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Interview with RELATIVE writer/director Michael Glover Smith

June 13, 2022

 

“Relative” is writer/director Michael Glover Smith’s fourth feature film and it revolves around a family reunion on the northside of Chicago that’s taking place over the course of a long weekend. Once again, Smith shows a knack for bringing authentic and real relationships and personalities to the screen, while managing to tackle the complexities of life with a dash of comedy and poignant drama. Read more…

RELATIVE (2022) review

June 11, 2022

 

written by: Michael Glover Smith
produced by: Clare Cooney, Aaron Wertheimer, Brian Hieggelke & Jan Hieggelke
directed by: Michael Glover Smith
rated: not rated
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: March 12, 2022 (Gasparilla International Film Festival, Tampa, Florida), June 8, 2022 (Music Box Theatre), June 10, 15 & 16, 2022 (Gene Siskel Film Center) 

 

For his fourth feature-length film, “Relative”, writer/director Michael Glover Smith hones in closely on one specific family in Chicago, on a specific weekend for a specific occasion. It’s a relatable look at a variety of personalities in that family which will find viewers connecting with certain characters in some way on a personal level or simply recognizing them as someone they know in their life. The four adult children that we get to know here seem uniquely different, but as the story unfolds we see some similarities that become apparent, (although maybe not to the siblings) and see how certain life experiences can form a shared and unexpected connection between family members. Like his previous films, Smith shows a wonderfully astute knack for providing an audience with a look at the varying stages of real relationships, in “Relative” it takes the form of the family dynamic. Read more…

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022) review

May 6, 2022

 

written by: Michael Waldron
produced by: Kevin Feige
directed by: Sam Raimi
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, frightening images and some language).
runtime: 126 min.
U.S. release date: May 6, 2022 (theatrical)

 

What we’ve come to know of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) began and revolved around Tony Stark years ago, but now that he’s gone, that responsibility has been passed to actor Benedict Cumberbatch to take over, positioning his sonorous character, Doctor Stephen Strange, as the link to many other characters and storylines. While he’s appeared in four other blockbusters since his self-titled 2016 debut, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is the character’s first sequel bearing his name and one would hope we could now take time for some character study while possible going into new and different territory. With veteran director Sam Raimi at the helm maybe we would even journey into some terror-tory as well! After all, the Master of the Mystic Arts is ripe for such a tale. While Rami hasn’t directed a feature film since 2013’s “Oz the Great and Powerful”, let us not forget he gave us the original Spider-Man trilogy and delivered horror genre thrills and chills with a style and a sense of humor in the likes of “Darkman” and “Army of Darkness”. This could be a great chance for Disney and Marvel Studios to let a filmmaker’s sensibilities shine through instead of just being the next chapter in a franchise, but then again Chloe Zhao put her stamp on the MCU last fall and “The Eternals” was deemed “boring” for some. Read more…

MEMORY (2022) review

April 29, 2022

 

written by: Dario Scardapane (screenplay) and Jef Geeraerts (novel)
produced by: Moshe Diamant, Michael Heimler, Rupert Maconick, Arthur Sarkissian, & Cathy Schulman
directed by: Martin Campbell
rated: R (for violence, some bloody images and language throughout)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: April 29, 2022 (theatrical)

 

Earlier this year, there was the bland “Blacklight”, yet another in a long line of thrillers led by Liam Neeson that are released around the same time each year. The actor seemed tired and uninterested in the role, dragging through a movie that barely had a story to it. Months later and we have “Memory” and one might wonder if this is deva ju all over again, even though there’s still a part of us rooting for him. Admittedly, the concept and the trailer seemed promising, especially considering it’s helmed by Martin Campbell, who gave us two of the best Bond films (“Goldeneye” and “Casino Royale”), but let’s not forget that he also directed Ryan Reynolds in “Green Lantern”. Hoo boy. Read more…

THE NORTHMAN (2022) review

April 28, 2022

 

written by: Sjón and Robert Eggers
produced by: Mark Huffam, Lars Knudsen, Robert Eggers, Alexander Skarsgård, & Arnon Milchan
directed by: Robert Eggers
rated: Rated R (for strong bloody violence, some sexual content and nudity)
runtime: 137 min.
U.S. release date: April 22, 2022 (theatrical)

 

A bloody Viking film by Robert Eggers starring Alexander Skarsgård? Sold; from the first time I heard about it. Of course, I still have to come to any film objectively and having seen this third feature film from writer/director Eggers, it’s kind of odd to say that it’s his most accessible. Indeed, if I were to point a newbie to the work of Eggers, I’d start with “The Northman” and work in reverse, mostly because his two previous bleak films were either too eerily intense or just plain out there. That being said I liked them both. “The Northman”, is definitely intense providing the filmmaker’s stylish aesthetic, and while its tale of revenge is certainly a bit more familiar, what Eggers does with the overall story exceeds expectations in many ways. Read more…

DUAL (2022) review

April 21, 2022

 

written by: Riley Stearns
produced by: Maxime Cottray, Nick Spicer, and Riley Stearns
directed by: Riley Stearns
rated: Rated R (for violent content, some sexual content, language and graphic nudity)
runtime: 95 min.
U.S. release date: January 22, 2022 (Sundance) & April 15, 2020 (theatrical)

 

How would you fare in a duel to the death against yourself? If you knew you had a terminal illness and you could duplicate yourself to save your loved ones the pain of your loss, would you do it? Those seem to be two completely different odd questions, but both of them have to do with the examination of identity and mortality in “Dual”, a satirical sci-fi dark comedy from Riley Stearns, who last gave us the 2019 comedy “The Art of Self-Defense”. It’s not lost that such concepts are explored while we’re still going through a pandemic (depending on who you ask, of course), or that it’s a coincidence that last year’s “Swan Song” also explored the idea of a man getting to know his clone, or himself, before he died, which was more of a serious affair. How we look at life and our longevity had been on our minds, even before COVID. These questions and ideas can be more interesting when a certain amount of silliness is applied. Writer/director Stearns (who also co-produces) applies his idiosyncratic touch to the story of “Dual” and delivers a mostly captivating narrative, except for some third-act decisions that wind up being unfulfilling. Read more…

Interview with THE BLIND MAN WHO DID NOT WANT TO SEE TITANIC producer Jani Pösö

March 9, 2022

(left to right) producer Jani Pösö, actor Petri Pieksämäki, and writer/director Teemu Nikki, pictured at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival, last September

 

Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to films with super long titles. No hypens or colons, just a verbose calling card that pulls me in and what I’ve found is they often have a unique premise that feels like nothing else out there. Immediately,  “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot”  from 2018 comes to mind and then two films from last year that made my Top Ten Films of 2022 list, “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Length of Time” and “Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Mustache“, all of which have a curious allure just in their title. It only took three months into the year to come across the first long-titled film to catch my attention…how could I not be intrigued by “The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic”? Read more…

THE BATMAN (2022) review

March 6, 2022

 

written by: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
produced by: Dylan Clark and Matt Reeves
directed by: Matt Reeves
rated: PG-13 (for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material)
runtime: 173 min.
U.S. release date: March 4, 2022 (theatrical) and April 19, 2022 (HBO Max)

 

Will adding “The” to a new Batman movie differentiate itself enough from all the ones that came before it? Is this to be THE Batman of all Batmans? For sure, there will be some who entertain such questions and some who wonder what could Warner Brothers and DC possibly explore with the iconic comic book character that they haven’t already covered. If you’re aware of the many iterations from the source material, the answer is: plenty. Well-read fans know the potential of Batman from the countless creative teams who have worked on the character for decades. There can indeed be many different takes on Batman. Director Matt Reeves knows this and when he set out to helm another big-screen adaptation of the Dark Knight, he decided to delve a little deeper than anyone has in the past, into the psyche of a man who dresses up as a bat and the lengths he’ll go to rid a city of its criminal element. The result is a moody and brutal detective story told with noir sensibilities and an immersive cinematic experience, focusing on what lies beneath complicated characters we think we’re familiar with. Read more…

UNCHARTED (2022) review

February 21, 2022

 

written by: Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway
produced by: Charles Roven, Avi Arad, and Alex Gartner
directed by: Ruben Fleischer
rated: PG-13 (for violence/action and language)
runtime: 116 min.
U.S. release date: February 18, 2022 (theatrical)

 

When the first Uncharted video game premiered and became a hit for the Playstation 3 back in 2007, it was described as a variation of Indiana Jones and immediately there was talk about bringing the action/adventure game to the big screen. Actor Nathan Fillion expressed interest which was supported by fans and directors such as David O. Russell, Shawn Levy, Neil Burger, and Dan Trachtenberg (just to name a few) were attached to helm the adaptation, with numerous writers with varying pedigrees such as David Guggenheim, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Mark Boal, and Joe Carnahan. They all left and none of that happened, leaving fans of the nine games from Naughty Dog studios wondering if anything will ever happen with a movie version. Then in 2017, Tom Holland was cast as Nathan Drake, lead character of the series, just as his popularity as a certain web-slinger was about to kickoff, and Ruben Fleischer boarded as director. After COVID delayed production and release schedules, the movie is done and released in theaters, and it’s an underwhelming actioner that feels more like a Disney ride turned into an action flick (and not a very good one, think “Jungle Cruise”) and makes one wish Alicia Vikander would make another Tomb Raider movie. Read more…

MARRY ME (2022) review

February 19, 2022

 

written by: John Rogers, Tami Sagher and Harper Dill (screenplay) and Bobby Crosby (graphic novel)
produced by: Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Jennifer Lopez, Benny Medina & John Rogers
directed by: Kat Coiro
rated: PG-13 (for some language and suggestive material)
runtime: 112 min.
U.S. release date: February 12, 2022 (theatrical and Peacock)

 

In releasing “Marry Me” on Valentine’s Day weekend this year, Universal Pictures is trying to see if rom-coms can still deliver a hit. It’s a genre that has seen degrees of success each decade dating all the way back to the screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s, but in the 90s when a plethora of these movies came out, all their plots began to feel interchangeable: a couple meet-cute, they fall for each other, they break up for whatever reason and inevitably reunite realizing something about destiny and soulmates…or close variations of that formula. While the source material for “Marry Me” derives from Bobby Crosby’s webcomic of the same name, that’s really the only unique factor here since all the rom-com tropes and conventions seem to be present and accounted for. Read more…