Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

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: The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »



Nearly fifty years after the founding of the Black Panthers, Stanley Nelson’s dense, comprehensive, yet brisk and vital “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” presents a lucid portrait of the group’s formation and the ideals and ambitions of the women and men who comprised it. (As well as the government forces arrayed against them, including the FBI, and its documented, concerted campaign to destroy them.) Veteran documentarian Stanley Nelson had hoped his impressive work wouldn’t arrive at a moment as conflicted as the present. 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 »

Review: Sleeping With Other People

Comedy, Recommended No Comments »


Comedy complications arise when two ex-lovers who lost their virginity to each other in college (Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie) meet again ten years later at a sexual addiction group and attempt to kindle a friendship after comparing similarly spotty relationship histories. Yes, it’s a knowing variation on “When Harry Met Sally.” Read the rest of this entry »

Reeling in the Years: Chicago’s Long-Running LGBTQ Film Fest At Thirty-Three

Chicago Artists, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Events, Festivals, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »
"Beautiful Something"

“Beautiful Something”

By Ray Pride

There’s no official number of how many film festivals there are in Chicago, or even a readily agreed-upon definition of how many films and events constitute a true “festival,” but in its thirty-third year, Reeling, the Chicago “LGBTQ+” International Film Festival, is definitely one of the most resilient (and the nation’s second oldest, after San Francisco’s Frameline).

“Film festivals not only continue to be relevant, despite the onslaught of choices for entertainment,” founder and executive director Brenda Webb tells me. “In some ways, they are more relevant than ever because of their curatorial role and promotional functions.”

An example of that is how small films that debut on Netflix (not heavily advertised and hyped series) never gain social traction, there’s little conversation in the larger culture, only cold, cryptic algorithms guessing what will satisfy every given view. Webb agrees. “There may be many more choices of films to see online and on television than ever before, but given the noise of overwhelming choices, audiences need to tune into which films to spend their time seeing.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Mend

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



I’ve been waiting for “The Mend.” I didn’t know I was, but now I’ve seen it, I know I’ve needed “The Mend.” If you wind up feeling the same way, I hope I get to know you. John Magary’s directorial debut is dauntingly, tumultuously, blindingly, batshit great. In modern-day New York, a figure arrives in our consciousness, after the shattering shards of a hopeless, hapless shrieking match of a breakup. He has had a drunk or a few. Then we find him, Mat (Josh Lucas), on a couch, at a party, he’s all-but-homeless, a couch surfer, someone’s brother, kind of a ruffian, certainly a hairball. And a talker. He does not chat. He holds forth. He’s an American parallel to the bleak wisecracker named Johnny at the center of Mike Leigh’s apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic “Naked” (1993), beyond offensive, from bullshit beyond shibboleths, articulating misery or misgivings to everyone reluctantly around him, repellently magnetic. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dreamcatcher

Chicago Artists, Documentary, Recommended No Comments »



British filmmaker Kim Longinotto has produced a sterling roster of some of the most fierce documentaries about women around the world, but “Dreamcatcher,” her vérité portrait of former sex worker and community counselor Brenda Myers-Powell, may be even more compelling than “Divorce, Iranian Style” and “Rough Aunties,” in no small part because of the dynamic, even transfixing presence of Myers-Powell on the inner-city streets of Chicago and at her Dreamcatcher foundation, which assists at-risk women. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Meru

Documentary, Recommended, Sports No Comments »


Terror: give it a new name, call it “Meru.” Instead of don’t look in the basement, do… not… look… down… Speaking specifically as a male acrophobe, Jimmy Chin and E. Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary is achingly beautiful, eye-widening and testicle-tautening. The two-trek telling follows three American climbers (including Chin, also co-cinematographer), in a second attempt to reach the as-then unconquered 21,000-foot pinnacle of the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru above the headwaters of the Ganges River in India. Few have seen the vistas, the time-lapse perspectives are mesmerizing, and Jon Krakauer’s punchy, often prosaic commentary still manages to situate the compulsion and obsession of the deadly sport into larger contexts. Read the rest of this entry »