Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: In Jackson Heights

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »



Obstinate, observant, a sculptor of modest cathedrals from the simplest materials—humans in their interactions—eighty-five-year-old Frederick Wiseman has fashioned another lilting, longitudinal look at community. The community, in this case, is the multi-multicultural community “In Jackson Heights,” in New York City, an agglomeration, it’s estimated, of at least 167 languages (of which English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi are represented onscreen). The New Yorker’s Richard Brody assumed a limb and climbed upon it earlier this month when he wrote, “if the end-of-year lists were to be made today, ‘In Jackson Heights’ would be a contender for Best Screenplay. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Takin’ Place

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Recommended No Comments »



South Side camera-eye Cyrus Dowlatshahi trains his traveled gaze on the Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods in the documentary “Takin’ Place.” Along the streets, on sidewalks, backyards, in homes and in cars, Dowlatshahi listens with a sensitive ear and watches with a highly talented post-vérité gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Creed

Action, Drama, Recommended, Sports No Comments »



It’s been too long since a movie has come out of the gate as a plainspoken crowd-pleaser. (Especially after the pile-up in the past couple months of commercial and esthetic misfires from the studios.) But twenty-nine-year-0ld Ryan Coogler’s second feature (after the vivid, emotional tragedy of “Fruitvale Station”) brings it all home with “Creed,” the seventh movie featuring Sylvester Stallone as Philly palooka turned sentimental champ, Rocky Balboa. The first film was almost forty years ago, which means sixty-nine-year-old Stallone was just about Coogler’s age when John Avildsen directed “Rocky” in 1976. Playing the son of one of Rocky’s most memorable adversaries—the title tells the lineage from Apollo to Adonis—Michael B. Jordan surpasses the dignity of his down-to-earth role in “Fruitvale Station” with a go-for-broke range of emotions, dealing with ambition, talent, legacy, romance in all its written variations. Stallone? At his minimalist best as a man of the streets, shouldering years of quiet living: where has this fine actor been hiding these recent years? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Cool Apocalypse

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Drama, Recommended 1 Comment »


Shot in a forgiving high-contrast black-and-white, Michael Glover Smith’s day-in-the-Chicago-life romance has the flick-of-the-wrist directness of city locations—streets and storefronts, recognizable sorts of apartments and back porches, the El and bookstores, Formica-table cafes—but also hopeful investment in conversational cul-de-sacs, the kind of “tension-filled banter” of classical local improv. Nineteenth-century literature does battle with distracted females; a bookstore clerk who brags on not having a computer plots contemporary writing. I’ve seen worse arguments and overheard even worse, and I’d hardly like to be stuck in a room or around a dinner table with any of the quartet of protagonists, but they’d probably say the same about bickering I’ve been a part of. There’s truth in the underbrush. Read the rest of this entry »

Partly Like It’s 1999: The Twenty-Five Years, Four Hours And Forty-Seven Minutes “Until The End Of The World”

Comedy, Drama, Events, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »

UEW06cWWSBy Ray Pride

“Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me. I’m thinking of the days, I won’t forget a single day…” are words sung in an emotional crescendo near the end of “Until The End of the World,” a Kinks song sungalong in the middle of the night on the bottom of the planet at what a raft of characters believe is already of the end of civilization as they know it, as Wim Wenders and his co-writers Peter Carey and Solveig Dommartin anticipate. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Poem Is A Naked Person

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »


Lost films rediscovered: the very concept makes me shiver about the future of documentary and narrative movies being made today. There will be no lost films rediscovered; all but the most well tended digital materials will be technically illegible in years. So a separate reason to celebrate the worthiness of a “lost” Les Blank film, the loving doodle of “A Poem Is A Naked Person,” a 1974 documentary of sorts about the music of Leon Russell. Russell didn’t like the free-associative free-for-all Blank had made of his music and the moment and held the film back for four decades. But now, after Blank’s 2013 passing, we’ve got the weird and wondrous artifact at hand. Shot while hanging out with Russell across two years, “Poem” wriggles with weirdness and smells to high heaven of its 1970s roots. (Russell handily out-weirds fellow Oklahoma troubadour Wayne Coyne at most turns.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Entertainment

Comedy, Drama, Recommended No Comments »


Is the title ironic, blunt, provocative—what is this thing called “Entertainment”? Plangent existential horror of an excruciating order, Rick Alverson’s “Entertainment” may have been the most difficult movie at Sundance not to bolt from in heaving sobs commingled with hapless howls. It is to suffer. An unholy reckoning of Gregg Turkington’s most failed of failed-comics-character Neil Hamburger, the can’t-go-on-must-go-on despair of Beckett, the fractured, broken-down landscapes of Don DeLillo’s novels or an Antonioni film, “Entertainment” places hysteria front-and-center in “hysterical” and “scream” into squeamish. Turkington lavishes his scalp with unguent and spray, dons a comb-over as skullcap, drinks and drinks from so many cocktail glasses, wanders through unlikely tourist attractions consisting of ruins under the bright desert sun, by night telling his brutal insult jokes to audiences who have armor for skin, and late, late at night attempting to reach his young daughter on the phone. It’s the closest emulation of a waking nightmare in an American movie in a very long time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In The Basement

Documentary, Recommended, Reviews, World Cinema No Comments »



If you know the work of the Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl, the mere title “In The Basement” should prompt inappropriate giggles. His visits with countrymen who love their basements and the things they keep down there will also prompt inappropriate barks of horrified laughter. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Brooklyn

Drama, Recommended, Romance No Comments »


Gifted Irish child actress Saoirse Ronan earns a simpler descriptor with her tender performance in “Brooklyn”: gifted actress. Her features refined, along with the instincts seen onscreen, Ronan plays Eilis Lacey, a woman who travels from Ireland to New York City in the 1950s. She leaves behind a complicated life in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, but America, with new opportunities for work, and for romance, and then an emergency return home complicates things further. Adapted from Colm Tóibín’s fine bestseller by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About A Boy”) with elemental grace, and directed by theater-trained John Crowley (“Intermission,” “Boy A”), “Brooklyn” is old-fashioned in its care for craft and basic compassion for the emotional quandaries facing its emigrant characters. Read the rest of this entry »

Fetching a Bonehead: At The Heart of Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog”

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »
Photo by Ray Pride.

Photo: Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

“Hello, little bonehead. I’ll love you forever.”

Laurie Anderson’s “Heart of a Dog” opens with the identifiable twinkling cadences of her voice, a wonder-struck performative instrument that bears traces of her Glen Ellyn upbringing. She’s saying goodbye to someone she loved: her rat terrier Lolabelle. It’s a winsome, plainspoken, concrete, elusive wonder of an essay film about loss and grief. Lolabelle is the second lead, after the murmurs and venturing of her voice, but that’s not all. Someone named Lou is at the heart of it, even when his presence is only in our consciousness. “Heart of a Dog” invokes Buddhism and 9/11 and living in Manhattan afterwards and the modern surveillance state and many matters both earthbound and otherworldly, and it’s also a stream of consciousness that literally invokes water and rain and snow and bodies of water, writing atop writing, layerings of images, a palimpsest of inscribing atop inscriptions, as well as splendid sound, overlapping strands of music of polyphonic charm, as well as her voice, always her voice, insistent as ragged memory. Read the rest of this entry »