• Cinephilia

    Review: Hamilton (The Movie)

    In March of 2015, I moved back to Chicago from New York. That was right about the time a new musical production about an (until then) obscure founding father was also making a move, from its initial run off-Broadway at the Public Theater to the Richard Rogers Theater on the Great White Way. For those in the know, the buzz was already high on this one—buzz that was soon to break out to not only theatergoers in general but far, far beyond that, too. The show, of course, was Hamilton, the blockbuster new musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) that reimagines first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s life…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: House of Hummingbird

    The American film landscape isn’t lacking for coming of age films, particularly those of the female teenage experience. Bora Kim’s lyrical debut feature film House of Hummingbird explores similar themes half a world away, following South Korean teenager Eunhee (Ji-hu Park) as she navigates a turbulent home life, demanding school work and budding relationships, all while trying to figure out where she fits in along the way. Set in 1994, the film incorporates that year’s newsworthy events in the country (the death of Kim Il-Sung; a bridge collapse that killed more than two dozen people) as plot points that shift Eunhee’s world and help her evolve from a lost little…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Beats

    If you check out Beats this weekend, the latest from Scottish filmmaker Brian Welsh (from a play by Kieran Hurley, who co-wrote the script), it will help greatly if you’re a fan of the kind of thumping, driving house music prevalent at the kinds of illegal raves around which the film is centered. Not that it’s required; the story of two friends from a quiet small town looking for some excitement (and perhaps an escape from the toxic masculinity of their home life) is a pulsing, frenzied exploration of pushing boundaries, running right up to the edge and maybe, just maybe finding your way back from the brink. Set in…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Miss Juneteenth

    If the first two thirds of Miss Juneteenth, the beautifully realized debut feature film from writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples, feel a bit quiet and underdeveloped, please do yourself the favor of hanging in there to see how it all comes delicately and triumphantly together by the time the credits role. Starring Nicole Beharie as Turquoise, a one-time pageant queen now raising a teenage daughter in the same Texas town where she grew up, Miss Juneteenth is at once a distinctly personal story about finding one’s path forward when your life doesn’t exactly go as planned and a universally moving reminder of the turmoil, durability and beauty of mother/daughter relationships. Working several…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Sometimes Always Never

    On the shortlist of actors who I’ll watch in pretty much anything, Bill Nighy is near the top. Effortlessly charming and dryly funny, he consistently brings a warmth and wit to whomever he’s portraying on screen. In Sometimes Always Never, Carl Hunter’s debut feature film about a father grieving over (and still searching for) his missing son Michael, Nighy is Alan, a tailor with a colorful suit shop and a penchant for words. A big fan of playing Scrabble, he and his family—grown son Peter (Sam Riley), his wife Sue (Alice Lowe) and their son Jack (Louis Healy)—have been playing for years, optimizing letters and points on the game board…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Shirley

    Elisabeth Moss is the rare actress who has made remarkable work in both television (“Mad Men,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Top of the Lake”) and film (Her Smell, Us, The Invisible Man), and her latest role as mid-century author Shirley Jackson (known for her dark social commentary and subject matters) is no exception. Shirley (directed by Josephine Decker, written by Sarah Gubbins and based on the novel by Susan Scarf Merrell) is a haunting, unblinking portrait of a woman navigating a world she isn’t quite made for, a woman at once fiercely independent and tied down, sharply observant and unstable. Moss’s performance is kinetic, made all the more so through Gubbin’s biting…