, and artist, Amir Motlagh, “Me” and “Three Worlds” will be premiering at Chicago Filmmakers on Saturday, April 21st. The non-profit media arts organization on the north side will showcase a double feature that will serve as a fitting introduction for some to the prolific artist’s work. Although the two films from Motlagh have a different approach and style, because of the similar locations and experimental vertité vibe they share, they can easily be seen as existing on a parallel plane. Recently, I had a chance to chat with the award-winning Iranian-American artist in anticipation of the event in Chicago this week and we talked about his process, influences and approach to his work. But first, some thoughts on his two films… Read more…

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BACK TO BURGUNDY (2017) review

April 13, 2018

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written by: Cédric Klapisch, Santiago Amigorena and Jean-Marc Roulot
produced by: Cédric Klapisch and Bruno Levy
directed by: Cédric Klapisch
rated: not rated
runtime: 113 min.
U.S. release date: October 19, 2017 (Chicago International Film Festival), March 23, 2018 (limited) & April 13-19, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

“Back to Burgundy” is a French film about siblings in the past and of the present and the generational wine-making of their family in the titular French region. Cédric Klapisch directs this enjoyable film and co-wrote the screenplay with Bruno Levy and although wine runs throughout the story, one does not have to be a oenophile (a lover of wine), a connoisseur or a sommelier to appreciate the relatable and complex characters that grounds the film. The detailed wine-making process is a fascinating and integral part to the story actually. There are some weaknesses to the film – it may be a bit too on-the-nose at times with what its saying and hints at an unnecessary red herring, as well as offering some familiar parental stereotypes – but the geography and performances won me over with their charming and genuine manner.  Read more…

LEAN ON PETE (2018) review

April 11, 2018

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written by: Andrew Haigh
produced by: Tristan Goligher
directed by: Andrew Haigh
rated: R (for language and brief violence)
runtime: 121 min.
U.S. release date: April 13, 2018

 

The setup and trailer for “Lean on Pete” may feel like something that would come  from a writer like Nicholas Sparks or the kind of faith-based fare that is often promoted by mega-churches. There’s definitely an audience for those stories, but  the latest from English writer/director Andrew Haigh (“Weekend” and “45 Years”) isn’t what it appears to be. Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by American author Willy Vlautin, “Lean on Pete” a touching and thoroughly engaging story that definitely winds up becoming more than the “a boy and his horse” it looks like. What we have is something quite special here, a film that’s different than what we’re used to, yet harkens to a classic kind of storytelling. Read more…

READY PLAYER ONE (2018) review

April 10, 2018

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written by: Zak Penn and Ernest Cline
produced by: Steven Spielberg, Donald De Line, Dan Farah & Kristie Macosko Krieger
directed by: Steven Spielberg
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity and language)
runtime: 140 min.
U.S. release date: March 30, 2018

 

Who better to helm a science fiction adventure that embraces decades of pop culture and deep cut fandom references than Steven Spielberg, the guy who made such an undeniable mark on pop culture by becoming the father of the blockbuster? After delivering films of importance that earned four Best Picture nominations from the Academy, Spielberg returns to movie-making for the masses. Based on the best-selling 2011 book by Ernest Cline, “Ready Player One” finds the legendary director paying homage to himself in many ways and having a blast in the process, delivering exhilarating entertainment with undeniably memorable visuals. It’s certainly not groundbreaking work, but it is an absolute delight to find the director making such an enjoyable movie. Read more…

1945 (2017) review

April 6, 2018

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written by: Gábor T. Szántó and Ferenc Török
produced by: Iván Angelusz, Péter Reich and Ferenc Török
directed by: Ferenc Török
rated: not rated
runtime: 91 min.
U.S. release date: October 24, 2017 (Chicago International Film Festival) & April 6, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL & Landmark’s Renaissance Place Cinema, Highland Park, IL)

 

Two mysterious men in black hats arrive by train near a remote village on a hot, dusty day in August.  It sounds like a Western, yet “1945” is a period piece set during the film’s titular year in Hungary from writer/director Ferenc Török, adapted from a short story from novelist Gábor T. Szántó. Filmed in beautiful stark, high contrast black-and-white, the tale told here unravels with a palpable degree of curiosity from every other character inhabiting this story, with equal measures of apprehension and uncertainty. There’s definitely an unexpected anticipation that builds throughout the film that found me leaning in a little closer as the story unfolds. Read more…

ITZHAK (2017) review

April 5, 2018

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produced by: Alison Chernick
directed by: Alison Chernick
rated: not rated
runtime: 80 min.
U.S. release date: April 6-12, 2018 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)

 

“They called it wrong. They really called it wrong.”

 

Documentaries have begun to have a hierarchy in the last few years, spurred in part by their sheer abundance. To give them at least two categories, I would say that there are major and minor documentaries, separated by the “importance” of their subject. Just because a film like “Itzhak” is what I would call a minor documentary doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a film. Read more…

2018 DOC10 Film Festival

April 5, 2018

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CHICAGO MEDIA PROJECT PRESENTS THE 3RD ANNUAL “DOC10” FILM FESTIVAL APRIL 5-8, 2018 AT THE DAVIS THEATER WITH THE CHICAGO PREMIERE OF OSCAR-WINNING DIRECTOR MORGAN NEVILLE’S WONT YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR

Chicago Media Project returns for a third year of highly curated and multi-faceted programming highlighting 10 of the best documentary films of the coming season followed by engaging post-screening Q&As with filmmakers and professionals, live performances and other special events.  The only festival of its kind in Chicago, DOC10 2018 opens tonight at the at the Davis Theater in the Lincoln Square neighborhood (located at 4614 N. Lincoln Avenue) and runs through Sunday, April 8th. The festival has fast become a highly-anticipated event for documentary fans and already has some SOLD OUT screenings, but don’t let that deter you from discovering unique voices and perspectives in film. Read more…