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After writing their own reviews independently for some time, Paul Balsom and David J. Fowlie decided to join forces and create one site where both their reviews could be found.  Both self-proclaimed film enthusiasts, they can’t recall a time when they weren’t crazy about motion pictures. They would be approached by friends, family and total strangers who would ask them what movies they should see or if they’ve seen this or that. Something had to be done.

So, in January 2010 they founded Keeping It Reel.  It started out as “Just two more white guys from Chicago writing about what they see on the screen” with the lofty goal of attempting to review every movie they watched.  That soon became unobtainable, as they would inevitably watch more films than they could review, but they carried on and managed to post a steady flow of reviews as well as a weekly list of DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Along with the reviews came two annual lists – a Top Ten Films of the Year list, which rolls out in mid January and a Top Five Films of the Year (so far) list, which usually posts in early July. Still located in Chicago, they’ve also been fortunate to have their own correspondent in Utah, covering the Sundance film festival each January.

In 2011, Paul took more of an advisory role (a valued one, at that), while David carried on with help from a few select friends.  2012 saw the start of Reel Talk Podcast  (available on iTunes), a movie review and discussion show where you can hear David and Demetri Kouvalis (owner/manager of the beautiful Patio Theater, in Chicago, IL) ramble on about movie news and what they’ve been watching. You’ll find each episode is also posted here at Keeping It Reel. If you’ve been listening along, much thanks, and feel free to write-up a review on iTunes. It helps.

The other goal is simple: movie discussion. That part falls on you, dear reader. The writers here toil away and then post their reviews for all to see, not really knowing who reads what.  So, if you see a film we review and don’t agree with what you read here or want to share your own thoughts on what you saw, by all means, comment away. There’s room to comment at the bottom of each review. If you send someone over to Keeping It Reel, tell them to do the same.  Chances are, you’re here because you’re into movies as much as we are – so, let’s talk about them!

Besides discussing films with us here, there’s something else you can do – Donate!  That’s right. Like you, we’re not getting paid to see the movies we watch, but your monetary donations won’t go toward movie ticket prices. Those donations will go toward the costs that go into maintaining this site.

There are an endless amount of sites you can visit online to read movie reviews, so we wholeheartedly appreciate you frequenting Keeping It Reel!



Catina Martinez – Our savvy Utah correspondent who delivers reviews from the Sundance film festival each year.  She’s been with us since January 2011.

Matt Streets – aka The Criterion Completist, Matt’s mission is to devour all the films that have been given the special Criterion Collection treatment as well as any other current movies. Matt started in April 2012.

Tim O’Brien – Tim came on board in November 2012 and has proven himself to be a writing maniac. His job is to review whatever David and Matt can’t get to, (this guy watches a ton of movies!) be it recent past or immediate present. Thanks, Tim!

Mark Pracht – As a local Chicago actor, Mark offers a unique and distinctive perspective to his reviews. His enthusiasm for and knowledge of movies is ever-present in his writing. Mark “landed the gig” in October 2013.

Steven Attanasie – a prolific contributor since joining in January 2015. Steven holds nothing back in his reviews and is never afraid to follow his heart and champion movies that others may dismiss – at the same time, he has no problem ripping apart a movie that deserves it (ahem, “Entourage”).

David J. Fowlie – He’s still typing away after all these years. The process isn’t always easy, but the best part is when it’s done. One thing is certain: he’ll always have a long list of movies he has to see and review. In between writing reviews, he’s also slaving away at the drawing table, working on (and wrestling with) on-going illustration projects. In August 2013, he was accepted into the Chicago Film Critics Association – so, there’s that.



A 5-star rating system is odd and complicates matters. Rating is arbitrary and subjective enough as it is – why make it harder? The 4-star method is the Chicago way and that’s what we’ll stick with here. Since it comes up from time to time, below is essentially what the ratings mean. (For those who must have their reviews graded, in the breakdown below is the grade equivalent)….

****   (excellent; highest recommendation) – grade: A

***1/2  (great; highly recommended) – grade: A-/B+

*** (good; recommended) – grade: B/B-

**1/2  (pretty good; not a waste of time, but certainly some flaws) – grade: C+

**  (lands somewhere between good and mediocre) – grade: C/C-

*1/2  (don’t bother) – grade: D+/D

*  (awful, this is why I’m here) – grade: D-

ZERO STARS  (horrible, wasteful and a disaster) – grade: F

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela permalink
    January 27, 2010 2:30 pm

    Congrats on the website. It looks great 🙂

  2. Rebecca Marshall permalink
    February 17, 2010 8:51 pm

    Cool to see you doing what you love! Keep up the great work!

  3. October 12, 2011 12:56 am

    Good Job Friends. 😀

  4. October 5, 2013 10:36 am

    Just want to say I love reading your blog.

  5. Jeff Roesler permalink
    October 12, 2014 9:14 pm

    Honestly, I want to know your best Chuck Norris movie of all time.

  6. Betty White permalink
    February 8, 2022 10:13 am

    So glad and fortunate to have an in-house film critic that is so astute and gives such an in depth look at what’s out there. Thanks for your vast knowledge and diligence. Keep up the good work!

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