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FACES PLACES (2017) review

October 27, 2017



written by: Agnès Varda and JR
produced by: Agnès Varda and JR
directed by: Agnès Varda and JR
rated: unrated
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: October 17, 2017 – November 2, 2017 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


Escapism is fun and necessary; it’s something that many often associate with cinema, but I’ve found what I yearn for in my film watching is enlightenment and illumination through introductions and connections. I was reminded of this while smiling through “Faces Places”, the latest film from Belgian-born auteur, Agnes Varda, a wonderful documentary wherein Varda herself is the subject, along with her traveling companion, French photographer/artist JR. Both of them invite us along on their travels around France as they reflect, laugh, philosophize and create art, while in turn making others feel important, valued and appreciated. I can’t think of a more worthy and wonderful gift, which is exactly what “Faces Places” is.  Read more…


ACTS OF VENGEANCE (2017) review

October 24, 2017



written by: Matt Venne
produced by: Yariv Lerner and Les Weldon
directed by: Isaac Florentine
rated: R (for violence and language)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: October 27, 2017 (limited, VOD, Amazon & iTunes)


In case you weren’t aware, Antonio Banderas has been a busy guy in recent years, but specifically this year. The actor has starred in a handful of recent VOD (that’s Video On Demand, FYI) action flicks, such as “Security” with Sir Ben Kingsley, “Black Butterfly” with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (now streaming on Netflix) and the wretched “Gun Shy” from Simon West. I’ve seen two out of those three and would only barely recommend one of them. Now he’s back in action with “Acts of Vengeance” a movie that’s a step up from his recent work, applying some interesting devices to a familiar revenge tale, but it’s unfortunately a story that ignores its potential, settling into a serviceable and predictable actioner.  Read more…

JUNGLE (2017) review

October 22, 2017



written by: Justin Monjo
produced by: Todd Fellman, Mike Gabrawy, Gary Hamilton, Mark Lazarus, Dana Lustig & Greg McLean
directed by: Greg McLean
rated: R (for language and some drug use)
runtime: 115 min.
U.S. release date: October 20, 2017 (limited)


I’m still not convinced Daniel Radcliffe can pull off a beard, but his commitment to all the other physical demands in his latest film, “Jungle”, is truly impressive. The film is based on the uncanny account of Yossi Ghinsberg, an Israeli adventurer who, as a young man back in December 1981, was stranded in an uncharted part of the Bolivian Amazon jungle for three weeks by himself and miraculously survived to write a best-selling book (Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival) about the harrowing tale. Naturally, his story lends itself well to the survival subgenre of “based on a true story” movies, but the question is whether of not this is a movie that is offering anything different or new. I believe it does just that – offering an interesting look at friendship in truly intense situations. Read more…

CIFF 2017: Liquid Truth & Wind Traces

October 21, 2017




So far, of the films I’ve seen at the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) this year, there are two dramatic features that stand out and have remained with me long after viewing. They are “Liquid Truth” from Brazil and “Wind Traces” from Mexico and both provide the kind of viewing experience I look for each year at this festival – which is see live from a different place and perspective, yet be reminded that regardless of where we live or are from, all of us will experience very similar human emotions. That’s on display in these films, both of which are directed by women with a confident visual style that tells compelling stories that are brought to life by great performances. At this time, I’m confident that one of them, “Liquid Truth”, will be my favorite film of the festival and that “Wind Traces” will be a film I’ll want to revisit to get another take on it. Read more…

Interview with JUNGLE producer Dana Lustig

October 19, 2017



Producer Dana Lustig is as resilient as Yossi Ghinsberg. Who is Yossi Ghinsberg? Well, he’s a lot of things now – a motivational speaker, a humanitarian and an author – but thirty-seven years ago, when he was a 21-year-old adventurer, he managed to survive an uncharted region of the Bolivian Amazon jungle on his own for three weeks.  He wrote a book about his terrifying ordeal which became immensely popular in his native Israel as well as an international best-seller, and now, Momentum Pictures is releasing “Jungle” a feature-length thriller starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ghinsberg, that tells of his harrowing experience. This wouldn’t have happened without Lustig apparently.  I was told this by her publicist – not those exact words, but the email I received stated, “Lustig is the one that actually convinced Yossi to turn his story into a feature film – she’s the catalyst for all of this!” Read more…

KILLING GUNTHER (2017) review

October 16, 2017



written by: Taran Killam
produced by: Taran Killam, Ash Sarohia and Steven Squillante
directed by: Taran Killam
rated: R (for violence, language and some sexual material)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: September 22, 2017 (VOD, Amazon & iTunes) & October 20, 2017 (limited)


If you go into “Killing Gunther” because it’s the latest movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger then you’ll be disappointed. The actor gets less screen time in this action comedy than Harrison Ford did in “Blade Runner 2049”, which means he’s in “Killing Gunther” for somewhere around the last twenty minutes of the hour and a half runtime (and that’s a generous estimate), despite playing the titular hitman. Just like I instantly wanted more of Ford when he finally appears, this movie, written by Taran Killam (who also stars in and makes his directorial debut here)  is in desperate need of Schwarzenegger. I sighed in relief once he showed up, yet felt like the previous hour had been wasted. It’s as if a friend of yours invites you over to watch a movie at his home theater, but he winds up talking your ear off about a whole lot of nothing for an hour before the movie even starts – that’s “Killing Gunther” in a nutshell. Read more…

BABY DRIVER (2017) review

October 16, 2017



written by: Edgar Wright
produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Nira Park
directed by: Edgar Wright
rated: R (for violence and language throughout)
runtime: 113 min.
U.S. release date: June 28, 2017

DVD/Blu-ray release date: October 10, 2017


Surprise surprise! It’s actually been a good movie summer! But the bigger (and most welcome) surprise is the handful of quality features released amongst the few solid big-budget superhero blockbusters (“Wonder Woman” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) and the one worthy CGI-heavy franchise extending sequel (“War for the Planet of the Apes”), and it just so happens that three of them were heist flicks. None of them were sequels, reboots or remakes and one of them was the eagerly-awaited “Baby Driver”, the inventive and highly-entertaining new movie from writer/director Edgar Wright. It’s an aggressive comedy heist that merges a specific musical playlist with acutely choreographed action in an infectious manner, like an adrenalized musical, making it one of the most memorable movies of the year. Read more…