• Cinephilia

    Review: The Fight

    With the national election less three months away, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend some portion of every day saying a silent prayer (to whom, I’m not exactly sure) that things don’t get any worse than they already are before our struggling democracy can do what it does best and reconfigure the make-up of those in elected office. Unfortunately, it seems the current administration and its collaborators are intent on doing as much damage as they possibly can before then, so a film like The Fight arrives at a most opportune moment. From filmmakers Eli B. Despres and Josh Kriegman, The Fight (a special Jury Award winner at…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: I Used to Go Here

    The last we saw Kris Rey as writer/director (she had a small on-screen role in Damien Chazelle’s First Man last year), she delivered Unexpected, a sweetly thoughtful exploration of motherhood in its many forms. She returns five years later with I Used To Go Here, another exploration of the (cis-het white) female experience, this time as protagonist Kate (Gillian Jacobs) faces a disappointing book launch and is asked back to her downstate Illinois alma mater (the fictional Illinois University) to speak to a class taught by her former professor. Her trip away turns into a bit more than she bargained for, as she navigates a recent break-up, the drama of her…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Amulet

    Like the other horror film released this week (The Rental, reviewed here), Romola Garai’s Amulet aspires to something impressive within contemporary genre features. It is a gorgeous production (making her feature directorial debut, Garai hits a home run with cinematographer Laura Bellingham), and the filmmaker (who also wrote the original script) makes some intriguing choices around gender roles in genre films. But on the whole, the story of a former soldier who finds himself living with a woman, her elderly mother and the demons in their crumbling old home leaves too many gaps in its story to be considered mysterious, and though Garai and her team don’t skimp on the gruesome details,…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Rental

    Two horror movies arrive to watch this week, and both of them feel as though they’re aiming for something grander than what the final product actually delivers. Both are by actors turned filmmakers, and both owe a lot to the genre films that came before them, genre films that ultimately do better what these films are trying to do. Making his directorial debut, Dave Franco (James’s little brother) contributes The Rental, about a couple of couples who escape to an oceanfront mansion for a weekend getaway only to get caught up in their own secrets and much more. (The other is Amulet, reviewed here). Starring Allison Brie (who is also…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

    Something weird happens at the beginning of Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, but it’s so subtle, so smoothly incorporated that it’s nearly imperceptible. Following the opening credits (displayed in a throwback fashion in cards at the front of the film), we find our way into The Roaring ’20s, a dive bar outside of Vegas that’s heading into its last day in business. The film, co-directed by brothers Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, is set up as a documentary that follows the bartenders and regulars through a marathon final day, from 11am into the afternoon, evening, late night and eventually early the next morning. And from the moment we meet the day…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: We Are Little Zombies

    In some other timeline, we’re out enjoying a real Chicago summer, complete with street fairs and beach days and rooftop drinks and yes, summer blockbuster movies. Instead, this summer will go down as one without superheroes, one without the latest in a franchise or the start of a new one. That doesn’t mean there isn’t joy to be had at the movies, and a new virtual cinema release from Japan might be just the jolt of existential optimism we didn’t know we needed during these trying times. At first pass, We Are Little Zombies is a macabre, dark comedy about four newly orphaned teenagers who’ve given up on life ever…