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CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2018) review

August 15, 2018

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written by: Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder (screenplay) & Greg Booker and Mark Steven Johnson (story)
produced by: Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr
directed by: Marc Forster
rated: PG (for some action)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: August 3, 2018

 

Despite its title, Disney’s “Christopher Robin” will be known as the latest Winnie the Pooh movie, kind of like how Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” is remembered best as  a Peter Pan movie. Clearly, its not the first time that writers have taken a different approach to familiar material, but the tone and feel to this movie, helmed by Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland” and “Stranger Than Fiction”) is strangely unique, resulting an enjoyably effective viewing experience. Disney has definitely had the most recognizable iteration of  A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard’s creation, debuting animated adorable pals and their honey-loving friend, Pooh bear, fifty-two years ago, so it figures a live-action take on these characters and the Hundred Acre Wood they inhabit would be next as the studio is currently in the midst of utilizing such a method to seemingly every animated feature classic in their vault. The target audience for these characters widens with “Christopher Robin”, as the film resonates with just about every age in its quest to emphasize what’s important in life.  Read more…

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THE DARKEST MINDS (2018) review

August 5, 2018

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written by: Chad Hodge
produced by: Shawn Levy and Dan Levine
directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
rated: PG-13 (for violence including disturbing images, and thematic elements)
runtime: 105 min.
U.S. release date: August 4, 2018

 

From the trailer and the marketing, it looks like it might be too late for teen-centric sci-fi thriller “The Darkest Minds”, but 20th Century Fox is including “from the producers of “Stranger Things” and “Arrival”” will draw viewers. It won’t. They’re apparently unaware that super-powered teens are everywhere nowadays, so there better be a unique or different angle, or a cast with exemplary talent. None of that is found here. This movie, based on a popular series of YA books by Alexandra Bracken has none of that. That’s disappointing not just because it was a waste of my time, but because I was hoping the first live-action movie from director Jennifer Yuh Nelson – who did a fine job helming the last couple “Kung Fu Panda” animated features – would deliver something that would show her as a standout talent. Instead, we get cliche characters uttering stale dialogue in an unintentionally laughable storyline. Read more…

GAUGUIN: VOYAGE TO TAHITI (2017) review

July 23, 2018

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written by: Edouard Deluc, Etienne Comar, Thomas Liti & Sarah Kaminsky
produced by: Bruno Levy
directed by: Edouard Deluc
rating: not rated
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: July 11, 2018 (limited) & July 20-26, 2018 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)

 

The artist in me understands the desire to escape into the creative process and spend entire days producing art, or at least attempted to. The added benefit of making a living off of that would be great, but it’s often unrealistic and such is the artist’s plight, especially when you have the responsibilities of providing and being present for your family. “Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti” is a film that revolves around a specific time in the life of post-Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, when he decided to leave his family behind in pursuit of his artistic passion. Co-writer/director Edouard Deluc chose an specific and intriguing time in the life of French artist and the lush locations are at times quite captivating, but it’s difficult to be investing when there are not redeeming qualities to Gauguin other than his artwork. Read more…

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (2018) review

July 15, 2018

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written by: Michael McCullers and Genndy Tartakovsky
produced by: Michelle Murdocca and Carey Smith
directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky
rated: PG (for some action and rude humor)
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: June 13, 2018

 

I haven’t been a fan of the two previous “Hotel Transylvania” movies and if caught in a conversation about them I can usually be found bemoaning about their existence as much as your average cinefile will complain about the alleged onslaught of Marvel movies. There should be more complaints about remedial animated features filled with fart jokes, pop culture references and repetitive stereotypes than there is the number of superhero movies released each year. Needless to say, my expectations were quite low for “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation,” the second sequel from director Genndy Tartakovsky, an artist whose animated work I’ve admired before long before checked in to this annoying vacation spot. Read more…

BLEEDING STEEL (2017) review

July 6, 2018

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written by: Leo Zhang, Erica Xia-Hou and Siwei Cui
produced by: Paul Currie, Jaycee Chan, Aileen Li, Bin Sun, Hungyao Chuchen, Defu Jiang, Edward Li, Jerry Li, Qin Li, Ke Wang, Zhiqian Li, Quan Liu, Fei Xu, Yang Yue, Grace Zhang & Allen Zhu
directed by: Leo Zhang
rated: R (for violence and some language)
runtime: 110 min.
U.S. release date: June 6, 2018 (VOD/Digital, AMC Woodridge) 

 

It’s best not to figure out “Bleeding Steel” or even try. The ridiculous title alone of the latest Jackie Chan actioner is a head-scratcher, something you’d call the fourth album from a big-hair metal band from the 80s. Ironically, that’s the decade Lionsgate Premiere is marketing for the U.S. release, as they describe this Chinese movie as “an action-packed drama reminiscent of 80s techno-sci-fi thrillers” (to name just two of the genres that are riffed on here) in their official synopsis. I suppose that’s right, since the movie resembles the kind of late 80s/early 90s B-movie that would star Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren (either or both), but even those movies were more tonally streamlined than this convoluted and unnecessarily confusing mess which seems to blend so many elements from Chan’s previous movies and pour them out into a 32 ounce cup from 7-11. Read more…

LARGER THAN LIFE: THE KEVYN AUCOIN STORY (2017) review

June 28, 2018

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produced by: Jayce Bartok, Bronwyn Cosgrave and Troy Surratt
directed by: Tiffany Bartok
rated: not rated
runtime: 103 min.
U.S. release date: June 29, 2018 – July 5, 2018 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)

 

I typically find myself puzzled, impressed and sometimes surprised when I see footage from the past in documentaries. Granted, that is often the route filmmakers must take when their subject is deceased, but questions come to mind like: “Who was recording?” “What was the intention?” and, “Did they ever thing the footage would land in a documentary years later?” Those are some of the questions that came up while watching “Larger than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story”, the documentary from director Tiffany Bartok which explores the meteoric career and tragedy of the titular makeup artist’s death and the groundbreaking impact he had on the art form. Aucoin was an artist who took something considered beautiful and enhanced it in a unique and personal way, leaving a lasting legacy yet he was an artist who couldn’t find the beauty within himself.  Read more…

IZZY GETS THE F*CK ACROSS TOWN (2018) review

June 22, 2018

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written by: Christian Papierniak
produced by: Mackenzie Davis, Meghan Lennox, Melissa Panzer & Christian Papierniak
directed by: Christian Papierniak
rated: not rated
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: June 22, 2018 (limited)

 

Did the title catch your attention? Well, that’s the idea. If you took a swig of ale every time you hear the F-word while watching “Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town”, you’d need an anti-hangover concoction before the end credits role. The dizzying comedy is the feature-length debut for writer/director Christian Papierniak and its kinetic tone and acerbic humor is infectious, but its Mackenzie Davis who is absolutely contagious. If the title gets viewers to see this talented, charismatic actress own and run away with her first lead role, well then they’re in for a treat. Read more…