Reviews, profiles and news about movies in Chicago

Review: Lamb

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Writer-director-star Ross Partridge’s “Lamb” (based on a novel by Bonnie Nadzam) finds beauty in the service of an unnerving story about an unmoored forty-seven-year-old habitual liar named David Lamb (Partridge). After his father’s funeral, with a divorce in the offing, he befriends an eleven-year-old girl, Tommie (Oona Laurence), and invites her to a Rocky Mountains getaway. While rife with portent and potential pitfalls, the relationship in “Lamb” is nonsexual, and while disturbing, has only a few scenes that even come near the elemental horror of “Room,” with its child witnessing sexual abuse. For her own reasons, Tommie acts above her age. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: 45 Years

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We all have secrets. Some stay kept. Most should. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay excel in “45 Years,” Andrew Haigh’s understated, cleanly sculpted story of a devastating week in a married life after a forty-five-year-old secret is revealed. Before meeting his wife Kate, Geoff Mercer had loved another woman, who died in a tumble into an Alpine crevasse. With the coming of global warming, the long-dead, still-young Katya is discovered in a thawing glacier. Geoff does not react well. Kate does not react well to Geoff’s reaction. Haigh’s “Weekend” worked with similar modest means and observational delicacy in sketching the beginnings of a possible lifelong relationship. And there’s curious cultural resonance in the casting of two iconic figures of London’s Swinging Sixties—Courtenay from roles as in “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” Rampling in “Georgy Girl”—creating echoes akin to the story itself, in which a long-dead figure wreaks complications upon not only an uneventful anniversary on the horizon, but on the years that preceded it. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Benefactor

Drama, Recommended No Comments »



Loving glimpses of Philadelphia and the thick white hair and drizzle-grizzle beard of an elder Richard Gere are the key attractions and distractions in writer-director Andrew Renzi’s debut feature “The Benefactor.” Olivia (Dakota Fanning) and Luke (Theo James) are a young married couple with a child on the way who draw the attention of powerful, wealthy Franny (Gere), a philanthropist still reeling from an accident that killed his best friends five years earlier: Olivia’s parents. Gere’s Franny is a micromanager of the worst order, a striking contrast to the lost, lost man he played in Oren Moverman’s 2014 “Time Out Of Mind.” Here, he’s all brass and bravado, his poor little rich man at once generous and self-gratifying, pained and also a pain to the family-to-be he forces his favors onto. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Band of Robbers

Comedy, Drama No Comments »


Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are all grown up in Aaron and Adam Nee’s “Band of Robbers,” a gamy heist film transposing Mark Twain’s characters to the modern day—Huck’s just out of stir, Tom’s a cop—as well as to a world where colorful, crooked, working-class characters seem to have mainlined Wes Anderson movies, not limited to “Bottle Rocket,” and the likes of “Napoleon Dynamite” since the womb. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Every Thing Will Be Fine

Drama, World Cinema No Comments »

Fine Wenders 19_4065-dw

A terrible thing happened to Wim Wenders: he cast James Franco. “Every Thing Will Be Fine,” Wenders’ Québec-set foray into 3D fiction filmmaking, begins with a terrible thing happening to Franco’s chilly novelist, Tomas, who runs over a child on a snowy backroad. Years after that terrible event, still rapt with guilt, he returns to the scene to make some sort of amends with the boy’s mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg, playing perplexity pluperfectly). (Comparisons to Atom Egoyan’s masterful puzzle “The Sweet Hereafter” would be unfair to this puzzling mass.) Across the dozen years of the story, is Tomas profoundly, irreconcilably besorrowed, or is he just James Franco looking haggard and blank? Lush play with surfaces and reflections (accomplished by regular means in Todd Haynes’ “Carol”) suggests complex life where grief-stodged encounters do not. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Horse Money

Drama, Recommended, World Cinema No Comments »

horse money


Pedro Costa’s latest film, “Horse Money” (Cavalo Dinheiro, 2014), is ever more austere, stripped down. His ancient avatar from earlier films, the hypnotically present Ventura, is caught in a lifetime’s workings of dream, a ghost bumping through memory elongated into moment and collapsed onto another. The look is penumbra beneath penumbra atop cloacal darks, the fissures of post-colonial Portugal literalized but resistant to interpretation beyond gorgeous, obstinate portraiture. Tableau succeeds tableau, connections elided, meaning elusive. Read the rest of this entry »

Love Is But A Dream: The Hope To Be Loved Alone In “Anomalisa”

Animated, Comedy, Drama, Recommended, Romance No Comments »


By Ray Pride

Michael is a weary middle-aged man, a motivation expert who flies overnight to Cincinnati to address a customer service convocation, where the attendees know him for his most recent book, “How May I Help You Help Them?” Charged moments come from the seemingly commonplace: A perfunctory call to his wife back in Los Angeles, an impulsive call to an ex and an ill-advised drink, meeting a sweet, younger, seemingly uncomplicated younger woman, a baked-goods customer-service rep named Lisa (a tenderly winsome Jennifer Jason Leigh) who’s admired him from afar. Simple, except that “Anomalisa” is stop-motion animation, turned to the very adult means of fleshing out a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman that began as a staged “radio play” for three voices. The combination of simplicity and intricacy make the strange, thrilling “Anomalisa” discernibly a Charlie Kaufman object, as refined and diamond-dense as his directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York” was sprawling. We talked about the movie a few weeks ago, along with his co-director and animator Duke Johnson.

The group I saw the movie with was ecstatic afterward. How exuberant and joyous have people been talking to you about the movie?
Kaufman: Many people weep. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Revenant

Drama, Recommended No Comments »


Brrrrrrrr. Brr. Brrrrrrrutal. Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s epic “The Revenant,” which does not reach toward but lunges for greatness, is assuredly more than the Emperor’s new furs, as some early reviewers have suggested. But what is it, exactly? After a second viewing, I might side with filmmakers versus critics: “’The Revenant’ is a film Erich Von Stroheim made after getting drunk with Terrence Malick,” film-critic-turned-filmmaker Paul Schrader annotated on Facebook. “It’s kind of rescuing what cinema is about,” Iñárritu told the Financial Times’ India Ross. “Show and don’t tell.” What “The Revenant” shows is the travails of fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) in dragging his broken body back to civilization after his crew in the wilds has abandoned him after being mauled by a grizzly bear. But the work by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“To The Wonder”), production designer Jack Fisk (“Tree of Life”) and costume designer Jacqueline West (“The New World”) demonstrates the determination of Iñárritu as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

Documentary, Recommended No Comments »

Peggy Guggenheim seen through a sculpture, from "Peggy Guggenheim - Art Addict." (photo: Roloff Beny)


Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s second art-doc after “Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel” is an eyeful and an earful. “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict” is a brisk, neatly constructed look behind the life of the late heiress who became one of the twentieth century’s most proficient wheelers and dealers at the top end of the art market, collecting art, but also artists along the way. And slept her way, gainfully and gleefully, through a teeming scene of Surrealists and Dadaists that included Man Ray, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brâncusi  and Sam Beckett. Her independence may be more impressive than the many hundreds of millions of dollars her collection is worth today. Long-lost audio recordings of Guggenheim describing her travels and travails, made the year before her death in 1979 at the age of eighty-one, enhance the telling: “I was the midwife to modern art,” she says, and in her own way, a mistress and matriarch as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Hateful Eight

Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Political, Western No Comments »


What a nasty, nasty, nasty, nasty piece of work. (Nobody’s called it “The Tasteful Eight.”) “The Hateful Eight,” the customary Quentin Tarantino mashup of influences high and low is, at the very least, an admixture of the gamesmanship of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” (first published under the piquant title, “Ten Little N—–s”), the role reversals of “In the Heat of the Night” and the setting and explosive jolts of John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” All is artificed, from each and every spoken word, to the physical production, to the extravagant 70mm “roadshow” exhibition. With calculated recklessness and hostility, Tarantino again invokes atrocity to brandish batshit levels of physical mayhem and nervy nihilism. (Slavery, the Holocaust, this.) The violence is effective: there’s enough even before the intermission to consider an alternate title, “3:10 to Salò.” But spend a few days thinking about it rather than resting on a first reaction, “The Hateful Eight” appears to have more than malice in mind, aspiring to be about the lies we tell as a culture that is even more bent on revenge than Tarantino’s career litany of avengers. Read the rest of this entry »