Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: A Most Violent Year

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



“I have never taken anything from anyone,” is one moral assertion American immigrant Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) makes in the face of three days of snowballing misfortune in J. C. Chandor’s agreeably hellish, pleasingly pulpy, often-beautiful third feature, “A Most Violent Year.” Abel married into mobster money, gaining a small heating-oil company from the father of his wife (Jessica Chastain). It’s winter 1981 in Brooklyn and Manhattan, ostensibly the most crime-ridden year in the history of the five boroughs. But taking or being taken is quickly Abel’s fate. Coming after his dissimilar “Margin Call” and “All Is Lost,” Chandor shows ambition and enterprise, in each film showing the kind of taut, proficient storytelling American movies could use more of. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: American Sniper

Action, Drama, Recommended No Comments »



An eye sights down the length of a long barrel, finding, framing, locking onto a target. In Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” Bradley Cooper bulks into the role of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, avowedly the most accurate and determined of American military snipers. More than a bravura hero, he was a bestselling memoirist of high braggadocio, as well as a murder victim of a veteran he hoped to help, who allegedly killed him on a shooting range after his return from four tours of duty in Iraq. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Still Alice

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Stress and tranquility alike fall readily on the features of Julianne Moore: in her fifties, the finery of her porcelain, ginger-freckled face is as expressive as that of any working actor today. The most zoned and delicate of her performances, in Todd Haynes’ great “Safe” (1995), is again available to be seen, in a restored edition by Criterion. But the poles of her temperament are also on view now, in two films that have been on the festival circuit and are arriving in theaters now. David Cronenberg’s “Maps To The Stars” will be released in a few weeks, replete with a marvelous Moore performance as an actress whose hunger for a role to validate lost youth and a lost mother may be one of her most fierce. In “Still Alice,” by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland (“Quinceañera,” “The Fluffer”), Moore embodies another nightmare, in the role of a linguistics professor with three grown children who begins to misplace words. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Goodbye To Language

3-D, Action, Documentary, Recommended, Romance, World Cinema No Comments »

Goodbye Roxie Mieville

(Adieu au langage 3D) Roxy Miéville: superstar. With querulous, dark, liquid eyes, and a torso that extends from the back of the screen and a long, aquiline nose that juts out over the audience and nearly to your fingertips to be petted, the sleek, sniffulous mutt owned by Jean-Luc Godard is the most lustrous of special effects in his hectic, cryptic 3D provocation, “Farewell to Language.” Working with cinematographer Fabrice D’Aragno over the course of four years, the now-eighty-four-year-old Godard wreaks multidimensional effects other filmmakers wouldn’t dare, often created with only a couple of small consumer cameras strapped together and wielded by the filmmaker himself. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Two Days, One Night

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »


For their first collaboration with a well-known actor, Belgium’s Dardenne brothers have exceptional fortune with the harried but haunting features of international star Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night.” Tremulous, troubled, visibly still recovering from a breakdown, Sandra finds her employers at a solar panel factory have told the other workers they can make do with one less employee, and if she’s let go, they each get a bonus that they can all use. Capital aligns worker against worker and a depressed woman must seek the sufferance of her colleagues if she is to keep her job. It’s quiet violence, pitting worker against worker. Over the course of the weekend, before a Monday meeting she manages to prompt, Sandra has to approach each of her equals to make the case she needs the job more than they need the extra euros. Community or the individual? The dramatization of the conflict is pungent, but Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance (of a different register than her equally accomplished work in 2014’s “The Immigrant”) is the shining center of “Two Days.” Jean-Pierre Dardenne has said, “What was important for us was to show someone excluded because she is considered weak, because she doesn’t perform well enough. The film praises this ‘non-performing’ character who finds strength and courage through the fight she conducts with her husband.” Quietly, surely bruising, “Two Days, One Night” is a story from behind the headlines and beneath the figures on the financials of businesses worldwide. 95m. (Ray Pride)

“Two Days, One Night” is now playing at the Music Box.

“I’m Not Your Subject, I’m Your Friend”: Getting To “Almost There”

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »


By Ray Pride

There’s a delicate and beautiful dance in Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden’s “Almost There,” a seven-years-in-the-making engagement with an elderly Northwest Indiana outsider artist, Peter Anton (whose work was shown at Chicago’s Intuit Gallery in 2010). The movie transforms before our eyes, as it did for the filmmakers, a dance between a willful subject and filmmakers who intend not to stray too close but ultimately can’t help themselves. Anton lives not only in poverty, but also in squalor, in a falling-down house left him by his parents, and the ethical question of how involved the filmmakers ought to be, in light of his circumstances, grows uneasy. “I’m not your subject,” Anton bursts out at one point, “I thought you were my friend.” “Almost There” has its Chicago debut at Siskel this week, and I’ll write more about its innerworldly kick when the Kartemquin-ITVS co-production is released theatrically. Read the rest of this entry »

Film 50 Follow: Jerzy Rose & Halle Butler and Thomas Comerford’s “How To”

Chicago Artists, Film 50 No Comments »

In the first of a series of updates on Film 50 subjects, Newcity Film premieres the gently disturbing video for filmmaker-musician Thomas Comerford’s “How To,” directed by Jerzy Rose and Halle Butler. (Their 2014 Film 50 profile is here.) Comerford will perform with Luke Redfield and Dust Bunnies at the Flatiron Arts Building, 1579 North Milwaukee, third floor, on Wednesday, January 14 at 9pm.

RAY PRIDE: What led to this collaboration?

THOMAS COMERFORD: Jerzy is a former student of mine, as well as a friend in the community of artists and musicians I see around town on a regular basis. When preparing to release my new LP, I approached an array of friends from this group, which also included, as you know, Carolyn Faber and Chris Sullivan. The idea was to find people who were into the music and have them create a kind of motion picture “response” to the music. It was left completely open as to how anyone might approach it.

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Review: Inherent Vice

Comedy, Drama, Recommended, Stoner No Comments »



For his seventh idiosyncratic feature, Paul Thomas Anderson situates “Inherent Vice,” Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 fractured fairytale of private eyes, lingering love, the power of overlapping narcotics, and the death of the sixties in his birth year of 1970, to fractiously comic but almost militantly melancholy ends. In the novel, Pynchon describes that small moment when radical hopes and stoner joy had punched a hole in the sky as “this little parenthesis of light.” In Anderson’s adaptation, nearly as rife with cross-references and richly oddball dialogue as Pynchon’s prose—liberally invoked both spoken and in narration—comedy and tragedy align in the lovelorn figure of P.I. “Doc” Sportello, a doofus in a daze rendered with the most precise of physical acuity by Joaquin Phoenix in 1970s-era Neil Young drag, replete with a munificence of muttonchops. Perhaps not-so-jokingly, Anderson has cited Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker productions like “Police Squad” in finding a visual style for his actors to inhale and pop within: the bumptiousness of the sight gags on screen ranges from “Police Squad” non-sequitur to wide frames filled with action-reaction that are worthy of silent comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »