• Cinephilia

    Review: The Assistant

    Though it grapples with a distinctly American scandal—that of the #MeToo movement in the movie industry—Kitty Green’s The Assistant comes off as surprisingly European in its observational, detail-oriented approach. As it follows a day in the life of the assistant of the title, played by Julia Garner, the devil is quite literally in the details: the wording of an email, the nudge of a box of tissues, the dishes left behind after a meeting she’s not invited to. A film quite light on dialogue, we follow Jane (as she’s identified in the credits, though never in the film) through moments that seem unremarkable, doing the entry level work of an office assistant…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Oscar Documentary Shorts

    If you plan to see the Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program, now playing at the Music Box Theatre, keep in mind that all five films are presented as a single program that, this year, runs to a whopping two hours and forty minutes. It’s a marathon, to be sure. But seeing how each of the five films is a captivating snapshot of the lives of others, sometimes in their darkest, hardest, most challenging moments, it’s a compilation of films that’s more than worth the investment of your time. Featured at the 2019 Chicago Critics Film Festival, Life Overtakes Me is the painfully sad story of children who’ve faced such devastating traumas that…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Oscar Live Action Shorts

    The five 2020 Live-Action Short Film Oscar Nominees hail from four different countries—Belgium, Tunisia, France and the USA—and average about twenty minutes each. Aside from their runtimes, the films don’t have all that much in common, as they explore everything from a fatal fire at a Mexican orphanage to a Brooklyn family’s odd connection with the neighbors they can see through their living room window. Directed by Marshall Curry, The Neighbors’ Window stars Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller as a Brooklyn couple juggling their work, raising three small kids and their own relationship when a younger, hotter couple moves in next door and they get a front row seat to their lives.…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Song of Names

    The biggest problem with The Song of Names, in a film with many of them, is that it lacks a driving why behind any of the proceedings, anything to signal to an audience why on earth we should care about what’s unfolding on screen. Based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, François Girard directs this overly wrought, listless drama (adapted by Jeffrey Caine) about a grown man seeking the Polish Jewish violinist who lived with his family in London during World War II only to disappear on the night of a post-war concert to showcase his talent. Though the film is told mostly in flashbacks, Tim Roth and Clive Owen—two actors who deliver…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Color Out of Space

    If all you seek out of your movie-going experiences is a freaky technicolor narrative that features Nicolas Cage going full-tilt unhinged along the way, allow me to direct you toward Color Out of Space, the latest from eclectic writer/director Richard Stanley based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. A weird, wild ride dressed up as a mainstream horror flick gone awry, Color Out of Space (Scarlett Amaris is also credited as a writer) is as head-scratchingly disjointed as it is curiously and unexpectedly entertaining. You won’t always know what’s going on or why, but you won’t be able to look away, either. Cage is Nathan Gardner, a husband and father who’s moved his…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Troop Zero

    Jim Gaffigan has no fewer than nine credits to his name for 2019, from the beautifully rendered Light From Light to a voice role in Playmobil: The Movie, one of the year’s biggest flops. Somewhere in between is Troop Zero, a direct-to-Amazon Prime feature film about a young girl named Christmas (McKenna Grace, I, Tonya) who grows up fast one summer in small-town, 1977 Georgia when she joins a fictional scout group with her fellow misfits. Gaffigan is Ramsey, Christmas’s over-the-top Southern lawyer of a father who’d go to the ends of the Earth for his little girl since her mother died, if only he knew the first place to begin. His office assistant Miss…