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CIFF 2019 preview

October 19, 2019

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The 55th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) kicked off a this week and like the last several years, I will definitely not get to see all the films I’d like to. This is where goals are interrupted by reality. Traditionally, my goal is to view as many of the programmed films that I can manage to fit into my own life schedule. Of course, the reality is I am never able to fulfill such goals since there are entirely too many films that I’d like to see, making the task nearly impossible. Nevertheless, I persist each year and inevitably wind up rewarded with enriching viewing experiences. Below is my take on five films that I’ve seen so far and you can expect more coverage in the near future as I see more films. Read more…

THE MOUNTAIN (2019) review

October 1, 2019

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written by: Rick Alverson, Dustin Guy Defa, Colm O’Leary
produced by: Allison Rose Carter, Eddy Moretti, Sara Murphy, Ryan Zacarias
directed by: Rick Alverson
rated: unrated (content equivalent of an R-rating)
runtime: 106 min.
U.S. release date: July 26, 2019 & September 27, 2019 thru October 2, 2019 (Gene Siskel Film Center) 

 

“Is that what you did to my mother?”

 

Over the course of a half dozen films, Rick Alverson has established himself as a filmmaker interested in grown men in various states of suspended adolescence. Whether they use that to hurt or help those around them varies depending upon the film, but he’s the sort of guy targeting a certain kind of audience with little to no interest in converting skeptics. Read more…

SEND ME TO THE CLOUDS (2019) review

September 27, 2019

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written by: Teng Congcong
produced by: Dun He, Liu Hui & Franco Liu
directed by: Teng Congcong
rated: not rated
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: September 20, 2019 (NY/LA) & September 27, 2019 – October 3, 2019 (Facets Cinémathèque, Chicago, IL)

 

No doubt, you’ve heard this wise bit of advise, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”, a phrase attributed to the likes of minister Ian Maclaren, as well as Plato, Philo and Socrates.  I thought of this while following the central protagonist of “Send Me to the Clouds”, the feature-length film debut of Chinese writer/director Teng Congcong, a film that takes an existential look at life, love and desire in an emotionally poignant, often humorous manner. Regardless of how the people we encounter in life come across, underneath it all they have more in common than we initially perceive. While these aren’t new observations, what Teng presents here is a relatable and compelling albeit wonderfully quirky story that reminds viewers that there’s always more going on in the lives of those we think we know, whether they be friends or family members. Read more…

CLASSICS: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

September 25, 2019

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written by: John Cameron Mitchell (book and screenplay), Stephen Trask (book and music)
produced by: Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel
directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
rated: R (for sexual content and language)
runtime: 95 min.
release date: August 31, 2001

 

“When it comes to huge openings, a lot of people think of me.”

 

Up front, full disclosure, I am a Hedwig acolyte from the very moment this show entered my circle of awareness. As a theatre arts major in the late 90s, I kept abreast of the latest theatrical developments, and one of the most interesting was John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a sort of punk-glam-rock-one-(wo)man-and-a-band kind of show. Upon hearing the original cast recording, I was hooked and have forever been a fan of this particular piece. Read more…

CORPORATE ANIMALS (2019) review

September 20, 2019

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written by: Sam Bain
produced by: Jessica Calder, Keith Calder, Mike Falbo, Chris Harding & Ed Helms
directed by: Patrick Brice
runtime: 86 min.
rating: R (for pervasive language, sexual content, some gore and brief nudity)
U.S. release date: September 20, 2019 (limited theaters & Amazon, iTunes & VOD)

 

If you’re trapped underground for days after a cave-in with eleven other people and limited supplies, who would you rather eat – someone you just met, a co-worker or your annoying boss? That’s right, I said who not what. That’s what kind of movie “Corporate Animals” is, so how much enjoyment you get out of this supposed dark comedy depends on how funny you find cannibalism. I’m game for anything as long as the script is good (notice I didn’t say “great”? I’m easy like that), but unfortunately the last independent film from director Patrick Brice (“The Overnight” and two “Creep” movies) really can’t seem to wring any laughs out of what is essentially a workplace comedy from Sam Bain, an English writer known for “Peep Show” and “Fresh Meet” (the former has nothing to do with cannibalism). There may be interesting personality conflicts to mine here, but “Corporate Animals” would rather just vacillate between silliness and gross shocks. Read more…

2019 TIFF Round Up

September 17, 2019

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It’s the third Tuesday in September, which means the dust has settled and the red carpets rolled up on another edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). As a Toronto local I look forward to this festival both excitedly and begrudgingly. It provides opportunities to get an early look at some of the year’s most buzzed about films, to experience the magic experience that is being part of a packed house wowed by a truly great film, and to see a bunch of smaller films that would otherwise pass under my radar or may never get released. But it also makes for long lineups, difficult to acquire tickets, and Torontonians complaining about the pedestrian-only Festival Street. Read more…

ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD (2019) review

September 16, 2019

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written by: Quentin Tarantino
produced by: Quentin Tarantino, Shannon McIntosh, David Heyman
directed by: Quentin Tarantino
rated: R (for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references)
runtime: 161 min.
release date: July 26, 2019

 

“To my wife and all my sweethearts. May they never meet.”

 

For his ninth and—if the writer/director himself is to be believed—penultimate film, Quentin Tarantino brings us “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.” The film is not so much a spiritual successor to Sergio Leone’s sprawling, epic films that began with the same five words, but rather a tribute to the films from the era in which it’s set, the late 60s. Specifically, the summer of 1969 when Hollywood “lost its innocence” thanks to a series of brutal murders, including star on the rise Sharon Tate. Read more…