Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

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: 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: 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 »

Review: I Smile Back

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Adam Salky’s “I Smile Back,” written by Paige Dylan and Amy Koppelman, offers Sarah Silverman (based on a 2008 novel by Koppelman) a plum role as Laney Brooks, a privileged New Jersey housewife, a mother with two kids, whose lifelong depression deepens as she self-medicates with drinking and drugs. Silverman’s dramatic bona fides have always glimmered around the corners of her small, sly smirk-smiles, and in Sarah Polley’s 2011 “Take This Waltz,” she shared a couple of that drama’s darkest scenes. And while it seems she has nothing to prove as a performer, her habitation of this dark, destructive character is more than impressive, it’s stark and stirring. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Victoria

Action, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



A young woman’s out clubbing one night in Berlin, and people she meets propel her into becoming the getaway driver for a bank robbery. Simple, and simpler: The single, unbroken take that is “Victoria,” lasting two hours and eighteen minutes, is taut, assured and oft-dazzling enough to rise above any sundry accusation of gimmickry. (The real time duration is indicated as between 4:30am and 6:48am.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Love

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


While the Music Box isn’t showing Gaspar Noé’s newest provocation in its intended 3D, the sex act and concomitant fluids are still going to be in your face in “Love.” The simpler, more elemental Noé’s films become, the more touching they are, especially in this puppyish idyll of fucking as everyday transcendence, rather than transgression. Noé’s sweet heart melts on screen without the vibrant visual innovation of “Enter The Void” or the brutal punishing-of-the-innocent of “Irreversible.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Trumbo

Comedy, Drama, Recommended No Comments »


Jay Roach’s shift from broad comedy (the “Austin Powers” pictures, “Meet the Parents”) to lower-key, politically tinged comedy (“Game Change,” “The Campaign,” “Recount”) is a cheering one, even if small scale. The splendidly acted while tonally eccentric “Trumbo” engages all sorts of adult concerns missing from movies these days, not limited to gently dramatizing the life of one of the most colorful characters affected by the late 1940s and 1950s Hollywood blacklist. Bryan Cranston’s a crotchety character actor all the way here, making for a more modest performance than his “Breaking Bad” life-changer, but there’s a keen twinkle here that pops up sporadically among all the other real-life, if not necessarily true-to-life figures. Read the rest of this entry »