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KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (2019) review

May 1, 2019



produced by: Robin Blotnick, Sarah Olsen and Rachel Lears
directed by: Rachel Lears
rated: PG (for thematic elements, language and brief smoking)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: May 1, 2019 (Netflix)


People will dismiss “Knock Down the House” thinking it as some kind of hagiographic documentary on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and they’d be wrong. While the Netflix film from director Rachel Lears, which debuted at Sundance back in January where it won two audience awards, does indeed include the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, it’s in no way solely about her. Instead, it’s about three liberal American women like her who, despite the odds stacked against them, ran the historic 2018 midterm election that wound up changing the look of the House of Representatives in a historic manner. On the heels of last year’s Oscar nominee “RBG”, here is an uplifting and inspiring documentary that spotlights more trailblazing women in politics and considering that’s typically a rare subject, here is a film that shouldn’t be dismissed.
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AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019) review

April 28, 2019



written by: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
produced by: Kevin Feige
directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language)
runtime: 181 min.
U.S. release date: April 26, 2019


You may have noticed that most Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies have been building to something. Whether they are stories that stretch out into space, travel to different continents or are an origin tale set in the 90s, it’s all been building to “Avengers: Endgame” in some way. Here is a satisfying sequel that rewards those who’ve watched the twenty-one blockbuster hits that’ve led up to this three-hour epic, leaving those who skipped a few classes since 2008 a little confused. Anthony and Joe Russo are back at the helm, offering an inevitably epic and thrilling adventure that’s sprinkled with resonating heartfelt moments, much-needed laughs, geek-out moments and a hint and what the future holds. That’s a lot to accomplish and as they’ve proven in the past, the Russos do an impressive job.
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Interview: Catching up with RUNNER actor/writer/director Clare Cooney

April 23, 2019



It’s hard to believe my previous interview with multi-talented Clare Cooney was a year ago. In anticipation of her award-winning short, “Runner”, screening at the Chicago Critics Film Festival last May, I chatted with her about the short, from concept to release. It’s probably hard to believe because I’ve seen Cooney around and talked to her since then, while keeping track on the status of “Runner”. In that interview, I made it a point to ask where and when her short could be seen by curious viewers. At that time, it was still working the festival circuit, but now “Runner” is about to find it’s widest audience yet. On Tuesday, April 23rd, the short will be released on a curated YouTube channel for short films called Omeleto. Read more…

Star Wars Celebration Chicago: Day One

April 12, 2019



It’s been happening just about every two years for the past twenty years and now it’s come to Chicago. Today was the start of a five-day celebration of all things Star Wars, appropriately called Star Wars Celebration. You may have heard of it, that is if you’re a die-hard Star Wars fan. It’s essentially a convention focused on the universe that George Lucas created, which he handed the reins over to his longtime collaborator, producer Kathleen Kennedy, who has been working with Disney for a handful of years now to oversee the present and future of all things Star Wars. It’s a place where you can bump into an R2 unit, purchase Chewbacca bubble bath from the 70s or sit yourself down in the Millennium Falcon, but most of all its a place where you can feel accepted for something you’re passionate about, which is something that’s sorely needed. Read more…


April 9, 2019



written by: Peter Bogdanovich
produced by: Peter Bogdanovich, Charles S. Cohen, Role Sharon Peled, and Louise Stratten
directed by: Peter Bogdanovich 
rated: Not Rated (some mild language)
runtime: 102 min.
U.S. release date: October 19, 2018 (Chicago International Film Festival), October 5, 2018 (limited), April 2, 2019 (DVD & Blu-ray)


“In a way, Buster Keaton is the essence of movies. He is one of the inventors of cinema.”


Everything you could want to know about Peter Bogdanovich’s documentary about Buster Keaton is right there in the title. It is both a celebration of the man’s life and a gab-fest at a gathering of world class raconteurs. If, like me, you gravitated toward Chaplin and never really explored Keaton’s catalogue, this is the perfection introduction to one of our greatest screen treasures. Read more…

2019 DOC10 Film Festival

April 9, 2019



Last year, some of the best documentaries, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, “Bisbee ’17”, “RBG”, and “Minding the Gap”, made their Chicago debut at the DOC10 film festival, which means you should be looking closely at this year’s lineup. Presented by Chicago Media Project, the festival returns to the Davis Theater this weekend in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. That’s right, another weekend in Chicago means another film festival. The film’s selected are the best documentaries from the festival circuit within the last six months. All of the four films I was privy to see premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this past January. It’ll be interesting to see which of this year’s DOC10 films take off once they get their inevitable release. Read more…

PET SEMATARY (2019) review

April 4, 2019




written by: Jeff Buhler
produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Steven Schneider and Mark Vahradian
directed by: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer
rated: R (for horror violence, bloody images, and some language)
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: April 5, 2019


It’s been thirty years since “Pet Sematary”, the first adaptation of Stephen King’s popular 1983 novel, was released. Directed by Mary Lambert, that movie was memorable for being weird and sprinkled with a few legit shocks, but mostly for being unintentionally funny. Out of the many adaptations of King’s work from the 80s, it would definitely seem like his macabre take on death, loss and resurrection would be ripe for a remake worthy of the psychological terror of the source material. That’s probably what co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (“Starry Eyes”) had in mind with his remake, but unfortunately it seems there was a good deal of material that went missing on the way to the big-screen, or at least not included altogether.
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