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WHITE GIRL (2016) review

September 30, 2016

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written by: Elizabeth Wood
produced by: Gabriel Nussbaum
directed by: Elizabeth Wood
rating:
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: January 23, 2016 (Sundance), September 2, 2016 (limited) and September 30, 2016 – October 6, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)

 

“I really like drugs,” says the young white girl late one night, half-giggling, after asking three Hispanic guys who live across the street from her if they, “have any weed – or anything?” This is not going to go well, but that was obvious going in to “White Girl”, the feature-length directorial debut of writer/director Elizabeth Wood, which is being compared to Larry Clark’s “Kids” (it says it on the poster!), which depicted a raw and shocking look at New York City youth. Since you can’t really say that Wood’s film has as much potent commentary as Clarke’s provocative early 90s indie, the comparisons are solely due to the rampant sex and drug use in this film. Wood may show promise as a director here, but her screenplay unfortunately found me less and less interested in this “White Girl”. Read more…

DON’T BLINK – ROBERT FRANK (2016) review

September 28, 2016

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written by: Laura Israel and Melinda Shopsin
produced by: Laura Israel and Melinda Shopsin
directed by: Laura Israel
rated: unrated
runtime: 82 min.
U.S. release date: September 29-October 6, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL )

 

Robert Frank. If you knew nothing about him or only vaguely heard of his name, Laura Israel’s documentary “Don’t Blink – Robert Frank” sets out to correct that, providing a detailed and thorough look at the Swiss-born American photographer/film director. This isn’t just a film that looks at the artist, his influences and his influence on the world, it’s a film that involves the 91-year-old Frank as he looks back on his career with Israel, as she offers viewers a look at his life now. Those who know of him, might be surprised that he’s still alive. Not knowing much about Frank going in, the informative “Don’t Blink” introduced me to the cantankerous curmudgeon and reminded me of the often sad, lonely and potentially isolated struggle of being an artist.  Read more…

TIFF 2016: In Review

September 27, 2016

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Felicity Jones appears on the red carpet at TIFF for the premiere of “A Monster Calls”

 

Now that I’ve had a week to recuperate from the chaos of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I can finally look back on it with something of a clear head. This has been my fourth year living in Toronto during the festival, my second year of properly participating, and my most action-packed festival experience yet. Read more…

JIMMY VESTVOOD: AMERIKAN HERO (2016) review

September 25, 2016

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written by: Maz Jobrani and Amir Ohebsion
produced by: Maz Jobrani, Amir Ohebsion and Ray Moheet
directed by: Jonathan Kesselman
rated: unrated
runtime: 84 min.
U.S. release date: September 23-29, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL )

 

You may not have heard of Iranian-born writer/comedian/actor Maz Jobrani, but you’ve probably seen him and didn’t even realize it. The nationalized American citizen (he’s lives in the States since he was a young child) has appeared in numerous television shows since 2001 (from “Chicago Hope” to “True Blood” to a new sitcom “Superior Donuts” based in Chicago) often stereotypically portraying a doctor or a terrorist or just that laughably naive A-rab guy. To say Jobrani knows a thing or two about such stereotypes and racial profiling, would be an understatement. With “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero”, he co-writes and stars in a comedy that incorporates an awareness of certain prejudices, along with his own experiences, creating a satire that resembles a mashup of “Borat” and “Austin Powers”, although not as raunchy as the former and not as randy as the latter.  Read more…

FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK (2016) review

September 24, 2016

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produced by: Joseph Kornbrodt, Kevin Layne, David Zappone & Kai de Mello-Folsom
directed by: Adam Nimoy
rated: unrated
runtime: 111 min.
U.S. release date: April 16, 2016 (Tribeca Film Festival), September 9, 2016 (limited/VOD/iTunes/Amazon) and September 23-29, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL) 

 

When you think of “Star Trek”, it’s hard not to think of anyone other than the most recognizable face of the pop culture phenomenon, that being the arched eyebrows and pointy ears of Spock, as portrayed by Leonard Nimoy. The actor played Mr. Spock for the entire length of the groundbreaking television series (1966-1969) as the chief science office aboard the starship USS Enterprise. Although he played other characters, Nimoy and the half human/half Vulcan were inseparable and it would be the single role he would be known for. “For the Love of Spock” is a documentary that covers how the iconic character has impacted both fandom over the years been and also provides a fascinating look at how it changed Nimoy’s career and personal life. It offers a rare and unique perspective, in that it was directed by his son, Adam Nimoy, who has a very personal involvement obviously and in turn offers viewers a look at growing up under the shadow of that famous Vulcan salute. Read more…

MY BLIND BROTHER (2016) review

September 23, 2016

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written by: Sophie Goodhart
produced by: Tyler Davidson and Tory Tunnell
directed by: Sophie Goodhart
rated: R (for language, some sexuality and drug use)
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: September 23, 2016 (limited/iTunes/Amazon/VOD)

 

The love triangle is a story device that is often incorporated into comedies, in various iterations, one of which is when two siblings wind up dating the same person. More often than not, the siblings aren’t aware of this and neither is the person dating them, but the audience is in on it and as the movie progresses, these characters slowly (awkwardly and humorously, usually) become aware of the truth. Making her directorial debut with “My Blind Brother”, screenwriter Sophie Goodhart, takes this concept and adds plenty of relatable insecurities and sensitivities to it, in a story that revolves around three flawed people who are more or less like you and me – at least moreso than we’d like to admit. There’s a smart script here grounded by three great actors who are able to juggle the film’s tone of subversively dark humor with laugh-out loud moments.  Read more…

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016) review

September 22, 2016

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written by: Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk
produced by: Roger Birnbaum and Todd Black
directed by: Antoine Fuqua
rated: PG-13 (for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material)
runtime: 133 min.
U.S. release date: September 23, 2016

 

A poor and desperate town oppressed and threatened by a greedy land baron hires an assortment of outsiders to defend their home and livelihood. It’s a tried and true reusable formula that has proven over and over again to be a reliable and satisfying storytelling premise for any genre. So then it should be no surprise to anyone that we have another “Magnificent Seven” in theaters. The concept worked back in 1960, when United Artists released John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven”, as a western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Seven Samurai” and for all purposes it will work again as director Antoine Fuqua reunites with movie star Denzel Washington for another fall release. Most assuredly, this blockbuster release, which wanted to separate itself from Remake Summer, will make a ton of money at the box office – but is that all it will do? Read more…