Skip to content

INFERNO (2016) review

October 27, 2016



written by: David Koepp
produced by: Brian Grazer and Ron Howard
directed by: Ron Howard
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some language, thematic elements and brief sensuality)
runtime: 121 min.
U.S. release date: October 28, 2016


As much as we’re used to Tom Cruise frantically running in every movie, we’re also used to Tom Hanks confused and bewildered face whenever he is in a harrowing or intense dramatic situation. Oh he does some running too, like in the recent “Sully” and, of course “Forrest Gump” (although both of those were by choice not, because his character was being pursued) – and certainly in all the Robert Langdon thrillers, the third and latest adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novels being “Inferno”, directed by Ron Howard, who helmed the previous two, 2006’s “The Da Vinci Code” and 2009’s “Angels & Demons” – but, what we remember most from all these movies is Hanks face (just look at the posters). I can relate to that face. It’s the same face I made after watching this tedious, convoluted, and uninteresting sequel. Read more…

MISS HOKUSAI (2016) review

October 26, 2016




written by: Miho Maruo
produced by: Keiko Matsushita and Asako Nishikawa
directed by: Keiichi Hara
rated: PG-13 (for mature thematic material including sexual situations and images)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: October 14, 2016 (limited)


Keiichi Hara’s new animated feature “Miss Hokusai”, an adaptation of the manga series of the same name from Hinako Sugiura, started out on the wrong foot with me.  Hara sets up when and where we are – in Edo (which would eventually be called Tokyo) during the summer of 1814 – and who we’re following, a young woman named O-Ei Hokusai, who was the daughter of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, mostly known for his recognizable print The Great Wave off Kanagawa as well as various erotic art, known as shunga, but then, right as we follow her across Ryogoku Bridge over the Sumida River, I start to hear a classic rock guitar riff that sounds like “Taking Care of Business” from Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Not even ten minutes into the film and I’m thinking something is off here.  Read more…

CIFF 2016 – Paterson

October 25, 2016




Repetition and rhythm are the binding forces of Jim Jarmusch’s poetic, gorgeous film “Paterson”. Jarmusch has had a career of hit or miss, reaching an apex with 2013’s bewitching vampire rock and roll love story “The Only Lovers Left Alive” – a movie I adored. For me, “Paterson” may be Jarmusch’s best movie or certainly is among them. Read more…

MISS SHARON JONES! (2016) review

October 25, 2016



produced by David Cassidy and Barbara Kopple
directed by: Barbara Kopple
rated: Unrated
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: July 29, 2016 (limited)
Digital release: October 25, 2016
DVD release: November 1, 2016


“Right now I look like some old lady with a jheri curl wig on top of her head.”


The best documentaries about an individual are those which manage to not only capture that individual’s energy, but match it in the tone of the feature. Barbara Kopple manages to do just that with her latest film “Miss Sharon Jones!” in much the same way she did with her Oscar-winning film “Harlan County, U.S.A.” only in a vastly more focused way. Where that film’s mission was to capture a turbulent labor movement in rural Kentucky, this film is zeroed in on one woman’s undying desire to sing for a living, no matter what obstacles she encounters. Read more…


October 25, 2016




written by: Ti West
produced by: Jason Blum, Jacob Jaffke and Peter Phok
directed by: Ti West
rated: R (for violence and language)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: March 12, 2016 (SXSW), May 25, 2016 (Chicago Critics Film Festival) and October 21, 2016 (limited)


After watching writer/director Ti West’s previous films, like as “House of the Devil” and “The Innkeepers“, which are maddeningly nestled on the edge of the filmmakers brand of horror, I recall thinking how I’d like to see his slow-burn approach to the western genre. Granted, I was thinking of a mashup of both genres, like the ghost and mystery tales in the comics I used to read as a kid or the twisted macabre tales of Jeff Mariotte’s “Desperadoes“. West’s latest film, “In a Valley of Violence” does indeed take place in the west and while it’s not a horror western, it does combine somewhat expected brutal shocks with unexpected gallows humor for a moody memorable Old West homage of spaghetti westerns and a singular take on the classic revenge tale.  Read more…

DANCER (2016) review

October 24, 2016



produced by: Gabrielle Tana
directed by: Steven Cantor
rated: unrated
runtime: 85 min.
U.S. release date: September 16, 2016 (limited) and October 21-27, 2016 (at Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL )


I have never heard of Sergei Polunin before seeing this documentary. That’s obviously one reason why Steven Cantor directed “Dancer”, which chronicles the rise of the 26-year-old Ukrainian ballet superstar – so viewers like me will be aware who this lean, ripped and heavily-tattooed young man is and what he has done. It’s also a reason why I seek out such documentaries. Like “A Ballerina’s Tale“, earlier this year, the subject intrigues me, which is what gravitates me to this type of doc. Die-hard fans may know all about this extremely talented dancer, but Cantor goes behind-the-scenes, focusing on what it took both Polunin and his family to get him where he’s at right now and it’s quite compelling regardless of what you know prior to viewing.   Read more…

CIFF 2016 – Strike A Pose & Two Trains Runnin’

October 23, 2016


Two documentaries related to aspects of two totally different types of music played at the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) recently – both of them look at unsung talents from their own respective eras and both seek to educate viewers as to who they are and what became of them. “Strike a Pose” premiered earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival and looks at Madonna’s backup singers from the early 90s, while “Two Trains Runnin'” looks at what transpired back in 1964 when a two different groups of white men drove down to Mississippi in search of two blues legends. Both documentaries deal with talent that has been all but forgotten and they both seek to use their subject material to inform and educate those who were aware of these talents as well as those who had no prior knowledge whatsoever.  Read more…