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Star Wars Celebration Chicago: Day One

April 12, 2019

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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…

THE GREAT BUSTER: A CELEBRATION (2018) review

April 9, 2019

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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

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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

 

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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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SHAZAM! (2019) review

April 3, 2019

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written by: Henry Gayden (screenplay/story) and Darren Lemke (story)
produced by: Peter Safran
directed by: David F. Sandberg
rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material)
runtime: 132 min.
U.S. release date: April 5, 2019

 

After grossly mishandling Superman and Batman over the last five years, Warner Brothers/DC Entertainment scored a hit with 2017’s “Wonder Woman” and then the surprising “Aquaman”, which made a splash (heh) last December. Both of those superhero movies serve as much needed course-corrections in the right direction, getting the tone and feel just right for their titular characters for a chance and proving that dark and gritty doesn’t have to be the default setting for these mythic heroes. Now we have “Shazam!”, focusing on a character that may be the trickiest DC Comics character yet to successfully transfer to the big-screen, but director David F. Sandberg (“Lights Out”, “Annabelle: Creation”) succeeds by injecting the movie with a fun sense of humor, yet applying an impressive balance between light coming-of-age laughs, hard life lessons and a darker creepiness. It’s a welcome hard left turn from the awful dourness that was the “Justice League” debacle.
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DUMBO (2019) review

March 30, 2019

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written by: Ehren Kruger
produced by: Justin Springer, Ehren Kruger, Katterli Frauenfelder & Derek Frey
directed by: Tim Burton
rated: PG (for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language)
runtime: 112 min.
U.S. release date: March 29, 2019

 

If you find all these needless live-action remakes, sequels, and/or reimaginings (however they’re spinning it) of Disney classic animated features a waste of time and talent, well you can blame Tim Burton. The eccentric filmmaker not only started it all nine years ago with “Alice in Wonderland” his live-action mess of a sequel, but he wound up making a hit moneymaker for the House of Mouse, which in turn greenlit a handful of followers with the same approach. So far, only “Cinderella” stands out as doing anything unique or different, with the rest reminding you how superior the originals are. Such is the case with Burton’s unnecessary remake of “Dumbo” a classic from 1941 that clocked in a few minutes over an hour, yet hear screenwriter Ehren Kruger extends this sweet, vibrant and heartbreaking tale into something unwieldy and uninteresting and that’s a shame.
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WOMAN AT WAR (2018) review

March 21, 2019

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written by: Benedikt Erlingsson and Ólafur Egilsson
produced by: Marianne Slot, Carine Leblanc, Birgitta Bjornsdottir, Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson & Serge Lavrenyuk
directed by: Benedikt Erlingsson
rated: not rated
runtime: 101 min.
U.S. release date: March 8, 2019 (limited) and March 22, 2019 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

The mostly-silent opening sequence of “Woman at War” is one of the most attention-grabbing I’ve seen in some time. Co-writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson places us in the lush highlands of Iceland, where we see a commanding and determined figure tighten her bow, aim it at the bright blue sky and send an arrow attached to a cable careening over the power lines of a utility tower. To divulge why she does this impressive act would be to rob you of the entertainment this highly enjoyable environmental dramedy thriller provides. Not only does the film offer a standout performance from an impressive actress playing an unforgettable role, it also brilliantly balances a handful of genres and themes in a masterful manner. Read more…