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ON THE LINE (2022) review

November 3, 2022

 

written by: Romuald Boulanger
produced by: Robert Ogden Barnum, Romuald Boulanger, James Cooney & Marc Frydman
directed by: Romuald Boulanger
rated: R (for language throughout and some violent content)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: November 4, 2022

 

Mel Gibson as a shock jock sounds like something that we could’ve seen back in the 90s, after something like “Ransom” where he played a wealthy father who would do anything to get back his kidnapped son…except pay the ransom. But in this post-controversy phase of his career, where so many are surprised that he’s still getting cast in movies, one would think he’d be more selective in his material, maybe choosing roles that would require him to stretch his acting chops (like he did in 2011’s “The Beaver” and 2018’s “Dragged Across Concrete”), but lately he’s closing in on territory claimed by Bruce Willis, by showing up in bit parts of crappy movies. While he’s still capable of delivering something good and really different (see 2020’s “Fatman” as a prime example), unfortunately his latest lead role as a late-night radio host in writer/director Romuald Boulanger’s “On the Line” doesn’t provide viewers with anything new or different for the actor. Read more…

CIFF 2022: Empire of Light & The Banshees of Inisherin

October 13, 2022

 

Along with narrative films and documentaries from around the world – or around the corner, those being films with a focus on Chicago or Illinois – the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) will traditionally curate films that will inevitably be considered buzzworthy or wind up on year-end Best of the Year lists. The 58th edition of the venerable festival doesn’t deviate from that position- and why would it? The goal is to get butts in seats, after all. These are films that have generated much anticipation around them after their respective premieres at other festivals in the last couple of months and because of that they don’t really need any extra attention the way other films playing at the festival do because they haven’t been picked up by distributers yet. Read more…

THE WOMAN KING (2022) review

September 21, 2022

 

written by: Dana Stevens and Maria Bello
produced by: Cathy Schulman, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon & Maria Bello
directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood
rating: Rated PG-13 (for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing material, thematic content, brief language and partial nudity)
runtime: 135 min.
U.S. release date: September 16, 2022

 

“The Woman King” is the kind of historical action epic that would’ve fit perfectly alongside the kind of movies studios were releasing during the second half of the 90s (somewhere between “Braveheart” and “Gladiator”), but no one thought back then that the world was ready for some Black Girl Magic! Now, after the popular reaction to the Dora Milaje (a fictional, all-female group of elite warriors that serve as bodyguards for the Black Panther, protective of the nation of Wakanda) which appeared in the successful, award-winning 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther”, such a movie can be embraced. Since “The Woman King” revolves around the Agojie, an all-female African group of warriors assigned to defend the kingdom of Dahomey, it would be easy to draw comparisons with that Marvel Studios hit. But, that movie leapt so this ambitious movie could surprise attack viewers with its ability to balance impressive physical conflicts with gripping emotional drama. Read more…

CONFESS, FLETCH (2022) review

September 16, 2022

 

written by: Zev Borow and Greg Mottola
produced by: Bill Block, Connie Tavel and Jon Hamm
directed by: Greg Mottola
rated: (R for language, some sexual content and drug use)
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: September 16, 2022 (limited and VOD)

 

Best known for “Superbad”, writer/director Greg Mottola’s last feature was 2016’s “Keeping Up with the Joneses”, a fun action comedy which was received negatively by critics and wound up a box-office dud. His latest is “Confess, Fletch”, a retooling of the two Chevy Chase comedies from the 80s that is supposedly a bit more loyal to the novels written by the late Gregory Mcdonald, reuniting Mottola with “Joneses” actor Jon Hamm. While it is understandably different from those previous movies, primarily due to the lead casting, the amusing “Confess, Fletch” doesn’t have any truly laugh-out-loud moments nor does it have a mystery that truly captures the interest of viewers, but it makes up for those things in charm. Read more…

OFFICIAL COMPETITION (2022) review

September 12, 2022

 

written by: Andrés Duprat, Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat
produced by: Jaume Roures
directed by: Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat
rated: R (for language and some nudity)
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: June 12, 2022 (Tribeca Film Festival) and June 17, 2022 (limited)

 

Movies about movies are at their best when they shine a satirical light on all the insanity that can involve actors and directors and their sometimes ridiculous and specific requirements. That’s what the Spanish comedy “Official Competition” leans into and it winds up being one of the more refreshing and hilarious comedies of the year. Co-directed by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat, the feature has a sly and witty sense of humor about it, while focusing on the egos and insecurities of artists. The three main actors are having tremendous fun, exhibiting brilliant comic timing and clearly losing themselves in fun roles as predominately insufferable individuals that ultimately cannot work together as they near the start of production on a new film. Read more…

THE STORY OF FILM: A NEW GENERATION (2022) review

September 10, 2022

 

written by: Mark Cousins
produced by: John Archer
directed by: Mark Cousins
rated: not rated
runtime: 160 min.
U.S. release date: September 9, 2022 (Music Box Theater, Chicago, IL)

 

Just because I write about film often and lead film discussions with audiences doesn’t mean I know everything about the art form. In fact, sometimes I don’t even think the medium can be called “art”, but that’s a provocative angle to a discussion for another time. So, whenever I can, I turn to documentaries (or books, for that matter) on the subject, such as Mark Cousins’ “The Story of Film: A New Generation”, a continuation and update to his expansive 15-part “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” from back in 2011. Some see such endeavors as the filmmaking industry celebrating itself, but that’s an obtuse conclusion. If a filmmaker can take an observant and ruminative look at both the history and current state of cinema, it’s a benefit to those who consider themselves film enthusiasts as well as those with relatively no knowledge of the medium. Read more…

THE GOOD BOSS (2022) review

September 7, 2022

 

written by: Fernando León de Aranoa
produced by: Fernando León de Aranoa, Jaume Roures and Javier Méndez
directed by: Fernando León de Aranoa
rated: not rated
runtime: 120 min.
U.S. release date: August 26, 2022 (NY/LA) & September 2, 2022 (wide)

 

If you played a drinking game while watching “The Good Boss” and took a swig each time you hear the word “family”, you’d be quite buzzed by the end of the second half. The word is used so often in this corporate satire from co-writer/director Fernando León de Aranoa, one would think this is a spinoff of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. It appears so much that it loses its meaning, which is kind of the point. “The Good Boss” looks at one particular business owner, corporate culture in general (especially the industrial side), and the business buzzwords that are used ad nauseum to communicate to the various employees underneath management. It may not be a scathing satire, leaning more on humor than it does any noticeable bite and that’s not a bad thing. Read more…

HAPPENING (2021) review

August 31, 2022

 

written by: Marcia Romano and Audrey Diwan
produced by: Alice Girard and Edouard Weil
directed by: Audrey Diwan
rated: R (or disturbing material/images, sexual content and graphic nudity)
runtime:
U.S. release date: April 5, 2022 (limited) & June 21, 2022 (digital & VOD)

 

No one is expecting a film revolving around abortion to be an unflinching and harrowing thriller, but here we are with “Happening”. After premiering last fall at the Venice Film Festival (where it won the Golden Lion award) and making its rounds around the festival circuit, the film from French director Audrey Diwan made its way to more viewers last spring and by and large the vast majority of the response was positive. They aren’t wrong. “Happening” is a challenging albeit absorbing watch, thanks to its powerful, open-eyed lead performance that carries the film with strength and grace, but also it’s eerie prescient timing. Read more…

FUNNY PAGES (2022) review

August 28, 2022

 

written by: Owen Kline
produced by: Sebastian Bear-McClard, Oscar Boyson, Ronald Bronstein, David Duque-Estrada, Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie
directed by: Owen Kline
rated: R (for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, language and brief violent images)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: August 26, 2022 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL and VOD)

 

I wouldn’t really say I felt seen in “Funny Pages”, but the restless aspirations of the protagonist and his place of work feel relatable. As a young artist having grown up frequenting various comic book shops, there is definitely a certain air of familiarity to the film, specifically the “regulars” who inhabit the local comic shop as if they live there. Considering the film’s authentic treatment of the characters and its cinema verité approach to the very specific locations and situations, one can assume writer/director Owen Kline feels this connection as well and his feature-length directorial debut, which premiered at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight last May, winds up being a cringeworthy, dark comedy that is something special to behold. Read more…

MEDUSA (2021) review

August 24, 2022

 

written by: Anita Rocha da Silveira
produced by: Fernanda Thurann
directed by: Anita Rocha da Silveira
rated: not rated
runtime: 122 min.
U.S. release date: August 12, 2022 (theatrical)

 

In writer/director Anita Rocha da Silveira’s second feature, “Medusa”, Brazilian women are physically beaten until they pledge their life to Jesus Christ and commit to becoming devoted and virtuous women, submitting themselves to the Lord. So much for free will. Thankfully, this isn’t a documentary, but da Silveira is drawing upon some unnerving real life events from Brazil and there are definitely themes and issues in “Medusa” that feel all too prescient. Read more…