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BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) review

November 11, 2018

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written by: Anthony McCarten (screenplay and story by), Peter Morgan (story by)
produced by: Jim Beach and Graham King
directed by: Bryan Singer (with an uncredited Dexter Fletcher)
rated: PG-13 (for thematic elements, suggestive material, drug content and language)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: November 2, 2018

 

“It’s an experience, something that people will feel belongs to them.”

 

In a world with few successful second acts, British rock band Queen has managed third, fourth, and now a fifth act, thanks to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This biopic of the band and its flamboyant lead singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) is almost tailor-made to bring new fans into the fold. Almost by default, actually, as the film does many disservices to diehard fans and especially the legacy of Mercury himself. Read more…

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VIPER CLUB (2018) review

November 2, 2018

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written by: Maryam Keshavarz and Jonathan Mastro
produced by: J.C. Chandor, Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb
directed by: Maryam Keshavarz
rated: R (for language and some disturbing images)
runtime: 109 min.
U.S. release date: October 26, 2018 (limited) and November 2, 2018 (AMC River East & Landmark Century Centre, Chicago, IL)

 

The movie is called “Viper Club” and it stars Oscar winner Susan Sarandon and just from the title it sounds like she should be playing a hard-nosed, world-weary owner of a roadside biker bar (maybe because it brings to mind the legendary Los Angeles nightclub Viper Room), someone who’s turned a blind eye to the shady dealings that’s been going on around her for years until one day she’s forced to get involved when something irreversible happens. Sorry, this is not that movie, although Sarandon is playing a hardened character, whose currently quite weary. “Viper Club” aims to delve into some heavy subject matter, as director Maryam Keshavarz (who co-wrote the screenplay with examines a parent’s frustration and helplessness in a proof-of-life drama that’s supposedly inspired by an amalgam of true events which a select number of viewers will unfortunately find they can relate to.  Read more…

STOLEN DAUGHTERS: KIDNAPPED BY BOKO HARAM (2018) review

October 30, 2018

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written by: Karen Edwards
produced by: Karen Edwards and Sasha Achilli
directed by: Gemma Atwal
rating: not rated
runtime: 79 min.
U.S. release date: October 22, 2018 (HBO)

 

You may recall when #BringBackOurGirls, a global social media campaign from 2014 that kicked off when First Lady Michelle Obama was pictured holding a sign with the hashtag plea after news hit that 276 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram, a violent Islamic insurgent movement. Understandable concern and outrage followed, with celebrities around the world sharing concern which put pressure on the Nigerian government to retrieve the girls. They were hidden northwest of their village in the vast Sambisa Forest for three years until a year ago, when 82 of them were released which is the focus of director Gemma Atwal’s HBO Documentary “Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped By Boko Haram”, a film that details their captivity and what has occurred in the year since their release.  Read more…

THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING (2018) review

October 27, 2018

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produced by: Kayla Malahiazar, Lisa Remington, Carla Solomon, Jennifer Stockman & Debi Wisch
directed by: Nathaniel Kahn
rated: not rated
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: January 19, 2018 (Sundance Film Festival), October 19, 2018 (limited), October 26, 2018 (Arclight Theatre, Chicago, IL) & November 12, 2018 (HBO)

 

The best part of Nathaniel Kahn’s art world documentary “The Price of Everything” for HBO is the chance to hang out with some amazing artists. Some of them you may have never heard of, while others you may have thought were dead. I know I did. Either way, here they are. We see them work and hear them talk about art, life and the business of being an artist. It’s the business part of the art world that I never had an interest drifting off. I’ve always preferred the art process over the commerce of it all. I’d rather gaze at artwork than bid on something, but that has more to do with the size of my wallet. It is indeed the artists that stand out as Kahn counts down the weeks to New York’s Fall Auction, in a film that looks at all aspects and sides of the contemporary art world, but especially the money-making side. Read more…

Interview with FREE SOLO director Jimmy Chin & climber Alex Honnold

October 24, 2018

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With the current theatrical release of “Free Solo”, there have now been two absolutely outstanding climbing documentaries within a matter of months. Last month, I interviewed rock climbing stars, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, for “The Dawn Wall” a documentary which chronicles their ascent of the titular area alongside El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park n January 2015, something which had never been done before. “Free Solo”, directed by the married team of Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi (who helmed “Meru”, another amazing climbing documentary from three years ago), returns to the same location although for a very different reason. The nerve-racking documentary follows free solo climber Alex Honnold, who climbed 3,200-foot in 3 hours and 58 minutes without any support system. Obviously, Honnold completed his goal, but the fact that he could’ve died doing this challenge is never lost on viewers or the film’s directors.  Read more…

FREE SOLO (2018) review

October 19, 2018

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produced by: Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill, Evan Hayes & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
directed by: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi 
rated: not rated
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: September 28, 2018 (NY/LA) & October 19, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL) 

 

I continue to be enthralled and impressed with professional climbers, as much as I am with guitar virtuosos. Both are talents I wish I had. Obviously, the two talents require a different kinds of skill sets, not to mention another kind of mentality and strength altogether, but the admiration is there for both, nonetheless. The more climbing documentaries I watch – and there’s a lot of them – the more in awe I am of the subjects they follow, but my respect has increased for the filmmakers involved in capturing these climbers as they tell their stories. “Free Solo” may only be the second documentary focused on climbing from married couple Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi after 2015’s “Meru“, but the two filmmakers have developed an impressive and amazing  approach that offers viewers an immersion like nothing else out there.  Read more…

CIFF 2018: United Skates & The Feeling of Being Watched

October 18, 2018

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Racial discrimination and profiling can be found in “United Skates” and “The Feeling of Being Watched”, two of the twenty-two documentaries on the lineup at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF). These particular documentaries, both directed by women with passion and purpose, set out to show how a minority community and culture have been and remain unfairly viewed by business owners and law enforcement authorities. The two powerful films premiered this past April at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival may be eye-opening for some viewers, but others may find what they see here sadly all too familiar and quite relatable. Either way, they cover important and relevant topics in an observant and immersive manner, offering an informative and enriching experience. Read more…