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Interview with BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY director Alexandra Dean

January 18, 2018

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Everyone is more than they appear to be, but too often we limit our perceptions and expectations of people based solely on their appearance. That becomes quite clear while watching the fascinating documentary “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” from director Alexandra Dean, which looks at the life of actress Hedy Lamarr, who was declared “the most beautiful woman in the world” back in the 30s and 40s. The Austrian-born actress was known for captivating audiences with her beauty on the big screen, yet few people knew of her passion for inventing. When she wasn’t in front of the camera, Lamarr was busy working away in her lab, eventually creating a radio system that is now considered the basis for GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. Clearly, Lamarr was more than eye candy, yet she never truly received the recognition she deserved. Read more…

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THE COMMUTER (2018) review

January 14, 2018

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written by: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle
produced by: Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman
directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
rated: PG-13 (for some intense action/violence, and language)
runtime: 105 min.
U.S. release date: January 12, 2018

 

Regardless of quality, Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson have apparently enjoyed working together on B-material action movies and “The Commuter” is the fourth and latest outing between the Spanish director and Irish actor. It’s not as awful as 2011’s “Unknown” and not as good as 2014’s “Non-Stop” and 2015’s “Run All Night”, both of which were a step up, yet still substituting brisk camerawork and cheap thrills for sustaining suspense and memorable moments throughout. Of course, any problems with these movies comes down to their screenplays and while there is a solid set-up and interesting premise to “The Commuter”, it just can’t sustain any originality nor can it escape its cycle of unintentional ridiculousness and overall predictability. Read more…

ACTS OF VIOLENCE (2018) review

January 13, 2018

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written by: Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto
produced by: Anthony Callie, Randall Emmett, George Furla & Mark Stewart
directed by: Brett Donowho
rated: R (for violence, language throughout, sexuality/nudity and drug material)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: January 12, 2018 (theatrical/VOD)

 

Another year, another Bruce Willis debacle. Seriously, it’s getting ridiculous. When he started taking any old role that comes his way, I used to give him the benefit of the doubt, thinking here’s a guy who just wants to explore smaller stuff. It didn’t take me long to abandon that mindset. With this many crappy under-the-radar releases from the former movie star, his glory days are looking further and further away. Don’t be fooled though, his latest VOD offering from director Brett Donowho, “Acts of Violence” (not to be confused with “Acts of Vengeance” starring Antonio Banderas, which you didn’t see) isn’t really a “Bruce Willis movie”, considering he’s in it for an estimated total of fifteen minutes, but it is yet another offering in what could certainly be considered a “sleepwalking” period of his career. Read more…

PADDINGTON 2 (2017) review

January 11, 2018

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written by: Simon Farnaby and Paul King
produced by: David Heyman
directed by: Paul King
rated: PG (for some action and mild rude humor)
runtime: 103 min.
U.S. release date: January 12, 2018

 

The adorable orange marmalade sandwich loving bear is back on the big screen and just like he did three years ago, Paddington stars in the best movie of the new year. Sure, it’s not even two weeks into the new year – and technically, “Paddington 2” opened last November in the UK – but just like the last film directed by Paul King, based on the beloved children’s tales from Michael Bond, this delightful sequel has found its way to the States in January, which is typically a dumping ground for dreck that studios unload on us. We should be grateful, considering it’s rare to find a sequel for the all-ages crowd that’s this enjoyable, good-natured and charming. Read more…

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE (2017) review

January 6, 2018

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written by: Aki Kaurismäki
produced by: Aki Kaurismäki
directed by: Aki Kaurismäki
rated: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: October 13, 2017 (Chicago International Film Festival), December 1, 2017 (NY) and January 5, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL) 

 

The last film I saw from Aki Kaurismäki was 2011’s “La Havre”, which was also my introduction to the work of the Finnish filmmaker. His latest film “The Other Side of Hope” (originally titled “Toivon Tuolla Puolen”) has recognizable similarities to that endearing tale, in both storyline and style. Both films involve illegal immigrants seeking a new life who experience the kindness of strangers, set to a carefully measured rhythmic tone, inhabited with a deadpan humor amid in real-world situations. It’s an effective and engaging humanist tale, written and produced by a director who has officially piqued my curiosity, leaving me with an interest in discovering his previous films.  Read more…

THE FENCER (2015) review

January 4, 2018

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written by: Anna Heinämaa
produced by: Kai Nordberg and Kaarle Aho
directed by: Klaus Härö
rated: unrated
runtime: 98 min.
release date: March 13, 2015 (Estonia/Finland), March 8 & 11, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL) and January 5-11, 2017 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

The kind of  ‘based on a true story’ I gravitate to are ones which inform viewers of a person or event that the world would mostly likely have never heard of. “The Fencer” falls in that category. Directed by Klaus Härö (“Letters to Father Jacob” from 2009 and “Mother of Mine” from 2005), the film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy last year, but was not nominated, even though it made the December shortlist of nine films. However, it should be added to the list of the many great foreign films wind up not making the cut on the road to Oscar, since it gives a voice to a specific time and place that rarely gets heard.  Read more…

THE POST (2017) review

January 4, 2018

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written by: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
produced by: Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Amy Pascal
directed by: Steven Spielberg
rated: PG-13 (for language and brief war violence)

runtime: 116 min.

U.S. release date: December 22, 2017, January 5, 2018 (limited) & January 12, 2018 (wide)

 

Last year, Steven Spielberg returned to family-friendly summer movies with “The BFG”, but based on its reception, it seems families have moved on from fairy tale fantasies based on children’s books. With his latest, “The Post”, the director returns to historical features, to which he’s found much success (from “Schindler’s List” to “Bridge of Spies”) for a specific moment in American journalism that led to a struggle for free speech and a quest for justice. It’s a challenge to turn a drama that revolves around journalists and newspapers into a thriller, but Spielberg accomplishes just that, proving the iconic filmmaker can deliver the type of quality film he’s known for when he’s working with a solid cast and strong material. Read more…