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Keeping It Reel’s CIFF 2012 Schedule

October 14, 2012


It’s that time of year again in Chicago. When the red carpet is rolled out for films from all over the word. To be specific, the 48th Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) will show 175 films from 50 countries. If only I was getting paid to see them all – even then, it would be quite a challenge. Since I didn’t take the time to thoroughly study out the list of films scheduled, I decided to attend the films that grabbed my attention. Below, I will share with you which films they are and why I chose them.

Surprisingly enough, there was nothing appealing to me about last night’s Opening Night film, even though it stars Oscar-winners Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin. “Stand Up Guys” is an action comedy directed by Chicago native and actor, Fisher Stevens, about a trio of retired gangsters who get together for the proverbial “one last score“. Who knows, it may be good, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Real quick, name a really good film that Pacino has starred in the last ten years. There ya have it.

I may be the only one who feels that way though, because the screening for “Stand Up Guys” was SOLD OUT! Maybe it’s because those three actors, the director and co-star Julianna Marguilles (Golden Globe winner for “The Good Wife”) were in attendance for a Q&A. That’s a plus. The film will likely get an Oscar-qualifying limited release run in December, so maybe I’ll see it then.

Now, on to the films I definitely am seeing (in the order I will be seeing them)….


1. MANIAC  (France)

I didn’t plan it this way, but it looks like I’m kicking off my festival experience in a bloody manner. “Maniac” is a remake, or re-imagining of the 1980 American cult classic horror movie about a serial killer. Don’t remember it. That’s okay. Those are the kind of movies that should be remade. In this version, Elijah Wood plays a psychotic loner who’s obsessed with mannequins and scalping women. Yikes. Is there more to it than that? I hope so. The film is directed by Franc Khalfoun (2007″s ) and produced by Alexandre Aja (2003’s “Haute Tension” and 2010’s “Piranha”) and shot entirely in a first-person perspective.

Why am I seeing it? Mostly, I’m curious. Horror flicks always show up at CIFF, so I’m wondering what (if anything) will be different about this one.  Plus, Wood has some creepy eyes and he played a similar character in “Sin City”. Also, this genre has seen some pretty intense, well-made films from these two French filmmakers.

release date: unknown



I would consider French director Olivier Assayas an auteur. He cares about characterization in his films, allowing actors to become fully-immersed and invested in their roles, but his also quite artistic (see 2008’s “Summer Hours”) and ambitious (see 2010’s “Carlos”).  “Something in the Air” is apparently a sequel (of sorts) to Assayas’ film “Cold Water” from back in 1995. I haven’t seen that one, but the premise of this film seems interesting. It’s described as “a sweeping, evocative coming-of-age story that beautifully captures the passionate political and social climate of Paris in the 1970s.” Sing me up. It follows a young man named Gilles, who is swept up in the political climate, but longs for the artistic endeavors that he’s passionate about. How well that goes over with his activist friends – and his girlfriend – is also examined.

Why am I seeing it? Olivier Assayas. After only seeing a couple of his films, he has easily become one of those filmmakers that is on my radar. If you’ve seen any of his work, you’ll know why.

release date: unknown



From the acclaimed Wachowski siblings (directors of “The Matrix” and “Speed Racer”) and director Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) comes an adaptation of the 2004 celebrated novel of the same name by British writer David Mitchell. It looks to be an ambitious and possibly epic film about life/death, forgiveness/kindness, involving similar characters within multiple timelines – past, present and future. The cast seems just as congested as the dense source material: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Ben Wishaw, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent and Susan Sarandon.

Why am I seeing it? Because it looks like it could either bomb or it become a surprisingly moving experience. Either way, with such impressive visuals and the pedigree of all involved, I’m sold. An added plus: Andy and Lana Wachowski (or, as one writer recently called them, the Wachowski Starship) and Tyker will be on hand for a Q&A. That seals it.

release date: October 21, 2012 (USA)



I’ve been anticipating any new film from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (or J.A. Bayona) since enjoying his last feature, 2007’s “The Orphanage”. “The Impossible” stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as a married couple who are vacationing in Thailand with their three sons during a winter holiday. That changes when an immense wall of black water comes racing toward their hotel, the day after Christmas. Based on one vacationing family’s own experience during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, this is sure to be a harrowing thriller.

Why am I seeing it? The director and the two actors are certainly the draw here, but I’m curious how Bayona and company will film a tsunami and what survivor perspective they will take.

release date: December 21, 2012 (USA)



The new film from director David O. Russell (“Flirting with Disaster” and “The Fighter”) is an American dramedy, adapted by Russell from the novel by Matthew Quick.  It follows Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), a man who finds himself living with his parents (Jacki Weaver and Robert DeNiro) again after losing everything – his house, his job, and his wife. He comes to a plea bargain after spending time in a state institution and now Pat is determined to remain positive and reconnect with his wife. When he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious young girl with problems of her own, an unexpected bond begins to form between them as she offers her help, offering hope (and “Silver Linings”) for both of them. The film also stars Julia Stiles and Chris Tucker.

Why am I seeing this? After “The Fighter” it looks like Russell is going back to comedic relationship dramas, similar to “Flirting with Disaster”. I’m down with that, especially with this cast. The film has also earned mostly positive reviews from it’s recent appearance at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). Russell will be present for a Q&A following the screening, so that helps too.

release date: November 21, 2012 (USA)



For the Closing Night film, CIFF has chosen an action/mystery thriller for its Closing Night film. It’s been twelve years (“What Lies Beneath”) since director Robert Zemekis made a live-action film, having spent years crafting motion-capture animation in films like “The Polar Express” and “Beouwulf”. The film centers on a veteran commercial airline pilot (Denzel Washington) who miraculously crashes his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving every single passenger on board. He is celebrated as a hero at first, but then his actions are questioned when an investigation uncovers hidden truths about the event. Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo and John Goodman, round out an impressive supporting cast.

Why am I seeing this? Zemekis’ return to live-action at first, but then, after seeing the trailer, the performances and storyline sold me. Zemekis appearing for a Q&A after the film is a nice bonus too.

release date: October 26, 2012 (USA)


….so, those are six films that I will for sure see. Again, there are always other films on my radar that I may try to see.

One such film is “The Believers” a documentary about the discovery of “cold fusion” produced by 137 Films, a local Chicago company. Check out their site here for more info.

Some of the films screening at CIFF may be available online (VOD, iTunes or Amazon) because they’ve made their way around the festival circuit. One such film is Canada’s “In Their Skin” a disturbing thriller starring Selma Blair and James D’Arcy, featuring the directorial debut of Jeremy Power Regimbal.

Really, there are so many other films that look very interesting at CIFF, but unfortunately I can’t see them all. So, I went kind of mainstream this year, with mostly big studio releases, but those Q&A’s amplify the experience.

Not sure when I’ll get around to reviewing all these films. Maybe when they’re released outside of the fest. You can follow my ratings though at (look me up by my name or “dj4our”) and my initial thoughts on Twitter (davidjfowlie).






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