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PERSONAL SHOPPER (2016) review

March 16, 2017

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written by: Olivier Assayas
produced by: Charles Gillibert
directed by: Olivier Assayas
rated: R (for some language, sexuality, nudity and a bloody violent image)
runtime: 110 min.
U.S. release date: March 10, 2017 & March 17, 2017 (limited)

 

If you’re like me and were enraptured by Kristen Stewart‘s supporting role in writer/director Olivier Assayas’ 2014 film, “Clouds of Sils Maria“, in which she played a personal assistant to a movie star, than you’ll be interested in “Personal Shopper”, which reunites the actress and filmmaker once again. In his latest film, Assayas casts Stewart in the titular role, this time making her a personal shopper (ahem, specified assistant) to a celebrity model. It’s as if Assayas is fully aware that Stewart’s character in his last film was a highlight and decided to make a film starring Stewart in a very similar occupation, this time in a lead role, allowing her standout once again. That’s all I knew as I went in with my own biases of appreciating Stewart and Assayas and the result is an unexpected genre mashup that won me over despite its flaws. Read more…

THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT (2016) review

March 10, 2017

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written by: Jeff Stockwell
produced by: Stephen Joel Brown
directed by: Joseph Ruben
rating: R (for some war violence)
runtime: 106 min.
U.S. release date: March 10, 2016 (limited)

 

Only a couple weeks ago the so-so historical drama “Bitter Harvest” came out in limited release and now we have another one in “The Ottoman Lieutenant”, which is heavier on the old-fashioned sweeping romance and lighter on the bland dread of the dark side of wartime humanity. Both films piqued my curiosity because of their subgenres, their supporting cast – George Mendeluk’s “Bitter Harvest” had Barry Pepper and Terence Stamp, while this film has Josh Hartnett and Ben Kingsley (call it a “Lucky Number Slevin” reunion) – and both films cover certain periods in history or areas in the world that seldom receives attention. Of the two, I prefer Joseph Ruben’s “The Ottoman Lieutenant” for its protagonists, exotic locations and curious cast, as well as a story that, although familiar, offers a silly romance as escapism from reality – something I’m not adverse to. Read more…

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (2016) review

March 9, 2017

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written by: Céline Sciamma, based on the book by Gilles Paris
produced by: Marc Bonny, Armelle Glorennec, Pauline Gygax, Max Karli, Kate Merkt, Michel Merkt
directed by: Claude Barras
rated: PG-13 (for thematic elements and suggestive material )
runtime: 70 min.
U.S. release date: February 24, 2017 ()limited) &  March 10, 2017 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL) 

 

“We’re all the same. There’s no one left to love us.”

 

Seemingly every year lately, the Oscar category for Best Animated Feature has nominated a number of worthy foreign animated films that wouldn’t have otherwise gotten much attention in the States. This year, rather than nominating a subpar American animated blockbuster like “Trolls,” “Sing,” or “Finding Dory,” the Academy threw a bone to the Swiss claymation feature “Ma vie de Courgette” or “My Life as a Zucchini.” Shockingly, the film features only one bit with a cute animal. Read more…

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) review

March 9, 2017

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written by: Dan Gilroy, Derek Connelly and Max Borenstein
produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent & Alex Garcia
directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language)
runtime: 118 min.
U.S. release date: March 10, 2017

 

If you’re gonna have a good time at “Kong: Skull Island” it helps to have a soft spot for giant monsters wreaking havoc. Don’t get too attached to the humans. For those who have fond memories of watching Kong or Godzilla movies as a kid and old school jungle adventure movies, you’ll likely get into this. You won’t be alone, because it feels like that’s exactly how director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his crew feel. I fit that profile as well, so I come to the latest iteration of the big ape with certain biases. So be it. I got exactly what I hoped for, considering the title (hint: it’s not named “King Kong”, after all) with some delightful surprises and only a few annoyances. Bottom line: it’s a blast to see this iconic creature back on the big-screen. Read more…

CEUFF 2017: My Name is Emily

March 7, 2017

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Though it had its world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, “My Name Is Emily” has only last month reached the States in a limited theatrical release and for rental/purchase on Amazon, iTunes and VOD. It will also be screened tonight as part of the Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF) at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The film is the feature-length debut of Simon Fitzmaurice, an Irish writer-director who has his own incredible story to tell that was made into a documentary entitled “It’s Not Dark Yet” (named after the award-winning book he wrote, which become a number one bestseller in Ireland), that premiered at Sundance this year. The book and the documentary detail how Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (ALS) and given four years to live. He wrote the screenplay for “My Name is Emily” and directed it entirely through the use of eye-recognition software. I learned this information after watching this film, but it reinforced how impressed I was by this feature. Read more…

CEUFF 2017: 2 Nights Till Morning, Beloved Days & Franca: Chaos and Creation

March 6, 2017

 

Along with a final showing of Malta’s “20, 000 Reasons”, there are also films from Finland, Cyprus and Italy playing today at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of their month-long, annual Chicago European Union Film Festival. “2 Nights Till Morning”, from Finland, is a romantic drama with a unique take on a one-night stand between two strangers, while the other two films, “Beloved Days” from Cyprus and “Franca: Chaos and Creation”, are two engaging documentaries that cover locations and people that you may have never heard of before. The quality of films featured at this festival continue this week and the rest of the month of March.  Read more…

CEUFF 2017: Personal Shopper, The Death of Louis XIV & Just Drop Dead

March 6, 2017

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Two French films, one a historical drama (“The Death of Louis XIV”) and one a psychological thriller (“Personal Shopper”), along with a satirical dramedy (“Just Drop Dead”) from Hungary, all playing during the first week of the annual month-long Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Two of them I liked, one I wound up just barely appreciated, which is how it goes when immersed in festival films and that’s the joy of experiencing unique and different films from other countries. It’s an opportunity to broaden the film enthusiast’s mind and form an appreciation for some of the best movies from the European Union within the last year. Read more…