Skip to content

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018) review

May 27, 2018




written by: Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan
produced by: Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel
directed by: Ron Howard
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action/violence)
runtime: 135 min.
U.S. release date: May 25, 2018


And now for the movie no one asked for – or maybe I’m, ahem, solo – in never thinking twice about the backstory of one of the most iconic scoundrels in the Star Wars universe. Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is the Han Solo we know and love and I don’t recall ever hearing fans yearn for tales of a twentysomething Corellian smuggler. We had all we needed to know about the wise-cracking, cynical, self-made pilot of the fastest “hunk of junk” in space, when we first met him in “Star Wars” back in 1977 and at no point did we lose sleep wondering what was going on with this cool guy who had a walking carpet for a copilot before we met them in the Catina. But, Disney and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy have to maintain what has become “a brand” going and here we are – and guess what, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” is a blast! Read more…


DISOBEDIENCE (2018) review

May 26, 2018



written by: Sebastián Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz
produced by: Frida Torresblanco, Rachel Weisz and Ed Guiney
directed by: Sebastián Lelio
rated: R (for some strong sexuality)
runtime: 114 min.
U.S. release date: April 27, 2018


I don’t know what it’s like to be Jewish, or to be queer in a religion that prescribes specific gendered roles. I do know what it’s like to be rejected by the faith community of one’s youth because of specific personal choices. And choice is at the heart of Sebastián Lelio’s subdued relationship drama “Disobedience”. Even the title suggests an intentional act of rebellion. Read more…

THE GUARDIANS (2018) review

May 25, 2018



written by: Xavier Beauvois, Marie-Julie Maille and Frédérique Moreau (screenplay) & Ernest Pérochon (novel)
produced by: Sylvie Pialat and Benoît Quainon
directed by: Xavier Beauvois
rated: R (for some violence and sexuality)
runtime: 138 min.
U.S. release date: May 25, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


“Well, Pa, a woman can change better’n a man. A man lives sorta – well, in jerks. Baby’s born or somebody dies, and that’s a jerk. He gets a farm or loses it, and that’s a jerk. With a woman, it’s all in one flow, like a stream – little eddies and waterfalls – but the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it thata way.”

That’s a poignant line from Ma Joad, concerned mother of Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad in John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, played with great emotional impact by Jane Darwell, who would go on to win an Best Supporting Actress Oscar the following year. I recently saw Ford’s 1940 classic for the first time. The adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel happened to be on TCM and knowing it was on my blind spot film list, I saw no good reason to leave the couch. To say I was rewarded is putting it lightly. I thought about that dialogue and the woman who said it after viewing the “The Guardians”, the latest film from French writer/director Xavier Beauvois, which is a showcase for hard-working women of a certain era. Coincidentally, both films are adaptations of novels and feature strong and resilient women. Read more…

DARK CRIMES (2018) review

May 21, 2018



written by: Jeremy Brock
produced by: John Cheng, David Gerson, Simon Horsman, Brett Ratner & Jeffrey Soros
directed by: Alexander Avranas
rated: R (for strong and disturbing violent/sexual content including rape, graphic nudity, and language)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: May 11, 2018 & May 18, 2018 (limited & VOD/Digital)


If you look up the crime thriller “Dark Crimes” online, you’ll find that it’s listed as a 2016 film, which is curious considering Jim Carrey headlines it and no one really knew anything about until recently. That is, unless you were at the Warsaw Film Festival in October 2016, which is the only place it was shown until now. So, how is “Dark Crimes”, in which a brooding and bearded Jim Carrey marble-mouths a Polish accent throughout? Well, take a look at the awful poster above and check out the expression on New Zealand actor Martin Csokas’ face – that’s sums up how I felt after viewing this film: pretty indifferent and immediately drifting off to contemplate more pressing matters, instead of focusing on what I just watched. Read more…

ANYTHING (2018) review

May 17, 2018



written by: Timothy McNeil
produced by: Micah Hauptman, Ofrit Peres and Louise Runge
directed by: Timothy McNeil
rated: R (for language throughout, sexual references and some drug material)
runtime: 94 min.
U.S. release date: May 11, 2018 (LA/NY) & May 18-24, 2018 (Facets Cinémathèque, Chicago, IL)


Last year, veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch made his directorial debut with “Lucky” a poignant film which revolved around the late great Harry Dean Stanton, portraying one of many characters on the fringe of society. Now, there’s “Anything” another poignant film revolving around a character played by Lynch, written and directed by Timothy McNeil, which also focuses on people who would otherwise generally go overlooked. It’s a welcome chance to see Lynch shine in a lead role, especially in a love story that’s far from typical, as McNeil does his best to veer from predictability, maintaining a welcome warmth and tenderness with a needed understanding of broken people. “Anything” knows what its tackling and thankfully relies on honest portrayals rather than inserting unnecessary laughs to ease around difficult or challenging subject manner.  Read more…

CCFF 2018: Beast & Revenge

May 16, 2018



There are feral instincts and violent retaliation on display in “Beast” and “Revenge” the films that recently played in the midnight slots at the Chicago Critics Film Festival (CCFF), which ran from May 4th through May 10th at the Music Box Theatre. Both films feature strong, nuanced female leads with complex characterization and are set in unique locations that accentuate the unsettling and mysterious tone of the stories they tell. Both films could be considered thrillers, although “Revenge” fits more firmly in that category with a lean towards action, while “Beast” is a challenge to pin down, adding romance and mystery to the thriller genre. What stands out in both films are some great female characters roles who choose to fight (literally or figuratively) to break free from expectations others have of them and take a strong grasp of their own destinies.  Read more…

TERMINAL (2018) review

May 9, 2018



written by: Vaughn Stein
produced by: David Barron, Molly Hassell, Arianne Fraser, Margot Robbie, Tom, Ackerley, Josey McNamara, Sophia Kerr & Teun Hilte
directed by: Vaughn Stein
rated: not rated
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: May 11, 201 (AMC Woodridge & VOD/Digital)


“Termimal” is proof that no matter how charismatic or appealing a lead actor is, there are times when they just can’t do anything to help the movie they are in, try as they might. Since she made an indelible cinematic entrance in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” back in 2013, Margot Robbie has proven she definitely has such charisma and appeal. Most recently, she’s proven she has some serious acting talent as well, earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination for “I, Tonya”. Unfortunately, her presence and involvement in (she served as one of the producers) this crime thriller the feature-length debut of writer/director Vaughn Stein, just isn’t enough to make this noir bore stand out in any significant manner.  Read more…