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Interview with CHAPTER AND VERSE writer/director Jamal Joseph

February 8, 2017



Jamal Joseph is a fascinating man. I don’t know him personally, since the only time I’ve spoken with the filmmaker was over the phone recently to discuss his new film “Chapter and Verse” for twenty minutes. It became clear right away in our interview that Joseph is a patient and focused conversationalist, but the more I learned what he’s experienced in his past and what he’s doing now, the more interesting he became. Not only is he a film director, but he’s also an acclaimed author, a film professor at Columbia University in New York, a community leader and an activist. He also spent years in jail for his involvement in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Front, where he earned two college degrees and wrote his first (of five) plays. He’s the kind of guy who makes you reaccess your own life and wonder “What have I done?” or “What am I doing?” Read more…

HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) review

February 6, 2017



written by: Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi 
produced by: Peter Chernin, Donna Gigliotti, Theodore Melfi, Jenno Topping & Pharrell Williams
directed by: Theodore Melfi 
rating: PG (for thematic elements and some language) 
runtime: 127 min.
U.S. release date: December 25, 2016 (limited) and January 6, 2017


The coolest thing about “Hidden Figures” is that audiences are loving it and it’s been doing great financially. That’s cool because the movie has an important, untold real life tale to tell from American history that’s eye-opening and inspiring audiences and it surprised box office expectations. It’s currently grossed $112.1 million, which is fantastic for a movie with a budget of $25 million. Now, I usually don’t bring up how much a movie is bringing in, but it’s clear that like the intelligent African-American women the movie focuses on, “Hidden Figures” was a movie that was ready to be overlooked and passed over. Here is a genuine crowd-pleaser as well as a rare movie that succeeds because of the story it’s telling, not necessarily how its telling it.  Read more…

27th Annual Festival of Films from Iran: Me (2015)

February 3, 2017



written by: Soheil Beiraghi
produced by: Saeed Khani and Saeed Sa’di
directed by: Soheil Beiraghi
rated: unrated
runtime: 84 min.
U.S. release date: February 4, 2017 & February 5, 2017 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)


If you’re at all familiar with the insane quality of cinema coming from Iran in recent years, than you should recognize Leila Hatami, if not by name then definitely by face. She’s made a name for herself playing stubborn and strong women in film’s like 2011’s “A Separation” and 2014’s “Dorane Asheghi” and always has an intoxicating presence on the screen, regardless of how likable her characters are. Hatami is genuinely the MVP of any film she’s in and that’s why writer/director Soheil Beiraghi is fortunate to have her headline his directorial debut in “Me”, a drama which proves to be a showcase for Hatami’s immeasurable acting prowess. Read more…

27th Annual Festival of Films from Iran: Lantouri (2016)

February 3, 2017



written by: Reza Dormishian
produced by: Reza Dormishian
directed by: Reza Dormishian
rated: unrated
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: February 3, 2017 & February 4, 2017 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL)


You may already be aware how prevelant misogyny and patriarchy reigns supreme in Iranian culture. A woman’s potential is stifled, leaving her to live with a systemic inequality that has existed for decades. When a woman is wronged or abused by a man, emotionally or sexually, especially physically, there is an expectation within the community for the woman to publicly forgive her assailant. It’s an act of courage and allegedly will guarantee a higher position in heaven. Yet, the woman still remains scared forever – either it’ll go unnoticed because it’s an internal wound or will serve as an inescapable reminder if the scars are visible on the outside. The fascinating and complex drama “Lantouri” touches on this never-ending social atrocity that plagues Iran, while providing an original non-linear storytelling approach.  Read more…


January 31, 2017



written by: Aaron Faulls and Nate Gowtham
produced by: Aaron Faulls, Nate Gowtham and Elizabeth James
directed by: Aaron Faulls and Nate Gowtham
rated: unrated
runtime: 84 min.
U.S. release date: January 30, 2017 (City Winery in Chicago, IL & Amazon, Google, inDemand, Playstation, Xbox and VUDU)


I’m not surprised there’s a documentary made about Colin Hay. In fact, I’m quite happy. Some may know the award-winning Scottish-born Australian singer/songwriter from his work in the 80s as the front man for the successful rock band, Men at Work, while others may recall him from the TV show, “Scrubs”. If you can’t place his name, his recognizable voice may ring a bell. If not, after this film, your curiosity should be piqued and your next step should be to seek out a stop on his tour. The career-spanning “Colin Hay: Waiting for My Life”, which premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August 2015, marks the directorial debut of Aaron Faulls and Nate Gowtham, both of whom have managed to capture the charm, charisma and wit of their engaging subject in a candid and revealing light. Read more…

JACKIE (2016) review

January 29, 2017



written by: Noah Oppenheim
produced by: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel, Juan de Dios Larraín, Mickey Liddell 
directed by: Pablo Larraín
rated: R (for brief strong violence and some language)
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: October 17, 2016 (Chicago International Film Festival); December 2, 2016 (limited release)


“I never wanted fame. I just became a Kennedy.”


Most biopics are bound and determined to maintain an aesthetic distance between the audience and subject. Keeping legends at arm’s length helps to maintain their legend, or so the prevailing wisdom seemed. Pablo Larraín’s devastating film “Jackie” bucks conventional wisdom and offers a painfully intimate window into the most chaotic month in the life of former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Read more…


January 28, 2017



produced by: Jo Budzilowicz, Braden Bergan and Tom Yellin
directed by: Lloyd Kramer
rated: unrated
runtime: 81 min.
U.S. release date: April 17, 2016 (Tribeca Film Festival) and January 29, 2017 & February 2, 2017 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL )


Sadly, school shootings happen frequently in the U.S.  Sadder still is how news coverage of these tragic events occur for maybe about a week after they occur on and then its on to the next hot topic. But what of the families devastated by these senseless acts of violence and the communities they occur in?  What happens to the teachers and students who somehow survived an event in which an active shooter entered school hallways and purposefully killed 20 first graders and 6 adults? It’s hard to answer these questions, primarily because none of these people are featured in the news after the news coverage of their tragedy has cycled out. Fortunately, there are two recent documentaries that focus on Newtown, Connecticut, Kim A. Snyder’s “Newtown” and, this film, “Midsummer in Newtown”, directed by Lloyd Kramer, which is getting a limited release in select cities after its premiere last April at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.  Read more…