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CCFF 2017: Shorts Programs 1 & 2

May 13, 2017

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Each year at the Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF), film critic Collin Souter has compiles a selection of short films and carefully compiles them into two programs. Although it was down to the wire, I can say this is the first year I was able plow through all sixteen shorts (which are split into two programs, screening today and tomorrow), which offer quite a variety of tone and styles – from animation to documentaries to experimental works – some really work and become quite memorable, while others may leave you perplexed. I respect and value Souter’s knowledge of filmmaking and eye for curating what must be a daunting project and appreciate the time and energy he’s put into presenting festival viewers a chance to broaden their cinematic experiences.  Read more…

CCFF 2017 preview

May 11, 2017

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Tomorrow, THE CHICAGO CRITICS FILM FESTIVAL celebrates its 5th Anniversary at the beautiful Music Box Theatre, with another great week of local premieres of the best upcoming independent features! This year’s program includes 22 local feature premieres, two full-length programs of short films and a retrospective screening of a cult classic. Some of the talked-about titles in the festival feature stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Alison Brie, David Lynch, Burt Reynolds, Ariel Winter, Michael Cera, Jessica Williams, Adam Pally, Teresa Palmer and Taylor Schilling. A number of filmmakers and actors will be on hand to introduce the screenings and participate in live Q&A sessions afterwards. Read more…

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival 2017 Round-Up

May 10, 2017

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The Hot Docs International Film Festival wrapped up this past Sunday in Toronto, after eleven days of showcasing documentaries from all around the world. This 2017 edition, the festival’s 24th year, boasted record-breaking audiences of 215,000, with over 450 public screenings of 218 films. In addition to the regular public screening series, Hot Docs featured a broad slate of guest appearances, discussions, live performances, networking events conferences, and workshops. They also ran the Docs for Schools program, an educational initiative that serves an estimated 95,000 students with screenings throughout the festival run. With so much to see I was only able to a get to a small selection of it, which I’ll detail further down, but first let’s look a few other highly-acclaimed films of the Fest. Read more…

GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM (2016) review

May 8, 2017

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produced by: Jedd Wider and Todd Wider
directed by: Jedd Wider and Todd Wider
rating: unrated
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: April 7, 2016 (Cleveland International Film Festival) & May 5, 2017 – May 11, 2017 (Facets Multimedia, Chicago, IL)

 

“God Knows Where I Am” should make you think (perhaps rethink) about certain people you encounter repeatedly in your life. The kind of people in our lives that we see all the time, yet we just don’t know that much about. They could be a co-worker, a fellow student, a neighbor or someone we always see as we go about our day.  He or she may be outgoing and helpful or socially inept and withdrawn. I thought of these people and what little I knew of them while watching this documentary from directors Jedd Wider and Todd Wider  (“Taxi to the Dark Side”; “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God”), which focuses on Linda Bishop, a homeless woman whose dead body was found in May 2008 in an abandoned farmhouse in New Hampshire, months after she had died alone. What happened here? What was this person’s life like? What were her hopes and dreams in life? How did she end up like this?

Read more…

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) review

May 8, 2017

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written by: James Gunn
produced by: Kevin Feige
directed by: James Gunn
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content)
runtime: 136 min.
U.S. release date: May 5, 2016

 

If you recall, 2014 was a great year for Marvel Studios movies. If you don’t recall, it was a year that gave us the Russo brothers-helmed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in May (the official kickoff month of the summer movie season) and “Guardians of the Galaxy” in August from writer/director James Gunn. The sci-fi action/adventure comedy wound up being the studio’s biggest gamble since “Thor”, launching audiences into outer space, where blue and green-skinned aliens brushing teaming-up with a tree creature and sarcastic anthropomorphic raccoon, was no big deal. Gunn’s energy was contagious and his clever and subversive approach won me over, blowing up the box-office and proving that audiences would rally around and delight in unfamiliar characters. So, in the spirit of not ruining a good thing, Gunn brings more of the same three years later in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” and I mean that in the best possible way.  Read more…

THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015) review

May 2, 2017

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written by: Sean Byrne
produced by: Jesse Calder and Keith Calder
directed by: Sean Byrne
rated: unrated
runtime: 79 min.
U.S. release date: March 17, 2017 & April 21, 2017 (limited), also available on iTunes, Amazon & VOD

 

“The Devil’s Candy” is finally here and there’s a bit of both a trick and a treat. The horror flick is the first film in seven years from Australian writer/director Sean Byrne, who’s feature-length debut “The Loved Ones” has received a certain amount of cult status. His latest premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2015 and worked the festival circuit until it was available digitally last month and will perhaps eventually become something of a midnight mainstay in arthouse theaters nationwide. It deserves to because of what it does with familiar horror tropes and how Byrne delivers another legitimately unsettling, creepy thriller with some great performances. That’s the trick and the treat of it. Read more…

Announcement: ASIAN POP-UP CINEMA Season IV closes with LOVE, LIES

May 1, 2017

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Season IV of the Asian Pop-Up Cinema closes in Chicago at AMC River North THIS WEDNESDAY at 7pm (CST). If you’re not aware, this seasonal series is programmed by Sophia’s Choice , a non-profit organization “with the multiple missions of cultivating the general public’s interest in Asian culture via diverse offerings of Asian films; connecting the Asian film industry with local industry for both professional & educational exchanges; and promoting Chicago as a destination for Asian film company production”. The closing film is Korean director Heung-Sik Park’s latest “Love, Lies”, which opened in South Korea just over a year ago.  Read more…