Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

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 »

Review: Queen And Country

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“Queen and Country,” the likely last testament of vibrant filmmaker John Boorman, at eighty-two, is a likeable, low-key sequel to his Oscar-nominated, autobiographical 1987 “Hope and Glory,” this time set in 1952 Britain during the Korean War. The episodic storytelling flows at the serene pace of a river, but the details of the landscape along the way are pungent and oft-surprising. Boorman has sustained a career of mountainous high points (the mid-Pop expressionist gangster hallucination “Point Blank”; the deep waters of male anxiety in “Deliverance”) to valleys of incomprehensibility (“Exorcist II: The Heretic”), yet there’s a muted calm to this lovingly cast, beautifully shot time capsule, capturing passing time instead of his recurrent project of undertaking the making of primal myth. Read the rest of this entry »

The Devil, Probably: Good, Evil and the Return of Hal Hartley

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Aubrey Plaza as Susan Weber in NED RIFLE, directed by Hal Hartley

By Ray Pride

What was indie? What was this thing, “indie film”?

In the 1990s, Hal Hartley passed for it: a deadpan pasticheur from Long Island who liked French movies and poker-faced piquant variations in highly verbal comedies drawing from Godard and Gallic epigrammatists, dropping in complications a la screwball comedy with just a smattering of vulgar provocations. A modest, blunt, elemental visual style. Simplicity and directness. And catchphrases like “There’s no such thing as adventure and romance, only trouble and desire.” Yeah, that becalmed romanticism spoke to me and the yet younger me inside the movie-mad me. But indie didn’t last.

Hartley nourished a modest following—perhaps only a certain stripe of film critics? A few neurotic romantics here and there across the land?—with his 1989 debut, “The Unbelievable Truth” and on through “Trust,” the short feature “Surviving Desire,” “Simple Men,” “Amateur” and “Flirt.” While none of those movies made true money, Hartley’s earliest films were distributed by Miramax in that go-go decade for the Weinstein brothers’ first company, and even Sony Pictures Classics got into the mix with the Isabelle Huppert-starring “Amateur.” While there’s been a gap in both quantity and quality in his output, Hartley’s twelfth feature, “Ned Rifle” (a pseudonym Hartley has used for his minimal, melancholy scores) is out, partially financed by Kickstarter and primarily distributed on Vimeo with big-screen showings in a handful of cities including Chicago. I don’t want to even think of how few dollars are involved in an enterprise like this, which as a late-century debut might have been a $50,000 film and a couple projects along, a million-dollar one. But “Ned Rifle”? A confident yet very, very self-effacing fable. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: While We’re Young

Comedy, Recommended No Comments »



After he tries on a new personality borne of new, younger friends, “You’re an old man with a hat,” middle-aged Josh Srebnick (Ben Stiller) is told by his stay-at-home dad friend, Fletcher (Adam Horovitz). In “While We’re Young,” his eighth feature, Noah Baumbach goes the Woody Allen ensemble route in a two-thirds likable variation of “Crimes & Misdemeanors,” in which two generations of documentarians search for “truth” and “authenticity” in different measure. Josh, frantic and at clueless loose ends as so many Baumbach protagonists are, is married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts), seemingly happy, soaked in wine and regret for not having had children. She’s also the daughter of an esteemed elder documentarian, whose mentoring Josh has rejected in the near-decade of working on an interminable documentary project about the notions of a weedy Noam Chomsky stand-in. Josh and Cornelia meet a younger couple, Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried), callow twentysomethings who open a window to the couple’s passed youth. Baumbach does a rich, comic job with the contrasts between the couples, capturing both middle-aged lightheadedness and callow youth with a simmer of sociological precision. (There are small, savory tastes of several other filmmakers here, notably Mazursky and Swanberg.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Chappie

Comedy, Political, Recommended, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Science Fiction 1 Comment »



“Chappie” is cheeky. Or, Punk as fuck, or maybe “Zef as fuck.” Co-writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s third Johannesburg-set feature is not the robot movie anyone watching the coming attractions might have expected. (The film’s pre-opening Wednesday-night screenings for critics across the country were followed by a wave of harsh, obstinate commentary on Twitter that meant to kill.) Many of the scenes, plus a wanton vocabulary of variations on “muthafuckah” and “Jesus Christ,” are more purposeful provocation rather than an internationally legible pop fable. (Along with some very suggestive sentiments about the mind-body divide.) Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: European Union Film Festival/Siskel Film Center

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



The city’s most teemingly eclectic film festival attains its majority with its eighteenth edition: sixty-one new features from twenty-seven countries. Highlights include the Oscar-submitted films from six nations, including Hungary’s expressive canine fable, “White God” and entries from Austria, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Spain. New work by established directors like Ettore Scola, Jessica Hausner, Bruno Dumont and Christian Petzold are scheduled. Other highlights: “The Life Of Riley,” which may not be shown otherwise in Chicago, the final film by the great Alain Resnais, released when he was ninety-one, is another one of his meta-theatrical, semi-surrealist japes. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Maps To The Stars

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Maps to the Stars


In “Maps to the Stars,” the fluent severity of David Cronenberg’s frames (shot, as customary, by Peter Suschitzky) matches elegantly to the linguistically bedizened, behaviorally fetid prose of his good friend, novelist Bruce Wagner. (“Clea’s face was like a Tornado Alley weathervane—the tremble before the wild-ass spin,” reads a typical description in 2005’s “The Chrysanthemum Palace.”) This is not the Hollywood satire some have taken it for, but instead, a four-hankie dry weep for the soul of a society where sensation high and low cannot match urge and habit. (Incest; pistols; endangered pets; fire that burns but does not yet physically consume; Klonopin, Romeo + Juliet; fame! O fame; “deathless American icons,” self-delusion; the lurid as quotidian.) Read the rest of this entry »