Chicago Film Festival: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is perhaps the finest film ever to be directed by Guillermo del Toro and actress Sally Hawkins delivers a top-notch performance in the Cold War-set film. With a screenplay co-written by  del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, the film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer. Set in 1962, a classified asset is brought into a government laboratory in Baltimore where Strickland (Shannon) is hellbent…

"Chicago Film Festival: The Shape of Water"

Chicago Film Festival: The Ballad of Lefty Brown

The Ballad of Lefty Brown shows that the western isn’t dead and gives actor Bill Pullman a showcase role in the thriller. Written and directed by Jared Moshé, Pullman leads a cast that includes Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Joe Anderson, Diego Josef, Tommy Flanagan and Peter Fonda. Edward Johnson (Fonda) gets elected as a senator of Montana and Lefty Brown (Pullman) is by his side when he’s shot to death.  Nobody ever takes Brown–a sidekick for…

"Chicago Film Festival: The Ballad of Lefty Brown"

Jane: An Intimate Portrait of Jane Goodall

Jane, the new documentary from award-winning director Brett Morgen, pays tribute to the life of chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall. The National Geographic archives contained over 100 hours of footage from the last 50 years that had never been seen before.  It’s from that footage that Morgen draws from to bring us this intimate portrait of the acclaimed researcher.  In 1960, when Goodall first made waves, a woman doing this sort of research on chimpanzees was…

"Jane: An Intimate Portrait of Jane Goodall"

Chicago Film Festival: Black Cop

In his feature directorial debut, Black Cop, writer/director Cory Bowles uses unapologetic satire to explore the racial tensions within the police force and communities.  Bowles made this film in response to social media and if not viewed through the right lens, it’s a film that could come off as being absurd. For one cop, who is only known as Black Cop (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), he gets pushed over the edge and decides to target the…

"Chicago Film Festival: Black Cop"

1945: What Happens When The Jews Come Back?

1945 can best be described as a film that examines what happens in a village when the Jews start coming back after the Holocaust. Directed by Ferenc Török and based on the 2004 short story Homecoming by Gábor T. Szántó, the Hungarian film stars Péter Rudolf, Bence Tasnádi, Tamás Szabó Kimmel, Dóra Sztarenki, Ági Szirtes, József Szarvas, Eszter Nagy-Kálózy, Iván Angelus, Marcell Nagy, István Znamenák, and Sándor Terhes. The return of two Orthodox men–Hermann Sámuel (Angelus)…

"1945: What Happens When The Jews Come Back?"

Chicago Film Festival: Ali’s Wedding

Although it means well, Ali’s Wedding is one of the weaker films selected for the two-week festival. Directed by Jeffrey Walker from a script he co-wrote with Osamah Sami, the film stars Sami, Helana Sawires, Don Hany, and Ryan Corr. The film is based on a true story and after watching the large majority of the film (it wasn’t offered as a screener link, only a P&I screening), it may have been for the best…

"Chicago Film Festival: Ali’s Wedding"

Chicago Film Festival: Scaffolding

Scaffolding is one of four Israeli films to be shown during the Chicago International Film Festival. Written and directed by Matan Yair, the Israeli film stars Asher Lax, Ami Smolartchik, Jacob Cohen, and Keren Berger. Lax makes his professional and cinematic debut as an actor and takes home an Ophir Award nomination in the process. Asher (Lax) is a troublemaker and he’s always been this way in school.  Despite the rage and violence that Asher…

"Chicago Film Festival: Scaffolding"

Chicago Film Festival: I, Tonya

The Tonya Harding biopic, I, Tonya, could bring Allison Janney an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as the figure skater’s abusive mother. Directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay by Steven Rogers, the biopic stars Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Bojana Novakovic and Bobby Cannavale. Interspersed with documentary-style footage, the film gives off a humorous vibe as we revisit one of the biggest events…

"Chicago Film Festival: I, Tonya"

Breathe: An Emotionally Exhausting Film

Andy Serkis’ feature directorial debut, Breathe, is a film that is emotionally exhausting to watch and it is one that would have best been served as a documentary rather than what could easily be described as an expensive home movie. Serkis directs from a screenplay written by William Nicholson.  Breathe stars Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Hollander, and Hugh Bonneville. The filmmakers were smart to focus on the love story in the film’s first few…

"Breathe: An Emotionally Exhausting Film"

Chicago Film Festival: Rogers Park

Depicting two biracial relationships, Rogers Park is one of many Chicago-set films to premiere during the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival. Directed by Kyle Henry from a screenplay written by Carlos Treviño, the Chicago-set film stars Antoine McKay, Sara Sevigny, Jonny Mars, and Christine Horn. Rogers Park is a family affair.  The film follows Zeke (McKay) and his wife, Grace (Sevigny), and Grace’s brother, Chris (Mars), and his partner, Deena (Horn).  Both couples are dealing with…

"Chicago Film Festival: Rogers Park"