Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Good Kill

Drama, Recommended No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

“Good Kill” is the latest in a career built on conceptual, morally centered, God-playing pictures from writer-director Andrew Niccol (“The Truman Show,” “Gattaca”), a drama starring Ethan Hawke as a disaffected American Air Force drone operator. The tone is curiously still, but seldom inert, filled with didactic dialogue from Bruce Greenwood as Hawke’s boss. “How’s the war on terror going?” “Same as your war on drugs.” The effect, mimicking the vegetation of Hawke’s flyboy who longs to the return to the sky instead of the metal hut outside Las Vegas from which he targets suspects and launches missiles is hypnotic and damning nonetheless. Tonally, it’s a little like an Atom Egoyan film blanched, drained and set on the sideboard for a while (but in a good way). Storywise, tact and intelligence take the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: I’ll See You In My Dreams

Comedy, Drama, Recommended No Comments »

See you

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Six Degrees of “Animals”: On the Making of an Acclaimed, Made-in-Chicago Indie

Chicago Artists, Drama, The State of Cinema No Comments »

animals-01

By Brian Hieggelke

This is a story about a movie with a Hollywood ending. The Hollywood ending, however, is not in the movie itself, but rather in the real life of its principal creator—screenwriter and co-lead actor David Dastmalchian. And the Hollywood ending in question took place long before this movie, “Animals,” got made. Though it certainly puts a cherry on top of the David Dastmalchian story. Because, though it’s fiction, the story in “Animals,” of a pair of young lovers, Jude and Bobbie, deep in the throes of heroin addiction and living in a car mostly around Lincoln Park Zoo, is Dastmalchian’s story in every sense. He lived it.

After premiering successfully at SXSW last spring, where it won Dastmalchian a special jury award for Courage in Storytelling, “Animals” was the talk of the filmmaking world in Chicago last year, even before it gained theatrical release. A very low-budget film with minimal financial expectations by Hollywood box-office standards, it had a catalytic effect. Every week, it seemed, I met someone who’d worked on it, helped produce it. Six Degrees of “Animals.”

Dastmalchian grew up in Kansas and came to study at the DePaul Theatre School, where he graduated in 1999. He set out to become an active presence in Chicago theater before his descent into addiction eventually shut him down. His friend and chief creative partner in “Animals,” director Collin Schiffli, is about ten years his junior; they met on the “other side,” when Dastmalchian had tamed his demons and, remarkably, had been cast for a small but noteworthy role in “The Dark Knight.” (This summer, he plays a much bigger role in Marvel’s mega-budget “Ant-Man.”) Schiffli headed to the film department at Columbia College after growing up in Indiana. Both Dastmalchian and Schiffli live in Los Angeles now, for work reasons, but “Animals” is a Chicago film in nearly every sense. We discussed its making in detail over lunch precisely a year before its theatrical release this week, when they were in town for its Chicago premiere as the closing night film of the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival at the Music Box, where they packed its large auditorium. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Soul Boys Of The Western World

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Spandau Ballet press session 2014

Spandau Ballet press session 2014

RECOMMENDED

George Hencken’s cheeky, splendidly edited “Soul Boys of the Western World” draws on ample archive footage and contemporary reminiscence to capture the 1980s post-punk New Romantic pop era that produced bands like Duran Duran, Ultravox and Spandau Ballet with their synthesizer-infused hits “True” and “Gold.” It’s many steps above a “Behind The Music” episode, with far more positive history to relate than tales of broken hearts and emptied wallets. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: She’s Lost Control

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Sheslostcontrol

RECOMMENDED

“Do not feel safe with me”: words of caution when nearing affection, hardly love, from Ronah, the graduate student/sex surrogate protagonist of Anja Marquardt’s accomplished “She’s Lost Control.” Brooke Bloom’s smudged performance is the brooding center of this anxious, chilly Manhattan-set thriller, but Marquardt’s bruised, intent visual style deepens and darkens the moods and alienates the figures of the characters by the moment. It’s the coldest depiction of an inhumane New York City I’ve seen since Lodge Kerrigan’s 1998 “Claire Dolan.” 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 »

about-elly

RECOMMENDED

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

Comedy, Drama, Recommended No Comments »

Queen_and_Country

RECOMMENDED

“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 »

Review: Tangerines

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

Tangerines

RECOMMENDED

The 2014 Foreign Language Oscar nominee with the lowest profile, the modest, graceful, glowingly shot Estonian-Georgian “Tangerines” (Mandariinid) is a splendid example of a narrative drawing the larger picture from a small one, capturing the effects of Eastern European civil wars on an average man after the fall of the Soviet Union. Writer-director Zaza Urushadze’s story is set in the separatist region of Abkhazia as war between Georgia and the region’s ethnic Estonians approaches, but the politics fade into smaller schemes, as a rural tangerine grower (graceful, poignantly expressive Lembit Ulfsak) takes two wounded fighters, one from each side of the conflict, into his home after a deadly battle. If they recover, they’ll likely try to kill each other. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Welcome To New York

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Depardieu

RECOMMENDED

Once while interviewing the now-sober, not-then-sober Abel Ferrara, we reminisced on a particular moment in the “Bad Lieutenant” when Harvey Keitel’s so-bad cop displayed himself to a couple of young girls he’d pulled over in a traffic stop. “Heh-heh,” Ferrara said, “The L-T was rockin’ it!” Whenever Ferrara finds moments to pull from the fire, especially in his erratic recent work, I just think of that heh-heh. With “Welcome to New York,” Ferrara is indeed again rockin’ it, with a theme-and-variation on the facts of the alleged sex crimes committed by banker and former International Monetary Fund head and once-potential French president Dominique Strauss-Kahn. It’s a deeply disturbing, calibrated unhinged, compulsively careering portrait of entitlement. Read the rest of this entry »