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January 16, 2019



written by: Akira Toriyama
directed by:Tatsuya Nagamine
rated: PG (for prolonged frenetic sequences of action and violence, and for language)
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: January 16-24 2019 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


What did I get myself into and what in the world did I just watch? Those are just two of the many questions that swirled in my brain while watching “Dragon Ball Super: Broly”, the wonkily-named, latest theatrical entry in the Dragon Ball series, a Japanese anime fantasy martial arts extravaganza that’s popular amongst its die-hard fans. That response is to be expected since this is the first time I’ve watched any of these movies and I was gob-smacked to learn its the twentieth entry in the series. Embarking on watching this, I felt like the outlier walking into a seemingly abandoned comic book store on gaming night, just stepping in for that lone issue I’m missing, but then struck with curiosity as to what, if anything, I’m missing by not being into this apparent phenomena. Read more…


THE UPSIDE (2019) review

January 13, 2019



written by: John Hartmere (adapted from a screenplay by Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache)
produced by: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch
directed by: Neil Berger
rated: PG-13 (for suggestive content and drug use)
runtime: 125 min.
U.S. release date: January 11, 2019


“The Upside” is the quintessential inevitable American remake. It takes a highly successful film – in this case, the touching and humorous “The Intouchables”, a successful French dramedy biopic from 2011- and tries to bottle that success by transporting the story to America by way of Hollywood. The result is typically a surefire miss and that’s what happens here. This attempt by screenwriter Jon Hartmere and director Neil Burger (“Limitless” and “The Illunsionist”) fails, painfully so, on just about every level. I’m confident I would say that even if I had not recently watched the original film for the first time. It’s a movie that doesn’t understand what made the original story work, opting instead for a wrongheaded approach that unfortunately plays for laughs, ultimately delivering a convenient, heavy-handed and painfully cliched movie. Read more…

EL ANGEL (2018) review

January 9, 2019



written by: Luis Ortega
produced by: Agustín Almodóvar and Pedro Almodóvar
directed by: Luis Ortega
rated: not rated
runtime: 118 min.
U.S. release date: October 20, 2018 (Chicago International Film Festival), November 9, 2018 (limited) & January 11, 2019 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)


Whether it’s a theatrical release, digital or VOD, it feels like a new “inspired by true events” or “based on a true story” film comes out every week. Why just this week here in Chicago there’s “The Upside” (an American remake of a French biopic) opening the same day as Argentine-Spanish crime drama “El Angel”, after making its premiere in the the Un Certain Regard section at last May’s Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Argentinian filmmaker Luis Ortega, the film, which revolves around Argentine serial killer Carlos Robledo Puch, was selected as the Argentine entry for Best Foreign Language for this year’s Academy Awards, but didn’t make the December shortlist. Typically, such an exclusion would be considered unfortunate, but my guess is that the committee found Ortega’s film lacking in substance and in dire need of some choice revelations that would illuminate the unrepentant protagonist of the film. Read more…

THE QUAKE (2018) review

December 20, 2018



written by: John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
produced by: Are Heidenstrom and Martin Sundland
directed by: John Andreas Andersen
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of peril and destruction, injury images, and brief strong language)
runtime: 106 min.
U.S. release date: September 21, 2018 (Fantastic Fest) & December 14, 2018 (limited theaters & avail. on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu and Google Play) 


I never would’ve thought that I’d be anticipating disaster movies, but that’s how I felt when I learned that the Norwegians behind 2015’s “The Wave” made a sequel. That movie surprised me in how it removed itself from the cliche trappings that similar big-budget American blockbusters often succumb to by focusing on realism and humanistic peril over stereotypical characters running to and from scenes of bombastic destruction. And now the same writers and producers from that stellar avalanche/tsunami thriller brings us “The Quake”, which finds new director John Andreas Andersen overseeing  another catastrophe in Norway. The result is yet another legitimate nail-biter, as this thriller recaptures all the uncanny characterization and intense calamity, making it that rare sequel that feels like an equal. Read more…


December 19, 2018



produced by: Peter Jackson & Clare Olssen
directed by: Peter Jackson
rated: R (for disturbing war images)
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: December 17, 2018 & December 27, 2018 (Fathom Events in 2D & 3D)


“It was not very dangerous, a sort of out of doors camping holiday with the boys with a slight spice of danger to make it interesting.”


In 2014, right around the time he was finishing up his Hobbit trilogy, Peter Jackson was approached by a group of historians, including the BBC, with a proposal to create a World War I documentary in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 2018. Sliding in just under the wire, Jackson’s finished product “They Shall Not Grow Old”, is a wonderful meditation on a time, place, and scenario most of us know nothing about. Read more…

ANNOUNCEMENT: 2018 CFCA film awards

December 9, 2018


Director Alfonso Cuarón with Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”


It was festive and packed tonight at the annual Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) film awards dinner! As a member in good standing going on five years now, it’s still an honor and never ceases to be anything less than a joy to spend time with colleagues as we celebrate the year’s best in film. Regardless of what you think or what you hear, it’s been a fine year in film. If you disagree, than you haven’t seen enough films. Maybe some of these winners will point you in the right direction. Read more…

Nominees for the 2018 CFCA film awards…

December 7, 2018




I voted. I didn’t boo…I voted. As a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA), it’s my duty to take part in our annual round-up, in which we nominate what we consider to be the best of the year. It’s always a challenge, but the way I approach this is very similar to how I approach my year-end Top Ten lists – I think about which films, performances, scenes and screenplays standout or resonate and why. Like every year around this time, there’s still some films I need to catch up with, yet there are voting deadlines to be met, so I just had to submit my nominees based on what I’ve seen. That may seem like an obvious thing to do, but you’d be surprised what happens during awards season. So, here’s the official announcement from the CFCA, as well as a full list of our nominees… Read more…