Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: The Little Death

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


Writer-director-actor Josh Lawson’s “The Little Death” is a rude rapscallion of an Australian comedy, drawing its title from a French term for orgasm, “le petite mort.” Lawson’s script hits much more than it misses, with bracing bursts of unlikely honesty in overlapping vignettes about five couples, their sexual hopes, fetishes and downfalls, with a sequence of endings that come together in a ravishingly sustained comic climax. (Scenes include masochism, foot fetishism, watching a partner sleep, enjoying a partner crying, roleplaying, obscene phone calls, and a cheery sex offender whose gift of cookies distracts the neighbors when he comes by to notify them he lives nearby.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Inside Out

3-D, Animated, Comedy, Recommended No Comments »



The streamlined storytelling of Pixar’s “Inside Out,” directed by Pete Docter (“Up”), startles for many reasons, but most for the ease with which it executes its improbable premise—“mind workers,” or cartoon figures inside the head of eleven-year-old Riley, and how they define her emotional state—and makes it wholly accessible and very, very funny. Reportedly informed by extensive research with scientists in multiple fields, “Inside Out” is provocative about how emotions and memories drive the other characters as well. The quick glimpses inside Riley’s mother and father’s minds are terrific, too, and the device culminates in one of the most hilarious, logical, inspired, nearly perfect final scenes ever. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Yes Men Are Revolting

Comedy, Documentary, Recommended No Comments »



The aging of the prankster is front and center in “The Yes Men Are Revolting,” the third feature about the half-assed but often convincing hoaxes perpetrated by shameless political activists Mike Bonanno (Jacques Servin) and Andy Bichlbaum (Igor Vamos). It’s a curious place to find two smart clowns like these now-middle-aged media savants, but its meta-meta material about communication and miscommunication between the duo speak to issues both larger and more personal than the economic and political miscreants they target. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Results

Comedy, Recommended No Comments »



After the deeply eccentric singularity of “Computer Chess,” Austin-based screenwriter-director Andrew Bujalski returns to reshaping the relationship comedy with the splendid “Results.” How could he top that haphazard-seeming, cunningly constructed bacchanalia of oddity? By returning to the genre he seems born to work in: comedies of miscommunication, dislocation, and money. (Men and women and the shaggy-dog dance.) Newly rich, out-of-shape and wholeheartedly depressed Danny (Kevin Corrigan) happens into an unlikely romantic triangle at the local gym, owned by guru-wannabe Trevor (Guy Pearce), whose passions include trainer Kat (Cobie Smulders), a former flame. Bujalski’s wit remains devilishly dry, and his portrait of three very prickly souls who can monkey up almost any interaction is sly, lovingly structured yet still unswervingly funny. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Comedy, Drama, Romance No Comments »

Olivia Cooke as "Rachel" and Thomas Mann as "Greg" in ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. Photo by Anne Marie Fox. © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

“I’m, like, innovatively stupid,” says the protagonist of coy Sundance sensation “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl,” amid clever details and a teeming plethora of semi-self-aware verbal asides. But Wes Anderson movies and “Napoleon Dynamite” should require adult supervision before going on any more dates. Chatty and simmering with simple charms, Jesse Andrews’ adaptation of his Pittsburgh-set young adult novel putters along at a dullish roar, nearly likable, not quite causing an annoying itch. Of course other high schoolers would ignore a kid who says things like, it’s “literally like trying to have lunch in Kandahar”! And for a boy like “Me,” there will always be “the part where I panic out of sheer awkwardness.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Farewell Party

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



(Mita Tova) Life, death and laughter erupt at a Jerusalem retirement home when the facts of assisted suicide come into play among five friends in Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit’s bold, measured, but near-impudent “The Farewell Party.” The screenplay’s mix of gallows humor, moral pondering and uplift is deft even in the face of the creation and application of a euthanasia machine, and the acting by Ze’ev Revach, Levana Finkelshtein, Aliza Rozen, Ilan Dar and Rafael Tabor is universally fine. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: I’ll See You In My Dreams

Comedy, Drama, Recommended No Comments »

See you


As the 1990s heyday of the indie film grows more distant, so do the characters of Sundance hits age, including Lily Tomlin’s acerbic turn in the upcoming “Grandma.” In Brett Haley’s pleasant “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” Los Angeles widow and retired schoolteacher Carol (a miraculous Blythe Danner) whose hit-and-miss encounters with men are transformed when she meets Bill, an appreciative man her age (Sam Elliott), as well as a younger pool boy (Martin Starr). Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Film Critic

Comedy, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Why would anyone make a film about a film critic, even in that most analysand-populated city of Buenos Aires? Writer-director Hernán Guerschuny’s “The Film Critic” (El critico) is a dour dark comedy, delicious if jejune, about a disillusioned, middle-aged practitioner of sour cinematic criticism, and a pretty good one. It starts with Víctor (Rafael Spregelburd), a Porteño beardo akin to a figure in a Nanni Moretti film, having a recurrent interior monologue with himself in French. Guerschuny is onto minor-key cinephilic self-deception lived as daily life. “I don’t think cinema is pushing the envelope, I think it’s dead,” he says as if anyone’s listening. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Filmmaker “Bar Talks” At Chicago Underground Film Festival

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Events, Festivals, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »
L for Leisure

“L For Leisure”

As moderator of the festival’s fourth edition of “Bar Talks,” I can’t formally review what’s in store in the five days of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, but I’d like to indicate the goals of the annual “Bar Talks,” four extended filmmaker/audience conversations, especially in light of the notably consistent focus on atmosphere, mood and elusive narratives in the feature and shorts programming at the twenty-second edition of CUFF, the world’s longest-running underground film festival. The “bar talks,” taking place in the Logan Lounge at the Logan Theatre, are informal gatherings of local and guest filmmakers, with conversation the intention without the ping-pong of panel-like proclaiming. The talks may run an hour, or even an hour-and-a-half, depending on how much everyone has on their mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: About Elly

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



A woman goes missing by the sea: the stuff of “L’Avventura,” Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 masterpiece, but also of contemporary Iranian master Asghar Farhadi’s 2009 “About Elly,” only now getting a U. S. release after clearing rights issues. As with his Oscar-winning 2011 “A Separation” and 2013’s “The Past,” Farhadi examines pressures on the modern middle class of Iran, but with visual fluidity and geometric acuity, and “Elly” is the best of these three. Farhadi’s statement of intention, that “a film must open a space in which the public can involve themselves in a personal reflection” is less lucid than any succession of frames in his film. Read the rest of this entry »