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"

One Of Us: Ex-Chasidic Documentary is Heartbreaking, Devastating

One of Us is a heartbreaking and devastating documentary that takes a look at three people who made the decision to leave their Chasidic communities. Documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady follow three ex-Chasidic Jews over the course of three years.  With their access over that time span, they give us a glimpse at Chasidic Judaism that many communities are not going to be happy with.  Not with the amount of abuse that’s been covered…

"One Of Us: Ex-Chasidic Documentary is Heartbreaking, Devastating"

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?"

Geostorm: A Suspenseful Political Thriller, Not A Disaster Movie

Geostorm, directed by Independence Day‘s Dean Devlin in his feature directorial debut, doesn’t give us the disaster movie that we wanted it to be. Devlin directed from a script he co-wrote with Paul Guyot.  The fillm stars Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, with Ed Harris and Andy Garcia. What we got from the film is a suspenseful political thriller mixed in with some natural disasters, and two…

"Geostorm: A Suspenseful Political Thriller, Not A Disaster Movie"

Chicago Film Festival: Joe Swanberg’s Closing Keynote Session

Chicago filmmaker Joe Swanberg sat one-one-one with Anthony Kaufman of the Chicago International Film Festival as Industry Days headed towards a close. Swanberg had stepped in to replace Marc Evans, the President of the Motion Picture Group at Paramount Pictures., after it was announced that Evans would be stepping down by the end of the year. On producing a series for Netflix, Swanberg said that he missed the test screenings that came with releasing new films.  Those…

"Chicago Film Festival: Joe Swanberg’s Closing Keynote Session"

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"

Only the Brave: A Heroic Firefighting Tale

Only the Brave tells the powerful and true story of the heroic Granite Mountain Hotshots. Directed by Joseph Kosinski from a screenplay written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, the film stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, with Taylor Kitsch and Jennifer Connelly. It was based on the GQ Article “No Exit” written by Sean Flynn.  Josh Hopkins makes a quick cameo in the film. When most of us would run away from a fire,…

"Only the Brave: A Heroic Firefighting Tale"