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September 18, 2018



written by: Raymond Lee and Ria Limjap
produced by: Kevin J. Foxe
directed by: Raya Martin
rated: not rated
runtime: 111 min.
U.S. release date: September 19, 2018 (Asian Pop-up Cinema, AMC River East 21, Chicago, IL – U.S. premiere)


“Smaller and Smaller Circles” is not a sequel to James Ponsoldt’s “The Circle”, but it is also an adaptation of a novel, in this case the award-winning novel by F.H. Batacan, called in some, ahem, circles, as the first real Philippine crime novel. The story involves a series of gruesome murders that are being investigated and upon learning that one would assume that those doing the investigating are members of law enforcement, but the two main investigators in this story are priests. A film containing such a story may pique your interest, as it did mine, and as did director Raya Martin’s approach to the macabre material. If only the overall story told here grabbed me in such a way I had hoped it would, considering the subject matter.  Read more…


Interview with THE DAWN WALL climbers, Tommy Caldwell & Kevin Jorgeson

September 17, 2018



After premiering at South by Southwest (SXSW) back in March, the impressive and inspirational documentary, “The Dawn Wall”, is making its way into theaters this week for a one-night theatrical Fathom Event this Wednesday! The film revolves around two climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who set out to do the impossible in January 2015, when they committed to free-climb a 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite National Park, California, called The Dawn Wall. Regardless of whether you have any interest in climbing, the documentary from directors Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer (longtime friends of the two climbers), is not to be missed. The way in which it is filmed is as impressive as the featured ascent and the story covered, which goes beyond the actual climb, is inspirational in every way.  Read more…

ADULTHOOD (2017) review

September 10, 2018



written by: Kim In-seon and Park Geun-buem
directed by:  Kim In-seon
rated: not rated 
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: September 12, 2018 (AMC River East 21, Chicago, IL – opening night film for the 7th Season of Asian Pop-up Cinema)


You could describe “Adulthood” as a coming-of-age tale, one that revolves around two characters, a teenage girl and her uncle and based on that and the title you’d probably assume that the typical tropes of the genre apply toward the girl, but you’d be incorrect.  In director Kim In-seon’s feature-length debut, the ‘growing up’ you’d expect from the genre pertains to both characters actually, two estranged relatives who develop a relationship out of bad decisions and necessity. The result is an endearing, often warm and humorous look at how maturity and responsibility at any age can be viewed, from the lens of certain unexpected life situations.   Read more…

THE APPARITION (2018) review

September 7, 2018



written by: Xavier Giannoli
produced by: Olivier Delbosc
directed by: Xavier Giannoli
rated: not rated
runtime: 144 min.
U.S. release date: September 7, 2018


“The Apparition” turns out to be the type of film I hope to see about religious faith. It doesn’t water down or generalize belief, nor does it placate to believers, but rather shares the nuances and struggles that come with grasping whether or not God exists. At least that’s what I gleaned from writer/director Xavier Giannoli’s latest feature (his first since 2015’s “Maguerite”) upon first viewing, an experience that left me pondering how faith is maintained by an individual and perceived in general by believers. Not too bad for a film that, based on its title, one would assume revolves around some kind of conspiracy or turn out to be a kind of art-house ghost flick. That would be too obvious though. “The Apparition” tells a more personal and absorbing tale than I was expecting and despite its somewhat glacial pace, which tested my attention at times, I found myself revisiting certain key moments well after viewing. Read more…

BIG BROTHER (2018) review

September 3, 2018



written by: Tai-lee Chan
produced by: Wong Jin and Donnie Yen
directed by: Kam Ka-Wai
rated: not rated
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: August 31, 2018


If you’ve followed Donnie Yen’s career at all, you probably know to expect some martial arts action in each of his movies. If you’ve paid closer attention, you’ll know that the Hong Kong actor is also a choreographer, producer and director, known most recently on an international level for a supporting role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and in “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”, in which he continued to rely on his mixed martial arts talents. In his latest, “Big Brother”, in which he co-produced and stars, Yen is subverting audience expectations by playing a high school teacher, of all things. If you wind up seeing this movie solely out of curiosity and have an open mind, you’re likely to be as entertained as I was. Despite some elements that I would typically associate with shortcomings, I was won over by the intent and tone here. Read more…

BLUE IGUANA (2018) review

September 1, 2018



written by: Hadi Hajaig
produced by: Hadi Hajaig and Tom Lassally
directed by: Hadi Hajaig
rated: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: August 24, 2018 (limited)


The draw in watching the comedy thriller “Blue Iguana” was obviously Sam Rockwell, the recent Oscar-winner who has been a favorite acting presence for years now. Obviously, I’m going to be curious with each role he takes on, but there are times when I’m reminded that great actors can’t salvage a mediocre screenplay, which is exactly what’s happened in this heist movie that tries too hard. Writer/director Hadi Hajaig is attempting to resuscitate an interest in the British crime flicks that put Guy Ritchie on the map, aiming for a wild ride of criminal activity and mishap hilarity, but “Blue Iguana” inevitably becomes a checklist of styles and tropes we’ve seen before. There may be an undeniable lightness to the tone and the cast is certainly game here, but ultimately the story befuddled mess that needed to focus on doing one thing well, instead of taking the kitchen sink approach. Read more…

93QUEEN (2018) review

September 1, 2018



produced by: Adam Bolt, Heidi Reinberg and Paul Eiselt
directed by: Paula Eiselt 
rated: not rated
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: July 25, 2018 (limited), August 29, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


I bet you never thought you needed to see a documentary about an all-female Hasidic EMT emergency corps, but here is “93Queen” to correct that. Furthermore, I bet you didn’t even know such a film existed, but that’s exactly what director Paula Eiselt is counting on. Within the first fifteen minutes, it becomes clear why Eiselt chose to follow Rachel “Ruchie” Freier around Borough Park, Brooklyn and tell the world how inspiring and intrepid this resilient woman is.  She is a charismatic and unapologetic figure, one who is captured and presented in an up close and personal approach that is free from hagiography, providing viewers with an understanding Freier’s intent and the impact she’s had on the lives of the like-minded women that surround her.  Read more…