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WOMAN AT WAR (2018) review

March 21, 2019

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written by: Benedikt Erlingsson and Ólafur Egilsson
produced by: Marianne Slot, Carine Leblanc, Birgitta Bjornsdottir, Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson & Serge Lavrenyuk
directed by: Benedikt Erlingsson
rated: not rated
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: March 8, 2019 (limited) and March 22, 2019 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

The mostly-silent opening sequence of “Woman at War” is one of the most attention-grabbing I’ve seen in some time. Co-writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson places us in the lush highlands of Iceland, where we see a commanding and determined figure tighten her bow, aim it at the bright blue sky and send an arrow attached to a cable careening over the power lines of a utility tower. To divulge why she does this impressive act would be to rob you of the entertainment this highly enjoyable environmental dramedy thriller provides. Not only does the film offer a standout performance from an impressive actress playing an unforgettable role, it also brilliantly balances a handful of genres and themes in a masterful manner. Read more…

A LAND IMAGINED (2018) review

March 20, 2019

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written by: Siew Hua Yeo
produced by: Fran Borgia, Gary Goh, Dennis Vaslin & Jean-Laurent Csinidis
directed by: Siew Hua Yeo
rated: not rated
runtime: 95 min.
U.S. release date: March 20, 2019 (AMC River East 21, Chicago, IL, Asian Pop-Up Film Festival) & April 12, 2019 (Netflix)

 

With its dreamlike visuals that present a construction site of all places in an unexpectedly artful manner, the luminous “A Land Imagined” captured my attention right from the start. Anytime a film can shed a new light on a location we would typically have considered uninteresting, making it an intriguing (evocative even) environment, than it’s a film that’s doing something different and unique, which is all too rare. Granted, the latest film from Singaporian writer/director Yeo Siew Hua definitely brings to mind work from other filmmakers and that’s just fine, to be expected even, since the journey he takes viewers on becomes more and more absorbing as this neo-noir unfolds. There’s a mysterious magnetism at work here that’s hard to pinpoint, giving us another reason to stick around to see how it all plays out.
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OUT OF PARADISE (2018) review

March 19, 2019

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written by: Batbayar Chogsom
produced by: Batbayar Chogsom, Valerie Fischer, Urs Fitze, Cyril Gerber, Richard Grell, Simon Hesse & Susann Rüdlinger
directed by: Batbayar Chogsom
rated: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: March 19, 2019 (AMC River East 21, Chicago, IL – Asian Pop-up Cinema Film Festival)

 

A humble married couple leave their modest home in the rural country and embark on a journey to locate a place the pregnant wife can deliver their baby. That sounds like a description of Mary and Joseph trying to find a manger, but “Out of Paradise”, the feature-length debut from Mongolian writer/director Batbayar Chogson offers a different take on a couple of modest means searching for the best situation for bringing a child into the world. That the story takes place in a part of the world most viewers have not visited, likely have little knowledge of, or have seldom seen on-screen certainly provides an audience with something different and unique to experience.
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TEN YEARS JAPAN (2018) review

March 13, 2019

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written by: Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura, Kei Ishikawa
produced by: Hirokazu Koreeda
directed by: Chie Hayakawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno, Akiyo Fujimura & Kei Ishikawa
rated: unrated
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: March 13, 2019 (Asian Pop-Up Film Festival, Chicago, IL)

 

What will life look like in ten years? Not life in general, but your life where you live. Now imagine that as a concept for a film or better yet, imagine such a conceit becoming something of a franchise, a series of omnibus films made by different nations that collect several shorts in which filmmakers envision what their country’s future will look like in a decade. That’s exactly what’s happened in certain Asian nations, starting in 2015 with the short film anthology from Hong Kong, “Ten Years” as the reunification with the province of China loomed. Three other nations followed the same format, releasing low-budget indies “Ten Years Thailand”, “Ten Years Taiwan” and “Ten Years Japan” last year made by immerging filmmakers.
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FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA (2019) review

March 12, 2019

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written by: Tomokazu Tokunaga (screenplay) and Mineo Maya (manga)
directed by: Hideki Takeuchi
rated: unrated
runtime: 107 min.
U.S. release date: March 12, 2019 (Asian Pop-Up Film Festival)

 

Some movies trigger me back to those middle school days when I was hanging out with some buddies after school and trying really hard to follow what they were saying and laugh along with whatever they found funny. Sometimes I got it, while other times I just stood there and nodded my head. Other times, one I got it, well I was right there with them, having a good old time. That’s how I felt while watching most of Hideki Takeuchi’s latest movie “Fly Me to the Saitama”. I got the gist of the story, but it definitely was clear I would’ve benefited from knowing more about Japanese class culture than I did going into it (which was very little). For the most part, I was able to follow this imaginative comedy with its social commentary and eccentric characters and there’s much to appreciate here. But overall, I was left feeling like I was still a little left out of the conversation. And that’s okay.
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RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO (2018) review

March 9, 2019

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written by: Michael Glover Smith
produced by: Layne Marie Williams
directed by: Michael Glover Smith
rated: not rated
runtime: 69 min. 
U.S. release date: October 18, 2018 (Adirondack Film Festival) & November 29, 2018 (Oakton Pop-Up Film Festival), March 13, 2019 (Beverly Arts Center, Chicago, IL) 

 

As I make my way through the streets and sidewalks of the Windy City, often taking its public transit mired in the smell of rank weed and ripe body odor, I’ll often fix a sly gaze on another nearby human. He could be sitting close by, she could be standing near me or maybe it’s a couple walking on the other side of the street, and what I do is follow them in my mind. I create a story, crafting who they are, where they’re from and where they’re going and sometimes it turns into a stream of consciousness path wherein I’m following them to four, maybe five different locations before I lose them altogether. All of this happens in my mind, where a narrative and dialogue can be inaudible or crystal clear and then it’s as if someone else picks up their story. I thought of this while watching Michael Glover Smith’s latest film “Rendezvous in Chicago”. Read more…

CEUFF 2019 preview

March 8, 2019

 

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March in Chicago means Madness – not the kind typically associated with basketball here in the States, but rather the kind that finds film enthusiasts lured to the Gene Siskel Film Center for its annual Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF), in an effort to experience some of the best films from Europe in recent years. The madness is in trying to see them all. An absurd, illogical endeavor, but an understanding one considering how enticing the lineup typically each year. Running from March 8th through April 4th for its 22nd year, the largest festival in North America exclusively showcasing films from all twenty-eight European Union nations is a gift to cinema lovers, offering sixty Chicago premieres. Read more…