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SIBYL (2019) review

September 11, 2020


written by: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
produced by: Serge Hayat, Philippe Martin and David Thion
directed by: Justine Triet
rated: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: September 11, 2020 (virtual cinema & VOD)


When I first read the title of French director Justine Triet’s new film out loud, I immediately thought of Daniel Petrie’s 1976 TV mini-series, “Sybil”, staring Sally Field as a woman who was so scarred from her traumatic past that she developed sixteen personalities. Then I realized the titles are spelled differently. What’s funny is how there’s at least one similarity between the two in that the protagonist of Triet’s film, which she co-wrote with Arthur Harari (an actor she’s directed in her last two features), displays a range of personalities herself throughout the film’s story. What we see doesn’t get into the teens, but there is still a compelling and fascinating character study on display here that show a multi-layered and fully-realized woman, who is as relatable as she is flawed. She’s a passionate woman trying to follow her dreams, yet haunting by her past and conflicted with the decisions of her present. While some may feel like there’s a bit too much packed into “Sibyl”, there are actually three actresses here that definitely steer it all in the direction of worthwhile viewing. Read more…

RENT-A-PAL (2020) review

September 11, 2020



written by: Jon Stevenson 
produced by: Annie Baker, Brian Landis Folkins, Brandon Fryman, Robert B. Martin, Jon Stevenson & Jimmy Weber 
directed by: Jon Stevenson
rated: not rated
runtime: 108 min. 
U.S. release date: September 11, 2020 (virtual cinema) 


It’s strange that a story set in 1990 seems oddly relevant to life as we know it in 2020, but such is life in a pandemic, when lonely people searching for companionship tend to feel even more isolated. How far into madness can isolation drive a person though? Writer/director Jon Stevenson explores such a descent with “Rent-A-Pal”, his slow-cooker of a thriller which finds a man wrestling with well-intended family duties and a need to connect with a kindred soul and how a strange VHS tape slowly twists it all. The film benefits from spot-on pacing and a solid cast that intuitively inhabit characters who would likely be overlooked in real life, while balancing an unsuspecting tenderness and a simmering insanity. Read more…


September 4, 2020

written by: Rob Christopher and Barry Gifford

produced by: Michael Glover Smith and Rob Christopher

directed by: Rob Christopher

rated: not rated

runtime: 75 min.

U.S. release date: September 2, 2020 & September 6, 2020 (DWF-LA Film Festival)

Calling “Roy’s World” a documentary does this work of art a disservice. It’s not that the film is beyond categorization, it’s just that there’s so much going on here that it’s almost unfair to describe it in such a manner. It should simply just be experienced and then discussed and then championed. While it does offers a look back at Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s through the semi-autobiographical lens of of author/poet Barry Gifford (hence the subtitle),  the way in which director Rob Christopher goes about delivering these recollections is not only engaging, it’s creatively infectious and feels unexpectedly alive. It’s as if you’re watching a life performance for the first time of an artist you’ve just discovered. 

Read more…

CLASSICS: Return to Oz (1985)

August 29, 2020



written by: Walter Murch & Gill Dennis (screenplay), L. Frank Baum (novels)
produced by: Paul Maslansky
directed by: Walter Murch
rated: PG 
runtime: 113 min.
U. S. release date: June 21, 1985 (now streaming on Disney+)


“The king mentioned a risk… what is it that we are risking?”


Disney’s strange risk-taking period of the early-to-mid 80s produced a lot of rather dark and expensive children’s entertainment. They’ve obviously emerged from these literal dark ages to be an entertainment juggernaut, home to the absolute most field-tested, audience-approved, triple-quality-checked children’s entertainment imaginable. 1985’s live action “Return to Oz” is the opposite of this in nearly every way possible. Read more…

ALL TOGETHER NOW (2020) review

August 28, 2020



written by: Marc Basch and Brett Haley
produced by: Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner and Jonathan Montepare
directed by: Brett Haley
rated: PG (for thematic content, some language and brief suggestive comments)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: August 28, 2020 (Netflix)


What prevents good-hearted people who continuously go out of their way to help others accept help from those they’ve impacted? We probably all have a friend or family member like that. Are they too stubborn, embarrased or prideful to ask for help? Do they even see that help is available to them? Do they realize they need help? So many questions swirled in my mind after watching Brett Haley’s latest film, “All Together Now”, while wiping the tears streaming from my exhausted face. There are other themes present in this tender and endearing dramedy, but this idea of accepting help from others was the standout. Read more…

ENTWINED (2019) review

August 27, 2020



written by: John De Holland and Minos Nikolakakis
produced by: Lilette Botasi and Minos Nikolakakis
directed by: Minos Nikolakakis
rating: not rated
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: August 28, 2020 (virtual)


The feature-length debut from Minos Nikolakakis, “Entwined”, has a tangled tale that could be either folk or fairy, with hints of something that Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft would conjure. It has a main story that’s shrouded in mystery that somehow revolves around a remote location in Greece and there’s even an underlying (albeit undeveloped) theme debating “science vs. tradition”, but despite a sincere approach this is a film that unfortunately offers very few surprises and nothing really unique in terms of storytelling. Read more…

EPICENTRO (2020) review

August 27, 2020



written by: Hubert Sauper
produced by: Gabriele Kranzelbinder, Daniel Marquet, Martin Marquet & Barbara Pichler
directed by: Hubert Sauper
rated: not rated
runtime: 108 min.
U.S. release date: August 28, 2020 (virtual)


Back in January (which feels like a year ago), “Epicentro”, an immersive and affectionate look at life in post-colonial Cuba screened at Sundance, where it won World Cinema Grand Jury Prize and it’s a reminder that the best way to get to know a place, a culture, is to go there and get to know the location’s inhabitants. While this documentary from Oscar-nominated, Austrian-born filmmaker Hubert Sauper is observantly shot, its most memorable moments can be found during the times in which viewers are invited to simply listen in on conversations and walk with the people the director encounters. He lets them be and because of that, they are seen and heard, and therefore we are enlightened. As Sauper develops a working relationship with them, it feels like the audience does as well. Read more…

UNHINGED (2020) review

August 24, 2020



written by: Carl Ellsworth
produced by: Lisa Ellzey, Andrew Gunn and Mark Gill
directed by: Derrick Borte
rated: R (for strong violent content, and language throughout)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: August 21, 2020 (limited)


The opening of “Unhinged” succeeds at making the audience feel disturbed and uncomfortable. The title of Derrick Borte’s thriller describes the ruthless antagonist who will be following the surprised protagonist throughout the length of this story from screenwriter Carl Ellsworth. From the antagonist’s actions in this early morning opening sequence, it appears he became “unhinged” sometime before we meet him and this is the shocking start to a day in which he will let loose…The Man (as he is credited) is like a loaded powder keg, which on this day can seemingly be lit by anyone who can spark an off-putting flame. Read more…


August 21, 2020



written by: Yeon Sang-ho and Park Joo-Suk
produced by: Lee Dong-ha
directed by: Yeon Sang-ho
rated: not rated
runtime: 116 min.
U.S. release date: August 21, 2020 (limited)


When Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” came out in 2016, it hit all the right zombie action movie beats, while providing a crucial dynamic element by limiting the characters to the tight confines of its titular vehicle. Even if you prefer slow zombies, this was an absorbing movie with engaging characters, some clever humor and crazy knee-jerk attacks from the recently deceased. Now there’s “Peninsula” (wonkily titled “Train to Busan: Peninsula” for North American release), a sequel also directed by Yeon that takes place four years after the events of the previous film. Just knowing that about the is enough to pique the interest of fans, but unfortunately what occurs in this movie makes one appreciate the previous one even more. Read more…


August 8, 2020




written by: Hans Petter Moland (screenplay) and Per Petterson (novel)
produced by: Marie Gade Denessen, Lizette Jonjic, Øverås & Turid Øversveen
directed by: Hans Petter Moland
rated: not rated
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: August 7, 2020 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


There’s a compelling story being told in Hans Petter Moland’s “Out Stealing Horses”, which is probably why the film is adapting a best-selling novel from Norwegian author Per Petterson, but the narrative flow is a bit too ambitious and jumbled for its own good. It’s a film that looks beautiful and is well-acted, yet it’s also one of those stories where there’s not enough time spent with the more intriguing parts and it’s kind of hard to keep track of who’s who and why certain actions are taken (even after a supporting character drops exposition on the young version of the protagonist), despite typically engrossing themes such as loss, grief, guilt and scar tissue from the past. Read more…