Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: 99 Homes

Chicago Artists, Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Michael Shannon simmers at a lower temperature than many of his film roles in “99 Homes,” Ramin Bahrani’s punchy, persuasive combination of fierce polemic and widescreen genre filmmaking. Shannon plays the appositely named Rick Carver, a reprobate realtor flipping homes in Florida, with Andrew Garfield a single father who slides into his infernal orbit after archetypal modern financial setbacks, facilitating forced evictions of other families. Bahrani, a favorite of the late Roger Ebert and friend of Werner Herzog, makes bold moves here from his neo-neorealist origins in movies like “Man Push Cart” and “Goodbye Solo.” I’m predisposed to movies that mesh topical elements with classical movie form—not all of the “one percent” might own ninety-nine homes, only enough not to count, like John McCain—and Bahrani meets the challenge to oft-fiery result, making blunt political points amid genre-amped melodrama. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wim Wenders On The Road Again

Drama, Events, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

“Alice in the Cities.”


Through October and November, “Wim Wenders On The Road Again,” eleven digitally restored features and six shorts, including Wenders’ 295-minute directors’ cut of his 1992 worldwide walkabout, will be shown at Siskel. The peripatetic German filmmaker’s comprehensive retrospective begins with the wistful “Alice in the Cities” (October 2-3), the long-unavailable Peter Handke-scripted “The Goalie’s Anxiety At The Penalty Kick” (October 3, 7) and “Kings of the Road” (October 10, 14), the magisterial, melancholy odyssey of two projector repairmen along the border between East and West Germany. In the course of time, Wim Wenders’ movies have meant as much to me as the work of any other filmmaker. “The American Friend,” “Kings of the Road,” even “The State of Things” were so compelling to this young moviegoer. Laconic but cosmopolitan, dreamy yet tactile. Melancholy. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Cut

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



For a widescreen English-language epic, Fatih Akin’s “The Cut” is emotionally reticent, suggesting sweep while also holding close to its central character, an Armenian blacksmith named Nazaret (Tahar Rahim, “A Prophet”). The forty-two-year-old German-Turkish director is a resourceful collector of the sounds and sensations of the contemporary world in movies like “Head-On” (2004) and “Soul Kitchen” (2009), but there are only a few vividly imagined moments in the muted, somber passage a hundred years ago of Nazaret from the Armenian genocide in his Turkish home village to across the world in search of his two daughters, who may also still be alive. Muted by a stab wound, Nazaret crosses the globe, to Cuba, to North Dakota, hopeful, wide-eyed, silent against terrible things in the world. Metaphors compound and resound in what’s ultimately a most honorable failure. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Saving Mr. Wu

Action, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Gleaming, elementally machined, Ding Sheng’s “Saving Mr. Wu” stars Andy Lau (“Infernal Affairs”) in a crackling true-life thriller based on a 2004 case about a celebrity kidnapped by men disguised as policemen who demand a half-million dollar ransom in less than a day. Beijing’s police marshal a task force and move across the hours toward the inevitable showdown, which is cleanly choreographed. Read the rest of this entry »

Man Again On Wire: Take A Walk On The Mild Side

3-D, Comedy, Drama 1 Comment »

Joseph Gordon Levitt;Charlotte Le Bon

By Ray Pride

Climbing the steep, steep stairs to the top of Navy Pier IMAX to see “The Walk” in 3D, I anticipated, nay, hoped for kinetic, gyroscopic, balletic, vertiginous acrophobia, soaring sensation, but dammit, only a few minutes into the movie the sensation that occurred, recurred, resonated until the very end, was only a modest sinking feeling.

Robert Zemeckis’ astute, painstaking deployment of the widescreen frame is one of the most consistent technical accomplishments by a contemporary American filmmaker, but the story here is overripe with a forlorn eagerness to please. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Brilliant Young Mind

Drama, Recommended 1 Comment »



Teenage math prodigy Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is confused by the world around him after his father’s death, finding patterns and comfort only in numbers. Inspired by teens director Morgan Matthews met, “A Brilliant Young Mind” moves from England to Taiwan and back again as Nathan trains to compete in the International Mathematics Olympiad, and becomes fixed on a beautiful Chinese competitor, Zhang Mei (Jo Yang). (Danny Cohen’s cinematography is at its most inventive in the Taipei settings.) An admirable aspect of the screenplay by James Graham is just what an arrogant kid Nathan can be, shy, grim, still, capturing the difficulties faced by some situated along the autistic spectrum. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The New Girlfriend

Comedy, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


(Une nouvelle amie) François Ozon’s sixteenth (or so) feature works the quirk in love and lingerie in “The New Girlfriend,” a comic psychological thriller about a man (Romain Duris) who embraces transvestite leanings after the death of his wife with the help of her childhood best friend (Anaïs Demoustier). A tenuous friendship ensues, with complications left and right. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Time Out Of Mind

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Richard Gere, silver-haired but hardly a silver fox, is solo on the streets of Manhattan, homeless, at wit’s end, in “Time Out Of Mind,” a tough but optimistic drama by Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”). Blank, understated, spent, Gere’s rendition of mentally troubled middle-aged George is largely one of defeat: of time, of mind, of family bonds. He’s estranged from daughter Maggie (Jena Malone), and their potential reunion is one of the few slivers of plot or tension in an atmospheric portrayal of life on the street, although measured in strongly formal visual compositions, using reflections and frames, suggesting a life so diminished that it can only be observed from a remove. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Gabriel

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Onscreen troubled-teen torments oft-times follow familiar patterns, but all is transcended when an actor like Rory Culkin sets to a role with such ardor, such wide-eyed, hollow-faced habitation. In “Gabriel,” writer-director Lou Howe’s fine feature debut, twenty-five-year-old Gabe (his favored diminutive) ill-advisedly hopes to stalk his long-unseen childhood sweetheart (Emily Meade) while on a furlough from a mental hospital. Wintry, bruise-bleak, brood-drenched, “Gabriel” pulses with its protagonist’s eddying damage, a splendid vessel for Gabe’s suicidal urges, meds-shedding and diverse bipolar-inflected woes. Howe, using different means, is as intent as Lodge Kerrigan in his brutal psychological unravelings, “Keane” and “Clean, Shaven.” “Gabriel” is a different sort of stunner. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Second Mother

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Contemporary São Paulo is the setting for Anna Muylaert’s “The Second Mother” (Que Horas Ela Volta?), a warm, simple, soon complicated, and in the end, often comic and sometimes moving contemplation of what “family” means in a modern world. Is household help part of the household? Let alone the family, as an unacknowledged surrogate mother? (“Upstairs Downstairs” looks like an appealing title in Portuguese: “Escada Acima Escada Abaixo,” but “The Second Mother” will do just fine.) As the housekeeper to an upper-class family with a teenage son, comedienne Regina Casé is vital and present in every moment, especially the minuscule and picayune humiliations that have compounded for years. But she is especially fine when her own nineteen-year-old daughter (Camila Márdila), whom she supports by being a nanny-mother-drudge, comes to visit. Read the rest of this entry »