October 2019 archive

John Witherspoon: 1942-2019

The mere onscreen presence of John Witherspoon guaranteed at least a few moments of genuine pleasure. No matter how bad the film, he could be counted on to steal the spotlight with lines that were as quotable as they were unprintable. He was often over the top, which served him well in the comedies he …

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Motherless Brooklyn

The most surprising thing about director-writer-star Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn” is how drastically it departs from its source. Jonathan Lethem’s National Book award-winning novel focused on a Lionel Essrog (Norton), a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome posing as a reporter to investigate the murder of his boss and surrogate father (Bruce Willis’ Frank Minna), who plucked him …

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Minty, Harriet, Moses: Kasi Lemmons on Bringing Harriet Tubman’s Life to the Big Screen

A blazing Autumn sunset quickly upstaged my scheduled conversation with filmmaker Kasi Lemmons last Friday in Chicago. “Let’s take a picture!” she said, and we quickly grabbed our phones to capture a glimpse of the spectacular light show unfolding outside. There’s no question the honey-hued vista would’ve felt right at home in Lemmons’ latest feature, …

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A Certain Provocation: Edward Norton on the Neo-Noir Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton wanted to make a movie based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn when it was first published in 1999. 20 years later, the story finally comes to the screen, with Norton as writer, producer, and star. He moved the setting from the 90’s to post WWII and changed some of the storyline. But the central …

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The World Is Full of Secrets

One of the greatest scenes that film has given us involves a dramatic letter reading, and can be found in Ingmar Bergman’s “Winter Light.” Once you see it you’ll never forget it—an extended monologue by a woman named Marta (Ingrid Thulin), speaking the words that we see existentially tormented priest Thomas (Gunnar Bjornstrand) read. Thulin delivers …

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Home Entertainment Guide: October 31, 2019

7 NEW TO NETFLIX “Echo in the Canyon””Free Fire””I’ll See You in My Dreams””The Karate Kid””Men in Black””Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy””The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD “An American Werewolf in London” Criterion and Shout Factory get the most attention for catalog releases of films that you might already own on DVD …

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Apple TV+ Offers Goofy, Exuberant Take on Emily Dickinson

There’s an early moment in “Dickinson,” the exuberant, messy new Apple TV Plus series from creator Alena Smith (“The Affair”), when Emily sits down to write. This is no “I couldn’t help but wonder” Carrie Bradshaw moment, nor is a scene of feverish scrawling, words spilling over in an outpouring of emotion. She’s got an …

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The Kill Team

“The Kill Team,” writer-director Daniel Krauss’ dramatization of actual wartime atrocities by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, is lean, sincere, impassioned filmmaking, yet it fails to leave as much of an impression as it clearly wants to.  Part of the problem is that the movie, while focusing on unique events, takes a form that’s too reminiscent (sometimes knowingly so) of other American movies …

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The Academy and IndieCollect’s Restored Version of Cane River to Screen in LA Friday, November 1st, in Honor of Late Editor Debra Moore

Sandra Schulberg of IndieCollect will present “Cane River,” Horace Jenkins’ recently restored 1982 gem, which screened this past April at Ebertfest, at its historic Los Angeles premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Film Archive on Friday, November 1st (purchase tickets here). The screening will be dedicated to the film’s editor, Debra Moore, who …

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Richard Roeper to Receive the Roger Ebert Award at AAFCA’s Special Achievement Awards Luncheon

We are pleased to announce that Richard Roeper, Roger Ebert’s longtime colleague and cherished co-host on “Ebert & Roeper At The Movies,” will be the latest recipient of the African American Film Critics Association’s (“AAFCA’) Roger Ebert Award. He will be among the class of honorees (Clarence Avant, Sherry Lansing, Niija Kuykendall, Matthew Cherry, Deon Taylor, Kenny Leon …

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Gemini Man: Cinema Made for Generation Z

By the time newly retired hitman Henry Brogan (Will Smith) first lays eyes on his pursuer and younger clone Junior (a digitally de-aged Will Smith) our own eyes are finally adjusting to the 120 frames-per-second 3D photography of Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man”. But this payoff is inherently meta. Consider a later scene where the two …

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Turning It On: Michael Shannon on The Current War

When it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2017, “The Current War,” was not well-received and there were rumors of a clash between director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and producer Harvey Weinstein over the final cut. When Weinstein had his public fall from grace only a couple of weeks later, the film was pulled from the …

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An Arc Towards a Better Future: The Alternate Reality of the Space Race In For All Mankind

June 1969. Around the world, people are watching to see the first man walk on the moon. We see boots emerging from the lunar module … and he speaks. In Russian. “For All Mankind” is an alternate history of the space race, the high-concept, high-budget premiere kicking off the new streaming service from Apple, called …

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For All Mankind is Only a Small Step Forward for Apple TV+

Whether one considers it to be true or not, America prides itself on being the very best. That means that we have have the best minds, the best workers, and the best space program. “For All Mankind,” the new series from Apple TV+ premiering on November 1, posits how this nationwide self-esteem would be challenged …

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Gay Chorus Deep South

“Wake the neighbors, get the word outCome on crank up the music, climb a mountain and shoutThis is life we’ve been given, made to be lived outSo la la la la live out loud” It’s rather amazing, and yet somehow appropriate, that so much religious music written to convey one’s spiritual awakening could easily double, …

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Humanizing These People: Phillip Youmans on Burning Cane

Films mentioning Southern and Black usually engender assumptions of slavery or racism, as though the Black experience ended in 1865. But those elements do not define Phillip Youmans’ incredible dark feature debut “Burning Cane,” which grapples with issues of toxic masculinity, addiction, faith, and religion in a Southern Black Baptist church community. This expansive yet compact …

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Why California’s AB5 Freelancer Law is Frightening to Marginalized Voices

At the end of last year I made the decision to leave my small Sacramento town and move to Los Angeles. Having been a freelance film critic and pop culture essayist for the last decade, I knew it was time to push things to the next level. I decided to turn what I always assumed …

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Apple TV Plus’ The Morning Show Offers A-List Cast But Little Else

Apple TV’s mega-budget, star-studded flagship series “The Morning Show” wants to be the “House of Cards” for the fledgling streaming service. It wants to be the program that puts Apple TV Plus on the map, critically and commercially. Unless something drastically changes after episode three, the last one sent to press for review, this feels …

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#366 October 29, 2019

Matt writes: Passes for the 22nd installment of Roger Ebert’s Film Festival, a.k.a. Ebertfest, in Champaign, Illinois, will go on sale the day after Halloween: Friday, November 1st. Ebertfest 2020 will run from Wednesday, April 15th, through Saturday, April 18th, at the Virginia Theatre and is guaranteed to be an unmissable event for movie lovers of …

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Robert Evans: 1930-2019

It is no exaggeration to say that if the wild life and times of producer Robert Evans had been the invention of a particularly creative screenwriter, most studios probably would have taken a pass on it on the grounds that it was simply too crazy and unlikely to be believed. After all, this is a …

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