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Film Review: Stylish, Well Performed ‘You Were Never Really Here’

CHICAGO – Actor Joaquin Phoenix almost solely specializes in portraying broken souls, but he also does it with such intensity that he adds necessary depth to those characters, to allow for their redemption. As a hit man for hire in the new film “You Were Never Really Here,” he again reaches beyond the darkness.

Film Review: Matt Damon in ‘Downsizing’ Offers Few Small Pleasures

CHICAGO – “Downsizing” is an interesting premise that doesn’t ultimately go anywhere interesting. Part of the problem is that writer/director Alexander Payne doesn’t seem to know what kind of a movie he wants it to be… it’s part cerebral Woody Allen futuristic comedy, part sci-fi social satire about Midwestern malaise, and winds up failing at both.

Film Review: Woody Allen Has Run Out of Ideas with ‘Wonder Wheel’

CHICAGO – Woody Allen emptied out his junk drawer of discarded script ideas and somehow managed to convince Kate Winslet to star in it. That’s the gist of the latest “serious Woody” entry in the Oscar winner’s long running career. Woody Allen has had some timeless triumphs, but lately he’s been more about quantity than quality.

Film Review: American Legal System is Put on Trial in ‘Crown Heights’

CHICAGO – There is no justice for the poor. That should be carved in stone on courthouses beside all the platitudes of American “equality” and “law.” In an eye-opening narrative film based on a true story, “Crown Heights” explores just how an impoverished individual can be found guilty and imprisoned unjustly for years.

Interview, Audio: Abby Quinn, Gillian Robespierre & Elisabeth Holm of ‘Landline’

Landline Abby Quinn, Elisabeth Holm, Gillian Robespierre photo by Patrick McDonald

CHICAGO – It takes a collaborative village to make a movie, and part of that collective came to Chicago to promote “Landline.” Director Gillian Robespierre, Co-Writer Elisabeth Holm and debut actress Abby Quinn were essential to the film, which is set in 1990s New York City and features Jenny Slate in the lead role.

Interview, Audio: Actress Jenny Slate Answers the Call in ‘Landline’

CHICAGO – Jenny Slate keeps getting more high profile, both in voiceover work (“The Secret Life of Pets”) and as an actress. Her latest film is “Landline,” her second with director Gillian Robespierre. In the film, Slate portrays an engaged-to-be-married “adult” who is having trouble coming to terms with her life.

Film Review: ‘City of Ghosts’ Puts Citizen Faces on Syrian Crisis

CHICAGO – Syria has become a distant place, disconnected from the wider world through civil war and extreme sociopolitical instability, including the takeover of some regions by ISIS (the Islamic State). “City of Ghosts” looks at Raqqa, a Syrian city with the iron boot of ISIS on their necks, and the citizens who risk their lives to tell that story to the world.

Interviews: Honorees of Awards Night at the Chicago International Television Festival

2017 CIFF TV Awards

CHICAGO – It was an evening to honor the past, current and future brands in TV media at the 53rd Chicago International Television Awards Night on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017. TV advertising creator Joe Sedelmaier, WGN-TV Entertainment Reporter Dean Richards and Amazon Studios – represented by Development Executive Jill Arthur – were the individual honorees at the ceremony.

Interviews: 53rd Chicago International Television Awards on Mar. 23, 2017

CIFF TV Awards 2916

CHICAGO –The 53rd Chicago International Television Awards, a companion celebration to the Chicago International Television Festival – and presented by Cinema/Chicago, the organization who presents the Chicago International Film Festival – will take place Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, and will honor entertainment reporter Dean Richards, advertising guru Joe Sedelmeier and the newly-formed-but-already-influential Amazon Studios. The entire television festival will take place from March 21st to the 23rd at the AMC River East 21, and screenings are free and open to the public. Click here for a complete schedule and details.

Film Review: Gravity of Poetic Dreams Carry Weight in ‘Paterson’

Paterson

CHICAGO – What is more ordinary than a man alone with his thoughts, and then applying those thoughts to paper in the form of poetry? “Paterson” is a celebration of such ritual, and other dreams in the working class. It never panders, it never makes the “hero” that heroic, but it does challenge him in an ordinary sense, to work it out as meaningful poetics.

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TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Orange is the New Black

    CHICAGO – Orange Day is Friday (July 27, 2018)… as in “Orange is the New Black.” That’s when Season Six will be available for download from Netflix, as the online series continues to showcase the women inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary, three of whom are played by Taylor Schilling (Piper), Kate Mulgrew (Red) and Dascha Polanco (Daya).

  • Everybody, Brown Paper Box Co

    CHICAGO – When is the last time a stage play, based in an intimate setting, made you think about your life, death, and the destiny inherent in both? “Everybody,” staged by Brown Paper Box Co. (BPBCo), is such a play, and the energetic aura and sense of surprise that the show contains is soul soothing wonder. The show has various evening/matinee performances at the Pride Arts Center in Chicago run through August 12, 2018. Click here for more details, including ticket information.

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