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THE FENCER (2015) review

January 4, 2018



written by: Anna Heinämaa
produced by: Kai Nordberg and Kaarle Aho
directed by: Klaus Härö
rated: unrated
runtime: 98 min.
release date: March 13, 2015 (Estonia/Finland), March 8 & 11, 2016 (Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL) and January 5-11, 2017 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


The kind of  ‘based on a true story’ I gravitate to are ones which inform viewers of a person or event that the world would mostly likely have never heard of. “The Fencer” falls in that category. Directed by Klaus Härö (“Letters to Father Jacob” from 2009 and “Mother of Mine” from 2005), the film was selected as the Finnish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy last year, but was not nominated, even though it made the December shortlist of nine films. However, it should be added to the list of the many great foreign films wind up not making the cut on the road to Oscar, since it gives a voice to a specific time and place that rarely gets heard.  Read more…


THE POST (2017) review

January 4, 2018



written by: Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
produced by: Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Amy Pascal
directed by: Steven Spielberg
rated: PG-13 (for language and brief war violence)

runtime: 116 min.

U.S. release date: December 22, 2017, January 5, 2018 (limited) & January 12, 2018 (wide)


Last year, Steven Spielberg returned to family-friendly summer movies with “The BFG”, but based on its reception, it seems families have moved on from fairy tale fantasies based on children’s books. With his latest, “The Post”, the director returns to historical features, to which he’s found much success (from “Schindler’s List” to “Bridge of Spies”) for a specific moment in American journalism that led to a struggle for free speech and a quest for justice. It’s a challenge to turn a drama that revolves around journalists and newspapers into a thriller, but Spielberg accomplishes just that, proving the iconic filmmaker can deliver the type of quality film he’s known for when he’s working with a solid cast and strong material. Read more…

AIDA’S SECRETS (2016) review

December 31, 2017



produced by: Alon Schwarz
directed by: Alon Schwarz and Shaul Schwarz
rated: not rated
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: December 27, 2017 thru January 4, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL) 


News stories of long-separated family members reuniting for the first time have been around forever. They may get the coverage that they used to anymore, but I recall seeing them on the news as a child and getting teary-eyed, something that occurred during a recent viewing of the Israeli documentary “Aida’s Secrets”, directed by Alon and Shaul Schwarz. The two brothers dig into the roots of their family tree, initially focusing on the quest their uncle Isak Szewelwicz has been on for some time to learn more about his own past, specifically revolving around his biological mother, Aida. What is uncovered are some answers but more mysteries loom as several new questions surface, in this intimate and personal journey. Read more…

HANGMAN (2017) review

December 21, 2017



written by: Michael Caissie, Charles Huttinger and Phil Hawkins
produced by: Michael Mendelsohn and Arnold Rifkin
directed by: Johnny Martin
rated: R (R for violent content, bloody images, and language)
runtime: 98 min.
U.S. release date: December 22, 2017 (limited)


Here is a movie that unintentionally reminds viewers that actors are just like you and me – they have to pay bills too. There’s really no other explanation for talented actors slumming it in such by-the-numbers drivel like “Hangman”, which is the latest in a handful of thrillers that Saban films has released this year. They’re typically bland crime thrillers or action flicks, some of which star actors who you may have wondered about lately (Antonio Banderas, John Cusack and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few), who now turn up in D2V (that’s Direct-to-Video) type movies that get released in one theater near a major city or straight to streaming platforms. That’s the kind of movie Al Pacino agreed to headline and the result is an egregious waste and one of the worst of the year. Read more…

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (2017) review

December 14, 2017



written by: Rian Johnson
produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman, Pippa Anderson & Kiri Hart
directed by: Rian Johnson
rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
runtime: 152 min.
U.S. release date: December 15, 2017


When we heard Mark Hamill‘s Luke Skywalker utter the foreboding line, “This is not going to go the way you think!”, in the trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, I doubt anyone thought he was using Jedi mind tricks on us. It’s clear who he’s saying that line to, but the it could easily be applied to the millions of fans who’ve been anticipating the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga proper. Indeed what stands out and will become most memorable is the unexpected tone and characterization choices; but most of all, he does things with the Force here that have never been seen on the big-screen before. Throughout the movie, expectations are subverted and intermittent surprises, offering a Star Wars experience unlike any other.   Read more…

2017 CFCA Awards Winners

December 13, 2017



Last night, the Chicago Film Critics Announcement (CFCA) announced the chosen winners of their annual nominees of who and what they consider to be the very best performances and films of the year. Being a member, I can attest it’s never easy to choose and of this year’s winners there were indeed some surprises.  But, I’m not upset – even though Greta Gerwig nudged out writer/director Kogonada in the category of Most Promising Filmmaker, but that tells me how many people actual saw his sublime debut film,”Columbus“, my favorite film of the year (not to mention “Faces Places“, which should’ve won in the Documentary category).  Below is the official write-up and full lineup of the winners of the this year’s awards.  Read more…

ANNOUNCEMENT: 2017 CFCA Awards Nominees

December 10, 2017



This evening the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA) announced the nominees for the awards that they give out this time each year. As a member, I did my part and voted in the first round and now I must choose one from each category below. I’m mostly pleased with the nominees I see here, but of course there’s always some surprises (“Logan” for adapted screenplay) and disappointments (only one nomination for “Columbus”, despite Haley Lu Richardson giving one of the best performances of the year), which is expected. The winners will be announced at our awards dinner this Tuesday and posted after that event. Until then, you can read the official announcement below and be on the lookout for the list of winners…. Read more…