Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Leviathan

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



Bearing a mantel of authenticity as heavy as rain itself, the allegorical weight of “Leviathan” is both lyrical and blunt, compacted experience suggestive of many things, some mystical and some merely sodden, and not entirely drawn from the book of Job. The grimness of Putin’s post-Soviet project is draped upon the shoulders of one honorable auto mechanic whose family home on a prime stretch along the Bering Sea is about to be taken by a drunken, corrupt politician. Andrey Zvyagintsev hardly bothers to disguise his momentous, taut allegory of world-weariness in contemporary Russia, nor his interest in ever larger, ever-unanswerable questions. Tempers simmer, imbibe, combust, with righteously apocalyptic fury. Did I mention that it might also be the year’s most accomplished black comedy? Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Remote Area Medical

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »



Why is universal healthcare considered radical, even un-American in some quarters? That’s not the subject of Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman’s quietly urgent, painfully of-the-moment “Remote Area Medical,” an observational documentary that leans into three days of the title organization’s encampment at Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway. There’s no preaching here, only a selection of the amassing figures. Thousands of nearby citizens line up from the darkest hours of the morning to receive the most basic of medical and dental attention. “We don’t have jobs here, and the jobs that are available aren’t paying living wages,” we hear. Are we in a third-world country? (RAM began its activities aiding the dispossessed of other nations.) No, just the greater mid-South: America. The structuring of incident and character sneaks up on you: this is one of the most Altmanesque of large-cast nonfiction films, yet infused with a tenderness, a quiet dismay that Altman never cared for. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Predestination

Drama, Recommended, Romance No Comments »



Simple strangeness is in short supply in twenty-first-century wide-release movies, but the sibling directorial directing team of Michael and Peter Spierig (“Daybreakers,” 2009; “Undead,” 2003) deliver again with their bits-and-pieces approach to low-budget surfaces and spaces. “Predestination”‘s conceptually clever, if ultimately confusing tale quietly accommodates some serious gender-bending, drawn from Robert A. Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies.” The plotting has its wonky similarities to the likes of “Timecop” and “Looper” and any number of time-carving trick narratives. Still, twists both blatant and teasing motor the mystery along, and a cannily termite performance by Ethan Hawke as a bartender-cum-enforcer is surpassed by Sarah Snook as a patron-cum-storyteller who may be the punchline to his very own story, one final time. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Selma

Biopic, Drama, Recommended No Comments »



History, written in lightning: writer-director Ava DuVernay’s third feature, the understated yet righteously furious “Selma,” beautifully dramatizes and contains a few crucial months in the civil-rights movement and the life of Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo, electric). It’s 1965 in Alabama, but “Selma” moves with the immediacy of the present tense. King and other organizers are orchestrating mass marches to support voting rights, starting from Selma, after the 1963 church bombings that killed four small girls, to the capital of Montgomery. DuVernay observes the larger sweep, but also smaller details: this is not a History Lesson (except in a few tiny instants) nor are her characters Historical Figures. (“Selma” and Oyelowo’s accomplishment is even greater once you account for the copyright on the speeches of King that prevented their incorporation except by allusion.) Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Winter Sleep

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »



“Winter Sleep,” the great Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s mesmerizing fifteen-years-in-conception Cannes Palme d’Or-winning chamber epic doesn’t waste a breath in its 196 minutes. Ceylan (“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia,” “Climates”) is as loving in painting panoramas of the Turkish landscape as in detailing the contours of the intense psychology of its characters. Aydin, an hotelier in the ruggedly beautiful central Anatolian region of Cappadocia, has a dissatisfied younger wife, and his sister is staying with them after a divorce. Winter arrives. Shelter is tenuous, the landscape demanding, conversations ensue, persist, roll on with the beautiful power of an ancient stream. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Drama, Recommended, Romance No Comments »


“A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” was one of Sundance 2014’s sweetest surprises, a confident widescreen, black-and-white Farsi-language all-American debut, a bracing post-punk blend of vampire iconography, the spaghetti western, Kaurismäki-like sorrowfulness, Jarmusch-worthy equipoise, shot in Bakersfield, California, which passes for the nocturnal reaches “Bad City,” Iran. Ana Lily Amirpour’s politically suggestive feature debut is ripe with eye-widening joy from its first frames, its pacing alternately languorous and coiled, the graphic-novel-like imagery emerging and evolving with surrealist stealth. In Amirpour’s own excitable words about her tender, melancholy achievement, “It’s like Sergio Leone and David Lynch had an Iranian rock ‘n’ roll baby, and then Nosferatu came and babysat for them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Way He Looks

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


The true Belle & Sebastian movie of 2014 isn’t frontman Stuart Murdoch’s own “God Help The Girl,” but the modest, understated “The Way He Looks” (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho), Brazil’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Daniel Ribeiro’s slightly corny, proficiently visualized coming-of-age tale floats on the strains of B&S’ music as he imagines a triangle between a blind boy, his best female friend and the new boy in school. The characters are gay, but it’s no big deal, much like most of what passes before the camera. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Pelican Dreams

Documentary No Comments »

CA brown pelicans flyingRECOMMENDED

Documentarian Judy Irving follows up her 2003 documentary hit, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” with another gentle avian adventure by the Bay, the charming, affectionate “Pelican Dreams.” “Gigi” is a California brown pelican that’s found on the Golden Gate Bridge, and Irving illuminates the lives of pelicans along the Pacific Coast through her patient observation and lush, loving photography of Gigi and her fellow pelicans’ charm Read the rest of this entry »

Newcity’s Top 5 of Everything 2014: Film

Top 5 Lists No Comments »

Top 5 American Films of 2014
“Gone Girl”
“The Immigrant”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Love Is Strange”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Foreign Films of 2014
“We Are The Best!”
“Winter Sleep”
“Force Majeure”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Actors of 2014
Ralph Fiennes, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory Of Everything”
Tom Hardy, “Locke”
Guy Pearce, “The Rover”
Ben Affleck, “Gone Girl”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Actresses of 2014
Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night” and “The Immigrant”
Agata Kulesza, “Ida”
Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”
Felicity Jones, “The Theory Of Everything”
Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Supporting Actors of 2014
J. K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Josh Brolin, “Inherent Vice”
Ben Mendelsohn, “Starred Up,” “Exodus”
Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”
Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Supporting Actresses of 2014
Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
Nina Foss, “A Most Wanted Man”
Andrea Riseborough, “Birdman”
Emma Stone, “Birdman”
Elisabeth Moss, “Listen Up Philip”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Directors of 2014
David Fincher, “Gone Girl”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Ida”
Jonathan Glazer, “Under The Skin”
Steven Knight, “Locke”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Inherent Vice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Cinematography of 2014
Jeff Cronenweth, “Gone Girl”
Robert Elswit, “Inherent Vice,” “Nightcrawler”
Radoslaw Ladczuk, “The Babadook”
Greig Fraser, “Foxcatcher”
Emmanuel Lubezki, “Birdman”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Screenplays of 2014
“Top Five”
“The LEGO Movie”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inherent Vice”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Documentaries of 2014
“Life Itself”
“The Overnighters”
“20,000 Days On Earth”
“Last Days Of Vietnam”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Chillers of 2014
“The Babadook”
“Blue Ruin”
“Cheap Thrills”
“The Honeymoon”
“The Guest”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Films You Can’t See Yet
“Farewell to Language”
“The Duke of Burgundy”
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
“The Strange Little Cat”
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Soundtracks or Scores of 2014
“Under The Skin,” Mica Levi
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Alexandre Desplat
“Gone Girl,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
“Inherent Vice,” Jonny Greenwood
“Only Lovers Left Alive,” SQÜRL
—Ray Pride

Top 5 Overlooked Films of 2014
“Blue Ruin”
“The Rover”
“Starred Up”
“Listen Up Philip”
—Ray Pride

Review: Mr. Turner

Biopic, Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


At the age of seventy-one, the great British writer-director Mike Leigh brings a longtime dream to supple fruition: a robust yet understated, unalloyed two-and-half-hour celebration of the boldly imagined, bracingly colored, late work of the great painter J.M.W. Turner, as well as his curmudgeonly disposition, captured by Timothy Spall in classic dudgeon. “Mr. Turner” etches the last years in Turner’s life as a peripatetic succession of confrontations with nature and society, with the suggestion of compositions wedged in between. Spall’s Turner has little patience for the world that surrounds him, but Leigh has all the patience in the world for Turner’s spiteful and sometimes malefic behavior toward those around him, from lovers and mistresses to illegitimate daughters and pesky art critics. (Turner’s prickliness, as embraced by Spall, is amusingly akin to Leigh’s own impatience with critical sorts and interviewers, which I will attest to personally.) The art or the bad man? Leigh chooses both with melancholy and highly calibrated discernment. Read the rest of this entry »