September 2019 archive

Art Makes You Evolve: Stanley Nelson on Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Opening Friday, October 4th, at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center

Stanley Nelson didn’t leave for college without taking his father’s copy of Miles Davis’ game-changing 1959 album, Kind of Blue, along with him. The three-time Emmy-winning documentarian and cinematic chronicler of the African-American experience may have grown up a jazz fan, yet never in his wildest dreams did he envision himself directing a film about …

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Playing it Luce: Questions for a complicated movie

Julius Onah’s “Luce” focuses on a teenager (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) at an uppity Northern Virginia high school whose trillion-dollar Barack-Obama-smile provides the sugarcoating ornamenting his stellar grades and numerous athletic trophies, until he earns the skepticism of his teacher, Ms. Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). Actually, that is what you would expect. Rather, it is the …

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Fantastic Fest 2019: Big Names, Big Buzz, A Scream Queen, and a Wolfboy

In its 15th year, Fantastic Fest celebrated with a slate full of wild films, studded with strange spectacle and surprises. At the Alamo Drafthouse, throngs of cinephiles flocked daily not only to see the titles that have been tearing it up at Cannes and TIFF and to discover hidden gems that might shine best under …

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The Irishman

Robert DeNiro excels at playing closed-off, unreachable characters—hard men who might seem a bit dull if you met them for the first time, but have complicated inner lives that they rarely let anyone see, and who are mysteries to themselves. DeNiro was 75 when he played yet another of those characters in Martin Scorsese’s “The …

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Steve James Among Presenters at Victory Garden Theater’s Chicago Stories Gala, Featuring Debut of My Play, The Great Debate

VICTORY GARDENS THEATER, the wonderful performance venue located in the historic space once known as the Biograph Theater—where famed gangster John Dillinger met his immortal end—will be introducing Stacy Janiak and me as debuting playwrights, and honoring Justina Machado and Phillipa Soo at its annual fundraiser, Chicago Stories Gala, on Saturday, October 5th, in honor of its …

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The Death of Dick Long

“Wanna get weird?” These three little words launch the cascading comedy of errors “The Death of Dick Long.” Three friends, Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl (Andre Hyland) and Dick (director Daniel Scheinert) finish up their band practice (or: “band” practice), and decide to “get weird.” Getting weird means getting trashed, setting off fireworks in a …

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The Day Shall Come

A political satire in the biting spirit of “Wag the Dog” and “In the Loop”—though not nearly as sharp as either—Christopher Morris’ “The Day Shall Come” claims with a title card that it’s based on a hundred true stories. This bold declaration might sound like it’s blown out of proportion at first, considering we’re in …

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The Golden Glove

Fatih Akin’s controversial “The Golden Glove” is a bleak, depressing attempt to remove all glorification or justification from the serial killer subgenre. There are a few fleeting references to its protagonist’s family, but Akin is clearly trying to strip away the common driving force of serial killer movies that attempts to “explain” the mind of a …

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In the Shadow of the Moon

“Seven” meets “The Terminator” in one of the weirdest genre mash-ups you’ll see all year, Netflix’s “In the Shadow of the Moon.” If that pitch sounds odd to you, it really only scratches the surface of a flick that starts as noir, proceeds into action and then dives into a pit of science fiction. While …

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First Love

Takashi Miike’s “First Love” shows that even his type of excessiveness can have a breaking point, at least when it comes to dreams of balancing tight storytelling with massive character rosters. At some point, a plot can be so busy that its spectacle becomes superficial, a key glitch here within the manic pacing of “First Love,” scripted …

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Bliss

For better and for worse, “Bliss” truly makes you feel as if you, too, are suffering from a narcotic-induced, hallucinatory freak-out—one that leaves you physically exhausted, mentally spent and ultimately wondering what the hell just happened to you. In that regard, writer-director Joe Begos’ film is sort of effective. It drags you, vividly and thoroughly, …

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Takashi Miike on First Love, Directing 103 Films, Subconscious Inspirations and More

Takashi Miike is the black, beating heart of world cinema. The man whose presence on festival circuits instills equal parts fear and wonder, the man you have to beware or watch. Miike’s rakish presence is perhaps best summed up by the title of his 2001 Yakuza movie, “Agitator.” Love or hate what he does, to …

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Incredible Ensemble Brings Gravity to Familiar Story of The Godfather of Harlem

Epix’s epic (sorry) crime drama “The Godfather of Harlem” is one of those ensemble pieces in which every other scene introduces a new famous face. The promos have advertised the two major roles played by Forest Whitaker and Vincent D’Onofrio, but this is a show that’s simply loaded with talent in the ensemble, including Luis …

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Spies in Disguise | Official Trailer 3 [HD] | 20th Century FOX

Source: 20th Century Fox

Walton Goggins Carries Surprising CBS Sitcom The Unicorn

For a CBS sitcom, “The Unicorn” is surprisingly, well, surprising. First of all, there’s that title, defined here by a character as “that elusive creature that all single women are looking for,” a widower and devoted father who, because he’s only had sex with one person for the last 20 years, is “factory fresh.” Denizens …

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Netflix’s The Politician is Ambitious but Messy

Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician,” his first major show at Netflix instead of FX, feels at first like a modern update of Alexander Payne’s “Election,” using high school politics to illustrate something about human nature and even comment on a system built on cults of personality. With a typically phenomenal ensemble of young talent and living …

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TV Review: Two New Sitcoms Fit the NBC Thursday Night Mold

A pair of new sitcoms join the legendary NBC Thursday night comedy block this week, hoping to find some of the success of modern classics like “30 Rock,” “The Office,” and “Parks and Recreation,” or at least something comparable to current hits like “Superstore” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Both feel distinctly like NBC shows, driven by …

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Sid Haig: 1939-2019

Sid Haig (born Sidney Eddie Mosesian) was a great character actor. His generosity of spirit is apparent both on and off-screen, especially in his work as an all-purpose heavy (gang leaders and bikers a specialty). Being a utility player wasn’t always an easy career for Haig to pursue, especially not when he had to survive …

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Ebert Symposium 2019 Preview: Diversity in Journalism, National Hispanic Heritage Month Panels

On Friday, September 27th, you are invited to attend the second Chaz & Roger Ebert Symposium at the Illinois Ballroom of the I-Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S. First St., in Champaign, Illinois. It is a collaboration between Chaz Ebert, the College of Media and Ebertfest. The symposium, titled “Creating an Inclusive Media and Cinema Ecosystem,” opens at 9 …

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Five Questions from Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

The greatness of Quentin Tarantino movies is that I can watch any of them multiple times and still not be able to tell you if I like them. I long for more viewings to unlock their secrets; if you ask for endorsements, I’ll tell you they are “very rich” in ideas and details. “Once Upon …

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